Thinking About Martha

Thinking about Martha

I have been thinking about Martha for years…and the comparison with her sister Mary. And my sympathies invariably lie with Martha, because I have an image, a very clear image, of what she is dealing with.

Tradition tells us that Jesus did not travel alone, quite the contrary; from what we guess, there were generally 10 to 20 people traveling with him.

That is a lot of people to worry about, be hospitable to, make sure they have drink, bread and hummus while the main meal is being prepared. So her request of Jesus seems more than reasonable to me.

I’ve listened to many homilies on that gospel about Mary and Martha and have read a number of meditations on Jesus’ reply to Martha’s lament: “Tell my sister to help me, can’t you see how much there is to do?” Or something like that.

“Martha, Martha, You are anxious and worried about many things. Mary has chosen the better part.”

Usually the speaker or writer discusses Martha’s concerns as worldly or trivial and Mary’s decision to sit at his feet basically ignoring the work of feeding the Lord and his group, sublime.

Those homilists who are gentler to Martha comment about this Gospel passage being one which emphasizes the contemplative over the active. Both are necessary but the contemplative is always better.

I wonder about that; have for the almost 17 years that I have been a Christian Catholic. Mary chose the better part of listening to Jesus, yes ,of course, that makes sense.

But Jesus chiding Martha for her concern about assuring that her guests are cared for, well fed, satisfied?

That does not make sense to me.

But I am happy that the Church devotes a day to this woman, this woman who had the privilege to serve him, who knew him well enough to complain, “Tell her to help me!”

Happy feast day Martha, I smile when I think of you, I think most of us do in thinking about Martha… thank you for that.

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