Posted by: Thomas Richard | February 23, 2017

The Interior Life, and Martha and Mary

martha-and-mary-icon_edited-1smSome people, it is difficult to say “out-loud” like this, do not have an interior life.  Oh they are alive, in the natural sense of the word.  But in the supernatural sense of the word, in the sense that God wants us to have, they do not have much of an interior life, if at all.  An example in Scripture that suggests itself to me, is the Martha and Mary encounter with Jesus who had come for dinner, at their house.  We read,

Lk 10:38  As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
39 She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
40 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.”
41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

There in the presence of One who was at least a remarkable wise rabbi, if not yet known to them as the Holy God Incarnate, the Christ, Martha was distracted – “burdened” – with much serving.  Martha was living in and busy with the “outside” things – things to do, things to be responsible for, external matters that can define one’s life and one’s own person and one’s reason for being.  But the human person is much more than this!  The human person, each and every one of us, was created by God for much more – and Jesus came to reveal this “more” to us!

Mary, on the other hand, was seemingly oblivious to the busyness that so preoccupied her sister.  Mary was content – and apparently completely occupied – with just listening to this remarkable and fully engaging guest.  She sat there, at His feet – like a disciple would do – listening, just listening to His precious words.

Now this irresponsible behavior of Mary did not escape the notice of her sister Martha.  She, focused on the absence of her sister in the kitchen, was possibly unaware of the inappropriateness of what she was about to do.  She went to Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”  While Mary is quiet, listening and learning in His presence, Martha is presuming and ordering Him what He should do!  She presumes (and judges) that Jesus does not care about her, and that her sister does not care about her either, having left her alone to do the necessary work.

But what is necessary, in this moment with Jesus?  What is it that must be done?  Jesus communicates only tenderness toward Martha, but He says what must be said in the correction that authentic love requires: “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.”

An interior life is the great good that makes us human.  What good is great success in the world outside of us, if the life inside of us is shriveling and drying up with thirst for that living water of the Holy Spirit – perishing in hunger for that Bread of Life that Jesus came to give us?  What good is accomplished if a man gains the whole world, but loses his soul – his life – his very self?

One thing is necessary – one thing.

The interior life is the unspeakably precious communion with God in the inner man, in the depths of the soul, in the quiet purity of holiness.  Life itself – supernatural life itself – is communion with Him, in a dwelling place unreachable and untouchable by any other.  There, at the foundations of the person, in the interior temple reserved for God and created and placed there by Him, there is the place of communion and the blessed bond of prayer.  The Catechism has this: “Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ.” (#2564)

The interior life is the life of prayer.  It needs to be sought – and then, when found, cherished – protected – guarded – nurtured and tended.  It is neglected or assumed or presumed upon, at one’s own grave risk.  Jesus said it well, of course: “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”  It will not be taken because it is eternal, it is of God Himself and He is eternal.  But it can be lost.  How foolish, though, to lose the eternal in exchange for what is passing!  May God help us all to be wise, as we walk through this passing world.

And by the way: lest any readers leave this post, worried about or defensive of Martha – don’t worry about her.  She’s a saint now in heaven – she’s St. Martha!  And that is because she listened to Jesus, and watched Him, and her sister Mary, and she learned.  She grew in grace, and found the right and necessary “because of’s” for doing the service that she was naturally drawn to do, for others, in supernatural love.  This is what God wants for us: to be learners, and to learn, and to discover that precious inner life with Him.


Does the Blog look a bit different?

If you haven’t noticed yet, please do notice that this website has changed quite a bit.  The Blog is as it was, except that now it is within a larger site, “Renew the Church.”  In the larger site are included several pages, with more on the way.  The menu, to date, is seen in the column on the right, the first menu being the Renew the Church pages, the second and lower menu being the old Blog posts as before.

There are several pages of videos, which you may want to investigate.  My hope is that this larger website will be more helpful to any and all who do want to grow in the interior life.  Most pages offer a “Comments” section, which I am always grateful to read.  I will OK the posting of all that I judge to be helpful to readers and to myself.  Blessings!  Let us pray for one another.  St. Martha and St. Mary, pray for us.

Thomas Richard


  1. Dear Thomas,

    How Good God is! How beautiful is the Body of Christ in which each member is enabled by His Grace to know and love the Truth who is Jesus and to serve Him in all the other members of His Body! Thank you so much both for this new blog entry and for the whole “new look” of the combined website and blog to give a fuller witness to the Truth God has given to, and continues giving to each member, by the power of His Holy Spirit through Mary our Mother.

    It is easier, perhaps, to think the story of Martha and Mary is an “either / or” choice. Often people say, “I’m a Martha” or “I’m a Mary”, but Jesus’ Words to Martha give us much more to ponder. We are actually called to be both — sitting at the feet of Jesus as Mary, and serving Him as Martha. We are all called to be saints and hence we are all called to holiness, to be learners (disciples of Jesus) who sit at His feet to receive Him, in Truth and Love, to then give Him to others in our service. Thanks again, Thomas for your loving service to God and to His Holy Church.

  2. Hey Thomas, what a sweet and beautiful blog entry. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and encouragement along the path to holiness. God be with you, dear brother.

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