There are many choices today for reflection. They all spring from the day’s lectionary readings and speak of the active and/or contemplative life in God. Paul speaks of his conversion, the recognition of his role in proclaiming Christ to the Gentiles and his many interactions with followers of Christ that convinced them of his transformation from persecutor of Christians to a faithful follower of Christ. His entire life became a witness. (GAL 1:13-24)
Then follows my favorite psalm (139), proclaiming how wonderfully made we are – and have been “from our mother’s womb.” Sometimes it just takes some time to wake up to the reality and the privilege. Many things determine our capacity to flourish. Conditions of place, family, income: all the many outer elements of life – as well as opportunities for inner development – make us who we are. Nature and nurture should work together.
But there is more, as seen in the gospel featuring Mary and Martha today, a very familiar story of a visit from Jesus. (LK 10:38-42) Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to him, while Martha scurries around doing the tasks of hospitality and complaining about Mary’s lack of help. These were sisters, likely living together but remembered through the centuries as indicative of very different personalities: one the active and the other the contemplative in life.
Today is also the feast of Saint Bruno, a man who was a famous teacher and appointed chancellor of the his archdiocese at age 45 – a very high position. Bruno, however, had a dream of living in solitude and prayer, a dream he eventually realized in his foundation of the Carthusian order of monks and nuns. These men and women lived in individual cells at a distance from one another. They met for two prayer periods each day and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. After nine centuries, there are approximately 370 monks and 75 nuns in various places in the world, living in the same manner as the companions of Bruno. in the whole, wide world, by today’s standards, a very small number.
What motivates people to choose a direction in life? Some, it is clear, “fall” into a life’s work. Some people take a long time to choose – or never do. It seems to me that it takes attention of both body and spirit to discern a place in this world. What has been your motivating force in life? Who has influenced your choices? Are there dreams still awaiting fulfillment? Most importantly: where is God in your life?