By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THE story of Martha complaining to Christ about her sister, Mary, whom she accused of not helping her in some household chores (cfr. Lk 10,38-42) reminds us that there can be this tricky situation when we feel we are right but are actually wrong. And it would require someone in the name of Christ who would point that error to us.
As the story went, Martha was busy preparing things for Christ who visited them one day. When she saw her sister, Mary, apparently just sitting right before Christ, while her hands were full of things, she got irritated and went to Christ to complain. And that’s when Christ corrected her, telling her that only one thing was necessary, and that was what Mary was doing and it would not be taken away from her.
What was Mary doing? She was praying! She appeared as if she was not doing anything, but what she was actually doing was contemplating directly on Christ, listening to him. And praying, especially in the form of contemplation, is what is most important for all of us.
Without prayer, we would be at the mercy of our human weaknesses and worldly forces that would put us away from God who is actually everything to us. It’s when we pray that we manage to relate who we are, what we have, what we do, etc. to our ultimate end which, to be sure, is not something only natural but is also supernatural.
Nothing therefore can rival the importance of prayer. In other words, prayer is irreplaceable, unsubstitutable, indispensable. It’s never optional, though it has to be done freely if we want our prayer to be real prayer.
Of course, we also have to understand that prayer can lend itself to many different ways. There’s vocal prayer, mental prayer, contemplative prayer, liturgical prayer, etc. It can adapt itself to different situations and conditions.
The absolutely important thing that makes prayer real prayer is when we manage to give all our mind and heart to God in whatever thing we do or in whatever situation we may find ourselves in.
That’s why St. Paul once said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5,17) That’s simply because our whole life has to be a prayer, since it is meant to be in constant and intimate relationship with God.
The error of Martha consisted in failing to consider her practical tasks in the kitchen as a form of prayer. In other words, her practical sense undermined her piety. Her complaint against her sister showed that she failed to turn her work into prayer. Her work was simply work, with hardly any reference to God.
We have to be wary of this most tricky situation. We might be doing a lot of work, and a lot of good. But if they are not offered to God and done with God, if they are pursued only for some practical and worldly purposes, it will not take long before we get overtaken by our human weaknesses and the many temptations around.
Pride, vanity, envy, lust, etc., can easily destroy what good we may be doing. Or they can sap our spiritual strength and energy to resist the temptations. They can also blind us from recognizing our errors, leading us to think that we are right when we are actually wrong.
We have to realize more deeply that we need to pray always!