“Let my eyes stream with tears
day and night, without rest,
Over the great destruction which overwhelms
the virgin daughter of my people,
over her incurable wound.
If I walk out into the field,
look! those slain by the sword;
If I enter the city,
look! those consumed by hunger.
Even the prophet and the priest
forage in a land they know not.”
Jeremiah 14: 17-18
One danger of constant busywork is that it can provide us with a means of escaping the problem at hand. For many of us, that problem is often an emotional or spiritual one: if my hands and mind are occupied with work, I don’t have to think about how my friendships are going, what I’ve been struggling with in prayer, or other (for some of us, a seemingly endless amount) concerns mounting in the backs of our heads. It is very common for us to answer the question, “How are you?” with the word “fine” even if we are feeling far from it.
That’s sort of how I picture Martha today in the Gospel. I’m reminded of a time when I was helping to run an event and was extremely anxious that everything should go well. At some point a priest pulled me aside and asked how I was doing. I didn’t want to admit to my anxiety, so I just listed a series of tasks that I still had to accomplish before the event was over. He saw right through me. “You can cry,” he offered, “don’t worry.” I think of Jesus watching Martha prepare everything perfectly and seeing something weighing on her heart that she is afraid to show to Him. But He already knows it, and loves her, and wants her to lean on Him for help. I think of all the times we go to prayer with a sort of false stoicism, putting on a “game face,” when all God wants is to see us as we are. I imagine Christ saying, “Go ahead and cry, yell, plead, laugh–if that’s what you need to do, do it!” God already knows what you desire. You don’t have to put on a face for Him, and it’s silly to even try. Let’s all try to develop the confidence in the Lord necessary to be able to drop our defenses, to let down the walls of our hearts so that He may enter and bring more abundant life.