Today is the feast of St. Martha. You have probably heard of her, even if you don't know much about Scripture. Her legacy seems to be that of someone who worked a lot, but needed to do something "better". After all, her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet, which is the preferred role, rather than serving, right? We'll get back to that question in a bit.
I sooo want to be a Mary--seemingly unconcerned with details, and totally focused on what Jesus has to say. I want to be enamored with His every word, sitting quietly at His feet, and learn the depths of His wisdom. I don't want to be a distracted busy-body.
Interestingly enough, it doesn't seem that Jesus was rebuking Martha. He was, instead, encouraging her. But not to STOP serving. That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? "Let's all just forget eating. We'll all talk all night and ignore our grumbling stomachs." If Jesus truly felt that way, then why feed the 5,000? They had listened to Him teach all day. Wasn't that enough? He obviously didn't think that way, as He made sure everyone had enough, even with leftovers!
A week ago Sunday, the Gospel reading was this exact story. One of our deacons preached on this, and brought out a very good point. Jesus wasn't really saying either of these personalities was "best". He was actually pointing toward a balance of service and feeding on His Word. Because we really can't do one without the other, and do it properly. Without the spiritual enrichment, we are only serving out of duty. But when we are full of Him, we can serve with His love and in His name. What a difference!
When we see Martha later, after her brother's death, she seems to have grasped what Jesus was saying.
As Jesus approached Bethany, Martha's grief overwhelmed her.
"Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.'"
Notice that Mary stayed back, but Martha went to Jesus. She knew who He was. She knew He could have healed Lazarus. She had questions, and went to the only Source to find her answers. The rest of their conversation shows her deep understanding:
[Martha said] But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
She really got it, didn't she? I mean she understood. She had learned a lot. And, in the end, Lazarus was healed beyond her wildest expectations: he was raised from death to life! Still, ever-practical, when Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away, she had to point out...well...that Lazarus' body would...well...reek. But, when Jesus said, "Lazarus, come forth!", everything she knew about Jesus was realized in a moment of time. It all finally came together! Service and faith combined, and Lazarus was alive!
So...do I want to be a Mary? Maybe more of a Mary than I am now. But, truthfully, I want to be a Martha/Mary. I don't want to be "worried about many things," but I do want to serve Him from a heart full of who He truly is: the Resurrection and the Life. Otherwise, my service is just dead works. I want to be so full of Him that I can't help but show it by my works.
Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worries to listen to his words and be present to him this day. Amen