Feast of St Martha- Luke 10: 38- 42

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

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6 thoughts on “Feast of St Martha- Luke 10: 38- 42”

  • Beautifully written….a good balance!
    “Much more can be achieved in his presence”

  • Wow! I find this commentary very interesting. Your own example of being martha brings home the point very effectively. ‘Lord needs both Marthas and Marys’ is lovely.’

  • Candida Rodrigues · Edit

    My middle name too is Martha and I too am a Martha as in the Gospel. Always happy multitasking!
    Last year, once, I too was juggling between so many things and for the holy hour service, which I had prepared for, the keyboard was giving probs and the holy hour started 5 mins late. I too was frazzled running from pillar to post that I missed the first blessing. Frantically trying to get a glance of the altar, I heard Jesus telling me “Martha, Martha, why do u worry”. Tears welled up and I stopped fidgeting.

    As i stayed on for the mass after the holy hr, I realized it was the feast of St. Martha.

  • Amen………your short takes light up my mind and brighten up my day.

  • Thank you for your reflection.

    Sharing some of my thoughts :
    Martha and Mary are two sides of the same coin ie. all of us are called – to varied degrees (as per God’s purpose and will) – to contemplative, quiet, reflective prayer on one hand and connecting with each other on the other hand (whether it is in our homes, monasteries, parishes, place of worship, workplace or anywhere else we may be).

    The quality of Mary was a focussed gaze on the Lord at all times (one can get distracted in one’s prayer time as much as one can get distracted in the business of reaching out be it in church work, work at home, office etc).

    The beauty of Martha, which is brought out so wonderfully in John’s gospel, at the death of Lazarus, is that while Mary continued her focused gaze on the the Lord, Martha is still not focussed. But she displays a very important attribute – she is clean at heart and open in her relationship with Jesus. The Good Lord in his deep love for Martha gently draws her in to a deeper revelation of himself and leaves her with this question ‘Do you believe this’. He never forces the nature of himself on Martha (and he never does so with us) but gently invites Martha to understand for herself who Jesus is. He does so because of his mercy and the pure and open heart of Martha in spite of her inner struggle – her heart was like that of a child: simple, open and trusting towards his/her parents.

    The faith response of Martha (….You are the Christ, the Son of God…) is on par of the faith statements of Thomas and of Peter.

    This serves as a powerful reminder to each of us that in the midst of our struggles, if we strive to be open and transparent with the Lord, he will give us the gift of a deeper and intimate relationship with himself, which indeed is the better part, the pearl of great price. Which by God’s grace Mary possessed naturally, and Martha (by God’s grace alone) came to realize it in the midst of her struggles.

    This is the story of each one of us…. sometimes we get a deeper insight of God naturally and sometimes through struggles. To cling to Jesus at these pivotal moments and thereafter to never let go even in the dark phases of our lives, when he may seem to be absent, is what the Lord is inviting us to do.

  • Filomena Pinto Rebelo · Edit

    What a beautiful description of the passage. It enlightens many minds. I too was often thinking that in this passage jesus is not fair to Martha. I’m too am like Martha, but as you said we have to put our pots and pans aside for a while to focus on Jesus with His teachings.


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