The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Martha, burdened with much serving ...” (Lk. 10:38-42)
I’ve reflected on this Scripture passage a lot. Each time spent with this Scripture reveals something new. Mostly, I’ve resonated with Mary because I’d rather do many things besides domestic work. Yet, more importantly, I can hardly imagine the privilege of sitting at the Lord’s feet to hear his explanation of the prophets and the Law. How would Jesus, in a casual setting, illuminate today’s response to Psalm 15, “He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”? How would he relate the prophecy of today’s first reading from Genesis to our individual lives? In this story, foreign visitors predict that Abraham and Sarah would finally have their long-awaited son?
However, at this time I feel for Martha who is “burdened with much serving.” The Catholic Bible on my phone translates verse 40, “Now Martha was continually busying herself with serving.” And the New Living Translation reads, “But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.” The gospels suggest that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus whom he frequently visited on His way to Jerusalem.
I imagine Martha to be one of those uncommon hostesses who had everything in place and served mouth-watering meals. Evidently, she took great care to ensure the comfort of her guests and probably received high praise for arranging a good time and hosting an esteemed guest. How I desire to open my home to good friends who have graciously hosted me over the years. Do we take great care to welcome Jesus in our presence in the Eucharist, in our quiet prayer time, or as we start our day? Exactly what preparations do we make?
The author Luke places Martha in her home. Yet, I wonder about other Marthas serving in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, daycare, social service agencies, classrooms, and hospice. Are they also burdened with much serving? Can they and we do both? That is, can one serve others and sit with Jesus? After all, Jesus castigated neither Martha nor Mary. But he did prioritize spending time with God. Then, shouldn’t we do likewise?
Finally, how well do we sit with Jesus? Are we often distracted by the big dinner, major work projects, a promising new date, vacation planning, financial statements, sports, fractured relationships, or other activities? Not only did Mary choose the better place, but reportedly she was completely absorbed in being with Jesus and listening to Him. What about us?
Authored: Donna Toliver Grimes, Assistant Director, African American Affairs