Daily Life Perspective
“How are things going?” you can ask people, and often they’ll reply: “Busy. It’s just been real busy lately.” Things are supposed to lighten up in the summer, but for many of us, they don’t lighten up enough. You can ask people, “How is your summer going?” And often they’ll reply, “I can’t believe it’s almost over.” To a lot of folks, once the Fourth of July is here, summer is nearly gone. In June, I heard a friend say, “I can’t believe the Fourth of July is almost here; summer is already over.” As I walked across the prison yard this week, an inmate told me what a lovely evening it was. I agreed. Then he shook his head and said, “It’s a shame; summer is almost over.” This from a guy who wants time to move quickly. I said, “It’s the middle of July. There’s plenty of summer left.” He looked stunned. He said, “Oh yeah. I guess there’s almost two months to go.”
A lot of us are so busy we cannot relax. Even during summer, we worry so much about how busy things are going to be in the fall, that we cannot enjoy our free time.
The story of Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha bothers busy people. Jesus enters a village. Martha throws open her door to welcome him. Mary sits down – this is a friend, not the mother of Jesus – and Jesus talks while Mary listens. Martha, meanwhile, preparing dinner, is a little put out; Mary should get up off the floor and lend a hand. Jesus tells Martha to chill. He calls her name twice. Can’t you just hear him? “Martha, Martha, there you go again. You are anxious and worried about many things.” I’m sure Jesus was grateful to have dinner prepared. He isn’t complaining about the service, but about the way Martha is doing it. Martha is anxious. Martha is worried. She is multi-tasking. She is doing many things.
Jesus tells Martha what is important. “There is need of only one thing,” he says. There is not a need for many things. She didn’t have to bake bread, dust the mantle, go to the well, rearrange the furniture, hang wallpaper, sweep the parlor, milk the cow – he didn’t need all of that. “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.” Mary, who sat down, also performed the difficult task of hospitality. She listened to her guest. She figured: if Jesus is your guest, the first thing you give him isn’t artichoke dip. You give him your ears. Mary chose to listen to Jesus, and Jesus said to Martha, “This task will not be taken from her.”
We all get busy. But only one thing is important – listening to Jesus when he is our guest. Our tradition encourages us to pray at least twice a day, morning and evening. Do you make time for prayer? You obviously believe the weekly eucharist is important or you wouldn’t be here today. Do you pray each morning? Do you pray at meals?
Jesus wants to be our guest every day of our lives. We get busy, but the most important thing we can do each day is to welcome Jesus into our homes, to sit down with him, and to listen to him speak as we read the bible, say prayers, recite the rosary, or just are quiet for a while. There is need of only one thing – listening to Jesus.
This article first appeared in SOME Reflections, 10/5 (August, 2004):1.