Categories: Church

Pentecost 6, July 21

Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha in today’s gospel is sometimes used to justify a meditative, intellectual life (represented by Mary) over a life of active service (represented by Martha). But earlier in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is clear that his family consists of “those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). Both hearing and doing are important. So why is Mary praised and Martha scolded? … careful reading of today’s story shows that Jesus does not scold Martha for what she is doing, but rather for her state of mind in doing it: “Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things” (Luke 10:41). A more literal translation might say: “You are anxious and distressed.” Martha is doing her work not as a joyful response to the Lord’s presence, but out of fear and anxiety…. “There is need of only one thing,” Jesus tells Martha. If we are to “do the word” of God, we must first hear it. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing the word. She’s on the right track; now her hearing must lead to action. Martha has failed to hear the word, so her action comes out of distress and anxiety rather than faithful response to the transformative presence of God. Hear the word of God and do it. Be like Mary, hearing the word that comes from Jesus. And then let that word transform you and move you into active service.

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