In Luke 10:38-42, God teaches us to schedule an “empty time” with Him. In other words, we clear our schedules to be alone with God. Augustine describes the contrast between Mary and Martha as a choice between meals. Martha arranged her calendar to make room for the busy details of preparing a meal. Mary deserted her sister and instead chose to receive a meal from Jesus. Augustine writes: “Martha was getting annoyed, Mary was feasting; the former coping with many things, the latter concentrating on one. Both occupations were good” (Sermon, 103 Saint Luke’s Gospel. (2005). (p. 111). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers).
Who is more holy, Mary or Martha?
Both are equally holy. The goal of the average Christian is to combine the spirituality of Mary and Martha.
If you work 8-10 hours a day and have any kind of commute combined with family activities, sleep, et. al you might have one hour to “play the role of Mary”. Fulton Sheen, in his autobiography, “Treasures of Clay” believes one hour is all you need to make your day.
Why one hour? Fulton Sheen outlines why:
- First, our Blessed Lord used the words “hour” and “day” in two totally different connotations in the Gospel of John. “Day” belongs to God; the “hour” belongs to evil. Seven times in the Gospel of John, the word “hour” is used, and in each instance, it refers to the demonic, and to the moments when Christ is no longer in the Father’s Hands, but in the hands of men. In the Garden, our Lord contrasted two “hours” – one was the evil hour “this is your hour” – with which Judas could turn out the lights of the world. In contrast, our Lord asked: “Could you not watch one hour with Me?”. In other words, he asked for an hour of reparation to combat the hour of evil; an hour of victimal union with the Cross to overcome the anti-love of sin.
- Secondly, the only time Our Lord asked the Apostles for anything was the night he went into his agony. Then he did not ask all of them … perhaps because he knew he could not count on their fidelity. But at least he expected three to be faithful to him: Peter, James, and John. As often in the history of the Church since that time, evil was awake, but the disciples were asleep. That is why there came out of His anguished and lonely Heart the sigh: “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship.
- The third reason I keep up the Holy Hour is to grow more and more into his likeness. As Paul puts it: “We are transfigured into his likeness, from splendor to splendor.” We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset, the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain. Something happens to us similar to that which happened to the disciples at Emmaus. On Easter Sunday afternoon when the Lord met them, he asked why they were so gloomy. After spending some time in his presence, and hearing again the secret of spirituality – “The Son of Man must suffer to enter into His Glory” – their time with him ended and their “hearts were on fire.”
The opposite of Mary’s devotion isn’t Martha’s works its the inability to combine work and devotion.