The spirituality of hosting a party
A Reflection for Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened 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.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“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.” (Lk 10:38-42)
“You are anxious and worried about many things.” Same, Martha.
Like the serving sister in today’s Gospel, I am the kind of person who gets stressed about logistics. I freely admit that I wouldn’t be the one sitting by Jesus’ feet. I’d be quickly picking up stray items around the room, pouring (and probably spilling) the wine in a frenzy and tossing exasperated looks at Mary.
Don’t get me wrong—I love planning and hosting events. I always look forward to them with excitement and back on them with fondness. Often, though, while they’re taking place, I fixate only on what might be going wrong. I worry whether anyone’s having fun.
Recently, when this has happened, I’ve tried reminding myself of all the successful gatherings I’ve hosted in the past. Each one usually turned out O.K., even if it didn’t happen exactly the way I had envisioned. Food was still served. People still had fun. I still felt good about how it went despite some small hiccups.
If we focus too much on the little details, we can very easily miss the whole point of spending time with others.
And the reason for that, I remind myself, is that a gathering isn’t actually about the food we eat or the way the room looks. We gather to celebrate our relationships, to feel closer to one another or create new connections. If we focus too much on the little details, we can very easily miss the whole point of spending time with others.
Martha would sooner pull Mary away from sitting with Jesus than be a poor host. She doesn’t allow herself to connect with him while there’s still preparations to make. For this, Jesus gently invites her to relax and put things into perspective.
While I think the “better part” that Jesus mentions is about connection with God, more so than with each other, I believe the lesson can apply to both kinds of relationships. We make ourselves busy each day with things that seem important at the time. We can get caught up in the minutiae, so much so that we miss out on opportunities to deepen our love of others and God.
That’s not to say I’ll leave all my guests hungry and uncomfortable at my next party. When I host, the planning and the serving help me show my appreciation to my guests. I genuinely enjoy that responsibility. However, I will try to let go of my preoccupation with the details. It’s more important to lean into the feeling of community and connection that these gatherings can bring.