From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
July 17 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We hear another familiar story this week. The visit of Jesus to see Martha and Mary. We seem to be presented with a choice to be like Martha – always the servant – or like Mary – sitting at the feet of Jesus. Jesus tells us that Mary has chosen the better part. Can it be so simple? Is Jesus suggesting that we shouldn’t work hard and serve others? I struggle to square that idea after hearing the message of last week. Perhaps that is why Luke has provided these parables back to back. Between the two, we find the balance we are called to as well as how we are to achieve it. Last week was all about passion and compassion. This week is all about presence and discernment.
Last week, when the scholar asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, the answer really had two parts – Love God and love your neighbor. In the story of the Good Samaritan, we learn that we are to act and to serve with a passion and love for, in particular, those who are vulnerable and in need. When someone is hurting, nothing should get in the way of our care for them. Our concern should not be fleeting, but should persist to see them to a better place. That is not always easy, and can prove overwhelming for us as well.
Today’s readings give us the clue to how to accomplish this monumental task of loving our neighbor. In St. Paul’s letter he tells us of the mystery of the presence of Christ in us – our purpose for being. It is the presence of Christ in us which drives our desire to love neighbor. It is only with God’s help, and the guidance of the Spirit that we are able to serve our neighbor and thus the Lord. We treasure the presence of Christ within each of us, within our homes and in our community.
Martha takes great care to attend to the Lord’s every need. I suspect she would have done so for any visitor. She is like so many of us who work hard day in and day out. Jesus is not suggesting that her efforts are inappropriate. In her complaints though, he likely recognizes her frustrations and the feelings of burden. Our efforts to care for others should never be burdensome, if done out of love. What he does point her to is the source of strength to sustain us in all we do.
It is Christ himself whom Mary listens to. His presence in each of us is not to be taken away, but rather embraced to feed us. We need to make time every day to recognize His presence within us. We need to stop and hear the Lord in the silence. We cannot allow the many concerns of our lives to hide the only thing that matters, the presence of Jesus. Being aware of God’s presence and wrapping it in prayer feeds our ability to love and serve him. Neither part stands on its own. Listening to the Lord fuels our love of God. That love is manifested through our service and love of neighbor which leads us back to the Lord.
As Vincentians, we are challenged to continually discern and seek the balance between ‘doing’ and ‘being.’ It is easy for us to get out of balance, becoming totally focused on providing service to others. We can become like Martha, losing sight of the source of our goodness and the reason for our service. We need to keep a balance by spending time at the feet of the Lord being present to His will for us and His presence in us! How much time do I spend in prayer every day? How do I recall His presence within me, even as I do His work?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the grace of your presence in my life. Help me to take time to sit in your presence, listening for your will in my life. Help me to spend time in prayer and adoration before you, seeking always to know and do your will. Let my service be in response to my love for you. Let me come humbly to you seeking always to be your servant and your presence in the life of those you bring before me. We pray all of this in your name. Amen