The One Thing Needed: A Retreat Guide on Martha and Mary

One of the most memorable scenes from the Gospel of Luke takes place in Bethany, when Jesus and his Twelve Apostles visit the home of Martha and Mary. In just a few verses, St. Luke paints a picture that we can all identify with. He shows The One Thing NeededMartha worried and working hard to entertain the guests and make sure the dinner (and everything) comes out just right. She wants everything to be perfect, and she gets flustered and feels overwhelmed. And then she realizes that her sister Mary is doing absolutely nothing to help! Instead, Mary is sitting calmly in the living room, at the feet of Jesus, drinking in his conversation. We can just picture Martha’s indignation and disbelief. She’s had enough! So she marches right into that living room, and without even deigning to acknowledge her sister, she tells Jesus – notice that: She doesn’t ask him nicely, she actually tells him to order her sister to get up and get to work, and in the process, she even chastises the Lord himself!

We can all relate to the situation. It’s so real. It’s so typical of us human beings. And in the midst of such a real, typical situation – a little family squabble – Jesus gives us one of his most unforgettable lessons. The mere fact that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, shared such mundane experiences is a powerful lesson. But what he says in response to Martha’s petition, and what it means, can literally transform our lives.

Today’s world offers us so much! Wherever we go, products and possibilities battle raucously for our attention and our commitment. Visual noise, mind noise, noise noise… Amidst all the noise, how can we focus on what really matters?

In this Retreat Guide, The One Thing Needed: A Retreat Guide on Martha and Mary, that’s what we will reflect on.
·        The first meditation looks at what Jesus calls “the one thing needed.”
·        The second meditation looks at the relationship between that one thing and all the other things that make up our daily life.
·        And the conference reviews God’s own not-so-secret formula for helping us keep our priorities straight: the Third Commandment.

As always, this Retreat Guide can be watched, listened to, or read – whichever helps you pray better. Check it out now at (Scroll down the page. It is number eight on the list of retreats). Like us on Facebook at

Yours in Christ,
Fr. John Bartunek, LC


Art for this post on The One Thing Needed: A Retreat Guide on Martha and Mary: Christus bei Maria und Martha (Christ with Mary and Martha), Adolf Zimmermann, 1836, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Retreat logo used with permission of

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