“Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘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.'” Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)
This time of staying home has been very different for all of us. Some people have had more time for contemplation and prayerful moments, and others have been busy cleaning closets and garages, while some are hard at work holding themselves together as best they can. Sometimes I get a little frustrated by this scripture that seems to tell us working hard is a bad thing. We can’t all drop what we are doing and sit at the foot of Christ. People are counting on us to do our jobs.
I understand how Martha feels when she asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her. I can hear the groan as Martha, likely tired and resentful, hears that “Mary has chosen the better part.” Couldn’t it be said she selected the effortless task? The way I look at it now is that Mary was Mary at her best. And Martha would have been equally at her best if she first accepted Mary for who she was, and second, admitted that perhaps she was most comfortable serving Christ by, literally, serving him. Could Martha have turned a listening ear to Christ while going about her tasks? Would Martha have seen things differently if she was less focused on what Mary wasn’t doing and more focused on the guest she had welcomed into her home?
I have a dear friend who often tells me when I am busy to “take it easy, Martha.” I always respond with, “I am my best Mary when I am Martha.” I have my time sitting with and listening to Christ. But some Martha moments are so filled with His presence that I cherish them deeply.
One such Martha moment occurs, at the end of the day, during a retreat I am facilitating. I love to return to the empty conference room and in the silence of the evening straighten chairs, clean up tissues and glasses, and other such tasks. It is a sacred time for me, a time of reflection, prayer, and listening.
Another sacred Martha moment is when I am cooking. I like to cook, but I love to cook for people. It is a time of prayer and listening, where I feel deeply connected with Christ and those for whom I am preparing. I feel such love when I cook for others that I know I am my best Mary and Martha simultaneously.
To be honest, I am not always a joyful worker. However, I will continue to refocus when I find myself taking my eyes off the Guest of Honor.
Whatever you are doing at this time, be your best self.
“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (NRSV)
I would love to hear about your Mary/Martha moments!
Feel free to share in the comment section below.