It is becoming increasingly difficult to be a Mary in a Martha world. It seems that these days we are never not connected to something. We are constantly on our cell phones, iPads, and our computers. We take very little time to just sit and reflect and relax. Indeed one might say that we have lost the ability to just listen.
One would expect that Martha would be very comfortable in the modern world. She is frenetic. She is busy doing so many things, that the things become more important than why she's doing them.
Jesus is a guest in the home of Martha and Mary. Mary understands and appreciates the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus, to ask questions and to learn from him. She has the ability to rest. Martha, on the other hand, looks like so many of us in our daily lives. She does not appreciate the presence of God in her midst. Indeed we might say that Martha takes for granted that Jesus is sitting in her home.
In our daily spiritual lives we can get so busy, even in doing the good things, but we never take the time to rest, relax, and sit with the Lord. The challenge for each of us as we move forward in our lives is to find that experience of being a Mary; being one who is able to sit and rest with the Lord.
It is not just the Lord with whom we need to sit and rest. By not taking the real time to listen to one another we are threatening our ability to authentically love one another. We are unable to attend to the needs of the other or to allow the other to become a real and living person for us.
Mary listened to Jesus. Martha ignored Jesus by making him feel unwelcome as a guest in her own home. This was not her intention. She believed that she was doing the "right" thing by being the best hostess that she could be. We might believe that she was preparing a very fine meal, with the best linens and the nicest table. She knew no other way to prepare for the coming of Jesus into her home.
As we move about our daily lives we need to become more hospitable, more welcoming, more open to the presence of Christ in our lives. We do so when we take the time for personal prayer. In a very particular way this can be done as we go to church for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. But of course we can pray in any open church or in any place whatsoever. We know that the Lord is always in our midst and we are always in his. It is important for us to place ourselves in the presence of Christ in our daily lives. This will enable us to grow in a more full and complete way as his disciples. It isn't easy. Our world is a Martha world not a Mary world. It is increasingly difficult to step out of the Martha of our lives into the Mary parts of our lives. Even on vacation we see people sitting on the beach checking their cell phones, reading their emails, catching up with work. This is not the primary focus of our lives, or at least it ought not to be.
Let us take this experience of being a disciple of Jesus into the world not as a doer but as a hearer. We need to take the time to read the Scriptures and in the silence of prayer spend time at the feet of Jesus. It is when we become contemplative, when we open ourselves our minds our hearts our lives to the presence of the action of God that we become more complete disciples of Jesus. Only after we have spent time as Mary can we become effective Martha’s in the world.
July 24 – Jesus prays and teaches us to do the same
The image of Jesus at prayer is very common in the Gospels, particularly in St. Luke’s Gospel. It is interesting however that Jesus never instructs his disciples how to pray until they ask. This demonstrates that Jesus does not intend to impose prayer on his disciples until they have developed their own longing and yearning to do so. Certainly as members of the Jewish community his disciples were very familiar with formal prayer as that is very deeply a part of that tradition. At the same time however, his disciples recognized in him a different style, a different intensity of prayer than they were accustomed to in their own tradition.
The disciples also note that John the Baptizer had taught his disciples how to pray. Some of Jesus’ disciples had followed John before they met Jesus and were familiar with the tradition that John handed on to them.
When Jesus instructed his disciples to pray he teaches them the familiar prayer that we all know and say in our daily lives: the “Our Father.” Although the version of the prayer in Luke's Gospel is different than the one we are accustomed to from Matthew and from the ancient work the Didache where the prayer was also found, nonetheless the fundamental elements of the prayer are the same.
Essentially in teaching his disciples to pray Jesus offers them not just an individual prayer but an attitude and an outline for prayer.
Prayer is at the very heart of our lives as disciples of Jesus. Taking an attitude and disposition of prayer is fundamental to who we are. Last week we saw that Mary needed to spend the quiet time listening to Jesus. So do we all. Often we think of prayer as doing in our lives, as a speaking; prayer is an action that we engage in. Prayer is also contemplation, a reflection on the presence of God.
When we pray we address God as "Our Father,” a fundamental recognition of our intimate and personal relationship with God. This relationship enables the dialogue of prayer to become real, to have an effect in our lives. By recognizing prayer as a dialogue not only must we be active in speaking we must also be active in listening. We do this as we place ourselves in God's holy presence. This is really the most fundamental aspect of prayer: to recognize that we are in the presence of our almighty God. God: A Father who loves us, sustains us, and to whom we have the privilege and the honor of asking for the petitions that follow. We ask God that we might share in his kingdom and that his kingdom will become active and present in the world. We pray to the Lord for our daily bread, our basic sustenance. These are our human physical needs to be sure but also our spiritual needs that we are fed with the "spiritual bread" the Eucharist which sustains us every day. We also pray for the forgiveness of our sins. A unique distinction in Luke is that we pray to God that our sins may be forgiven while we forgive the debts of others. That is a very specific and precise distinction that Luke notes. We must be conscious of our need to experience and express this mercy. Particularly in this extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy we recognize our need for God's mercy and also the need for ourselves to be merciful to those in the world in which we live. Finally we ask not to be put to the final test; not to be subjected to the judgment that leads not to eternal life but to eternal damnation. We plead with God for his mercy to be active and present in our lives. Let us be attentive in the role and the presence of prayer in our lives recognizing the need each and every one of us has to experience God's love, God's presence, and God's mercy each day.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.