Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 1, 2010

The One Thing Necessary

Lk 10:38  Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.
Lk 10:39  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
Lk 10:40  But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Lk 10:41  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
Lk 10:42  one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

One thing is needful.  One thing is necessary, and if the one thing is missing then everything goes wrong.  Popular reinterpretations of this passage, of course, are not so black-and-white.  I’ve heard this Gospel section presented many times, but with the “one thing” of Luke’s version somehow morphed into an easier-to-receive “two things”.   According to the new version, some of us are by nature worker types like Martha and others of us are by nature prayerful Mary types – and isn’t it wonderful that God loves us all.

It is harder to hear Jesus.  But He has something to say that can bring us into His life, if we are willing to listen to Him and learn.  It is necessary to spend time at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him.  It is necessary to have an interior life, a life of prayer, a contemplative center out of which good works can flow.  It is necessary to have quiet time with the Lord, resting in Him, leaning upon His breast and listening to His heartbeat.  It is necessary to find union in Him, lest we become busily absent from Him.

Yes, Martha interiorly left Jesus in her attempt to serve Him!  But look at the results: she became distracted with her “much serving”.   She felt that the Lord stopped caring about her: “Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”  And then, she presumed to tell Jesus what to do: ” Tell her then to help me.”  This is what happens when our “serving” gets ahead of our prayer life.  Prayer, an interior life, a true relationship with Him in the heart, is necessary.

A true, authentic, vital, sincere and habitual life of prayer is necessary.  Prayer is our union with Him, it is our life in Him – and apart from Him we can do nothing.  This is true for us all – for priests, for bishops, deacons, for laity both men and women.  Apart from Him we can do nothing that has being, that lasts into eternity, that will withstand the fire of testing.

Habitual busyness is a dangerous temptation – and when it is “busyness” for the Church, for good religious cause, it is most dangerous because then we justify it and will not recognize the danger.  Martha saw no danger in busyness for the Lord Jesus!  She was preparing for His visit!  She had good works to do for Him!  But in her busy distraction, she left Him to seek and to justify herself.  Mary chose the better portion, which shall not be taken from her.  In her quiet union with the Lord, she gathered treasure to carry with her into eternity.

The Church today needs prayer.  Who will meet with the Lord in prayer?  Who will pray for our priests and bishops?  Who will pray for our families?  Who will pray for our Catholic politicians?  Who will pray for those among us who have no idea how to pray, or the value of prayer, or their desperate need for the fruits of prayer in their own lives?  Who will pray for overflowing showers of graces to pour upon the Church and give us life?



  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you for reminding us as this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart begins, to hear Jesus’ words on the “one thing necessary”. The one thing necessary is truly our relationship with Him, but we risk losing Him in all our busyness.

    Since Trinity Sunday, I have been reading the work of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite nun of France. In her letters she encourages her family and friends to intimate listening and solitude with Jesus.

    How we all need to encourage one another to “make time” and not neglect Him Who has loved us to the end. Let me quote from one of her letters:

    “Dear Madame , will you allow the little Carmelite who loves you so dearly to tell you something on the part of the Divine Master ? It is what He said to St. Catherine of Siena: “Think of Me and I will think of thee.” We look at ourselves too much; we want to see and comprehend, and have not sufficient confidence in Him Who enfolds us in His charity. We must not stand before our cross to examine it, but, drawing back into the light of faith, we must rise above it, and consider it as the instrument used by divine love. “But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her.” This “better part,” which seems my privilege in my loved solitude in Carmel, is offered by God to every Christian soul.

    He offers it to you, dear Madame, among all your cares and anxieties. You must believe that all He wishes is to lead you ever farther and farther into Himself. Yield yourself up to Him with all your troubles … I have found my heaven on earth, since heaven is God, and God is in my soul. On the day that I understood that, I saw everything in a new light, and I want to tell all those I love of it, so that they, too, may adhere to God whatever happens, and Christ’s prayer may be realized: “That they may be made perfect in one.”

    Come, Holy Spirit, perfect us in charity. Teach us to love as Jesus loves us. Enable us to enfold all in our prayer as Jesus did. Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us.

  2. I’ve read this scripture so many times, and somehow have never been able to deeply reflect on this point. Thank you, Deborah and Thomas, for your blog/ fellowship. We often forget the power and mystery of prayer. What a great blessing this reflection has been!
    God Bless!

  3. […] also The One Thing Necessary blog post.) Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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