By Pearl Maria Barros
I cannot help but feel sorry for Martha whenever I read or hear this Sunday’s Gospel. Perhaps this is because I am so much like her, running around trying to get everything in order, everything “perfect.” It must have been so frustrating for her, maybe even angering, to hear her good friend Jesus tell her, “Martha, Martha you are anxious and worried about many things.” All she wanted was a little help from her sister Mary. But Mary, Jesus says, has chosen the “better part.” Poor Martha, how alone she must have felt. Had she really chosen the lesser part? I am not so sure about this terminology of “better” and “lesser” and the hierarchies it implies, but I do wonder why Jesus answered in this way. What was he getting at?
Martha, it seems to me, fell into a trap that many of us – women and men – fall into at various points in our lives. We forget what or who is at the heart of our lives. God could be standing in our living room, chatting away, and we are too busy mopping the floor or paying bills online to realize it. Such activities are important – dwellings need to be cleaned, bills need to be paid – but they are not everything, at least not for a Christian. Perhaps, instead of reading Jesus’ response to Martha as a criticism, we might read it as an invitation: a time to pause and reflect upon how we live our lives, how we spend our time and energy. In my own life, I often find myself feeling “anxious and worried about many things” in those moments when I lose sight of God’s continuous presence in my midst. When I take the time to pause and re-focus, I find that the anxiety lessens and the tasks at hand do not feel as burdensome as they once did. Perhaps this is what it means to “choose the better part” – to sift through a situation in order to know when it is time to sit and pause and when it is time to move and act. May God give us the wisdom to choose the “better part” each day so that we may be less anxious and more at peace.