By Gabriella Ceraso
In order not to go astray in our life as Christians, the key is to be “in love” with the Lord, and to be inspired by Him in our actions. This was the case with St Paul the Apostle, who describes the Christian life in the reading from the Letter to the Galatians. There must be a balance between “contemplation and service,” two qualities which are illustrated in the day’s Gospel from St Luke, which is centred on the figures of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus of Bethania, who welcomed Jesus into their home as a guest.
Busy Christians, without the peace of the Lord
By their actions, Pope Francis explained, these two sisters, “teach us how we should go forward in the Christian life.” Mary “listened to the Lord,” while Martha was “distracted,” because she was occupied with service.” The Pope described Martha as one of the “strong” women, capable even of rebuking the Lord for not being present at the death of her brother Lazarus. She knew how to put herself forward, and so was courageous. Yet she lacked “contemplation,” and was incapable of “losing time gazing upon the Lord”:
There are so many Christians, yes, they go to Mass on Sundays, but they are always busy. They have no time for their children, they don’t play with their children. This is bad. “I have so much to do, I’m so busy…” [they say]. And in the end they become worshippers of that religion which is busy-ness: they belong to the group of the busy, who are always doing things… But pause, gaze upon the Lord, take the Gospel, listen to the Word of the Lord, open your heart… No: always the language of the hands, always. And they do good, but not Christian good: a human good. These people lack contemplation. Martha lacked that. [She was] courageous, always going forward, taking things in hand, but lacking peace: losing time gazing upon the Lord.
Contemplation is not “doing nothing”
On the other hand, Mary doesn’t sit around “doing-nothing.” She “gazed upon the Lord because the Lord had touched her heart; and it is from there, from that inspiration of the Lord, that there came the work that she had to undertake later.” This is the rule of St Benedict, “Ora et labora,” “pray and work,” which monks and nuns incarnate in the cloister, who certainly don’t spend the whole day gazing at the heavens. They pray and work.” And this was especially what St Paul incarnated, as he wrote in the day’s first Reading: “When God chose him,” the Pope said, “he didn’t go off to preach” immediately, but instead “went off to pray,” “to contemplate the mystery of Jesus Christ who was revealed”:
Everything Paul did, he did with this spirit of contemplation, of gazing upon the Lord. It was the Lord who spoke from his heart, because Paul was in love with the Lord. And this is the key for not going astray: “being in love.” In order to know which side we are on, or whether we are exaggerating because we are getting into an overly abstract, even gnostic, contemplation; or whether we are too busy; we must ask ourselves the question: “Am I in love with the Lord? Am I certain, certain that He has chosen me? Or do I live my Christianity like this, doing things… Yes, I do this, I do that; But what does my heart do? Does it contemplate?
Contemplation and service: the path of our life
The Pope said it is like a husband returning home from work, and finding his wife waiting to greet him: A wife that is truly in love does not make him comfortable, and then return to her chores; she “takes the time to be with him.” We too take time for the Lord in our service to others:
Contemplation and service: this is the path of our life. Each one of us can think to ourselves, “How much time each day do I give to contemplating the mystery of Jesus?” And then, “How do I work? Do I work so much that there seems to be an alienation? Or is my work consistent with my faith, work as a service that comes from the Gospel?” We would do well to consider this.