“Pax Vobiscum” (“peace [be] with you”)
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister they called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to her guest, Jesus, and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
When Jesus arrives at their home, there is a clear contrast in behavior between the sisters, Mary and Martha . While Martha was in the presence of the Prince of Peace she was also the picture of stress. Why?
As a result of her Martha’s stress, her building resentment, she finally lashes out. Martha focuses her tension on her sister, bad-mouthing her to Jesus. And, isn’t that just like stress? It causes us to: become easily agitated, frustrated, and moody; Feel overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control; Have difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind — the list goes on.
We all deal with stress at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s your job, a family illness, or money troubles. These are common triggers. According to a recent study, about half of all Americans say they’re dealing with some type of stressors. Wouldn’t Martha have fit in with our American society? Or was her tension something else?
In our Gospel story Martha chastises Mary becoming preoccupied with worrying about the preparations of their home. While the meaning of this passage seems uber-obvious, Jesus apparently spells it out for us: Martha, you are anxious and troubled, Mary has chosen the better part. So was Jesus saying that everyone should stop being like Martha and start being more like Mary and sit and listen to God. Well...
…Martha’s complaint often gets retold as a moralistic caution for us to not be too busy with work and to learn to sit with Jesus. Granted, Martha may have missed out on the opportunity to listen and learn to love and be loved by the Prince of Peace. But let’s also consider that Martha’s generosity was also very important to Jesus’ ministry. The travelers were weary, without money for a meal or hotel. Martha’s provisions met Jesus’ needs. I think he was grateful for her contributions. He also loved her very much. Martha and Mary’s story is about balance, a great stress antidote.