Only one is needed.
Martha received the Lord Jesus warmly and immediately began to take great pains to serve him. When she was not up to it herself and saw that her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him, she turned to Jesus with a question: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister leaves me to serve myself? Tell her to help me!” The Lord answered her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, and only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen a better portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:40-42).
Now you may say to yourself. So hard-working Martha worries about working in the kitchen and serving at the table, and in the end, she gets even more reproach!
Mary, who doesn’t feel like serving, conveniently sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to Him instead of working. And she is commended for having decided on a better portion that will not be taken away from her.
How is it possible, then, that Martha must continue to struggle with eating alone, but everyone will eat? On the other hand, if everyone acted like Mary, who would care about the Lord and his disciples?
Yet the words of the Lord Jesus cannot be understood as a rebuke of the diligent and a commendation of the lazy. Therefore, we need to reflect more deeply on this response of Jesus.
Let us look at the lilies of the field, which neither toil nor spin. Let us remember the parable of the mustard seed. In it, Christ compares the kingdom of God to a source that grows and ripens on its own – without human intervention. In this way, he gives us an example of a life surrendered to the will of God.
When Jesus rebukes Martha, he points out her over-concern for many things and, thus, the unhealthy overindulgence she would like to impose on others. In Mary, on the other hand, Christ commends not inactivity or laziness but attentive listening to his words. The ability to choose at that moment what is most fitting and necessary.
We too often think, like Martha, that activity is the most necessary. Just doing, always realizing something, organizing. We have the impression that the time set aside for prayer, meditation, and listening to the Word of God is a waste of time, which should be reserved for action. Like Martha, we are often concerned about what we can do for the Lord and not what the Lord can do for us and what He can provide us with. Thus, such an encounter with Jesus is crucial, for only he will grant us God’s wisdom, love, and eternal life. Without this connection, there is no true religion. This union with God in prayer, contemplation, adoration, and collaboration with the Eucharistic Christ is the only thing necessary. Other items can only be helpful.
This example sums it up very well.
An old banker was driving a young college student in his boat. The student noticed that on one oar was written “ora” and on the other “labor.” So he asked the older man a question: – Please, why does the one who works need to pray?
The old man did not answer immediately but let go of the oar, which was written “ora,” and rowed only with the other oar. The boat began to turn round and round. “But we won’t get any further this way,” said the student. “Of course,” replied the old man, “he who only works and does not pray will get nowhere.”
Now, you may object that work, affairs, and engagements are duties and necessities that no one can avoid, and therefore one must choose work or prayer. No, such an objection will not stand! Because both prayer and work must be selected. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive, as many think, precisely because they know neither work nor prayer. When one works and does not pray, and when one prays and does not work, exhaustion comes anyway. So it is possible, even necessary, to pray while working and to work while praying.
Praying does not mean saying a lot of words. Prayer is lifting the mind to God, which can be done in the factory, the school, the market, the operating table, and even the department.
Well, brothers and sisters, what lesson is there for us in all this? Indeed, our religiosity must also have both components: it must be contemplative and active.
Our life is very crowded with activity, so there is a danger that we will have no time left for contemplative life. Worrying about our future, family, jobs, and livelihood could gradually alienate us. It is, therefore, essential that we do not neglect this part of our religious life altogether, that we know how to find a moment for prayer, contemplation, adoration, and above all, for an encounter with the Eucharistic Christ in the Holy Mass. For genuine religiosity is not only in action, but at times it is necessary to be able to sit at the feet of Jesus in the spirit and to listen attentively to his words because they are required as the speech of life, as the speech that is of more excellent value than all the other things of this world – it is the speech on which our life, even our death, depends.
Let us strive to understand this, and ask Almighty God to do so today, that we may be a little Martha and a little Mary if we all want to be among the friends of Jesus.
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