Serving and Listening

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

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

In all the things we say and do
Help us to ‘choose the better part’,
Grant us the grace to follow You
With Martha’s hands and Mary’s heart.

As Jesus and His disciples continued their journey, they 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. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)


Like yesterday’s Gospel reading, this event in our Lord Jesus’ life is only found in Luke. And in similar fashion, this account also relates two kinds of personalities in Martha and Mary, just as yesterday’s Gospel related about two kinds of followers: those who followed the law (the scribe, priest and Levite) and those who practiced love (the Good Samaritan).

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, where His destiny awaited Him. Unknown to Lazarus and his two sisters, this was the last time that He would be sharing His intimate moments with them. So what He had to share with them was more important than what Martha was preparing for Him and His companions. Of course Jesus appreciated the efforts of Martha in making their stay as comfortable and satisfying as possible. But when Martha started to complain to Him about her labors, becoming distracted and stressed by mundane matters to the point of being disrespectful and rude, (even asking her honored guest to tell her sister to help her) then Jesus had to point out to her that the decision of Mary was the better part.

What is the “better part” that our Lord is telling the Marthas among us in today’s Gospel passage? It is what most of us have been neglecting in our obsessively driven culture of working hard to be ahead in our chosen businesses or professions, or the common excuse of insuring our children’s future. We forget that “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mat.4:4) The “better part” is simply the Word of God. If Martha’s main concern was to provide nourishment for Jesus and His apostles, her sister Mary’s sole concern was to be nourished by Jesus’ teaching, which was more important than anything else in the world. As Jesus Himself said, “Do not worry and say, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Only the pagans worry about these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt.6:31-33).

Quite often, we get so worked up with our responsibilities as parents and team leaders that we forget to ‘re-charge our batteries’ by setting aside a time for contemplation with God and His Word. Eventually, we experience ‘burn-out’ and wonder why our pursuits in life no longer seem to be as meaningful as they used to be. Every once in a while, we need to “sit at the feet of Jesus”, and allow His words in Scriptures to invigorate our soul. When we are “worried and upset about many things”, the soothing words of our Lord can lift our burdens (Mt.11:28-30), and lead us to green pastures (Ps. 23). It is our intimate relationship with Jesus that can put all our activities into proper perspective.

Lord, may we be like Martha, serving You faithfully through others in need; but may we be more like Mary, meditating on Your Word to grow spiritually. Amen.

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