“Martha welcomed Jesus…Mary sat beside the Lord.” (Luke 10:38-39)
Every time I would visit my paternal grandmother, from the moment I would walk in through the door she would begin cooking. I would sit down at the table as she brought plate after plate of food. It seems like she would empty out the refrigerator during every visit. Each time I would implore her to sit down to eat with me but there was always something that she was warming up in the oven or a dish that needed to be washed. She did this with great love, and in the quiet moments after we had gone home or even if we stayed, she would do her prayers. She would walk to Mass every Saturday evening to a mission church near her apartment and had a profound love for Our Lady of Charity.
The figure of Martha in today’s gospel reminds me a lot of my grandmother: always vigorously serving. Martha always gets a bum rap because we think that Jesus is rebuking her. Jesus is simply pointing that when it comes to service and prayer, prayer is the most important of the two. This morning Pope Francis reflected on the hospitality offered to Jesus by Mary and Martha. Both were hospitable in different ways: one through prayer and one through service. Put simply, we cannot serve without prayer. Jesus correctly says that we become anxious about many things. We worry about minutiae that doesn’t serve the greater good. When service isn’t accompanied by genuine prayer, it can become hallow. This happens a lot in the church when we busy ourselves with different activities, all very good, but don’t dedicate enough time to just sit at the feet of the Master like Mary. These activities can at times be self-serving when everything we do must point to and point others to Jesus Christ. If these good works are accompanied by prayer, then we can’t go wrong because we will be led by the Spirit. Which prompts me to ask this question: how much time do we dedicate to God each day? Do we have a genuine communion with Him that leads us to authentic service of our neighbor?
In today’s first reading, we see the example of Abraham who offers genuine hospitality to the three strangers that approached his tent. It can be said that Abraham was a perfect mix of Martha and Mary because he was so in tune with the will of God that he recognized that he needed to serve these strangers. Pope Francis points out the greatness of Abraham’s faith and his closeness to God in his recent encyclical. We have always looked to Abraham as a model of faith, but today we look to him as a model of hospitality: prayer and service perfectly joined to welcome others. So as we look to Martha and Mary we must reflect on where our priorities lie. I must confess that sometimes I too get bogged down with busy work (all in the name of service to the Church) and don’t dedicate the necessary time to sitting at the feet of the Master to discern what it is that He wants from me. If there’s one thing my dearly departed grandmother taught me is that even after all the service and all the busy work is done, there always needs to be time for quiet. Many a time after she was done serving me a meal, she would just sit by my side in total silence. I of course would nod off and take a quick nap after all that food and when I would wake up, there she was just sitting there. Just being in each other’s presence enriched both our lives even if no words were exchanged. Imagine what can happen if we spent more time in the presence of the Lord.