That gospel episode of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, when visited by Christ (cfr.Lk 10,38-42) teaches us a clear lesson that no matter how important, legitimate or most welcome our human activities may be, prayer always has priority over all of them.
What Martha did was, of course, not only legitimate, but also very laudable. She made sure Christ’s visit to their house would be most pleasant and agreeable. It was a most welcoming gesture of hospitality that she did.
But when she complained to Christ that it seemed that her sister, Mary, was just leaving her alone with the welcoming chores just to be close to him, Christ made that beautiful clarification about what has priority among all the tasks that we need to do.
“Martha, Martha,” he said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (41-42)
We have to see to it that we learn this lesson very well, since especially nowadays when we are subjected to a lot of pressures and distractions, we can have many reasons, justifications, excuses to offer not to live this lesson.
We have to understand that it’s when we pray, that is,when we truly pray and not just going through the motions of praying, that we would be engaging ourselves with the most important person in our life, God himself. He is absolutely our everything, without whom nothing and no one has any importance.
It’s when we pray that we manage to relate who we are, what we have, what we do, etc. to our ultimate end which, to be sure, is not something only natural but is also supernatural. Nothing therefore can rival the importance of prayer. In other words, prayer is irreplaceable, unsubstitutable, indispensable. It’s never optional, though it has to be done freely if we want our prayer to be real prayer.
Of course, we also have to understand that prayer can lend itself to many different ways. There’s vocal prayer, mental prayer, contemplative prayer, liturgical prayer, etc. It can adapt itself to different situations and conditions.
The absolutely important thing that makes prayer real prayer is when we manage to give all our mind and heart to God in whatever thing we do or in whatever situation we may find ourselves in.
That’s why St. Paul once said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5,17) That’s simply because our whole life has to be a prayer, since it is meant to be in constant and intimate relationship with God.
So, even our work and all our earthly concerns can be made into prayer as long as we have the proper motive and frame of mind. Christ is always intervening in our life, and we have to learn tocorrespond to him properly all the time. That correspondence, even ifdone in the middle of the world as is usually the case, would already constitute as prayer.
But human as we are, we definitely need some moments of silence, recollection, a certain detachment from earthly things, to be able to be and to talk with God in prayer. Otherwise, it would be difficult if not impossible to be aware of our need to pray and relate everything to God in all that we do during the day.
That is why we need some moments of mental and contemplative prayer, why we have to do some vocal prayers, develop certain devotions and the whole gamut of practices of piety if only for us to keep our spiritual and supernatural bearing especially when we are immersed in the things of the world.
Let’s hope that we understand the absolute importance and necessity of prayer and that we know how to develop a functioning life of prayer. Otherwise, we would just be wasting our time, notwithstanding the impressive achievements in our earthly affairs.*