NOTHING IS MORE NEEDED
The episode is somewhat surprising. The disciples who accompany Jesus have disappeared from the scene. Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, is absent. In the house of the small village of Bethany, Jesus meets alone with two women who adopt two very different attitudes to his arrival.
Martha, who is without doubt the older sister, welcomes Jesus because she is the head of the household, and she puts herself completely at his service. This is normal. According to the mentality of that time, dedication to the household tasks was the exclusive job of women. Mary, on the contrary, the younger sister, seats herself at Jesus’ feet in order to listen to his word. Her attitude is surprising since she is taking the place usually occupied by a «disciple», a place that only belongs to men.
At some point, Martha, overcome by the work and worn out, feels abandoned by her sister and misunderstood by Jesus: «Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me». Why doesn’t he tell her sister to do the tasks appropriate to every woman and stop occupying the place reserved for male disciples?
Jesus’ answer is very important. Luke recounts it, probably thinking about the disagreements and petty conflicts that happen in the early communities when it comes time to share the many tasks: «Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about many things, and yet only one is needed. It is Mary who has chosen the better part, and it is not to be taken from her».
At no time does Jesus criticize Martha for her attitude of service, a task that is fundamental in following Jesus, but he invites her to stop being so taken up by her work that she’s in danger of losing her peace. And remember that listening to his Word should be the priority for everyone, including women, and not a kind of privilege for men.
It’s urgent today to understand and to organize the Christian community as a place where the welcoming of the Gospel is taken care of, above everything else, in the midst of the secular and pluralistic society of our times. Nothing is more important. Nothing is more needed. We have to learn to join together as women and men, as believers and non-believers, in small groups in order to hear and share together Jesus’ words.
This listening to the Gospel in small «cells» can be today’s «womb» from which we can go about regenerating the fabric of our parishes in crisis. If the simple people know first-hand the Gospel of Jesus, relish it and appeal to the hierarchy with it, it will pull us all toward Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf