When God comes to visit us how do we respond to his presence in our lives? The Psalmist asks the question in Psalm 116: “How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me?” The Psalmist comes to the conclusion: “I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” Every time that we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist, God comes to visit us. God comes to us with gifts of eternal life from heaven. Are we prepared to receive these gifts?
So often in our lives we are identified by what we do rather than who we are. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, accountants and we begin to think that it is what we do that defines us. When we think, we often think about what we have to do rather than who we are called to be. We are driven in life by what we have to do, what we must accomplish and what we produce. Even in thinking about Sunday liturgy we often reduce our experience of communion with the Lord to the feeling of being burdened with, “I have to go to church on Sunday.” With this mind set it is easy to become tired, irritable, impatient and complaining. We start to feel like no one is helping us, that no one is paying attention to us and we finally conclude that no one cares. In our gospel today (Luke 10,38-42) Martha has come to that point of frustration, “Lord, do you not care…?” (v. 40) We can begin to feel more like a something than a someone. As the song goes, “I feel like a cog in something turning.” (Woodstock)
In truth, nothing that we can produce by our labors will be as important or as valuable as what God can give us by his grace. The gift that God has to give us in liturgy is the gift of his Real Presence, the gift of Himself, the gift of Jesus as the bread of life, the food for our journey, the Words of everlasting life, the sacrifice of love that brings us salvation. How can we repay the Lord for all the good that he has done for us? We can repay him with our presence, with the gift of our self, offered with him for the salvation of the world. The work of the liturgy does not produce more material goods for consumers, it produces happiness for those who rest in God. Thomas Merton once remarked that, “It is becoming increasingly evident that the only people in the world who are happy are the ones who know how to pray.” The liturgy is a school of prayer that helps us to rest in God and share in his Divine Life. Our prayer is not something we “do” to change our circumstances in life, to escape suffering or to change God but rather, it is the work of God that works deep within us, that changes us and helps us to be conformed to Jesus and transformed by His Spirit of love and mercy. When we rest in the Lord in prayer, we not only receive the gift of God but we also receive the gift of our true self. The listening heart produces a personal relationship of love, trust and union with the Lord.
Corrie ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” The anxiety and worry of many things that consumes Martha in the gospel is not what Jesus needs as he prepares to go up to Jerusalem and his offering on Calvary. Mary chooses the better part with her listening heart and the peace and happiness of that moment spent with the Lord will not be taken from her. C.S. Lewis remarked, “We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain kind.” God wants people with the listening heart of Mary who delight in his Word, who rest in his love and who find joy in his Presence. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” (Zephaniah 3,17) That’s the better part!