Kathleen Norris said, “It is in the realm of the daily and the mundane that we must find our way to God.” Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a French monastery, would agree with her. Like every other monk who entered there, Lawrence committed himself to seven periods of prayer every day. But he found that sitting through the daily liturgy with his eyes closed was more difficult than he imagined. Though initially disappointed when he was assigned kitchen duty, Brother Lawrence discovered that his time among the pots and pans helped him pray. In this place where he felt at home, he learned to practice his devotion and know the presence of God.
Did Brother Lawrence ever feel like Martha does in this story? Did he ever complain about colleagues who crowded the kitchen after a meal, trying to get just one more of his renowned pancakes? Did the pressures of helping feed the monastery influence his prayers? Did tasks like picking the ripe tomatoes for the next day’s soup or scraping burnt corn off the pans before vespers make him whine, “There’s too much to do! If only I had help”?
Like Martha, I’m good at chasing distractions. In pursuing many things, I lose my focus. Frantically chasing the many weakens my attention, and even diminishes my love for the one thing that matters most—drawing near to Jesus. Mary didn’t let that happen; Martha couldn’t savor this gift of Christ’s presence until she walked away from all that distracted her.
Remember what the Samaritan did when he saw the wounded man? He “came near.” When Jesus calls us to “come near” whoever needs a neighbor, he’s asking us to come near him and leave our distractions behind.
What good things keep you from focusing on the most important thing?
God, with all that we deal with daily, may our priority always be paying attention to you, for you are always near. Amen.