Tuesday 10 September 2019
“He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Lk 6:12). We have just read this sentence today in Luke’s gospel. I’m not quite sure we are in the habit of spending a whole night praying – I myself have never had that experience! However, it is striking that Jesus spent a long time praying before choosing the apostles.
As Fr Paul Sciberras, the Scripture scholar, has explained in The Lamp in the Wind, Jesus sought to absorb the Father’s style of being, to be moved by the Father’s way of doing things. He did this before passing on to action. He spent time being with the Father, before moving on to choose his apostles, and then to meet people and heal them.
In our ministry, we are called to have this approach also when dealing with people, that is: first ‘being with’, then ‘doing for’.
I would like to focus precisely on this point today. We have a tendency to be taken up by many things we have to do, many projects. We are always on our way to the next thing on our to-do list. This is understandable because we are called to ministry. Sometimes, when we have so many things to do, we hear people say (or perhaps say it ourselves): “Be careful, what is important is being not doing”. It’s like putting “being” and “doing” in opposition.
Jesus shows us a new way of understanding the relationship between being and doing. It is not a question of separating one from the other, but rather of understanding the link of one to the other. In Jesus, what comes first is “being with”. Being with the Father, spending time with him, listening to him, being rooted in him, as St Paul says to the Colossians, and receiving with gratitude his love, his tenderness, his forgiveness, his mercy, his energy, his light. That is what should come first. It is a healing experience which we constantly need. As St Paul says, in God we find our true fulfilment.
Then, as a result of “being with”, what follows is action: getting things done, and not just doing, but “doing for”. We seek to do it for him, for his glory, so that he is blessed and glorified – to do something beautiful for God, as Mother Teresa used to say. Action flows from our “being with”. It is an action inspired constantly by him, and through our action we can then spread his love, his tenderness, his forgiveness, his mercy, his energy, his light.
Sometimes we are tempted to go directly to action without time spent with him. It happened to Martha. You will recall that episode in Luke’s gospel when Jesus visited Martha and Mary. Martha was the one who started to do things, presumably for him, to accommodate him and make him feel at home. Mary was the one who chose to be with him. Jesus praised Mary because she got her priorities right. It is not because what Martha was doing was wrong. But Mary spent time with him, listening to him; then what she did was a result of the time spent with him.
Listening is an openness of heart, an attitude where one is attentive to the other. It is opening up a space within oneself where the other feels cherished.
In our ministry, we are called to have this approach also when dealing with people, that is: first ‘being with’, then ‘doing for’. At times, we try to help people, to come with real solutions for them or their families, but without being with them and listening to them. We need to spend time with them, to accompany them, to listen to them as Pope Francis has explained so well in Evangelii gaudium. Listening is an openness of heart, an attitude where one is attentive to the other. It is opening up a space within oneself where the other feels cherished. This will then lead us to discover what is truly helpful to them, and then we can act and do something beautiful for them.
Let us pray to God as we celebrate this Eucharist: Help us to have our priorities in order. To be with you constantly, so that we can be filled with your spirit and then be spirit-filled evangelizers and do what gives you glory. Help us to be with people and accompany them, so that we can really give them the best.
✠ Joseph Galea-Curmi