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Martha and Mary and Deep Canoe Paddle Strokes

The Gospel appointed to be read this upcoming Sunday is the story of Jesus being a guest in the home of Martha and Mary.

While Martha and Mary are sisters, the two of them have very different reactions to Jesus' presence in their home.

On the one hand, Mary sits and listens to Jesus. On the other hand, Martha "is distracted by her many tasks."

Martha approaches Jesus and says "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me."  

But Jesus answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." 

What a great reminder to not allow our busy-ness to get in the way of sitting still and listening to God. 

I've long wrestled with the "Martha-Mary dynamic." I'm frequently torn between indulging my inner Martha -- being driven...accomplishing...working hard...getting things done - and indulging my inner Mary -- taking time on a daily and weekly basis, and during vacation time to listen to Jesus in prayer...rest...sit still...read...journal.

Once on retreat, I told my spiritual director (a Jesuit priest) that with as much work as there is to be done, I had trouble giving myself permission to pray, and rest. 

Here's what he said in response: 

"John: sitting still - just doing nothing, just contemplating, praying - will accomplish a lot more than activity, because it is in times of silence, retreat, and contemplation that we align ourselves with God's purposes. Then your actions - the ones that flow out of that quiet - will be like the deep canoe paddle stroke, changing direction with minimal effort, versus the day (and the life) of a hundred quick energetic strokes at the surface. You must believe this. So whenever you find yourself unable to rest...unable to just be...feet tapping, agitated, ready to 'just get out there' it's a major warning sign that you are not in tune with God." 

Maybe you need to hear that as much as I do...? 

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