Todays Gospel is a Familiar story about Martha and Mary
Martha – with a bit of an attitude says to Jesus,
“Lord,– do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving”
A surprising way to speak to Jesus – the most famous rabbi in the land
After all he raised her brother Lazarus from the dead !!!
And what does he say in reply “Mary has chosen the better part”
Now messes with our sense of fairness – it does !!!
Whenever we hear this Gospel proclaimed most of us think – Poor Martha
And quite likely we make a comparison with family member of friend who does’nt pull his/her weight !!
When polled 99% of Women at a recent Christian conference identified as themselves as Martha’s.
And so the common extrapolation is often that Women – the Martha’s – cook clean and serve, while the Mary’s of this world like to be served upon!!
Clearly such thinking is neither Christ like nor correct.
I read a story by Carol Strazer – how as a English major at college she was overwhelmed by trying to please her family, professors and friends – to the point of contemplating ending her life.
She was an accomplished, popular, successful student but felt empty
Her friends, family, sorority sisters and school psychologist tried to help – but to no avail.
She was just to busy being a Martha !
Then she had a eureka moment as she remembered very fondly visiting her aunt on a WI dairy farm as a little girl and attending mass – Carol wasn’t Catholic, in fact I don’t think her family had a faith as such.
What she remembered were two things.
First The enormous health challenges faced by her aunt all her life and yet her faith never wavered.
Secondly – How at mass she felt surrounded by a peace she did’nt experience anywhere else.
So started studying her Catholic friends, including her roommate – they had something she didn’t – they were confident, caring, and especially concerned about her as she struggled with her emotional issues.
She concluded that it was their Catholic faith had made them better people!!
Then she started dating Bob, a Catholic, and her future husband with whom she discussed religion and faith.
He was studying,Engineering, she English and yet he wrote her a poem – the refrain was
“Carol is like a leaf floating down a stream….”
Bob said he understood how she felt overwhelmed, guilty and frustrated – not sure what to do – Playing Martha ( my words)
She prayed, listened to the discussions and the words, and concluded;
– In her words – “the Catholic Church will help you find what is important, what God wants”
And for the first time she felt embraced by safe boundaries and forgiveness
“The Mary role” – my words!!
A year later she was baptised Catholic, then later married Bob in the Catholic Church and that was over 50 years ago.
She admits it’s not always been easy, she’s less than perfect, had her doubts BUT the Catholic Church has always been there for her.
And so it is for us – our lives are a mix of Martha and Mary
Martha’s – as dedicated and faithful Servants of God AND
Mary’s – The faithful disciple who listens to Christ’s words, absorbs them and allows them to direct our lives – no matter the challenges.
However, that said Christ puts the Mary role ahead of the Martha – Clearly.
How often he uses the daily life of the time to create His parables to explain in terms people can comprehend –
His teachings about the Kingdom of God.
This, however, is not such a parable but an actual living teaching moment he ceases upon.
Jesus knew Mary, Martha and Lazarus very well, they were very good friends, he otten stopped and ate with them – this explains how Martha felt comfortable addressing Jesus in the manner she did.
Marlene’s view of this story is that without Martha’s in the world men like me wouldn’t eat very well !! That is certainly true in my case!!
So Martha is the poster child for- the doers, the movers and shakers, the go-getters in this world. And we certainly need people like that:
In our Families, in our businesses, parishes, organizations etc.
So Jesus isn’t faulting the Martha’s but rather saying BEFORE the DOING IS THE LISTENING – The Mary role.
As Martha’s we are to be busy to listen!!
Jesus said “it is the hearers and then the doers of the word of God”
Listening – good listening – is critical in relationships – marriage, family, business, organizations – wherever a discussion is taking place.
What Jesus is saying is that there are times to hustle, worry, work etc.
But then times to pray, reflect and listen to His words and the words of the scriptures, such times should be given the greatest priority BECAUSE as we digest such they will form us into better disciples, better Catholics – better Martha’s!!
Such a time to pray and reflect should be right now – here at mass.
We should be attentive to The Word, The Eucharistic celebration, enter into the inspiring music and song – focussing for a few minutes a week at least – on the Faith we share and the very reason for our being.
So lets all be Mary’s while we are here together today and then go out and be the best Martha’s we can be.