Gospel then: In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells Martha that she’s anxious and worried about many things and seems to imply that she’s stressed out because in the midst of her activity she’s forgotten the one important thing.
Gospel now: Everyone is too busy nowadays. When it comes to prayer, we constantly hear the typical objections – No time. Even when we make the time, the prayer itself can be “too busy,” mechanical, and routine. Our prayer reflects our busy lifestyle and vice versa, because we typically live as we pray and pray as we live. To live a better life, we must learn to pray.
How embarrassing it must be for a host to ask their guest to reprimand her own sister for not helping out with the chores? Or else, Martha must have had a very candid relationship with Jesus. And so it was with the way Jesus dealt with Martha when he basically tells her, “You need really to step back and take look at your own life – not your sister’s – and you really need to take care of yourself in a very crucial way. You need to take time to reflect on what is essential, because you are missing it.”
The irony of it all is that Mary has chosen the better part. When you think about it, who wouldn’t want to sit at Jesus’ feet and just learn from him. To Martha, this seems lazy and irresponsible. If Martha realized that there was need for only one thing – to have Christ in her life – she would recognize how wrong she is and she would not be so anxious and worried over so many less important details.
The most common objection to prayer is that there’s too much to do and not enough time. The section of the Catechism entitled “The Battle of Prayer” calls this attitude activism (CCC 2727). Taking time to pray is not a flight from the trials of life or a mere psychological sedative. In prayer, the Holy Spirit teaches us that our life’s goal isn’t to be productive or make ourselves useful, nor is that what God ultimately expects for us.
Thus we learn in prayer the beauty of being called into life by God to know him, love him, and serve him in this life and to be with him forever in the next. That is what Jesus refers to as the better part, which will not be taken away from those who chose it.