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Martha and Mary – action or contemplation?

on Thursday, 01 March 2018. Posted in Roman Catholic Church

We all heard about this passage of the Gospel relating Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. (Luke 10:38-42.). Mary, at the feet of Jesus, is listening to his teaching, while Martha is burdened with preparing everything. At one point, Mary said to Jesus: "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." And Jesus answers scolding her sweetly: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing." Here is how Pope Francis explained this passage of the Gospel of St. Luke before the prayer of the Angelus on Sunday, July 21, 2013:

"What does Jesus mean? What is this one thing that we need? First of all, it is important to understand that this is not about two contradictory attitudes: listening to the word of the Lord, contemplation, and practical service to our neighbour. These are not two attitudes opposed to one another, but, on the contrary, they are two essential aspects in our Christian life; aspects that can never be separated, but are lived out in profound unity and harmony.

"Why then was Martha scolded, even if kindly, by Jesus? Because she considered only what she was doing to be essential; she was too absorbed and worried by the things 'to do'. For a Christian, works of service and charity are never detached from the principle of all our action: that is, listening to the Word of the Lord, to be — like Mary — at the feet of Jesus, with the attitude of a disciple. And that is why Martha was scolded.

"In our Christian life too, dear brothers and sisters, may prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother — the poor, the sick, those in need of help, a brother in difficulty — is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ. When time is not set aside for dialogue with him in prayer, we risk serving ourselves and not God present in our needy brother and sister.

"St. Benedict sums up the kind of life that indicated for his monks in two words: ora et labora, pray and work. It is from contemplation, from a strong friendship with the Lord that the capacity is born in us to live and to bring the love of God, his mercy, his tenderness, to others. And also our work with brothers in need, our charitable works of mercy, lead us to the Lord, because it is in the needy brother and sister that we see the Lord himself."

Pope Francis

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