I have always loved the story of Martha and Mary in Luke’s account of the Gospel. Of the two sisters, I associate most with Martha. I am a person who has to-do lists, who thinks about details no one else notices and often needs to complete my tasks before I can relax and unwind.
As someone who enjoys accomplishing tasks and checking items off my to-do list, I understand how Martha feels. Jesus, the eternal Son of God who is a beloved friend and teacher, comes over for dinner and she wants everything to be just right. Her sister Mary takes a different approach — instead of helping, she sits at the feet of Jesus.
Martha’s boldness in this moment amazes me. Rather than addressing Mary, Martha goes directly to Jesus and asks him to tell Mary to help. Jesus, though, does not give her what she wants; instead, Jesus tells her “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.”
I used to think that Martha was being rebuked for trying to get things done. To be honest, I struggled with this knowing I had many things I was responsible for, whether at home, work, school or in my parish commitments. I thought that being organized and getting things done meant I was being a good steward of my time. However, after more reflection and discussion, I began to see this conversation differently. Jesus is not upset that Martha is getting things done; I think the heart of the matter is that she is busy, distracted and worried about many things when Jesus is right in front of her.
The good and bad habits in Unleash the Gospel point us in a similar direction. One bad habit is a Complaining Attitude. Archbishop Vigneron writes, “complaining leads only to discouragement and paralysis. God thinks we have enough, because we have him.” As a remedy for discouragement, the Archbishop offers the good habit of An Attitude of Gratitude. “Gratitude puts us in a right posture before God and opens us to his further work in our lives.” Busyness, worrying and complaining do not help us grow closer to Christ or one another. Being thankful for what is before us — people, tasks, time, challenges, etc. — puts us in a position to see God working in our lives.
In my own life, I wonder how often I miss the presence of Christ because I was distracted by other tasks or projects. Do I try to fit God into my schedule, or do I come to him first to help me arrange my time? Am I willing to “just” sit in the Lord’s presence knowing that he can make me feel more fulfilled than anything on my to-do list?
Take some time today with the Lord and share your complaints, your worries and your anxiety with him. Ask the Lord to help you see your day through his eyes and open your heart to moments of gratitude. Knowing God wants to be part of every detail of your life, share with him the ordinary and the mundane as well as the peaks and valleys.
As we approach the feast of St. Martha on July 29, let us recognize God’s presence in our midst and listen to his Word. He is waiting to receive us.
St. Martha, pray for us.