A few weeks ago, the gospel reading was about Martha being anxious and worried about many things. Shortly after that, we celebrated her feast day. So naturally, I’ve been pondering this scene and unpacking it in my own life.
I still believe the ultimate goal is to be Martha and Mary. Like two pieces of a puzzle, our relationship with Christ and our work can fit together quite simply, but not without great effort. But on the practical side, I think it’s important to be ever mindful that we will not be completely free from anxiety and worry in this life. The feelings will arise, and we will have to combat them by sheer will power coupled with grace.
This is when mercy comes to gently embrace us, reminding us we are not doing something wrong just because our days feel heavily laden with service. We are not doing something wrong just because we can’t muster “good feelings” toward the work at hand. In fact, in the midst of these burdens we are given the precise tools needed to cultivate a deep and lasting relationship with Christ. He cares for us. He longs for us to cast our burdens upon him.
Instead of running away from these feelings or indulging them, the choice to hand them over remains. That small (but difficult) effort is in itself a decision to choose the better part.
My reflections upon this passage led me to remember several quotes by St. Gianna – a doctor and mother. She loved to talk about the present moment, living in it fully and accepting it as a gift from God himself. This one really struck me:
One earns paradise with ones daily task.St. Gianna
It struck me because of the word task. I always assumed there was an s on the end, and I think I’ve always added an s. But recently it was brought to my attention that it is a singular task. Just as Jesus told Martha, “there is need of only one thing,” St. Gianna tells us that we earn paradise with our daily *task*
The task to love is ever before us. To love God above all and to love our neighbors (our families) as ourself.
It is easy to believe we are loving well because of how much we do for our families. We have to feed them and clothe them and shelter them after all. But do you see how quickly bitterness arises and how easily irritability clouds all we do?
We are neither helpless nor capable of doing it on our own, this loving well. And it is neither in allowing complete chaos to rule our lives nor seeking complete external perfection (internal perfection is a worthy goal) that we accomplish this. But in living moment to moment, mindful of what we are doing and present to the people for whom we are doing it, even if it is only for God. This intentional work both slows us down and increases what we are capable of accomplishing.
In the end, may we be able to look back on our work and see the love with which we did it. For we will not remember the perfectly cleaned kitchen nor the insanely messy living room, but the people who filled these spaces.
A few more quotes I found helpful to reflect on in light of this passage (all by St. Gianna Beretta Molla):
- “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.”
- “Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.”
- “In order to bring true peace back to my soul, the only way that there exists on the Earth is Confession, because Jesus awaits me with His immense heart.”
Living mindful of the moment, accepting things as they come and simultaneously asking for God’s help and presence to be always with us, helps us to choose the better part even when it feels we are failing. And for all those times we do fail, confession free’s our hearts from carrying that weight. It’s the sweetest refreshment for the weary soul.
St. Martha, pray for us!