First Reading: Exodus 34:29-35
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses would put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 99:5-7, 9
Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his testimonies, and the statutes that he gave them. Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
This reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke used to get me all riled up. After all, Martha was the one greeting an endless stream of guests, Martha was the one feverishly preparing food and drink, Martha was the one washing dish after dish after dish . . . .
Did her sister Mary even notice Martha’s furrowed brow, her frenetic behavior, or her increasingly impatient attitude to the stresses of being hostess?
Maybe she did notice—we can’t be certain from the Gospel passage. But what we do know is that Mary just sat there. It just didn’t seem fair.
This Gospel needles me, I suppose, because I am a bit of a “Martha” myself. I scuttle about from job to job, never fully satisfied unless I have something with which to busy myself. And then I take exacting internal revenge on those who “aren’t as busy as me,” don’t contribute “as much as I have,” or aren’t able to see “everything that I’m doing” and the “hopelessly little” that they are not. It stings to write this, but on most days it’s a pretty apt assessment.
In reading this passage I used to think, “Lord, is it wrong to do as I am doing?” “Is it wrong to be so occupied with my church, my family, and my community?” And then I was struck by these words:
“Martha was distracted with much serving . . . .”
You see, it wasn’t the serving itself that was Martha’s problem. It was that she was so wholly wrapped up in it, unable to see that the One whom she served was Love Himself. My goodness! He didn’t want her food; He wanted her heart!
And so it goes for me, and for you: It’s not wrong to fill our lives with contributions of time to such-and-such non-profit or to our endless list of projects at home and at work. But when these actions are done without love—without our hearts set toward our Maker who even allows such activities to be in the first place—they lose all value. We sadly become Saint Paul’s “noisy gong,” a “clanging cymbal.”
Suffice it to say that I’m no longer bothered by this passage. I’m proud that I am a Martha and I know My Beloved loves me in every possible Martha-esque way. But I pray every day to have a bit more of Mary’s heart. And by His grace, I know I will.[Tweet “When our actions are done without love, they lose all value.”]
Pick a time each morning to offer your day and all of its many acts of service for a person who needs your sacrificial love. And then simply say, “Lord, I offer this day and every act of service done in love for _______. Amen.”
Karen Schultz is a Birth Doula who hails from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. You can find out more about her here.