Monday, October 31, 2011

Mary has chosen what is better

First Reading:

Luke 10:38-42 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Asked to speak about something I'd like to change, many things came to mind. The question reminded me of how my husband likes to ask people what they would do if they were dictator for a day. His response is that he'd ban double-wide strollers in Cambridge to make taking a walk easier, but I realized that might not be the best answer to the question. I decided that I'd talk about something that is close to my heart these days; something on which I've been trying to work for awhile.

The thing I'd like to change the most about myself is how busy I let myself become, and the passage about Mary and Martha with Jesus is a great reminder to me of what I miss when I get too busy. Our MIT community is probably missing out on quite a bit by being too busy, too. We often talk about the freshmen drinking from the fire hose, but that is the case for everyone at MIT. We are all bombarded with work, research, etc; and we take pride in being the most busy. I've often heard people bragging about just how busy they are, and when I read this Bible passage, it reminds me that there is much more to life than being the most busy.

Let's take a look at Martha.

She's focused on an important task - hosting Jesus. She obviously wants to impress him and just like her, most everyone at MIT has important work to do. But in the end, she's missing out on time to interact with Jesus. When you look around MIT, you see many people missing out on time with God, family, friends, and others because they are too focused to see what is really important

When we look at Mary, we see something different.

For this one evening, she chooses to sit and talk with Jesus, and she benefits from setting aside the busyness. She may be behind in tasks, but in the end, time spent with Jesus is far more rewarding. We could all benefit from setting aside the busyness once in a while to focus on things that have more eternal or long term impact.

I'm challenging myself to take time each day to spend more time in prayer, to put aside the busyness of my day for a few moments. The Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh said

“In modern society most of us don't want to be in touch with ourselves; we want to be in touch with other things like religion, sports, politics, a book - we want to forget ourselves. Anytime we have leisure, we want to invite something else to enter us, opening ourselves to the television and telling the television to come and colonize us.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh , Being Peace

I encourage you to take a few extra moments in your day to slow down, spend time with God, or friends, or family, or even quietly by yourself.

Second Reading:
"We must never forget that the mindful practice of daily affairs is also a path into the realm of the spirit. The Japanese have long known this, and hallowed the ordinary moments of life by elevating them into art. The Native Americans have also understood this, and consecrated everyday actions by surrounding them with ceremony and prayer.
"But ours is a transient life, lived on the run, with an endless sense of process, of movement, of chasing the future. We seldom pause to shine a light upon the ordinary moments, to hallow them with our own attentiveness, to honor them with gentle caring. They pass unnoticed, lost in the ongoing rush of time.

"Yet it just such a hallowing that our lives require. We need to find ways to lift the moments of our daily lives — to celebrate and consecrate the ordinary, to allow the light of spiritual awareness to illuminate our days.

"For though we may not live a holy life, we live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light."
— Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life by Kent Nerburn

Summer Hutcheson
Daper, Special Assistant to the Dept. Head