As you may recall, a few weeks ago we heard in the Gospel reading about Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary. In the life of a Christian there are two major dimensions that are characterized by Martha’s active work on the one hand and Mary’s quiet listening to Jesus on the other: Contemplative and Evangelizing.
- Contemplative life. It’s important because it’s where we experience Christ in a personal way. Like Martha’s sister, Mary, contemplation is where we sit at the feet of Christ, listen to his words to our heart, gaze into his eyes, learn from his example, etc.
- Evangelizing life. It’s important because it’s the active work that God wants us to do for him and for others. Notice that when Martha complains to Jesus about Mary not helping her, Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to stop what she’s doing and sit down with Mary. The active evangelizing work is important to Jesus also. It’s just that he knows the better part (the part that should usually come first…) is what Mary has chosen.
- Nemo dat quod non habet - you can’t give what you don’t have. St Thomas Aquinas often referred to this in his philosophical and theological reflections. This is true on the basic level of causality. A cause cannot produce a greater effect than itself. This applies in the contemplative/evangelizing life of a Christian also. However, when you have Christ, when you’ve cultivated that interior prayer life generously and lovingly, then the effect can be much greater than simply your own ability. That’s because Christ is working through you. He can do much more through us than we ever could on our own.
- The danger of superficiality. Mother Teresa is quoted as having said once: “I fear the one who speaks much about God, but not much with Him.” If we’re not careful, there can be a tendency to turn evangelizing life into nothing more than social work. Who are we doing it for? Where does our inspiration come from? What’s our motivation? If it’s not for Christ, from Christ, out of love for Him, then we’re not a whole lot different than the next NGO or 501c3.
Here are a couple books that I’ve found to be helpful on this topic and that hopefully you will too:
-The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard
-Time for God by Jacques Philippe
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Michael Moriarty LC