Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain
village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a
sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was
saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and
asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the
work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her,
"Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is
need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be
taken away from her."
This story concerning Mary and Martha has often been used by
spiritual writers to prove the superiority of the contemplative life over the
active pastoral form of life. The more correct lesson which the story of Mary
and Martha seems to have is that we must not let the affairs of this life,
innocent though they be in themselves, prevent us from attending primarily to
the one affair that really matters our future life.
The emphasis then is on Martha rather than on Mary. In her
over-excitement to prove herself a kind and true hostess, she bent all her energies
to preparing an excellent meal. She had no time to listen to the Master’s words
of divine wisdom. The work she was doing was excellent and faultless in itself.
She need not and should not have excluded learning from Jesus’ teaching while
doing that good work.
Like Martha, many good Christians are anxious and upset
about many earthly concerns. These concerns are necessary. This we know. A man
must earn his daily bread; a wife must look after the family. This is what God
himself expects us to do. What we need not and must not do is to forget or
exclude God in the process.
Our daily tasks, whether in the office, workshop, or home,
are prayers that are honouring God and thanking him for the many gifts of mind
and body that he has given us. If we offer them to him and do them with this
intention, they are indeed perfect prayers.
This is where so many fail. They spend days, months, may be
years, intent solely on their earthly tasks, without a thought for their future
fate in the life that is to come. Yet a truly profitable Christian life is so
easy for the vast majority of true Christians. A short morning prayer can be
said while dressing. Thus we offer to God the day with all its joys and
sorrows, all its trials and tests. It will mean that the day is registered to
our account in the Book of Life. A few moments of thought for God and his
goodness every now and then during the day will help immensely to keep our
morning offering alive and active. A few moments on one’s knees beside the bed
before retiring to rest, thanking God for the day he has given us, and asking
pardon for the faults committed, is not too difficult for anyone.
A day such as this is a day spent in the service of God,
such as will ensure a happy future when our last day comes. Mass and Holy
Communion will round out each week for all practicing Christians.
Yes, while active in the necessary affairs of this world,
providing for the earthly necessities of ourselves and our dependents, we can
at the same time, if we are sensible and sincere Christians, be storing up
merits for ourselves. These merits will give us a pleasant surprise when the
day of reckoning comes. Amen.