Today’s Gospel tells the story of two sisters, Martha and Mary, sisters to Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead and apparently good friends of Jesus. They lived in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem, and it would seem Jesus was a frequent guest in their home. In today’s story, Martha is busy with all the details of hospitality (in the kitchen?) while Mary “sat beside the Lord at his feet” listening (in the living room)? Martha is a little upset that Mary is not helping her and asks Jesus to nudge her into helping - to make the salad or set the table. Jesus, however, says there is only “one thing” required, and that Mary has chosen the “better part.” What is this “better part” and “one thing”? It would seem important to know what Jesus prefers.
Some people have used this passage to suggest that the “contemplative” life is somehow better than an “active” life, but this does not seem to be the case since this story follows immediately after the story of the Good Samaritan that we heard last week where the Samaritan demonstrates through his actions what it means to be a neighbor. We are clearly to be both active and contemplative!
A clue as to what the “one thing” required is given in the description of where Mary was sitting. She is in the traditional posture of a disciple of the time. The one thing required is that we be disciples, listening to and learning from Jesus.
This parish prays well as we sit at the feet of Jesus each time we gather at the Eucharist. This parish serves well, too. Today many of us will have the opportunity to give blood at the blood drive sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. This is a wonderfully generous gift! Many of us will provide food for the hungry at Crossroads. This, too, is a wonderfully generous gift of time, talent, and treasure.
Thank you for sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening, taking in his vision and values, and then going out to put that vision into practice! Thank you for being both contemplative and active disciples of Jesus.