Reflections

Choosing the “Better Part”: Learning to Balance Activism with Contemplation

February 14, 2017
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“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” – Luke 10:41-42

So often in life I feel like I’m juggling half a dozen or more balls in the air. Between caring for my husband and children, household chores, meeting with students and grading, and meeting deadlines on the next article, there always seems to be something I couldn’t get to; something that has suffered; something I forgot. This seems to be one of the characteristic stamps of motherhood, whether you’re a stay at home mom, working mom, or somewhere in between. There are always people that need us, errands to run, chores we need to get done, etc. And if you are anything like me, personal time for yourself and time with God are often pushed down to the bottom of the list.

Being a natural do-er and leader, I’ve always struggled a bit with the passage from Luke’s Gospel detailing Christ’s encounter with the two sisters. As the oldest of six sisters, it’s easy for me to identify with Martha. The older sister who gets things done; the one who is busily laboring in the vineyard for God, her family, and her guests. You can almost hear Martha’s mental to-do list emanating from the passage. And, much like Martha, I have always felt the need to take action, always remaining focused on some goal or task.

If anything, this has only increased with motherhood as my cares and responsibilities continue to grow. But in the process, I’m often in danger of losing something precious and irreplaceable. That inner peace which comes from God alone; that sense of purpose, reminding me of why I’m doing the things I am; that ability to hear the still small voice God so often uses  to communicate with us.

Over the years, contemplative prayer has become much harder for me. Quiet and stillness are such anomalies in my life, that when I finally have it through Eucharistic Adoration or the occasional Mass by myself I feel plagued by distractions. I can almost feel my endless to-do lists and anxieties crashing in on me and I begin itching to get going once again.

But then I remember Christ’s words:…you are anxious and worried about many things. There is only need for one. I’m so busy going around the rat wheel, that I’m missing out on the whole meaning and purpose of life. I’m missing out on the “better part.” The part I need if I’m going to become the wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend that I so desire to be.

As Lent approaches and the church becomes austere once again, that is my prayer and goal. To become more simple; to daily disassociate myself from the cares and anxieties of the Lord in order to sit at the Lord’s feet and partake in the better part. Only then will my efforts truly be blessed because they will spring forth from Him instead of me. Only then will I have achieved the necessary balance. Only then will I have achieved the batter part.

 

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