Are You Martha or Mary at Mass?

User's Guide to Sunday, July 21.


Sunday, July 21, is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle 1).



Genesis 18:1-10; Psalm 15:2-5; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42


Our Take

The story of Martha and Mary has many applications.

But we want to focus on one important lesson it teaches: how to act when we sit down at the table with Jesus at Mass. As a bonus, today’s readings give us the story of Abraham and the three mysterious guests who visit him, which reinforces the lesson.

First, let’s review. We learn from the Gospel that Martha and Mary are sisters. As Jesus eats with them, Mary sits at his feet, listening, as Martha is busy serving the party. Finally, Martha complains to Jesus, saying, "Tell her to help me!"

Jesus’ famous reply is: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her."

There are echoes of this in the story of Abraham. Not only does the patriarch give his heavenly guests the best of everything he has, he gives them his full attention.

Each Sunday we sit down to dine with Jesus Christ. Whose attitude does ours most resemble? If we are a Martha at Mass, we will be anxious and worried about many things. We may even focus on what those around us are doing instead of what Jesus is doing on the altar and saying in the liturgy. If we are a Mary at Mass, our attitude will be to sit and listen, focusing on Christ.

We have nine kids with us at Sunday Mass, so we know this is easier said than done. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Sit where they can see. We sit as close as possible to the front of the church. If children can see all that is happening at Mass, they are more likely to pay attention.

2. Bring spiritual aids. Children of a certain developmental age might not be capable of paying full attention at Mass. In that case, it can be helpful to bring books about Jesus or the Mass (we love the Magnifikid publication, the junior version of the Magnificat).

3. Model more; instruct less. When a child is distracted, we remind the child to look at the altar; then we focus on the altar ourselves, modeling that our focus needs to be on the Eucharist.

Ultimately, at Mass, only one thing is necessary: listening to and loving the Lord.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.