I was leading a group of women through Lectio Divina (the practice of meditating on Scripture) when the verse jumped off the page at me: “Martha, distracted by much serving…”
While another translation of the verse from the group said “burdened,” mine seemed aimed directly at my heart, straight from my God. Distracted. To be distracted means you’re missing something more worthy of your attention.
In the scene we were meditating on and discussing (Luke 10:38 – 42), Jesus and His Apostles go to dine with Lazarus, Mary and Martha in Bethany. Mary is resting at Christ’s feet while Martha is busy in the kitchen prepping dinner and probably being all-around efficient, helpful and hospitable.
Understandably, our Martha is a little put out by Mary’s perceived laziness and gets really upset — even a little snippy with Jesus Himself. “Lord,” she says, “do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”
And what does He tell her? “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.There is need of only one thing.”
As I read this, it was like flipping on the light switch in my heart, revealing the core of my current prayer life with a very gentle scolding from the Holy Spirit.
Yes, it’s hard to balance life. As a missionary, as a student and as an adult, it’s difficult to ever stop working. And I seem to have only two modes: serving or sleeping.
I find my brain runs a mile a minute, no matter what I’m doing. There are so many people to love, so much to do, and being “radically available” to others has to mean something, and souls are worth the tiredness, etc., etc., etc.…
But it never stops.
How many midday Masses do I hardly participate in because my heart is full of plans? How much time do I spend in holy hour treating Him Who is before me like a vending machine of holiness and not as a Person? How many times do I relegate myself to the kitchen, to just working for Him, when all He wants from me is me?
Martha doesn’t get that Jesus desires to teach and love and form her, sitting at His feet, more than He wants to be served by her. He wants to do that so when she is called to go serve, she is still interiorly at His feet, undisturbed by how much seems to be on her shoulders —finally able to move those dang mountains by His power instead of her own. Were the disciples probably hungry? Yes. Were there things to be done? Yes. Could it have waited? Definitely.
Yes, planning and striving for excellence is good. Yes, intercessory prayer is good and necessary. It teaches us to love. It gives us eyes to see others’ needs. It brings about REAL grace in lives.
But if you spend your whole time in prayer asking for things, you miss what He’s asking for: you.
If we make the first aim of our prayer time meditation and contemplation — if we take time at the start of it to consciously choose to believe we are with Him and loved by Him — then eventually, when we ask for what we desire, we ask from His feet, in confidence and trust, instead of calling out from the kitchen in frustration.
And from there, we learn to be at His feet all the time, to evangelize from a continual encounter with His personal mercy for us — not from a removed sense of duty or obligation.
His best-friendship is a real thing. This is what we’re trying to give to others, and this is what we’re seeking to know for ourselves. This is the light that cannot be hidden. Let’s invite others to His feet, not into the kitchen.
I hope you don’t need these questions as much as I do. But regardless of where you are, maybe spend some time asking yourself what I’m asking myself now:
- In this holy hour/Mass/rosary/etc., am I letting myself be distracted by all the serving? Or do I sit at His feet, trusting that He is enough? Am I radically available to Christ?
- Do I truly believe I am enough for God, that He needs only one thing from me? Or do I think He loves and values me because I work for Him?
- Do I teach prayer as a job requirement for mission alone, or as the sacred height of the human life: a real friendship with God?