We’re all familiar with the Gospel account of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet whilst Martha is burdened by the numerous tasks required to host an important visitor. This is made worse because she feels that Mary is contributing nothing, absolutely nothing, to this essential domestic work.
Like the loyal son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, Martha feels maligned, underappreciated and, to a certain extent, betrayed. Why should all of the work fall to her when she has a sister who is equally capable? Why can’t she have a turn to rest and listen to Jesus? It certainly doesn’t seem fair. And then, to top it all off, when she appeals to Jesus, she doesn’t get the answer she’s looking for. He doesn’t ask Mary to come to her aid. Instead, he seems to admonish her.
Now, I’m not going to lie, I’ve always sympathised with Martha. I mean, it’s good to enjoy the company of visitors but the work is not going to do itself.
I’m one of those A-Type personalities- the hardworking perfectionistic overachievers – and I’ve always struggled with this Gospel passage, especially now that I’m a busy wife and mum of six. Who wouldn’t love to spend all day at the feet of Jesus, basking in His presence, listening to His parables first-hand and soaking up His truth and wisdom? But, in reality, there are babies to feed, children to get to school, lunches to pack, clothes to wash, floors to clean and so on…ad infinitum.
However, if we look closely at what Jesus says, we learn that He is not reproaching Martha for her work, or even for choosing to work, but for something altogether different.
Saint Francis de Sales explains: “When our Lord reprimanded Saint Martha, He said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset over many things.” You see, if she had simply tended to their needs, she would not have been troubled. However, her resentment and preoccupation with perfection makes her hurried and agitated. This is why Our Lord reprimanded her.”
If she had simply tended to their needs… How simple that sounds, but when we feel engulfed by the needs of those around us, we may lose focus and forget to perform our duties with care and compassion. Martha was cautioned because she became unreasonable and anxious in her haste to complete this work. She became fixated on the work itself, and who should be engaged in it, rather than who and what it was for.
Mary has chosen the better part, not for merely sitting by the side of Jesus, but for accepting His peace which the world cannot give. Her inner tranquillity enabled her to judge that paying attention to what her guest is saying is a higher priority than hastening to bring him something he does not need at that moment. She knows that the work of service must still be done, but it can – and will – wait. This moment will never come again – a good thing for parents to remember with their children and spouses.
Had Martha performed her acts of service cheerfully and serenely, she could have enjoyed His company, in the midst of completing her tasks. Then, she too could have relaxed by His side, unaffected by the passions of frustration and jealousy.
So, how can we be more like Mary, so that we can seize these opportunities to sit at Jesus’ feet? Here are a few ways in which you can turn your inner-Martha into an inner-Mary:
Begin your day the right way, in prayer. And continue to pray throughout day. Offer all your joys, works, and sufferings to Him in your Morning Offering. Attend Mass regularly, daily if you can. Pray the Rosary daily as a family. Recite the Angelus before Grace at lunch. Spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Mary delighted in Jesus’ presence, so we should do the same!
Owning up to our mistakes and failures can be daunting, but recognising our own shortcomings and failures through a daily examination of conscience can be both informative and illuminating. We are flawed human beings and we’re going to make mistakes. We should not dwell on these mistakes, but simply acknowledge them, express sorrow for them and make reparation. The Sacrament of Penance is one of the most underappreciated and underutilised pathways to grace. Regular monthly Confessions are an excellent aid to both finding and maintaining our inner peace, by reconciling us with God, our neighbours and ourselve.
This is easier said than done, as I well know, but, as Saint Francis de Sales explains: “Never is a task accomplished with impetuosity and haste done well.” The solution? Try to accept all of your tasks with peace. Complete them in a prioritized order and delegate what you can or must.
If you feel burdened by a task, or anxious about life in general, ask for help. There is no harm in asking for a hand, if you need one. You’d want your friends and family to approach you for support should they need it, so make sure you consider yourself in the same manner. Of course, pride may get in the way, but perhaps God has popped this task into your life to help foster the virtue of humility in you.
God is infinite. He is infinitely merciful and generous. He cannot be outdone in generosity. Relinquish the cares and worries of this life, the burdens that weigh you down, the anxieties that prevent you from achieving anything. Let Him help you. Trust in His wisdom and mercy and you shall see that He will give you everything you need to endure the harder times. Jesus exhorts us to be like the innocent children who trust Him implicitly. They don’t worry about things that don’t concern them.
A little detachment is a good thing for all of us, especially our inner-Martha!
Dear Jesus, you are the strength of my life. Restore my soul and break the chains of anxiety and panic that bind me. Amen.
© is a former Australasian Catholic Press Association award-winning editor turned blogger for youngcatholicmums.com and is a contributor to Catholic-Link. A wife and mother of five, soon to be six, she resides on a farm in rural Australia and enjoys the spiritual support of her local Catholic community.
In the midst of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic life as we knew it continues to change. We are stripped of so many things that were once a part of our everyday lives. And we stand amidst it all figuring out who we really are in this new normal. Typically, we spend our lives working hard to shape our own identity, to brand ourselves. We want to control the kind of person we appear to be. Depending on our interests, we pour our time into specific activities, sports, hobbies, and into whatever work has helped shape the perception of “who we are” for the rest of the world. We desire to be seen and known as a certain kind of person and sometimes we even flaunt our special achievements or successes. We buy into the idea that the things we have, do, and accomplish are what make us who we are--that they create our identity. And then all of a sudden, the whole world stops. No more sports. No more concerts. No more large social gatherings. No more intimate get-togethers with friends. No more travel. No more sense of security. And for some, a loss of money. a loss of employment. a loss of business. a loss of health. a loss of loved ones. a loss of life. We have been stripped. Stripped of much of what we thought we were, and much of what we thought we needed. Such a process of detachment is hard and painful and sometimes very scary. Sometimes, even without a world-wide health crisis, God allows us to go through a process of detachment from the things and ways we use to identity ourselves so we can discover our true identity. Inevitably, if we don’t know the source of who we are and what we’re worth, we attach our identity to earthly things that are fleeting and can be pulled out from under our feet at any time. Our sure and solid source is God and God alone. And we need to know him intimately. When we do, we’ll know how much he values us. You and I, my friend, are first and foremost beloved children of a loving Father. That is our true identity. That is the only identity that matters. The world will try to tell you otherwise. Your friends might try to tell you otherwise. The Tempter surely will try to tell you otherwise. But nothing changes the Truth of who you are. It’s your Truth and it’s my Truth, and it’s every person’s Truth. And it doesn’t matter whether or not we come to own it and believe it. Nothing we say or do can change that Truth. Our identity rooted in the Father is where we find life. And in the irony of the Kingdom Jesus established, it is only when we feel we have nothing left that we can recognize we actually have everything we need. Now, in the midst of this crisis, when each one of us is being stripped of some aspect of our former lives, now is the time to dig deep and claim our true identity. So I’ll start. I am Jackie Perry, a beloved daughter of our merciful Father. Who are YOU?
The simple and tender words of Jesus instructing us to “love one another as I have loved you” have taken on a deeper meaning for me over the past few weeks as the coronavirus has spread throughout the globe. I have witnessed love of neighbor in action from every end of the earth, and in my own backyard. And if this love had a sound, that sound would be silence: quiet classrooms, empty offices, and desolate parks. The silence is powerful. It is the sound of love. It is the sound of Isolation, sacrifice, and self-denial for the health and safety of humanity. What a beautiful movement in a defining moment. Odd as it may sound, there is an immeasurable amount of beauty in all this suffering we face. As I look in my daughter’s closet and see her dresses for prom and graduation hanging up, now never to be worn, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pain and sadness for the memories she and so many others will never create. But she is living in a moment she will never forget. A moment that none of us will ever forget --when the world came together and love spread faster than a virus. That is the most extraordinary memory to keep. That is what makes this time of pain and loss extraordinarily holy. Like many people, I hope that when love and prayer and science conquer this pandemic, life does not return to normal. I pray kindness and compassion will continue to overflow this earth. I pray the pain, sacrifice, and hardships we are all enduring softens us – softens our hearts, our actions, our thoughts. I pray that each of us will appreciate our blessings in life a little more, that our faith will become a little deeper, that our love for each other will grow a little stronger. My hope is that the little things in life become the bigger things in life, as our appreciation for everything around us flourishes. I pray that we fully understand what it means to love each other as Jesus loves us and actively live this love, because we are all in this beautiful life together.
“You touched my coffee!” the customer screamed at the young barista, who burst into tears as she helplessly tried to offer a new cup to the angry woman. We sensed she was not a local and the loyal patrons rallied to defend the young girl. “If you are so worried about contamination, you should not even go out!” shouted one patron. “Stay home!” another butted in. As a pastoral worker, I offered her a word of comfort. While she made my cuppa between sobs, I reminded her that the current environment made everyone tense, so she shouldn’t take it personally and let the incident ruin her day. Just a few minutes later, I had to take my own advice. When I accidentally overstepped the 1.5 meters mark at the grocery store, an elderly gentleman admonished me with disgust: “Stay in your spot!” adding a poke in the arm for extra emphasis. Then, when I took my little granddaughter out for a much-needed exercise, she was berated by a passerby, shouting “1.5 meters!” as he huffed away. Whew!!! Many of us have similar incidents to recount as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll. We are all so full of fear and anxiety that we seem to have lost the love, joy and graciousness of life. Hardly anyone smiles now as we walk past them. Heads are bowed, as eyes flit about, alarmingly vigilant but spaced out. The body language signals, “Stay away from me”. This is easily understandable as we face a dangerous, invisible enemy and we do not know who will fall by its sword before the pandemic ends. Thousands of lives and livelihoods are being lost or impaired. Although we all know that social distancing and self-isolation are necessary shields, we all suffer its effects – some catastrophically. Everyone has been affected, especially the dedicated front-line health workers, who heroically continue their care despite the risks. Sadness over the loss of loved ones, for any cause, becomes overwhelming when mourners are unable to receive the comfort of friends and family. My heart breaks for them as I pray for the souls of the dead and for comfort for their families. Government and health authorities are doing everything they can to enforce what they believe to be the best measures to control and prevent it. Many of them compare it to warfare. And indeed, there are casualties. Every nation is at its knees. But what has been its impact on me personally? When the lockdown and the shutdown were imposed, I looked at the projects I was supposed to be working on. At that moment, they seemed irrelevant. I decided to put them away in the garage, knowing that I would not be able to work on them now. My perspective has quickly shifted as I live moment by moment, prioritizing health and safety. I needed to visit the doctor for a medical issue. I implored the Lord to spare me from needing hospital care, as I dreaded the atmosphere there at present. I am forced to be more reflective and examine which parts of my life need to change. Every day I pray on my knees to ask the Lord for help. At every hour, I pray my favorite psalm 91 for the Lord’s protection for everyone, and the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I usually get excited about future projects, but with COVID-19, the future is a blur. The unknown has become my daily reality. Because I am accustomed to a busy life, I needed to find activities to help me cope. I cook for the family more. Since my daughter and son-in-law work from home, I have taken on substantial duties in the kitchen. Family life has become our foundation. The first few weeks of staying home 24/7 were trying, but things improved as family solidarity was given greater importance and we appreciated each other more. Each of us contributed more to home duties. The daily laundry has become a consolation; its gentle whirring a sound of normality. Having ample time to clean cupboards and sort the house has given me a purpose. Sleeping-in became an escape at first, but then I also realized how exhausted my body had been over the years and I welcomed the rest and the slowing down. My shower in the morning has moved to an afternoon ritual as I rush to the shops for our essentials in the morning, while stock is still available. Simplicity has become a norm – no make-up, no perfume, just my unmade self. Little miracles happen. When I was desperate for toilet paper, hand wipes and disinfectant sprays and none was found at the shelves, some were left in an abandoned trolley! Reports from some parts of the world reveal that nature is taking a recuperative rest as pollution reduces and sky, oceans, forests revive. The closure of our churches during Lent and Easter was particularly difficult, and I wonder what message the Lord is revealing to us. Where is God in all of this? many people ask. Spiritual messages are plentiful. Most of them are encouraging, affirming that God is not the source of this, as He knows no evil, but He is travelling with us on this painful journey, just as He did when He suffered here on earth with us and His Resurrection gives us hope that we will endure this trial. Our prayer group that has been meeting weekly for the last 22 years was not discouraged by the lockdown. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conduct our prayer meeting and spiritual fellowship by phone conference every Friday and, gather prophetic messages and exhortations to see us through these difficult times. By embracing the use of technology, we can remain connected to our priests who continue to celebrate Mass for us. The blessing from this is that many people who were not previously present at Mass have joined us in tuning in to church gatherings and teachings, paving the way to a deeper, inner recollection and understanding of the faith. Never again will I take the gift of the Eucharist for granted. It is the most profound fast I have ever experienced. Recently, I got a call from a friend who is battling serious illness every day – at any moment she could die from heart and kidney problems. When she came out of hospital after another bout of complications, she told me that her outlook is one day at a time. I reflected that we are all in the same boat now. COVID-19 is teaching us an important lesson – to value each moment and be full of gratitude to God, from the instant we wake and all through the day. Words and deeds of love need to be spoken and performed right now, right here – not tomorrow. And have we ever said a genuine thank you to someone who served us today? “New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.” Amen. (A Liturgy for Morning Prayer, Upper Room Worship book)
I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbor with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said, “Mother Teresa, there is a family who has not eaten for so long. Do something.” So, I took some rice and went there immediately. When I saw the children, their eyes were shining with hunger. I don’t know if you have ever seen hunger, but I have seen it very often. The mother of the family took the rice I gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go; what did you do?” She gave me a very simple answer: “They [a neighbor family] are hungry also.” What struck me most was that they were a Muslim family. And she knew. I did not bring any more rice that evening, because I wanted them - Hindus and Muslims - to enjoy the joy of sharing. Those children were radiating joy - sharing their joy and peace with their mother because she had the love to give until it hurts. You see this is where love begins - at home in the family.” [Excerpt from “A Call to Mercy” by Mother Teresa] This happened at a time when religious violence was prevalent in India, and thousands of people died in the riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The unselfishly generous gift this poor woman unhesitatingly gave to her hungry neighbors, who happened to be a Muslim family, deeply touched Mother Teresa. She often looked to the poor; for their love was simple and their hearts were full of joy. Mother Teresa invites us to learn from the poor and receive their joy by sharing our blessings generously. “Not all of us are called to do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
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