Martha & Mary
The gospel of Sunday (17 July, 2022) in the Catholic liturgy has a famous passage of Jesus visiting Marth and Mary.
In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha, who was distracted with all the serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her.’ (Luke 10:38–42)
Jesus was extolling the attitude of Mary. Martha’s attitude is normally described by the word service and Mary’s by that of listening/contemplation. (I am not entering into a discussion to see how appropriate are these words). Does it mean that Jesus was extolling contemplation over service. I think making a categorical statement based on one passage of the Bible is slightly an over-reading into the Bible. There are moments in life when contemplation is more important than everything else. And the best example is today’s event. But there are moments in which an act of service is more important than liturgy or prayer. Remember the parable of good samaritan. One of the first Jesuits Nadal uses an expression, “contemplatives even in action”.
In other words, it is important to discern how God is present in our midst. That can guide our way of going about in our lives. It may also help us to prevent creating false dichotomies or divisions in our lives.