What It Really Means to Choose ‘The Better Part’ – Reflecting on Martha and Mary


"Christ in the House of Mary and Martha" by Vermeer

My big plan this evening was to sit down, meditate on Scripture and then write an inspirational blog about staying close to Christ in everyday life. The Scripture reading I selected to quietly mediate on is the Gospel story in Luke 10:38-42:  The story goes . . .

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.

My big plan was diverted as soon as I sat down. My eleven year old son walks up to me with two math worksheets in his hands, tears in his eyes and that “I don’t get this” frustrated look on his face.  Filled with pity for his predicament, I push my lap-top aside and help him for what turns into two hours of teaching and consoling.

We are now both exhausted.  My son plops on the couch and relaxes.  And here I am left on my own staring at a blank screen with a spent brain. I can feel the self-pity and resentment start to rise inside when a gentle voice consoles me, “You chose the better part.”

Hmmm.  You see, what we often miss in this story is that it was not that Martha was doing the wrong thing by working and asking for help, and it was not that Mary sitting instead of working was the right thing.  It was that Mary was focused on Jesus and Martha was focused on herself.

Do you ever wonder what happened between Martha and Jesus after He spoke to her? Did she walk off in a huff?  No, because whenever we have a personal encounter with Our Lord we are transformed.  I imagine that she let out a big sigh, as she was emptied of her anger and resentment, and that her shoulders relaxed as peace filled her to the brim. I imagine they smiled at each other, and Martha went back to her work with the joy that only the experience of being close to Christ can bring.

We lead busy lives with so much pressure on our time and talent; but if we want to be happy and feel purpose to our lives, we must stay close to Christ.  There are many different ways we can fit Our Lord into our busy work week:  meditating on the Rosary, impromptu praying, attending a daily Mass or sitting in Adoration for a couple of minutes between errands.  In so many ways, He calls us – and all we have to do is listen.  This is choosing the better part.


About Nan Balfour

Coordinator for the annual Catholic Women's Conference, an apostolate of the Pilgrim Center of Hope - Catholic evangelization ministry in San Antonio, Texas. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

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  1. Pingback: Celebrating Sainthood Series | St.Therese | faith and peanut butter

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