The Better Part

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home Depositphotos_141505490_m-2015.jpg

July 21, 2019 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 10:38-42

Women were thought of as second-class in the time of Jesus. There are not a few instances in the gospels where their names are not even mentioned, although they should have been. What was the name of the woman at the well? The woman accused of adultery? The woman who anointed the feet of Jesus? There are, however, instances when women are named. Today’s gospel is one of those times. As soon as Martha and Mary are mentioned, many know what follows.

I have heard women say that Martha is the patron saint of hard-working women. She does what she is supposed to do around the home. Most likely this means preparing food, cleaning floors and washing clothes. We assume that she does this day after day, year after year. She lives with her sister, Mary, who appears not to help her by doing her fair share of the housework. On one occasion, Jesus, a good friend of their family, is visiting and talking about things that interest him. Mary wants to be close to him and is quite content to sit as his feet (the position of a student) attentive to his every word. While Martha scurries here and there, cooking, dusting and hanging up the day’s laundry.

Then Jesus asks which of the two women is doing the right thing, the best thing? And he answers his own question. Mary, of course. Hearing this, Martha’s eyes turn heavenward and she says, “What?” (And maybe something else too.)

Here’s one way to think about what seems a somewhat odd answer of Jesus. The key sentence is in what Jesus says about Martha. She is “anxious and worried about many things.” Well, we can all understand that! How often are our daily lives filled with worry and anxiety over a lot of things? Personal health, money for necessities, survival, our kids, grandchildren, ailing relatives, friends, the difficulties experienced by refugees, those who go to bed hungry each night, the state of the world.

Maybe what Jesus is saying is that we can use a little more trust in God in our lives. Maybe we need to take a time-out from working all the time and simply “rest in God.” Excessive stress can wear us down, even kill us. In reality, we all need to work from time to time. But not all the time. God created the Sabbath as a day of rest. Maybe the” better part” of life comes to us when we step away from all that makes us anxious and worried and we simply enjoy God’s presence. Breathe easily. And give thanks.


©David M. Thomas, PhD