necessary: essential, indispensable, something that is vital for the fulfillment of a need.
I had a teacher in grade school named Mrs. Kohlmeyer. Whenever a student would ask a question not pertaining to the lesson, such as “Can I go to the restroom?” or “May I sharpen my pencil?”, she always responded the same way: “Is this necessary?”
At first, this question confused me. I had heard adults call the bathroom the “necessary”, so I didn’t understand what she meant. I asked my mother about it one day and she told me that Mrs. Kohlmeyer was asking if the interruption was something that could wait until another time or not. She wanted to know if it was necessary to interrupt the class…if it was important.
During Mass at Saint Meinrad Archabbey this morning, Fr. Guerric prayed these words:
Turn our hearts to you, eternal Father, and grant that, seeking always the one thing necessary and carrying out the works of charity, we may be dedicated to your worship…(from the Daily Roman Missal: Collect: Saturday, February 27, 2021)
This made me stop and think: what is the one thing that necessary? What is the thing above all things that is most important? Do I make a conscience decision each day to seek it or and I too busy with the day-to-day tasks that I deem “necessary”?
When I was younger, I have to say, I did not care much for the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus and his disciples stop to visit at their home, and Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him speak. Martha is busy waiting on her guests and enjoins Jesus to “tell Mary to help me.” Jesus tells Martha that she is worried and anxious about many things but “there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)
Why didn’t I like this story? Because…I was such a Martha! There were occasions that I would spend so much time cleaning and preparing for visitors, that I was exhausted before they ever arrived. I would fret over every little detail and, what’s more, I would become upset with Jim and the boys if they weren’t equally concerned with the preparations. By the time our company would arrive, I would be tired and angry and wasn’t able to enjoy the time spent together as I should have.
I tended to do that with my spiritual life as well. I could stay so busy with prayer and Bible studies and being involved with “good works”, that, like Martha, I didn’t sit still long enough to really hear what Jesus was trying to tell me.
When I began praying the Liturgy of the Hours twice daily with Jim about three years ago, there was one Psalm that really spoke to me. Psalm 51 quickly became a favorite of mine and continues to be a part of my daily prayer life. I think about it especially during Lent, a time of self-sacrifice and repentance. It’s so easy to focus on the details and miss the depth of what the Lenten season really has for each of us.
In Psalm 51, it tells us what God desires. For in sacrifice, you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse, my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn.
This is not to say that the sacrifices we make are not important. But without repentance…without truly humbling ourselves and seeking forgiveness of our sins, they fall short of what God really wants for us. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:24)
In today’s fast paced world, it is so easy to become distracted and veer off course. The media, in all of its forms, flood us with information faster than our brains can process it. As we continue on our Lenten journey, let us focus first on what is necessary…what is important. Because when we set our eyes on what is necessary, the rest will fall into place.
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