ARE YOU A JACKASS?
(a reflection on Luke 10:38-42)
by Deacon Paul Rooney
Today I want to share some thoughts with you about Martha and Mary, featured in our Gospel this day, and one aspect of the story that relates to our own personal spiritual journey.
But before I get there, I want to alert you to the fact that I will be using a dictionary word that might sound bad, one that sometimes has bad connotations (depending entirely on how you use it). However, I assure you that I will be using it only in a Good sense, and I will be quoting a Pope who also uses it in this same good way.
First, I have a Question for you.Have you ever reflected on the truth that "Discipleship" really translates into the need for you and me to become "a Disciple for others"? Yes, we are disciples of Christ. But HE devoted his life to Others; that is the same mission WE have as baptized Catholic disciples of Christ.
But before we can do that, we have to become "Intentional Disciples" — meaning followers of Jesus who have a living, personal relationship with Jesus, and who order their lives based on that decision to follow him.
So how do we go about acquiring such a personal relationship? The process is simple. We have to be formed and fed by Christ, and only then sent to carry on the mission of Jesus.
It is this exact sequence of things that matters: formed, fed, and then sent. Sure, we can do all kinds of good things in terms of help for the poor. But if it does not flow from our Christ-center, then it is nothing more than secular humanism, just good deeds that have No reference to our faith life, and may even deny or reject the need for Christian faith and our Duty to respond to the needs of others.
So first and foremost, we must be formed by Christ. We need to sit at his feet daily, and let him teach us with the inspired words of Sacred Scripture. After our faith has been formed, we are then strengthened and fed by the Eucharist at this altar. Only then are we able to go out in the name of Christ, sent as Intentional Disciples to carry Him to others.
Now, fast-forward to Martha and Mary. The gospel story is very clear about which one of the sisters chose to be formed first by the word of God, and which one chose to skip the formation and just get busy with good works. We all have a bit of both Martha and Mary in us; but which one tends to dominate our life?
We really and truly need this continuing formation in God's word. Only then can we become little donkeys, and carry Jesus to others. If we ever think we do NOT need this daily formation in God's word, it is a danger sign pointing to a big Ego and the vice of Pride. I like to use by analogy a quote from Pope John Paul I. He was Pope for only 33 days, dying in 1978; but one of his comments stuck with me:
(I Quote) "I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: If that little creature, hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun (jackass that he was) to bow his thanks...how much laughter he would have aroused! Don't you act the same." (END Quote)
Hopefully we ALL desire to be "little donkeys," little jackasses ready to carry the precious cargo of Jesus' word and Jesus' peace to Others. And hopefully we will ALL see the prior need to be formed daily by God's word, before any ministry to others can be effective.
Jesus himself told us that Mary had chosen the better part. She sat at his feet to be formed by his word. We need to do likewise. Why argue with the Boss?