My reflection on today's Gospel: Martha and Mary

I was thinking about today’s Gospel and trying to really determine what lessons are to be drawn from this.

What is the problem with Martha? Was it because she was spending time preparing meals etc? I don’t think so. Firstly, it’s just common sense that preparing meals is a necessity. Afterall, she’s trying to look after Jesus. Secondly, Jesus could have stopped her much earlier and ask her to be with Mary. I think the problem with Martha is that she tried to compare herself to Mary and thinks that other people should also do what she is doing. As Jesus said, effectively she is trying to take the “better part” away from Mary. My opinion is that God has given us different roles to each one of us and I think we just need to respond to God’s call in whatever role we are given and do it best. But let’s not worry about what others are doing and get jealous and compare.

I think this message is throughout the Gospels. In the Prodigal Son story, again there was nothing wrong with the elder son staying at home and performing filial duties. Certainly God is not asking us to deliberately go out and squander money. However the problem with the elder son was he did his work grudgingly without love and sees it as “slaving” for his father. To top it off, he is jealous of his younger brother.

The same is with the story about the workers in the morning getting the same pay as the ones starting later. They got what they deserve but they were jealous of the others.

The moral from all of this to me is that we should simply concentrate on what we do and stop any unhealthy comparison with others.

I would welcome any thoughts and comments on this and share your wisdom with me.


I happened to hear an excellent reflection on this gospel from Bishop Barron on the radio yesterday. It presented a new perspective I had not considered before, but that makes a lot of sense.

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I heard it used to refer to vocations, with Mary being those who are more interior like cloisters. At least that’s what I recall St. Theresa saying.

At the EF Mass today which followed the OF Mass, our Gospel was on the loaves and fishes. Father linked it to the OF Gospel of Martha and Mary and used both to refer to the virtue of hospitality. Not just being hospitable to those who called at our home ie offer them tea and a biscuit etc, but to be hospital to the stranger, to serve others, to focus on others needs and not just on our own “small universe” - ourselves/family but to all ‘strangers’.

I would not make Martha as pretentious as I would harried. I would imagine that the two shared tasks when the Lord was not there. Indeed, both may have - must have - heard the Lord many times because of their brother Lazarus.

Now, before we hammer on Martha too much, look at her proclamation of faith:

John 11:21-27 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”

Compare this with Peter’s famous statement of faith:

Matthew 16:15-16 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

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What I heard today was in reference to how we all have a specific plan rolled out for us by God, and often a lot we also set out our own goals that may or may not go hand-in-hand with the lord’s. Martha wanted to prep for jesus, thinking this was what she had to do while Mary did what was obvious and not what she wanted to do.

When I read this gospel in conjunction with the chosen first reading from Genesis, I see this clear message: In the OT times, the oppressed ones like women and slaves had no right to interact with God which was the privilege of patriarchs like Abraham whose successors are the clergy, the scribes and teachers of the Law. Sarah’s role is in the kitchen along with the slaves who served Abraham. Jesus came to undo all social evils including oppression of women. Mary responds well to Jesus’ call and proves to be a listening disciple. As Martha is still to understand, Jesus is merely prodding her to break free from the confines imposed by society.

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Good point! Yes my priest also said in his Homily that in those times women would usually not be invited to listen to the rabbi so it was not an ordinary thing that Mary would be there listening.

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