Sunday’s Gospel from Luke has always been one of my favorites. It just screams to our sense of “fairness.” Martha is doing all the work as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and enjoys his company. Why shouldn’t Jesus tell Mary to get off her duff and help her sister?
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 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? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “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 10:38-42
I used to think I got this Gospel. On Sunday our Deacon did the sermon and put it in a whole new perspective. I wish I could remember the examples he gave, but is came down to this: it is not a matter of servant or student, worker or worshiper. We are called to be both: servant and student, worker and worshiper. Our faith should be reflected in our works and our works should reflect our faith.
The parish I grew up in had a program called Christ Renews His Parish. When I first started dating Himself one was being held and he suggested I go. It was a weekend spent both listening to others share their faith and learning and appreciating my own. We spent a weekend being Mary.
Little did I know that once the weekend was over the program didn’t end there. That year’s attendees became the next year’s team and presenters. The years following included doing meals for the weekend, putting on the Saturday night entertainment and hosting a Holy Hour for the attendees’ families. One weekend turned into five years of various activities.
The year that we did meals I took over leadership of the group when the
Lay Director resigned. As we were preparing and making all our menus I reminded the ladies that this was our “Martha” year. We were there to serve the women making Renewal.
Fr. Mac was our Spiritual Director, and, as I was talking to the gals, he sat there with his head bowed and eyes closed. Since he was in his mid-eighties at the time I kind of thought he was sleeping. Far from it. He was taking in everything we said and then had a few words of his own. He said it wasn’t quite like that. Although we were serving the women attending the weekend we were also bring Christ to them as well. At that time I just didn’t get it. I was too wrapped up in the work we had to accomplish and was actually pretty proud of myself relating us to Martha.
I think I get it now. We couldn’t serve those women properly had we not met Christ in the intimate way we did on our Renewal weekend. Had we not sat at Christ’s feet what we would have been doing the weekend we cooked would have just been work. But instead, what we brought was both work and worship both.
It is a false choice to say we either have to be Martha or Mary.
What we need to be is Martha and Mary.