Tuesday of Week 27 in Ordinary Time
Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking…
Of late, I have been running a lot. No – I don’t mean physically running.
I have been running…
… around in my head
… around problems and frustrations
… fixing others’ problems
… away from tending to my needs
… away from sitting and listening — to the good, the bad, the hard, and the healing.
… from God
… on empty.
I don’t like what I am doing at all. Neither do the two protagonists in our readings today, I suppose. Jonah and Martha. Two unlikely escape-artists, perhaps? What do we know… they both ran away (or avoided), and then became resentful. Not surprisingly, I might be headed the same way, or perhaps I already am.
The story rolls around the same way, the patterns get tiresome. Disobedience has its consequences and it shows in the petty exhaustion of those who choose to run/hide/escape/avoid endlessly. It may seem like God is playing sport, but I suspect, it is really foolhardiness on my part.
Disobedience in this sense, is more often not of sinful proportions that are criminal. It manifests in the daily moments of turning-away from the voice of God, blinking-and-ignoring precious prayer messages and images one receives after seeking-and-asking. In this sense, Jonah’s refusal to go to Nineveh must be understood in the context of his very close relationship with God. He was a prophet and already working for God. Yet, he too encountered the stumbling block of avoiding a difficult, inconvenient mission to travel 800 miles (for months of horse-back journeys). Meaning, Jonah was going to have to wait a long, long time before he could even set foot on Nineveh soil to preach for God!
Now, imagine how hard it is for any of us now to pick up the phone just to make a dreaded call or get on a (at the most, 30-hour) flight? I can understand now why Jonah ran in the other direction.
Martha (in our Gospel passage), on the other hand, delayed sitting at Jesus’ feet to listen to, and be with him…she was unlikely to have been that busy to pause on her chores. After all, Jesus was only travelling through their village and was pausing on his journey. He might leave the next day, or perhaps right after their meal together. Yet, Martha was distracted. Martha was avoiding something in her encounter with Jesus. We don’t know what that is, but we know she procrastinated. Instead, Mary chose to drop it all and experience Jesus’ visit. In many commentaries, Martha is described to be the ‘do-er’ as thought that were simplistically bad.
However, I can identify — I easily avoid the things I must do first, or de-prioritise the issues I need care for most, because I am afraid of acknowledging my imperfection.
The imperfection of my posture, my state of mind, my rattling anxieties, my soul’s disquiet, my weaknesses — as the imperfect presentation of my self to God. This, in reality, is a subtle pride in self and self-sufficiency. For God perfects the person, and not the other way around.
We could never perfect ourselves before offering what we have, and are to Him. We, who are the Jonahs and Marthas of 2021, need to pray for the courage to cast off our burdens of fear, self-preservation, survivalism, perfectionism, before we feel worthy enough to be in His presence, or do any of the work He has lovingly and patiently whispered into our ears and hearts, for perhaps, the 1000th time over.
It is He who takes the brokenness that you and I are, and makes our efforts whole and perfect.
In this sense of accepting ourselves as being a work-in-progress, Jesus had pointed out about Mary’s posture and attitude of openness. “Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.” Mary was present to the moment, just as a child is, simply being, in their honest physical, emotional, and psychological development. Mary was child-like in earnestness and simplicity.
It reminds me of this quote I had seen:
“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up.
But a child’s purpose is to be a child.” ~ (Tom Stoppard, 1937- , playwright)
In many ways, we are still children. Maybe not to the people and society around us. But in God’s eyes, we are His children. We may be grown up as adults and have likely taken on more than our fair share of burdens or responsibilities. But God doesn’t look at you and I, and say in exasperation “Oh, grow up already!”
He, the Heavenly Father, looks at us in the most perfectly loving way and beckons: “Come to me, be the child you were hurried out of being. Be the child that is inside of you, and sit at my side. Tell me all about your feelings, your fears and dreams, your creative fantasies. I am listening…. ‘Hear’ is what I want to tell you: I hear you. I love you.”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: I pray for all who were forced to grow up too quickly while they were still little. I intercede for them for mercies to feel safe enough to return to the spaces and places where they will encounter healing.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for always going out to seek that one lost lamb. You are the Good Shepherd indeed! Amen!