Sunday, July 18, 2010

3 Steps For Your Spiritual Life

Homily from the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Most of you know our two deacons, Deacon Matt Coonan and Deacon Tink Coonan.  They were ordained to the diaconate a few months ago at the Pontifical College Josephinum.  And a few hours before their ordination, Matt and Tink's father, Terry, came up to me and said, "Andrew, Matt is Martha and Tink is Mary."  So I shared this with Matt.  And Matt responded, "Well, yeah!  Of course.  There's invitations to get out, liturgical assignments to make, I have to make sure my family is seated in the right place!"  Then I told Tink what his father said.  And Tink responded, "Yeah."

When I read this Gospel, I was tempted to give you a homily about how we need to stop being busy Marthas and start becoming more contemplative Marys.  But then I realized how silly that would be.  Does anyone think their lives are going to get less busy?

We are busy.  And we do have to work for a living.  In fact, its a command of God.  He told Adam to cultivate the garden of Eden and care for it.  We know we have a vocation to work.  And at the same time, we know we have a vocation to pray.  So how do we balance the two?

When we hear Jesus tell Martha that Mary has chosen "the better part" we sometimes conclude that Jesus is telling us to shun busy work so that we have time for contemplative prayer.  But notice that Jesus does not tell Martha to stop working.  Jesus gladly accepts Martha's hospitality. 

What Jesus rebukes Martha for is her anxiety and worry about work.  And she is anxious about her work because she fails to see that her work is for someone who is much more than just a houseguest.  She fails to see that her work is for the Messiah.  She fails to join her life of prayer to her work. 

We have to be Marthas and Marys at the same time.  Are lives are not going to get less busy.  But at the same time, we desire a deeper relationship, deeper conversation with God.

So how do we do that?  Let me offer a 3-step plan:  1.)  Take Inventory, 2.)  Discern Your Desires, and 3.)  Take Baby Steps

1.)  Take Inventory.  Tonight, make a list of everything you are doing today in your spiritual life.  Write down if you go to Mass every Sunday, if you say prayers in the morning or evening, if you pray as a family before meals.  Be honest.  Maybe your list will only be as long as "Going to Mass on Sunday."  That's OK.  This isn't about feeling bad about where you are.  This is about understanding where you are today, so you can plan where you will go tomorrow.

2.)  Discern Your Desires.  Make another list.  On this list, write down where you'd like to go in your spiritual life.  Maybe you want to say a Rosary each day.  Maybe you want to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  Maybe you want to go to confession more frequently.  Maybe you'd like 5 minutes of silent prayer with the Lord each day.  Prayerfully consider how you'd like to grow in your relationship with God and make a list of your desires.

3.)  Take Baby Steps.  I can't run a marathon.  But I can run to the refrigerator.  That's my baby step.  My friend, Fr. Jake Runyon just got back from a vacation in which he pedaled his bike around Lake Michigan!  870 miles!  Not exactly my idea of a vacation.  It wasn't Fr. Jake's first time on a bike.  He had to take baby steps to get to that point.  Often, when want to accomplish something, we will get super-ambitious and make big plans for ourselves and sometimes we will try to do to much too soon.  When that happens, we often fail and then we say, "Well, I guess prayer doesn't really work for me."  Or, "I guess I'm no good at prayer."  That's nonsense.  Take baby steps.  When I was in the seminary, I wanted to cultivate the habit of praying a Rosary each day, but I was failing.  So my advisor told me to pray one decade each day for a month.  Then 2 decades the next month and so on. 

And we've got an event coming up that can serve as a great launching pad for deepening your spiritual life.  It's a retreat called "The Sacred and the Ordinary: Uncovering God's Presence in Our Busy Family Lives."  You will learn how to recognize how God reveals Himself to us in our busy schedules and obligations.  It will take place Saturday, July 31st from 9AM-3PM in the St. Vincent's Spiritual Center.  There's a signup in the gathering space after Mass.

Taking baby steps forward in our spiritual life will deepen our conversation with God.  They will deepen our relationship with God.  We will all meet Him face-to-face one day.  When we do so, we want to meet a very good friend, not just a casual acquaintance.  Taking baby steps forward will help us be both Martha and Mary at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. that was a fabulous read. It helps me put into perspective of what my life needs to have done. I don't take the time to stop and pray or as some put it "pray on the go" I need to learn to balance my life more.