Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Importance of Living a Balanced Life

(Sixteenth Sunday of the Year (C): This homily was given on July 21, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Genesis 18:1-10; Psalm 15:2-5; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10: 38-42.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Sixteenth Sunday 2019]

One day back in the 5th century, a man came to visit Abba Silvanus and the other Christian hermits who were living at the time near Mt. Sinai.  When the man arrived, he happened to notice some of the hermits working in the fields, and he said to Abba Silvanus, “Why are these men working so hard for the food that perishes? Remember what Jesus said to Martha: ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.’  These men are acting just like she did.  Mary, on the other hand, chose the good part—she didn’t worry at all about earthly food.  She sat at the feet of Jesus and drank in his words.”

Abba Silvanus called one of the other hermits over and he said, “Our friend here has come to visit us, and he needs a place to stay.  So give him a good spiritual book, and put him in a nice room.” 

Well, for the first few hours, the man enjoyed the peace and quiet, but after a while he began to get hungry.  He kept looking out the window, expecting someone to come and call him for lunch and dinner, but nobody ever came.  Finally, as it was getting dark, he left the room and went to see Abba Silvanus.

“Abba,” he said, “didn’t you and the brothers eat today?”

He said, “Of course we did.  And I must tell you—the food was quite good!”

“But I didn’t eat.  Why didn’t you or one of the brothers come to call me for the meals?”

Abba Silvanus said, “Why would we want to disturb you?  Obviously you are a deeply spiritual person who doesn’t need this kind of food.  On the other hand, the rest of us here are earthly, so we must eat.  That’s why we pray AND work.  Indeed, you—like Mary—have chosen the good part.”

Needless to say, the man immediately repented of his pride and arrogance—and then I presume he got to eat some of the leftovers!

In trying to understand the story of Martha and Mary, it would be wrong for us to set these women in opposition to one another!  That’s the mistake this man made!  Jesus said that Mary had chosen the “better” part—not the only part, not the only necessary part!

Jesus wants us to have a certain BALANCE in our lives!  This man’s mistake was that he embraced the spiritual but totally neglected the physical.  The tendency of our age, of course, is to do the opposite: to embrace the physical and neglect the spiritual.

St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that we are tri-dimensional: body, soul and spirit.  Consequently, if we’re going to live the balanced life Jesus wants us to live, we need to care for and develop all 3 dimensions of our person, not just one.

This morning I’d like you to think about your own life for a few moments.  How “balanced” are you right now?  How balanced is your life?

I wrote down several points to help us in this reflection.  Here they are:

1.    If you’re too busy to get to Mass every single Sunday and Holy Day, then your life is out of balance.  If you are chronically late for Mass and/or leave early, your life is out of balance. 
2.    If you don’t have time to give God at least 15 minutes a day in personal prayer, then your life is out of balance. 
3.    If you come to the end of the day and can’t think of at least 1 charitable, selfless deed you’ve performed since you got up in the morning, then your life is definitely out of balance.
4.    (This one is related to the last one)—If you are preoccupied with what you want to do, and with what others can and should do for you, then your life is out of balance.
5.    If you don’t have time to pay a special visit to the Blessed Sacrament and make a Holy Hour at least once a week, then your life is out of balance.
6.    If you don’t have time to get to Confession at least every month or so, your life is out of balance.
7.    If you are ever bored, then your life is out of balance.  (For those who want to do God’s will and win the world for Christ, there’s plenty to learn and plenty to do.)
8.    If you don’t make the effort to learn something new about your Catholic faith every week, then your life is out of balance.  (If something is really important to us, we will certainly want to learn as much as we can about it.)
9.    In your life, if prayer is not a priority over recreation, then your life is out of balance.  (In 1 Timothy 4:8 St. Paul says, “While physical training is to some extent valuable, the discipline of religion is incalculably more so, with its promise of life here and hereafter.”)
10. And finally, if you spend so much time in church or in prayer that you neglect your earthly responsibilities (especially the responsibilities you have to your family), then your life is out of balance.  (In a sense, that’s the error of the man who went to see Abba Silvanus.)
So what’s the message for the day?  Simple: Balance your life!  Be a good steward of every dimension of your person: your body, your soul, and your spirit.

And in the process, remember: it’s not either/or, it’s both/and: it’s not either Martha or Mary, it’s BOTH MARTHA AND MARY.  It’s contemplation and charity; it’s prayer AND action!

O Lord, help us to achieve this very difficult but very important balance in our lives, because it’s the balance that will help us to become saints!