Jesus was a frequent guest at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. We know from the Gospel of John that Jesus loved this family. Later he would show the great depth of his affection by performing his greatest and most dramatic miracles for them, when he raised Lazarus from the dead.
Martha was very energetic moving from one end of the house to the other, anxiously wishing for everything to be just right. It is beautiful how she has not gotten used to having Jesus around. She does not take his presence for granted. She wants to show him all the details of hospitality. But even as Martha’s actions are motivated by love, she can’t help but notice her sister Mary, sitting there at the Lord’s feet. Why isn’t she helping? This small domestic scene could be symbolic of our own experiences: looking at other people and their situations more than our relationship with the Lord. If the Lord wants me serving the table or at his feet listening to him, the most important isn’t the action in and of itself, but the fact that it is what he has asked of me.
As Jesus states “Only one thing is required.” We should not misinterpret the word of Jesus. He is not simply proposing an either or choice between the activity of Martha and the contemplation of Mary. In fact “ only one thing is required” means precisely that no matter how active we are our lives must be permeated with the spirit of prayer. We should always remain connected, continually lighting our hearts and minds up to God making all our effort of love.
Fr. Maroun El-Kazzi