Mary and Martha – inactivity vs. activity

This contemplation on the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10.   

In this chapter, the story that is heard is about Jesus coming as a guest to the house of Mary and Martha. Mary is sitting quietly, contemplatively at his feet, listening to his word. Martha is busying herself, serving, not wanting to neglect the guest.

Mary – so we hear – has chosen the best part.

Depending on how our own dispositions are we might be glad to see Christ applaud Mary’s quiet
introspection – something that is so often undervalued in today’s world where it is considered a virtue to be extroverted and active at all times. Or we might ask ourselves: But what about Martha’s work?

Martha is serving the people around her. Is that not valuable? Is it not her work that sees to that her guest is fed – that he can spend the night in clean sheets?

While we all know how important the spiritual is, we also know that we have to attend to the physical needs and not undervalue them.

As with so many things in life also this, of course, depends on the right balance. We all know those moments when we wear ourselves out in a flurry of activity or those when we are procrastinating, not wanting to get on our feet. We can be both too active and too passive at times. And we have each, both Mary and Martha in our own soul.

Needless to say how important Martha’s work is. But what we can ask ourselves when we attend to our own work in the material world is this:
Do we really do this work out of necessity? Do we do it with love? Maybe we have completely other motives? Are we maybe, by staying busy, trying to drown out a quiet inner voice that wants to lead us to ourselves and to the spark of something higher that is waiting deep inside of us?

On the other side, when we sit quietly, thinking, contemplating – what, really, are we contemplating?

Are we listening to Christ’s word in our own souls or are our thoughts more worldly?

Maybe the most important thing about this week’s Gospel is not that it tempts us to judge either activity or, seeming, inactivity – maybe it is the simple fact that what Mary is doing, is listening to Christ – listening to his word. She is listening to the one being whose mighty impulse in earth’s evolution opens up the heavens for us and leads us into a bright future.

Mary has indeed chosen well – there can be nothing more important than that.

If we can fill some of our own quiet moments with the presence of Christ then he grows in us – and he will from there permeate with his presence and love all the time we spend on being active in the outside world – doing Martha’s work.

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