Ever since this past weekend, I’ve been thinking about Martha. On Saturday morning’s retreat, our deacon/retreat director/fellow Secular Franciscan asked us to consider the “Mary and Martha” story, since St. Martha’s feast is this week. An interesting discussion resulted. Our wise-beyond-her-91-years senior member, whose name actually IS Martha, reminded everyone that while Jesus criticized Martha in that famous story, Martha was the one who showed so much faith and trust when she approached Jesus after her brother died.
That led me to think about Jesus’ criticism of Martha. Read the story carefully. Many times people assume that this story meant that everyone should just drop everything they’re doing and sit down at the feet of Jesus. That’s pretty unrealistic, and that’s not what Jesus told Martha to do. The problem he had with Martha was not with the fact that she was doing the kitchen work. He was an honored guest, a good friend, and someone had to get dinner on the table! Jesus didn’t criticize Martha for cooking instead of visiting. Instead, his words were, “You are anxious about many things.”
It wasn’t a problem that Martha was cooking for her guests. The problem was that she was stressing out about it.
I sure can relate to that. My whole family has been subjected to my “white tornado moments” when I panic about having the house clean or the meal cooked before we have guests or (even worse) a big party. I’m not pleasant to be around, that’s for sure.
So today I will try to listen to the words of Jesus and be a little less anxious. Anxiety, after all, cancels out hospitality.
Mary, her sister, might have chosen “the better part,” but Martha’s the one who ultimately became a saint. Go figure.