As Catholic Christians we are often reminded that because of the gifts and graces we’ve received we are called to go out and change the world, to do acts of charity large and small, and to ‘go make a difference.’ This is absolutely true, but as our Gospel reminds us today, that external action must not be our starting place.
This past week I came across an article on Facebook (HERE) about Sr. Margery Therese Harkin, PVMI. What struck me about Sr. Margery’s story was the simplicity of it. Often times when we think about doing things to evangelize or change the world we imagine big programs and complicated structures. She did just the opposite. Over the course of the past few years, Sr. Margery has simply been going to each home in her parish’s boundaries, accompanied by a fellow parishioner, and asking if there are any baptized Catholics living there. At that point she can begin the conversation of faith and rather than come with any great evangelizing tools, she just invites them to come to Mass or some parish activity. Simple, yet powerful. In the wake of this ministry she has seen many come back to the Church and others come into the Church from other faiths. Too, she has worked as a missionary throughout Africa and helped form other communities to continue that good work. So how did she get there? How did she come to be such a great instrument of Our Lord in bringing people back to Himself? She happily shares that it was all because of an experience she had when she was 15 years old. She just went to confession and really felt the mercy of Christ. Then, praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she began to experience Jesus in a way unlike any other time. She walked out of Church that day knowing Jesus personally and it was that personal relationship with the Lord that led her to and sustains her in the ministry she has been given.
In the Gospel we heard poor Martha, busy and anxious about many things, frustrated with her sister for her apparent lack of concern. Jesus points out the reality though, that Mary has indeed chosen the better part. He didn’t say that Martha shouldn’t do any work, but rather seems to show that the most important, and foundational, piece is to sit before Him. Then, and only then, can one really do anything with much profit. It was by sitting at the feet of Jesus that she came to know Him and from there to receive her mission to share Him with others. And the same is true for each one of us.
This past week I had the joy of going to visit my dad and family in Cincinnati, Ohio and on the flights there and back I decided to read Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Lumen Fidei, Light of Faith (HERE). This letter, which every one of you should read, has some incredible gems to glean from it for personal prayer. I wanted to share just a few of his points with you in light of this weekend’s Gospel.
Pope Francis speaks of faith as being “born out of an encounter with God.” God always acts first, He makes the first move toward us and we have the option to respond or not. When we do respond to that invitation to draw nearer to the Lord, we call it faith. St. Augustine poetically says that to have faith, to believe in Jesus, is “to touch Him with our hearts.” Believing in Jesus, then, is nothing other than responding to His touch with our own, to give ourselves to Him out of love. Believing Jesus – accepting as true what Jesus taught - while a necessary first step, is not enough. We must believe in Jesus, give ourselves over to Him, trusting not just in the truths He taught but in the God-man Himself. Faith and belief is born from that personal exchange that changes something in us. Before we can be Christian witnesses, we must first be true Christians. We must spend time at the feet of Jesus listening to His words and drawing closer to His Heart with our own. We must know Him, know our story of faith, know the teachings of the Church. Then we will be filled with the Spirit’s active presence to go out and effect the change needed around us.
My dear friends, in our cluster parish we have three churches, our daily Mass chapel, and our Perpetual Adoration chapel where Jesus dwells waiting for us to come be with Him. At the Adoration chapel specifically, He is there available for us to visit Him, to go and sit quietly at His feet and listen like Mary in the Gospel. We have that ability at anytime, but we also have that opportunity here in this Mass. Here is the place where most of all we can listen because He comes to us to be received into our very bodies; we are joined to Him and He to us. Let us not pass by this opportunity to receive His grace today. Let us pray today in the silence after community this simple prayer: Lord, increase my faith.