If you had been here, he would not have died

I like Martha.

This is the same Martha who in the Synoptics told Jesus to make Mary help her in the kitchen.

Now as they went on their way, he 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.”

— Luke 10: 38-42 (NRSV)

She calls him Lord and affirms that he is the Messiah and witnesses miracles and believes in an ultimate resurrection of those who believe. And yet still she has the gumption to berate him when she thinks he’s being unfair or not doing what she thinks he ought to be. A little like Abraham haggling with God over the fate of Sodom for the sake of his brother Lot.

Maybe for all our piety and grand notions of God and spirituality and faith God would rather we wrestled with him over matters that are important to us. Maybe keeping our hands clean and solemnly trusting God in all things is bad faith. Maybe we (I) need to take the risk of saying NO! to the creator of heaven and earth every once in a while.

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10 responses

  1. In this passage from Luke, Jesus seems to be saying, “keep your eye on the mark.” His presence there signaled a time for stopping, becoming mindful, free from distractions, to be with them to focus fully on this one thing – the only thing, God’s presence within our midst. And this one thing will be the only thing to remain when all else fails, goes away, dies, leaves. The hell with the dishes at this moment when we are together.

  2. I agree thsi is what Luke and Jesus is saying here. I also know I’m home from work today. Its noon. I ahven’t done the breakfast dishes yet.Martha’s busy-ness and distraction is what frees Mary to be a contemplative at Jesus’ feet. I’m especially aware of this as my wife tends to play Martha to my Mary.And then my sense of guilt distracts me from my work.

  3. David, you and I are very much of like mind here. First my wife like yours is definitely the Martha, although she is showing suspicious signs of also becoming a better Mary than I am.Re: a real relationship with God: yes, yes, yes. The only times I’ve really and truly known of God’s presence was when I treated him personally.Every personal relationship has positives and negatives. It should be so with the one primary personal relationship of our lives. Abraham, Jacob, David are the ones with the true faith.

  4. David said …Maybe for all our piety and grand notions of God and spirituality and faith God would rather we wrestled with him over matters that are important to us. I think of the other stories of the woman who argued with Jesus over healing her daughter and also the parable of the woman who convinced the judge to find in her favor … being persistant and being personal with Jesus/God is a good thing, I think. When I first read some of the homilies of the guy who was once my spiritual director, I was shocked at how personal and confrontational he was with Jesus. But it was that example that made me think christianity was worth a try.

  5. David writes: “Maybe we (I) need to take the risk of saying NO! to the creator of heaven and earth every once in a while.”I wonder if you have ever said “No!” and gotten your way?A spritual friend once asked me, “Who are you to improve upon Existence?” I thought it was a great question…I’m still pondering it.

  6. P.S. I am inclined to take my spirituality to the kitchen sink…meaning, all activity is sacred. You know, chop wood and carry water, and when you finish, chop wood and carry water. All activity has a sacred quality to it when pursued with mindfulness and purity of intention.

  7. I wonder if you have ever said “No!” and gotten your way?I’m not sure taht is the point. Sometimes being okay with resistance is a necessary step towards acceptance. If accepting what is as God’s will is at the end of the journey — then it is peace. If I start there — I don’t make the journey at all.

  8. I wonder if you have ever said “No!” and gotten your way?… Matthew 15:21 … God (Jesus) said “no” to someone but she managed to change his mind. I think sometimes God is open to suggestion.

  9. Whoa! Kwake’s getting fiesty with God! God fight! God fight! I have always found it interesting when people bargained with God — its very confusing to me, the intersection of reverence with bargaining. Regardless, I’d be better off trying to bargain with him than taking his name in vain when I’m unhappy (I try extra hard not to do this, but its happened).

  10. “Say no to God?” Damn right. I do it every day. Every day God has a path for me, a challenge, a job. And I don’t do it.What’s the consequence? I’m now at a different place than I was, and God has something else he wants me to do.Once in a while, maybe very, very rarely, I may say yes.God is patient with us. Thank God for that!!!

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