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October 15, 2006
Martha, Martha - You’re Not FocusedHas it ever happened to you that you are speaking to someone, perhaps your spouse or your children or even a co-worker or employee, and they seem to be looking at you but they’re not quite there? They are not trying to ignore you, they are simply having trouble focusing on what you are saying. Chances are this has happened to 90% of you at some time or other. Why is this happening? Unless they are trying to be rude, chances are they are simply having great difficulty staying focused on what they are doing. And no, I am not referring to people who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.
Thanks to the recent explosion of Hi-Tech machines, we are now able to perform multiple duties and perform a variety of tasks simultaneously. The effects on us, however, is that our brain becomes fried and our nervous system becomes overtaxed. The result is a person that is anxious and unable to focus on the given task. We credit ourselves for being marvels at multi-tasking but unfortunately we pay a much too expensive price.
Actually, our Hi-Tech world simply gives us a “legitimate” excuse to carry out our own agendas without considering the agenda of the God who continues to seek our attention. This is not a new concept of the 21st Century. Being too busy has been in existence for centuries if not for some millenniums. The best example is the story we have all heard and remember from the Gospel. The famous story of Mary and Martha gives us the perfect scenario of someone who is too anxious and is stressing out to the max.
The story of Mary and Martha has often been interpreted as meaning that God prefers us to spend our time praying as opposed to being too busy with the affairs of the world. For this reason many of us dismiss the story as not relating to us. “After all”, we reason, “we can’t all be contemplatives. Somebody has to do the work. Where would we be if we all sat around praying all day?”
Fr. Robert Barron, professor of systematic theology in Illinois, gives us a different perspective on this Gospel story. Jesus was not reprimanding Martha for being too active. Rather, he was challenging her to take a look at her style of behavior. Her problem, Jesus saw, was that she was not centered. Her mind was divided, i.e., she was drifting from this to that, from one anxiety to another. There were too many things that were preoccupying her mind.
She was unable to focus on the matter at hand. She “needed” to be everywhere all at once. In other words, she had her own agenda. Even if she had been sitting at the feet of Jesus she would have been anxious and impatient because her spirit was divided.
Fr. Barron says that Jesus sees Mary as being centered. If Mary had gotten up to help, and she probably did, with the many household chores, she would not be worried and distracted because she could relate them to her center. Where do we fit in this picture? Are we able to go about our busy schedule without a splintered Spirit? If not, why not? What is missing in our spiritual life? Do we use the excuse that our schedule is too busy so we can’t pray? Prayer, after all is simple communication with God. Let’s think about it.
Lorette P. Nault