One Thing

Living in the Now

One Thing
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Martha, Martha, you worry about “the ten thousand things.” So few are necessary. Indeed, only one. —Luke 10:42 (paraphrase)

These well-known words come from Jesus to his dear friend, Martha. He is the house-guest of siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha is doing the reasonable, hospitable thing—rushing around, fixing, preparing, and as the text brilliantly says, “distracted with all the serving.”

Martha was everything good and right, but one thing she was not. She was not present—most likely, not present to herself, her own feelings of resentment, perhaps her own martyr complex, her need to be needed. This is the kind of goodness that does no good! If she was not present to herself, Martha could not be present to her guests in any healing way, and spiritually speaking, she could not even be present to God. Presence is of one piece. How you are present to anything is how you can be present to God, loved ones, strangers, those who are suffering.

Jesus taught Martha at the mundane, ordinary level because that would reflect her same pattern at the divine level. For Martha—and for us—such naked presence was indeed “the one thing necessary.” So much of religion involves teaching people this and that, an accumulation of facts and imperatives that is somehow supposed to add up to salvation. The great wisdom teachers know that one major change is needed: how we do the moment. Then all the this-and-that’s will fall into line. This is so important that Jesus was willing to challenge and upset his hostess and make use of a teachable moment—in the very moment.

Jesus affirms Mary, “who sat at his feet listening to him speak” (Luke 10: 39), in precisely the same way: how she is doing the moment. Mary knows how to be present to him and, presumably, to herself. She understands the one thing that makes all other things happen at a deeper and healing level.

“Only one thing is necessary,” Jesus says. If you are present, you will be able to know what you need to know. These are the seers! Truly seeing is both that simple and that hard.

Gateway to Silence:
God is right here right now.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 58-59.

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