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Google tells me that the city of Las Vegas is 158 square miles and has 1.9 million residents. I've never been to Vegas but people who have tell me that it's something to behold. And if there is one word that summarizes their experience, it's overwhelming. Between the lights and sounds, bounty of food and drink, all the entertainment, it's overwhelming they say. They say that there's, "A lot to do in Vegas." There's a lot to do, plenty to do. So, if you're looking for something to do, go to Vegas.
Google also tell me the Mojave Desert that surrounds Las Vegas is 47,778 square miles and has only 850,000 residents. Unlike the city of Vegas, there's not much to do in the desert. Excluding nature itself, there are no flashing lights or loud speakers. It's aridity and simplicity makes for a rather boring place to do things. So, if you're looking for something to do, I wouldn't go into the desert.
But think about this, throughout Scripture, the desert has always been a place, and a symbol, of encounter with God. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Jesus himself: they all go into the desert to encounter God. They all go into the desert to BE with God. So, perhaps we can set up a paradigm then: the desert is a place of BEING. A place of being with God.
In today's Gospel reading we encounter Martha and Mary. Friends of Jesus, they are hosting him at their home. Martha, taking up the work, finds herself doing all the work: she's got a house full of people. Mary, on the other hand, sits at the feet of the Master and is listening to him, engaging in conversation, being taught by him, being nourished by him; simply being with him. This of course gets Martha all is a tizzy- isn't better to always be doing something?
Today, Jesus says loud and clear, "No."
No doubt, my friends, you and I have plenty to do. From sun-up to sun-rise you and I have plenty to do: work, kids, errands, social engagements, other commitments. We have plenty to do. We can sometimes do so much that we end up lamenting how busy, how tired, how stressed we are.Sometimes, we can even measure a person's value or purpose but how much they do for themselves or worse, for others.
Today, Jesus invites us to not be so concerned with always doing things. Today, Jesus invites to work on being. He invites to work in being with Him, and on being with the people in our life. Jesus invites us every day to journey with him into the desert so that we can be alone with him. He invites us to daily prayer, and may even invite us to occasion retreats so that we can simple be with him for a time; to be nourished and taught; encouraged and corrected. A place of encounter; a place of felt presence.
But today he also invites us to be present for the people in our life. No doubt things have to get done. But Jesus invites us to remain aware of the PEOPLE that we are doing things for. For Jesus, it's not about doing things, it's about doing things FOR PEOPLE. It's the person, it's about the person. When we remember the people we are doing things for, it gives our actions meaning and purpose; it allows them to flow from a place of Love.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said, "Do all things, even small things, with great Love."
This week, we recommit ourselves to doing all the things we need to do with great Love. But we even more deeply recommit ourselves to being present to the Lord that he might nourish us on a daily basis through prayer and acts of service. We also recommit ourselves to being present for the people in our life. To sit at one another's feet; set aside the things that we need to do; and find time simply to be together. And to allow the bonds of Love that join us together, to grow and deepen and strengthen.