“The One Thing Needful”
“There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” -Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 10:42)
In the account found in Luke, the company of Jesus were gathered in Martha’s home while she strove to offer hospitality according to the practices of 1st Century Judaism. She “served” her guests—but her sister Mary sat at the Rabbi’s feet (a position of discipleship) and listened attentively to what Jesus said. When stressed-out Martha complained to Jesus about her sister’s inactivity and lack of assistance, Jesus gently remonstrated with Martha, assuring her that Mary’s priorities were right.
This isn’t a lesson about who’s the better person—Martha or Mary—but it is about the many things which distract and use up our time. How many of you, especially since the pandemic, find yourself working a portion of every day of the week? When was the last time you were fully “unplugged”—and for how long? A lot of us can relate to Martha on a lot of levels, and we often find ourselves stressed-out and resentful as a direct consequence.
So what is this “one thing needful” that Mary has chosen? Isn’t it simply the time we spend with the Lord? There are a lot of ways to do that, from prayer and meditation to walking, mindful exercise, and individual or small group study. These activities do not drain us: they build us up from within. They strengthen our soul and spirit, renewing us for the joys and demands of living.
The longer we live, the more likely it is we are going to experience loss. We are going to experience the “taking away” of things, experiences and capabilities. Our bodies change, and we often cannot do the things we used to take for granted. We get sick or injured, we can’t drive anymore, our friends pass away, we may even need to move out of the home we live in. These losses can be quite painful.
A relationship with Jesus Christ can never be taken away. It is the source and sustenance of our peace in the present, our joy in living, our hope for tomorrow, and our assurance in dying. Like Mary, we too can choose “the better part” because, being accepted already just as we are, we can choose who we are becoming. By devoting a portion of each day not the myriad things we do, we can nourish the one person we already are: a child of God and a friend of Jesus, who has promised never to leave or forsake us.