A lesson from Martha and Mary on the importance of adding love to your to-do list
I just finished making a to-do list for the day
- important phone call
- school work
- dinner (plan and prep)
- de-clutter the living room (i.e. project: find the tabletops)
- try not to freak out.
I feel my stress level rising. Put that to-do list on hold!
Time to pray.
My Jesus, here I am. I have a lot to do, but I can’t do it without You. Join me, be by my side. Guide my meditation, and help me get my head and heart back on track.
Martha Serves Imperfectly
I think of that familiar story of Martha and Mary.
You know, the time Mary was sitting at Your feet, just enjoying Your company, and Martha was bustling around: preparing, cleaning, serving. The time Martha asked for help and was admonished by You.
That hurts my feelings.
She was just trying to do her job, to fulfill her duties, to accomplish the checklist involved in preparing dinner – and she was reproved: “Mary has chosen the better part.”
I imagine she was envious of Mary, of her relaxation and downtime, and that’s why she wanted her help. If only Mary would help, Martha could get her chores done faster, and she could relax with You too.
This seems like a reasonable request.
I can definitely sympathize with Martha. What’s worse than being the only one around the house getting things done? If she doesn’t cook dinner, who will?
I don’t understand how You could condemn her choice.
But, Jesus, You weren’t condemning her. You weren’t “putting her in her place.” You were extending to her the invitation to serve You in a new and different way. To serve You like Mary was serving You.
How was Mary serving You? To Martha, she seemed lazy.
To me, she also seems lazy. How can I see this differently?
Let me take a step back. You were teaching, talking, relaxing. And there was Mary, relaxing with You, learning, enjoying Your presence. Your will for her was to spend time adoring You. What greater service to pay the King than honor, admiration, praise!
Martha was doing her best to follow Your will for her too. She was serving You; she cooked a meal for You; she laid it before You; she cleaned up afterwards. My Jesus, You never said to her that these things were not good, or that they did not serve You.
Above All Else: Love
However, something was missing from her to-do list.
“You are concerned about many things.” In her mind, the chores were done as an end in and of themselves. “There is a meal to be made: I must make it; there is cleaning to be done: I must do it. This is my place in life; this is what God called me to do. I will do it.”
In her actions she was serving You, but in her heart… not so much.
Martha was caught up in the duties of her vocation and lost sight of the goal: love. Above all else, love. You invited her to serve You with love.
You invite me to serve You with love, too. Love must be the center of all my actions. You have created me to love. When all else fades away, love alone remains. Of all the duties I have in this life, love is the greatest. It must exist in the menial chores of my day. And when I am tempted to place my to-do list above my call to love, then I must pause.
I must choose love.
I can choose to serve You in my vocation: through the sweeping, the baking, washing the dishes, waiting on the company. I must do it with love.
I can shake off my anxiety, my obsession with a job well done, and embrace the service as a means of good for the other. Serving with love can give greater glory to You, my God.
So what if I burn dinner! If cooked with love for You, it is the best meal for the occasion.
So what if there are spills on the floor! If I clean them with love for You, then the house is properly arrayed for Your coming.
In all of my chores, perfection and completion come secondary to serving You in love.
A Taste of Heaven
Even more, You invited Martha to learn the greatest mode of service to You: adoration.
You taught her that it is okay to step outside the comfort zone of the to-do list: to abandon all worries and cares, and simply rest with You. To, just for a moment, give nothing back but the gaze of love – the most perfect gift, the best act of service to a God whose existence springs from love alone. You call her to experience a taste of Heaven when she allows love to be her vocation.
You call me to do the same.
I am often like Martha: I have good intentions of fulfilling my calling by taking care of all the duties and temporal tasks of my vocation. But I lose sight of You. I get swallowed up in dishes, laundry, changing diapers, tidying up; I justify my actions by saying, “I am fulfilling my vocation.”
But what are my chores worth if they are done without love?
Give me Your grace, my God, to take my life – my vocation – one step further. To love You by every act throughout the day, and remember to take a break, even for five minutes, to spend solely in loving You.
My New and Improved To-Do List
I may not be able to spend my entire day in reflection and meditation.
But I can write a new to-do list:
- important phone call
- school work
- dinner (order out)
- de-clutter the living room (if I get to it)
My Jesus, I wish to live for love of You.
Help me always direct my journey here on earth toward that end: the goal of loving You in Heaven. Teach me the merits (and give me the grace) of entering into that Eternal Love from time to time by stepping away from my work, and resting in Your presence. May I, today and always, return to my tasks with a heart full of love.
I give You my heart, make it beat only for love of You.
Luke 10: 38-42.
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
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.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“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.”
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