Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” [Luke 10:41b-42a]
With a gift from God comes the responsibility to use that gift and thus glorify God. The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility. But the greater the responsibility, the greater the temptation to pride. The Evil Spirit can use even our servitude as a means to make us rely on our successes for our sense of self-worth. In the twisted logic of the Enemy of our true nature, we are doing God a favor when we serve and we establish ourselves as worthy in God’s site. Now it appears that God owes us the respect involved in knowing us as worthy.
But only one thing is necessary for our worthiness before God: Before we can be real servants, we must be real beggars, receivers of Jesus’ saving gift. Jesus, more than anything in the world, wants to give to us the love offered by the Father. That leaves us with one necessary way to be true to our calling as human beings: to be children at Jesus’ feet, begging for what we most need. Knowing ourselves as receivers, identifying ourselves as needy, is a prerequisite for any claims to servant status and the only prerequisite for salvation.
There is hope for those of us who have fallen into the trap of imagining our service exempts us from our neediness before God. We can hear it in Jesus’ compassionate voice as He gently calls out to his tenacious servant as He says, “Martha, Martha…” Let us be reminded by the Gospel of the love Jesus gives us and our proper place as being nourished by God’s love alone.
And we pray with Saint Ignatius: Lord, give me only Your love and Your grace. That is enough for me.
—Fr. John Brown, S.J.
Lord, it’s easy to sympathize with Martha. Burdened by all the grunt work, Martha peeks over and sees Mary delighting in her companionship with you. Martha reasons that it might behoove Mary to help with the cleaning and cooking. After all, it seems only fair. With a firm love, Jesus, you challenge Martha’s perspective and defend Mary’s choice to be with you.
Lord, you invite me to sit with you, yet unfortunately I, too, am distracted by the routine of the day. Not only does such routine preoccupy me, but a myriad of concerns cloud my mind. Like, Martha, I can’t imagine not completing my tasks, not trying to solve my problems before sharing time with you.
In speaking to Martha, you speak to me. I want to commit first to you, Lord. For only then will the happenings of my day realize their purpose and the nagging worries be held in check, unable to drain my energy and joy. I accept your invitation to be with you!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team