Good morning, happy Tuesday, and many blessings.
The Gospel for today (Luke 10:38-42) teaches me that there have been times when I made a choice and I knew deep within it was the only choice to be made. It was absolutely the right choice. If I could do it all again, I would make the same choice and do so with thanksgiving and gratitude. There have also been times when I made what I thought was the right choice but can now see there was a better choice to have been made. I would do things differently if I had the chance to choose again. I suspect most of us could say the same thing.
Too often we equate the choice we make, and its subsequent approval or rejection, with our goodness, our worthiness, our acceptableness, our faithfulness, our lovableness. That’s what most of history has done with Mary and Martha. Mary made the better choice, Jesus says, and we quickly conclude that we should be like Mary, not Martha. We are to sit and listen rather than be active and busy. Mary is equated with the contemplative life and Martha with the active life and much of Christian history has seen the contemplative life as the more perfect life. That’s one reading of this text but is it the only reading, the definitive reading? Is Mary necessarily better, more holy, more loved, more acceptable to Jesus?
I don’t think this text is really even about Mary and Martha but about us and the choices we make. That does not mean we are to copycat Mary. If Jesus wanted us to do that why didn’t he tell us clearly what that “one thing” is? He could have at least given us the five easy steps to choosing the better part, but he didn’t. Jesus is saying that choices matter. We are always making choices.
In this particular context Mary made the better choice but it was a choice for that time, that place, and those circumstances. Change the setting and Martha’s choice might have been the better part. We can see that in Jesus’ own life. Sometimes Jesus went off by himself to be alone, silent, still, to pray, to sit and listen, to be present to his Father. At those times he was like Mary. Other times Jesus was active, on the move, in the midst of people, and busy teaching, healing, feeding 5000. On those days he was more like Martha.
While we might distinguish between Mary and Martha there is a common theme, presence. Mary and Martha are two ways of being present. Both ways are necessary, faithful, and holy. There is not simply one choice that is to be made for ever and always. We are always to be discerning the one thing needed in this time, this place, these circumstances. What is the better part given our particular situation? How do we be present, show up, to the divine presence that is already and always before us? That’s the question. Some days Mary will be our guide and other days Martha will be our guide. Either way we must choose.