“…a woman named Martha
welcomed Jesus to her home.
She had a sister named Mary who
sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to
– Luke 10:38-39ff.
You can fill in the verses, can’t you? Jesus certainly did not belittle Martha for her attention to the details of hospitality. Kindness extended to guests is kindness extended to the God of Abraham: basic Jewish spirituality lived out in the everyday.
No, in this well-known scene Jesus gently chides Martha for letting those many details, important in themselves, distract her from the one thing necessary. “Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her” (v. 42).
The goal of Christ-centered discipleship is to integrate “Mary” with “Martha.” The Lord calls you and me simply to sit at his feet, quiet down and wait for him to speak to our heart – in his own way, in his own good time.
He calls us to join him at Bethany where he liked to relax with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11). After sitting in his presence each visit, open to however he may touch us, we can return to the pressing demands on our time and energy better focused.
We know there are as many ways of praying as there are pray-ers. But following the Lord’s example, we all have to find our particular version of quiet time with him, our chosen sacred place where our whole person – body, soul and spirit – can just be open to his voice.
Since the mystics teach us that God’s favorite language is silence, we do well to bask in it as a top priority in our weekly routine. Remember “The 59th Street Bridge Song” – the 1966 Simon and Garfunkel tune also known as “Feelin’ Groovy”? The opening verse is: “Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last.” That advice rings truer today than when we first sang it 40 years ago.
Obviously, it’s much easier sung than done. Today’s culture of fast-lane living and blaring noise conditions most of us to be frenzied. If not in a clinical sense, at least informally, we suffer from hyperactivity with attention deficit disorder.
A medieval eucharistic devotion offers a healing remedy, a stabilizing practice in the topsy-turvy confusion of our technocracy. Talk about letting go and letting God. Humble adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, frequent visits to this unique experience of Bethany, mellows us slowly but very surely.
Every Mass makes the Last Supper, Calvary and Easter present again for us who join our lives to Jesus’ victory. We receive him into the tabernacle of our hearts to share him with all those we encounter in our workaday world. But we fool ourselves if we think otherwise. We also need to come back, take time out and sit with Mary at the Lord’s feet. Why not enjoy the gaze of his fullest presence among us?
Some of those most wound up are our youth, the iPod generation. It’s beautiful to see the effect regular visits to our adoration chapel at St. Jerome have upon our school kids. At first they’re squirming all over the place. But after they get used to the prayerful ambience and “see” Jesus blessing them in his stillness, they do settle down. Ditto the experience of our teens. Many of them tell us that a special calm comes over them. They just feel differently in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Then there are the adults, young as well as older, all busy Marthas with many details of hospitality, many irons in the fire. They stop by the chapel to seek the one thing necessary. A few decide to pray aloud together. Most bond with one another in silence at the Lord’s feet. Many write in the open intention book. Others pick up the book and make those written intentions their own empathetic prayer.
One night a middle-aged mother was here by herself. A man she had never seen came in and knelt down. He began shuddering, sobbing uncontrollably. The mom let him be for awhile, then went over and knelt beside him. He nodded yes, he’d appreciate her saying a prayer. When he regained his composure, he paused briefly, whispered a thank you, genuflected and left. The fragile appearance of the Host in the monstrance confirmed that our Savior had embraced human fragility once again.
Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker: If God had a refrigerator, your picture’d be on it! That little ditty is a Gospel paraphrase. Endlessly you thirst for love because you are loved endlessly. So is every person. Put aside your responsibilities by Feb. 14 and visit Bethany. Sit relaxed before the Blessed Sacrament and let Jesus give you a valentine.