Sermon 497 via Word on Fire
Fr. Barron says that this story of Martha & Mary has been interpereted in 3 different ways.
1) The active life vs. the contemplative life. Martha as symbolic of the active life (ministries). Mary as symbolic of the contemplative life (monks, nuns, scholars). Has Jesus valorised the contemplative life over the active life? Fr. Barron: Throughout the Bible, it is a basic principle that listening has to come before acting. Is is more of a chronological relationship than one that is in tension. What is the Lord saying? Once we know, then we are ready to act, even with the best of intentions. Currently, we have a Martha-oriented society which is why today so many are questioning this story and defending Martha.
2) The one and the many as a philosophical and spiritual issue. Mary has chosen the one thing, unum necessarium, necessary. Focus on the one thing necessary allows other things to fall into place. Harmony and order will come. Martha is anxious over many things, while Mary is anchored in the one. Are you about one thing, or many? Do your manys come into one for the will of God?
[I’m currently on Book II of St. Augustine’s Confessions and found the above sentiment also present: “…while turned from Thee, the One God, I lost myself among a multiplicity of things.”]
3) (N.T. Wright) Jesus’ teaching focused on the overturning of social convention. He dealt kindly with Roman soldiers, touched those that were unclean, the radical inclusion of women in his inner circle, he spoke publicly to the woman at the well, etc. The first witnesses of the resurrection were women. Martha was in the conventional women’s space. Mary assumed the stance of a man in the men’s space. Invites women into the full participation in a life of discipleship. “In Christ there is no slave or free, Jew or Greek, male or female.” (Paul) Everybody is summoned to discipleship and this is the most important consideration of all.
Key message: Don’t let anyone’s expectations, or social conventions, deprive you of this better part. We are all called to discipleship in many different, but equally important ways.