The Better Part

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

Luke 10

Whenever I hear today’s Gospel I always start to imagine a scenario where Martha’s upset could have been avoided and both Martha and Mary could have chosen the ‘better part.’ The text doesn’t tell us how big the gathering was. I like to think of it as small: Mary, Mary Lazarus and Jesus.

If I had invited Jesus to dinner I’d definitely make sure that I’d planned things so that I could spend as much time as possible talking to him and as little as possible worrying about the meal. I imagine that time with Jesus, away from the crowds and demands was perhaps quite rare. I would certainly want to make the most of it.

So here’s my plan and menu:

Flatbread (made early in the morning)

Fresh fruit
Honey cake (made the day before)

The only thing I would need to keep an eye on would be the tagine. It would be bubbling away while I welcomed Jesus. When there was a natural break in the conversation I would serve up the food. We’d use one bowl for the main course, a side plate and one bowl for dessert. We’d recline and let the conversation unfold. We’d laugh and tell our stories.

When it was time for Jesus to go we’d make our goodbyes. I’d put the food away and leave the washing up until the morning.

As I drifted off to sleep I’d remember fragments of conversation and start looking forward to the next time.

I’d give no thought to the distinctions of action and contemplation, or contemplative religious life and apostolic religious life. All that would matter would be time spent with Jesus.