In the Gospel Jesus told Martha that her sister Mary “has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
That “better part” was her letting herself be completely absorbed in Our Lord’s presence. For years I have subscribed to “Commonweal” a Catholic magazine published by earnest Catholic lay people. In the latest copy, I read an article on Mysticism by Lawrence Cunningham, a longtime Religion professor at Notre Dame.
I hear people talking about mysticism, and I have always been a little against it, as though it was being holy for one's own sake, instead of just thinking of helping those in need. But in his article Lawrence Cunningham straightened me out.
He said mysticism is being absorbed in God’s presence the way Mary was in today’s Gospel.
In Isaiah Chapter Eleven when he enumerated the gifts of the Holy Spirit Isaiah named the six of them like this: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. The last one, fear of the Lord, is not really fear. It denotes a constant awareness of God’s presence that puts us on good behavior.
In the next verse Isaiah, after thinking back over the six gifts, said “His delight shall be fear of the Lord.” In other words, of all the gifts we might receive from God, the greatest is our awareness of living in his presence. That awareness is what Mary had, and would not give up.