It’s not what Martha was doing. It was her mode!

Happy Feast Day Saint Martha!  Ah, good ol’ Martha.  If you don’t know the story, it goes a little like this:

Jesus is visiting his friends, sisters Mary and Martha, who live in Bethany not far from Jerusalem. In efforts to be the hostess with the most-est, Martha is busy being busy, filled with anxieties and worries about pleasing the crowd Jesus brought with him. At one point, Martha notices that Mary is sitting around, not helping her out, just listening to Jesus speak. “Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me’” (Luke 10:40).

But to Martha’s surprise, Jesus doesn’t demand that Mary get up and help Martha; rather, “The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her’” (Luke 10:41).

I’ve used and abused Martha so much in the past to justify my busyness. Someone has to step up, be the Martha, and get the work done, right?

Maybe this is common sense for you, but I had an “A-ha” moment a few months back. I had been complaining a lot about how busy Joel and I are required to be with his diaconate formation. Classes to attend, books to read, essays to write, spiritual direction to seek, etc. Sometimes I feel we are kept busy just for the sake that looking busy must mean we are really being formed spiritually.

But it was during one of the seminary classes that I gained a sense of peace about much of this. There is a very dynamic monk at Conception Seminary & Abbey in Missouri, and no matter what he says, it seems he’s always speaking just to me. And he made the point, “It wasn’t what Martha was doing that was her problem. It was her mode!”

Can’t you just see Martha, hands on her hips, huffin’ and a puffin’, when she says, “But Jesus . . . It’s not fair!”

And it all made sense. I can envision it vividly because Martha’s mode has been mine. Pacing, sighing, muttering, rolling my eyes. How many times has Joel come up from the basement asking me why I’m stomping around? Who me? Stomping? No way!

It’s not what I’m doing that’s the problem: doing all I can in support of my husband as he prepares to be ordained a deacon is no small thing for the Kingdom! We are going to be busy, and that busyness is often very justified and necessary. It’s my mode that stinks. If God is calling Joel to become a permanent deacon, who am I to stand in the way of that call? And having a “bad mode” during the formation process will eventually stand in the way in some regard.

So, may I begin again today with a more contemplative, thankful spirit during the thick of the busyness. How awesome that Joel has been called to this process. Yes, the work needs to be done. But, may my mode shift to one of honor, joy, and thanksgiving for the opportunity.

Now I have to go finish reading a book and writing an essay for a class that starts on Monday. A book that isn’t necessarily speaking to me.

** Help me, Jesus, to be joyful anyway, and may my ears hear you speak through the busyness! **

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  1. CCCC says

    Your post made me think of a poem:

    “The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
    But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and troubled heart.
    And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
    Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.”

    - Kipling (you can find the rest of the poem here: )

  2. says

    Love this, Lisa! Reminds me of a blog post I read a few months back that said it´s not so much what you do, but how you “be”. We´ll pray for you to find peace and get it all done. You and Joel really are a great example and inspiration to us.

  3. says

    Gus Lloyd had a great reflection on St. Martha this morning. He pointed out Martha is well-known for her complaint to Jesus against her sister´s “laziness”. However, how many of us remember her great confession of faith when asking Jesus to raise her brother Lazarus, who had died? From the alternate Gospel reading, “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”


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