As they went on their way, Jesus entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her home. She had a sister named Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving;she went to him and said," Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me." But the Lord answered her, " Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."
I wonder why Luke included this story in the Gospel. His narrative is filled with profound teachings and awesome healings. Why include this visit to friends to hear the squabbling sisters?
And yet, as we reflect on our own lives, there is a wonderful challenge in this story. Jesus has been giving of Himself to everyone in need. He wants to take time to enjoy a visit with His friends. He needs time to relax and share. Martha, good lady that she is, wants to make everything special for Jesus. Mary understands that what Jesus wants is far more important. Jesus looks forward to sharing, to be renewed by being with people He loves. THAT IS THE ONE THING NECESSARY. Jesus wants Mary and Martha to be present to Him. Another time in the Gospel, a very tense and profound one, Jesus asks three of His very close friends, to be with Him while He goes into a garden to pray, to prepare Himself for the ordeal ahead. He needs His friends, but they fall asleep.
Learned scholars have interpreted the story of Mary and Martha as though Jesus is stating that the contemplative life is superior to the mundane active life of Martha. I respectfully suggest that they are way off base. I believe that a true Christian life calls all of us to be both active and contemplative, to use our gifts, doing our daily chores in such a joyful way that we make our work a prayer, being especially glad that our most important work is to be present to one another and to Our Lord.