Feast of St Martha- Luke 10: 38- 42
I am a Martha in a man’s body. I have always been on the move, for a million things have to be done and to be honest, I resent the ‘Marys’ in the Church. How can you sit around when so much needs to be done? The pericope has often left me a bit resentful. Anyone can sit endlessly with the Lord in prayer. What a stress free life that is from the backache of churning a six course meal for the Lord and His twelve unannounced guests.
The problem with this text has stemmed from the reading of it. For those like me who can’t sit still and wish to be busy changing the world, the praise of Mary seem awfully unfair! If the Church were to sit and pray, who would repair the falling steeples?
The fact is plainly this; Jesus is not reprimanding ‘hardworking Martha’. He is actually inviting her not to be distracted, but instead, to be focused on Him in this particular circumstance. His exact words to her are, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (10:41-42).
So what Jesus is really communicating to the ‘Marthas’ of the world, is not a condemnation but a course correction. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has resolved to walk resolutely to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51 which precedes this text, is a clear announcement of the mission and purpose of Jesus. From this moment on, He is the focus, and nothing should ‘distract or worry’ the disciples.
The Gospel of the Way, as Luke’s Gospel is often called, has the Lord walking to Jerusalem. He is walking purposefully; His death and His path must not be filled with distractions. This is the time when the disciples should rally around Him and desire to be with Him alone; food and drink can wait!
So where does that leave the Marthas of the world? Marthas are essential; what would we do without them? But there comes a time when the Marthas of the world, like me, must put down their pots and pans, for that moment has arrived when the Lord does not want us to be ‘worried and distracted.’ In moments like these He wants us to make a choice like Mary, focused and confident, to sit with Him, for much can be wrought by prayer; much more can be achieved in His presence.
So If you’re a Martha, continue to spend yourself in the service of the world. Be the Martha that you so feel inclined to be in your heart. But remember to put down your pots and pans at various times in the day, especially when you are ‘worried and distracted’. The Lord needs us both, His Marthas and His Marys.
Fr Warner D’Souza