Choosing the Better Part

July 21, 2019

Our lives are a series of choices.  So often our world tells us that the better part is usually the bigger part.  We are asked to super-size our order because that is better.  We are told that this bigger vehicle is faster and better.  Bigger is always better.  Ask a child what size piece of cake is wanted and we hear the answer, “the biggest piece.”  The contrast of the Gospel leads us in another direction.  The difference is between action and contemplation.  Mary is at the feet of Jesus drawing everything in.  Who would not love that?  She is filled with awe at the feet of Jesus.  Martha is about hospitality, she is about activity. Now these things still need to happen and she is frustrated and jealous that her sister is not helping.  So often we break this Gospel down to active vs. contemplative.  Yet there is a deeper place to go.

The Gospel is about joy.  Mary has found peace and joy in what she is experiencing.  Martha does not.  She sees what she is doing as a burden.  Joy is an inside job.  Joy is a connection to the truth about our vocation and the potential found in each day.  Martha could have been doing the same thing and been at peace and joy if she found it in her actions.  Choosing the better part is embracing the joy in what we are doing.

I used to love to watch my parents wash the dishes after my dad came home from work and we shared a family meal.  Both had been about many tasks all day long; my dad providing for us and my mom raising the kids.  Yet after the meal it was an important task to do dishes.  We did not have a dishwasher.  They found joy in the task, never complaining, but rather co-creating an experience.  One washed while the other dried.  Their vocation of love and family was not lost.  The better part is not seeking something outside to fill us, but it is connecting with the vocation within and being at peace with it.  When we choose that peace, there is an unshakable joy.  Who doesn’t want this joy?  We all do.  It starts with embracing who we are and who God made us to be.  We are creatures created in love with a divine purpose.  That purpose is not one thing vs. another.  It is a life, pure and simple, lived in the knowledge of who God has called us to be.  I find joy in being a priest and my joy flows from the sacramental grace of holy orders.  I am at most peace in the celebration of the Eucharist, the Anointing of the Sick and the many moments of Reconciliation.  Each night when I pray my evening prayer, I praise God for the opportunity to experience and express joy in what God allows me to see and say.

Choosing bigger is not better.  Choosing wisely, trusting God will provide for us; this is what will lead us to joy.  Uncover the joy within and the wellspring will never end.

Reverend  John J. Ouper