Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Martha and Mary, again

The lectionary gospel reading recently was the story of Mary and Martha. I've always had a hard time with this one. I am very much like Martha, who appears to be in serious trouble in this story. It's a really strong resemblance. When we had "The Sons of Martha" read for us I had a really hard time seeing how it says that life might be better if we cared more for the finer things - i.e. if we were more like the sons of Mary. I'm still not sure that I see it that way. And yet this gospel story seems so clear - it's better to lead the contemplative life than to fret about cooking and cleaning.

Fortunately theology has evolved to recognise that our bodies are important too. Yes, there's still recognition that those who are called to consecrated life have a harder time, because it is so much more counter-cultural, but it's generally understood (especially by theologians) that other calls are just as valid and just as holy - not merely second chances for those who can't cut it with the "good" call. I remember explaining in confession that really, I did corporeal acts of mercy. I'm not very good at the spiritual ones. My confessor at the time reassured me that that wasn't a loss, it was still good service. But yet the story remains.

So after mass I talked to Father Con about it. I told him my dilemma, and how it seemed very clear-cut (but impractical) in the story. He pointed out to me that I needed to remember the context. Why did Luke feel the need to include this story? What was he trying to say? The key message here is to focus on what's important. Don't let yourself get distracted by minutiae. If you serve by cooking and cleaning, then focus on that, but make sure that you focus on the service, not on the cleaning.

I think I can do that. It won't be easy, but it's possible. Which makes it sound much more correct to me.