THE MARTHA SYNDROME
The story of Mary and Martha is not a story about differing temperaments. This is a story about trying to become whole by controlling the parts versus becoming whole because you are one with THE WHOLE.
It’s not only about Martha wanting to make sandwiches that Jesus did not ask for. It’s about the fragmentation brought on by religion versus union with God - a fragmentation that is nullified by our new covenant relationship with Jesus. Don’t think this relationship is just a word statement. It’s a description of BEING.
For many people religion is about getting everything right. But the story of Mary is about being present in God and present to oneself. Because we are where Jesus wants us to be. In Him and with Him. It’s about being I AM in the I AM of Jesus. With Mary and Martha, there is goodness that releases spirit and life into eternity and goodness that is has more to do with virtue signalling and self-validation.
THE SEPARATED SELF
Kind deeds are beneficial but are not innately life-giving. “This is the [Martha] kind of goodness that does no good! If she was not present to herself, she could not truly be present to her guests in any healing way, and spiritually speaking, she could not even be present to God.
Presence is presence is presence. How you do it is how you do everything. Jesus challenged her at the daily, ordinary, human level because that would reflect her same pattern at the divine level.
For her, this was indeed “the one thing necessary.” So much of religion involves teaching people this and that, an accumulation of facts and imperatives that is somehow supposed to add up to salvation. The great teachers know that one major change is needed: how we do the moment. Then all the this-and-thats will fall into line. This is true! This is so important that Jesus was willing to challenge and upset his hostess and make use of a teachable moment — in the very moment.” (1)
People who are attached to the law remain contained in the letter. They have an epistemology of the letter that effects their interpretation of the Bible and their theology. It affects them by separating them from the core of spirit and life.
We are in the law if we are attached to one law or ten. Or if we have made our own new testament version of Christian ‘doings.’ This produces a structured, compartmentalised existence and exudes a few drops of life but never rivers.
Martha was with Jesus but in separation from Jesus, like Christians who are in the law – separated from self and from God.
Christ our life means Christ our life. No dualism here. We are talking union with God, talking what Mary was leaning into at Jesus’ feet. People can contain themselves in externalities and miss the real issue which is being present to God, present to ourselves and as such a river of spirit and life.
THE ONE THING
“Jesus affirms Mary precisely in this way: how she is doing the moment. She knows how to be present to him and, presumably, to herself. She understands the one thing that makes all other things happen at a deeper and healing level. What is true for Mary and Martha is true for us as well. “Only one thing is necessary,” Jesus says. If you are present, you will eventually and always experience the Presence. It is so simple, and so hard to teach.” (2)
How do we have this presence without effort and without striving? By living in what we have: The incarnation.
Attached to the law we are insulated from God, from ourselves and from the moment. The letter kills.
SOURCE OF SPIRIT AND LIFE
The one thing that makes life happen at every other level is union with God. We have this if Jesus is our life. Not if we have made Him play second fiddle to the law or to some obsession of our own, or an extra -jesus identity. Jesus said that the ability to heal is subsidiary to knowing Him. We should read this as ‘knowing’ Him as in knowing one’s husband or wife; knowing Him as being one with Him and therefore present to Jesus and to ourselves.
HE KNEW HIS WIFE
The ‘knowing’ between husband and wife is a picture of the ‘knowing’ denoted in John 14.20. This the more complete meaning of the Bride of Christ and the Groom. We are talking more than abstract talk. We are talking the kind of union that bears fruit in spirit and life and sons and daughters of God.
‘Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matt 7.22,23.
What kind of ‘evil’ might this mean? It means being in alliance with the Enemy in promoting a narrative that is at least half a lie and which robs people of their entitlement to life without limit.
(1) Rohr, Richard. The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (p. 59). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.
(2) Rohr, Richard. Ibid (pp. 58-59).