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Luke 10:38-42

The Word of God

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Luke 10:38-42
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • It is clear that both Martha and Mary are good friends of Jesus as is their brother Lazarus. It seems that Jesus felt welcomed into their home. This house is a safe place for all in contrast to the hostility experienced from the Scribes and the Pharisees in public places. Poor Martha seems to come off worse in the exchange. How easily we tend to allow our list of daily tasks and errands distract us from our prayer time.
    • Silent pondering in God’s presence without any specific agenda may help us reorient and recentre ourselves for the next part of the day’s journey. Moments on a bus, in a shop or on a walk with the dog, can become special moments if we are awake and attentive like Mary was. St. Francis of Assisi was so attentive to God’s presence that he wrote poems to “Brother Sun and Sister Moon”.
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Aren’t we all worried and distracted like Martha? I listen prayerfully to Jesus inviting me to find the one thing necessary for me, and ask for his help to be more focussed on what is more important in my life.
    • Mary has chosen the better part: certainly not that of sitting at Jesus’ feet all day without doing anything else. She has chosen to be Jesus’ disciple, listening at his feet to his word, a word that always leads to action. May I be given the grace not to be deaf to your call, ready to carry it out to the best of my ability.
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    • Martha was a woman of hospitality and welcome who set out to feed Jesus coming from a journey. We pray that we too may make a home for Jesus who desires to be at home with us. Lord give us the generosity to serve, the freedom to have room for you in our lives and the courage to be true to you.
    • Mary desired to be fed by Jesus so her focus was on the relationship and spending time with Jesus. Her priorities were clear. May she help us appreciate what is more important in finding a balance in life. Lord help us choose the better part that guides our lives and our relationships with Jesus and one another, knowing what is of greater and more enduring value.
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    • People readily identify with Martha, recognising her busyness and pragmatism; it can easily seem to be a worthy and acceptable role even as Jesus asserts that it is not the better place. Help me, Lord, not to settle for what satisfies me and makes me feel justified; give me to grace to want only what you want.
    • Not mindfully attentive to her tasks, Martha became critical of Jesus and Mary. I ask for the ability to be present to how God is present in me and in others. Even if there is much to be done right now, I hear the invitation to sit at Jesus' feet and to listen to his teaching.
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    • Martha and Mary are unusual in the New Testament, in that they ask Jesus for nothing! Martha prepares a meal for Jesus, while Mary sits at his feet. This is the classic position of a disciple of any teacher in the ancient world, a role usually reserved for men.
    • Jesus sounds critical of Martha. However, he is not minimising the importance of what she is doing. As a devout Jew, he would have been very familiar with the Torah, the oral tradition of Judaism, wherein it is said: “Welcoming guests is greater than receiving the face of the Divine presence”. He has already affirmed Martha’s hospitality by gladly receiving it, and not for the first time. The point Jesus is making is that action and contemplation should coexist.
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    • Martha was distracted by her many tasks. The lockdown experience has helped many of us realise how distracted we really are, and how much it helps to have a clear focus in life. Looking at Martha I look at myself, hearing Jesus gently rebuking me for being so unnecessarily distracted.
    • Jesus is not praising Mary for being a passive listener: for Jesus the real hearer of his word is the one who puts it into practice. I hear Jesus inviting me to look for what is really of lasting value in my life and that of my family, and to commit myself to it more seriously.
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    • We should remember that on the preaching journeys of Jesus (and of his apostles), women followers were in attendance also. So it should not cause surprise – as it might cause surprise to Jews of the time – that Jesus is being entertained in an actual home by two women.
    • Martha is the one receiving him – and may be the one who ‘does all the housework’ in the home, compared to her sister, Mary, in the background. If this is the situation, Jesus’ starting-point may be to try ‘make things equal’ by upping the status of Mary : her role is important too.
    • And it’s a role to which all followers are called : to nourish one’s spirit on every word that falls from the Master’s lips. Either kind of sustenance has its own importance to a person’s life: to provide for the needs of the body – but also to feed the ‘hungers of the heart’, to respond to the deepest desires of the spirit.
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    • When I read the story of Martha and Mary, do I spontaneously take sides, or at least, identify with one rather than the other?
    • If so, can I now ask for the grace to see the beauty and value of the other one? If I find myself resisting and wanting to stick with my own preference, I might have to try a little harder. The Lord is often trying to tell us things at the point where we resist.