This is the memorial feast day for St. Martha. She is one of my favorite and personally familiar women in the bible. I oftentimes feel like the Martha described in this Gospel narrative: that it is all up to me; that the more I accomplish the better I am as a person; that I will be recognized and appreciated for the hard work that I do. Yeah, right!
It is often easy to play off Mary’s way as better than Martha’s. In reality, both personal aspects of Mary and Martha are a part of my own sense of self. There is always the interplay of both of these within me: the contemplative, quiet and mindful Mary…along with the active, energetic and productive Martha. A visual example of this reality is found in the familiar ying-yang symbol.
An essential invitation in Ignatian Spirituality is to become a “contemplative in action.” Since both realities are essential aspects of our nature, they are thus essential aspects of a fruitful spiritual relationship with God. One is not better than the other, but the balance of both is essential for effective daily living.
We fulfill our Christian vocations and live more meaningful lives when we both contemplatively welcome and receive God’s presence in our own lives, and actively express God’s love and forgiveness in word and action with our neighbors. Faith is both contemplative and active, inward and outward, personal and communal.
How am I attentive to both the contemplative and active side of living and expressing my Christian vocation?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.