It's the key question to keep us from falling into one of two opposing dangers
The Gospel account of Martha and Mary from today’s liturgy points to two opposing dangers facing the Christian life: that of being always concerned with the “things” of the Lord, but not the Lord himself, and conversely, that of failing to serve the Lord in our neighbor.
Pope Francis today in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta explained the question that will make sure we are hitting the right balance: “Am I in love with 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 noted that Martha is 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 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… 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: [unable to be] ‘losing time’ gazing upon the Lord.
Mary’s contemplation, on the other hand, is not a “doing nothing,” the pope clarified.
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, Francis continued. “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?
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.