Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be back here with you in New York. I think the last time I was here it was like freezing, and now it’s just like sweltering. So I always come back to the East Coast when were in these weather extremes, which is the complete antithesis of what I’m used to now in the Bay Area and Berkeley, by San Francisco, because it’s like everyday it’s 70 and breezy. It’s like, it’s amazing how easy forget about weather extremes when you’re living out there, so I’m guess I’m happy that I was reminded that there are other parts of the country that really struggle with weather. So I’m in it here with you as well, so thanks for being here this morning as we’re all trying to get through this hot weather.
Today’s Gospel, I can’t help to think, is just one of those stories with Jesus that just seems all too human, all too real. How many of us have just dealt with just the frustration of someone close to us, perhaps a family member or friend, who doesn’t seem to be pulling their weight. When we’re overextending ourselves and trying to do something, and of course this is the case of, you know, Jesus, as the guests at this house of these two sisters Martha and Mary, and he see that Martha is doing everything to make sure that the house looks right. Everything’s put together, and of course what’s Mary doing? While she’s just kind of was listening and hanging on to everything that Jesus is saying. It’s almost as if, like, you know, Mary’s that’s like Jesus’s biggest fan, and just can’t wait to just get everything out of him.
Well, Martha’s the one in the in the back, you know, kind of running the concession stand, making sure that, you know, everything’s working, and of course there’s this resentment. Martha’s because she is doing all this work and Mary seems to be getting a free ride. Not only is Martha serving Jesus and making the house good for Jesus, it seems as if Martha is also making sure that Mary is okay, as well. You know, twice the amount of work almost, right?
And when we look at the story, of course, as it is with everything in the Gospel, there’s probably a deeper spiritual implication going on, and many of us will take away from this story – well there seems to be two different ways to live the Christian Life. There is the life we would say of the full-time contemplative, the full time prayer, and then there’s the life of the full-time active minister – social worker, if you will. The person who’s always trying to make things and make an impact in society, and of course in our Catholic Christian tradition, we could probably look upon many examples of different Saints, many different notable people who we can think of, many Saints who were monks and nuns. People who are true contemplative people who left the world as a way to reform greater intimacy with God, and in that presence of being with God they were able to engage the world in a different way, as a way to look at the world as something that is passing, and it’s a way for us to prepare our souls for eternity.
The tons of even recent examples of people who were contemplative in modern times – the 20th Century – to think of someone like Thomas Merton, for example, who was, who lived a very active life here in New York City going to Columbia University, and then becoming a Catholic and leaving the world and going to a monastery in Kentucky, where he was able to develop his life to prayer and spiritual writing, and which many of us have maybe been influenced by. And of course then we have the great other extreme: people who work very hard in the world trying to make an imprint on bringing relief to the poor to the sufferings of those are marginalized. And of course in the Twentieth Century, again we can think of someone like a Mother Teresa, who is clearly right in the thick of things in Calcutta, working with people who are suffering from leprosy and other harmful elements in the midst of extreme poverty. And so looking at those two types of streams of how to live the Christian Life, we kind of look at this Gospel as a place where it’s find the origin, Mary being the great contemplative at the feet of Jesus, Martha being the great active social worker in the world making a difference.
Yet today, Jesus seems to give Martha a hard time, almost saying that all this activity is not really what’s important. Yet, when you look at it in a far deeper way, is perhaps not Jesus’s criticism of the activity – it’s more of Jesus being mindful that the thing that Martha was struggling with is something that I think we can all identify with and that is anxiety. Jesus says that Martha you are anxious about many things. Anxiety, I think all of us understand what it means to be anxious, to be worried. And what is anxiety? Anxiety is simply us not living in the present moment. What I mean by that, because if you really think about it, our anxiety is always worrying about things that might happen, that could happen, that maybe even will happen. But yet, they’re not actually happening right now.
All of us right now this very moment may feel anxiety because you may think about what you have to do after you leave church. You may have to think about ways to deal with the rest of this week. You may think about something that’s happening right now and your family life and your personal life, but if you’re really honest with yourself, if we are all honest with ourselves at this very moment, as we sit in these pews, we really don’t have to worry about anything. We can just be. But yet, our anxiety takes us to someplace else and Jesus is very, very delicately and very gently – I would say – gently reminding Martha that anxiety takes us outside of the presence of God, because the presence of God is always in the present.
The presence of God is a journey. Now there’s not a presence of God that’s found in the past, or presence of God that’s found in the future, because God doesn’t operate in time the way that we understand. If God exists outside of time, he’s beyond time. We’re the ones who think in a very linear progression. God is simply the Eternal Now – “I Am Who Am”. As he reveals His name to Moses and how do we practically deal with that, what we deal with it as we’ve tried our best to become more contemplative.
Now that doesn’t mean that we’re all going to run off and become monks and nuns call to be contemplative. The Christian should always be one who is constantly contemplating the presence of Jesus Christ in the now, in the present, because only by contemplating where Jesus is in the present moment. Will anyone be able to know what he or she should do with his or her life if you’re thinking about the future and always worrying about what’s going to happen next? And how we’re going to deal with things, or if you’re even dealing with the regrets of the past? Those things do not help us learn how God wants us to live our lives today.
Now let me give up a short little example of this happened to me this week as I was coming back from California. For those you may not know, I’m out in California studying at Berkeley, and I came back on a flight that was supposed to arrive at 9:30 at JFK on Wednesday evening, but there were thunderstorms here in New York and the plane was delayed, so I didn’t get to make it back here until midnight at JFK. So of course I have to try to get back from there over to here to Brooklyn, and I want to take the subway, so had to get to the Howard Beach station to take the train back into Brooklyn. But since it was so late, I arrive at the platform at Howard Beach and there was track work being done and now it was going to rain, just so you had to be like, you know, get onto the the train, go to two stops, get off the train, get onto a bus, go to – that would take you to Euclid Avenue, and then from there you go up on another train and shoot into Brooklyn. So of course, my 5-hour flight from San Francisco to New York was now going to be equally matched by probably a 5 hour commute from JFK to Brooklyn.
And here it is almost midnight and there was a man on the platform with me. He’s, okay, “where’re you going?” – so I go and say, you know, Brooklyn running out to Jay Street. “That’s where I got to go too – let’s split an Uber!” Like I just checked it out, like 50-some dollars or something like that. Now of course I was tempted, I guess, for a moment to think that, all right, well I guess it would make more sense to me and I am kind of tired and I should probably get to sleep, have a long day next day on Thursday.
But for some strange reason, I just felt that, you know, I kind of made a commitment that I was going to take the train back, and yeah, I could afford to take the Uber, so it’s not like I’m some type that’s financially-strapped, but there was a great desire on my part to stay, and it’s because I want to be present to this moment, because there are a lot of other people who do not have the luxury of just hopping on an Uber right now. There’s lots of people right now on this platform who worked a very long day, most likely at the airport, and have to go through this whole process of hopping on the train, and dealing with this bus shuttle, and going on the other train, again to bed probably way too late and having to wake up way too early. And while it’s very tempting to think that I can just kind of be removed from that, for some reason I just really felt the presence of the Spirit saying to stay. And so I did, stop after all – the different exchanges and things like that.
I probably ended up in a bed around 3 in the morning, but it’s amazing what you are able to behold on the New York public transportation system at that early hours, right, because you see a lot of stuff, right? You see people who really are just spent from the day of working a very long shift, and you hear the conversations, and you’re hearing their anxieties, and they’re worried. And of course you see people who are dealing with their own issues of mental illness, drug addiction. You see the homeless. You see the young teenage couples making out. You see everything.
But you know what you really see in the midst of all that? You see Jesus Christ. You see Jesus Christ in each and every one of those people on that train and on that bus, because Jesus comes to us in the present moment, through each and every person and most especially through their wounds, through their suffering, through their trials, through their anxieties. We often have to remember that we worship a Jesus who’s hanging on a cross. That’s the Jesus we worship, that’s the Jesus we behold. We don’t behold Superman Jesus. We don’t behold Jesus is just somehow above all the worries and stresses of the world. We behold a very broken Jesus on the cross. That’s how we’re able to encounter the same broken Jesus in each and everyone around us and it’s what gives us hope that in our own brokenness, in our own pain, and yes, even in our own anxieties, there is tremendous hope – tremendous because as much as we gaze upon the crucified Christ, we know the story does not end there.
We know that the death of our Lord is so intrinsically connected to his resurrection, that they are almost one in the same. They are contingent on each other – our longings and our sufferings only increase our desire more for wholeness. Yet if we are always thinking about how we wish things were somehow different or if we’re always thinking about how we personally have to manage things or handle things, we can neglect to see exactly what Jesus is offering us in the present moment, in our own situations. And through the people around us what we need to respond to as a way to not only get through what’s happening but also find joy and what’s happening in our lives yeah it’s impossible to do this just simply by having a change of attitude.
Martha could very well continue to be working in the kitchen getting things ready, but rather than trying to tell Jesus – telling God – what to do, to allow her work to reveal in of itself a certain type of wholeness, a certain type of contemplative presence. Because the reality is that Martha wasn’t happy doing what she had to do. She wasn’t happy that she had to go through all this process of work. She didn’t see the joy in the suffering of work, just like it’s probably not fun to have to actually just hang out on the platform of the train and hop on the bus and do all these other things – exchanges – to get back home one night. That’s not a fun thing to do and I could very be tempted to say no when I get out of this Uber, Lyft. But yet when we’re able to enter into contemplation, we can see that even the roughest, toughest commute can be a moment of joy, because we are united more closely with Christ, with Jesus, in his wounds.
We do that today when we come to this Mass. Once again we approach the altar, and we are united with Christ in Holy Communion. We receive His Body – the same body that’s bruised and broken on the cross. We receive that Body and we are one with Jesus’s brokenness. Just as the priest breaks the host, we are then clearly entering into the broken body of Christ. Yeah, we also receive at the same time the resurrected Christ – Christ of completeness, of wholeness, of healing, as we receive Jesus today in this very hidden presence of what looks to be bread and wine. Maybe then leave this church and once again behold and reveal the Hidden Presence in the broken bodies of people that we see all through our city, and maybe especially on our trains and buses in our city.
I know that we are in solidarity with each other in our own brokenness, and only by being in that place we’re able to heal each other, because the same Jesus who unites us in brokenness is the same Jesus that is helping us all to heal, as we contemplate today what we’re being called to do next.
God bless you all.