Mary Chose The Better Part But The World Needs Martha Also

We are all fully aware of the biblical passage that describes Martha and Mary in the presence of Christ. Martha is running around busy preparing stuff for Jesus and is preoccupied with “stuff”. Mary is preoccupied with listening to the Lord and contemplating his words and presence. After Martha does a bit of complaining because Mary isn’t helping out, Jesus reminds her that Mary has chosen the better part.

Here, there is this temptation to use this passage in order to berate people who behave like Martha. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone use it any other way. As I sat in the chapel of the local monastery today I had time like Mary, to reflect in the presence of the Lord. I thought about those who lead the life of spiritual perfection in this very place the decision made to assume that contemplative role of Mary.

As much as I dwelled on this the thought of the good qualities of Martha was present in my thoughts, but many fail to mention these good traits of Martha. I reflected that, although Mary chose the better part, it was important for Mary to have a little bit of Martha in her also because experience has taught me that extremes in any direction is never a good thing in the spiritual life.

Martha was comfortable in the presence of the Lord and I’ve seen far too many Christians who treat Jesus like a scary master out to punish everyone, and so there is this extremity of fear that exists in them. They are afraid of sinning to the point where they make life so difficult for themselves and the relationship with Jesus becomes this focus alone of getting rid of sin. Forget about Jesus lets just follow the rules.

It is this fear that makes them sit at the feet of the Lord and listen but not love. Mary did not possess this extremity and Martha did not have the other extreme either of being so busy she couldn’t stop what she was doing when told. But the Lord used her imperfections to show the world how the Church needs the refreshing personality of Martha and the reflective attributes of Mary otherwise nothing would get done and nobody would be prayed for.

Jesus is teaching us that someone who possesses a balanced personality of being comfortable in the presence of the Lord as Martha, and at the same time takes the time to sit at the feet of the Lord like Mary, do really well for themselves. Mary chose the better part, but had she sat there for too long, would the chores have been completed? No. Therefore this passage doesn’t simply show Martha in a bad light at all. In fact, it teaches us that we need to possess both these women within ourselves. We need to be comfortable in the presence of the Lord and balance that with the contemplative respect and honor due to him when he speaks. If we can achieve this, we’ve come one step closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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