Sermon: Mary and Martha

Time of the Mad Atom:

This is the age
Of the half-read page.
And the quick hash
And the mad dash.

The bright night
With the nerves tight.
The plane hop
With the brief stop.

The lamp tan
In a short span.
The Big Shot
In a good spot.

And the brain strain
The heart pain.
And the cat naps
Till the spring snaps

—And the fun’s done!

Time. It consists of moments, minutes, hours, days, decades, and on to eternity. There are some wonderful quotes about time. How does it pass? The Wisdom of Solomon declares that “our time is like a passing shadow.” How do we spend it? Susan Ertz wrote, “Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” Do we want more? Queen Elizabeth I dying words, “All my possessions for a moment of time.”

Without humankind, there really is no such thing as time, for as one Jewish commentary wrote, “Without man, time is meaningless.” So what is it then? What is time? For me, it is Henry Longfellow who has the best answer. He writes, “The shadow on the dial, the striking of the clock, the running of the sand, day and night, summer and winter, months, years, centuries — these are but arbitrary and outward signs, the measure of Time, not Time itself. Time”, he says, “is the Life of the soul.” Time is the life of the Soul.

If we were to compile a list of what all of us had to accomplish with our time today, I suspect that it would be a rather long list: jobs, caregiving of children or others, volunteering, studying, leisure time, family time, etc. A long list. Many of these activities can be seen as service to God in that we are serving others as He has commanded us to do. However, we can get so busy in our service to God, that we are not engaging in our relationship with Him. Even as a priest of the Church, I can get so busy writing sermons, preparing newsletters, attending meetings – All for the Church – but I can get so busy doing this “service to God,” that I don’t have time for God or the life of the soul. Mary and Martha help us to see this trap more clearly.

Jesus is visiting their home. Martha is running around trying to take care of everyone while her sister, Mary, is sitting and listening to Jesus. Finally, exasperated, Martha says to Jesus, don’t you care that I’m doing all this work and my sister is just sitting there like a bump on a log? While not condemning Martha for the work she is doing, Jesus responds, ”Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Mary has chosen the better part. Martha’s work is good, but Mary has chosen the better part, she is tending to the life of her soul by engaging with her Lord.

This is indeed the time of “the quick hash and the mad dash.” Therefore, we must learn to serve as Martha served, but we must also take time like Mary, and tend to the life of our souls by disengaging from our busyness of service and by engaging in our relationship with God. After all, it is God who is the center that holds everything else together. “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.” Seek first those opportunities to sit at the feet of Jesus, as Mary did, then go forth in the Name of Christ to serve Him with gladness and singleness of heart.

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