Martha and Mary in Conflict
16th Sunday Ordinary Time
July 17, 2016
I truly love this Sunday’s gospel about the story of Jesus’ good friends
Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Like so many of us have done, Martha and Mary invited someone they loved over to the house, Jesus, and wanted to make him feel at home.
In all honesty, I have always had more sympathy for Martha than for Mary. Someone apparently had to cook lunch, serve the drinks, put out the appetizers, and perform the other customary acts of hospitality. Meanwhile, what is the other sister doing, in Martha’s opinion? Absolutely nothing! As far as she is concerned, Mary is just sitting around and letting Martha get stuck with all the housework. You can just imagine the tension and resentment building up inside that kitchen as Martha’s mind starts to churn: Why isn’t my sister helping me? She is so lazy! I know what Jesus needs! It isn’t fair that she is just sitting in the living room. Why is Mary being so self-centered?
Well, which of us hasn’t resented some free-loading relative at a family gathering? Doesn’t this scene sound familiar to many of you? Every time I hear this gospel I get just a bit ticked off at Mary. And, in fact, Martha is the one who is the canonized saint, not Mary!
But Mary has got everything right this time, and the reason is that she is the one who actually knows what Jesus wants! Poor Jesus, all he wanted from his friends in Bethany was a place to get away from the crowds and relax with some people he was comfortable with. Mary instinctively knew this. Martha thought she knew what Jesus wanted, but in fact, what she was doing was all about her needs, her service, and ultimately, her resentments.
What matters to Jesus in our own walk of faith is not so much the things that we think we need to do for Jesus, but the choices Jesus really want from us. For example, we always want to be healthy so we can serve the Lord better, when what Jesus may need from us at this moment is to accept our infirmity graciously. We may have made great plans for the day, and are ready to give all our time for the Lord when an unexpected setback (or “opportunity”) arrives that upsets the apple-cart. Jesus is glorified by our acceptance of his will rather than being overly attached to our own will. Martha and Mary still have so much to teach us today, because both of the attitudes these friends of Jesus exhibit, in fact, live inside each one of us.