Posted by: mmreflections | July 10, 2008

Choosing the Better Part: July, 2008

 There is an incident described in the Gospel of Luke which has always intrigued me and has now become a significant scriptural reflection for me.  Luke tells about a woman named Martha who welcomed Jesus to her home.  She had a sister, Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to his words.  Martha was busy with all the details of hospitality, doing all she could to make Jesus’ visit very special.  However, in the process of doing all these things, Martha became agitated and irritated because she was doing all the work and Mary was just sitting and enjoying Jesus’ company and words.  Finally, Martha speaks her mind, “Lord, are you not concerned that my sister has left me to do the household tasks all alone?  Tell her to help me.”  Jesus, with much compassion and understanding, replies to her:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required.  Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it.”  (Confer Luke 10:38-42)

 Whenever I find myself getting anxious or troubled about anything, I know it is time for me to choose the better way, the better part or portion.  It is time to stop everything and to rest once again at the feet of the Lord and listen.  It is a wake up call!  How comforting it is to hear the words of Jesus addressed to me, “Michael, Michael, you are anxious and upset about many things!  Come and sit with me for awhile!  Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid.  Trust me!”  I stand in awe at how quickly peace is restored in my inner being in spite of the storm that may still be raging on the outside.  I also stand in awe at how quickly I can forget this message and allow myself to be quickly beaten up once again with more concerns and anxieties.

 When I was a student in college, long before I began my studies for the priesthood, someone gave me a Bible which lay on my desk and was rarely read.  One day I was paging through the New Testament and a passage seemed to catch my attention.  I copied the words onto the inside cover of my notebook which I carried to all my classes.  Again and again I was drawn to read those words which always seemed to touch me as they did for the first time.  Each time I read them, I experienced a deep peace.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your soul will find rest for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30) The words became so much a part of me that I no longer had to read them for they would come to my mind again and again.  I did not realize their impact, nor did I realize the affect they were having upon me at the time.  Soon I found myself stretched out on my bed, reading the Bible, and filled with wonder at the impact of the stories I was reading.  One evening one of my friends barged into my room to let me know all our buddies were heading down to The Little Red School House, an off campus bar which served minors.  He caught me reading the Bible, which I usually did secretly lest someone would laugh or make fun of me.  Teasingly he said, “You keep reading that book and you will be heading off to become a priest.”  He probably didn’t realize he was speaking prophetically but he was present when I celebrated my first solemn Divine Liturgy after my ordination to the priesthood.

 It was not much longer after that incident when I found myself less interested in “The Little Red School House” and less inclined to join my buddies in so many of their extra curricular activities.  When I reflect on those days, I realize what was happening in my life was not the result of any concerted effort on my part.  Something was happening without my realization.  Many aspects of my life which were at one time so important for me seemed to have lost my interest and their significance.  Graduation from college and my first professional job, although exciting, soon left me with a feeling of emptiness and a sense of dissatisfaction.  There had to be more to life than what I was experiencing.  Being drafted into the military as the Korean Conflict was drawing to a close almost came as a relief but soon a greater turmoil unfolded as I was confronted with all that was expected of me relative to warfare.  I guess I discovered I was a lover not a fighter.  I wanted to do what I could to make our world a little better place in which to live.

 The questions I proposed in the last reflection were, “Where do we go from here?  If our life is not about changing ourselves or others, what is our life all about?”  I have come to believe we cannot save ourselves.  We can do nothing apart from the Holy One in whom we live, move and have our being.  When we can finally trust the Lord to do all that needs to be done in our lives and trust ourselves to his plans, life takes on a new meaning and we begin to experience the fullness of life which Jesus promised us.  It is really difficult to put into words that which is indescribable.  How can we describe what God is doing in our lives when we cannot even perceive any activity?  We wake up one day and find solutions to long standing problems.  How can this be!  We did nothing, so it seems!  All we can do is proclaim as our Blessed Lady did when she experienced God’s work in her own life:  “My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior, for he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness…  God who is mighty has done great things for me, holy is his name.”  (Luke1:46-49)

 In the scriptural account of our Blessed Lady who while in prayer receives the message from the angel telling her of God’s great plan for her, she questions how this can possibly come to be.  Then she surrenders and allows God to do the work.  “I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be done to me as you say.” (Luke 1:38)  What does she do next?  She trusts God is fulfilling his promise and she hurries to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is with child and is in need of help.  When we finally trust God to do the great things in our lives he has promised to do, we can forget about ourselves and reach out in service to our brothers and sisters.  This is what we are called to do with the help of God’s grace.  While the Holy One is slowly and gently transforming us into the likeness of Jesus, we are called to manifest God’s presence in this world by the service we offer to each other.  With all our weaknesses, flaws, failures and mistakes we can still make God’s love known to all we meet, not by trying to change them, not by trying to preach to them, but by simply being kind, loving, forgiving, understanding and compassionate to them.

 With all the suffering, troubles, problems, conflicts, chaos, lies and deceptions in the world many people feel powerless and wonder what can be done to make our world a better place. The moment we allow the Lord to work in our lives, to use us for the fulfilling of a greater plan, and to transform us individually, the world becomes a better place.  I believe the smallest kindness we do for another person makes our world a better place; a smile, a kind word, a gentle hug create  ripples on the river of life the significance of which we may not even be aware.  I believe as more of us become conscious of our purpose for being here and choose the better part, God’s power will be unleashed to counteract the pain and suffering brought about in the world by brothers and sisters who are no longer conscious of their true purpose for being.  Indications of whether we are conscious or unconscious, awake or sleeping, will be considered in our next reflection.         

I  was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me.  My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior. (Psalm 118:13-14)

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