A familiar bible story about Mary and Martha has their friend, Jesus, visiting their home. I like this picture very much–oh, to have a home Christ Himself would finding relaxing and welcoming. Hospitable Martha busies herself with cleaning, dinner preparations and serving while Mary sits at the feet of Christ and absorbs His words and soaks in His presence. Finally, frustrated with being left to do all the work, Martha implores Jesus to tell her sister to help. Who hasn’t felt like this? Who hasn’t related, totally, to Martha’s plea?
When, many years ago, I converted to Orthodox Christianity, it was encouraged to find a saint with whom one could relate and even entreat for help in time of need. Being a person who likes to entertain groups large and small, I thought of Martha. Many times I end an evening, guests gone…dishes finally done, and sink into a chair wondering about the effort. And still it seems worth it, even if I do grump a bit now and then. Surely that is permissable? Ah, Martha, Martha, Martha.
We once hosted a family from England in our home. Somehow the story of Mary and Martha came up and I laughed about my love for poor beleaguered Martha and the bad rap I thought she got. The husband informed me that she is much loved–as much as Mary–in England. They are two sides of the coin, he said. Both necessary, both beloved by the Lord. Martha’s problem, you see, was not in her gift of hospitality. Oh no, the problem was her judgement of Mary and her grumpiness. That’s what spoiled her gift that day. After all, the meal did need to be made and served and the guests did need to be welcomed and cared for.
Ah, Martha, Martha, Martha. A work in process. No wonder I like her so much.