Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer

Made to Love God Without “Martha-ing” Things Up

All I want is to be is a loving Christian, a patient mother, an attentive girlfriend, a thoughtful daughter, a generous sister, a prepared employee, a worthy housekeeper, a nourishing/tasty cook, a kind friend, an energetic cheerleader, a strong supporter, and an informed catechist teacher. And let’s not forget that I want to do it all patiently and with a smile on my face.  

I’ve cried a lot of tears trying to be good at all the things. I beat myself to death for losing patience, again, with my children. I feel guilty for running through McDonalds occasionally (ok weekly). It’s hard for me to be excited about evening events after working all day. I don’t want to fix dinner and clean up the mess when I have been running for 12 hours straight.

I love the Martha story. Jesus told her, “you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed.” (Luke 10:41-42) Martha needed a dose of humility. Sometimes I need a dose of humility. I’m better at everything when I take the time to pray. I’m a better participant in life when I work in time for a daily mass. I’m happier when I reach out to other people. I’m more at peace, when I take time to really look into my children’s eyes while they are speaking to me. I feel more peace in my home when I daily pray my rosary. I can feel my soul being cleansed when I stick to a regular routine of confession.

Of course these things take more time away from time I don’t have, but the benefits of doing life while feeding your soul is worth so much. When my soul is fed, I take care of everything a lot better.

If Mary picked the better way by fixing her eyes on Jesus, why do I insist on “Martha-ing” things up? Why do I insist on putting myself in the pressure cooker of life, and in doing things on my own strength?  

See, it may be that some of the things on my to-do list are born of my own pride, so maybe I need to adjust my priorities. He will be my strength and my peace. But it is for me to be like Mary and to let Him guide my soul into becoming more patient and loving. It is for me to give myself a break sometimes, by sitting at the feet of Jesus. While it might be necessary to do the work of Martha, our souls desperately need to be like Mary.

If we keep our focus on the world and all the expectations we quickly feel defeated. We quickly feel like we are not enough. And we quickly Martha things up. But if we let Jesus love us and allow ourselves time to love Jesus, we can easily see that we were made for so much more. We were made to love God. And just letting that soak in puts a huge grin on my face and makes my heart feel so full. What makes you feel more like Mary? What makes your heart feel so full?

Discipleship Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

A Familiar Story, A New Light: Martha and Mary

My current Bible reading is the Gospel of Luke. My spiritual director has advised that I always be reading either one of the Gospels or a good biography on Jesus. So right now, the Gospel of Luke it is. It’s been interesting for me to actually sit down and read short passages, spend time reflecting on them, and praying on those passages with Jesus. None of what I read is really new. I hear it read at Mass, I’ve read various passages at times, and I’ve discussed events in the life of Jesus as described in the Gospels with others. The truly wonderful thing about the Bible is reading something you’ve read many times before and seeing it with new eyes.

What I am finding striking about my current reading of Luke’s Gospel is reading it from the beginning forward with no breaks. The Gospel as read during Mass may skip a few passages. If you don’t attend daily Mass you’ll miss those readings, too. You still get a lot of the Gospel in the course of a liturgical year by just hearing the Sunday Gospel reading, but you don’t necessarily get all of it. And it’s sometimes presented in a different order. So reading it from start to finish brings out a different flavor to Luke’s telling of Jesus’ life.

I find myself with lots of questions, more than I expected. I also find myself seeing a familiar story in a new light. And that’s the wonderful part about doing this.

By Johannes (Jan) Vermeer (1632 – 1675) (Dutch)
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Recently I read the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10: 38-42). We’re all familiar with the story, I’m sure: Jesus comes to visit, Mary sits at his feet while Martha does all the work serving the guests, Martha complains to Jesus, Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen “the better part.” Often when this passage is discussed it’s common to ask who you are in the story? Are you Martha, busy and anxious about many things, or are you Mary, sitting and listening to the master? As a follower of Catholic blogs for many years I can’t tell you how many blog posts I’ve read where the author contemplates why she is “a Mary” or why she is “a Martha” or why we all have a bit of both in each of us.

I’ve always been a little leery of those Martha or Mary comparisons. I remember it coming up once in discussion with my husband and he immediately pegged me as a Mary. I was instantly a little offended. (He’s a Martha, by the way.)

When I read this story again recently I came away with a different take on it. I also considered why I had found offense to my husband’s label of me as a Mary. Why should I be offended by that when Jesus Himself says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Martha as the “worried and anxious” one is not doing anything wrong. She’s being a servant to the master. She’s meeting a need that must be met. And like Mary, she too has chosen her own actions. I don’t see the problem with Martha as one of being too busy. The problem is that she doesn’t take the time for the important things in life: spending time with her guests, taking a moment to listen to her family and friends, letting go of the work around her, and, most importantly, spending time with Jesus.

As for Mary, I think I’ve always kind of sympathized with Martha and looked at Mary as shunning her duties, maybe even as lazy. But in contemplating the role of Martha in this short passage, I realized that Mary is doing exactly what Martha is missing out on: spending time with her guests, living in the moment.

Contemplating this scenario gave me a whole different perspective on the “Martha and Mary” story. Neither sister is wrong in what they are doing. Both are doing good. Being a servant toward our fellow man is a very noble and Christian way of life. More important, however, spending time with our Lord listening to what He has to say to us, praying to Him, and just being with Him are the most noble and worthwhile of pursuits. Prior to this new realization I felt like I was being labeled as lazy when told I was “a Mary.” But now I see the opposite is actually true.

I think I’m actually more of a Martha instead.

It’s so easy to focus on our list of tasks to do each day. Especially as mothers. Our days are filled with dishes, cooking, laundry, diapers, kid’s activities, and so much more. Finding that time to just sit and be with Christ is hard. Really hard! I know I fail at it more than I like to admit. I realized that I can actually learn something from Mary and I want to be more like her. She is my role model for how I should be approaching my time with Jesus.

I’m still trying to figure out how this looks (or should look) in my life. I’d love to see what you have done in this regard. Have you found a way to put aside your Martha tasks in order to be more like Mary and spend time with Jesus? Let me know in the comments.