The Better Part

6 October 2009 Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3, 1-10; Psalm 130; Luke 10:38-42 The Better Part

The crucial question in the Gospel reading today is this: Why is Mary’s choice to listen to Jesus the better portion? We make two observations.

First, Martha’s work is undeniably important. To prepare the house and the food for a guest is charity. And in this case, Jesus is not just their guest but a family friend. In Palestine, hospitality is true virtue. Martha’s practical choice is like most of our choices. We always know that how much we have firmly resolved to pray, it is prayer that goes first when the going gets tough.

Case in point. When the relief operations at the Ateneo Covered Courts stopped at 11:30 AM for a mass, the Ateneo community was making a point. To stop operations for half-an-hour was a statement: that whatever help we extended to our neighbors springs from our love of God. But as the going gets tougher, they eventually decided to move the mass to a later time to what they presumed was a less stressful hour. The principle of having it as an important landmark eventually paved way to convenience.

I found an article that is good for thought. It is called the Paradox of our Times.

Can we just go back to the basics and enjoy life in a simple way?
The paradox of our time in history is that
We have taller buildings but shorter tempers,
Wider freeways, but narrow viewpoints,
We spend more, but have less,
We buy more, but enjoy it less,
We have bigger houses and smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgment,
More experts, but more problems,
More medicines, but less wellness;
We drink too much, smoke too much, and spend too recklessly,
Stay up too late, get up too tired
Read seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom,
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned to make a living, but not a life;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
But have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.
We’ve encountered outer space, but not inner space.
We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We plan more, but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush but not to wait.
We build more computers to hold more information,
To produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce,
Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

Nevertheless, Jesus emphasizes that Mary’s choice is the better portion. Just as we have described the frenzy of our times, we have lost our center, and our inner peace. Most of us consider ourselves intelligent and smart because we study in prestigious universities. The more work we have, the more responsibilities we take, the more positions we hold and the more degrees we make determine how good we are. But more often, we find ourselves empty and lonely, stressed and overworked.

The inner peace that we are looking for can be found through listening to the Lord in the silence of our hearts. Rock star, Sting says the following in a speech at the Berklee College of Music’s graduation ceremonies in Boston in 1994:
In the modern world, true silence is rarely experienced. It’s almost as if we conspire to avoid it. It forces us to pay attention to ideas and emotions we make little time for. Silence is disturbing because it is the wavelength of the soul. (Reader’s Digest September 1999. Asian edition).

Mary spends time to listen to Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is the center of her life: in Him alone Mary finds meaning in her work and in her life. We have a Filipino term for a person who does not have a center which gives him focus and meaning: kalat (being all over the place). Only when we have found the true center of our lives will we find identity and meaning. Mary’s choice is indeed a smart choice. We should make Mary’s choice, our choice.

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