Is There An Easy Answer?

Luke 10:25-37 – The 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 21, 2013

“‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…’” (Luke 10:41)

Walden Pond
Walden Pond

Luke 10:38-42 is one of those gospel neighborhoods where I readily say, “I laughed, I cried!”

Ah, Mary and Martha.

Between Martha’s bustling and Mary’s attentive listening, it’s clear Jesus preferred Mary’s perspective. But take a secret ballot in church on Sunday morning, or even in your local mall on Saturday afternoon, and see who wins the popularity contest. I’ll wager that Martha the hard worker may lose the popular vote . . . but not by much. After all, don’t we need the Marthas of the world?

I’ve read that Henry David Thoreau, during his Walden Pond sojourn, used the same dishes and utensils, meal after meal, day after day. And why make his bed if he’ll hop back in a few hours later? From his Walden . . .

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.


A sign near the site of Thoreau's cabin...
A sign near the site of Thoreau’s cabin…

But multi-tasking Martha accomplished things, from a three-course meal through a properly set table to a well-dusted living room. And don’t forget, the Lukan passage had Martha welcoming Jesus. Where was Mary? Dabbing on make-up? Finishing a chapter in her romance novel on her Kindle? I have to admit, I’ve sometimes imagined that Jesus’ reply to Martha—“you are worried and distracted by many things”—came only after she set the food before him and asked if he wanted red or white wine with his meal.

Please, give me a roomful of Marthas.

And yet . . . maybe not. Continue reading →