Today’s gospel reading seems like a “tale as old as time.” The story of the two sisters who welcomed Jesus into their home so often was told to me over and over again throughout my childhood. Mary was always presented in a somewhat more favorable light than Martha. After whoever presented the story finished it, the question that always seemed to follow was “are you a Mary or a Martha?” Are you someone who worries constantly and is anxious or are you a person who simply seeks Jesus first?
This is really not the most appropriate question–we cannot always be as contemplative as Mary and hopefully those of us who lean toward Martha-behavior can’t always be fretting over every detail. The truth is we can be both a Martha and a Mary; neither one should be perceived as having the better approach to life. There is a time for everything, from doing the housework involved in preparing for a guest to sitting still and listening to that most important guest, Jesus. Maybe Jesus was trying to convince these sisters (as well as all of us who read this gospel today) to look at their lives and ask themselves if they were in balance.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28
Mary and Martha heard the Lord’s word and observed it, but in different ways. Mary obviously devoted her time with Jesus to focusing on everything He said, but Martha honored her Lord by serving Him and seeing to His physical comforts. Unfortunately, she let her stress and anxiety get the better of her in this situation. We can all become caught up in the present moment and lose sight of what is most important while having the best intentions. Mary may have “chosen the better part,” but Martha made sure her house was comfortable and clean so Jesus could share His words in a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere. Whether we are Marys or Marthas, we need to remember to look to the Lord for guidance in everything we do.