PASSAGE: "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 feel 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'" (Luke 10:38-42).
COMMENT: We know from the Gospel of John (11:1) that Martha and Mary were sisters of Lazarus, friends of Jesus, who lived in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. Jesus loved them both, and he is not passing judgment on either of them here. Martha has become distracted by the responsibilities of being the perfect hostess and is choosing to allow those duties to keep her from simply sitting and talking with Jesus. Mary has made a different choice. Jesus is saying that each is entitled to choose. No one is forcing Martha to play the hostess; she is making that choice. She may feel like a victim, but in fact she is as free to sit and listen as Mary is—it's her house, after all.
Metaphysically we know that both Martha and Mary represent aspects in our own individual consciousness, and it's here that the power of the story becomes clear. How often do I let the Martha in me become overwhelmed by all the demands of my human existence, so that I don't have time to meditate, or pray, or just to sit quietly in the Christ Presence that is always my true identity? Those demands have to be recognized, of course, but they don't have to overwhelm the Mary within us eager to simply be in Spirit. Of course, Mary also needs to recognize that human chores are a part of the journey. So it isn't about making either sister wrong. It's about recognizing the need for balance. And when the Christ comes calling, maybe the dishes can wait a while.