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Martha, Mary, and the One Thing Necessary

From the Youtube post:

In this week’s video, Dr. Brant Pitre discusses the Mass readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary time.

For the Gospel reading this week in Luke 10, we read the famous story of Martha and Mary, who are having Jesus over as a guest. While Martha is seemingly doing all of the work, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him teach. As Dr. Pitre points out, while Martha is doing all of the busy work and is “distracted by many things,” Mary, as Jesus says, has chosen the better portion, or the one thing necessary, which is to be with Jesus and to listen to him. And, moreover, this better portion will not be taken away from Mary, even though Martha wants Mary’s assistance.

Throughout the history of the Church, commentators on this famous narrative have noted that Mary personifies the contemplative life of prayer and Martha personifies the active life of the laity. And, Jesus makes clear that if we are to be his disciples — and this goes for all of us — we cannot perform the active life at the expense of the contemplative life; that would be living an illusion, betraying the purpose and goal of our lives. Even those of us who live amid the secular world must spend time with Jesus in Word and Sacrament to come to know him and not simply “do” for Him. For, indeed, Jesus said at another time in Matthew 7 that even those who do things in his name are not necessarily saved — but, rather, those who KNOW him — so too those of us who are among the laity are called to engage in the spiritual life of prayer in addition to the active life of daily duties. For the life of prayer is the one thing necessary at the end of the day.

In the Old Testament reading from Genesis, Abraham and Sarah show hospitality to the three men who appear to them at the oaks of Mamre. Like Martha and Mary who were visited by Our Lord Jesus, so too, in Genesis 18 Abraham and Sarah are being visited by these three men that the narrative calls “The Lord.” In this scene, we have a potential glimpse or foreshadowing of the Trinity — 1 God but in 3 persons. However, it has also been interpreted that these three men were angels or emissaries of the Lord. In any event, just as Martha and Mary show hospitality to Jesus, so too do Abraham and Sarah by providing food, washing the feet of these men, and spending time with them, for they are either the Lord or sent by the Lord. As such, the main thrust of the readings this week is to spend time with the Lord in Scripture and in sacrament so that we can come not just to do things for the Lord, but to know him intimately as well.