Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martha--Lk 10: 38-42

One of the more interesting relationships that Jesus had was with His close friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha of Bethany, a little village only a short distance from Jerusalem.  Jesus evidently spent much time at their home and they became fast friends.

As in every family, these siblings could not be much different from each other in so many ways.  Most interestingly, however, are the personalities of the sisters Mary and Martha.

Both loved Jesus very much and it is quite evident from the gospels that Jesus felt very much at home with them.  Mary, we can imagine, was the quiet, contemplative type.  We can easily picture her off somewhere by herself just walking and pondering.  She must have been a sponge where the words of Jesus were concerned.  Scripture, in fact, points this very fact out.

Martha, on the other hand, was the industrious type, always in motion, always looking after the needs of her family and guests.  She, too, was quite obvious enamored with the teachings of Christ, but she found great comfort in doing things.

Such is the setting of today's gospel.  Jesus has come for a visit.  At this point in His ministry, Jesus has attracted many, many followers and even more curiosity seekers.  The house must have been a beehive of activity with Martha fully in command.

As Jesus seats Himself to begin to teach those gathered around Him, Mary sits at His feet, hanging on every word out of the Savior's mouth.  She is enraptured with what He is teaching and she is so fixed on Him that we can imagine she did not notice the activity going on around her.

Martha's kitchen must have been in full working order that day.  And, as usual, Martha was right in the thick of things.  She loves taking care of her guests, especially Jesus, but it is tiring, time-consuming work.  Looking for her sister to help her out in her many chores, she spies her at the feet of Jesus.  Angry and rather indignant, she approached the Lord and begged Him to tell her sister to get to work to help her with her duties.  But Jesus surprises Martha.

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."  (Lk 10: 41-42) 

How many times do we delude ourselves into thinking that we are productive simply because we busy ourselves with many chores?  How often do we look on those who would rather contemplate mysteries and conditions of life with a sense of superiority and disdain because they are not being productive?  And how many of us become Martha in order to avoid any deep or pertinent contemplation on such subjects as our relationship with Jesus.

We live in a society that rightfully honors industriousness and achievement.  We have been created by God to use the talents and gifts He has seen fit to bestow upon us in positive ways.  There is, in short, nothing the matter with being Martha from time to time.

But it is also that we allow ourselves to become Mary, to sit at the feet of the Master and drink in all that He has to teach us.  Jesus scolded Martha not because He looked down upon her work.  Quite the contrary!  We can be certain that He fully appreciated the trouble that Martha had gone to.  But He also wanted to tell Martha that she should allow herself some time throughout the day to sit at the feet of the Master, to learn from Him and to grow even closer.

The Lord tells us that there is only need of one thing and that is a relationship with God founded on faith and supported by our love for Him.  Beyond this, we need nothing more.  How difficult it is to come to this conclusion in a society that values human doings instead of human beings!  And, yet, that is where we will be led if only we take up our rest at the feet of the Savior.

Monitor your behavior throughout the day.  How many times do you take on the roll of Martha?  How many times do you busy yourselves unnecessarily so when you could be spending that time at the feet of Jesus?  Make a resolution that you will allow Mary to become a part of your day, seeking the Lord's teachings and basking in the love of Christ that can only be found at the feet of the Messiah, Jesus the Lord!