Balance is one of the most important things that we can achieve in life, and yet it is a goal that often seems so fleeting. That is particularly true of the spiritual life. So many people find it difficult to have balance in their spiritual lives, even the saints. Yesterday’s feast of Saint Francis reminded us that even he struggled with balance between contemplation and active preaching. Eventually his rule of life led to embracing both.
Today’s gospel reading calls each of us to strike balance. Martha usually gets the bad rap for not responding to Jesus in the right way. But I think it’s worth noting that both of them were going all-or-nothing in their way of hospitality. Martha was cooking and cleaning and serving like nobody’s business. Mary couldn’t be torn away from the Master Teacher, to whose words she clung with all her strength.
Sometimes we are called to active service. Martha is our model for that today. Sometimes though, and perhaps more often than we embrace, we are called to contemplation, to be present before our Lord and to know his words and his love for us. In our busy lives, I think we often miss that, and so perhaps the reproach Jesus gave to Martha is one we need to hear too.
Martha and Mary are, in the end, models for the spiritual life. If we fast forward to the story of the raising of their brother Lazarus, we find Martha professing the faith and Mary working through her grief. They have both grown, and perhaps to some extent found balance. We too have to find that balance between active service and contemplation, and whatever we do, make sure that we cling to Jesus as best we can.