The Wisdom of Mary and Martha of Bethany

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"The wisdom of Mary and Martha" by Allison Gingras (CatholicMom.com)

By Joseph Bergler the Younger – National Gallery in Prague, Public Domain, Link

A woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Martha did not have a refrigerator or a cabinet full of food to make her invitation an easy decision. No, this moment of hospitality came with a sacrifice. She knew there would be work involved, yet she did not let the burden keep her from inviting Jesus into her home. She did not allow the sacrifice to dissuade her from offering Jesus her hospitality.

The holidays are indeed among us, and that often means we too will be called to extend our hospitality. I’ve learned in the last few years, especially after discovering Mary and Martha of Bethany, that part of the generosity and joy of the holidays comes with managing expectations, both mine and my family’s.

I need to avoid assumptions and to fail to realize that I’m not the only person with plans and hopes for my holidays. To successfully navigate the holidays, it pays to family to ask my family their wishes for Christmas, and not just merely those they will find under the tree. Additionally, it will benefit everyone if I avoid the “they should just know what I need them to do to help” mentality and remember my family is not mind-readers.

They have their ideas of what they’d like to accomplish and how they’d like to spend their time, especially when our guests have arrived.  There are friends and cousins they have not seen all year. The excitement of being together with them usually outweighs their enthusiasm for helping Mom in the kitchen. I look at Martha’s expectations for Mary. She probably counted Mary’s help into her decision to invite Jesus and his friends to stay at her home. Did the hope of those extra set of hands play into her vision for this visit without first checking with her sister? When her sister chose something different, she became agitated and even turned to the Lord to express her displeasure.

Mary, clearly excited for the unexpected visitors, especially Jesus, the great teacher and friend, plops herself down at his feet. She made Jesus her number-one priority. Mary, unlike Martha, is not distracted with all her preparations. Jesus gently reminds Martha on how instead of focusing on the one true necessity of one’s life, she is worried and bothered about so many things. Beyond the preparations of his visit that distracted and overwhelmed Martha, she probably had many things on her mind.

We, too, are distracted by many things. As we enter into the holiday season, it’s not just preparations for Christmas, but also our work, the children and their homework, our extended family and their needs, our obligations to our church or our community. There are so many things that distract us from what Jesus reminds us is the one thing that is necessary.

Jesus should be on top of our to-do list. Make time with Jesus a priority, as Mary did before attending to the many tasks that lay ahead each day. Perhaps start your day with a little coffee with Christ, prayerfully reading his Word. Jesus calls time with Him, the one necessary thing. All else is still good, but without seeking Him first, it has little meaning.

Mary put her spiritual well-being first, acknowledging how special a visit from Jesus is. The Nativity, when he first visits this world, we often forget, is the reason for the season. Jesus, born as our Savior, came that we may have life eternal. When we do not allow our preparations to distract us from making time for Jesus, the grace and blessing from those encounters will not be, as Jesus tells Martha, taken from us.

As women, we can learn from both Mary and Martha, with the most critical lesson coming from Jesus—maintaining a balance between both our spiritual well-being and our desire to extend hospitality. Mary is indeed the wise sister who saw Jesus presents as an opportunity to sit and learn at his feet, and to grow to take full advantage of his visit.

What will you do this holiday to take full advantage of Jesus’s presence in our lives and our world, preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ first visit as we keep in mind His next?


Copyright 2019 Allison Gingras

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About Author

Allison Gingras created the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV), including "The Gift of Invitation" and "Seeking Peace: A Spiritual Journey from Worry to Trust." Her ministry focuses on the grace of prayer, Scripture, and sacrament. Allison is the national WINE Steward for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization and hosts A Seeking Heart podcast.

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