Sunday the Sixteenth

“Martha, burdened (περιεσπάτο [periespato]) 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 (Luke 10:40).”
     Anyone who has prepared a meal for another or others knows Martha’s plight. What adds injury to insult is that Jesus sides with Mary who, in Martha’s eyes, is doing nothing but listening to His words. A look at the Greek verb περισπάω will help to shed some insight.
     Jesus does not fault Martha for working. What concerns Jesus is how Martha is doing the work. περισπάω, translated in the New American Bible as burdened, conveyed in antiquity an approach to an activity that is distracted, non-attentive, going through the motions without care, occupied, troubled as well as accomplishing a task under a sense of obligation or compulsion.
     Accomplishing a task at hand, even an important one such as fixing a meal, is not an end in itself. In the light of Jesus, how the task is accomplished is equally important, if not more than the task itself.
     One may want to consider ways that we permit distraction to occur (talking with someone on the phone while typing on a keyboard, texting while driving, texting in a meeting, texting in a class, reading the Church bulletin during the homily, … and the list goes on!) Sadly, while we might accomplish a particular task, what is the price paid? In the end, working in the mode of περισπάω threatens the dignity of the worker as person and runs the risk of loosing the experience of the personal.

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