21 July 2019 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Genesis 18:1-10; Psalm 14, Response: The just will live in the presence of the Lord; 2nd Reading: Colossians 1:24-28; Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
“Equanimity” is one of the favorite words of my other spiritual director and philosophy teacher, Fr. Frank Reilly, S.J. He would always describe it as a state of being that one should aspire for.
The etymology of equanimity—aequus, “even, level” + animus, “mind, spirit”—gives us a good handle for reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel.
It is the story of sisters Martha, the active, action-oriented one, and Mary, the reflective, contemplative other.
When Martha complains to Christ about Mary’s attitude of letting Martha do all the work, Christ tells her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
The operative words are “worried and distracted.” This is the Lord’s critique of Martha losing her equanimity due to useless worries and distractions. Work, or action, must lead us to greater equanimity that comes from a sense of fulfillment, drawn from a sense of purpose in doing the work.
This sense of purpose, infused with a deeper meaning, becomes a sense of mission and this centers us in the midst of all the activities and work in our day-to-day life.
Our day-to-day life is filled with various activities and tasks, and attached to each is a role we play—parent, spouse, coworker, friend, son/daughter and more. Each of these roles, in turn, has a set of expectations.
We see the scenario—each task, with its corresponding role and set of expectations, will pull us in one direction, while the tasks combined can push us in different directions. This triggers worrying and being distracted, and unless we have the element that can center us, we lose our equanimity.
In the story of Martha and Mary, we see what St. Teresa of Calcutta said: “We do not great things, but only little things with great love.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola adds another perspective to this story. The synthesis of Martha and Mary is the contemplative-in-action of Ignatian spirituality.
Last Thursday, I was reflecting on the Gospel reading for the daily Mass, Matthew 11: 28-30. The line, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” struck me.
It led me to think about Fr. Arrupe: “We have eternity in which to rest.”
My reflections led me to consider that the “eternity in which to rest” is our life lived in the day-to-day—“rooted and grounded in love… and to know the love of Christ…” (Ephesians 3: 17-19)
It is a life lived in the day-to-day, totally dedicated to the mission, the Ignatian “totus ad laborem,” giving oneself totally to the work. And in the midst of all the activity infused with zeal and passion is a contemplative who rests in the eternity who is Christ, “rooted and grounded in (his) love.”—CONTRIBUTED