Thinking thoughts of gratitude for people, … gives me energy
“Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?” It seems to be a regular part of family life that we all “complain” about another family member from time to time.
And, yet, today’s Gospel reveals Jesus enjoying the company of this family; revealing, firstly, that God is very comfortable with us in real life: like a tolerant grandfather.
For many people, today’s Gospel is about the difference between workers and thinkers. And, as our world becomes more focused on productivity and usefulness of things, Mary gets little praise. Many are sympathetic with Martha.
However, the deeper issue here is not about active and not-active, it’s about creating space to listen to God speaking to us. This does not mean we must always stop working to listen to God. Sometimes stopping is not possible.
While studying Kiswahili in Tanzania, in 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.
In the same way, many of us cannot stop, like religious, for long periods of prayer and meditation every day: people are busy surviving. However, unless we want to become unhappy slaves, it’s critical that we find ways to listen to God during our work and “play” time.
Each day – not just each year – we need a few minutes to ourselves: a few minutes of silence to reflect and appreciate what has been. But, more importantly, we need to be alert during our work and “play” to the presence of God in ordinary ways.
Yesterday, as I picked some water-proof materials, the dispatch lady said: “you are visiting us every day?” I replied: “yes, I need to see your smiles and hear your laughter.” She had a good laugh about that. But I said, “it’s really a blessing when we customers come and the staff are smiling and happy with us. It brings real joy and lightness to our busy lives.” It’s a form of hospitality costing no money, and yet the joy and peace received is the presence of God.
At the same company in the main office, the salesman brought their General Manager over to greet me. He’s from Serbia and also had a good smile. When he left, the office lady preparing the invoice whispered to me: “He’s just the best boss.”
I believe that when Jesus says “Mary has chosen the better part,” he is not criticising 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 recognise God in the people we meet. We sometimes say, “oh, he’s a nice person.” Or, “she’s a very kind lady.” All we need to do is add something like this: “Thank you God for blessing me through that person.” Or “Thank you God for helping me through that person.”
When we do acknowledge God’s presence like that, then we are like Mary “who has taken the better part.” Even though life is often tough, especially for parents trying to make ends meet, or our youth fighting to make a way in life, the more we can acknowledge God’s presence and action in our daily life, the more peace we will feel in our hearts.
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.
I pray that each of us can have that enthusiasm shown by Abraham in today’s first reading to be Hospitable, first of all in our hearts and minds, so that we can recognise God present to us each day. I pray this because the blessing of a son for Sarah was a result of that hospitality. And I want each one of us to also have a blessing to come.
The promise of a son to Sarah, is a sign that goodness, joy and peace are not instant results of doing something, but are the fruit of a habitual way of life.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI