Memorial of St Martha 2011

Mass readings for today are here with a choice of two gospels that involve stories about the two sisters : Martha, the domestic goddess who might I suspect also be a devotee of motivational mantras and Mary, the "I couldn't care less about housework contemplative" or at least that is the literal interpretation many of us were schooled in.

Nowadays we are supposed to learn how to develop "Mary hearts in a Martha world"
which is more likely to lead to a mid -life nervous breakdown or at the least, getting strange looks from passers by whilst sitting in the driver's seat of a stationary car at green traffic lights, methinks.

Maurice Denis Martha Mary and Jesus 1896 Hermitage Museum St Petersburg.

and this is a link to Fr Austin's fine homily and post last year on the feast at A Concord Pastor Comments and another one here

and this fine one from Claire at A Seat At The Table.

This is an amusing take on it from here

This link is also an interesting new find for me  and raises these questions at the end :

Jesus said and did many things during the course of his life. Only a fraction of these are recorded in the gospels. So when we read the stories, we ask
  • Why was this particular event seen as important? Why was it, not some other incident, recorded?
  • What was the message behind the story?

These questions are especially important in the stories about Martha and Mary, which held significant messages for the early Christian communities about problems that were surfacing at the time.

Some of these problems were about the role of women. 

Should women be ministers? 
Or should the traditional Jewish custom be followed, with ministry held by men only?
Other ancient religions had priests and priestesses. 
Which pattern should the Christian communities adopt?

Oh Oh, here we go again: Women !! 
We've always been a problem for the institutional church and have they ever really known how to handle us.... ??
I'm not even going there with this one today !!  :-)) 
Well OK maybe just a song then ....from the wonderfully talented and gorgeous
(now sadly deceased) Richard Harris.


Phil Ewing said...

Yes Pete :-))  - I can see the wry humour in that one !!

Black Pete said...

Thank you, Phil. Actually, I am reminded of a Christian feminist bit of dark humour that goes like this: why did God send a man as Messiah? Because the men wouldn't have listened to a woman!  ;)

Phil Ewing said...

Claire, thanks - yes the idea of the feminine and masculine principle i.e the anima and animus within each of us is very Jungian and also another road for exploration here. Lovely stuff.:-))
Thank you so much

Philomena Ewing said...

Fascinating stuff here -  thanks so much Pete. I have been googling the term  as I was not familiar with it.
It's a great phrase ! (At first my warped sense of humour hooked on it as a term that would be more useful for the CIA than for biblical scholars.)

The more I read  about it the more I recognised its methodology but by other names as applied to analytical psychology and its applications to therapy and also to literary deconstruction of text; I know it by deconstruction and/or "seeing through".

All eye-witness accounts of events are told
from a particular perspective and all interpretations of those
accounts are coloured by the perspective of the interpreter. Perhaps an easier way into it would be "we see things not as they are but as we are !"

We need to
keep this in mind in our dealings with the accounts and their
I guess the same could be said of all types of enquiry.

As it is central to Judaeo-Christian faith
that God has acted in history and continues to act today I don't see a problem with interpreting parables from tradition, then experience and in the light of modern thinking.
I can also see how traditionalists and fundamentalists would also be wary of the technique as being too modernist and liberal !! -yet another battleground for argument and control rather than expansive and liberating discussion.

Pete- You have extended this post way beyond its beginnings and brought much for thought -that is what I love about interactive blogging !!

Black Pete said...

I can't help but wonder what Really happened and what was Really said in the incident.

Although he tends to go a bit too far, Bart Ehrman and his use of hermeneutics of suspicion ( he's not the only one by any means to use this: my wife learned this in seminary in the late 1980s as part of a feminist approach to scripture and theology) would have ask the above questions, and then look at how Jesus's response might have been transcribed (distorted) by the scribe. 

grilly said...

Fabulous thoughts you are giving here, Phil -- on stereotypes and not being fully life-giving to either gender...
I very much like your idea of a shared homily between a man and a woman... I knew a priest I could have suggested that to, but he lives on the other side of the Atlantic now.
I must say that I have heard one man talking of how much he can be a Martha sometimes. It felt infinitely good to hear him say this, his being able to relate to the task-oriented approach...
Thank you for your blessings. I respond in kind :-)

Phil Ewing said...

Hi Claire,
Yes, its a great parable and I wish I could spend more time on it.
I always like and enjoy  the experiential way you approach the gospel encounters. Thanks!

I think it also invites us to open wide a dialogue about the expectations and preferences men and women have in the way we serve and approach each other in relationships whether in church or outside of it
I feel the stereotypes surrounding service v receptivity for both male and female are always fertile areas for discussion. So much of what we do as males and females whether together or apart are not expansive or fully life giving to either gender.  Modern society conspire to make it that way too. It is also interesting to perceive the situation from the perspective of a single man !
I also think that this feast day is crying out for an opportunity for the church to give us a homily that is shared by a man and a woman so that we get a combined perspective. Now that would be truly life-giving !!
Thanks - you've stimulated my imagination on this one.
Blessings and I hope you enjoy your visitors this weekend !

grilly said...

Thank you for the link, Phil :-)

Thank you for the many possibilities you offer here!

Doesn't the story of Martha and Mary feel like a parable to you? Something it wants to teach us?
It comes back once or twice a year and it is always an occasion for me to see how I feel deep inside about this 'male-created' tension (not by Jesus, but by Luke, the only one who wrote it).

Strange, after all these encounters with both of them, the three of them really because Jesus is so very present, I feel I have grown to know them and appreciate their relationship. A bit as if I could slip into their household, sit and watch, and sometimes dialogue with one of them.