instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Martha, Martha

The Gospel reading on Martha and Mary is almost too direct. Sitting at the feet of the Lord is the better part. Check.

It's hard to say much that is profound about a story whose moral is so close to the surface, so there are countless homilies that vary the theme of, "Being active isn't bad, it's just not as good as sitting at Jesus' feet."

On Sunday, the deacon added a slight shading to my thoughts of Martha's activity. Martha is described as "burdened with much serving," and Jesus says she is "anxious and worried about many things."

Burdened, anxious, worried. These words do not describe the active life as distinguished from the contemplative life by the Church. They describe a mind that does not see beyond the end of the activity, a mind in which the activity has blotted out consideration of all other ends.

The better part will not be taken from Mary. We might imagine that even were she to rise and help her sister serve Jesus and His disciples, Mary would remain beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak.