REFLECTION OF THE HEART
16th Sunday In Ordinary Time year C
Martha and Mary
A Reflection: by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Today’s Gospel text invites us to reflect on the two well-known biblical characters- Martha and Mary. When we hear the names, Martha and Mary, one thing will come to our mind and that is the contrasts between the two characters. By her example shown in today’s Gospel, Martha has become the symbol of ‘service’, while Mary has become the symbol of ‘contemplation.’ So most spiritual writers talk about these contrasts between the Life of service from the Life of prayer. This is the reason why it has created a rivalry between an active life to a contemplative life. The Gospel message tells us a simple story about Martha welcoming Jesus and his disciples to her house. It seems to me that Martha’s family was pretty well-off being able to host several guests like Jesus and his disciples. Theirs might be a big house to be able to accommodate them all. The Scriptures indicate that Jesus with his disciples were already regular visitors. That particular visit was not the first. Jesus was considered a close friend if not a member of the family. We could sense this particular closeness of Jesus to the family on the death of their brother Lazarus. John 11:21-22 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
But on that particular visit of Jesus, it happened that Martha was so busy preparing a meal for their guests. It could mean a lot of work. It happened too that Mary chose to be with Jesus listening to his words. So Martha got annoyed that her sister was not of help. She approached Jesus and complained,”“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But Jesus’s response surprised Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Seemingly, Jesus’s response was in defense of Mary. And that he favored Mary and put Martha in place. Jesus was not encouraging laziness. I believe, our Lord Jesus just took that opportunity to make a point. He just wanted to impart a very important message and that is the importance of listening to the word of God. While work is important in discipleship, we should not undermine the importance of listening to the word of God. It is, therefore, never a competition between “service” and “prayer” or “active life” and “contemplative life.” Discipleship is always a combination of work and prayer and of an active and contemplative life. It should never be a choice between Martha and Mary. Both of them should be an inspiration to us all. We live in such a busy life that we often forget to spend time for prayers. A spiritual writer once said that “Time spent in prayer is not time wasted.” A life of prayer is actually most fruitful. To devote ourselves to prayer is never easy. Yet, it surely is rewarding. Martha was preparing to feed the bodies but Mary was busy feeding her soul.
Besides our reflection on active and contemplative kinds of discipleship. There is also something profound that we need to reflect upon in today’s Gospel. It may not be popular among spiritual writers but Jesus wants to impart to us another important message. Jesus said to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about so many things.” These particular words of our Lord Jesus are like a reminder to all of us. I find this reminder still relevant to us today We need to be reminded not to worry but only to trust. People worry about a lot of things. I’d like to confess that even as a priest I am also guilty of it. I myself am a worrier. It is part of human weakness. Some of the top things that most people worry about are things that concern finances (money and material things), sometimes relationships, health, ambitions, work, safety and our appearance (we worry about how we look and we worry about getting old.) It is said that while fear is the opposite of faith, worry is the opposite of trust. Faith and trust and fear and worry do not go hand in hand. If we have true faith and trust in our hearts, then fear and worry should not exist in it. Our true faith and trust in God should free us from fear and worry. I came across a story that I would like to share herewith:
Story: (source unknown) There was a man who was a chronic worrier. He would worry about anything and everything. Then one day his friends saw him whistling.
“Can that be our friend? No, it can’t be. Yes, it is.”
They asked him, “What happened? You seemed to be happy now and free of worries”
To which he replied, “I’m paying a man to do my worrying for me.”
“You mean you aren’t worrying any more?”
“No, whenever I’m inclined to worry, I just let him do it.”
“How much do you pay him?”
“Two thousand dollars a week.”
“Wow! How can you afford that?”
“I can’t. But that’s his worry.”
The point we get from the story is that to worry is not gonna do us any good. When we worry, it robs us of our peace. Our hearts will be full of anxieties. When we worry, we miss one important thing. And what is this important thing? It is to sit, just like Mary, at the feet of our Lord Jesus. For Mary at that very moment, the most important thing was just to listen to the word of Jesus, learning from it and abiding in Christ. To her, Jesus’ word nourishes the soul. Martha was loved dearly by our Lord Jesus. But Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her. Likewise, we also need to priorities our relationship with Jesus. For when we do that, then nothing else matters but to listen to the word of God. For we will realize that the best thing in life is to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” Everything will be added unto us, which will not be taken away from us.