The Gospel according to Luke (10:38-42)
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”
So many possible lessons from this short Gospel passage for today. I’d like to consider the character of Martha for a moment. This short story seems to make her out as a complainer, doesn’t it? It’s easy to imagine Mary & Martha being sisters (probably Mary is the older one), and both are set a task by their parents, but while Martha goes and does the tasks, Mary seemingly uses her additional age to somehow get out of it. Those of us who grew up in families with older (or younger) siblings can remember that, can’t we?
The truth is that Martha is not presented here as the one trying to get her sister into trouble with Jesus. No, what Luke is showing us in this scene is that our acts of service need to be without expectation of any recognition at all. We do them, not so others will see, but so that God will see. In this story today, it could be interpreted that Martha wanted Jesus to notice all the work she was doing, but instead, He was paying attention to Mary.
I definitely see the lesson we can take from thinking about Martha. May all of us have the energy of Martha, but also the attention to the bigger picture, which we see in Mary in today’s Gospel. Let us not work in ministry because we want others to think (or to tell us) how holy they think we are. If we have that as our motivation, then I suggest that we need time where Mary is in today’s story – we need to be at the feet of Jesus for awhile. Getting burned out is a very common human experience. If we feel ourselves drifting that way, let’s ask Jesus to help us recharge and maybe that means pausing just a bit to reconnect to that Spirit that enables all that we do.
I think that this Gospel is one way of explaining why those in ministry are recommended to take time away for themselves regularly. As a Deacon, it’s more than a recommendation – we are mandated to take a weekend retreat each year. I love the weekend retreats with my brother deacons and their wives. Are there fun social connections on those weekends? Of course! But, there is also time to pause and “plug in” to God, and be reminded of the most basic axiom of ministry: “you can’t give what you don’t got.” I pray that you have a chance to pause and recharge, as it’s a gift that you give to yourself, sure; but, you are also giving a gift to those with whom you minister!
Action for the Day:
Take time today “at the feet of Jesus”, and ask Him to help you, if you are feeling stretched or burned out in ministry. Maybe your faith life is feeling a little dry. In any case, find a few minutes today to ask Jesus to give you what He knows you need. He will not disappoint you! Also, pray for peace in the Holy Land, that voices of peace will drown out the voices of division in that holy place!
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