My dear friends,
I was given a beautiful book for my wedding called By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice Von Hildebrand. In this book the newly married Julie writes letters to her Godmother, Lily, seeking her advice as she learns how to live and love as a newly married wife. As I was reading this book there was a quote (among many) that stood out to me. “I’m sure that as your love grows deeper, you too, will come to see how the greater the love, the more it permeates even the smallest aspects of life.” I have always been the type of person who tries to put 100% into everything I truly love and believe in. I desire that my love would grow deeper and that it would permeate even the small mundane tasks of the day. Sometimes the tasks that I put last on my list of priorities or the tasks I avoid doing because there are other things that I would much rather do. As I continued to dwell on this quote I was reminded of the story of Martha and Mary. Here it seems that Jesus actually teaches Martha (and me) how to go about doing her daily tasks.
The Story of Martha and Mary
When I was growing up my mother would have my siblings and I help her clean the house especially when company was coming over. Usually it would start off with my two brothers and I cleaning diligently. Then, like clockwork, my youngest brother would lay on the couch saying, “I’m taking a break!” My other brother and I would continue busily cleaning all the while telling our youngest sibling to help us and complaining to our mother about his laziness. When reading the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary I would often remember my childhood cleaning experiences with my brothers. Although it is an entirely different situation in Scripture, I would emphasize with Martha thinking, “Lord if she didn’t do all the work and serve then who would?” I especially felt this way becoming a mother when it seemed like my to-do list nearly doubled. It was only recently that my heart started to open up to what Christ really meant when He said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” Luke 10:41-42.
“Now as they went on their way, he [Jesus] entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” Luke 10:38-42.
As this Scripture story continued to tug at my heart I again asked Jesus, “Lord I am confused. How would all the work have gotten done if Martha did not do it?” I was struck by the two completely different roles Martha and Mary seem to play in the presence of Jesus. Mary’s role in this story is to love God, take every moment as a gift, and to serve Him. She has no ulterior motives or agendas, but just to do all that she does out of love for Jesus and to listen to what He has to tell her. It seems that instead of busily working like Martha she instead begins her time in prayer with Jesus listening to all that He has to teach her.
Meanwhile Martha tries to get all her work done without Christ and His help. In fact when she comes to Christ in need of help she tells Him to have her sister Mary help her. “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Martha is “distracted” and “anxious and troubled about many things” as the Scripture points out. Her thoughts probably centered on things like, “Mary is so lazy! Why does she get to sit at Christ’s feet and not help me? Who is going to get this work done if I don’t do it?” “There is so much to be done and no one is helping me! Do they even notice me working?” “This is not fair!” When the Scripture says that Martha is distracted this is what I thought of, that she had unloving thoughts in her heart making her so distracted that she couldn’t even listen to what Christ was saying much less finish her tasks without complaining. Jesus teaches Martha that one thing is needful in this situation and that is to love Jesus and serve Him in everything you do. We must not become so distracted by the cares of the world that we ignore Christ in the midst of us and can’t even hear what He is trying to tell us.
Now Martha didn’t have to stop working and Christ didn’t tell her to do so. However, she had removed love from her heart and was doing her tasks most likely with jealousy and anger. How much more fruitful and enjoyable would her tasks have been if she had love in her heart, took each moment as a gift from God, and offered these moments back to Him out of her love for Him. What is the point of having a clean house, but an angry, jealous, and selfish Martha pouting at the end of her cleaning? How different this story might have ended just because of what was in Martha’s heart. Christ, the one who knows her heart and knows her, points the obvious out to Martha. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful” Luke 10:41.
How often do I perform a task “because I have to” or without love?
How often do I begin the day without Christ or distracted from hearing Him speak to me?
How often do I harbor envious or angry thoughts that someone else should help me? Or think why me?
“You are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful” Luke 10:41.
Lord may You deepen my love that it may permeate the small mundane tasks of everyday life! May I perform each task out of love for You!
Our Blessed Mother’s Intentions
I then thought, “How would our Blessed Mother have taken on her tasks of the day in the midst of Christ?”
As I thought about this question more I was later reminded through a friend a beautiful quote by St. Louis de Montfort from his book True Devotion,
“Since you do everything through the Blessed Virgin as required by this devotion, you naturally lay aside your own intentions no matter how good they appear to you. You abandon yourself to our Lady’s intentions even though you do not know what they are. Thus you share in the high quality of her intentions, which are so pure that she gave more glory to God by the smallest of her actions, say, twirling her distaff, or making a stitch, than did St. Laurence suffering his cruel martyrdom on the grid-iron, and even more than all the saints together in all their most heroic deeds! Mary amassed such a multitude of merits and graces during her sojourn on earth that it would be easier to count the stars in heaven, the drops of water in the ocean or the sands of the sea-shore than count her merits and graces. She thus gave more glory to God than all the angels and saints have given or will ever give him. Mary, wonder of God, when souls abandon themselves to you, you cannot but work wonders in them!”
My friend continued to convey to me that I could save souls from purgatory just by washing the dishes in this way, all through the Blessed Virgin by my devotion to the total consecration. This completely changed my mindset to view each moment and task I receive as a gift from God that I can offer back to Him in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and her most pure intentions and love.
“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed” Brother Lawrence.
My prayer for each moment I undertake is now this, “Mary I put aside my own intentions no matter how earnest I hope they are and abandon myself to you and your intentions.” Sometimes it is easier said than done, but it sure does make a difference to approach every moment in this way. All things done out for love of God in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary.