What’s happening in your heart is what’s happening in your prayer- Prayer ( Part 3) Retreat talk to SVD brothers in Pune
So what do I do when I cannot pray?
To help us pray Jesus gave us another advocate. In John 14:15 he says “I will ask the father and he will give you another advocate. The word for another used in this context for ‘another’ is allos not heteros. Allos means another of the same kind unlike heteros which means another of a different kind. The Holy Spirit is of the ‘same kind’ as Jesus.
Jesus is the advocate and now at Pentecost he gives us ‘another’ advocate. The very word advocate – parakletos means one who is called to be besides us. The Holy Spirit is our helper and our advocate given to us by Jesus. On the day of Ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand of the father. He is no longer visible to us. But because Jesus is no longer visible to us it does not mean he is not present to us. Just because we don’t see Jesus physically it does not mean he is not present spiritually. He has given us the Holy Spirit (another advocate) to be with us. Prayer is the gap that removes that distance. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness when we know not how to pray.
Finally prayer is not opposed to good work (Luke 10:38-42)
The two must go hand in hand. We need to have a Mary’s heart in a Martha’s world . The question really is one of ordering priorities. Whose feet are you willing to sit at? Most of the time when you ask people for their time they say they are sooooo busy. This is a universal response. The question is what are you so busy with? Sometimes it’s just that we are bad with organizing our lives.
If you look at the Gospel pericope (meaning a slice of) , Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. The parable before this is that of the Good Samaritan. We are told that Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their home. The disciples of Jesus are there too and perhaps there were more than just twelve. Mary sits with Jesus and Martha is in the kitchen for there are many mouths to feed and no fast food outlet to order from.
The question that crosses most of our minds is which one is a priority? Sit with Jesus or serve Jesus? Each one of us has different priorities. Should we experience the presence of Jesus or should I perform for Jesus. Mary chose to experience Jesus and Martha chose to perform for him but make no mistake both loved him.
So let’s look at Martha in Luke 10:38; we are told that she welcomes Jesus into her home. She knows Jesus; he is not new to her. Then she goes to the kitchen to cook for she must have been a star at hospitality. So we can see that Martha is a doer and not a sitter. In a while Martha begins to realise that no one is helping her and Mary is sitting out with Jesus. This is when the problem begins.
Martha begins to get ‘distracted’ (verse 40). She is frustrated with all the work that she is doing. She is working for Jesus but getting angry because no (Christians, my modern day interpretation) one is helping her. So she lashes out at Jesus (like we do) and says. “do you not care?” Really Martha, did you seriously ask Jesus that question?
You see, God does not work around us, He works in us. Martha, like most of us, wants Jesus to work around her, around the situations that we find ourselves in. Jesus did not want to work around Martha (or us) he wants to work in her (and us). When things don’t go as we petition or when troubles come our way we too ask Jesus the same question that Martha asked, “do you not care”? She is so angry that she forgets who she is talking to or how she is talking to Him.
Jesus is walking to his cross and Martha can’t see where he is going because she is so full of her problems so she lashes out, “do you not care?” He does care; he is walking to the cross for Martha and for us. You would think that this episode has now ended for Martha? Not at all! When anger sets in we want to call out the whole hate brigade. Marta not satisfied at lashing out at Jesus now calls out her sister publicly. She could have done it discreetly and not in front of everyone yet she chooses to shame her sister; she yells at Jesus, “Tell my sister to help me.”
Mary is not the real issue for Martha nor is getting the meal ready for Jesus and the disciples for Martha must have whipped up several meals in the past at shorter notice. The problem that needs to be addressed is what is really happening in Martha’ heart and in our hearts? For what is happening in your heart is what is happening in your prayer. And Jesus replies to her and us, “you are anxious about many things” In Martha’s life the external works are moving forward but her internal life has ceased. Externally everything looks great but internally everything is troubled.
Jesus said to Martha, “you are distracted and anxious”. Martha had anxiety because she was so focused on what she was going to do for Jesus that she missed what Jesus was going to do for her. She was focused on being productive, ‘I have to perform’, ‘I have to be amazing’, ‘I have to be awesome’. Her focus is not on Jesus it is on herself. She was a foot away from Jesus but she was not at his feet and so did not experience his peace. Jesus Christ has fed 5000, he can handle his food issues (and youth group and the parish and everything in the world) He did not need Martha or you and me for that but like Martha we are stressing. Our focus is on our inabilities and not His ability.
The prophet Jeremiah says, “if you seek you will find me”. The operative word is IF. Martha’s problem was her belief, “I have to perform for you to impress you.” Martha believed that she had to do to be accepted. The problem is like Martha, we will always be wondering if we are doing enough for Jesus. Are we good enough? The answer is no! But it does not matter to Jesus for He does for us and he did for us and he is doing for us!
Mary prioritized here relationship with Jesus; she chose to be with him. In verse 39 ad 42 he says, “Mary has chosen the better portion and it will not be taken from her”. Jesus is pleased with Mary because she chose to have a relationship with him. The question is not what has Mary done for the Lord for the answer is, nothing. She has not given a homily, conducted session, written a book or even made dinner. Jesus wants relationship.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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