Martha must have been one of those wonderful hosts who can cope with unexpected guests and whip up a delicious meal by using up a lot of leftovers. Just put more water in the soup. Martha was a doer, she was a practical woman. She must have found it hard living with her sister Mary who was more of a thinker, a ponderer. Mary was also quite bold. According to the culture of the times – a culture still very strong in the Middle East – Mary was out of place, mixing the sexes was taboo. Those others, all men, who were listening to Jesus must have been uncomfortable with Mary intruding into their little group and acting as if she belonged. They would have agreed with Martha’s complaint, get Mary into the kitchen where she belonged.
Jesus appreciated Martha’s hard work, she was a fuss pot, worried about many things. He also appreciated Mary’s need to listen to His message, to hear the word of God. Strengthened by that word Mary would be about the tasks of her own life including preparing a meal.
Most of us live busy lives. I see men and women walking down the street carrying their laptops, bringing work home, the day never seems to end. To keep your head above water you have to be busy about many things. Working over time is par for the course. If you won’t do it they will find someone else who will. There is so little time to stop and think, so little time to ponder about life, about the health of our relationships, about the health of our relationship with God.
The Benedictines are the oldest order in the church, founded by St. Benedict in the 5th century. He wrote a simple rule and their mission statement is – to work and to pray. We will come to holiness, to a full, healthy and holy life through work and prayer.
The crazy pace of life today certainly calls for work but if we are to live balanced lives we have to stop and smell the roses – stop and enjoy the people with whom we live, stop and appreciate friends, stop and take in the beauty of nature.
This is all common sense, we know its true but we keep putting off taking the time to be in a quiet place and space. We keep putting off making a time to be still – to pray.
A number of years ago I was interviewing a young boy for his first communion. I told him, ‘when Jesus comes to us in communion He comes as food and as friend.’ What do you do when a friend comes to visit? We chat, he answered. Well when Jesus comes to visit what will you do.” We’ll chat, he answered, What will you chat about? He thought for a bit and then said, ” Well first of all I’ll tell him how I’m doing.” OK, then what? ‘Well then I’ll ask Him how He’s doing.” Perfect prayer. The conversation of friends.
We are all too busy. I think we all have within us a Mary who keeps trying to calm down our busy, busy Martha, a Mary who keeps trying to get us to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen. As we continue to celebrate this Mass and with the words of the gospel that recognizes work and listening, we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we get our act together and find the time and make the time to chat with the One who wants to know how we’re doing.