There Is Need of Only One Thing
July 29, 2021 (readings)
- Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
- Jennifer Ristine
As they continued their journey he 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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I desire to choose the better part. Enlighten me as to the ways I choose other things over you, and give me the strength to center my heart on you.
Loving Martha: In this Gospel passage it appears that Jesus was chastising Martha. Did he not value her service? We need to look again at Jesus’s words and ask for the grace to see into his heart. Jesus knew Martha’s heart and her personality. He saw her incessant concern for ensuring that all was well and taken care of in the household. He saw her desire to give him the best meal and hospitality, preparing the way for him and his disciples every time they passed through Bethany. As Scripture indicates, he appreciated her welcome. It may be good to note that Luke did not introduce Martha as the busybody woman of Bethany. Her main characteristic was the woman who “welcomed him.” Jesus must have loved Martha for her spirit of hospitality and for receiving him into her home.
The “Chastisement”: While Martha had already done the first necessary thing to please the Lord, once he was present in her house, something distracted Martha from truly being with Jesus. She was anxious about many things. Jesus wanted to get Martha’s attention. He called her by name, not once, but twice. Imagine the manner in which he called her name: with a firm voice, but gentle manner; with his eyes beckoning her to turn her heart to him and listen. Imagine Martha’s reaction. Perhaps the first time she heard Jesus speak her name it felt like a sharp awakening to the one who desired her attention. But the second time was a gentle appeal to heed what he was about to tell her. Imagine Jesus calling you by name.
The Better Part: Is the better part to be seated at the feet of Jesus, or to not be worried about so many things? Something of both perhaps, metaphorically speaking. In The Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom, St. John of the Cross speaks of certain passions as a herd of sheep that the person goes after. Our fears, grief, even joys and hopes, can distract us from the bridegroom, who is the only one capable of putting order into our chaos. Through an intimate “sitting at the feet of the Lord,” we attend to the desires of the bridegroom and all is brought into perspective. Our hearts find rest. The daily irritations and sufferings are now seen and lived in a new light, in a spousal relationship of the soul in union with God. Only then have we found the better part.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I desire to find the better part. Grant me perseverance in prayer to come before you where your grace transforms me. I am willing to change so I can discover what it means to live all life’s challenges with my eyes focused on you and my heart centered on you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will recall that your grace is stronger than my weakness. I will recognize any fear that creeps in. I will bring it before you, like Mary at your feet, and ask you to cast it aside and center my trust in you.
For Further Reflection: Discerning Hearts, Father John Bartunek on The Better Part, his book of Gospel meditations.
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