The Better Part

Today’s brief Gospel presents a scene that most of us can relate to on some level. We know that Mary and Martha are sisters (and Lazarus is their brother) and that this family is one of those “resting places” for Jesus; he visited them intermittently throughout his preaching years. He knew them well, and they knew him well enough to complain to him and demand things from him! Martha, busy about household tasks while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to listen to him, asks a rhetorical question: Don’t you even see, or care about, this unjust distribution of labor?! I’m doing all the work around here. “Tell her to help me.”

The Lord is always seeing things from a place above the fray of the moment, and He is artful about replying to people in ways that reframe the argument and draw them into a deeper understanding. Here, He acknowledges Martha’s busy-ness and anxiety but redirects her attention to what is most important, refusing to do what He demands of her. Rather than tell Mary to get off the floor and get to work, He praises her choice, because she has chosen the one necessary thing. What is that one necessary thing? Being in the presence of the Lord, who is all. “Come and see,” He invited his first disciples. “Follow me,” He invites us. “I am the Vine and you are the branches,” He explains, to help us really comprehend that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Our discipleship must begin with spending time in His presence, and it continues and bears fruit when we remain united to Him.

Most of us who are striving to love Jesus would want the opportunity to sit at His feet as Mary did, listening to His voice, watching His movements, asking Him questions and waiting for His response, allowing His penetrating gaze to fall on us. For love to grow, we must spend time with the Beloved.

While we cannot encounter the historical Jesus, we CAN sit at His feet and spend time before his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Eucharist, we draw near to this same Christ who loved these people so much, and who loves us so much that He found a way to remain really present to us throughout all of time and in every place that the Eucharist is offered and reserved.

When we receive the Eucharist and spend time at the feet of Jesus, we grow in our ability to CHOOSE THE BETTER PART. We must choose it over and over again so that the horizons of His Kingdom within us are continually extended, and His reign within us grows fuller. When we walk with Jesus in every moment, choosing to listen to Him instead of the world or our own fears and desires, we are conforming our lives to His and choosing the better part, which will not be taken from us.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.