Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, Who are we? – and why are we here? Pick up your bulletins and let’s pray together the Mission statement on the front.
We, the parish of St. Isidore, witness to the world the love of Christ we have received in the Sacraments, and we invite others to personally experience the Grace of God through prayer, acts of service, and spiritual formation.
Today’s Gospel is very familiar – the story of Martha and Mary. It all hinges on the last few lines of today’s Gospel: "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."
Probably the most common interpretation of that statement is that Martha is too busy – and Mary is better because she takes time to pray and listen to Jesus. There may very well be some truth to that – but today we’re going to look at another meaning: Unum Necessarium – that’s the Latin for ‘the one thing necessary’. Jesus said – there is need of only one thing… what IS that ‘one thing’?
As you pray through this Mass and prayerfully listen to the Word of God, be thinking about what is MY one thing? What is God calling ME to do at this very moment – and with my life?
A group of over 300 high schoolers descended upon Southridge High School this week, as St. Mary’s in Huntingburg sponsored their 6th annual CHWC. They came from all around… even as far away as Maryland and Wisconsin. They came to work – that’s why it’s called a work camp – and indeed they did work. Among the group they did 30 different projects around our area – and – about 36 of them came to OUR parish this week to help us split firewood. Yes – we were splitting wood in the hottest weather of the season. I told them at the finale Thursday night that normally we don’t split wood around here until the temperature is below 50 degrees – so if they died next week and went to hell, at least they’d already be trained!
Why would they do it? Ask yourself – why would any high schooler, much less 300 high schoolers, give up a week of vacation and drive 8-14 hours to Huntingburg Indiana to sweat like pigs in the nastiest weather of the year? Well, if you got to spend any time with them, you would understand – and I know several dozen of our own youth over the years have travelled to distant cities to do just the same thing – I think they’ll agree that this experience is likely the highlight of their summer – and maybe one of the pivotal moments in their entire life!
They start each day with Mass – then head out into the heat to work all day. Over lunch, they pray together and answer some questions designed to make them reflect deeper on their experience and what God is trying to teach them through this week. Sitting with them, I was inspired. At night they share a meal, music, prayer, confession, adoration, fun, laughter. They are fully alive.
At the closing Thursday night, a couple dozen people from around the area got up and thanked these youth for busting their you-know-whats all week to do things for people they didn’t even know. But like they said – it wasn’t so much the work – as it was the Spirit they brought with them. These youth were different from the stereotypical teenager who barely looks up from their phones - and if you try to have a conversation, the best you can muster is a grunt. People commented – and I saw for myself – how these young people asked questions, sincerely listened, and shared their own thoughts and spiritual insights with all of us. They are fully alive!
There’s so much you and I can learn from this: first – Did you ever think – why do kids need to travel 12 hours to work for somebody – why can’t we just have them work here? I’ve realized there is genius to the method – you see – in order for the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of any of us, we first have to be emptied. In order for Jesus to get our attention, we have to disconnect from our normal lives – away from the job, family, phone, responsibilities, routine… so it makes sense that they need to go to another city.
The lesson for you and me is that every one of us NEEDS that kind of experience where we empty ourselves – where we disconnect from responsibilities – where we step into the unknown to allow the Holy Spirit to do something different. Yeah – I’m going to make another challenge for every person here to make it a priority to go on a retreat… maybe even annually – but for heaven’s sake at least ONCE! Cursillo, CRHP, TEC are great places to start – or St. Meinrad – Whitehouse, Gethsemane, marriage retreats…. I’ll help you find one suited to you if you’ll let me. Jesus is inviting each of us to sit at his feet like Mary.
The other thing we can learn from these youth…more than one person noticed –it wasn’t the ‘busyness’ that made them special – it was how they shared themselves. They recognized that the work they were doing was only secondary – their PURPOSE was to connect with the people they were working for. That’s super-important: Like Martha in the Gospel, we all have a tendency to fill our lives with one thing after another- and we run around doing all the urgent things that gotta be done – but we never get around to the one thing necessary.
What is that one thing necessary for all of us? Relationships. We are social people. We are people of communion – we come together as families, as classmates, as club members, as parishioners – we all want to belong – we all NEED to feel like we belong. That’s part of the genius of Catholicism… our Liturgy is an invitation from Jesus to come together each week to build a relationship with his people, the Church – and the high point of it all is our Communion with Jesus himself when we come forward for the Eucharist. Our very lives have as their goal the ‘communion of Saints’ where we become one with God. Then we will be fully alive.
Mary chose the one thing necessary – and that was to work on her relationship with Jesus. Martha was not a bad person – in fact, by all accounts she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do. Like we heard in the first reading, hospitality was one of the hallmarks of the Jewish culture – and the woman took personal pride in taking care of the needs of her guests. Jesus wasn’t telling Martha to stop – but he was pointing out there is another way. Martha – you are worried and upset about many things – but only one thing is necessary.
There’s the punch line – don’t let it pass you by. We are all worried and upset about many things… We try to do it all on our own - but only one thing is required: to allow Jesus to do it for us and through us. Jesus invites us into a personal relationship – he wants to consume us – He invites us to turn over our will, our time, our abilities - everything to him - to allow him to consume our lives... and THAT is when we become fully alive.
THAT is the ‘better part’ that Mary chose. See – Martha received Jesus into her home, but Mary allowed Jesus to receive her. It’s like two ways of coming to communion: do we consume Jesus or does He consume us? Martha received Jesus – she literally welcomed him ‘under her roof’ as we say each Mass – but Mary allowed herself to be consumed by Jesus – she chose that personal relationship with Jesus which He invites us all to.
Our challenge for this week: Ask God to reveal to you the Unum Necessarium – the one thing He most wants in your life. He may not give you specifics right away – but look for the general signs – maybe it starts with the Mission statement we read at the start of Mass. How does MY life fit into this mission? Make a habit of asking God moment by moment – what is the one thing required of me right now? Sometimes it IS working in the kitchen. But if we NEVER find time to sit at the feet of Jesus… if we NEVER allow Jesus to consume us, then we’ll miss the invitation to be fully alive.