One day three men went hiking. They unexpectantly came upon a raging river. They had to get to the other side of the raging river, but they had no idea of how to do so.
So the first man called out to God: “Please, God, give me the strength to cross the river.” Poof! All of a sudden, the man had big, muscular arms and strong legs. He was able to swim across the river. But it took him two hours and he came close to drowning.
Seeing this, the second man prayed to God saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools to cross the river.” Poof! All of a sudden the man had a rowboat. He was able to row across the river in about an hour, but the water was rough and he almost capsized the boat a couple of times.
The third man saw how things worked out for the first two men. So he prayed to God, “Please, God, give me the strength and the tools and the intelligence to cross the river.” Poof! God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked upstream a couple of hundred yards and then walked across the bridge to the other side.
The moral of the story is very interesting. And no, it’s not simply that women are superior to men. The moral of the story is – that sometimes we get so wrapped up IN DOING, we don’t step back and see what is right in front of our face.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 10:38-42), we hear about two remarkable women, Martha and Mary, and how they dealt with a situation that faced them.
Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus lived together in Bethany, a small town two miles from Jerusalem. All three were good friends of Jesus.
We all know that Martha and Mary had very different approaches to life. Martha was a typical Type-A personality. She wanted everything to be just right. Being a perfect hostess, she kept the house spotless. Martha always had so much to do and never enough time to do it.
Her sister Mary was kind of laid back. To some it might appear that Mary was lazy and a bit irresponsible.
When Jesus and his disciples came to visit, Martha had to make sure that everything was just right. After all, hosting a big meal, is a lot of work. It gets to be frustrating when you have to do all the preparation by yourself. It’s even more frustrating when there is someone there who could help you, but they don’t.
It became just too much for Martha to bear. She had too much serving to do. Martha was at the end of her rope. She had it and she was very annoyed with Mary. After all, who was Mary to just sit around at Jesus’ feet and just listen to him?
Feeling ignored and unappreciated, Martha marched over to Jesus and demanded: “Look, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.”
Jesus did not give the answer that Martha expected. Instead Jesus told Martha to calm down, to take a chill pill.
Jesus said: “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” (Luke 10:42).
Martha had to be startled to hear Jesus say this and certainly embarrassed. Martha had to realize that she had been missing something. Distracted by the need to serve Jesus, Martha did not take the time to enjoy Jesus….to listen and to learn from Jesus.
As the old saying goes, Martha did not “take the time to smell the roses.” Martha placed too much importance on her own activity and she missed out on what was right in front of her – the Lord Jesus himself!
Mary on the other hand was a different kind of hostess. She offered an attentive ear to make her guests feel comfortable. Rather than scurry around, Mary was there to see after her guests’ needs.
Mary provides an example of what Jesus wanted. She was open to the Lord’s words. She listened to Jesus’ message and she took it to heart.
So what is the meaning of the Martha and Mary story? How does it apply to us?
The story is not really a comparison of an active life and a contemplative life. Rather, it illustrates that we need balance in our lives between action and prayer. There must be a balance between taking action when it is necessary and a time to listen when listening is needed. A God Alert
It means to open our heart and make time and space for the Lord in our lives. It is so tough for all of us to take time to slow down our busy lives and listen to Jesus.
The story of Martha and Mary means taking a step back from the Rushing River of Our Life. It means taking a look at the map of who we are and seeing what God wants from us. We need to realize that the bridge across the Rushing River of Our Life is made from the wood of Jesus’ cross.
Sometimes I need to take a sacred pause, as if I were a sun-warmed rock in the center of a rushing river.