The Gospel for this Sunday is Luke 10:38-42
1. Profound meaning of the visit to Bethany
The Gospel verses about Martha and Mary are often interpreted very superficially, whereas its meaning is very profound and timely, especially during the holiday season.
2. Key words
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The name Martha literally means the “lady of the house.” She invited Jesus into her home in Bethany and wanted to receive him as best she could. She had a sister Mary and a brother Lazarus. They were friends of Jesus, and he frequently stayed in their home.
The Greek term “perispao,” used here to denote being burdened, or exerting oneself, literally means being detached, too distracted from what matters most.
Unfortunately, we know that we are often too busy and even if our intentions are good, we lose sight of the One for whom we exert ourselves: God and neighbor.
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
In the language of Scripture, “the better part,” in Greek “agathen merida,” is part of the legacy of the Promised Land. It is symbolic of goodness, beauty, and something that gives joy and is good in the eyes of God and other people. Mary’s attitude does not indicate a lack of commitment to domestic duties, but an appropriate hierarchy of values: God and neighbor come first, and it is for them that one works.
When commenting on this gospel, St. John Paul II observed that these words of Jesus are especially relevant during the holiday season. This is the time which can help us strike the right balance between activism and contemplation, haste and a more natural rhythm, as well as noise and peaceful silence.
“If God comes first, all is in the right place;” the words of St. Augustine are one of the most fitting comments on today’s Gospel.