Thoughts on Mary and Martha*

By Sister Mary Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

“Taken for granted.”  Unless you’re a masochist, you don’t like feeling that way.  Yet haven’t we all said something like, “Oh, so-and-so will take care of that; she always does”?  We may even neglect to thank so-and-so for the effort.  “Grrrrr,” my mother would say to this.

I think Martha of Bethany had an issue with this, too.  Think about it:  When did 13 hungry grown men last show up at your door expecting to be fed?  Martha could do it; she did do it—maybe many times—but we get a snapshot of her irritation in Luke 10:38-42.

My hunch is that she really didn’t want Mary’s help in the kitchen.  (How much help do you think Mary would be?)  I think Martha’s purpose in speaking up was to be sure Jesus and his posse realized that she was putting forth some serious effort on their behalf.  Remember, she had no fast, no canned, no frozen foods, and the meat was most likely still on the hoof.

Some of us are more naturally Marthas, preferring hands-on, practical activities to spinning ideas in mid-air.  A balance is best, but not so easily achievable.  As a self-named Martha (I chose it as my religious name), I can theorize, empathize, strategize for just so long.

Then I need to go sew a pillow, make a meal—I need to end up with something tangible, useful, satisfying—at least to me.

Jesus may have termed Mary’s the “better part,” but there’s no record of his ever passing up the meal that came from Martha’s hands.


Do you struggle to balance your inner Martha and Mary? Do you honor and own whichever tendency comes more naturally to you?  How do you try to develop your less dominant traits—or do you see no value in trying?

*July 29 is the Feast Day of Saint Martha

See Sister Martha’s handwork on display at the Mission Helper Center.  Her creations make great gifts!


0 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mary and Martha*

  1. Hello Sr. Martha,

    What wonderful thoughts about the Mary/Martha dilemma!

    I always want to be Mary, but end up being Martha!

    Thanks for your insight!

    Joyce Ross

  2. Martha: Your comments are so “Martha!” Thanks for encouraging each of us to appreciate our own gifts. And thank God each of us is unique. I did notice that your name includes Mary also. Also, thanks for the reflection questions.

  3. Martha, I love the way you so vividly express yourself. Yes, quite a chore for Martha of the Gospel to feed 13 hungry men! Thanks for sharing. Dolores SSJ

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