Marcia, Marcia, Martha! - when siblings make it harder to follow Jesus
Updated: Mar 16
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.”
The TV show “The Brady Bunch” showed a lot of sibling rivalry. The middle daughter, Jan, was often depicted as jealous of her beautiful older sister, Marcia. Her frustration would often boil over into a childish rant of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Somehow, growing up with siblings can present many growth opportunities and sometimes a chipped tooth.
Today’s Gospel can be a comfort to all of us who have siblings. It seems that sibling rivalry is something as old as time. Martha and Mary seem to get into an argument over how to receive Jesus when he comes to visit. Looking at the context of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus helps to understand the context. The three of them are some of the best friends of Jesus. He makes sure to stop by and visit whenever he is in the area. It seems to be a place where he can let his guard down and just be himself.
The contrasting personalities of Martha and Mary are well-known. Martha is hard-working, self-sacrificing, and judgmental. Mary is contemplative, calm, and sensitive. We could suppose that Martha is the older of the two. She has all the markings of an older child. She wants to domineer her younger sister. From where does this urge come? Probably many times while growing up, Martha had to take charge of Mary and make sure she would do her chores. Maybe she was left in charge when the parents had to be absent from the house for a few hours. She is used to bossing around her little sister. Mary would go along with it, not wanting to upset her older sister. Today, however, when Jesus is visiting, she makes sure to place him at the center of attention.
We can all fall into the trap of blaming others for our own bad behavior. Martha tries to justify herself by criticizing Mary. Maybe Martha was self-conscious around Jesus. She is jealous of Mary, who is entirely at ease in front of Jesus. She accuses her of being lazy, wanting to justify her own behavior.
Jesus awards the prize to Mary. It is more important at this moment to spend time with him. He does not come to get a hot meal. He comes to be with them. Martha does not feel worthy to receive the affection of Jesus. Mary sits at his feet, ecstatic about the attention she is receiving. Jesus feels loved and at home. Simply being in the house of these three siblings fills his heart with joy.
Today, try to think of your siblings and remember them with a smile. Then reflect on how they helped you to follow Jesus, even by simply trying your patience! God blesses those little moments.