16TH SUNDAY: LUKE 10:38-42 MARTHA AND MARY
In today’s readings, we come to realize that it is the awareness of God’s presence in our midst that gives us real meaning and joy in our lives. Martha and Mary give us wonderful examples of how they are different and have unique ways of relating to Jesus. Martha shows by serving Jesus that the primary aspect of the activity of our lives is to serve Jesus by loving and serving others. Mary, on the other hand, sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to Jesus. This reminds us that it is through prayer that we nurture and cultivate our strong and deep relationships with Jesus.
Martha and Mary are our best examples today! When Jesus comes to their house, Martha goes out to meet Jesus and as a good host; Martha welcomes Jesus with excitement and is overjoyed and preoccupied with the task of providing hospitality. Martha is very busy with preparing delicious food and serving Jesus.
The gospel tells us that Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to him. Very naturally and spontaneously, and with love and freedom, Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” Jesus also responds to her in gentle, loving, and inoffensive ways to correct Martha. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is only one thing, and Mary has chosen the better part.” Jesus never says that what Martha is doing has no value and Jesus is not criticizing or blaming her; but Jesus wanted to teach her that when the presence of Jesus is with her, there is no need to be worried and anxious about anything. These stories show the real love, freedom, and intimate relationships between Jesus, Martha, and Mary. In our lives, too, when we experience the presence of God, there is no need of any kind of worries, anxieties, and fears.
I remember reading about a Jewish woman, who shared how she had learned to turn every duty in her life into a spiritual endeavor. Even the small act of sweeping the floor was sacred to her. She had learned to find peace and happiness in the present moment; and was fully aware of whatever it was that she was doing. She learned not live in the past or the future, but lived for each divine moment of her conscious experience in the present.
In the story, Martha was very busy with preparing delicious food and serving Jesus. For Martha, that present moment of her duty or service was a present moment of divine experience. In the case of Mary, symbolically sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Jesus, that present moment was a divine experience. Martha and Mary both did not live in any great memories of the past nor did they worry about their futures but what they were doing at present was a divine moment with Jesus. Whatever we have chosen or whatever we do at present, we must learn to live in the present moment, as a conscious experience is sacred and divine!
In closing, let us ask ourselves: which person we are at present – Martha or Mary? Martha acted from duty by serving Jesus but Mary — from her love — sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to Jesus. Mary received “the better part, which shall not be taken away” because she received her inspiration for life directly from Jesus. Martha was consciously aware of the present moment that enabled her to access this divine inspiration from Jesus.
Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary tells us the message that both are responding to Jesus’ call in their own unique ways. We can learn from Martha about her “Spiritualty of Hospitality” and from Mary the “Spiritualty of Listening.” Martha and Mary refer to the two states of life, which are respectively “Action” and “Contemplation.”