Today the Church celebrates the commemoration of Saint Martha, one of three siblings who are mentioned relatively often in the gospel.She lived along with her sister, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus, in the village of Bethany, just across the Mount of Olives from the cityof Jerusalem. They entertained Our Lord more than once in their home, and shortly before his own death, Jesus raised from the tomb Lazarus who had died.
Today, however, the gospel reminds us of an incident when Jesus had gone to have dinner with the three of them. I wonder if all twelve of the apostles were also invited; if so, there would have been quite a bit of work to the preparation of the meal. And Mary, instead of helping Martha in the kitchen, sat at Jesus’s feet in the living room and listened to Our Lord speaking. When Martha protested the fact that Mary was not helping her, and for some reason asked Jesus to make Mary help, Our Lord replied that Mary had chosen the better part and that it would not be taken from her. Most practical people, especially housewives who do any entertaining, would agree with Martha; however Jesus obviously does not.
Saint Augustine, the great theologian and scripture commentator of the early Church has this to say about the episode: this life is short and there are many needs to be met in this world: hunger, thirst, need for education, clothing, shelter, defense, spiritual aid, etc. However in the next life, there will be no needs to be met. There will be pure joy and the adequate sufficiency of everything anyone could possibly want or need. Therefore, Mary is doing something heavenly by merely listening to Our Lord and contemplating his words whereas Martha is doing something earthly by getting dinner ready.
Mary has thus chosen “the better part”; we will be doing that forever in heaven. Martha feeds Our Lord’s body with her meat and bread and fruit.Jesus feeds her soul and heart with his words of truth and love. Let’s be sure that we understand the sense in which Jesus calls Mary’s means of receiving him “the better part,” and let us also give preference to that in our own spiritual lives. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.