THE BETTER PORTION
I recently heard a talk where the speaker referred to how the name ‘Scrooge’, a protagonist from Charles Dickens’s famous novel A Christmas Carol, has now become synonymous with anyone who is grumpy, self–contained or miserly. Interesting to think how a name, not recognized or verified by any official authorities, simply takes such recognizable forms through unique features or behaviors possessed by its owners.
When listening to Christian teachings and homilies too, it is common to hear names of many such Biblical characters that are immediately identified through the roles they play, their actions and reactions to events or simply the display of their personality traits. If you say the words shepherd boy, one immediately identifies David; anointed leader–Moses; obedient servant–Mary; tax collector–Matthew; impulsive disciple–Peter so on and so forth.
Today we look at one such name best remembered as the busy-bee, paranoid worker or sometimes even as the cranky older sibling. Yes you guessed right–it is Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus.
Just Not Good Enough
Being a person who can sometimes get OCD-level crazy myself, I often sympathize with Martha rather than picking out her faults. Although at face level she may seem like a restless homemaker, I notice her genuine desire to serve Jesus. She doesn’t settle for mere crumbs, she wants to give Him her best. Yet no matter how hard she tries, it’s never enough. To add to this dilemma, her own younger sister gets away being the favored one by ‘doing nothing’ as it appears.
Sisters, do you relate to these conditions? Even if you are not a workaholic like Martha, I’m pretty sure the default roles you find yourselves in as daughters, mothers or wives, can often leave you feeling like nothing you do is good enough. You take to your social media accounts hoping to find some solace and comfort with the sisterhood, yet even there you are left scrolling through a feed of women who seem to have it all together––from documenting play-time with their kids to cooking up the best meals to owning the perfect apartments; literally everyone but you, seems to have a grip on their lives.
When we find ourselves like Martha, associated in so many ways with a lifestyle that Jesus mentions as contradictory to ‘the better part’ (Luke 10:42), it can often leave us feeling dejected and once again––not good enough. If this is you, I would like to bring you encouragement through some words I heard at a recent homily. The priest in pointing out the many ways we fail in our daily walk as Christians said that we must see this realization as ‘conviction and not condemnation.’
Journey with Focus
And so with a heart of conviction, I would like to share with you a few points below that I have come to realize in my own study of Martha’s journey. Your life may hold experiences and struggles much deeper in comparison to mine, but I hope that this will bring you inspiration and shed light on what we can become if our focus is right.
Focus On Discipleship
Martha’s mind was consumed with duty rather than devotion. She forgot that her first duty as a disciple is to be with Jesus. When Jesus favored Mary, He was not choosing someone sitting at His feet over another laboring in the kitchen; rather He was pointing to the condition of Mary’s heart.
Who occupies the centre of your heart? Does your intimate time with Jesus supersede all other work, even that which is necessary?
Pope Francis reminds us, “Listening to the Word of the Lord and practical service to our neighbor are not two attitudes opposed to one another, but, on the contrary, they are two essential aspects in our Christian life; aspects that can never be separated, but are lived out in profound unity and harmony.” We are called not just to believe but to become who we were created to be. And that can only be realized by sitting at His feet and having Him enthroned at the center of our hearts.
Focus On Serving
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40). It does not take a genius to sense the resentment in Martha’s words here. She sought affirmation rather than favor and so became bitter towards Mary’s neglect. She measured her giving in accordance to her expectation of what she must receive. The role of a homemaker, for most parts is a thankless job. Don’t we so often look for applause or seek recognition in our daily mundane chores?
Receiving appraisal for hard labor is due credit. However, when the ‘call to service’ is focused on self-gain rather than truly reaching another’s need, labor becomes burdensome and bitter.
As mothers, wives, sisters and ministry leaders, it is in such times that we are called to step back and re-orient the object of our worship and even our reward. Is it Jesus? Or is it self-recognition? Even the best attempts of service can lose the goodness of our giving when we lose sight of the Giver and His will in our service.
Focus On Silence
Fr. Mike Schmitz, a catholic priest and speaker at Ascension Press, in his Advent reflections once quoted a remarkable statement––“Waiting purifies, Silence magnifies.” Martha was the first to welcome Jesus into their home but soon shifted focus to all the other tasks at hand. She risked waiting, by worrying about things yet not done. In that, she lost the opportunity to choose the ‘better part’ (Luke 10:42); she lost silence, she lost magnifying the One who had come just for her.
As someone who was born and raised in a fast-paced city lifestyle, I have to admit that silence does make me restless. Yet I have found in those times, when I am intentional in cutting off from the ‘noise’ to seek and wait upon the Lord, is when I have found His Word speaking to the deepest recesses of heart, inviting me to come, sit and linger in His friendship.
Perhaps today, you too need to realign your focus. Is God asking you to consider your time wisely? Is he calling you to ‘serve’ in a manner completely contradictory of your definition of ‘doing’? Is God leading you to be ‘still’ and know that He is God? The answer is always a loud and clear ‘Yes’, because His greatest desire is to conform you to His image. Be rested knowing that Jesus still chooses to come, even when we are lost to our busyness. He knocks on the door of your heart today. Will you welcome Him? Will you give Him your undivided attention?
If you are still not convinced, take heart in knowing that the Church had room to welcome a Saint Martha and so does she have room for you. A name, who many may remember as someone that always got it wrong, today holds position as a patron saint of housewives, waiters, servants and cooks. Like St. Martha, may we too always remember that even our frantic daily grind becomes a place of sainthood and an opportunity for choosing the ‘better portion’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brinelle D’Cruz was raised Catholic but it took moving to a desert (Qatar) to discover the Wellspring of life. There youth ministry and deep friendships made for refreshing streams alongside salivating shawarma spots. With a degree in Architecture, her aesthetic preference is like her choice of words – minimal, which is why she believes God divinely blessed her with a life-time entertainer, her husband Daniel. They make their home in Mumbai. Connect with her on Instagram @bree.mix