Last week I attended a retreat entitled “Jesus and the Women of the Gospels.” The first session focused on the story of Martha and Mary found in Luke 10:38-42. It is coincidental (or maybe not so) that this was also the Gospel for the Sunday liturgy of July 21. Both the retreat facilitator and the Sunday liturgy preacher opened up this story in marvelous ways for me.
To recap the story, Jesus was invited to the home of Martha and Mary as he had been numerous times. On this occasion, Martha was busy providing hospitality while her sister sat at Jesus’s feet – posture of a disciple. Martha was not having a good day. She was feeling pulled in many directions, frustrated, overwhelmed, jealous, and tired; and she couldn’t figure out why Jesus didn’t notice that she was stretched beyond her endurance doing this alone.
However, Martha also felt secure enough with Jesus to express her feelings. Jesus listened and assured Martha that she was creating her own anxiety; and reassured her that he wanted only to visit with both her and Mary. Every good Mediterranean kitchen has bread, cheese, fruit, and glasses of wine. Martha just needed to put it on a tray and carry it into the living room to enjoy being with Mary and Jesus.
I don’t know of many first-born daughters, like me, who don’t identity with Martha. In the past, there have always been the feelings of guilt for not being like Mary. But first-borns are programmed to be “busy about many things.”
Because this was the first session of the retreat, I was able to not only see the humor in this situation, but also give myself the gift of resting in and enjoying the encounters with God as they happened throughout the week. God met with me without my having to work at it.
With whom do you identify in the story of Martha and Mary?
Do you perhaps create your own anxiety?
Anne Sur OP
East Dubuque, IL