If you look at the first reading, you see Abraham getting to be in the presence of the Lord. When you consider the responsorial psalm “he who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord”, you can see that this is true of Abraham. He has served the will of God and is rewarded with time in his presence.
Sarah is serving in a different way, as she is preparing the bread. Abraham is told that she will be visited in a year and will have a son, so her service is rewarded as well.
In the psalm, we see a brief outline on how to serve the Lord. In the second reading, we see Paul explaining his service and sufferings for the Lord.
Then we have the Gospel which at first seems counter to this. Martha is serving, yet Mary seems to be enjoying the reward of the presence of the Lord while not helping. Why is this?
while pondering this in the past, I found the following two articles from Joe Heschmeyer very insightful and helped to put things in perspective for me:
Simon and Mary: Learning from the TWO Anointings of Christ
The Two Liturgical Rules I Wish Everyone Would Follow
The stories of Mary’s anointing of Jesus are quite helpful to understanding Jesus’ response to Martha.
First, in Luke 7:36-50, we see Mary anointing Jesus early in his ministry. She washes his feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair and anointed him with oil. Simon the Pharisee is outraged that Jesus is letting such a sinful woman touch him, but Jesus then uses a parable to correct Simon and praise Mary’s humble and repentant actions. Then, in Luke 8:1-3, we see that Mary begins following Jesus and the twelve and, along with the other women, “provide for them out of their means.”
We then have Mary anointing Jesus a second time shortly before his passion (Matthew 26:6-13 Mark 14:3-9 John 12:1-8). This time with even more oil worth 300 denarii. We then see Judas outraged because this money could have been used for the poor, yet we see in John 12:6 that this is actually because Judas was a thief and as the money box holder, was stealing from this money.
If we look back to Luke 8:1-3 where we are told Mary was one of the ones providing for the apostles, we can see why he was so outraged as one of their financers was “wasting” money on expensive oil instead of putting it where Judas could get his hands on it.
Then in John 12:7-8, we see Jesus foreshadowing his death and praising Mary’s actions: "7 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
We then have Mary going a third time to anoint the Lord in Mark 16:1 and John 20:1-3. Mary finds not a body to be anointed, but that our Lord has risen and she is sent to tell the disciples.
In the first anointing, we see that Mary has dedicated herself to serving the Lord. In the second anointing, we see Jesus showing that the things of the world will always be here (service, suffering, chores, poverty, money, etc…) yet he will not. In the third anointing, we see Mary being sent away from Jesus in “service”, being sent to tell the apostles what she has seen.
When we apply all this to the situation with Martha, we can see that Mary is being used as an example to teach others two important lessons: That those who do justice will live in the presence of the Lord, and that we should not let the things of this world distract us from living in the presence of the Lord.