This morning at our daily Eucharist I had that curious experience of being faced with not simply ONE reading that has always spoken deeply to me but TWO. Firstly I led the congregation in a responsorial version of psalm 139 (138 if you're following the Roman numbering) O God you search me out and know me. Then I returned to my place as David read the gospel for the morning which was the story of Mary and Martha.
This passage spoke a great deal to me during the busy times of our interregnum earlier this year and I had just begun to forget my own promise to myself to hear it when God made me hear it again: for which, thanks.
I always used to think Martha's story was a CRITCISM of those who seek to show their faith by works but in the mellowing of the years and especially in the last few months I have understood that this is in fact no condemnation of those who put their faith to work but of those who work rather than seek faith. Jesus' words to Martha are not that she should NOT work but that she should be aware that only one thing is necessary; faith in God. He does not say that Martha is WRONG to serve but that she is DISTRACTED by her works from what really matters. In a world where we strive to succeed and where long hours are seen as the goal and indication of a job done well, I think many of us need to hear those words that Jesus spoke to Martha. As with so many of Jesus' most powerful speeches, he begins by calling Martha by name (twice in fact). Can we each hear that message so personally? "You are distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing." Indeed more than that, can we show that message to others? Far too often I find myself entering that most bizarre of stag contests - who has over-worked the most? "You think YOU've had a long week? I had a meeting every evening this week AND I'm working on Saturday AND Sunday and I haven't had a WHOLE day off in two WEEKS!" "I haven't had a day without some work in THREE weeks!"and the four Yorkshireman-esque discussion continues... Why do we do it? Do we really believe that we are BETTER for burning ourselves out in whatever work we do?
When I first started in youth work I was told of the great numbers of youth workers who burn out in the first two years and until this year I hadn't seen anyone burn out but recently I regret that I have seen a wonderful, caring and inspired youth worker work herself into the ground (no it's NOT me!). When there is so much GOOD work that can be done, I know that it is amazingly difficult to rest, to stop and do something totally pointless like... read a novel, watch a film, have a lie-in or just veg out... but that is exactly what we all need at times; some time for ourselves. Jesus knew this and often took time out for prayer as well as for meals with friends.
My dear friend, now taking that time out urged me that I should take note before I oush myself to far and I have certainly heard that message from her and from the readings this morning.
What work do you have that is so important today? Is it because the work is important or because YOU want to FEEL important? Another friend told me a joke tonight...
What's the difference between a youthworker and God?.....
God knows that S/He's not a youthworker
So remember when you look at that to-do list.... There is need of only one thing.