A contrast

This coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Lectionary Cycle C. This week we will encounter the well known story of Martha and Mary. Our pericope ( fancy word for story) has an immediate context:

  • Jesus sending out on mission the 72 other disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God
  • A scholar of the Law who quizzes Jesus, who in response tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, asking who acted as neighbor?
  • Our passage herein, the oft told story of Martha and Mary
  • Immediately followed by Jesus teaching his disciples to be persistent in prayer

38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Two weeks previous we studied the account of the 72 other disciples who were sent on mission and returned praising God. “23 Turning to the disciples in private he [Jesus] said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:1-10,12-17). Jesus has thanked the Father for hiding “these things” from “the wise and the learned” (v.21). Last week a “scholar of the law,” whom we would think is wise and learned, came to test Jesus. In response Jesus tells a parable (the Good Samaritan) in which other wise and learned men, religious leaders of Israel “see” the man in the ditch (vv. 31-32). The question is will they “see” what Jesus desires to reveal to them or will it be hidden from them?

This week we have the well told pericope of Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus will raise from the dead.  An interesting contrast is presented with these two texts. The lawyer asks, “What must I do? (v. 25) and he is told twice to “do this” (poieo v.28, v.37; the present tense in Greek would mean “continuously do”). This emphasis on “doing” could easily become the busyness of Martha. This busyness is in contrast to the continual listening of Mary (v.39). In both stories there are unexpected actions — a Samaritan who cares and helps a Jewish man; and a woman who sits as a disciple and listens and learns. The Samaritan is told to “go and do likewise,” while Mary is praised for not going and doing, but rather being present and listening. More, tomorrow.

1 thought on “A contrast

  1. Hi Father, I’ve always felt sorry for Martha and wondered what might have ensued if Jesus had told her that Mary had chosen better and Martha could immediately stop serving the men and sit and listen also… could the household survive the male protest?

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