How many of you have had this experience?
You’re out at a restaurant with a friend or a group of friends. The conversation is nice, the food is good, the atmosphere is pleasant. You have been “polite” and turned off your cell phone (or, actually, placed it on “vibrate”). Then it happens:
You are snapped out of your focus on her story about how her coworkers’ perfume mixes with the boss’ scented candles and creates some allergic reaction. “Bzzzttt!”
That phone is calling you.
Thoughts arise: “Who might that be?” “What time is it?” “Are the guys out at another place?” “Should I at least peek and silence it?”
Soon, she notices your pocket glowing and the farther away look on your face. “Do you need to check that?” she asks. You look, silence it, having seen that it was your brother, and place it back in your pocket.
Now, back to the scented candles.
“But, I wonder what he wanted…”
Sound familiar? Today, it seems, sometimes out phones are smarter than we are! Mine allows me to send text messages, emails, Facebook photos; I can surf the Internet, find a nearby restaurant, or check the O’s score; I can play “Angry Birds,” read the news and even pray my Office.
Oh, yeah. I can make phone calls too.
We are inundated with information, with messages, and with entertainment. “Multitasking” is considered a valuable skill, when years ago it was called “ADHD.”
Culturally, our attention spans are shortening to what we can fit into 140 characters on Twitter, and the shorter the better. Sound bites are better than the full story. OMG – IDK what my BFF would say, but I am not LOLing.
Today, we find out that this problem is not necessarily new. Jesus is visiting his dear friends, Martha and Mary. As usual, a crowd of folks has gathered, and Martha’s home has become a hot check-in spot in the community. Her hospitality was a common courtesy offered to visitors of that region – just as Abraham and Sarah had shown similar kindness to the heavenly visitors in the First Reading. So Martha, understandably, was busy – multitasking away and tending to the guests. Her sister was there too.
But Mary just sat – sat there, apparently doing nothing – staring at Jesus as He taught, taking in His words. Can we really blame Martha for getting upset? Wouldn’t you?
But Jesus doesn’t want a fuss. He doesn’t need multitasking. What He is seeking is an open heart, eager to listen and to learn. “Mary,” He says, “has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.
Blaise Paschal once said, “All of mankind’s problems stem from his inability to sit alone in his room.” As a philosopher, Paschal did a lot of that. But his point is that in that solitude and silence, there is time to think – room to think – and reflect on life and our place in the world.
If I polled this group, most of us would probably say we are more like Martha in our lives than Mary. There are many things that we are busy about – things that must be done. However, our lesson today is that there is a “better part.”
What can we learn from the Mary’s in our lives? How can we slow down, unplug, disconnect for a little while? Is there someone with whom we need to connect – in a real, tangible way? Can we spend time with others – in their company? And most important: can we spend some of that time focused on God?
Can we take this lesson to prayer – disregarding the phone, the email and the text messages?
Technology is a great blessing, but we can become servants of it instead of the other way around. It is probably good that this lesson comes in the slowed-down summertime, when we can actually find some time to unplug. Connect with Jesus first.
Twitter will still be there when you’re done.