The gospel for Tuesday, October 9 was the one where Jesus was a dinner guest in the home of his good friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Jesus gently rebuked Martha for being occupied with too many things while her sister, Mary, took the better part by sitting at the feet of Jesus.
In this world there are Marys and there are Marthas. I have 8 children and I own a small business. Guess which sister I am!
When I read this gospel, I always wonder if Mary did the after-dinner clean-up or did she just continue to sit? Did she at least pass the bread and dried herbs or whatever else they ate at dinner or did she leave Martha to do it all? And did anyone other than Jesus thank Martha or did they just eat the meal she single-handedly prepared? She probably did all the planning and shopping for the meal too.
A good friend has 7 children, is a teacher, an artist and a PhD candidate. She puts it this way. “Well somebody’s got to cook dinner!” Exactly! Someone’s got to make dinner, pick the kids up from school, help with homework, drive to choir practice and swimming lessons, bring home a pay cheque, make sure the kids do their homework (dads do these things too, but let’s get real). That someone is Martha. Martha doesn’t have time to sit around and meditate or dinner will burn and the kids will freak out because she forgot to pick them up from school on her way home from work after dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic and road construction.
Give Martha a break, will ya? She’s the one who makes sure your socks match coming out of the dryer.
Every day, I pray my Breviary – morning prayer and evening prayer. Morning prayer is not a problem since I’m an early riser and I enjoy the quiet and stillness of early morning. It’s the perfect time to talk to God before the day begins.
Evening prayer, which is typically prayed between 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm is a different story. That’s the time when I have to drive #7 and #8 to choir practice, make dinner, listen to all the kids talk about their day as they come home………you get the picture. I don’t have the luxury of sneaking away for 15 minutes for quiet (??) contemplation and reflection. It ain’t gonna happen! For me, evening prayer is prayed much later when somewhere in the world, it’s still 6:00 pm.
So what’s a Martha to do? First of all, I don’t think Jesus rebuked her for running around cooking dinner. Even Jesus had to eat, after all. I think He was telling her that even as she was carrying out the necessary tasks of meal preparation, she still had to be centered on the Word of God. She had to see her work as an offering and not just a task that had to be completed. Work as prayer; not work as an end in itself.
Maybe Martha didn’t start and end her day with prayer. Maybe she didn’t take small moments during the day to re-connect with God. Maybe she whipped herself up into such a frenzy over everything that had to be done that she lost sight of the valued relationships in her life – the people who mattered more than the gourmet meal, the painstakingly washed laundry and the meticulously swept floors.
Maybe that’s what Jesus was telling her. Don’t make the results of the task the goal to be reached. Use the task as a prayer to reach the ultimate goal: the eternal gourmet banquet with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.