Some decisions truly are momentous, while others are the smaller kind that over time build up into a larger whole.


Our first reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians as he chides and encourages this early Christian community and offers some history on the challenges he has faced as a disciple. Daily, there are different paths in front of each of us, as people of faith.  One allows us to be more faithful and follow God more closely; the other, while not what we would consider a bad or harmful choice by any means, nonetheless is a path that doesn’t lead us toward the fullness of Christian discipleship to the same extent.

Paul’s conversion story is both dramatic and well-known.  There were flashes of light and a voice from heaven, he was knocked to the ground, and the course of his life was dramatically altered.  It might be easier and clearer if God always spoke to us in such dramatic ways, but that doesn’t often happen and today the focus is on what happens after the big event.  Paul travels extensively, visiting various people, without knowing for sure where or how his journey is going to end up.  It would be logical to think he would have gone straight to Jerusalem to visit Peter (probably considered the highest authority in the early church) after his conversion, but it was three years later before that happened!  This is a portrait of a person of faith figuring out how to be within this larger direction that has already been set in his life.  He is navigating the smaller choices that come together to form a life of faith.  Surely we can relate.

How strong is our conviction when it comes to our faith? Paul was a man whose passion was notorious. At the same time, his conversion was powerful. Paul’s entire life focus changed. The depth of his passion didn’t waver. He was so sure that what he now knew was truth that he didn’t feel needed confirmation or validation from the other apostles. His encounter with God was overwhelming and all-consuming.

In the Gospel, too, we are shown a choice about how to be faithful.  Both may be positive in particular ways, but one of them will bring us closer to the Lord than the other.  Jesus’ close friends Mary and Martha welcome Him to their home, but Martha resents working while Mary listens to Jesus. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…” The Lord may not have been telling Martha to stop working altogether but to pray and listen first. Then she would be able to really work in the power of the Spirit. Because we need to hear from the Lord before we work for Him, we must be quick to hear and slow to speak and act. This may explain why the devil keeps us so busy and makes us so noisy. He knows that if we don’t hear God, we won’t believe in Him. Then we will never do the work of God, which is to “have faith in the One Whom He sent”. Be quiet, hear, and work.

Martha, busy preparing a meal for Christ, while Mary sits attentively listening to Him. Martha becomes frustrated that Mary is not helping out. The gospel is not meant to diminish the value of housework and food preparation, but rather to help us think about our own communication with Christ. It takes time to build a relationship and learn to express our feelings to another. People in a loving relationship just enjoy being together. Words are not always necessary; in fact sometimes words get in the way of building or continuing a relationship. Listening to one another is also vital.

Christ reminds us through today’s gospel that Mary, who sat at His feet and listened, had “chosen the better part and that it would not be taken from her.” Mary and Martha were both just as passionate about Jesus. They had different ways of expressing it. Jesus invited them both to be passionate—to be in his presence and to learn from him. What are we passionate about? Will we allow our faith turn our world upside down?

Anxiety about getting things done, fear of losing wealth and a lack of compassion for our neighbors are all themes in this gospel. This means we need to ask God for the wisdom and discernment to find the balance in our lives and a sense of where our focus should really be.

We can do this by threading our days with an awareness of God’s presence in the tiny moments of quiet time that we come across. As we awaken and sit at the side of our bed, we can simply ask, “Loving God, help me to love you today with all my heart, with all my being, with all my strength, and with all my mind. Help me to see you in my neighbor today.”

Later in the day, as things seem to go faster and get more complex, we can ask again not to be anxious about so many things and to remember the great gift of Jesus’ presence in our lives. As we do the laundry, go to the store, or take care of family we can again ask our Lord to let us be aware of the presence of the loved ones we come in contact with – the real “riches” we have in our lives.

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