Have you ever been to a party where the host was so preoccupied with keeping the punch bowl filled that he missed out on enjoying the company of his guests? That’s what happened to Martha.
Hospitality has always been a fundamental part of Middle Eastern cultures, so it’s natural that Martha wanted to be a good hostess when Jesus came to her home. She obviously loved him very much, and expressed that love by preparing a nice meal for him. But she was so busy making the evening perfect that she didn’t spend any time with her guest. On the other hand, her sister Mary made Jesus welcome by sitting at his feet and paying close attention to what he had to say.
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving?” With these words, Martha demonstrated a self-concern that was robbing her of the precious gift of Our Lord’s presence. And yet at at the same time, these words showed how comfortable Martha was with Jesus, how secure she felt in her friendship with him.
Our Lord’s gentle rebuke to Martha was meant to help her recognize how unnecessary her anxiety was. He appreciated Martha’s loving care, but he told her that the only thing she really needed to do was enjoy his company. After all, he had come to be with her and her sister, not to have an elaborate meal.
When we’re occupied with the necessary tasks of daily life, we need to do our best to serve with love, as Martha did. But we must also be careful not to lose sight of Jesus. After all, we serve him every time we serve another person. Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero, the former archbishop of Turin wrote: “In our house there is room for Martha and room for Mary, and we must occupy both places. We must be Mary because we are welcoming the Word; and we must be Martha because we are receiving the Son of Man.”