Today’s Gospel Reading at the Sunday Mass comes from Luke 10:38-42:
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“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.
Down through the centuries the spiritual writers have used this story about Mary & Martha as a jumping point to contrast the contemplative (Mary) and active (Martha) approaches to our Life with the Cross. As useful as that discussion can be, I would like to use their encounter with Christ to jump into something relative to what I have been talking about for the past few blogs.
Today is the wonderful Feast of my favorite non-Biblical Saint, Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-38, Kraków, Poland). She is most famously known amongst Catholics for her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul and for the ‘Divine Mercy Portrait’ (as seen below), which Jesus Himself commissioned her to have painted in 1931, and went onto inspire Bl. Pope John Paul II to institute the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday (celebrated on the 2nd Sunday of Easter). My good friend Chaplain Rose M. Hamilton gave me St. Faustina’s diary to read in 2007 and I instantly fell in love with her brand of spirituality, the depth of her vulnerability to Christ, and with her deep personal relationship with Him. In fact it was tremendously difficult for me to restrain myself from reading more than ten of her diary entries a day. I strongly recommend Faustina’s Diary to every human being.
Sr. Faustina’s Diary Entry No. 351 relates to today’s Gospel Readings:
- O my God, how sweet it is to suffer for You, suffer in the most secret recesses of the heart, in the greatest hiddenness, to burn like a sacrifice noticed by no one, pure as crystal, with no consolation or compassion. My spirit burns in active love. I waste no time in dreaming. I take every moment singly as it comes, for this is within my power. The past does not belong to me; the future is not mine; with all my soul I try to make use of the present moment.
To serve the Lord in secret means to not be concerned about what you or others think about your service to Him. It is the opposite of Martha who cried out to Jesus, essentially saying, ‘Look at me. I am doing everything all by myself’. We run into Martha’s everyday; people who want everyone to know what they are doing for God, and feel as if everyone should be doing precisely what they are doing so they too can share in the correct path to holiness. Out of one side of they mouth they say ‘Look at me’ and out of they other they say, ‘Be like me’, or like Mary commanded Jesus, Tell her to help me.
What Saint Faustina has to offer this discussion is what Jesus called ‘the one necessary thing’. To be singularly devoted to the service of Christ Jesus in your calling, even in the midst of personal suffering and sacrifice, is the one necessary thing in your life. Nothing else matters but that. Indeed, this is a hard saying, but the cost of discipleship is clear. “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26-27).
Leaving behind the cares of this world to devote your heart to the singular service of God is sacrifice and to carry your own cross to your own Mt. Calvary is suffering. And we cannot do these things with a ‘look at me’ attitude, because there will come a stretch or a period of time when no one is going to be there to help you carry your cross and you are going to feel abandoned by everyone, even God, but you are going to have to keep pressing on, and if your motivation comes from the rewards of self-glorification (accolades, shout-outs, and hoorays for you) then you are not going to be able to make the trip to Calvary. You are going to give up, drop your Cross, and go home with your tale between your legs.
Serving the Lord in secret and sitting at his feet in silent listening are the difficult portion of the Spiritual Life, but they are also the necessary things that are guaranteed to make your life most rewarding!
“O Jesus, I want to live in the present moment, to live as if this were the last day of my life. I want to use every moment scrupulously for the greater glory of God, to use every circumstance for the benefit of my soul. I want to look upon everything from the point of view that nothing happens without the will of God. God of unfathomable mercy, embrace the whole world and pour Yourself out upon us through the merciful Heart of Jesus”
(Diary Entry No. 1183).
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.