The two women are often used as symbols of the active and contemplative life. Here's a commentary on them by St. Gregory the Great:
|Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (Johannes Vermeer)|
These two lives are well symbolised by the two women Martha and Mary.... Note carefully that the part of Martha was not blamed, but that of Mary was praised. He didn’t say that Mary had chosen the good part: he said it was the best, in order to show that Martha’s part was still good. He made it clear what he meant by the “best” part of Mary when he specified that it would not be taken away from her. For the active life comes to an end with the death of the body.
...On the other hand, we must realise that although it is normal and good for the active life to pass over into the contemplative life, often the soul is driven from contemplation to active works of charity. Precisely the contemplative vision calls us back to activity, for it understands that the labor of good works must never be abandoned while we are in this life.