Having a Mary heart in a Martha world

Below is my column for this week’s faith formation newsletter. It focuses on today’s Gospel.

The title of this column matches the title of a book written by Joanna Weaver that tries to come to grips with this Sunday’s five-verse Gospel story about Mary and Martha [Luke 10:38-42]. Geared more towards women but applicable to all, Weaver’s book offers guidance on how we can maintain a healthy, balanced life that facilitates and encourages intimacy with Almighty God—while in the midst of a busy world.

The story of Mary and Martha is a short yet complex one that has everything to do with the age-old question of exacting a proper balance in one’s life of prayer and service. Jesus comes to visit the house of sisters Mary and Martha. Martha, frustrated that her sister Mary refuses to help serve in the kitchen, approaches Jesus on the matter. He admonishes Martha and tells her that Mary “has chosen the better part,” that is, sitting at his feet.

I often feel for Martha. She was simply trying to serve the Lord, right? That seems perfectly admirable! We hear the same type of dialogue today. Often, adorers of the Blessed Sacrament are criticized (oftentimes behind their backs) for spending their time there in prayer when they could be out “doing something.” Jesus reminds us today that union with him is what is most important. It’s more important than everything we have listed on our busy schedules!

That said, service, properly understood and lived, is an expression of the search for God just as prayer is. Service is not simply about me making some kind of social or other change to show what I can do and what difference I can make. Jesus is not saying we should not serve. [Those are Satan’s words!] Rather, he is saying that true service unites us to him.

Service is actually about searching for God in those we serve and being his hands, outreached for others. Martha seems to have lost sight of this; she was more concerned about what she could do that she seems to have even forgotten whom she was doing it for!

May we always remember that we come to union with God through service and prayer—that is, by having a “Mary heart”—in the bustling of the “Martha world.”