Monday, August 15, 2005

On the need for Marthas

Tonight at the liturgy for the feast of the Dormition, the gospel reading was about Martha and Mary. You know the one, where Martha does all the chores, and Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. This is a very challenging reading, since most of us find it difficult to sit like Mary, and instead are busy running around like Martha. We generally console ourselves by saying something like this: "Well, we can't all be Marys. The world needs Marthas!"

But, if you read the passage closely, you will find that Jesus doesn't seem to agree. Look at it again:

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."
41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
42 one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."
Does Jesus ever say "The world needs Marthas?" Does he make it easy on those of us who would rather be busy with the world rather than with contemplation of Christ? Or does he just assert that what Mary has chosen is the good?

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