The Better Portion

10 October 2006: Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 10:38-42: The Better Portion

The crucial question in the Gospel reading today is this: Why is Mary’s choice to listen to Jesus the better portion? We make two observations.

First, Martha’s work is undeniably important. To prepare the house and the food for a guest is charity. And in this case, Jesus is not just their guest but a family friend. In Palestine, hospitality is true virtue. Martha’s practical choice is like most of our choices. We always know that how much we have firmly resolved to pray, it is prayer that goes first when the going gets tough. I found an article that is good for thought. It is called the Paradox of our Times.

Can we just go back to the basics and enjoy life in a simple way?

The paradox of our time in history is that

We have taller buildings but shorter tempers,

Wider freeways, but narrow viewpoints,

We spend more, but have less,

We buy more, but enjoy it less,

We have bigger houses and smaller families;

More conveniences, but less time;

We have more degrees, but less sense;

More knowledge, but less judgment,

More experts, but more problems,

More medicines, but less wellness;

We drink too much, smoke too much, and spend too recklessly,

Stay up too late, get up too tired

Read seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom,

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned to make a living, but not a life;

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,

But have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.

We’ve encountered outer space, but not inner space.

We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We plan more, but accomplish less.

We’ve learned to rush but not to wait.

We build more computers to hold more information,

To produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce,

Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

Nevertheless, Jesus emphasized that Mary’s choice is the better portion. Just as we have described the frenzy of our times, we have lost our center, and our inner peace. Most of us consider ourselves intelligent and smart because we study here in UP. The more work we have, the more responsibilities we take, the more positions we hold and the more degrees we make determine how good we are. But more often, we find ourselves empty and lonely, stressed and overworked. Philip K. Howard has this for us to ponder:

Smart people spend time alone. They don’t fill their days with appointments from 8 AM to 10 PM, as many politicians and executives do. Great science does not emerge from hard logic and grinding hours. It comes from the mysterious resources of the human brain and soul. Inspiration is nurtured by activities like chopping wood and raking leaves, preparing dinner, going to church. These activities soften the rigid pace of the day’s pursuits and allow all our God-given intuition to work its illogical magic. Only then can we reach our fullest potential. Only then can we leap from thinking to understanding.

Mary spent time to listen to Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is the center of her life: in Him alone Mary finds meaning in her work and in her life. We have a term for a person who does not have a center which gives him focus and meaning: kalat (Being all over the place). Only when we have found the true center of our lives will we find identity and meaning. Mary’s choice was indeed a smart choice. We should make Mary’s choice, our choice.

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