Martha and Me

In time for the July 29 feast of St. Martha, patron of cooks, Amy Smith considers how the kitchen can be a place of great grace.

St. Teresa of Avila often observed that “the Lord walks among the pots and the pans.”

On July 29 she would surely remember St. Martha, patron of cooks, even though this year her feast must be skipped because it falls on a Sunday. (Only solemnities can supersede ordinary and seasonal Sunday observances.)

As for me, I’ve come to see the truth of Teresa’s statement. I love to cook, so I’m always trying out a new recipe.

As I’m chopping vegetables or keeping an eye on my baking, I take time to talk with the Lord. I tell him about my day, let him know what’s on my mind and express my hope that my family or friends will enjoy the meal I am preparing.

As Martha knew well, there really is something special about a kitchen. The space represents good food and dedicated love.

I particularly cherish the times I’ve spent near the stove with my family. In the commotion of the kitchen, family recipes have been passed down from one generation to the next.

But our culinary times together mean much more than food. We bond in the kitchen. Our cooking and cleaning time is perfect for talking about our lives. Events and experiences are shared. Wisdom is imparted. We talk about family. We talk about faith. We’ve seen the Lord there with us.

Christ himself told us to feed the hungry. We are called to feed those who want for food, as well as our loved ones and friends who would enjoy a home-cooked meal. Scripture also tells us to “Go, eat your bread with enjoyment” (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

Family grace before eating makes the Lord the focus of the meal. And wonderful opportunities are present during food preparation and “breaking bread” time to discuss matters of faith and catch up on the events in family members’ lives. We deepen our relationship with God and others.

Of course, we mustn’t give in to what’s been called the “Martha mentality,” where we are so focused on getting the meal done just right that we miss the real meaning of the moment. Each meal does not have to be a perfect gourmet creation worthy of The Food Network. Jesus addressed his friend directly: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things ...” (Luke 10:41).

Yet, at the same time, surely the Lord knew — as we all know at dinner time — that, if everyone constantly sat at his feet like Martha’s sister Mary, there wouldn’t be a meal to nourish bodies and bond hearts. Someone has to do the cooking. Jesus set Martha straight spiritually, but he didn’t call her to drop what she was doing.

Although it’s a basic, everyday task, cooking can be an act of deep Christian love. As a form of manual labor, it can be offered up as a gift to God and others.

And, as St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians: “[W]hether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

Would anyone care for seconds?

 

Amy Smith writes from

Geneva, Illinois.