My reading in the gospel (Luke 5:12-16) this morning made me laugh. Here’s the breakdown.

Jesus heals… Jesus tells the healed to not tell anyone… the word gets out anyway… a crowd gathers… Jesus leaves to pray!

I can just imagine a dumbfounded group of people, particularly the disciples, saying “Hey, where are you going!? There is a crowd of people here; tell them who you are and why you have come! Where are you going!?”

I wonder what any action-oriented person would advise Jesus to do at that moment? I wonder what Martha would say? I do know what Mary would say.

In a situation that mirrors this one in principle, Mary chose prayer over the seemingly obvious and appropriate choice of getting stuff done (for Jesus no less). Mary understood that spending time with God was even more important than attending to the temporal needs of others.

Jesus is the supreme example of what it means to hold to what is most important and to live it, in spite of what would seem to the world and the worldly to be less so.

I don’t know about you, but every day of my life I have far more to do than I can get done in every category (family, home, work, church etc). If every day we all have more work than we can ever accomplish, will taking time for prayer really hinder our productivity? Is it really a time problem that we have, or a priority problem? What “stuff” is more important than knowing and loving God? What task list is more important than spending time with Him?

Even when we have opportunities like Jesus had to impact people on a spiritual level, should we take them all? Of all the activities he should have chosen as a priority, shouldn’t this one have been on the top of His list? It wasn’t – at least it wasn’t number one. Instead of taking this important opportunity to attend even to the obvious spiritual and temporal needs of others, He gave us a profound example of what it means to choose the “better part.”

Can we do any less?

Dan Burke is the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and author of Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God.

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