Liz Montigny considers what’s at the root of Martha’s frustration with Mary in the well-known story from the Gospel of Luke.
While vacationing, I took in a livestreamed Mass celebrated by Father Chris Alar, MIC. Sharing his reflections on Luke 10:38-42, Fr. Chris said, “There is time for Martha and there is a time for Mary." This so resonated with me. As moms, we know all too well that tug on our hearts to be both Saints Martha and Mary. I feel a lot like Martha most of the time, and I guess that you do too. This Gospel gets us all riled up because we want to be more like Mary.
But I noticed something else going on in this passage. Martha asks Jesus, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?" Martha was doing what she more than likely always did and the most important person in the room didn't seem to care. It seems to me that Martha feels underappreciated in her labor before the Lord and maybe even disrespected by the others in the room. She was worried about what other people were doing or not doing or thinking or not thinking. Maybe she perceived this because she neglected to frame her work with intention. I get this: I know the Lord is working on sanctifying me, especially through my family life. Sorry, St. Teresa of Avila, I really do struggle with seeing Him "amongst the pots and pans."
What distracts you from Jesus?
I think Martha got frustrated watching her sister sit at Jesus' feet because she wanted to be there too, not because Mary wasn't helping her. Martha was most likely used to serving and good at it, but she was distracted because she was paying attention to what someone else was doing—and not to Jesus.
Isn't this true for us in our daily lives? I notice how much more I get done around the house or how much better my workday flows when I place God first. Part of the root of Martha's concern in this passage is that she was comparing herself to Mary. Moms, can we please stop doing this? Be the best version of you for God. This starts by making Him part of your day.
Ways to sit at Jesus' feet
Don't make this complicated. I think much of our anxiety around making time for prayer comes from the idea that it has to take a certain amount of time and be a certain way. As moms, we don’t have the same amount of time in our day as others might to sit in devotion—that’s a fact. In Scripture, Mary simply sat at Jesus' feet and listened. How can you listen with more intention to what God is calling you to do in your daily life?
I use Lectio Divina when I read the daily Gospel, then I sit for a few moments in silence and ask God what He wants me to focus on today. I also have a weekly holy hour scheduled and a daily alarm on my phone for the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We usually pray the Rosary as a family after dinner. If this sounds like a lot to you, it’s because I’ve worked up to this over time, so start small. Say a small prayer before you work or before you feel yourself about to react to a child's need instead of responding to the need. A favorite go-to prayer of mine is from the Surrender Novena: "Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything." Anyone can work one sentence into their day. Working towards surrender is a perpetual act for me.
John 12:2 says, "Martha served." I like to imagine how Martha served differently at the next dinner. I feel like she must have been glowing as the happy host, working with purpose and joy, and I like to think Jesus took delight in her work.
Remember Mom, Jesus sees all you do and delights in you too. How will your daily labors change when you work for Him?
About the Author
Liz Montigny is a life coach for Catholic working moms who want to drop the hustle for hope so they can truly live their dreams. She is a wife and homeschooler who likes to relax with a cup of tea and enjoys talking about non-toxic living and building her theatre ministry. Connect with Liz at LizMontignyCoaching.com.