I Am Both Martha and Mary

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The Gospel of Luke tells us of the dilemma faced by Martha and Mary – the choice between daily responsibilities and spiritual nourishment. This ageless struggle remains to this day. In these hectic times there is even more emphasis on our worldly duties.

Life today rushes along like a whirlwind. In a word, we are busy – all the time. Additionally, the frenzied winds of change in moral conviction create a raging assault on our spiritual peace of mind. Not only are we physically active, the rush to moral relativism attacks things we hold to be true in our faith life. These are the very truths taught to us by Jesus through the Church He established. As a result, many immortal souls are in peril.

The Contrasting Roles of Martha and Mary

The Gospel reading about Martha and Mary gives helpful insight into our current predicament. There is something more, something deeper, found in the contrasting approach taken by each sister. Yet, it is not that one of the sisters is right and the other is wrong. Earthly responsibilities call us to care for loved ones and home by providing for their needs. A certain amount of busyness is required. Job, household, children – they all make just demands on our time and focus. In this way, we are with Martha, who keeps up the household responsibilities in care for their Divine Guest.

Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.
~ Luke 10:40-41

Prayer Finds Balance

Prayerful petitions and sincere soul searching, however, provide us with the necessary insight to achieve the proper balance. When Mary and Martha entertained Jesus, both chose a socially-appropriate approach.

Yet for that moment in time, Mary’s reaction of being in the presence of Jesus was the more fitting. Although someone is always tasked with the menial responsibilities, there is also an essential need to stop and drink in the spiritual. There is a vital necessity to redirect our senses, to take in the finer details and absorb them into our very souls.

On this occasion, the meticulous care taken to have the house in order and meal prepared, cost Martha a very precious gift – communing with Jesus and the opportunity to drink in what He had to share.

Martha or Mary: Both Roles Have Value

Nonetheless, in our own lives, we see that each woman’s task is a necessity. Like the story of Martha and Mary, we find that there is no wrong or right – there is simply a difference of approach. Therefore, we see that there is much more to Luke’s Gospel than at first glance. Both Martha and Mary are a necessary part of the equation – they bring their special gifts to procure the accomplishment of the whole.

Finding the Proper Balance

There is tremendous value in realizing the proper season, the right mission, and the fitting goal at any given time. For, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. It is ours to obey the whispering call as scripture and the Holy Spirit give us what we need – just at the right time. There is a necessity of continued learning and perusal of Gospels, the Word of God, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order that we might arm ourselves with the proper tools for the proper time.

As the cycles of our lives change, so do our responsibilities.  What we take away from reading, prayer, and inspiration also has its seasons. Yet it is imperative that we learn to often ‘choose the better part’ and allow our souls to be nourished by the sacred.

Let us all do our part, for our particular season of life, with devotion to the Word of God. As a very wise priest once told me, “sometimes the result of inspiration is not known until years later”. Often the Holy Spirit gives us an insight at just the right time. In the spirit of Martha and Mary, let us continue to function as worthy members of the Body of Christ – each doing his own part.


Originally published at Catholic Life in Our Times.
Image: “Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus“, Ward and Hughes, 1886 / PD-US.

Birgit Jones

Birgit Jones

Birgit finds herself immersed in writing on her blog, Catholic Life In Our Times, where she reflects on current events with a Catholic, pro-life perspective. She also serves as Graphic Editor and Contributing Columnist at Catholic Stand as well as writing for other online Catholic publications.

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2 thoughts on “I Am Both Martha and Mary”

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    My take on this is that the Blessed Virgin herself is the ideal Martha and Mary. Her career would have been listed as housewife. St. Francis de Salles is recognized as the classic defender of this dual role which is the general vocation of those who are active in the world and are described sometimes as contemplatives in action!

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