Positive energy comes when we think positively at work, and slow to critize others
The first thought that came to me after reading the Gospel once more this year, was this: Martha said: “Please tell her to help me.” And this is the problem: she wants God to do what she should do: should it be God who tells Mary to get up and help, or Martha asking her?
Ordinarily, we think the message in this Gospel is about priorities; which is true enough. However, when connected to the First Reading, we see the difference in attitude between Martha and Abraham.
Abraham was very busy organizing and preparing, and did not become upset or feel others should do more. He was active, generous, silent, and listening. And the Angels spoke to him.
However, Martha, was busy complaining, so that she did not hear God speaking to her until Jesus corrected her. So, perhaps the deeper message today is the need to serve others without complaining or feeling sorry for ourselves.
As we focus inwards (complaining, feeling sorry for ourselves), our inner “ear” becomes blocked and we cannot hear the Holy Spirit talking to us: when the Spirit talks to us we discern meaning in our work and in our struggles.
For example, say a couple are annoyed with each other. As they look inward, feeling that the other person has been treating me unfairly, we can miss the opportunity to hear God suggesting: this is an opportunity to help the other person be transformed. Rather than force the other person, one patiently waits in hope, and with gentleness= real love. Additionally, during this time of patience, one also needs the humility to reflect on whether they have also done wrong?
While studying Kiswahili in Tanzania (2010), I rested for one week at a parish in Mwanza. They had tried to reach out to street children to teach them the faith and encourage them in life. But the children said: “if we stop for 1 hour to listen, we will go hungry because we have not collected enough rubbish to sell for our lunch.” So they provided some little lunch money.
All couples need to spend time together and listen to each other. Each spouse needs to make some sacrifice to create that time and space to dialogue: being too busy can kill communication.
Unlike Religious, most people cannot stop for long periods of prayer and meditation every day: people are busy surviving. However, to avoid becoming unhappy “slaves,” it’s critical that we all find ways to listen to God during our work and “play” time.
Each day – not just each year – we need a few minutes by ourselves: a few minutes of silence to reflect and appreciate our relationships: eg. driving to/from work; going for daily walk/run.
I believe that when Jesus says “Mary has chosen the better part,” he is not criticizing Martha for being active, but for not “hearing” God in the midst of her work. What she is doing is important and necessary: but she is feeling annoyed instead of happy to be helping.
What’s missing in many people’s lives is the ability, like Abraham in our First reading, to recognize God in the people we meet. We sometimes say, “oh, he’s a nice person.” Or, “she’s a very kind lady.” All we have to do is add: “Thank you God for blessing me through xyz.”
I’m fortunate to be active in my life. Each day I use my driving time –usually alone– to reflect on the day and thanking God for those who have made a difference in lightening the load.
Of course, sometimes like Martha, I find myself “murdering” one or two people. But thinking like that, makes me feel tired; while thinking thoughts of gratitude for people, gives me energy.
Let’s remember, we are co-creators: like God we help transform others and serve others. The key is to decide that in my work I’m going to be happy and appreciate it.
Then, with God’s grace, we will hear the Holy Spirit whispering to us: “next year, without fail, …your life will be blessed with new life.”
By Gerard Conlan, OMI