Choosing the better part

Merry Christmas! Isn't it wonderful it's still Christmas? With the New Year just beginning we are presented with the Martha and Mary situation again (!) in today's Gospel (Luke 10:38-42). It's a helpful passage as we look at our New Year's resolutions, hopes and plans for 2019.

While many of us want to be more like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeking the Kingdom of God, we can't help but feel the urge like Martha to do and take action. To see some results and to be making a difference. 

Mary sits as Jesus' feet and listens. Martha is burdened with much serving. She confronts Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” In this complaint we see Martha's frustration with Mary. We often think it's because Martha wants Mary to help her, and that Martha's weakness is that she's too busy––too busy to pull away from the demands of serving and too occupied. But the real source of Martha's frustration is that she wants to be sitting at Jesus' feet, too. Martha's weakness is not one of busyness and distraction, but one of lack of trust. 

Martha feels obliged to do the serving. In her mind, she's cycling through the infamous question, "If I don't do it, who will?"

How often do we run on the hamster wheel of that question? How often do we think we're the only person in the world who can do that specific task? How often do we miss opportunities because we couldn't imagine what would happen if we didn't do that thing? That thing, that task making us anxious and worried. 

Jesus wants to free Martha and us. He wants to restore her trust in Him. When he says, "Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her," Jesus is also telling Martha, "You can choose too! You can come sit too. I will take care of the rest. Come sit." He's inviting her to trust Him. 

He's inviting us to trust Him this year––with big things and small things and especially those things that we think we're the only person in the world that can do them. Because He wants to teach us that we're not alone and isolated, but that He is with us in everything. He can help us in everything and that we don't have to carry such a heavy burden. 

As we look at the year ahead, let us be like Mary in contemplation to fill us so we can serve like Martha, but all with the underlying trust in Jesus. For this "will not be taken from her.”

Worry

Anxiety. It's often something that creeps into our daily lives without us realizing it. We tend to give it another name because we don't want to label ourselves as "anxious." We won't say we're worried, yet we're uneasy about the possible outcome of a situation. We won't say we're afraid, yet we feel we'd crumble if such and such happened. We say we trust God, yet we don't temper our imaginations about the future. Even when we're having a wonderful day are we fearful of the more difficult days that lie ahead?

It is no wonder that Our Lord is constantly speaking against anxiety.

In today's Gospel, Luke 21:34-36, Jesus is talking about being vigilant at all times. He speaks about being aware that our hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkennes, and immediately following in that list is, "and the anxieties of daily life..." The Lord knows that we get anxious about our daily living. He also talks about it in the parable of the seed falling on the different soils. "The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit" (Mt. 13: 22). He knows about our families, jobs, concerns, relationships, bank accounts, what keeps us up at night, everything. He knows when we get anxious about these things. When we worry then we can't live in that freedom as children of God. 

Anxiety robs us of our peace, hope, love and trust. Our Lord wants us to be protected from anxiety every day. If we have worry, He wants to take it away. This is why He also says, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil" (Mt. 6:34). 

So how do we keep our hearts free of anxiety and worry? How do we let Him help us?

"We know and and believe the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16). St. John puts it more eloquently than I do, but what came to me in prayer was similar, "Let me hold you." God wants to hold us. He wants to wrap His arms around us and let us rest in His embrace. He wants us to feel protected, cared for and loved. The more we know how much He loves us, the more we live in that love. Like any parent or grandparent who wants to just hold their children. It's an exchange of love in an embrace. Words aren't necessary. Have you let God hold you? Have you come to know and believe in the personal love God has for you? 

Because when we know we're loved by God there is no room for anxiety.

"The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing'" (Luke 10:41-42). (Emphasis added.)

As we prepare for the Advent season beginning tomorrow, let us keep focused on one thing - Our Lord. Let our hearts be filled only with hope and not worry.