Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
We have all been where Martha is in today’s scripture. We all get so busy, doing “things”, that the things we do no longer bring us joy. We do them because they need to be done.
Jesus is not criticizing Martha for her actions. In fact, what she is doing is good and necessary. She is providing comfort and hospitality to Jesus. Jesus addresses Martha because he sees that although she is doing the right thing, it is not bringing her that subtle feeling of pleasure for working so hard. Instead, her work is causing her worry and anxiety.
All of us have responsibilities like Martha, things we must do. We need to provide for our family. We must strive to be good parents. We have responsibilities at work. We need to make life decisions such as what will I do after high school or after college. All of these efforts require time and energy. They are necessary. But what the character of Martha asks us is this: Are our responsibilities lifting us, up or pulling us down? When we do the things that we must do, do they give us satisfaction, or are they depleting us?
If they are depleting us, then we find ourselves in a state of spiritual exhaustion. The result of that is the people who need our love the most, the people to whom we are most committed end up getting the leftovers.
We are called to imitate Mary in choosing the better part and truly allowing Jesus to feed us as he desires to do. It’s not enough for us to know what our priority should be. We also have to choose it. It’s not enough just to know where the treasure is buried, we need to make the choice to sell off other things that own us so that we can buy the field. That means reorienting our life to make Jesus truly its center. To choose Jesus as the best part of all was Mary of Bethany’s great wisdom and we will be wiser the more we imitate her.
What Jesus is telling Martha and us is that if we wish to overcome fatigue, worry, and anxiety, the way to do this is by listening. We do not need to do less. We need to hear more. We do not ignore our responsibilities, but we choose to be present to the people who are most important in our lives.
At the end of a busy day, when our mind is filled with concern and anxiety, Jesus asks us to listen to someone who loves us: to ask our eight-year-old how was day camp; to speak to our teenager about a friend who’s been hospitalized; to ask our spouse what was the best part of the day. As we listen to the people who love us, we become grounded and our anxiety is reduced.
If we listen, we will hear the voice of Christ, and that will remind us to whom we belong. That will give us peace, if we truly listen, then the work we do will give us life.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, to be in your presence is life and joy for me. Free me from needless concerns and preoccupations that I may give you my undivided love and attention.”
The voice of the Lord reaches out to us amid the noise of our self-absorption and invites us to release the tangle of worries that paralyzes our hearts: Only one thing is necessary: to stay close to the Lord, to listen to him, to trust in him, to do all things joyfully for him. We want to do good things. We want to fulfill the duties of our state in life. But as we engage in all our activity, we tend to lose sight of the real reason behind everything—simply to love God and love our neighbor. Whenever our loving work becomes a joyless burden, we need to do exactly what Martha did: burst in on Jesus, unburden our hearts, and listen carefully to whatever he has to say to us.