Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luke 38-42 – Martha, Martha

Luke 38-42 – Martha, Martha
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 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." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."
What is hospitality about?
Jesus goes to the house of his friends Mary and Martha, and they seem to give welcome. Mary arranges herself at Jesus’ feet and focuses clear wide eyes upon him while Martha bustles about getting dinner ready.

But in response to Martha’s request (exasperated) that Mary help out a little, Jesus remarks that, no, Mary has chosen the better part.

How fair is Jesus’ judgment? Someone has to do the chores of making the meal. Or should a host just say, “Welcome to dinner, but we are not having any food, we are just going to sit and look at you.”

Is Mary the winner, therefore, and Martha the loser, the one stuck with the drudgery?

No. Martha’s only mistake was not that she tended to the food, but that she forgot about Jesus, the guest.

She was anxious and worried about many things, Jesus says.

The moral of the story actually is this: real hospitality means a two-way relationship. Host and guest open to each other and become present to each other in various ways. Yes, hosts do work on the details, and work hard. But they always remember the visitor during the preparations. They do not become distracted from the relationship. Excellent hosts manage somehow to get everything ready but then to truly listen to the one who has come.

Martha was apparently in danger of forgetting. So are you and I.

We busy ourselves about many things and sometimes do not even listen to what the other person says. “But there is need of only one thing,” Jesus says.

Keep your eyes on God and God’s children, even as you bustle about.

Fr. John Foley, S. J. of the Center for Liturgy

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