|I’m a Mary, not a Martha. I’m not a good cook or housekeeper or hostess. My husband was a much better wife than I was. He was an amazing cook, he kept the house and the yard, and he was an excellent host. If Jesus had come to visit us, Gordi would have offered a beverage and served a delicious meal, and I would have sat in the living room with our Lord. It wouldn’t even occur to me to serve.
The night before Gordi died his sister came over for a visit, and I was fine with that, until he said she wanted to help out and clean. And then I got upset. I said, just let her come and sit and talk to you. Don’t let her clean. What she’s saying is that I’m not a good wife. I can’t clean, and I can’t take care of you. I can’t heal you. Your family thinks I’m a bad wife and they have to come and take care of you. He said, my sister just wants to do something. She wants to feel helpful and this makes her feel like she’s helping. She wanted to be a Martha and I was trying to make her a Mary.
I understand the feminist theory of the gospel story and the women are doing the serving and the men sit and talk. And I even grew up with that tradition, although obviously it didn’t stick with me. Martha would like to be able to sit and enjoy Jesus and listen to him, but there is work to be done and it needs to be done. Someone has to offer the refreshing beverages. Someone has to cook and serve the food. It’s not going to serve itself. And here she is with an important guest and her sister is no help. And in my story while I was feeling inadequate caring for my dying husband, I also wanted his sister to have quality time with her dying brother. I wanted her to have the time and ability to connect with him while there was still time, and not to waste that time cleaning the kitchen counters. And when Martha tells Jesus to tell Mary to help out, he says that the quality time she is spending with him is more valuable than the serving work in the kitchen. He says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” A clean house is a good thing. A host who provides good food for guests is good, but the host who provides sincere attention to guests might be better. Martha is making sure the required preparations are made, but Mary is spending the more quality time with Jesus while there is still time.