A few thoughts on the Gospel reading on most feasts of the Mother of God
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
This is a wonderful Gospel reading and quite beneficial. We are fortunate that the Church has us consider this passage many times during the year. She does this because it addresses one of the primary means the enemy uses to distract us from the purpose of our life. In it the Lord teaches - and warns us - that it is by doing that faith is made manifest.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is in the home of Martha. We know that her sister Mary was there, but we may also assume that their brother Lazarus, whom the Lord would later raise after being 4 days in the tomb, and others were there, as many always gathered upon hearing where He was in order to listen to Him.
Now Martha was a good hostess and as such she was quite busy doing what was necessary to offer the Lord and the others present customary hospitality. There was plenty to do and any help would have been appreciated. She was a bit miffed at her sister Mary because Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of lending her a hand. She complained to the Lord about this but did not get the response she expected.
She was told: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
The Lord did not say to Martha that what she was doing was wrong. Hospitality is a fundamental Christian virtue. What He said was that Mary chose something better, the one thing needful, and because she chose that which is better it will not be taken away from her.
This is a wonderful depiction of what our lives are and what they should be.
Our lives are busy, too busy, often so busy that there is little or no room for God in them. The enemy often uses the obligations of everyday life to distract us from that which is most important: to listen to the Lord.
We all have obligations. We have to work, take care of our homes, spouses, children, etc… No one is saying that these should be neglected. What it means is that we need to remember what the Lord has taught us. In the Sermon on the Mount He taught us not to worry about what to eat, wear or where to live. He assures us that God knows that we need all of these things and that God is a loving Father who will provide what we need. He goes on to emphasize that we need to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to us as well (Mt 6:33).
This describes us and, I suppose, most men through the ages. We are so concerned about small things - I know they seem big but they are small - especially to God, that we neglect that which is needful: communion with God.
The Lord says that He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Mt10:37). Why would the Lord say this? Because no-one loves us as He loves us. He is our Lord, Creator, Savior - everything. Because it is only by learning to love Him that we can learn to truly love others.
We all have Martha’s obligations. What we need to do is have Mary’s priorities: to put God first in our lives. This means we have to budget, make or otherwise find the time to do that which is most important: we need to go to Church for it is in the Church that we encounter God, we hear His Word, we commune with Him and with one another; we need to make time for prayer at home, the domestic church, for prayer teaches us to love God, reveals to us our need for repentance, and allows us to express our love for one another, especially when we pray with sweat and tears; we need to read the Bible, especially the Gospel and Psalms, as they illumine our minds and hearts with the Light which is Christ.
This is what comes first, but it is not enough. We need to do what we hear. This is why the Lord says: blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it (Lk 11:27).
It is not enough to hear the word of God. Many hear it but you would never know it. The Lord taught by example then by word. The Word of God is lived, He is experienced, encountered. Christianity is not a religion, it is a way of life - the way of life as it was meant to be from the beginning.
Yes, this is easier said then done. The demons constantly tempt and deceive us. The cares of the world distract us. The sin which abides in us resists this. Even St. Paul wrote to the Romans: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I (7:14-15). If this is true for this great apostle of Christ, what can we say for ourselves? What are we to do? Struggle. Fall and get back up. Entreat the Lord for help. This is the meaning of the words: the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Mt 11:12). We must force, compel ourselves to keep the word of God. And when this fails, and it will fail, we learn to humble ourselves and entreat the Lord for help and it is then that we overcome. It was only at the end of his life, after all the trials, tribulations, suffering that he endured for Christ’s sake, that St. Paul wrote: I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal 2:20). This is what it means to be a Christian.
We read these wonderful verses on the feast days of our Lady because no-one has ever lived them as did the Most-pure Virgin. This is why she was chosen to be the Mother of God: she heard the Word of God and kept it. She so devoted herself to the service of God that the very Word Himself became incarnate of her. She is the utmost example of how to hear the Word of God and keep it. It is up to us to follow her example.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of His most pure Mother and all the saints, have mercy upon us and save us.