When Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha, Martha welcomed him. Her sister, Mary, sat at his feet and listened to him while Martha was “distracted by all her many tasks.” Yes, I imagine woman’s work in biblical times was quite a distraction. We have no idea how much time it would take to cook and clean without electricity. I have great respect for Martha. The laundry isn’t going to wash itself. I also have great respect for Mary. She chose to forego her woman’s work and, instead, sit and listen to what Jesus had to say. I wonder if Martha was listening from the other room? When I am working in the kitchen working I can still hear what is being said in the other room. I can choose to holler out my two-cents if I so desire.
I’d like to think that if a holy person visited my home I would want to do nothing but sit and talk with him. Truthfully, I probably would want to feed him and offer him something to drink. I am comfortable in the kitchen where I do much of my woman’s work. This is something I have learned when the power goes out and I have nothing to do because I can’t turn on the oven and I should leave the fridge closed. This is reinforced when I go on vacation and the kitchen belongs to another woman and she doesn’t really need any help. Am I really so lost without my kitchen? I do prefer being hostess to being guest. I’d rather help the hostess in the kitchen that sit in the other room and chat.
I recognize that I am a little more Martha then Mary. Perhaps this if funny since I studied religion in college and then bailed out of graduate school because I didn’t want to become a part of a system that perpetuates itself. I didn’t want to study holiness. I wanted to become more holy. I’m not sure that I have succeeded in that since having left graduate school almost twenty years ago. I am trying. Instead of studying texts and discussing them with students I am caring for the elderly that are slowly losing their minds. I work in the world of dementia but these lost old souls still remember songs. Tending to the sick and the old is work that is never done. Nursing is work that is never done. Everyday woman’s work (cooking, cleaning, laundry) is work that is never done.
Poor Martha didn’t know what she was missing while she was so busy with her woman’s work and irritated with her sister. She even asked Jesus to tell her sister to help her! How must she have felt when he told her that Mary had chosen wisely. I imagine Martha wondering who was going to get all the work done with everyone sitting around talking all the time. I imagine Mary wondering why Martha was worried about daily tasks while Jesus was visiting. Somewhere between the two is the place to be. Perhaps we can all sit in the kitchen to talk and once in a while I will get up to check on dinner or throw another log on the fire. Perhaps, while I am up, I can offer everyone another beer and fill up the bowl of chips.