Mary has chosen the better part

Many a time people have used this scripture passage to demonstrate the superiority of contemplative life over an active one. But Jesus does not make a distinction between active verses contemplative life. Both forms of life are needed for joyful and peaceful existence. Then what is the scripture telling us?

It tells us that Mary had become the disciple of Jesus. In the ancient eastern cultures, a disciple would sit at the feet of the master and receive all the instructions coming from his master. Showing Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, Luke is demonstrating that Jesus has accepted Mary as one of His disciples. This was very much against the Jewish traditions, for Rabbi’s never took a woman as their disciple.

When Martha showed her unhappiness about Mary’s nonchalant attitude toward her duty of hospitality, Jesus defends Mary saying, “Mary has chosen the better part”. What is that part which is better than preparing a good meal for the guest? Scripture says that “Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying” (Lk. 10: 38). She was intently listening to every word that came from Jesus’ mouth.

Luke in his gospel praises Mary the mother of Jesus for the same reason. She listened to the word of God and kept it in her heart. In Lk 8:21, Jesus says to all the people gathered around Him, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice”. Listening intently to the word of God is the primary activity of every disciple. Our spirit is nourished by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4).

To listen to our Master intently, we must learn to keep silence both interior and exterior. Prayerful silence takes us to the feet of our Lord to hear Him speaking to us. The early monks who gathered on Mount Carmel, came to listen to God in silence. Prophet Elijah who lived on Mount Carmel encountered God, in a gentle breeze, in a deep interior silence. On the 16th of this month, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The motto of the Carmelite is:

Mortification, Silence, and Prayer.

Without silence there is no possibility of true prayer, and therefore encountering the Divine.

–Fr. Ranjan D’Sa, OCD

Category Reflections