July 29, 2010

Homily - Martha and Mary

Jesus with Martha and Mary

Fr. Micheal J. Woolley

In today’s Gospel we meet for the first time in the Scriptures a women whom Jesus becomes very good friends with, named Martha.

And this very brief scripture passage paints us a very detailed picture of Martha: her personality, her virtues and her shortcomings.

Martha comes across as an extrovert, a take charge type of person, a woman of action.

We also see that Martha possesses at least two virtuous qualities: the virtue of faith in Jesus and the virtue of hospitality.

These two virtues inspire Martha to welcome Jesus and probably the twelve apostles also to her home for dinner.

But what of course jumps out most to us is Martha’s shortcomings. Jesus sums them all up when he says to her “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”

The Lord, who sees into the heart, looks into Martha’s heart and sees that it’s not just one thing Martha is anxious and worried about, she is rather anxious and worried about many things.

Yes, there’s the matter at hand, getting dinner ready and the table set and keeping everything warm without a microwave for 13 hungry men. All that’s got her a bit anxious and worried.

But that’s probably the least of Martha’s “many” worries and concerns.

We can only speculate what some of them were, but probably Martha worried over the things we worry over: over financial issues, personal health issues, perhaps she was worried about past or present sins she struggled with, perhaps she worried that she was worrying too much!

Martha certainly got anxiety over family matters. It is rather revealing that Martha asks Jesus to tell her sister to help her. Were the two not talking to each other?

We also find out later that Martha’s brother Lazarus has some serious health issues, which also must have caused Martha much anxiety.

And probably most of all, Martha was anxious and worried about her friend and Lord Jesus and his mission. She worried about how cold and dark and loveless this world was, she worried about how Jesus’ enemies were plotting to kill Him just two miles up the road in Jerusalem, she worried that all the good that Jesus was doing would be in vain.

And all of these anxieties come to a head and come bursting out of the extrovert Martha: Lord, do you not care? She asks Jesus.

“Do you not care that my family life’s a wreck, that my sister and I aren’t talking to each other? Do you not care that my brother could fall ill at any time leaving us financially strapped? Do you not care that I keep falling into the same sins over and over again? Do you not care that tonight’s supper is going to be ruined, and that it very well might be your Last Supper if the Pharisees finally succeed in bringing you down? Do you not care what’s to become of us disciples if that happens?”

To which Jesus replies “Martha, Martha, only one thing is necessary, and Mary your sister has chosen it.”

“Mary has all the same many anxieties and worries that you have Martha, and she even has a few others you don’t have, but Mary has brought those worries to me in prayer; Mary has taken time out each day to sit at my feet and let my Words permeate and transform her heart.

“In doing so, Mary still has the same problems, but she is not longer anxious and worried over them, she knows there’s no problem too big that God and her cannot handle.

“Mary has chosen the better part Martha, and the peace and serenity her daily prayer has given her shall not be taken from her. Nor will it be taken from you Martha, if you would but sit at my feet a while and learn from me.”

It appears that Martha took Jesus up on his offer that day, for the next time we meet her it is when Jesus visits her at the death of her brother Lazarus.

And that day, Martha says to Jesus “even now in the midst of this crisis, I know, that whatever you ask of God, Jesus, God will give you, for I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the One who has come into the world.”

May us Marthas who are anxious and worried over many things bring our cares each day to the feet of Jesus, that we like Martha may learn to choose the better part and come to believe more firmly in Christ.

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