A Woman’s Place, or a Better Portion?

Luke 10: 38-42
Jon 3:1-10 / Psa 130

“Mary has chosen the better portion, and it will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10: 42)

Your Word, O Lord is our nourishment
Charging our spirit when we are low,
We receive Your gift of discernment,
Giving us hope, making our faith grow.

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. Martha, however, was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)


Among the four evangelists, St. Luke stands out most prominently in his high regard for women. This is noteworthy considering that in the first century Judaic culture, the importance of women was hardly recognized. Note that it is only the Gospel of Luke that gives accounts of the pregnancy of Elizabeth and her cousin Mary, and Mary’s own agony as foretold by the prophet Simeon (Lk.2:35). Luke also cited the important role some women played in providing for Jesus and His apostles (8:1-3), and even their presence in Calvary and in the Resurrection, ahead of the apostles.

Today’s Gospel narrative of Luke is again about two women, Martha and Mary, and provides lessons that seem to go against the grain of conventional wisdom. First of all, it is common Gospel knowledge that it was Lazarus who was the best friend of Jesus – Martha even referred to her brother as “the one you love” (Jn.11:3). And yet we read that it was Martha who invited Jesus to her home (Lazarus was nowhere in sight). Then there was the presence of Mary, the younger sister of Martha, in the midst of an all-men crowd, sitting at the feet of Jesus, instead of helping her sister in the kitchen. Knowing that her sister was not in the right place, Martha lost her good sense and confronted her host rudely, saying, “Tell her to help me!” Jesus knew the stress that Martha was in, considering the number of guests in her house that she had to attend to. And so He responded in a compassionate tone: “”Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” We would have expected our Lord to tell Mary: “Why don’t you go and help your sister?” Instead, Jesus added, “Mary has chosen the better portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” The mild rebuke was meant to deliver the message that listening to the Word of God is more pleasing to Jesus than being provided for His material needs. Spiritual nourishment is far more important than physical nourishment, and this is always the better portion.

Jesus emphasized this early in His ministry when He quoted Deuteronomy (8:3), “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4). The Word of God is real food for the soul. The old saw, “You are what you eat” applies more appropriately to our consumption of Scriptures. We can never become the image and likeness of God if we are not fed constantly with the lessons and life example of our Lord Jesus Christ and His evangelists as we read them in the Gospels and the epistles. In the words of St. Paul, we will become “good ministers of Christ, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching you have followed” (1 Tim.4:6). Feed on His Word, and you shall have life eternal.

Dear God, let Your Word live in our hearts. Please help us to find more time to meditate on Scriptures, so that we may come to know You better, and have a clearer perspective on Your plans in our lives. Bless all Your priests and ministers who bring Your message of salvation to the marketplace, so that this material world may be fully transformed. Amen.

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