A Balancing Act

S. Martha, based on Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About Mary Ellen Green, O.P.

Mary Ellen is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, USA. She is currently serving as the Director of Development for her congregation. Her ministry experience includes, as well as leadership, secondary education (teaching and administration), formation and vocation ministry, and preaching retreats through Parable Conference for Dominican Life and Mission. In 2005-06 she spent fifteen months living at the Monastery of Sainte-Marie de Prouilhe, the cradle of the Dominican Order in southern France.

2 thoughts on “A Balancing Act

  1. Excellent to point out the location in Luke between the Good Samaritan parable and the Lord’s Prayer. If the parable is associated with activity and the Lord’s Prayer with contemplation, then the Mary and Martha story is held in a sort of balanced tension. I too sympathize with Martha, but the problem with Meister Eckert’s exegesis is that Jesus directly says that “Mary has chosen the better part.”

  2. In thinking about this further, though Jesus says Mary has chosen “the better part,” it does not mean it is the only part. Sure if a black-and-white, unconditional decision needs to be made, then Mary has chosen the better part. But life on earth is not always filled with such unconditional moments. There is a time and place for activity. Surely Jesus can’t mean we are to contemplate forever in a frozen moment in adoration. We would starve to death. Adoration is the better part but our life activities continue. D. H. Lawrence had an image of heaven in a short story of his (unfortunately I can’t remember which one, but it has always stayed with me) where souls were like flowers in perpetual adoration of the sun. The “better part” is a look, perhaps, to our existence in heaven where contemplation can supersede human needs, but like the Good Samaritan we have responsibilities and needs here on earth. That is why Luke positions the story between the parable and the prayer. So going back to your discourse, while still on earth we do need to inhale and exhale between contemplation and activity.

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