27th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Commentators on today’s Gospel often make too much of the difference between Martha and Mary, and then wind up saying that we all need a little of both. That’s true, but I think there’s something deeper which unites the two sisters and includes their brother Lazarus, and that is the friendship of Christ. We could even say that the whole spiritual life of the Christian consists essentially in knowing the friendship of Christ.
For Christians, the spiritual life is not a rigid, complicated body of disciplinary rules and ascetic practices. It’s not a strictly drawn-up method of prayer and meditation. It is essentially the knowledge of the friendship of Christ, present in his Church for all time, till the end of the world. Out of this friendship can come a Benedictine Rule and a Cistercian spirit. But the friendship is there first and fundamentally; the rest is secondary and results from it.
The spiritual life, whether lived in the monastery or outside of it, means first of all putting yourself at the disposal of God, putting in an appearance before the Lord, in the same way that Mary, the sister of Martha, sat at the Lord’s feet, in an attitude of rest and trustfulness. Nothing is said about making an effort of concentration, or to observe the rules for beginning a real meditation, but only to adopt this attitude of receptivity, of being aware of the presence and friendship of Christ.
This simple method of prayer can be applied to every moment of our often hectic existence. There’s no need to have a long moment of silence in preparation for either prayer or meditation. At the computer, or when checking your email, or even answering the phone, it’s possible to break away for a moment, to put yourself in the presence of Christ and in the knowledge of his friendship.
This coming face to face with God is the whole of the spiritual life, whatever the means you take to encourage it and keep it up. You don’t have to enter the monastery to experience the presence of God.
But it helps.