Are you a Mary or are you a Martha? If you are a Christian woman, chances are you’ve considered this question before. But there’s more to this story than you may have considered.
Do you identify with Martha in this passage of Holy Scripture from the Gospel of Luke?
“Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ “Luke 10:40
Then we hear an immediate reply from Jesus:
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”Luke 10: 41
If you’re anything like me, these words of Jesus might sting a little.
At first read, it’s almost like Jesus is brushing Martha aside. Think on this: some ancient versions of the Bible read “there is need of few things” in the place of “there is need of only one thing”. God is saying, be essential. What are we centering our lives and energy on?
Anxiety and Work
Yes, obviously someone needs to do the work, the nitty gritty, but with what intention and spirit? Jesus begins by saying, “you are anxious and troubled about many things”. He sees that Martha is feeling undue pressure and responsibility, getting bogged down in the details. She loves Jesus and wants to provide a meal and respite suitable for him. She is “burdened with much serving” and wants her sister to help.
Jesus says, instead, slow down. Don’t worry, it will all get done. Let our time together be the important thing. You are placing undue burden on yourself. He’s not dismissing her concerns but redirecting her towards a better response than anxiety.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
Now, I know you’re probably heard these verses before…but read it again. Read it three times. Slow down and let the Living Word sink in. Are you trusting God with what you can’t control, and only He can? Are you carrying a load that doesn’t belong to you? Are you trying to do something purely with your own efforts, and not inviting Christ in?
Depending on the Holy Spirit for strength and relying on God in faith can’t happen reliably in your life without stopping in prayer first. An old saying comes to mind: don’t put the cart before the horse. In this scenario, the cart is “work” and the horse is “worship” or prayer.
Consider where your heart is in your duties and work. Hard work is redemptive if it comes from a place of purpose and selflessness, just like Jesus’s selfless offering of His life for us. It brings us out of ourselves and into a “zen” rhythm of the physical that quiets the mind. But we need balance, always.
Joy in the Journey
Here’s the thing: you can offer your hard work AND your fun, your joys, to Jesus as your worship. He came so our lives could be full and abundant but we must offer Him our hearts and not just the results of our productivity.
What makes you feel pure joy? If you are too Martha-y lately, build in some joy into your day and go to God with gratitude for these joys and blessings. Connect in prayer with Him and sit at His feet like Mary, giving some of your time in full focus on Christ.
But also remember that Martha didn’t just sit in her anxiety. She took what Jesus said to heart and learned. She grew in faith. And her faith was immense. Martha’s brother Lazarus died and in the midst of her grief she was able to say “But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” (John 11:22)
Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She answered, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11:25-27)
SUPER KEY BIBLE READING!! Yes, our very own Martha was granted this moment with Jesus to hear His gospel proclamation and respond in faith. So yeah, that’s huge.
I’m asking you spend a moment (or two) thinking about what story you’re writing now and what story you could be writing FROM NOW ON, together with Christ.
The Blank Page
“Why do we go to Mass?” A group of children is asked. Alessandro (age 11, Rome) answers, “For the history.” Another child adds, “Mass helps us prepare for the parousia, because it’s already communion.” At another time, when the children are asked, “What is the purpose of the sacraments?” Federica (age 10, Rome) responds, “To fill up the blank page of history that we must write.”Sofia Cavalletti, “The Religious Potential of the Child 6-12 Years”
In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the period after Christ’s redemption but before His second coming (parousia) is referred to as The Blank Page. It is the page of history which is yet to be written by us, together with God.
Isn’t it fascinating to look on life as a blank page, ready to filled by stories, adventures and growth? It also includes the use of our personal gifts for a purpose. Together, with God, this blank page has to potential to be illuminated in ways we could never expect, or achieve in our own human strength.
What do we dare to write? Will our life stories be those of routine, practicality, worldly achievement? Will they be about what we DO but not who we ARE?
Let’s consider Martha’s full journey and when we are starting to feel like burdened Martha, remember Martha 2.0! Her story did not end in anxiety but in faith.
Our burdens can be balanced. Our work can be infused with Holy Spirit strength that far surpasses our own. Our story can begin with “She loved God”.