Mary Magdalene: Choose the Better Part


[Jesus] answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41,42 NRSV).

Mary Magdalene is a wonderful example of contemplative prayer.  Aside from the Gospel reading I am using for this blog; Mary’s experience at the empty tomb found in John 20:11-18 is also an experience of contemplative prayer.  On the subject of Mary’s experience of the Resurrection, Thomas Keating writes,

“The realization of being loved by God characterizes the first stage of contemplative prayer.  It enables us to see God in all things.  Mary’s acceptance of that grace leads to a further insight; she becomes aware that she loves Jesus in return.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience., p.71).

The scene in Luke 10:41, 42 shows Mary at the feet of Jesus listening intentionally to what He is saying to her.  What Martha is doing is not wrong or bad.  Many have suggested that what is happening in this scene is a prefect example of the Benedictine motto Ora et Labora (pray and work).  What we have here is Jesus telling Martha and us, is that whether we are at work or in prayer, listening to Jesus is the best way to know what God wants from us.  Whether the listening comes in the form of the prayerful reading of Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina), sitting in the silence of centering prayer, or meditating on a particular mystery of Christ; listening in silence in a moment of prayer, or through living daily life is how we can hear Jesus clearly to respond in loving devotion.

As we contemplate the figure of St. Mary Magdalene, let us pray for each other that we will know God’s love and love God in return.  May we also listen intentionally to Jesus as He leads us into a deeper relationship with God and one another.


Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

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