Mary and Martha

This is a reflection with guided imaginary prayer about Mary and Martha that was offered at a retreat. Maybe you can do this prayer by yourself? Let me know how you get on if you have!

We are putting ourselves into the story, we can sit with pen and paper / drawings or simply sit in silence with your imagination.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.
And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10.38-42

This is such a familiar story, as we read it many times. we have all heard it many times. We hear about a woman called Martha who welcomed Jesus into her house. And then there is Mary, the younger sister, she had the audacity to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speaking! Leaving Martha to do all the work by herself. You can just imagine Martha, probably banging her pots and pan loudly in the kitchen for a while, when that didn’t work, she eventually came out to protest to Jesus ‘Tell my sister to come over and help me!’, only to have Jesus give a unexpected reply. He actually said that Mary has chosen better!

What stood out for you in this moment?

I invite you to enter into this scene with your imagination, reflect on these three presences –

Jesus’ presence,

Mary’s presence

Martha’s presence

So we see Jesus, coming into a new place, walking around the village. Martha noticed Jesus, she said, Jesus, come over to my house! Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus to their house. Jesus accepted. Imagine if you are Martha and Mary, Jesus walking towards and coming into your house, imagine him at your door, coming inside, settling in.

Pause for a moment, to notice Jesus, What kind of posture does he hold? What kind of expression on his face?

Notice his presence in the house, what is it like to you?

What is Mary like to you?

She quietly avoid the bustle in the kitchen, she might have felt some looks from Martha, or some whispers of voices from others in the room. But she came and sat down by Jesus, close to him. She doesn’t care as much about other people’s opinion. She didn’t see the things that needs to be done as significant as Jesus’s presence. Mary came empty handed, offering nothing, just herself.

If you give Mary a voice, what would she say?

What does Mary want?

Notice Mary’s presence, what kind of presence is Mary like to you?

What is Martha like? Martha might be someone who is well liked,  she sees a need and naturally meet it. She saw Jesus, she responded, she opened her house with generosity. She make things happen! She wanted to give Jesus the kind of welcome she felt Jesus deserves. She might be expecting Jesus to appreciate what she was doing.

Gradually, she was distracted, and feeling weighed down.

What was she distracted with?

What might she be thinking about?

As Martha looked over at her sister from a distance, she is sitting close to Jesus, a strong feeling well up inside of her, what is she feeling?

If Martha would pause for a moment, she might see that something in her has kept her from moving closer to Jesus… What are they?

She finally come out of the kitchen, walked up, pass the others, to the center of the room, up close to Jesus, to ask Jesus to command her sister Mary to come ‘help her’. ‘Don’t you care, Jesus…’ How might you finish that sentence?

But actually, what she wanted to say is…

Give Martha a voice, what would she say?

Martha has a longing, what does she want?

Notice Martha’s presence in this moment, what is it like?

What happens if we let these two sisters talk to each other?

What would Martha want to say to Mary?

What would Mary want to say to Martha?

I wonder if it is the same longing in Martha and Mary but they have gone to different places with that longing… Mary go towards Jesus, and Martha has gone somewhere else.

Jesus has compassion – ‘Martha, Martha… you are carrying many things, they are not needed…’ 

You just need one thing…

imagine Jesus say your name twice

What is the tone of his voice to you like? Sit with Jesus for as long as you need.


‘They need to dialogue’ you said,
‘those Martha/Mary aspects of your being.’
I agreed, knowing it must be so:
that only as my two selves came together
accepting, valuing, even welcoming each other
could I find wholeness and become
the person you created me to be.
How easy to say
“Let it be so!”
How hard to let it happen..
How can dialogue occur when each refuses
to recognise the other’s right to be;
when each has been so hurt
they fear the outcome
will be pain too hard to face?
What would I do for others so estranged?
How to seek to reconcile, to heal their pain?
I would invite, from each, their story
accepting as their truth the wounds they claim;
assure each one that God and I both love them;
that hurts inflicted and received
are both, alike, forgiven.
God, help me help them understand
the pain they’re most afraid of
is their own reflection now unveiled,
and mirrored in the other’s deepest wound.
So, together, we may find the courage
and the will for reconciliation – and
integration into one more human being.

Joy MacCormick
%d bloggers like this: