Friday, July 16, 2010

"There is need of only one thing,"

Have you ever used worked as an excuse to not spend time with Jesus? I know I have. I think about all these responsibilities I’ve got—cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, my professional work, and now I’ve gone back to school for my Master’s of Architecture. It seems I have to spend every waking second “being productive”. Our American culture tells us if we don’t work all the time, then we won’t get anywhere in life. (It amazes me that people feel the need to answer emails on their phone while driving…)

Often I put all these responsibilities as first priority, thinking, “If I don’t get them done, then no one else will. If I neglect my duties, then I’ve fallen short, and I will be judged for being lazy.”

Is spending time with Jesus being lazy? If we look at next Sunday’s Gospel (Lk. 10:38-42) we hear the story of Martha, the worker, and Mary, the listener:

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."

Martha has the very same thoughts that we often have about work. Her duties came first, and they were quite difficult. As for Mary, well, Martha certainly judges Mary for not performing her part of the work.

Work without rest takes its toll on us. We begin to fall into self-pity because of all our burdens. We become stressed and tired and think the only way out is to spend more time working. Sometimes we become self-righteous, accusing others of not working hard enough, and thinking, “I am surely building up treasure in Heaven by all this labor!” We are like Martha who seems to say, “Lord, see how hard I work!

But we should never neglect God to keep from “neglecting” our own duties. When Martha goes to Jesus, she is begging Him for help with her work: “Tell her to help me.” She is certainly “burdened with much serving” (verse 40). Jesus, of course, tells Martha she is overly anxious. “There is need of only one thing.” (verse 42), and that is God.

Isn’t that what we are after in the first place?—to spend eternity with God in Heaven? What we suffer here on earth is only meant to lead us to Christ. Martha is heavy-laden with burdens and begs for help. Where can we find that help? Matt 11:28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Yes, in Jesus. Come to Christ, first and foremost, and you will find peace.

This is not to say that we should not work hard. Since the fall of man, work has been essential to our livelihood. (Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat,”) It is part of our daily lives, and should not be neglected. Many missionaries spend their days working to save the poor, feed the hungry, care for the sick, teach others about Christ. Fathers work to feed their families; mothers nurture their children. Jesus, the carpenter, certainly knew the value of hard work. And, of course, He says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) We all have our daily crosses that we must diligently carry. But time spent with Christ is essential (even the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity—some of the hardest workers in the world—attend Eucharistic Adoration every day!— If we ignore Him, we risk losing all the fruits of our labors. (Remember the “come after me” part?)

Martha thought she was doing the right thing—her heart was certainly in the right place. But when she finally came to Jesus to tell Him of her burden, He gave her an answer she wasn’t expecting, but certainly the one she needed to hear: “There is need of only one thing” and that is Christ.

Come to Jesus with your work, daily. Choose Christ, the better part, “and it will not be taken from [you].”

So… as I write this, I am thinking I have been neglecting daily Mass because I have felt the need to study for school… Perhaps there is something I should do about that…

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