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Sunday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time ©

My dear encountered couples:

Which are you? Martha or Mary? Busy about many things - or is it prayer and meditation for you?

People often seem to want to arrange life in neat little packages. Otherwise the confusion caused by clutter makes one feel out of control. Put everything in order so we know where each thing is and then be able to rest more comfortably in the assurance that when anything is needed, we can go right to it. Schedule the day, the week, the month, the year. I don’t want any surprises. Unfortunately, the surprises happen anyhow and our neat little arrangements and schedules get all mixed up. The feeling of control is shattered.

Martha welcomes Jesus to her home. She wants to fix him something to eat and drink, make him comfortable and welcome. Anyone who has had guests knows what this is like. Some people seem to be able to do it without any ruffling of the nerves. Others are in a frenzy wanting everything to be perfect but just not quite able to make it work out too well.

When there is someone else in the family and they won’t pitch in and help, the beginnings of ill feelings might surface - like it happened with Martha. “Lord, are you not concerned that my sister has left me all alone to do the household tasks? Tell her to help me.”

I’ve always thought it was great to be able to have one person in the family entertain the guest with conversation while another member gets the food prepared. When a priest lives alone, the guest is usually left staring at the walls while the priest is trying to quickly as possible get some snacks and liquid together. What did Martha want to do? Leave Jesus by himself while she and her sister busied themselves in the kitchen? The way they were doing it always seemed like a nice arrangement to me.

Maybe, though, Mary was a habitual goof-off and Martha was the only one with any sense of responsibility. There are always so many hidden angles to family situations that it is often impossible to judge.

This event in the life of Jesus with Martha and Mary has many times brought up the discussion of which is more important -prayer or good works? We get back into wanting life arranged in separate and neat little packages. I’m afraid life is just not like that. It will never be able to be arranged for long in an orderly fashion. Something inevitably pops up. Then what?

It is very important that we learn a very important lesson while on this earth. Only one is in control. And that one is God. No human being will ever remain in control of anything for very long. We may try. We might begin to think we’ve got the world by the tail. But don’t be fooled. No one does. Only God.

The person who is most in control is the person who trusts that God will work all things out to the best no matter how much confusion and disorder take place. Trust in God brings peace and tranquility in the midst of extreme agitation and frenzy. God is never out of control. Nothing, absolutely nothing takes him by surprise. He knows everything that is going to happen and he knows how he is going to make it work out to the best. If you believe this, you can rest easy, even if you find the roof falling in on you right now. You may not enjoy it, but God will employ it (the roof falling in) to produce eventually the best for you.

So, who should you be - Martha or Mary? How about some of both. There are times when you must be busy about many things. You have life with its seemingly endless demands. There are also other times when you must listen, when you must think, when you must pray. It is during these times that God can speak to you and raise your level of faith and trust. No matter how many things there are for you to be busy about, you must take time out to sit at the feet of Jesus. If you do not, then you will miss the meaning of life and the meaning behind all the busy things you are scurrying about doing.

Balance is what we all need. A mixture of Martha and Mary results in the likeness of Jesus. In the gospels we find him moving about doing good: teaching, caring, curing, and being with people in their sorrows and joys. Also, in the gospels we find Jesus going off by himself to be with his Father in prayer, in solitude, to listen and to think. In that way he is filled with the love and patience it takes to return to the world of busy, busy - and busy.

Balance of life is difficult to achieve. You will never get it in regimented order. Do your best to give time to both. A bit of Martha, a bit of Mary - and a lot of trust in God.

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