Parents understand that their work is never complete, there is always something else to be done, loads of washing, another permission note to be signed and a new challenge to helping our children navigate their way through life. A common response amongst parents to the question of how they are going is “busy,” “stressed out,” “exhausted” — or all three. It is rare to hear a parent say they are peaceful, rested, and relaxed.
In Luke’s Gospel (10:38-42) we read the story of two sisters who each took a different approach to offering Jesus hospitality. Martha was “burdened with much serving” and “anxious and worried about many things” whereas Mary simply “sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.” Pope Francis explained that Mary demonstrated the importance of contemplative prayer and forming a strong friendship with the Lord. Francis said that it is from listening to the words of Jesus that that we have the capacity to live and carry forth the love of God, “offering His mercy, and His tenderness toward others.”
We can easily identify with the busy Martha, running around preparing for the upcoming school week, chasing missing socks, stocking up the pantry, running off to soccer practice: The to-do list is unlimited! Where does prayer and stillness sit on your daily agenda? Is it right at the top, or is it buried under a list of chores? Jesus points to the flip side of the coin and reminds us that our actions must be balanced with stillness and contemplation. Richard Rohr says that “prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.”
Resting at the feet of Jesus is a critical part of the Christian journey; we must be aware and be present to His presence in our lives. Imagine Jesus is coming to visit your home today, what would you want to clean up and hide away before he arrives? Mary understood that Jesus wasn’t concerned with the mess in her life, she humbly and gratefully sat with the Lord. No towels needed rolling, nor did she examine her excess possessions for their ability to spark joy (see: “Possessed“).
Jesus reminds Martha that Mary chose the better part, and no doubt this caused a certain amount of disdain from Martha. After all, she had been busy doing the doing; meanwhile Mary slouched around have a wonderful time with Jesus. I’m sure each of us has wondered quietly to ourselves how long it will take our spouse to get up off the couch and lend a hand with the housework! In a spiritual sense, we may occasionally slip into the habit of comparing our efforts to serve the Lord with those of others. This reminds me of my children trying to out do the other for my attention, without realizing that I love each of them equally just as they are.
Like Martha, it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to have everything sorted out before feeling worthy of God’s love. We wonder how could God accept me with all of my faults? And yet, Jesus simply wants to know us personally and truthfully as we are, the dishes can be done later.
We thank God for the reminder to be still and know that He is God and pray that we may take time this week to become aware of God’s presence in our lives, welcoming Him into our homes as Mary did. May our lives as Catholic parents be balanced and fueled by the moments of stillness where we encounter Christ in the midst of the mess and mayhem.
- What is your normal state of being: Mary or Martha?
- Are there parts of your life that you want to clean up and hide away before welcoming God into your home?
Where can you make moments to rest at the feet of Jesus?
Copyright 2019 Nathan Ahearne