Today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke is the well-known passage where Jesus visits the home of Martha and Mary. While Martha is running around doing chores, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to him speak. When Mary complains to Jesus, asking him to instruct Mary to help her, Jesus replies, “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.”
Now, doubtless some of Martha’s tasks were quite important and I do not think Jesus meant to imply by his words that we completely lay aside all of our obligations – taking care of our children, putting effort into our jobs, etc. – and sit around all day.
But Jesus’ words to Martha do remind us that sometimes we do need to just put everything aside and to sit and listen to God. To just stop what we are doing and sit at the feet of Jesus. We still need to put dinner on the table….we still need to make sure there are clean clothes for the children to wear…work tasks need to be done. (I don’t know about you, but I haven’t noticed anyone getting those things done for me while I’m sitting in prayer.) But if we are not careful, we can become consumed with worries and anxieties about the tasks of our day-to-day life. We need to give ourselves time with Jesus to grow in our faith and to gain the sustenance we need to be able to perform the rest of our tasks with love and generosity.
I once said to a former spiritual director, “My problem is that I’m Martha and I want to be Mary.” He shook his head back and forth and said, “We are all called to be both Martha and Mary.” The key is to make sure we keep those two in balance.