Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Take: Not In Defense of Martha's Activity by Michael Dubruiel

No doubt, ahem, if you went to Mass this past weekend, you heard a homily on the very powerful Gospel that was proclaimed--the story of Jesus' visit to the home of Martha and Mary. In the gospel, Martha complains to Jesus that Mary basically is doing nothing and leaving all the work to her--something evidently we all feel is our lot in the world (although I've known a ton of "Mary's", I've never heard of anyone who actually relates to her in this gospel passage). Which is why, I predict that you heard preached, something that is nowhere to be found in the gospel you heard--a defense of Martha.

Now what makes the Good News (the meaning of the word "gospel"), good news is that it is the message from the king (as Pope Benedict so eloquently brings out in his Jesus of Nazareth), yet when we hear the good news, I find that we almost always want to explain it away, rather than deal with the message being proclaimed. Martha is one of the best examples of this in the Gospels.

She raises her "works" issue with Jesus against the contemplative (listening to what Jesus is saying) Mary and she is essentially rebuked for it--with no apologies. So what are we to take from this?

That when it comes right down to it there is only one thing necessary. We clutter our lives with all kinds of activities that we think our necessary, but in fact as Jesus points out to Martha there is only one think necessary--to listen to God. Now What do you think Martha did when she heard this? Better, what do you do when you hear it?

Evidently when most of us hear it, we think it unjust and immediately go into defending Martha rather than imitating Mary and listening to Jesus--the "one thing necessary." In other words we reject the good news--the invitation to the kingdom and go back to our own little kingdoms where we rule and will our own lives. But such a rejection does not lead to eternal life.

It is ironic that this message of "listening to Jesus" above everything else is so soundly rejected in modern preaching. If I were to presume to guess what Martha's reaction to Jesus' word was--I would presume that she sat down and imitated Mary at that moment, because she knew the Lord loved her and if he was telling her this was what was really necessary, then she had better pay attention.

Hopefully that is what you and I will do also.

-by Michael Dubruiel


  1. We rec'd a variation on the Defense of Martha Homily as well (retired, guest priest.) It was tied to a similar "hospitality situation" from the the 1st reading from Genesis. Abraham and Sarah running around baking bread, slaughtering and preparing the cow, etc., and essentially ignoring their guests - the angels of the Lord. We got the message that while hospitality is good, you really shouldn't ignore your guests.


  2. I would have loved it if I had heard a deep and meaningful exegesis on the Sunday readings. That sort of thing is sorely missing from the life of my parish, which is run by a very progressive order of Canadian/Upstate New York priests. Instead, we were treated to a homily on the importance of grandparents. (The patron of our parish is St. Anne, and our pastor decided to celebrate her feast on Sunday, as opposed to this coming Thursday, which is her actual feast day.) Sure, grandparents are important, but the banality of the topic was terribly uninspiring.

  3. One Thing Needful...

    Here we go again with the push-pull between Martha's and Mary's characteristics -- I agree with you Michael, however we must not cast out Martha too quickly. We must remember the 'drama' (as in von Balthassar's theology) - Jesus encountered the both of them together. Martha had Mary and Mary had Martha - together we have the 2 great commandments:

    "And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, "Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?" Jesus said to him, "'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.' This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40)

    I like the following from the Capuchin Franciscan Friars on hermitage: This style of life reclaims part of the original inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) who made it his practice to spend half his time in solitude and prayer in a hermitage and half in preaching the gospel in the towns of Italy.

    In his "Rule for the Hermitages," St. Francis identifies a hermit not as an isolated individual who prays alone but as a member of a fraternity of brothers who alternate between prayerful solitude and ministry to one another and to the world.

    St. Francis uses the model of Martha and Mary from the Gospel of St. Luke in his description of the balance of prayer and ministry. (Lk 10:38-42)


  4. I see you also played in the land of Generator. Pretty cool and strange stuff there.


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