Hospitality or Discipleship

The Gospel this weekend sets up an interesting contrast between Mary and Martha. Martha is busy and anxious about many things; she seems to be preparing food for our Lord making sure everything is ready to go. You may be able to relate to what she is going through; we may have set up for a guest coming over, and you want your family to help in the efforts. Martha is going through the same thing with Mary, but surprisingly Jesus says, “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.” 

Why did Jesus respond in this way? Why didn’t Jesus say to Mary, “Mary, you can listen to me later. Help your sister with preparing for dinner.” Instead of rebuking Mary, he rebukes Martha instead. Jesus is trying to teach us an essential lesson in responding the way he did. First of all, he is pointing out what is more important in our own lives, and that is discipleship and following him. Mary, in this scene, is taking the posture of a disciple learning from her master. The old testament explains that when you sit at the feet of a rabbi, you are his disciple. What Martha is doing is essential we need to be hospitable to our guests. However, Mary chooses the better part to be a disciple of Jesus. Secondly, Jesus is rebuking Martha for being anxious and worried. Elsewhere in Luke Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Mary is doing what Jesus commanded against; she was anxious, distracted, and worried about providing hospitality while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. One lesson we can take from this passage is the two types of discipleship we will live out as Christians. Martha and Mary nicely contrast what is called the active life and the contemplative life. Think about this contrast in this way the active life is loving our neighbor as ourselves, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the sick. All of this should seek to do acts of charity. Mary, on the other hand, is living out the contemplative life, or the spiritual life meditating on God’s word. We live this out when we go to mass, pray the rosary, read the scriptures, and many other things. However, this isn’t an either-or option. The active life and the contemplative or spiritual life should work off each other. A prayer filled life moves us to treat others with love and do works of charity, and our charitable works come from our prayer life and our time before the Lord.  

Image from adobe stock, author: ruskpp

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