Monday, 18 April 2011

One or the other?

GospelJohn 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’
  Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.

I have just read a commentary about this passage of scripture that talked about the Martha and Mary phenomenon.
Martha, you will notice is waiting on the visitors; serving her brother, her friend and all the hangers on eager to see the 're-newed' Lazarus and the miracle worker. And doing all this without a murmur of discontent; she has accepted the role of servant - a role that all Christians should recognise within themselves. Knowing that our lives are not 'all about us' and that we have the opportunity to nurture the fellowship and family of God through hospitality and welcome.

Good enough you may think.

Mary, on the other hand is again awarded the higher acknowledgement - that she focuses all she has; everything of value, on Jesus. That her actions replace the scent of Lazarus' death with the scent of resurrection. That she is able to discern the truth of the journey that Jesus is making. That nothing is too much for her where her faith and her Lord is concerned.

Much more spiritual; much more important - or so this commentary suggested. Martha - never good enough - Mary - too good to be true.

I imagine Jesus looking at these women and saying 'I love you both'.  And so he should.

Tonight our parish celebrated a tribute to the Passover Meal. Eighty people came along to experience something of what the Last Supper was really like - five glasses of wine, multiple courses of food, children running underfoot, laughter and downright ribaldry. The feast appears as if from nowhere -  although it is not from nowhere at all - it is from people who choose to take the time and make the effort to work together to bring this celebration to others; for the sake of others; for the sake of the community; for the continuing of a fairly new but uplifting tradition.

It is only when this Martha-work has been done that Mary can show herself. In the prayers; in the understanding of faith and commitment and relationship that stretches from the time of Moses to the present day. It is only within the comfort of this hospitality that the community in all its diversity can share the experience of this feast and see within it the legacy that has become the Mass. It is only in the relationship of faith that a silence lasting several minutes can follow the sharing of Elijah's cup around the gathering.

There is a great danger in choosing an either/or approach to life. Jesus doesn't do it. Human and Divine; God and Man. He sees what is and also what could be.  He knows that it is as important to 'do' as it is to 'be'. He sees the sinner and the beloved in the same person. He would choose Martha and Mary.

wordinthehand 2011


Margaret said...

It is hard not to choose the either/or though? Isn't it? At least is seems that way in daily life when I am cleaning my kitchen and resenting everyone else off doing deeper things.

Word in the Hand said...

Cleaning a kirchen - washing people's feet -maybe these are the deeper things?

claire said...

Don't you think, mairie, that it is possible to pray as one cleans the kitchen? At least this is where I feel Life takes me...


Word in the Hand said...

Claire - I pray all the time - the 40 minute drive to work is a favourite but I have my nan's celtic habit of just including God in everything. In fact the very thought of cleaning my kitchen starts me praying! - I love the Benedictine motto - work and pray.
blessings m+

claire said...

I believe you are praying all the time.

Mari said...

Mairie, beautiful post. Claire, I also find myself praying the most when I am cleaning the kitchen. I believe that the fact one is all alone in there, gives us the opportunity to listen to our inner self and to God's words.

Have a blessed weekend :)