Audio of the June Word of Life

We can become slaves to what we do, getting all ‘hot and bothered’. Jesus invites us to focus on the only thing that matters: living his word as we live for him. This makes our work a creative act of love.

There is much affection in repeating this name: “Martha, Martha”! The house in Bethany, near Jerusalem, was a place Jesus would stop and rest with his disciples. In the city, he was drawn into debates; he found antagonism and rejection. In Bethany, instead, he felt welcome and found peace.

Martha was enterprising and active. She showed it later when her brother died and she engaged Jesus in a lengthy conversation, questioning him energetically. She was a strong woman who showed great faith. When “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe’” (Jn 11:25–27). She answered without any hesitation.

At this point she was extremely busy, organizing a special welcome for the master and his disciples. She was the mistress of the house (as her name suggests: Martha means “mistress”), and so she felt responsible. She was probably preparing the evening meal for her important guest. Her sister Mary had left her all alone to do the work. Contrary to the traditions of the East, Mary did not go to the kitchen but remained with the men to listen to Jesus, sitting at his feet, just like the perfect disciple. This gave rise to the rather resentful comment by Martha:

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me” (Lk 10:40).

And Jesus’ affectionate, yet firm reply was:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

Was Jesus not happy with the enterprising and generous service of Martha? Didn’t he appreciate her concrete and practical way of welcoming him, and wouldn’t he be happy to eat the food that was being prepared? Shortly after this episode, in his parables he will praise the administrators, businesspeople and employees who know how to use their talents creatively and do business with their goods (see Lk 12:42; 19:12–26). He even praises shrewdness (see Lk 16:1–8). He could not but rejoice at seeing a woman so full of initiative and capable of giving a warm and abundant welcome.

What Jesus calls attention to is the state she was in, how bothered and worried she was about her work. Martha is agitated, “distracted by her many tasks” (Lk 10:40); she has lost her calm. It is no longer she who controls her work, but it is her work that has taken control and tyrannizes her. She is no longer free; she has become a slave to what she does.

Doesn’t it happen also to us at times that we get lost in the thousands of things to do? We are drawn to and distracted by the internet, by messaging, by useless posts. Even when we have serious commitments to occupy us, they can make us forget to be attentive to others, to listen to people right next to us. Above all, the danger is that we lose sight of why and who we are working for. Our work and other concerns become ends in themselves.

Or else we are overcome by anxiety and agitation when we face difficult situations and problems with our family, money matters, career, school and the future of our children —to such an extent that we forget the words of Jesus: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Mt 6:31–32). We too deserve Jesus’ criticism:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”

What is the only thing needed? To hear and live the words of Jesus. Before these words and before he who speaks them, we cannot put anything at all. The true way of welcoming the Lord, of making him feel at home, is to welcome what he says. This is what Mary did: forgetting everything else, she put herself at his feet and did not miss a single word.
If we do that we will be guided not by our desire to be noticed or to have the first place, but only by pleasing him, by being at the service of his kingdom.

Like Martha, we too are called to do “many things” for the good of others. Jesus has taught us that the Father is happy when we bear “much fruit” (see John 15:8) and that we will even do greater things than he did (see Jn 14:12). He looks therefore at our dedication, our passion in doing the work he has given us to do, our imagination, courage and resourcefulness. He wants us to do many things without getting bothered and agitated, but keeping the peace that comes from knowing we are doing God’s will.

The only thing that matters therefore is to become Jesus’ disciples, letting him live in us, being attentive to what he suggests with his gentle voice that prompts us moment by moment. In this way he will be the one who guides us in every act.

In doing “many things” we will not be distracted and side-tracked, because by following Jesus’ words we will be moved by love alone. In all we do, we will always do only one thing: love.


Fabio Ciardi *

*Fr Fabio Ciardi, OMI is a theologian and close collaborator of Chiara Lubich

Read more on this topic:

Lubich, Chiara. Here and Now: Reflections on Living the Present Moment. New City Press, Hyde Park, New York, 2005.

Lubich, Chiara. “A divine balance,” Essential Writings. New City Press, Hyde Park, New York, 2007. Pg. 123.

Next month:

Word of Life for July 2015

“Take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn 16:33).


  • Que linda mensagem para os dias de hoje! Que nosso exercício laboral cotidiano tenha sentido: que possamos servir aos irmãos por meio dele!

  • Un giorno prima di leggere la Parola di vita di giugno, avevo un programma carico con cose tutte urgenti almeno mi sembrava. Mi sentivo già un po stressata. Allora mi sono domandata: di tutto questo cosa veramente é importante? La risposta dentro era: l’amore. Allora sono andata a visitare una amica musulmana che é tanto malata e che ci aveva chiesto un favore. Era il momento più bello della giornata. L’indomani quando ho letto la Parola di Vita era come la conferma di Gesù. Grazie! Aurora

  • Ci sono persone indaffarate che si buttano a capofitto senza riflettere e poi trovandosi in difficoltà chiedono il tuo aiuto; ti verrebbe da rimproverare, da analizzare la loro scelta e giudicarla; in quel caso entri in una spirale infinita che non risolve nulla.. L’ho provato anch’io!
    La cosa veramente necessaria è proprio vivere la Parola a cominciare dal fermarsi per dare ascolto all’altro e spesso è proprio dall’ascolto che nascono soluzioni imprevedibili, suggerite dallo Spirito.

  • Allora mi butto a vivere questa Parola, cercando l’equilibrio tra Marta e Maria! Insieme e’ piu’ facile. Grazie P. Fabio dall’Arizona!

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