Homily for the Memorial of St. Martha

On hearing today’s gospel passage, many people feel empathy for Martha. We see her working hard to prepare a meal for Jesus and His friends, and, when she complains that her sister Mary is not helping her, Jesus proclaims that Mary has chosen the better part. That seems rather unfair to Martha. 


We know from other stories in Scripture that Jesus was not opposed to people working hard in the service of others. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, He praised the man’s mercy and love when he cared for the victim of robbers. But, as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”[1] With this in mind, we might say, “There is a time to be active and a time to refrain from activity.” 


When visiting the home of Mary and Martha, Jesus saw it as a time for them to refrain from work so that they could listen to what He had to say. Mary recognized that this was the kind of hospitality Jesus wanted on this occasion: the hospitality of listening rather than the hospitality of activity. Mary was more attuned to what the LORD wanted than was Martha. While the LORD wants us to work on His behalf, He also wants us to stop working at different times so that we may truly listen to Him. Wisdom consists in knowing when it’s time to be active and busy in the LORD’S service and when it is time to sit and listen to His Word.+



[1] Ecclesiastes 3:1

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