Readings (Year C):
Reflection: In a stuck perspective? Ask Jesus for insight
Have you ever had a friend suddenly text you to say they happen to be in the neighborhood and want to drop by to say hello? There’s a mad dash to declutter the living room, put away shoes, and move the pile of clean laundry from the couch. Perhaps it’s even close to dinner time, but you hadn’t gotten around to thinking about that yet, and you want to be a good host, but you’re just not ready for your unexpected guest.
In today’s Gospel, given Jesus’ ministry as an itinerant preacher, I imagine that he and a few disciples dropped in on Martha and Mary during their travels without much advance notice. Presuming the best intentions on Martha’s part, I empathize with her wanting her unexpected guests to feel welcomed, cared for and nourished in her family home. She immediately hurries to offer her thirsty visitors cups of water and then returns to the kitchen to see what food can be prepared. It surprises her that her sister Mary isn’t helping, but is just sitting there, and Martha feels overwhelmed by the need to prepare a good meal by herself. Finally, not being able to contain her irritation anymore, she asks Jesus to step in and insist that her sister help her.
I can imagine Martha’s bewilderment, and perhaps even embarrassment, when Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen the better part in choosing to listen to his stories and teachings as he reflects on days of travel and ministry. In her desire to offer great hospitality, Martha forgot the most important thing – her undistracted presence.
In a rushed world crammed with too many texts, emails, social media accounts, work and family responsibilities and growing human struggles, it’s easy to get “anxious and worried about many things.” Taking the time to pray, to contemplate, to center ourselves in Jesus’ stories and teachings so as to discern what is ours to contribute – well, all that can get moved further down our long to do list.
It couldn’t have been easy for Martha to hear Jesus’ summoning her to see differently, to make a better choice. I hope, that in a moment of grace, she took a breath, scrapped her elaborate dinner plan, brought out some bread and olives and called it a day. I hoped she could see that she too deserved to step out of her expected role and sit among the rest in a circle of belonging to listen to Jesus, to be present in community, and to be nourished by his Word.
We all get stuck like Martha periodically. I admire that she risked being vulnerable and showed her anxiety, worry, and familial frustration to Jesus – the one who could say something transformative. Her experience is a prayer we too could use: “Lord, if my perspective about this person or this situation is mistaken, please let me know. Point me in a better direction. Help me to see as you see.”