“Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42).”
In the Mary and Martha story (Luke 10:38-42) the point wasn’t that Martha was doing the wrong thing by running around with plates in hand attending to the details of meal preparation. It almost doesn’t matter what we’re doing. It’s our state of mind that counts.
If Martha had the right frame of mind there would’ve been no problem with her busy-body preparations. If Martha had served without anxiety it would’ve been beautiful. But Martha was a bundle of nerves going in three directions, agitated and rattled. Evelyn Underhill, a wonderful writer on Christian Mysticism, contributes these words:
Many people feel unaware of any guidance, unable to discern or understand the signals of God; not because the signals are not given, but because the mind is too troubled, clouded, and hurried to receive them.
Mary knew the better part—the frame of mind at the center of our aspirations. Mary sat silently basking in Jesus’ Presence. In the end the world needs this silent attentiveness and absorption more than all our doing. We need people who have serenity, whose presence is a wellspring of calm. This peace can’t be imitated. It comes from within, from a life of prayer and joy. This stillness is far more valuable than anything we could be “doing.” Habitual stillness feeds our souls and nourishes our relationship with God. Habitual stillness is a beacon in a restless, harried world. This “blessed stillness” as it is called by Eastern Orthodox writers is of more value than any external thing we could acquire.
Today, chronic restlessness abounds. Our excuses to stay distracted and busy abound. Mary calls us to a still point in the midst of the storms, a solace where people can come and collect themselves… where people can come and feel safe… where people can find the spaciousness necessary to hear the Spirit… where there is a lightness and calm even in tense situations.