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Choosing the Better Part

alec vanderboom

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
Luke 10-38-41

"Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her."

Listening to this Scripture passage during Mass today made me glow. How consoling are the Lord's words: "Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her."

I've received many chastisements from the Martha's of the World as I enter more fully into my Carmelite vocation. One Catholic friend stopped talking to me completely because she thought my pursuit of a Carmelite vocation at this time was irresponsible. "Of course, everyone is supposed to pray" she said. "But a mother's place is doing the dishes. Mothers of very young children shouldn't neglect them in order to pray for 30 minutes a day."

It's a modern day problem. The Marthas are still angry at the Marys.

Yet Jesus rebukes Martha. He doesn't say, "well there are two ways to serve God, the contemplative and the active. You go your way and let your sister go her way." He say's clearly "Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

My husband and I talked about this scene during our drive to our Carmel meeting today. There is Jesus, the Son of God, sharing delightful truths about heaven. Everyone around him immediately stop their daily tasks. They listen to the Son of God in amazement, in rapture.

Then there's Martha. She's worried about overcooked lentils and unwashed napkins. So Martha walks up to the Savior of the World and stops his speech mid-sentance. "Tell my lazy Sister Mary to get over here and HELP ME!"

Martha's totally convinced that she's the one in the right. She's the ONLY one acting like a proper hostess. The time has come for Jesus to tell Mary to stop wasting her time mooning all over him and to get busy cooking his supper.

Meanwhile, in her fury, Martha interrupts the Savior of the World while he is preaching!

Jesus loves Martha, so he admonishes Martha's sin.

"Mary has chosen the better part."

Today at Mass the word "chosen" leapt out at me. "Chosen." Sitting still and listening to the soft whisper of God in your heart is a choice. You're not lazy for neglecting the housework for thirty minutes in order to listen carefully to Jesus. You're consciously choosing the better part.

Prayer takes time. Today, I attended my monthly Carmel meeting with my husband. As a result, we ate frozen pizza for dinner and I'm still working on the smelly laundry at 8:30 PM at night. Yet because I took time out to be with God, I'm doing our family's wash with greater joy. I came back from my mini-retreat with peace and clarity. I returned from Carmel with a great devotion to my vocation as a wife and a mother.

There's a right balance between listening intently to the Lord and serving him by making his dinner. Mary, the Sister of Lazarus, and Mary the Mother of God, both demonstrate this "better way." First we listen to the Lord, then we do whatever he tells us to do.