Monday, January 03, 2011

Mary of Bethany, Doctor of the Lilies of the Field

Some of the great saints of ages past have been reckoned "doctors" of the church. It seems to me that Mary of Bethany had a lot to teach. With that thought in mind ...

Of all the people of the New Testament, among the merely mortal, possibly my favorite is Mary of Bethany. The story has gone down in history about the day that Jesus went to Mary and Martha's house.1 Martha worked double-time to get everyone served. Mary just sat at Jesus' feet and listened. When Martha appealed to Jesus to press Mary into working, Jesus appealed to Martha to see the value of not worrying so much, and sitting and listening more.

Mary showed the way for friendly, joyful contemplatives -- not hermits, not recluses, not removed from daily life. She was devoted to treasuring up Jesus' words in the middle of her home and family.

I have heard many sermons over the years about Jesus' visit to Martha and Mary's home. They're usually about how Mary needed to learn to work, and Martha needed to learn to relax, in order that they both learn from each other and find the right balance. But Jesus said nothing of the sort. He didn't say a word about Mary becoming troubled about many things. We miss Jesus' point entirely if we insist on defending Martha's hectic stress; Jesus' words to her were far closer to an invitation to put all those worries aside. Jesus said Mary already had the better of it.

We rush to defend worries as "responsible" and a hectic schedule as "productive"; we rush to justify ourselves. Many people simply cannot let Mary be the good example in that story. Do we insist on Martha's right to her misplaced priorities? Otherwise our own might be challenged.

Mary is the living example of what Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God." She found the kingdom of God in her living room. "Consider the lilies of the field. They do not toil or spin. And yet not even Solomon in all his splendor was arrayed like one of these."

We're embarrassed, determined not to be seen as silly by the world, so we do not actually consider the lilies of the field -- at least not very seriously. I think that Mary was not ashamed -- not after what Jesus said -- to take what he said seriously, and consider the lilies of the field.

But along the years there are those who have thought about what Jesus said to Mary, and have chosen what is better.

Titles for contemplatives:
Doctor of the Lilies of the Field
Scholar of the Rose

Other members of the order:
Francis of Assissi
Therese of Lisieux

1 - Luke 10:38-42


Martin LaBar said...

Another original thought. Thanks!

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

Mary is something of a role model of mine. And I don't really doubt that Therese of Lisieux was of the same pattern ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF