Memorial of Saint Martha

Today, we are given two choices for a Gospel passage for Saint Martha. 

The first is when Martha went out to meet Jesus after the death of Lazarus.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

The second is the story of Martha serving while Mary sits and listens to Jesus.  He tells Martha, “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.”

Almost certainly, none of us can live an exclusively contemplative life.  We all have some need of action in how we live.  We have responsibilities commensurate with our state in life.  Whether a parish priest, a religious, a husband or wife, an employee, a parent, a grandparent, or a single person, we all must find the right blend of prayer and action. 

An overemphasis on one or the other that is not appropriate for our own situation creates problems.

I have heard general complaints about priests (not in this diocese) who neglect their pastoral duties to focus exclusively on prayer.  That is not their calling.  Perhaps as a Carthusian monk, that might be more realistic.  But not as a diocesan priest.

On the other hand, I have encountered people who are completely stressed out trying to keep up with their to-do list.  I suspect that at least some of the items on their list are unnecessary.  But they try to do it all.  And they seemingly will do it all or die trying.  They take no time at all for prayer.  They do not even weave a simple repetitive prayer into the fabric of their day. 

For Martha, and for us, one symptom of a lack of balance with prayer in our lives is that we are “anxious and worried about many things.”  We must discern, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, how to best structure our daily lives to provide the right balance between prayer and action. 

For most of us, including myself, the only way to consistently have time for prayer is to do so first thing in the morning.  Once I leave my residence, my time is not really my own.  Too much can happen.  It was that way at CSX.  It is that way now.  So, I take time for a Holy Hour before I do anything else…with one exception.  Borrowing from the advice of Archbishop Sheen, I do get my morning dose of caffeine even before prayer.

Have we all taken the time to intentionally reserve time for daily prayer?  Are we conscious of the need to discern the right balance between prayer and action?