Translated by Fray Emilio Larlar, Jr., OAR
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit with the words of St. Augustine.
Come Holy Spirit, by whom every pious soul who believes in Christ in order to make himself a citizen of the City of God is made holy! (En. in Ps. 45, 8). Come Holy Spirit, grant that we may receive the promptings of God, place in us Your fire, illumine us and raise us up to God (Sermon 128, 4).
With a willing heart, and with sincerity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing them to have an impact on you:
As they continued their journey He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speaks. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Let us meditate now with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel of St. Luke:
St. Augustine sees in these sisters two types of life, the contemplative and the active: Our Lord Jesus Christ will consign the Kingdom in the hands of God the Father when He leads the believers to the contemplation of God, the purpose of all good deeds, eternal rest, everlasting happiness, without excluding Himself nor the Holy Spirit. This is what He means when He says: “Soon I will see you, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will be able to take away your joy (Jn. 16:22). Mary, sitting at the feet of the Lord and attentive to His word, is a beautiful image of this joy. Free of all concerns, absorbed in contemplative ecstasy of the Truth, in the possible measure in this life, is image of our future state in eternity. Martha, her sister, was worried about useful needs, good, yes, and necessary, but transitory, to which a sweet rest must follow, while Mary rests on the Word of the Lord. And when Martha laments because her sister does not help her, the Lord answers: Mary chose the better part and it will not be removed from her. He does not affirm that the role of Martha is bad, but calls better that of Mary, a role that will not be taken away from her. That of Martha, at the service of poverty, ends with necessity. The reward of good transitory act is a stable tranquility. In that contemplation, God will be all in all, because nothing can be desired outside of Him, and the sight of Him is enough to fill us with delights in His joy. It is what the one in whom the Spirit prayed with indescribable groaning could do. One thing, he says, I asked of the Lord, and this I seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty (Ps. 26 (27): 4) (De Trinit. 1, 20).
St. Augustine likewise comments on the unity between the two sisters: “Let us go to the theme that I suggested: the unity. Martha, arranging and preparing what is necessary in order to feed the Lord, was concerned with multiple housework; Mary, her sister, preferred that the Lord may nourish her. Abandoning in a certain sense her sister dedicated to the domestic house-work, she sat at the feet of Jesus and, with-out doing anything, listened to His word. She had listened with total faith: Be still and know that I am God (Ps 45 (46): 11). Martha toiled, this took part in the banquet; Martha is busy with many things, Mary focused her attention on only one thing. Both concerns were good; but what was better? What can I say? We have someone whom to ask; let us listen to Him carefully. We already heard, when it is read, what is better. Let us listen to it again, I repeat it. Martha appeals to her Guest and making Him judge, presents to Him the implicit request in her pious complaints: that her sister has abandoned her and had neglected to help her, so overwhelmed in serving Him. Mary, even if she is present, does not answer; it is the Lord who judges. Mary, in holy repose, preferred to place her cause in the hands of the judge and did not want to take the trouble of answering, because by preparing the response, she would lessen the attention of her listening. Therefore, the Lord answers, for whom no effort is required to speak, because He was the Word. And what did He say? Martha, Martha, Martha. This repetition of the name is a sign of love, or perhaps is a way of getting her attention. In order to arouse in her a more attentive listening, He called her two times: Martha, Martha, listen to Me: You are worried about many things, and there is a need of only one thing, that is, only one thing is necessary. He did not say as if referring to only one action, but to something that is convenient, that is necessary. This one and only necessary work is what Mary had chosen. (Sermon 103, 3).
Let us pray now from the bottom of our heart with the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that may arouse in you the dialogue with God, and, at the same time, may elicit affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not pass to the other phrase or question if you can still continue dialoging with God in some of them. It is not a matter of finishing this list, but of helping you to pray with those points that are most applicable to your personal experience:
a.- “Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak”. (Lk. 10:39).
- At what moment, like Mary do you sit at the feet of Christ?
- What importance and times, you give to prayer in your life?
b.- “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her”. (Lk. 10: 41-42).
- To what extent are you concerned and worried about many things?
- What is the one thing necessary?
I propose to you some points of affective inner contemplation. Once again, there is no need that you follow everything, but that you choose what is more applicable to your personal experience:
a.- Contemplate Christ teaching Mary and identify yourself with her. Consider and listen to what Jesus tells you while you are seated at His feet. Check your feelings and keep in your heart those words.
b.- Contemplate Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary, and Mary seated at the feet of Christ. While you are reflecting on how Christ speaks and Mary listens, repeat in your heart: “You Jesus, are the only one necessary”.
Think about everything that you can share with those who surround you of the experience that you have had of God, particularly with regard to being sent by Christ, with the commitment of conversion and of being bearer of peace. The following points can help you as a guide in sharing with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself during this moment of prayer?
- How can I, in these moments of my life, apply this text of the Scriptures? What lights does it offer me? What challenges does it present to me?
- To what does this text of the Scripture concretely commit me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant feeling in this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
“Martha was thinking how to feed the Lord, Mary in how she can be nourished by Him. Martha was preparing a banquet for the Lord; Mary was enjoying the banquet of the Lord Himself… “. (Sermon 104, 1).