When our Lord visited the family of his good friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary, the family hastened to welcome him, preparing food not only for him but also for his accompanying apostles and friends. The family was among groups which helped and provided for the Lord in his public ministry. “Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of Gog. With him were the Twelve, as well as certain women . . . who provided for them out of their own resources. (Lk 8: 1 -3)
The visits were opportunities for Jesus to teach and also to rest with friends. When Lazarus got seriously ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus, “”Lord, the one you love is sick.”
At the visit, while Martha hurried about with the many tasks related to food and taking care of guests, Mary “sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to his words.” Martha complained to Jesus so that Mary could help her in the many household tasks. Jesus quietly tells Martha to let Mary be: “she has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”
The story gives us some points to consider regarding the many various tasks and priorities in our lives. We need to work, and work we must, for our living. And yet we also need rest and relaxation; we need time with family and friends. We need quiet times for ourselves. We need time for God and for prayer. How do we divide our limited time?
In the life of the Church, many have seen in the reading the contrast between active apostolic work and quiet contemplation and prayer. There are religious groups recognized by the Church whose main tasks are quiet prayer and contemplation: these are the so-called contemplative groups such as the enclosed Carmelites, Pink Sisters and Trappists.
The great majority of religious groups in the Church do “active” apostolic work, serving parishes, schools, hospitals, social work centers and the great variety of apostolic tasks needed by the Church in service of people.
In truth, one cannot really separate active apostolic work and quiet work and contemplation. The cloistered groups also do work in farms or libraries; prayer and contemplation are also needed and mandatory for the “active” groups.
In the first reading we see St. Paul living out his ministry and suffering for people and the Church while in constant contact with the Lord.
Realizing the impossibility of really opposing both tasks, St. Ignatius of Loyola challenged his fellow Jesuits to be “contemplatives on action,” with contemplation and prayer inspiring and feeding the apostolic work and apostolic work helping prayer and contemplation.
The same is true for all Christians and, indeed, for all mankind: prayer and establishing relationships with a Supreme Being and working for support and a living are both necessary facets of our lives. We pray that each one of us may recognize this and learn to live with the best balance for us.