In this Sunday’s readings, we hear the classic tale of Martha and Mary. Often, it is explained as the difference between contemplation and action. Mary, who sits beside the Lord, is the poster child for contemplation. Meanwhile, Martha, who is busy serving, is the image of action. Martha is concerned and anxious that she is doing all the serving by herself while her sister just sits with Jesus. Yet Jesus assures Martha that Mary has chosen the better path.
As someone who constantly feels like she has to do something, I find this passage to be challenging. With each news cycle, there is always something to respond to, an action to do to combat the hatred and violence ever-present in our society. Where is there time to just sit and listen to the Lord? Yet that is what this reading calls us to do, to be present to the Lord. In this instance, it means taking the time to listen. Yet we hear in the responsorial psalm that one “who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”
In our readings, we hear two different ways to be present to Jesus. So what if the reading about Mary and Martha wasn’t putting contemplation against action? What if the message was about timing? There is a time for action and there is a time for contemplation. Or better yet, how can we be, as St. Ignatius calls it, contemplative in action? In what ways can we be present to the Lord by taking time to listen to what He has to say and to do justice in our own ways?
Teresa Marie Cariño Petersen is an educator and activist particularly interested in racial justice and embodiment. She currently works as a campus ministry teacher at Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton where she teaches social ethics and coordinates the immersion program. She credits her faith that does justice formation to ISN and is an alum of St. Ignatius (San Francisco), the University of San Francisco, and (soon to be) Jesuit School of Theology. She also served as a Jesuit Volunteer in New York City 13’-14’ and worked at two Jesuit parishes. Teresa also serves on the board of the National Catholic Reporter.
Find her on Instagram @teresamariecarino