By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sorting Out Necessary from Unnecessary

As we ponder the Gospel we heard on Sunday (cf. Luke 10: 38-42), there arises one question that the Lord poses to each of us. It is a simple question, yet a challenging one: Who do you listen to?

The Gospel account recalls the visit of Jesus to the home of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Martha is very busy with all the household work. Mary simply sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to what he has to say. Martha is really annoyed by this and complains to Jesus, who says very straightforwardly: "There is need of only one thing...Mary has chosen the better part."

The words Jesus spoke to Martha are meant for us as well. There is only one necessary thing. That one thing necessary is to make time and to listen carefully and obediently to what Jesus has to say to us.

Martha stands as a symbol for us in so many ways. Our lives are increasingly busy, hectic, sometimes frantic with activity. This constant and diverse activity springs from our very busy minds. Day in and day out we are bombarded with many voices and messages, all clamouring for our attention. We need think only of news reports, television and radio shows, Internet websites, magazines staring at us from the checkout counter, the various forms of social media: Facebook. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and now Pokemon GO (whatever that is!). Everything has its own message, telling us where we should direct our attention, what we should think, the opinions we should hold, and what our priorities really ought to be. This fracturing of our minds leads to lack of focus in our actions, and we can soon feel as if we are running around in circles, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing.

The one to whom I listen is the one to whom I give my trust. The one to whom I listen is the one that I allow to have a directive influence upon my life. For the Christian, the one trustworthy voice is the voice of Jesus. There is only one thing necessary, and that is to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, who is God's Word made flesh in order to speak to us the words that lead to everlasting life.

This does not mean that there is to be no activity in the Christian life! Far from it. The point is that the actions we undertake are not of our own devising but spring from our contemplation of the Word of God and our commitment obediently to put that Word into practice. There needs to be something of Mary and Martha in each Christian life, i.e., both contemplation and action. The latter flows from the former.

From this other questions arise. What time do I make each day to listen carefully and deliberately to the words of Jesus? Am I so busy with unnecessary things, with distractions, that I take no time to spend with the Word of God? The disciple is one who listens, who makes time to "sit at the feet of Jesus" and listen obediently and lovingly to everything that he has to say to us.

In the light of this Gospel message, let's examine our lives and ask: Am I making time each day to read the Bible? It need be only five to ten minutes, reading just a few pages of Scripture at a time. Perhaps one way to do this is to read every day the Gospel passage assigned for the daily mass. Do I allow his Word to challenge me and transform my life? The important thing to establish is a pattern of listening to what Jesus has to say and putting his Word into practice. That is the one thing truly necessary for daily living. His is the only voice which we should hear and follow, because his is the only voice that leads to eternal life.