The story of Martha and Mary has always been a popular one, but it’s a little difficult to understand. After all, shouldn’t Mary have been helping Martha with the housework? Was Jesus saying that manual labor is wrong and that we should spend all of our time in church and reading scripture?
Pope John Paul II had some thoughts on this during his Angelus message on July 18, 2004 and I think it helps clear up some of the confusion:
On this Sunday, the liturgy once again proposes for our meditation the Gospel episode of Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary (cf. Lk 10: 38-42). While Martha is totally taken up with household tasks, Mary is seated at the Master’s feet listening to his word. Christ affirms that Mary “has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk 10: 42).
Listening to the Word of God is the most important thing in our lives. Christ is always in our midst and desires to speak to our hearts. We can listen to him by meditating with faith on Sacred Scripture, by recollection in private and communal prayer, by silent meditation before the Tabernacle, from which he speaks to us of his love.
Christians, especially on Sundays, are called to meet and listen to the Lord. This happens most completely through participation in Holy Mass, during which Christ prepares the banquet of the Word and of the Bread of Life for the faithful. But other moments of prayer and reflection, of rest and brotherhood, can also be profitably combined to make the Lord’s Day holy.
When, through the action of the Holy Spirit, God takes up his dwelling in the heart of the believer, it becomes easier for him/her to serve the brethren.