We celebrate today the feast of St. Martha. Her feast day will have its significance and relevance in our lives only if we learn the lesson Martha herself learned from Jesus: listening has to come before acting. That is exactly what today’s gospel reading is telling us.
In all the great figures in the Bible, there is always a moment of listening. What is the Lord saying? Once we know, then we are ready to act in a way that is congruent to God’s will. The problem is, we decide, choose, and act without listening first to the Lord.
The key to the Christian life is setting priorities: Jesus Christ first, and everything else. The only way really to learn this lesson is to spend some time every day “sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to him speak.” Every decision and choice we make, every act and deed we perform, in whatever aspect or field or affair or concern of life – be it in our personal life or family or community – must be the fruit of our attentive listening to the Lord. It must be the result of our “sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him.”
Let me give some practical applications of this… Before we make any choice or decision – be it with regard to course to take, profession to pursue, or vocation to consider… be it a personal project, career undertaking, or business venture – pray, listen, and ask: “Lord, what’s your plan for me? What do you want me to do?” Before we do simple things – like performing a task, going somewhere, talking to someone, saying something, dealing with people, entertaining ourselves, buying or shopping, texting a message, posting something on Facebook or Twitter – pray, listen, and ask: “Ang gagawin ko ba ay ayon sa kalooban ng Diyos?” Listening, praying, or discerning has to come before acting. I’d like to believe that Martha eventually learned to live by this basic spiritual principle: that is, to sit at Jesus’ feet listening to him.
Today’s gospel is inviting us to pause daily at the feet of Jesus in prayer. Prayer is meant to be more than just ‘asking’. Prayer is an invitation to come home, to be loved, to be nurtured, to be refreshed. As Henri Nouwen puts it, “Praying… demands a relationship in which you allow the other to speak there, allow him to touch the sensitive core of your being, and allow him to see so much that you would rather leave in darkness.”
We need to let the Lord Jesus teach us anew what is important and what is not. We need periods of quiet prayer in our lives if we are to keep our balance and perspective in life. The Lord is telling us first to be a Mary who sits with devotion at his feet to hear his word. Then also to be a Martha who gets up and throws herself with enthusiasm into the business of serving the Lord. My dear sisters and brothers, may we always choose the better part. “The better part” is Jesus himself… and “the one thing necessary” is to listen to him. With the prayer and inspiration of St. Martha, let this be our act of love for Jesus.