At various times in my life I have played the roles of both Martha and Mary. There have been occasions where I have been the busy one, making sure an event "happened", thereby missing "something" but gaining something else. There have been other occasions where I have not been the coordinator of the circus and have been able to "choose the better part, which will not be taken away", as Jesus says today.
I was involved with a parish in NYC that had a companion relationship with a parish in Ikegang, South Africa. We hosted 24 individuals from that very rural place, putting them up in parishioners homes, acting as tour guides, feeding them, worshipping with them, spending time with them. I was the lead coordinator for all those events (and for their trip in general), having spreadsheets galore, on the phone constantly, checking up on the hosts and the guests and the various planned activities. One of the events was a potluck dinner in the church school's cafeteria. Instead of having someone else run the particular event, I managed that one. Potlucks can either be spectacular successes or spectacular failures and I was determined to make sure this one would be successful, and it turned out that way, but not without a huge amount of effort and sweat on my part. One of the side effects of that effort was that I was not able to "participate" in the meal with the 100 or so guests (South Africans and fellow parishioners) that were there as a few parishioners and I were the Martha's of the evening.
And there lies the conundrum. Is it enough that I helped effectuate a lovely evening for others, even though the cost to me was "missing" those times of connection and introduction? Would the event have been as successful if we had only one bean casserole show up to feed the hordes that turned up? Jesus seems to indicate that we shouldn't miss those kind of opportunities in life....but who has to sacrifice, to play the role of Martha, in order to effectuate a pleasant evening for people: after all those things don't just happen. Or do they? Are my expectations and priorities screwed up in regard to these kind of events? Is there another way to judge what is a successful gathering? If all of us are the Mary role, how do we survive?
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.