THE MARY SYNDROME
A caricature of Mary, Martha and Jesus might leave us with the impression that Martha was active, practical and lacking substance as a person while Mary was spiritual, grounded in wholeness and aware of where real life was to be had. Since this was a real event and not a parable it would be interesting to know how the story ended. Hopefully Martha became more grounded in her being, less judgmental and more genuinely Godly while applying her Godliness in her practically. Hopefully Mary became more herself in spirit and in life, living out her vocation in fruitful ways that were intrinsically Mary.
FRUIT OF THE SELF
Whether or not we are contemplatives or activists and whether we are fruitful in a Kingdom sense depends on the uni0n of the self with God and the resulting spirit and life that flows from our being.
Thomas Merton writes, “The fact remains all the more true: the monk has a quiet, relatively isolated existence in which it is possible to concentrate more on the quality of life and its mystery and, thus, to escape in some measure from the senseless tyranny of quantity.”
The senseless tyranny of quantity surfaces at time in the anti-spirituality that can be common among activists. This sector of the church can often present itself as the main opposition to Revival, life in the Spirit and genuine intimacy with God. Partly because those who do it think their activity is godliness. They are heavily involved in earning acceptance with God and with people and are glued to a sense of entitlement they acquire from this kind of religion. It’s the Martha spirit. Religion tries to persuade us that we have earned something.
PEACE AND BELONGING
Yet one does not have to be a monk to escape the sense of ‘getting home and finding no one there’. One can live meditatively and contemplatively when one is not a contemplative. We can do this by reading books written by people who are contemplatives. We can learn to listen. We can adopt the stance of a learner full stop. We can go on holidays and learn to justify them as necessary to the health of our being. We can ponder what we are doing in the midst of our activity. “Being” is to a large extent a state of mind. Particularly is wholesome being the mind of Christ – not as an addiction to Christian workaholism but as a passion to enter that oneness with God that is ours in the Christ of God.
POINTS TO LIFE
Merton observes, “The monastic life has a certain prophetic character about it: not that the monk should be able to tell what is about to happen in the Kingdom of God, but in the sense that he is a living witness to the freedom of the sons of God and to the essential difference between that freedom and the spirit of the world.”
In the world you get what you earn. In Christ you are gifted with life and freedom to be. To be you as a son rather than a worker.
HUMILITY OF MIND
We can just as easily use the words ‘thoughtful life’ as monastic life. The witness of Christ within always points to a ‘better way’ and a way that is more alive for more people. Thoughtful contemplation will not leave us inertly conservative, living to justify things or habitually denying that things are as bad as they are. There’s a kind of conservatism that is anti-knowledge, anti-education, discriminatory, selfish anti-real generosity.
Someone once told Ita Buttrose, ‘She "wasn't a bastard enough" and "too honest" to be in a leadership role.’ I could easily be added as with the case of some politicians, ‘Not stupid enough.’ Thoughtfulness will set us free from the influence of demagogues and the folly of appealing to them as leaders. Habitual thoughtlessness and lazy thinking leave us vulnerable to stupid conspiracy theories, dim-witted leaders and any kind of whacky idea that pretends to be messianic. Foolish messiahs are chosen by the thoughtless – the kind that cling to bad messiahs and put Jesus on the cross.