First Reading: Gen 318:1-10a; Psalm: 15. R. v. 1a; Second Reading: Col 1:24-28; Gospel: Lk 10:38-42
MARTHA’S TIME VERSUS MARY’S TIME
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
“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.”
Martha replied: “Really?”
“Listen Jesus. I, Martha was the one who welcomed you upon your arrival. It was me who opened the door to let you in. It was still me who offered you a seat and a bowl of water to wash your feet. I made sure I did the needful before dashing into the kitchen. If there was anyone who first made you feel welcomed under this roof, it was me. You know our culture. It is not enough to welcome a visitor or to offer a seat. A visitor needs to be replenished at least with a meal for the journey embarked upon. Abraham our father in faith was reckoned for similar hospitality. Why rebuke me for doing the same? Perhaps you may have to reconsider again if you were fair enough to have said that Mary has chosen the better part? Mary who did nothing other than sit at your feet like a fur baby. I won’t complain anymore.” And she dashed back into the kitchen.
I think by now anyone can guess the next step of Jesus. He may have to do something quickly before someone pulls down the roof on his head. One of the worst things anyone shouldn’t do to a woman is not to appreciate her domestic services or her efforts generally. This can be devastating to them. Don’t tell a woman that her food is not tasty even when it is truly so. Don’t tell her she is ugly even when it is so obvious. One peculiar distinct trait in women is their soft spot for lavish commendations even when we don’t mean them. How could this have eluded Jesus? Couldn’t Jesus have been more careful with his words?
I am not here today to defend Jesus. But one thing I am sure of is that Jesus loved Martha as much as he loved Mary. He appreciated Martha as much as he appreciated Mary. This isn’t all about how a woman should be treated. If Martha could separate sentiments from words, she would understand that Jesus’ comment to her wasn’t a rebuke but rather an invitation. If she was a little more patient and observant, she would have noticed that Jesus needed presence and not food, leisure and not work, a listening ear and not a distracted heart. So as much as Martha wanted the good of Jesus, Jesus wanted her good too. Jesus was like saying to Martha ‘You don’t only need to breathe out to live; you also necessarily have to breathe in.’
This does not mean that Jesus prioritises leisure over hard work. Because I know there are Marthas in this Church. Those who are tirelessly working week in, week out in this parish without getting the commensurate appreciation duly deserved. The lay minister, altar servers, readers, choir, ushers and cleaners. I am also aware of those who dress and decorate the altar, those who sanitize the church after Mass, the various groups, sodalities, councils and committees that have showed assiduous commitment in their responsibilities. How can I forget families who have shown me so much kindness and love? Possibly, just like Martha, some of you may have on several occasions assumed that your priest is not appreciative enough. Especially when you see the Marys who only come to Church to sit and listen and then go home leaving us to do the work all by ourselves.
Today, I want you all to know that I really appreciate your hard work and love. I cannot be grateful enough. And I cannot trade your love and services for anything. You have chosen the best portion which is to work for the growth of the faith, and this cannot be taken away from you. Thank you most kindly.
The scene of today’s gospel is a family house. And what happened therein clearly underscores Jesus’ message to all families today.
We live in a world with a culture of hectic schedules and relentless pursuit of productivity. A world where success is measured by how much wealth acquired and power determined by how much people we control. Ironically, our pursuit for wealth in most cases takes a lot from us than give. We work very hard to impress our CEO’s and managers who barely notice us. We go extra miles chasing after money and promotions which we may not get in the end. We exert so much energy and time in pursuit of wealth to take care of our families and friends. We put our lives on the line in a bid to get rich for the sake of cheap respect and adulations. And sadly, we spend our health to gain wealth only to end up spending the same acquired wealth to regain our health.
What a futile way to live. I am not in any way encouraging mediocrity, but for us to slow down a bit and pay attention to ourselves. Obviously, when Jesus said to Martha “you are anxious and troubled about many things”, this was exactly what he meant. To live, we do not only have to breathe out, we necessarily have to breathe in too. We don’t always have to give; we sometimes have to receive also. Leisure and self-love revitalises the body.
One of the keys to healthy living is the love and care we give to ourselves and the love and care we receive from people. Work and several commitments have snatched many parents away from the love and care they deserve from their families. This is conversely the same. Many parents have deprived their families the love and care they deserve from them due to work and several commitments too. We burn off our energies working and have little or none left for us and the family. We keep fully awake in our long hours of work only to get home tired and sleepy when the family needs us. Any commitment creating a wedge between us and our family needs to be curtailed. Yes, we have to work to put food on the table but not to the detriment of family love.
So, take a break from work. Create that “Mary Time” to be with your family, to chat and play games with them, to see a movie at the cinema, and to go on a vacation. Make your family feel more valued than work. As we create this time to show them love and care, likewise do we receive love and care from them. We need to breathe in some fresh air from time to time.
This as well applies to our spiritual life. We need to also create that “Mary Time” for God. Pausing from work to be with God. Praying with the family. Sitting in silence to listen to what God has to say to us. Going to a lonely or quiet place to muse on life. We can even just sit and gaze at the stars in the sky, the flowers, the trees, the waters, the seas and the shrubs at the banks. We can listen to the gentle breeze, the whispering winds, the chirpings of the birds, the sounds of the crickets, and even the pulsation of our hearts. These are not a waste of time. They are beautiful ways of feeding the soul and re-connecting to the self. These simple exercises that seem so insignificant can ease off burdens and anxieties, reduce high blood pressure, tension and dementia; and relax the brain for healthy assimilation. So as we reflect and pray in silence, we are also at the same time breathing in new breath of life.
Martha’s time is needful, but Mary’s time is also important.
“Excuse me Mary” Jesus said, as he hurried into the kitchen. There he found Martha seated and gloomy. Don’t ask me what he told her. But you can be sure he may have to find a way to make amends for his initial comment towards her. Jesus was kind after all.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, grant us the disposition to give you a listening ear in the midst of our busy schedules in life. Amen.