Luke 10:28-32 - In her eagerness to serve Jesus, Martha almost missed the opportunity to know Jesus. This short passage reminds us that we are called to have a Mary heart in a Martha world - to sit at the Lord’s feet to listen and to learn.
Co-Written by Mary Ponicki & Monika Culjak
The story of Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha has always made me smile when reading it - imagine being so stressed as a host that you felt the need to tattle on your sister in front of your guest. On the other hand, the perfectionist in me wants to cheer a little for Martha. What a woman! She has opened her home to 13 hungry men, and possibly even more. Imagine her finest dining pieces, her best food, the most exquisite dessert - all for our Lord. Of course she would expect help with this kind of event, it was a big ordeal.
So why does Martha get so frustrated with Mary? Well, let’s rewind a couple thousand years. In the first century, it was custom that the women’s place was at home. She would learn all that was required to be a wife and a mother, but was not required to learn the Torah or engage in any kind of religious activity that would take her away from home for any extended period of time. The Jewish people also believed that completing obligatory tasks carried more importance than those that were not, therefore, learning the Torah and studying carried no merit for women. The only actions that a woman could perform to earn merit were those obligatory to her: being a good wife and mother. Thus, in the time frame of this passage, there would have been no reason for Mary to be sitting at a rabbi’s feet - she belonged in the kitchen, helping Martha.
Thus, when Martha approached Jesus in verse 40, saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” She was expecting Jesus to agree with her and send Mary into the kitchen. However, He did not. Instead he tells Martha,
"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.”
What if we tried to be more like Mary - what if we made time for Christ amidst the chaos? We are called to have a Mary heart in a Martha world - to sit at the Lord’s feet to listen and to learn. Some of us tend to be more like Mary in our Christian journey, while others resemble Martha. It's likely we have qualities of both within us. We may be inclined at times to let our busy lives of work, school, or other projects distract us from spending time with Jesus and listening to his word. However, we are called to follow in Mary’s example and prioritize our faith in lives. This doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice our daily routine/job/etc, but it does mean that we must make God a part of it. In fact, God should be at the center of our lives and we should be right at his feet - listening to everything he has to offer us.
The anxious, busyness of Martha is very relatable - after all, aren’t we called to give Jesus our all? To present our very best to Him? In a party where she is trying to please God Himself, Mary isn't helping. I imagine Martha giving Mary this side eye, trying to catch her attention. But no, Mary does not look away from Jesus. She is focused solely on him. In fact, Jesus tells her that her sister has, “chosen the better part.” This probably came as a huge shock to Martha - how could God ask any more of her than what she was already doing? But really, it isn’t more that God is asking of us, it’s less.
It is as if Jesus is saying “you are worried and upset about many things but only one this is needed” - and that one thing is not found in doing more, it’s found by sitting at His feet. The living room intimacy Mary enjoyed with Jesus will never come out of the busyness of Martha’s kitchen. Martha opened her home to Jesus, but that doesn't automatically mean she opened her heart. In her eagerness to serve Jesus, she almost missed the opportunity to know Jesus. We need to set our priorities straight - we need to put God first.
What if we prioritized God in our lives in the way we prioritize our jobs/school work/relationships etc.? What if we prepared for the coming of Christ in the same way that we prepare for our 1x1s with our boss - culminating a list of things we’ve done for Him to make Him proud. Or what if we were intentional with our God in the same way we are intentional with our friends/significant others? It is so easy to lose sight of the benefits/importance of putting God first in our lives when we can’t always “see” the fruits of our labors. However, the fruits of our earthly labors will be the greatest we will ever know - an eternity in paradise.
So what does prioritizing God in our lives look like? Think about it this way: if Jesus came tomorrow, would you be ready? Let that thought motivate you to get to know your God amidst the business of your day. Challenge yourself to pray each day, go to confession, devote your entire attention to mass when you attend, etc. If you’re looking for a new way to pray - we have a guide on how to do Lectio Divina on our website (https://www.thecatch-cc.com/virtual-lectio-divina). You can also try journaling or adding a rosary to your daily routine - whatever draws you deeper into your prayer life and helps you to focus on your biggest priority: your relationship with God.