16thSunday of the Year ( C ) 2019
Martha and Mary were sisters. They were also friends of Jesus. When ever he was in the area he would call in at their house. He loved to do this because of their friendship and hospitality. This gospel of often misunderstood, in my opinion: Jesus isn’t saying Mary is better than Martha. Look at the scenario. Jesus has been out ministering all day. He comes to his friends’ house, he is tired and hungry. Martha prepares the food for the meal while Mary listens to him; she sat down at his feet. Now just suppose Martha also sat down at Jesus feet. Remember Jesus is tired and hungry. After a while what do you think he would say? I don’t think he’d say oh thank you ladies for sitting at my feet and listening to me. No. Surely he would say: “Oi, I’m starving! Whose going to prepare the meal?” or words to that effect.
Notice what Jesus criticizes Martha for, he says: “You worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one”. He criticizes her because she worries and frets about so many things. But isn’t she like so many of us. Don’t we all worry and fret about things. Who doesn’t worry and fret about money, or the lack of it, or about our health of someone else’s? Who doesn’t worry and fret about the world we are living in; global warming, the environment, the violence in our society; just to name a few things. Is it wrong to worry? Is Jesus saying that we lack faith because we worry. No, I don’t think so. Notice what he says to Mary, notice the last words: “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed, only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part”. Notice that: ‘It is Mary who has chosen the better part”. And what is Mary doing? She is listening to Jesus.
The problem we have with worrying is that we get absorbed in the worry and can think of nothing else. I rang a friend of mine up recently, he had had a heart attack. When I spoke to him I said “you don’t sound very worried”. He said “I’m not, my wife does enough of that for both of us”. But isn’t it true: when you are something you are worried about it can be that it takes over your whole existence. You wake up in the morning and straight away are worried. You go through the day and can’t think of nothing else. Then at night you take sleeping pills because your worries keeps you awake. It becomes the be all and end all of your being. But as Christians we are not meant to worry like this.
Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to stop working; he doesn’t say: come and sit at my feet and listen to me. He just tells her to stop worrying. He tells her in the midst of her worries to listen to him. My sister likes to listen to BBC radio while she’s washing or ironing. She is doing two things at once. It isn’t a problem for her. But in a similar way this is what Jesus is saying to us: “in the midst of your worries listen to me. Don’t be so absorbed in your worries that you forget all about me. I am here at your side to help you, to lighten the burden. Can you not hear me calling to you?”
So tonight when you mothers and wives are slaving over a hot cooker and your husband and children are sat down watching the tv, don’t complain to them. Complain rather to God who is with you. In the midst of your troubles and woes listen to him.