Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply, “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.”
There is a constant tension between the things of this world and the things of the next world. Most of us surely feel it — the ever-present desire on the one hand to become more spiritual and to grow in the life of prayer while always — at least to some degree — feeling the pull of the world and its all-to-ready reminders that the bills will not pay themselves.
I have to admit: sometimes I feel like I would be better off being a hermit… living like one of the early desert monks. Not worrying at all about the things of this life, but being totally focused on the Kingdom of God. Those feelings never last for long, because I know it’s an illusion. Living as a monk in a desert cave that isn’t quite big enough to lay down comfortably, walking ten miles each day for a drink of water, and counting on the passing raven to deliver a loaf of bread once in a while is far from a life of ease that would allow me to focus solely on the things of God. Besides, God never called me to flee from the world, but to engage it; to encounter the world and its people where they are
I’m guessing none of you are contemplating a call to retreat from the world. I may be wrong, and if so I apologize. Still, statistically, anyway, if one of you are then surely the rest are not. So most of you must be answering the same sort of call that God makes to me: to engage the world. To bring, to the best that we are able, Christ into the world. In other words, to do the work of mission.
Our Holy Father recently remarked that proselytizing doesn’t work. Going out and telling people how they ought to live will make you no friends. Evangelization works… but only just. Telling strangers the Good News will make you friends… just not that many of them. Mission, however, works. And it works well. You don’t go to the people — you go make friends. And once you make friends, they will notice the way you live. And if you are authentically living the Gospel message, then people will be attracted to that, and they will want to hear the Good News because they will want to know what is the source of the wellspring of peace and love they see active in your life.
Some of us are Marys. Some of us are Marthas. But all of us are called to mission: to — in whatever way we can through the course of our lives — live the Gospel message. To, as St. Francis said, preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.
If we each live this mission, it is very likely that none of us will change the world. But we can, with Our Lord’s help, do a little bit of good in the world… and it is those small good acts that, when put all together, can transform the world and can assist in bringing forth the Kingdom of God, which is present both now and still is yet to come.
Let us all pray for the grace to bring forth good in the world in whatever state of life God calls us to and that all of us — whether a Mary or a Martha — can choose the better part, which will not be taken from us.