Friday, July 29, 2016

Be in the Moment

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”  The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Lord, may I be truly present to you in prayer and in my interactions with my brothers and sisters.

Christ in the House of Martha 
and Mary, Johannes Vermeer 
From Wikimedia Commons
Several years ago, on a Saturday when I was having company for dinner, I called my father in the middle of the afternoon.  “Dad, I just made a huge discovery.  I can’t be Mom’s daughter.  It’s only 2:00 pm and my guests aren’t coming till 5:00, and I have nothing to do.  I’m ready and the food is ready to pop into the oven at the appropriate time.  I simply can’t be related to Mom.”  He still had a sense of humor at that point, and he laughed and laughed.  He knew exactly what I meant.  My mother was Martha on steroids when it came to entertaining.  We all dreaded hearing that she had invited company for dinner.  She always planned something elaborate and then fussed and fumed and rushed around for hours on the appointed day.  She maintained that she never enjoyed her meal after a day of such anxiety and hard work.  Not surprising.

In spite of the fact that all her anxiety and worry and rushing around caused her to become exhausted and unable to enjoy her guests or her meal, my mother always insisted that when it came to this story in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus got it wrong.   Jesus should have praised Martha for all her hard work as a hostess and should have told Mary to help her sister.  There’s no time for just sitting around and talking.

I’m afraid my mom got it all wrong.  It’s not a contest between Mary and Martha or between listening and doing.  A balanced life calls for both contemplation and action.  Jesus isn’t picking one as preferable to the other.  The Lord is focusing on Mary’s anxieties and worries.  They are keeping her from enjoying the evening, and they are hindering her from being truly present to Jesus, her sister, and maybe even her innermost self.

Worrying is a distraction.  It prevents us from being present to God in prayer.  Anxiety can have a person’s head in a thousand places other than the present moment.  God wants to be with us and hopes we will want to be with God, but fretting can get in the way.  God is always present, but, mentally and emotionally, we are sometimes somewhere else. 

We first need to be like Mary, giving our full attention to Jesus.  When we do that, we listen and discover what it is God has for us to do.  Being and doing in the presence of God are equally important.  One flows from the other.  Jesus loves both Martha and Mary.  The Lord knows there’s a time for listening and a time for action, but both can be hindered by giving in to all manner of worry and anxiety.


When you pray today, open your hands wide and release your worries and anxieties.  Let the Lord help carry your burdens.  Trust in God to care for you.  Be present to the One who loves you beyond measure.  God has something for you to do.  Listen carefully to see if you can hear discern what that might be.     

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