On the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, we hear a story about Martha from Luke’s gospel (10:38-42). It’s the famous account of Jesus’ visit to the home Martha shared with her sister, Mary. Martha is busy working, doing the customary tasks of women in that culture, and, often, in this. Mary sits like a free man at the Lord’s feet and listens to him.
Martha asks Jesus to rebuke her sister. She asks, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
Is he telling Martha that Mary can act as a full disciple, and not a slave or chattel property, by reclining at his feet and listening?
It’s hard to find a woman who does not sympathize with Martha. It’s hard to find a woman who has not uttered the same complaint. And it’s hard to find a woman who is not troubled by Jesus’ words to Martha, when he tells her, “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.”
Maybe, we think, Mary has chosen the better part, but that will not get the potatoes peeled or the kitchen cleaned.
Look at Jesus’ words another way. Is he telling Martha that Mary can act as a full disciple, and not a slave or chattel property, by reclining at his feet and listening? Is he inviting Martha to do the same, to take off her apron and join with the other disciples? We know that women were not allowed to learn with a rabbi. Has Jesus just given that permission?
What is clear is that Jesus and Martha and Mary are friends. He comes as their guest and he speaks to them, not as servants, but as friends. Martha can speak her heart to Jesus, even when her heart is filled with resentments and complaints.
May we be so bold before the Lord, to pour out our hearts like Martha, pour them out to our Savior and our friend.