Sunday Readings: Genesis 18.1-10; Colossians 1.24-28; Luke 10.38-42
“Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teachings.”
Luke puts Mary and Martha in their place in Sunday’s gospel passage. To be remembered by name in the gospel makes people stand out. Perhaps tradition remembers Martha and Mary because their home was not only a place Jesus stayed during his lifetime but a house church, where after Jesus’ resurrection, Martha welcomed a community of disciples to remember his teaching and break bread as he asked. John’s gospel also remembers Martha for gathering Jesus, her sister, her brother Lazarus, and friends for a meal (John 12.1-2).
In Sunday’s gospel Mary seats herself at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teaching and Martha serves him. These two actions — listening to Jesus’ words and serving a meal — are the same actions that take place in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Perhaps Martha and Mary represent two forms of ministry evolving in the Christian community at the time Luke wrote — preaching the good news and gathering the community to break bread. In Acts 6.1-6, the twelve appoint deacons to serve and make sure all in the Jerusalem community get a fair amount of food, so that the twelve are free to preach. Perhaps by the time Luke writes in the mid-80s, the ministries of women in the Christian communities has become controversial.
Although Sunday’s gospel shows Martha offering table hospitality and Mary listening to the word, this scene effectively silences the ministries of both women. Jesus tells Martha to give up the ministry of her household, and perhaps her house church , and join her sister in choosing the better part–silent listening to Jesus. Perhaps their ministries of word and table made Martha and Mary too memorable in the life of the early Christian community to forget. Perhaps they were so important that Luke uses the voice of Jesus’ authority to put them in their place, the same subordinate position women are transforming today.
Who sustains the life of your faith community?
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or