Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
- Luke 10:38-42
Yesterday, we read that a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'" And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Martha and Mary are the sisters of Lazarus (John 11). The entire family is beloved by Christ and are His close friends. My study bible says that Martha is not rebuked for serving, but for complaining and being distracted. worried, and troubled. In following Christ, it notes, we serve in order to facilitate the spread of the gospel (see Acts 6:1-4).
For me, this gospel story of Martha and Mary reflects somewhat on Jesus' earlier teaching about discipleship. In Monday's reading, there is the story about various people who come to Christ and wish to be disciples. Jesus calls one person, saying, "Follow Me." But he replies, "Lord let me first go and bury my father." Jesus replies, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." Another tells Jesus, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Martha is doing the necessary work of hospitality, a character trait that remains consistent in the stories of her in this Gospel and also in John. The would-be disciples who wished to follow Christ (in Monday's reading) were also seeking to do something nominally "good" in their requests of Jesus. But Christ places a kind of value on the Kingdom and its service that gives a weight and a measure of priority. In some sense, it's similar to when He tells Martha that "Mary has chosen that good part." It's not that the rest of these things are bad. And Martha is playing her part in serving the ministry of Jesus. But Mary chooses for herself something of great value, of the highest good, and it will not be taken away from her -- Martha's complaints notwithstanding. In a certain sense, Jesus' words allude to a kind of intrinsic value that becomes a part of Mary, which will not be taken away from her, like the "treasures in heaven" that come as a result of our choices. My study bible is clear that Martha's work is good, but the problem is that she is distracted, worried, and troubled. Perhaps there is an emphasis here on our choices and mission. What we may find set before us to do in His name, or for the gospel, may be simple and straightforward. It becomes a direct focus. The distractions and worries and troubles get in the way of such a focus. Jesus will give clear direction to St. Peter when, at the end of John's Gospel, Peter is three times given a command by Christ. Peter then asks what John should do, and is told to keep his mind focused on his own work for the kingdom, Christ's command for him (John 21:21-22). What Jesus asks of John is really not Peter's business, in the same sense that Mary's good part will not be taken away by Martha's worrying. The key here seems to be simplicity, a true focus on what is before us to do. Our lives may be guided by our own particular work for this Kingdom; whether that is helping as did the Samaritan in yesterday's parable above, serving those whom we are called to serve in our lives, or sitting at Christ's feet "listening." Let us remember "that good part."