Written by Michael Fones
Tuesday, 09 October 2007 08:02
The late Jack Palance played grizzled cowboy Curly Washburn in the 1991 comedy City Slickers. In one scene, Curly offers a bit of advice to one of the urban cowboys who is trying to get his life back together.
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Curly: This. [holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean @(*&%$.
Mitch: But what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.
I wonder if the writers of City Slickers had today's gospel passage in mind when they wrote that dialogue.
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42
What is the "one thing" for the Christian? Mary discovered it: being focused on the Lord. It is very easy for us to be anxious and worried about many things - including good things, like hospitality, or even "serving the Lord." In my own ministry I was - and still am, unfortunately - often very busy. But if my focus is taken from Jesus, the ministry will falter, and I'll begin focusing on myself. "How am I doing? Is our ministry successful? How's our attendance at Mass?" and on and on.
Just as my focus can shift from Christ to me in the active life, it can also shift from Christ in the life of prayer! I can approach the life of prayer like a checklist: "Did I get to Mass today? Say my rosary? Did I get the Divine Mercy chaplet in?" Or I can get upset that Mass wasn't just as I wanted: not reverent enough, or too formal; the music was poor or from the wrong period; the church architecture too traditional or too modern; the priest used inclusive language -or didn't - and on and on. Again, the focus has shifted from Christ to me.
When we are anxious and upset over anything, it may well be a sign that we've begun to focus on the means, rather than the end, which is the encounter with Christ, our Lord, our Savior, our Love, our Life. It is so easy to replace the end, the one needful thing - or, better, the One we need - with something that ultimately will pass away.
We cannot be satisfied by something that is good, perhaps, but not the Good. When that happens we'll always end up seeking "the More". When we lose sight of "the One," we'll become lost and engrossed in the many.