In this Sunday’s gospel, we reflect on the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Mary is often equated with the contemplative lifeand Martha with the active life. In this particular context, Jesus reveals that Mary made the better choice, but it was a choice for a specific moment, place, and circumstance. Jesus is reminding us that our choices do matter. But Jesus is not necessarily saying that sitting and listeningis better than being active and busy. While we might distinguish between the choices of Mary and Martha, there is another more important theme: the gift of presence. Both Mary and Martha represent two ways of being present. Both ways are necessary, faithful and holy. There is not simply one choice that is to be made forever and always. We are asked this Sunday to be a faith community that must discern what God is inviting us to do in each moment and situation. What is the one thing needed in this time, this place, these circumstances?
The story of Mary and Martha is a reflection about the choices we make every day. We are always making choices.I wonder how many choices we make every day? Sometimes we may choose unconsciously, sometimes quickly and easily, and other times with great deliberation and struggle. Some choices are insignificant, forgotten in a moment or by the next day. But other choices have far greater meaning and significance. The consequences of our choices can be long lasting and life changing. Our daily choices ultimately shape the person that we become. They establish in us patterns, behaviors and habitsof how we see and act, the words we speak, and the ways we relate to one another. Our choices set a trajectory for our lives. Our choices do make a difference in us and in the lives of others.
Too often we equate the choices we make, and their subsequent approval or rejection, with our goodness, our worthiness, our acceptableness, our faithfulness, our lovable-ness. That’s what most spiritual reflections have done with the story of Mary and Martha. But change the setting and Martha’s choice may have been the better one. We can see that in Jesus’ own life. Sometimes he went off by himself to be alone, silent, still, to pray, to sit and listen, and to be present to his Father. At those times he was more like Mary. Other times Jesus was active, on the move, in the midst of people, and busy teaching, healing, feeding 5000. On those days he was more like Martha.
When we reflect on some of our choices, we may be certain that it was the right choice to be made in that moment. If I had to do it all again, I would make the same choice, and do so with the same thanksgiving and gratitude. But there have also been times when I made what I thought was the right choice, but now I see that there was a better choice to have been made. I would do things differently if I had the chance to choose again. I suspect most of us could say the same thing. This weekend’s gospel reminds us that every day we are called to a deeper awareness of the connection between our relationship with Christ and our choices. With Christ comes a new way of choosing. When we can reconnect with our higher self, our heart, and with God, take responsibility for what is going on in our life, and for our own behaviors (patterns and fears), we will change our life and the life of others and be well on the way to finding a new joy!
Some days our choices may mean sitting quietly and listening to the heartbeat of God within us, reading and studying, watching a sunset with our spouse, or praying for the needs of the greater world. Other days, it may mean speaking words of hope and encouragement to another, offering actions of compassion and hospitality, seeking forgiveness and making amends, or just spending quality time with another. We are reminded by Christ that we must each choose our way into life, love, relationships, faith, and even salvation, and that our choices do matter. Choose the better part! But there will be another choice to be made after that, and another one after that one. Either way we must choose. Let us take a moment and reflect on our relationship with Christ and the choices we make.
What is the one thing needed that will keep us awake, aware, open, receptive, and present to Christ?
What is the one thing we need to do right now, in this moment, just for now?
What is the better part given our particular situation?
How do we be present, show up, to the divine presence that is already and always before us?
What patterns are going on in our life that are interfering with and blocking our joy?
O God, help me to choose rightly—and to choose the right way. Help me not necessarily to choose what I want to do, but what you want me to do. Grant that I may not be swayed solely by fear or by hope of gain, by selfish love of ease or comfort or by personal ambition, by the desire to escape or by longing for prestige. Help me today in humble obedience to say to you, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” and then await your guidance, and accept your will. Amen.