Friday, July 29, 2011

Mahtha, Mahtha

I know I said I don't blog about the saint whose feast day it is, or about the Mass readings for the day, but listening to today's Gospel on the radio this morning (and I had every intention of going to church, too, but that didn't happen) I started having flashbacks to my younger days, when I was a Baptist, and when our house was the frequent venue for epic family gatherings.

This is one of my favorite stories from the Gospels:

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NAB)

Every time I read or hear that I always think of my minister growing up, Reverend A. Reverend A, being a Southerner, had an unmistakable drawl, and whenever he would tell or read this story, he'd always pronounce Martha's name as "MAH tha." It still makes me smile remembering how Reverend A. would quote Jesus: "(SIGH! -pause-) Mahtha, (pause) Mahtha..." I picture Jesus just smiling at her and shaking his head.

Often on special days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, or a family reunion, or an 80th or 90th birthday party for a family member, our house would be the place where everyone would gather. Mom would cook the main dish--the turkey or whatever--and maybe a couple of other things, and everyone else would bring something. We all knew what would be on the menu, because everyone had their own "signature" dish they would always bring that everyone loved, and we would all eat until we were stuffed. The kitchen would always be full of women bustling around preparing food and putting it out to be served potluck style, all the while talking and chatting the way we do. Then when the food had been eaten, those same women would gather once again in the kitchen to wash dishes and put things away.

More often than not, I was in the kitchen helping with the food preparation and the cleanup, which I enjoyed because it was always fun to work together and catch up with each other about the goings-on in our family. Sometimes, though, I sneaked off to the other parts of the house where other family members were sitting around on couches and chairs and the floor, talking and laughing and joking around. I remember that certain "kitchen women" would occasionally complain that this or that woman should be helping too, instead of sitting "out there" shooting the breeze with the family. Those women (it was always the women, the men weren't expected to help--although some did anyway) they would sometimes say, were being lazy and rude. Didn't they know they were supposed to be helping in the kitchen? Instead they were sitting on their duffs not lifting a finger and expecting to be waited on. Hmph.

Personally I always thought the complainers were being silly. The way I saw it, the women who chose to stay away from the kitchen realized that everything was under control, and probably felt they would be in the way. I don't blame them for wanting to chat with people they didn't get to see very often. Sure, we socialized in the kitchen, but we also missed out on the conversations happening out in the living room or wherever. I usually tried to be one of the "kitchen women," because I didn't want anyone to complain about me behind my back. (If anyone did gripe they soon got over it anyway.) Besides, I was expected to help out, since it was my mother's house. Which I happily did, but sometimes I wished to be "out there" too.

Mary chose the "better part." She sat a Jesus' feet, just like I sometimes sat at my grandfather's feet while he told stories about his younger days. But if it hadn't been for the Marthas in our family, how would everyone else eat?

Which brings me to the other thing I thought of as I was listening to this Gospel reading, and to Gus Lloyd's reflections on Martha and Mary on his radio show. I've been thinking, as I shared in my last post, about ways to find authenticity and balance in my blogging, and about blogging in general. I suddenly remembered that from time to time I've seen something posted on a blog or web page about "Smart Martha." Therese from Aussie Coffee shop posts a meme (and I've seen it on other blogs too, I just can't for the life of me remember which ones) she calls "Smart Martha Monday," and she lists some of her personal goals for the week-- domestic chores she's going to tackle, mostly, but she also lists other things, like praying every morning and getting up at a certain time each day. I've always wondered if it had something to do with Martha Stewart (since she's the ultimate domestic guru) but I realized this morning that maybe it was about Martha from the Bible.

Today I found Smart Martha's website. Turns out Smart Martha is about finding the right balance in your life, between housework, feeding the family, work, family, and the spiritual life. Kind of a Fly Lady for Catholics. I think I'll be signing up for her newsletter. I want to be a Smaht Mahtha too.

And yes, today, is the feast of St. Martha. The one who said, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." (John 11:27, NAB) Smart lady.

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