Martha was busy satisfying the needs of those who were hungry and thirsty. With deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house. It was an important but transitory work. It will not always be necessary to eat and drink, will it? When we cling to the most pure and perfect Goodness, serving will not be a necessity.1
To cling always to God and to the things of God—this must be our major effort, this must be the road that the heart follows unswervingly. Any diversion, however impressive, must be regarded as secondary, low-grade and certainly dangerous. Martha and Mary provide a most beautiful scriptural paradigm of this outlook and of this mode of activity. In looking after the Lord and his disciples, Martha did a very holy service. Mary, however, was intent on the spiritual teaching of Jesus, and she stayed by his feet, which she kissed and anointed with the oil of her good faith.… In saying “Mary chose the good portion,” he was saying nothing about Martha, and in no way was he giving the appearance of criticizing her. Still, by praising Mary he was saying that the other was a step below her. Again, by saying “it will not be taken away from her,” he was showing that Martha’s role could be taken away from her, since the service of the body can only last as long as the human being is there, whereas the zeal of Mary can never end.2
But let us see what this tree represents, under which Abraham stood and provided a meal for the Lord and the angels. “Under the tree of Mamre” the text says. Mamre in our language is translated “vision” or “sharpness of sight.” Do you see what kind of place it is where the Lord can have a meal? Abraham’s vision and sharpness of sight pleased the Lord. For he was pure in heart so that he could see God. In such a place, therefore, and in such a heart the Lord can have a meal with his angels. In fact, earlier prophets were called seers.3
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
Now where did this happen? “Near the holm-oak of Mamre,” which in Latin is interpreted as “vision” or “discernment.” Do you see what kind of a place it is in which the Lord can have a feast? The vision and discernment of Abraham delighted him; he was clean of heart, so that he could see God. Therefore in such a place and in such a heart the Lord can have his feast. Of this vision our Lord spoke to the Jews in the Gospel when he said, “Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day. He saw it and was glad.” He saw my day, he says, because he recognized the mystery of the Trinity. He saw the Father as day, the Son as day, the Holy Spirit as day, and in these three one day. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and these three are one God. For individually each person is complete God, and all three together are one God. Moreover, because of the unity of substance, in those three measures of flour the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not unfittingly understood. However, this can also be taken in another way by understanding Sarah as the church; the three measures of flour then are faith, hope and charity. In these three virtues all the fruits of the church are contained, so that if one merits to possess the three within oneself, one can with security receive the entire Trinity at the banquet of one’s heart.4
- SERMONS 255.2. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 182). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CONFERENCE 1.8. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 183). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON GENESIS 4.3. Sheridan, M. (Ed.). (2002). Genesis 12–50 (p. 62). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 83.5. Sheridan, M. (Ed.). (2002). Genesis 12–50 (p. 62). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.