Gen 18:1-10; Col 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42
“Mary sets besides the Lord at His feet listening to Him speaks. Martha burdened with much serving, came to Him and said: ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving.’”
Today’s gospel introduces us to two women: Martha, the perfect host and Mary the perfect disciple. They are both eager to serve Jesus but they go about it in different ways.
Martha is the perfect host. She prepares the house for Jesus and His disciples. She cooks the food and serves everyone because she is thinking that they are tired and are hungry. She had no idea that Jesus comes not to be served but to serve.
That is why Martha is so upset, so preoccupied about preparing nice food. She becomes high-blood and even snaps Jesus for allowing Mary not to help her in the household chores. But Jesus gently revoked her: “Martha, Martha, you fret and worry about so many things, but just one thing is needed, Mary has chosen the best portion.” That Mary listens to Him, learns from Him, experiences His presence and occupies the place by which only men should have, sitting at the foot of a master in order to learn and be taught.
Actually, we also experience this. When we invited someone to our house, after we greeted him/her and welcomed him/her, we left him/her entertained alone by himself/herself. Like for example, by giving picture albums for him/her to see or by giving him/her some magazines to read or by giving the remote control for him/her to watch television. He/she didn’t come, like Jesus, for a free meal but he/she comes to be with friends.
On the other hand, Mary is the perfect disciple. She sits besides the Lord at His feet, listening to His instructions and teaching. She seems to know instinctively that “there is a need of only one thing,” (v. 42): to listen to the good news that He brings.
This might be the reason why God created us with two eyes and two ears but with only one tongue. He wants us to speak less but see and listen more especially in our hearts. Just like what Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD said in his book entitled Simple Moments: “Washing a car is pretty much the same as washing your heart. First the car must be still so that it can be washed. The heart too must be silent so that it can listen (notice the same letters involved?). God cannot speak to a noisy heart. Second, the car like the heart must be obedient and submissive. God cannot speak to a heart that denies, rationalizes or postpones. Third, the car, like the heart, must be open so that all the deepest corners and chambers can be reached and cleaned. In the same way, God cannot clean and heal a heart that is closed tight.”
It does not mean that Jesus did not appreciate Martha’s hospitality. But He chided her for being so anxious and upset about many things. She forgot a very important element in her relationship with Jesus. That is, to allow time to listen to a friend, a beloved and most of all, to her Lord and Savior.
We can discern from the action and reaction of Martha and Mary in serving the Lord, as a form of spirituality. Martha, we have this active spirituality and for Mary, we have the contemplative spirituality. It is a combination of prayer and action or reflection which we need in our lives as Christians.
Action and contemplation are not viewed as one of opposition but of complimentary. As much as we are drawn to the danger of the much activity, we work and work as if there is no tomorrow. We are so involved in our apostolic activity, outreach program and looking for money but we miss giving attention to enlivening our relationship with God, family and friends and listening to them. If we have given so much time to work, we need also in the same manner, a time for prayer, meditation, reading the Scripture and the Eucharist.
All of us there is a bit of Martha and Mary. We are both body and soul. We must keep both in balance. We must give it each other’s due. Jesus does not need people who work for Him. He need people who do His work.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C