Luke 10:38-42 | Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Luke tells us a story about the two sisters, Martha and Mary. We think of the sisters of Lazarus from John’s Gospel, but a second look at Luke’s story shows us that there is no mention here of Lazarus, nor of Bethany, where John tells us they lived.
Still, they must be the same sisters: the same names, in the same relationship, in both gospels. As in John, we see the differences in their temperament. Martha busies herself with the necessary things, food and hospitality, while Mary sits listening, a true disciple.
Jesus tells them that Mary, sitting and listening to Jesus, has chosen the only needful thing, the only necessary thing.
We think so many things matter. We cling to the details of life—meals, clothes, money—and all of those things do matter, all of them are necessary, but all of them are so temporary. When we share a meal, is it the food we remember or the company? And clothes? Our designer labels will be forgotten as soon as the food we ate yesterday.
It goes deeper than food and clothes. We love to dwell on having our way, on being right. It seems so important at the time. In a week? In a month or a lifetime? Most of the points we thought so important dwindle to obscurity, like dust on the ledge of a window where we used to sit and look out at the world.
A few verses earlier in this same passage, Luke tells the story of Jesus and of the lawyer who answered his own question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? Love the Lord your God with your heart, strength, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus told him that he was right, but he did not tell him to go and keep being right. He didn’t even tell him to go and do things that were right. Jesus told him to go and love.
Love God. Love your neighbor.
Food, clothes, houses—we need these things, though seldom do we need them to be so rich as we think. They matter, but they are temporary, transient, as real and as lasting as raindrops.
What did Mary choose that was so needful? She sat and listened to Jesus speak a few words. We don’t even know what they were—Luke does not record them, because those words, whatever they were, mattered for Mary. Like her, we have to be quiet and listen for ourselves.
It may be that God has been speaking to us all this time, and we have been too busy to hear.