The theme of this week is “Alive in Christ.” I am reminded of second century theologian St. Irenaeus’s saying, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Yet what does it mean to be fully alive? For insight, I often turn to Luke’s story of Martha and Mary welcoming Jesus to their home. Luke suggests that the fullness of life is constituted by both service and prayer. Through service we direct our attention towards welcoming and creating a hospitable place for others. All of Martha’s careful preparations are sacraments of her love and care for Jesus. Yet this service, though essential, may not be enough. In spite of Martha’s service and our good works we can sometimes forget to attend and be present to each other.
Mary, Martha’s sister, embodies this attending and prayerful presence, as she sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to what he had to say. As Simone Weil reminds us, “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him or her: ‘What are you going through?’ It is a recognition that the sufferer exists, not only as a unit in a collection, or a specimen from the social category labeled ‘unfortunate,’ but as a person, exactly like us, who was one day stamped with a special mark of affliction.”
This kind of attending, Mary reminds us, is nurtured by prayer, by sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to what he has to say. Mary’s example is further magnified by Saint Thérèse of Liseux’s comments on prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy; in a word something noble, something supernatural, which enlarges my soul and unites it to God.” To be alive in Christ is to embrace both trial and joy united in God’s love. May our spirits rise with joyfulness, as we lift up shouts of gratitude to Christ, our reconciler.