Tuesday, October 10, 2006

27th Tuesday in Ordinary Time (II)

Readings: Galatians 1:13-24; Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15; Luke 10:38-42

Some have observed that contemporary popular culture is breeding succeeding generations with ever shorter attention spans. Consider the advertisements on TV. Usually any one scene seldom lasts for more than a split second. That’s how products are sold. Otherwise people will simply switch to another channel. We’re getting ever more used to constantly shifting our attention from one thing to the next. It’s the only way to get things done, especially if we consider the many things that the average person has to do in any given day. The problem is that we can then only give very superficial attention to the people and events that come our way. We get distracted easily. It’s always on to the next thing and the next. What we gain in breadth we sacrifice in depth.

This seems to be Martha’s experience in the gospel story today. It’s a story we know well. But whatever we may have heard, the point of the story is not that we should all become contemplatives or hermits. Who’ll put food on the table and bring up the kids if we did? Still, we’ve probably experienced Martha’s problem: she was distracted with all the serving. There were just so many things to do that she was beginning to lose her focus. It was becoming difficult for her to remember why and for whom she was doing what she was doing. Hence the irritation and the complaint: my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself.

Jesus’ response is instructive. You worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. Jesus isn’t necessarily saying that Martha’s work should be abandoned. He’s telling her that attention to Him should take priority over all else, because it alone is capable of giving meaning to everything that she does. First focus your attention to me, he seems to be saying.

Isn’t this the kind of attention that Paul describes after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus? Notice the urgency with which Paul drops everything and heads off to Arabia. He retreats to learn to focus attention on the one who called him. But we know also that his life is filled with activity. Unlike, Martha, however, Paul’s activity is very focused. Paul remains attentive to the one who called him.

How does one come to be so attentive to the Lord? How does one learn to be so centered as to continually seek and find God in all that one does? Obviously certain habits need to be cultivated. Time needs to be set aside to attend to God in personal and communal prayer so that we might learn to recognize God in the busyness of our daily routines.

And when we do this we begin to realize that it is really God who first attends to us. Indeed, with Paul, we realize that God has specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb. And to attend to God is also to allow Him to lead me… in the path of life eternal.

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