What is the crux of the Christian faith? Well, that’s not exactly an easy question to answer. In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, we get something of an answer, but Jesus being Jesus is a bit opaque in his language. Failing to give us a direct antecedent, we are stuck with an awkward Greek phrase,”henos de estin chreia” which literally translated is “one but is needed,” which is more easily read as “but there is need of only one thing.” It is complicated, to be sure, and unfortunately, Jesus never tells us what that one thing is; he only tells Martha that Mary has chosen it.
As I’ve thought about this lesson throughout a hectic week, with a minimum of six tabs open in my browser, four unread emails begging my attention, and a to-do list eight items deep, I’ve become more and more convicted that the reason Jesus didn’t have a direct antecedent for his “one thing” is because it isn’t the thing that is important, it is the one.
Jesus did not fuss at Martha because she was engaged in the work of hospitality, but rather because her hospitality became a distraction. As distraction, which, as I noted on Monday, was so great as to be unprecedented. She had lost sight of one thing, and was instead distracted by many things. She was angry with her sister for not helping out, she was frustrated with Jesus for not fussing at Mary, and so was upset that there were so many disciples to feed. The bread was probably burning in the oven as the tears from slicing onions ran down her face while the dishes piled up in the sink, and the wine began to run low. Martha’s brain was in 1,000 different places instead of being focuses on the one thing that should have been of utmost importance: showing hospitality to Jesus.
Mary, on the other hand, had chosen to pay attention solely to Jesus. She didn’t get distracted by her sister’s passive aggressive banging of pots and pans in the kitchen. She paid no mind to the huffing and puffing from the doorway. Even the smell of bread burning didn’t distract her from the one thing she had chosen to be fully present for: the Son of God sitting in her living room.