Martha & Mary

Years ago, when I was going through my period of vocational discernment, there were times in which I felt overwhelmed by the question of what God wanted me to do with my life.  I knew there was the possibility that He was offering me the priesthood, but I struggled to accept that and to risk the possibility that the priesthood wasn’t for me.  I remember that I had become so mentally exhausted by “discernment” that I finally decided I needed to stop thinking about it.  So, I set the question aside, while continuing my regular prayer life, reception of the sacraments, and work on growing in virtue as a man in the world.  During that period, when I focused less on the fraught question of vocation and instead simply grew in my relationship with the Lord, I found my footing again.  I found peace in my relationship with Christ.  And so, after a few months, when the idea of priesthood drifted back into my mind, I was able to consider it from that place of peace and strength, having grown in my trust of Him. 

In the gospel reading for today’s Mass the Church gives us the story of Martha & Mary.  They were sisters who had become good friends with Jesus and His disciples.  In fact, Our Lord used to spend time at their home, with their brother Lazarus, resting and relaxing in their company.  Today’s gospel tells us how one day Martha welcomed Christ into their home.  While she was busy with providing hospitality to all of the visitors, Mary was sitting “beside the Lord at his feet, listening to Him speak.”  Out of frustration, Martha says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”  And Jesus said to her: “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.” 

In our relationship with God, we can get into the habit of bringing Him many petitions and calling upon Him to solve some difficulty or question that we have.  When we go to Him filled with anxiety, the noise of the anxiety can drown out what He wants to offer us in our time with Him.  It is good to be able to take the posture of Mary, and use the time to get to know Him and experience His love for us.  It doesn’t mean that the challenges we face will suddenly disappear and that we will never be afraid or worried or anxious again.  But when we come to know the Lord through prayer, through the sacraments, through our practice of virtue, it gives us a different perspective on those challenges.  And, with His help, we begin to understand that while there are many things in life that demand our attention, there is need of only one thing – and He will help us to bear those burdens that come with our state in life. 

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, Johannes Vermeer (1655)

posted 10/6/20

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