Sunday, July 21, 2013

Better but not only

Today's gospel ends by telling us that Mary (not the mother of Jesus) has chosen the better part. But it is not the only part. There is a reason why the church pairs this gospel with the first reading of Abraham showing hospitality to the strangers.

Often people when looking at this gospel see Martha and Mary as exemplars of two groups of people. What's funny is that, despite the fact that Jesus says Mary has chosen the better part, in my 24 years as a priest I have had lots of people say "I'm a Martha." I can't remember anyone saying, "I'm a Mary."

The mistake here is that these two women in the gospel are not models for an either/or choice. They are instead together an example of the inseparable two sides of the Christian life. Every Christian every day needs to spend some time being Martha (nourishing others) and some time being Mary (nourishing herself).

Notice this is not "taking care of yourself" or "loving yourself" in the way our modern culture tends to define it. Most of that is just thinly veiled self indulgence.

As Christians we know that what we most need is nourishment for our soul that can only come from God. Each day we need to take time in which we actually power off all electronic devices, not just put them on vibrate. Then with contemplation, meditation, scripture reading or some other form of prayer allow God to feed us. And it has to be every single day. That is how Jesus taught us to ask for the grace we need.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And every single day we must balance this by having done something that nourished someone else. At the end of each day one simple question, What did I do today to make someone else's life better? It can be as simple as making a friend laugh when they are having an otherwise bad day. Just something above and beyond what is required.

We are not called to be Martha or Mary but Martha and Mary.