There is an interesting connection between the First Reading (Genesis 18:1-10) and today’s Gospel (Luke 10:38-42). On the surface, Abraham goes out of his way to provide hospitality to his three visitors (the Lord in disguise). Likewise, Martha and Mary are extending hospitality to the Lord. This theme common to both readings seems to be their willingness to serve the Lord.
Then comes the new wrinkle in the gospel: Martha puts in a complaint that she’s doing all the work, or at least needs help. So she tells the Lord to “disengage” Mary from his teaching, so that Mary can assist her in the kitchen. The Lord surprisingly refuses, and replies to Martha that Mary has made a very good choice – in fact, the only choice one should ever make!
That clearly is the point of the gospel story: listening to the Lord and resting in his presence is more important that busying oneself with the duties or routines of daily life. Mary chose to listen to the Lord; Martha chose (as her first priority) to work in the kitchen. Both are necessary, but when the Lord is present, our own agenda must be put aside to hear what the Lord wishes to teach us.
Martha gained more status in the eyes of the Church because she was the one who later came forward and conveyed her belief in the divinity of Jesus. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Martha told him, “She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world” (John 11:27). It could be that Jesus worked his miracle of raising Lazarus only because of Martha’s faith. In any case, Martha’s profession of faith earnt her a special, annual feast day, July 29.
The duty of passing forward the Lord’s teachings is now the responsibility of every lay Christian by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation. This is how the world can hear the Gospel and come to know Christ. Remember, faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17)!