Some decisions truly are momentous, while others are the smaller kind that over time build up into a larger whole. Today’s readings illustrate the latter. Daily, there are different paths in front of each of us, as people of faith. One allows us to be more faithful and follow God more closely; the other, while not what we would consider a bad or harmful choice by any means, nonetheless is a path that doesn’t lead us toward the fullness of Christian discipleship to the same extent.
Take the first reading from Galatians, for example. Paul’s conversion story is both dramatic and well-known. There were flashes of light and a voice from heaven, he was knocked to the ground, and the course of his life was dramatically altered. It might be easier and clearer if God always spoke to us in such dramatic ways, but that doesn’t often happen and today the focus is on what happens after the big event. Paul travels extensively, visiting various people, without knowing for sure where or how his journey is going to end up. It would be logical to think he would have gone straight to Jerusalem to visit Peter (probably considered the highest authority in the early church) after his conversion, but it was three years later before that happened! This is a portrait of a person of faith figuring out how to be within this larger direction that has already been set in his life. He is navigating the smaller choices that come together to form a life of faith. Surely we can relate.
In the Gospel, too, we are shown a choice about how to be faithful. Both may be positive in particular ways, but one of them will bring us closer to the Lord than the other. I believe this is the nature of magis, that word we hear so often in Ignatian spirituality. Magis means more, but not in the sense of always doing, doing, and doing more. Instead it means more in the sense of always seeking God and being more open to the ways that God is speaking and working in our lives, even when distracting ourselves with busywork is easier, safer, or both.
I feel this tension often in my job, as many people whose jobs involve “working with people” probably do. Should I be more like Martha, focusing specifically on working in my office, making sure every detail is in order for every program and event that I am involved in? Or should I be more like Mary, simply being present to and talking with students and my university colleagues, knowing that we are Christ for each other in the world? I actually think the answer might be yes to both, rather than yes to one and no to the other. And that is what today’s readings remind me of: being a person of faith doesn’t involve one decision, and then we’re done. Instead, we are called, in each day and in each situation, to ask ourselves where we can be the most faithful and the most Christ-like. Personally, I find it comforting that the normal, everyday lives that we live are not outside of or distractions from our faith lives; our normal, everyday lives ARE our faith lives. So we can approach each day with the prayer, “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way” – the way that transforms us more and more, through the small choices we make, into the image and likeness of God.
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