Reflection-Week 5

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World
 
For the past few weeks, I have been intending to put together some thoughts on 'Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World', a personal reflection on life's priorities. Yet these days have been hectic. I have been rushing around, travelling four to five hours a day. Mostly running from one thing to another; often not even stopping to think. Things that have to do with my work, with Jesus Youth and Rexband, with family and whatnot. Then, like a truck ramming into you from behind when you've just begun to doze off at the wheel, it struck me. This is exactly what the reflection is all about. So here I am on a train heading for a client meeting, trying to put down whatever God puts into my head; praying that this reflection may speak to me as much as it speaks to anyone else.
 
“I am not asking you to remove them from this world, but to protect them from the evil one" (Jn. 17:15). That's as clear as it gets. We are called to live our faith in the midst of this activity driven world that has a very different set of priorities from ours - and we know deep within that our ways are different. Yet living 24x7 in a world that thinks differently from a Christian viewpoint is likely to influence our thinking, approach and perspectives. These scattered thoughts below are a reflection on some of the key priorities of today's fast paced world that could influence our perspectives and attitudes in ways ever so subtly.
 
1)    The Obsession with Intelligence, Efficiency and Achievement
 
All around us, people are constantly accepted or rejected based on their intelligence, efficiency and achievements. This natural selection or survival of the fittest, as Darwin called it, is at work every moment in interviews, in projects, in examinations and selection processes of every kind. Most of the systems in our families and organisations have in-built mechanisms designed to filter out the inefficient and the unintelligent. We too are caught up in the pressure to make our kids competitive enough to stay ahead and not be sidelined. In the process our children too can grow up believing that their inherent value diminishes if they are not intelligent or efficient enough to keep up. This obsession with the achievers and performers is such an all-pervasive phenomenon that it is something that can seep into our attitudes unknowingly.
 
Definitely intelligence and efficiency are valuable gifts of God and are beautiful when used in love. Yet Jesus has always showed a clear preference to spend time and find delight in the presence of those who were morally, intellectually, physically or financially sidelined in society. So if we have become people who are influenced by the preferences and natural selection of this world, perhaps the Lord is calling us to make a deliberate decision this season. A decision to spend time with the ‘left behind’, with the quietly ignored, with the ones who have not made it, with those who are not up to the mark and with those who are past their prime.
 
This obsession with efficiency and achievement can seep into our spiritual lives too. We could, if not careful, get caught up in measuring the frequency, the impact and the efficiency of prayers. We could do SWOT analyses and create complex graphs about how to maintain a steady spiritual life - forgetting about drawing closer to the heart of Jesus. So this is also a season to earnestly seek and find once again our initial fervour and love for Jesus.
 
Looking within, I see some areas that could be particularly influenced by this obsession with intelligence, efficiency and achievement: 1) Our judgement and assessment of people 2) The friends’ circles that we choose and build 3) The ministries we work 4) Our spirituality and our relationship with the Lord 5) Our families and our colleagues.
 
Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, open my eyes so that I may receive the gift to see everyone like you do. Amen.
 
2)    The Tyranny of Time
 
Time, it is said, is more valuable than money today - and rightly so. Time management is the order of the day. Everyone is complaining of the shortage of time to do things or finish things. Even while doing something, we are worrying about other things that have to be done. We delegate to save time and still end up having even less time. Even our spirituality is delegated by time or the lack of it. One of the most important priorities of today's world is to turn time into a ruthless dictator who reigns over everyone.
 
When we look into Jesus' life of thirty three years - almost half the average lifespan of a person today - we do not see the kind of unsettling, overbearing rush that we see in many of the people today. He had time to be a carpenter, play with little children, go for weddings, enjoy the lilies in the fields, go fishing, hang around with friends, preach the Gospel, go for long boat rides, heal the sick, pray for long hours, go to the temple and still have enough time left to save the world. So too in the lives of saints like St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa we see much suffering and struggles, but we also see that they had enough time to stop by to talk to people and enjoy God's presence. Somehow these saints, even while they lived on earth, seemed to have lived in God's time zone. Even in their earthly lives punctuated by the relentless ticking of time, they discerned the footsteps of eternity. "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night" (Psalms 90:4).
 
Today, God is calling us to perceive God's time within the time we have on this earth. To be freed from the tyranny of time and to live with eternity in sight. To feel God's presence every moment and to bask in His love. To find, as in Michael Card's beautiful song, a Joy in the Journey.
 
"There is a joy in the journey,
there's a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
and freedom for those who obey."
-Michael Card, Joy in the Journey
 
Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, set me free from the tyranny of time and help me to live in Your love every moment, perceiving eternity within time. Amen.
 
3)    The Cult of Bigness
 
Think Big. Go global. These are the most clichéd headlines that I have been hearing for years. Yet the idea is clear - everything in today's world is geared to become bigger, more complex, more sophisticated and global. Even global companies are localizing so that they spread wider and thus become even bigger. One of the biggest priorities of this busy world is to be big and complex.
 
Everything about Jesus and Christianity turns this upside down. It is in His becoming simple and small - in the setting aside of Jesus' heavenly status - that the salvation of this world became possible. Yet sometimes we ourselves can be caught up in this overwhelming desire to become big. Whenever temporal power and riches came into play within the Church, whenever it became big - it actually became small. When Pope John Paul II dared to become small and think like young people, we had the World Youth Day and a great movement of youth towards the centre of the Church. Even in Jesus Youth, it is in being small through little cell groups and personal relationships that we have grown. Especially during these days, the growth of 'small groups' in Jesus Youth is a truly big sign.
 
This season calls us to reflect on becoming smaller in our families, our workplaces and our relationships. Becoming small also means finding joy in what the world sees as simple things. Perhaps in this world of complex technology, intricate networks and sophisticated relationships, we need to take an extra effort to stay simple and small.
 
Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, help me not to be afraid of being small. Help me find great joy in simple things. Amen.
 
4)    The Curtains of the Tangible
 
In his book ‘God's Pauper’, Nikos Kazantzakis relates an incident in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. As St. Francis and Brother Leo trudge across the remote snow covered, dense forests towards Mont Alvernia in Tuscany, they come across a mother with her little child on a cart and her husband, a bearded peasant who walked beside her. “Give us your blessing, Father” said the peasant, “This is my wife and the baby is my son. Bless us.” Since it was known that this place had no human habitation at all, Brother Leo looked curiously at them as they passed. As they went by, St. Francis, who was looking joyfully at the couple, called out “Happy Voyage Joseph!” Baffled, Brother Leo asks Francis how he knew the name of the peasant and Francis asks him why he did not recognise Mother Mary, St. Joseph and Little Jesus who went by. Shocked at the realisation, Brother Leo rebukes himself “Alas! my hide was thick, my heart smothered in layers of fat. When would I too be able to push aside this world and see the other world behind it?”
 
Around us, everything is physical. It is by the five senses that we move and live. Constantly living in a physical, tangible world, our hearts too are often curtained away from the spiritual realities hidden around us. We are so used to only recognising things that relate to our physical senses that we have to cultivate a habit of listening to voices that can only be heard in our inner ear. And unless we are familiar with the 'still small voice' by listening to it constantly, we will not be able to make it out amidst the screams of the busy world around us. We need the power of prayer to tear away the curtains of the tangible that surround us - until, like St. Paul we too can say that it is “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts. 17:28). So this season, let us pray for the stillness to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the gifts to discern His voice in our lives.
 
Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, help me draw closer to You in prayer so that I might recognise Your face when I come across You everyday. Amen.
 
Shelton Pinheiro
Kochi, India 

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