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.”
It takes courage to defy people’s expectations. It takes courage to resist the guilt trip.
People are forever trying to get us to feel bad for the choices we make. Usually you can see it coming: “But aren’t you gonna…” And if your answer is “no,” then expect to hear a host of reasons why they think you definitely should.
If you are a Mary supporter, then the story of Mary and Martha often ends up being told as a story about Martha’s anxiety and her inability to appreciate that the Son of God had come to be their guest for the evening. Or, if you are a Martha type, then this is a story about someone who got left to do all the work herself, while Mary sat down to rest.
I’m not sure I’m firmly in either camp. I often identify with Martha – someone’s got to make dinner. But in my reading of the story today, I do see a new reason to admire Mary: her remarkable resistance to the guilt trip. And, what’s even more remarkable, I notice that Jesus is the one who commends her for doing so! Those who invoke Jesus’ name to induce guilt, take note! Jesus refuses to take Martha’s side, even though she tries her best to get him to lean on Mary. Jesus sees the guilt trip for what it is, and refuses to take a ride. He helps Mary to maintain the boundary that she’s drawn.
Most of us don’t have this kind of courage. So we give in to the guilt. And we allow our time and energy to be used up in ways that aren’t leading us toward life. Mary had the courage to choose differently. Mary chose the better part.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Next time someone tries to lay a guilt trip on you in order for them to get their way, consider how Jesus stood with those who drew boundaries. See if that thought doesn’t give you the courage to stand your ground.
Prayer: Every day, we have to make decisions about how to spend our time and energy. In moments when we’ve made choices to support our own life, health, and faith, grant us courage to resist those who want to push us off the path. Help us, like Mary, to continue choosing the better part. Amen.