In the Gospel Jesus speaks of Mary as the one who has chosen a better part, apparently, opposed to that of Martha. But, is it about choosing one against the other? What lesson can we draw from this Gospel for our daily life for a disciple of Jesus?
Bible readings Genesis 18: 1–10 Psalm 15 Colossians 1: 24–28 Luke 10: 38–42
Pressure to act
High performance is one of the values of our world today. You need to be performant to have a place whether in professional life or business world. We are in a world of ruthless competition. You have to act rapidly for more production and for more profit; in the end, we find ourselves in a non-stop cycle of action. The effect of such pressure for excellence and continued performance is felt soon or later through a cry: I’m drained or a regret: If only I had paid enough attention. Indeed, excelling in professional or business world may come at the cost of our health and family wellbeing. We risk becoming aware of the damage when it’s too late. So, should we be suspicious of high performance? I don’t think so.
Performance and excellence have certainly their place in today’s world, and they have positive results, no doubt. All we need, however, is to consider that there’s more to life than just high performance. There are other values that deserve also their place in the organisation of our life and our time. It’s a matter of striking a balance in life. And the Gospel calls us to such equilibrium.
Action and Contemplation
In the Gospel, at first glance, you are likely to have the impression that there’s an opposition between listening and acting, especially considering the response of Jesus to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you worry, and you get agitated for a lot of things. Only one is necessary. Marie chose the best part ...” Consequently, there has been a tendency in the Christian spirituality not only to oppose action to contemplation but also to prioritise one against the other. But a global look at the text can save us from such misinterpretation.
Two legs of a disciple
Remember, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. On the way he instructs the disciples and sends some on mission. So, we can fairly say, what we find in the Gospel is the teaching about discipleship. And if we follow the sequence of events in Luke’s Gospel, today’s scene comes after the parable of the Good Samaritan, a charitable and humane action that Jesus praises. That’s the way a disciple is called to act. Indeed, doesn’t St James warn us? “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (Jas 2: 17-18). But that’s not all, there’s another leg of a disciple which this Sunday’s Gospel highlights -the listening part.
Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to him; sign of a disciple learning from the master. The call of the first disciples in the Gospel of Mark can enlighten us further on these two legs: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). A disciple is one who, first, puts himself at the feet of his master, lets himself be instructed so that, thereafter, he can go out to act like his master. He’s therefore called to listen and to act; a disciple is both Mary and Martha. Listening and action are not opposed, but two faces of the same reality.
A disciple is both Mary and Martha
Then, each one can ask oneself, am I really walking on the two feet of a disciple, Mary and Martha, that is, listening and acting? The word of God invites us to be hospitable and to act for a world that is more humane and fraternal. But these good deeds are accomplished through listening for it is Jesus, our master, who inspires us and sends us. Let us then be disciples, that is, men and women who listen to the word of God and put it into practice.