Sunday, 17 July 2016
Martha and Prayer, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
As I think you all know, I'm moving. And one of the things of have been realising these last few weeks is that moving is hard work, is complicated, and brings plenty of stress. I've been busier these past few weeks than I've been for a long time, and that is presumably going to just accelerate as I head to my September moving deadline. Some of you have told me how you move every two years and have a confident, calm moving strategy; others have told me stories that feel more like mine at the moment.
There is a particular point I want to make about this: at a time of extreme busy-ness, when our time is squeezed, when our thoughts are all jumbled, it can be easy to forget to pray and to forget God. And this temptation is as real for a priest as it is for anyone.
So, what should I do when time is pressed, when it seems impossible to give time to God in prayer? Well, These are the days when it is MORE important to pray, not when it is LESS important. Praying CHANGES our lives. It brings ORDER and CALM to our day. It makes us USE the time we have BETTER.
As a consequence, many saints describe how prayer causes us to GAIN time, not lose it. St Josemaria used to speak of the “multiplication of time” that prayer brings.
The words of the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel text about Martha and Mary are on this theme.
Many of you, like me, feel a strong sympathy for Martha. Stressed, working, feeling that all the burden has fallen to her: “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do all the serving by myself?”(Lk 10:40)
People often refer to our Lord’s reply to Martha as a condemnation, but, my theory is that it is actually a word of consolation. Yes, it includes correction, but:
It is a correction that seeks to bring her to the consolation that Mary already enjoys.
It is a correction to bring her to that spiritual recollection that would enable her to work and pray at the same time.
It is a correction that would bring love into her work, not just duty and effort.
It is a correction that would enable her to have the Lord God present in her work, the Lord who loves her present in her work, to have the joy that comes from knowing we are loved –to have this present as she works.
This is correction that aims at consolation.
“Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so ,any things, and yet few are needed, in fact, only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part”(Lk 10:41-42).
What has Mary “chosen”?
She has chosen prayer, recollection, to be with the Lord and to focus on Him.
This is what we all need to do too.
And, the only way to do this is to have times and patterns in our day when we dedicate ourselves to prayer and prayer ALONE. Not just praying while driving, not just praying while walking, not just praying while doing other things. But rather, praying for praying’s sake. Praying because it is worthwhile and necessary in itself. To be with the Lord simply in order to be with Him.
I would call on all of you to take the reading of this Sunday’s Gospel as a moment to review what pattern of prayer you have. When in the day and the week do you set aside just for God? 5 minutes in the morning or night? A longer period?
It is only if we have explicit dedicated times of prayer in our lives that we are able to bring that spirit into the other parts of our day, into our work and rushing.
It is only in as much as I have dedicated times of prayer for prayer’s sake, that I am able to ALSO pray while driving, pray while walking, pray while working.
And, in all that, to know the presence of the Lord in my work, to know the joy of being loved by the Lord in my work.
So, when moving, when stressed, when time is squeezed, this is the time to rededicate myself to the importance of prayer. “It is Mary who has chosen the better part” (Lk 10:42) –let us follow her example.