So it’s Tuesday. You know what that means! Another segment of Ask Br. Casey! Except it doesn’t. While I have posted a video each week for the past six weeks, and had planned on doing the same today, I simply didn’t get it done to my liking last night and chose to scrap it for the week.
But that’s not what this post is about. At least not directly.
This semester has started off as one of the more stressful semesters of my life. As I think I’ve mentioned before, four out of five of my professors have required weekly, or even daily, reflections on readings. That is beginning to take a toll on my free time, free time that I have quickly filled with anything and everything: making a video for the provincial fraternal days, agreeing to give a 30 minute talk to teenagers about the mass, sitting on two committees in our house, starting physical therapy for my shoulder (helpful, but still time consuming!), and, wait for it, professors are beginning to want final paper proposals (which in themselves, are not really that bad… it’s the final papers that generally follow that is quite the annoyance!) Add a weekly video segment and the normal goings of friar life to that mix, and you’ve got yourself a pretty busy life.
Trust me when I say that I’m not complaining, and I am certainly not bragging; so many people have to do much more than me with a lot less than I have. I say all of this to point out that, while this particular load of work may be a bit tedious at times, pushing me just beyond my threshold of stress, it is something that I took on, accepted, and want to live with. The fact of the matter is that I like to be busy. Doing something, even if fairly stressful, is better than not doing something.
And while I don’t discount some level of neurosis–“I must be doing something or I’m not happy”–I think my biggest motivation is that I feel that I am doing the work of the Gospel… or at least work that will prepare me to live the Gospel better. In my school work, I am preparing to be a priest for the people of God; at home, I am trying to build up our fraternity for the sake of the Kingdom; in my professional work, I believe I am using media to connect with people on a level I wouldn’t otherwise. Everything I do, I do for God and for the life of the Church. I am like Martha in our Gospel today at mass: frantically working, sometimes over my head, for Jesus.
Then there’s Mary. There she is, just sitting at Jesus’ feet enjoying his company. And Jesus has the audacity to say that she has chosen the better part? Doesn’t he know how hard I am working for him?
I have no intention of debating Jesus’ words or to enter into any sort of discussion as to which is better, the active or contemplative life. What I do want to say is that this Gospel reminds me that there is a difference between doing something for someone, and spending time with someone. Doing something for another is detached; it may benefit the person we love, but it does not facilitate any real interaction. Doing something with another is intimate; it may not benefit the person we love in any real practical sense, but it is, for me, the foundation of the relationship. It is the time that we spend with those we love that makes us want to do things for them in the first place.
In everything I do for Jesus, I need to be constantly reminded to actually spend time with Jesus. Without prayer, without time to be with our Lord in an intimate and quiet way, free from all of the things I have filled my life with, I will eventually forget why I do what I do, allow the stress to overwhelm me, and ultimately, lose sight of what it is I am actually working for: a world in which others know the love of Christ as I do today. Without prayer, I may be running at 100 mph, full of zeal for where I’m leading people, but in the wrong direction. Sometimes, it means stepping back, putting the mission on hold, and being with the one who calls us to mission in the first place.
For all of us working for Jesus, especially those of us who find life to be quite overwhelming, our highest priority must always be to make time with Jesus. As a friar of ours says: “You should pray privately for thirty minutes every day. When you’re busy, you should pray for an hour!”