Martha and Mary

Luke 10: 38-42
Gal 1: 13-24 / Ps 139: 1-3, 13-15

You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. 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
Lead us to ‘choose the better part’,
Grant us Lord the grace to serve You
With Martha’s hands and Mary’s heart.

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. 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 all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)

Reflection

It was the kind of choice that each of the sisters made that made the difference. For sure, Jesus appreciated the efforts of Martha in trying her best to be the perfect hostess. But when she started to complain to Him about her burden, Jesus had to make her see that her temporal labors paled in comparison to the decision of Mary to listen to the eternal words of Jesus. Martha was so distracted and stressed by mundane matters that she even became disrespectful and rude to her honored guest, as if it was His responsibility to tell Mary to help her prepare the food. “Tell her to help me!” Jesus had to soothe her by mentioning her name twice. But it was important to remind her that the “better part” was listening to the Word of God — lessons that He imparted to all who cared to listen, including Mary.

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 get ahead in our chosen businesses or professions, for 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). This was exactly what Mary was doing.

Quite often, we get so worked up with our responsibilities as parents, providers, team leaders, husbands (or wives), civic or civil servants, that we forget to ‘re-charge our batteries’ by setting aside time to listen to God in prayer and meditation and contemplating on His Word. Eventually, we experience ‘burn-out’ and wonder why our pursuits in life no longer seem to be as meaningful as they were before. 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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