This weekend’s gospel is one that’s often quoted when trying to get support for the various ways of understanding church ministries, household chores, or the role of women. The scriptural sisters of Martha and Mary are the models that are referred to in these instances and are often pitted one against the other in trying to prove their point of view. Yes, Martha was the one who unrolled the welcome mat for Jesus when He came to visit them. In doing the cleaning, cooking and other chores she was very busy and gets very resentful. The complaint comes out of her mouth, that she alone is doing all the heavy lifting and her sister Mary is just sitting there talking story with Jesus. She demands that Jesus tell Mary to get up and lend a hand with getting supper prepared. What Jesus says seems to floor and dumbfound Martha. She is told to stop worrying and being so anxious. He doesn’t seem to be so much defending Mary as trying to tell Martha that things will get done in due time and maybe He too might lend a hand if necessary. Both Martha and Mary have a lot to be grateful for, especially for this time with their friend, Jesus.
The University of California at Davis conducted an experiment where they asked volunteers to write down five things that they were grateful for everyday for ten weeks. Those who did, reported 28 percent less stress then those who did not do the exercise. Life can be challenging and even tragic at times. Still if we have a mind to think about it, there is always something to be grateful for. There is an old story about a man visiting the devil’s seed house. The devil pointed to the seeds of discouragement and bragged to the visitor that they would grow just about anywhere. “The only place I can’t get them to grow,” said the devil, “is in a grateful heart.” Perhaps Martha could have learned an important lesson from this story. She should have been grateful that she was able to provide the customary welcoming hospitality for their friend, Jesus, that she had a sister with whom to share this pleasant experience with, and have acknowledged that Jesus was paying attention to them both. She didn’t and therefore she was corrected and asked to consider how Mary was serving a useful function although it differed from what she was doing. Perhaps Martha should have hung up her apron and written down 5 things that she was grateful for instead of complaining and being anxious.