Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42)
Who Was Martha?
“Martha, you are blessed for your good service; when you come to the heavenly homeland, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose.” -Saint Augustine
Martha was a stereotypical hostess during the time of Christ, sparing no effort to welcome the Incarnate Son of God and soliciting Jesus’ authoritative help in persuading her sister Mary to do her fair share of the preparations. However, Martha receives what at first glance seems to be a mild rebuke. She pleaded, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”
Jesus, rather than doing so, says to Martha, “Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus was not saying that Martha’s efforts were somehow evil or not appreciated. However, there was something more important, something that Mary realized and that Martha didn’t.
Who Was Mary?
Mary recognized that Jesus had come to their home not to be fed, but to feed. The welcome He sought was their time, their friendship, their love, their open ears and open hearts. Mary understood this and sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him as if nothing in the rest of the world really mattered. She was not maliciously neglecting her household duties, but rather, she was prioritizing Christ.
Jesus once said in a parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Mt 13:45-46)
For Mary, Jesus was that pearl of great price, more valuable than everything else put together. Jesus was her treasure and worth everything she had. Jesus was the “better part,” He was the one thing that was necessary at the center of her life.
Who Are You?
Like the sisters of Bethany, each of us is called to welcome Christ into our homes, both our physical homes and the spiritual abode of our hearts and souls. Do we welcome Jesus and sit at his feet in prayer? Do we have a time and a place where we pray regularly, for example, a family Rosary?
We’re called to imitate Mary in choosing the better part and truly allowing Jesus to feed us as he desires to do. To choose Jesus was Mary’s great wisdom and we will be wiser the more we imitate her. Like Martha, we are called to work hard serving others, but we are supposed to do it with the spirit of Mary. That is what the sanctification of our work is all about, to have Martha’s hands and Mary’s contemplative heart.
Each of us is called to work as hard as Martha, out of love for God and others, and setting an attentive example like Mary, the example of a life with Jesus at the center.
Visit The Station of the Cross for more authentically Catholic media content and be sure to check us out @thestationofthecross on all social media on Facebook and Instagram, and @iCatholicRadio on Twitter!