38 While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. 40 By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42 One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”
I recently had a conversation with a friend about something that was making me anxious. There were a lot of moving parts to the situation, several pieces that were swirling around my head. This friend asked me if I could try to sum up the whole situation by identifying what was MOST IMPORTANT. It turns out that out of about a hundred things I was worried with, the whole thing could be summed up in two points. That question was good friendship, good pastoral care, and good leadership. We often drive ourselves crazy with complexity by failing to ask: what’s most important? In so doing, we fail to focus on the most important things.
Many people who read this scripture identify with Martha. After all, everyone’s gotta eat, right? And that means someone’s gotta feed them, right? Martha perceived this was her contribution to the evening: working in the kitchen. But she didn’t want to do it alone. And she resented that her sister was sitting with the men and listening to Jesus when she was doing the cooking, which she believed (and throughout her life had been told) was her role in a moment like this.
Jesus’ response points to a reality many of us face: we often do what is expected of us or needed by others reluctantly and resentfully. We wonder why the role has to fall on us. We take on a “woe is me” attitude and wonder why no one will step up to help. Oh, we will still get the job done, but we will hate every minute of doing it.
I’m not sure what happened next. But I wonder whether Jesus’ words gave Martha the permission she needed to stop and reassess, to consider what really was important, and to give herself a pass to just sit a minute and listen.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
What are some of the things going on in your life right now where you keep doing your job, but you find yourself feeling a bit resentful about it? Is it a situation at home, at work, in the church? Is there a way to take a break, step away, and refocus? What’s most important and what can you let go?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we feel overwhelmed and anxious, let us let you bring us back to what’s most important. Help us not to be distracted, but instead focused on people, on you, and on the ways we can make a difference. Amen.