Homily – Mary and Martha – July 21, 2019

The Gospel Luke 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village

where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

She had a sister named Mary

who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,

“Lord, do you not care

that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?

Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply,

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.

There is need of only one thing.

Mary has chosen the better part

and it will not be taken from her.”


After the Gospel:

Most artists  put Jesus … center of the painting … seated,  one hand raised in teaching … 

in the background:  Martha … both hands carrying a jug or basket.

in the foreground:  Mary … sitting on the floor, hands folded on her lap, perfectly still.

Sometimes they add:  disciples … Jesus didn’t travel alone.  How many dropped in with Him  may help explain Martha’s predicament.


When you hear the story, do you take sides?

Hooray,  Mary, true contemplative!

Way to go, Martha, woman who gets things done…  the world needs more like you!


Do you hear Jesus’ words to Martha … as rebuke ….    or invitation …or both??


Do you pick up on Martha’s irritation … tension?

           Resentment of her sister for leaving her  all the work?

                    Angry enough,  she can’t even talk to her sister directly.

Does she breach hospitality…          

                   by embarrassing her sister in front of a guest,

                             asking her guest to intervene in a family dispute,

                                      even accusing her guest of not caring!??


Does she miss out on true hospitality by driving a wedge between her sister and herself,

between Jesus and herself?


Do you agree with the writer who says: Martha may have been lonely. 

Her busyness covered up  how lonely she was …  She only knew how busy she was.

She couldn’t see anger and resentment inside her. 

Poor Martha …  More ways than one  she missed out on the “one thing needed.”


Did you notice how Luke left the story open-ended?  We don’t know what happened next —

how  Mary and Martha reconciled,

whether they were   all      able to enjoy the meal Martha prepared, 

whether Martha was finally able to sit down and give full attention to Jesus.


Most important,  do you think of monastic life, built on a tripod –

          three legs:  prayer, work,  lectio divina … 

How our personal stability as a monk depends on this triple foundation,

how you can’t build up monastic life on just one or two of the legs, it has to be all three … equal…

Prayer, work,  lectio divina … Or things get a little wobbly.


Martha is exactly what monks  try NOT to be….

It’s not her serving …  that’s part of hospitality,