Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mary and Martha

Today's Gospel is the famous one about Mary and Martha. While Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him speak, Martha was busy with all the details of hospitality. Obviously annoyed at Mary, she complained to Jesus and told him to tell Mary to help her.

Jesus' reply is hard to understand, since he seems to say that Martha was doing something less good: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her." No doubt many mothers, on hearing this, feel slighted that their loving efforts to take care of their families seem to get a put down from Jesus!

The priest at our Mass today gave a great homily on this Gospel. He said that Jesus is not trying to put Martha down for working hard. Instead, if he seems to reproach her, it's not because of what she is doing but the way she is doing it. Martha is anxious and worried about many things.
That seems to be the key. Instead of being anxious and worried, Martha needed to trust more in the Lord and put first things first. Father said that the word that is translated here as "anxious and worried" is the same word used in the parable of the sower, where it is translated as "choked." The seed that fell among weeds was choked off and couldn't grow. Jesus is saying that if we get too caught up in our everyday concerns, those very concerns can choke off our spiritual life.

Father also said that although the last line is usually translated "Mary has chosen the better part," the Greek word there is "good": "Mary has chosen the good part." The good part is to listen to the words of the Lord.

Jesus didn't tell Martha she should hurry up and get the dinner on the table! He wouldn't have minded if Martha had sat down too and joined Mary in listening to his words. We still have to do our everyday tasks. Someone has to cook the meals and do the dishes, and those are very important things. Jesus wasn't putting that down. He was just telling Martha to get her priorities in order and stop worrying.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've heard so many homilies on this story, but this exegesis is very enlightening and satisfying compared with most that I've heard.

Thank you!

Christina Martin said...

This is the point so many of us seem to miss. I've always struggled with this reading, and have to remind myself that it is her attitude and state of mind that He is reproaching, not her hard work. I've always felt a little guilty, just the same, for not being more of a Martha.

deacon pat said...

thanks sister! I was looking for the little hook I needed for tomorrow's communion service. I appreciate your posting that, and please tell Fr. I said thanks as well... deacon patrick, st. albert the great, powell, tn

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