Distraction Blocks The Heart

A brother came to visit Abb Sylvanus at Mt. Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard, he said to the old man: “Do not work for food that perishes, for Mary has chosen the good part.”
The brother was shown to a cell, and when the time had passed for the meal, he came out and asked the father if the monks had eaten. “Of course we did,” was the reply. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“You are a spiritual person, and do not need that type of food; but since we are earthly, we want to eat, and that’s why we work. Indeed, you have chosen the good part reading all day long, and not wanting to eat earthly food.”
The brother heard these words and repented. (from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as told in The Celtic Prayer Book.)

Some time ago, I taught on the story of Martha and Mary. My friend wrote to say she hated that story because pastors taught from the point of view of that brother. Surely, she wrote, they all ate the food that Martha prepared.

Yes, they did. With great appreciation, I’m sure.

One thing that disturbs me about modern America concerns the large number of uneducated people running around with university degrees–indeed, even advanced degrees.

Any reading of the story must assuredly come to the point that Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.” What’s the key concern? Worry and distraction.

Have you ever attended a family gathering or a dinner party where the hostess has prepared a great meal, and yet, she is focused on serving the guests? She involves people, sometimes, in the preparation and setting out. She makes time to acknowledge everyone.

Martha lost her focus. On the other hand, the brother in the story above thought of himself as superior. “I’m spiritual; you’re not.” He is Mary gone bad.

Both attitudes detract from our spiritual formation. We work, we serve, we do it all focused on what is important. The people I met last week doing business as mission know the meaning of work as service. They are not worried and distracted by many things. They are working and serving with the right attitude. A great example.

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