Ever learn how to juggle? … Sunday, July 21

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, c. 1597

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.

The Gospel of the Lord … Luke 10:38-42

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.”

Sometimes, getting caught up in the “necessaries” in life, we get flustered and lose track of what’s most important, don’t we? Sometimes all those “necessaries” get to be so important for us that we even think we know what the other guys vocation should be. But then there’s the other side of the coin. Sometimes we know what it is that’s primary and stick with it regardless what others think. Sometimes we’re Martha, sometimes we’re Mary. All of the time we’re human. God knows what that’s like. He works through people, He’s familiar with our foibles. He must like working through people despite our being short-sighted. After all, He became one. (Person, that is.)

I amaze myself at times. I say “I” because I try not to watch other people to close, I figure that’s God’s job and my not knowing the heart of another I’m not to good at it anyway. Besides, me watching me is entertainment enough. I can go from being Martha to Mary and back again in a heart beat. Maybe you can sympathize. One moment I’m fixated on Christ, the next moment my focus is on “doing” to the point that I lose track of why I’m doing what I’m doing. And when that dawns on me? I’m back with Christ, watching Him and knowing that all my doings are because of Him, for love of Him.

Balance. I talk about it a lot because it’s so important to me personally. Maybe you know what that’s like. Martha and Mary are a good example of balance, even though Martha got a little aggravated. There is a time for work and a time for contemplation. I think the real trick is to carry contemplation with us as we work, knowing that we work for love of Jesus, and also to engage in contemplation as a Divine sort of work for the same reason. I don’t need to be Mary and I don’t need to be Martha. I need to be both. And that’s a balancing act. Well, it is for me anyway. It’s a little like learning how to juggle. At first? Lots of stuff is probably going to get dropped during practice. Which thought, about juggling, reminds me …

(Note: You’ve heard of Christmas in July? It’s just one more way for stores to make a sale. In this instance humor me as I take advantage of Christmas in July to make a point. 😉 )

A long while back I heard a story about a monk who was a bit of a klutz. He wasn’t good at chanting, he often dropped things in the kitchen (being all thumbs), he didn’t read well, and his memory? Wait a minute. Where was I? Oh, yes. His memory wasn’t the best. All in all he was the last in line as far as the monks of that monastery went. But he kept plugging away.

The Christmas season came around and as a spiritual exercise the abbot told each monk to do something, whatever they were good at, as best they could during the season, as a gift for the Christ Child. A Christmas gift for the Ultimate Christmas Gift. The monks who sang tried to improve their singing and sang with all their heart. The monks who were cleaning cleaned everything til it shined. When a monk ran an errand he did so with speed and resolve, more so than usual. Everyone did what ever they did the best they possibly could. But Brother Klutz? He forgot to put salt in the soup. On an errand, as he ran, he tripped and tore his habit. And he sang, as always, off-key. But in his heart there was a sincere desire to offer up a gift to Baby Jesus, just one perfect gift. It was all he wanted, it was all he focused on.

One night, about the time of Christmas Eve, the abbot was leaving his personal chapel late in the evening. He had gone there for a time of private prayer. As he was leaving, and on his way to his cell, he heard a noise coming from the oratory. It was the slightest of sounds, but at that late an hour it piqued his curiosity and so he went to the entrance, quietly looking around the corner of the door.

At the far end of the room there was a very beautiful statue of Our Lady holding the Baby Jesus. And there, in front of the statue, was our Brother Klutz. He was juggling three balls, and doing a very fine job at it too. Everyone has a talent to offer up to God as a gift and of all things this was the one thing that he could do well. Of course something like this wasn’t the sort of thing that came up in the course of monastic life so no one ever knew he could. And as the abbot watched he saw the statue come to life, and the Lady smiled while the Baby clapped His hands in delight.

Mary and Martha. A juggling act. Trying to balance our lives, giving God the gift of our best in all realms. Service to and contemplation of the Divine. No one is really a klutz and we’re all, at different times, a Martha and a Mary. What matters more than putting salt in the soup or praying quietly in a corner is the pure intent of the heart of the juggler.