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The One Thing
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, in this time of prayer, I want to sit at your feet, like Mary. I want to listen to you speaking to me. You know that I am so often anxious and worried about many things, and I let those concerns distract me from you, and sometimes, they even keep me from making time for prayer. Lord, give me the grace to desire you above all else. Help me trust that if I make time for you in prayer, the effects will overflow into every aspect of my life. Lord, I believe that you are the source of everything good. I hope in your provision for all my needs. I trust you with those things that are heavy on my heart. Help me know that making this time of prayer is an act of love for you and that it will transform me, if I let it.
- One Thing: Martha welcomed Jesus and then busied herself with the details of hospitality. We can imagine how much she desired to show her respect and affection for Jesus through that hospitality. Wanting to provide the best for Jesus became such a focus, however, that it took her attention off of Jesus himself. This same thing can happen to us! We may become so involved in our apostolic work that we skimp on our prayer time, or miss it all together. Jesus wants our hearts. What we do should flow from our love for him and what we hear him ask of us. We are called to honor Jesus through our work, but to do so, we must keep Jesus at the center of everything. We can ask ourselves, “What do I busy myself with to the extent that it takes my attention off of you, Lord? What do I allow to get in the way of listening to you in prayer?”
- At His Feet: The most important thing to Mary was to sit at Jesus’ feet so that she could come to know him better and be formed as a disciple by him. Her attention was on what he said. We also have to take time to sit at Jesus’ feet so that we can share what we learn and experience. St. Thomas Aquinas is credited with the Dominican motto: Contemplata aliis tradere—“To contemplate and to share the fruits of our contemplation.” We cannot be satisfied only with efforts for our own sanctification; we are called to work for the sanctification of others. We can consider it a form of charity to form ourselves as we contemplate Our Lord, so that we can help others encounter the Lord and come to know him. In 1 Peter 3:15, we read, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…” How well prepared are we to speak to others about Christ and his Church, both from our personal experience of him and by knowledge of Scripture and tradition?
- Both: As Christians, we are called to be both active (evangelizing) and contemplative. Therefore, it is essential that our lives are grounded in Scripture, the teachings of the Church, and prayer. It is also essential that we take seriously the call we received in Baptism to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). We help others not only encounter Christ and come to know his love; we also help them recognize their own call to touch others with the Gospel message as missionary disciples. As Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Matthew 28:19)… The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization” (n. 120). We can ask ourselves, “Are there obstacles in my life to living this aspect of faith?”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, looking at Martha and Mary, I am challenged both to deepen my prayer life and to reach out in active efforts to evangelize. You know my heart. You know I want to love you and those in my life, my family, my friends, my co-workers, but sometimes it is hard to follow through on the inspirations of your Holy Spirit. It is hard to set aside those things that I prioritize over loving and serving you. Lord, help me grow in generosity and charity so that I may live as your image in the world and draw others to you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will identify one area of Church teaching or Scripture that I would like to know more about and search out a resource to deepen my knowledge and understanding in that area.
For Further Reflection: Read the article Ten Blessings of Spiritual Reading.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband Chris live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.