Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
Lord, do you not care?
Every time I read this passage, these five words leap off the page at me! How can anyone ask Jesus such an absurd question: Lord, do you not care?
The whole of Jesus’ earthly ministry was one of love and service. Jesus, as we know, was to give his own life for the good of humanity. How could anyone ever ask Jesus: Lord, do you not care?
Of course, Martha’s question is not rooted in her perception of Jesus. Rather, it stems from the frustrations she is experiencing in her daily life. Everyone has a different set of priorities; everyone sees the world in a slightly different way. Even when some of us feel the need for immediate action, others will see the same situation as demanding a more laid-back and contemplative approach. Martha is clearly a ‘doer’, while her sister, Mary, adopts a very different approach.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge that both approaches to life are valid. They each have a value when applied appropriately. But, therein lies the problem. How do we know when it is appropriate to pause, and how do we know when the better way to proceed is to take the path of decisive action?
The answer to that question lies in prayer. In order that we might make wise choices, we need to pray … and then we need to listen. So often our prayers are rooted in a certainty that leaves no room for God. Our prayers are filled with personal needs and requests for justification that we have already made the right decisions.
Today’s reading shows us the frustration of living alongside those who do not see the world as we do. Let us pray for tolerance and understanding. Let us pray that we might set aside our worldly certainty and, in all humility, seek the wisdom that comes from God alone. Let us pray that, no matter how busy our lives might be, we may make space to listen to God’s reply to our prayers … even if that reply is one of challenge and change.