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
This is the memorial feast day for St. Martha. She is one of my favorite and personally familiar women in the bible. I oftentimes feel like the Martha described in this Gospel narrative: that it is all up to me; that the more I accomplish the better I am as a person; that I will be recognized and appreciated for the hard work that I do. Yeah, right!
It is often easy to play off Mary’s way as better than Martha’s. In reality, both personal aspects of Mary and Martha are a part of my own sense of self. There is always the interplay of both of these within me: the contemplative, quiet and mindful Mary…along with the active, energetic and productive Martha. A visual example of this reality is found in the familiar ying-yang symbol.
An essential invitation in Ignatian Spirituality is to become a “contemplative in action.” Since both realities are essential aspects of our nature, they are thus essential aspects of a fruitful spiritual relationship with God. One is not better than the other, but the balance of both is essential for effective daily living.
We fulfill our Christian vocations and live more meaningful lives when we both contemplatively welcome and receive God’s presence in our own lives, and actively express God’s love and forgiveness in word and action with our neighbors. Faith is both contemplative and active, inward and outward, personal and communal.
How am I attentive to both the contemplative and active side of living and expressing my Christian vocation?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you
as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that
I do your will.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola