There is a saying,
“Life is the sum of the choices you make.”
It’s true, and when I think about choices in life I tend to think about polar opposites, like choosing heads or tails, right or wrong, good or evil, Cardinals or Cubs.
But choices aren’t always about polar opposites, especially when it comes to making spiritual choices. Sometimes making a spiritual choice is about making a “better” choice. And that’s what we hear in today’s Gospel.
In the Gospel we hear how Martha makes a good choice in serving Jesus by doing all of the tasks required to prepare a meal for Jesus and his friends. And Martha’s a little upset that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping her and tries to get Jesus to guilt Mary into pitching in. Jesus doesn’t fall for it.
Jesus reminds Martha that her anxiousness and useless worry about completing all of her tasks won’t help her grow closer to him. He reminds her “there is need of only one thing” in strengthening their friendship – and that is to spend time with him. He tells Martha that Mary made the better choice and he’s not going to satisfy Martha’s need to control things by denying Mary’s choice.
Jesus wants the same for us in our spiritual life: He wants us to stay as close to him as possible at all times. Jesus wants to be the center of our lives and the focus of our choices.
Sure, we have to perform work and be responsible human beings. I don’t want you leaving Mass today and thinking that you can just proclaim a “Mary moment” and shirk your responsibilities the next time your parents, or your spouse, or your boss asks you to do something. The primary message here today is about making better decisions to grow closer to Christ.
What Jesus needs (and wants) is not our tasks, but our hearts. At the last judgment, God will be less interested in our list of achievements than the love with which we achieved them.
My guess is that you are already making good spiritual choices in your lives. You are here today celebrating the Mass; that’s a good spiritual choice. But how do we make even better choices?
Mother Teresa is quoted as saying,
“We can do no great things, only small things with great Love.”
I wish I could tell you what those “small things” are in your life; the things that will help you make better spiritual choices and grow closer to Christ. But that would ruin all the fun. You see, God gives us the freedom to make choices in our lives and gives us the intellect and the will to discern what those “better choices” should be.
But I will tell you this: One important way to determine those “better choices” is to spend time in prayer. Prayer is an awesome and powerful gift from God. And there are many ways we can approach prayer.
Growing up, I was taught to pray a list of rote prayers (the Our Father, the Hail Mary, Meal Prayers, etc.). Prayer was pretty much a one-way form of communication (from my lips to God’s ears). Like Martha, the task of prayer seemed more important than spending time with God.
As an adult, I’m learning to pray more like Mary – moving the focus of my prayer about 12 inches south – from my head to my heart. I find myself spending more time in reflection and conversation with God. This is a great way to listen and discern how to make “better choices” in your spiritual life.
Today, we all made a “Mary choice” to come to Mass and listen to the Lord. What will we choose tomorrow? What will we choose for the rest of the week? Jesus is hoping that we will continue to choose this “better part” – this communion, this closeness, this friendship with him.
It’s not that hard to do – if you make it a priority in your life. And you don’t have to be perfect. Do your best, realizing that “your best” will change from day to day.
I challenge you to spend just ten minutes a day with Jesus before getting distracted with the day’s activities. Ten minutes a day, as many days as you can to spend time in prayer, conversation and reflection.
“Life is the sum of the choices you make.” Making better choices to stay close to God and allowing him to be the center of our lives is key to spiritual growth.
So … what choices will you make this week to grow closer to God?
Are you willing to at least try to spend some time in prayer and reflection each day?
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