This is the most enduring truth of the spiritual life - whatever we give to God we get back one hundred times. God cannot be outdone in generosity. No matter what we may offer Him, no matter what sacrifices we may make to do His will, He will bless us many times over.
Martha and Mary learned this in today’s gospel. By sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him, Mary was not shirking her responsibility to help her sister Martha or wasting her time. Rather, as Jesus tells us, she had chosen the “better part”. Time spent with Jesus is never wasted time.
We see this truth exemplified also in Saint Isidore. He was born in Madrid, Spain in the year 1070 AD. Because his parents were poor, he was sent to work on the farm of a wealthy landowner at a young age. Farming is grueling work, demanding long hours of labor. However, young Isidore insisted on going to Mass every day. Many mornings he would show up to the fields late because he had gone to church. His employer would yell at him and his fellow farm hands often made fun of him. But, as it turned out, the land Isidore tended was three times more productive than that of the other workers. On several days, in fact, while Isidore was at Mass, the workers witnessed angels tending his crops and animals. He became an example to the other farmers - and to us as well - that if we tend to our spiritual lives, every other aspect of our lives - our work, our families, even our physical health - will be taken care of as well.
All the great saints of our Church were able to accomplish great things. They built hospitals and schools, evangelized entire countries, wrote great spiritual classics, fed the hungry tirelessly and served the poor despite the cost. If they were to stand before us here today, they would all tell us that the only way they were able to perform so many good works was through the strength they received in their daily prayer. The hours they spent in God’s presence gave them the love, the courage and the endurance they needed to then spend long hours in service of His people. Prayer was not a waste of time for them but was absolutely necessary to make their lives meaningful and productive.
No person has worked harder at serving the poorest of the poor than has Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Perhaps no other woman was able to do more good or inspire more people in the twentieth century than she did. Every day, before going into the streets of Calcutta, she would spend an hour in prayer followed by Mass. This is what she said about prayer: “Every moment of prayer, especially before our Lord in the tabernacle is a positive gain. The time we spend in having our daily audience with God is the most precious part of the whole day.”
When we feel under stress - when our work or studies or the demands of family life overwhelm us - prayer is often the first thing we stop doing. Our anxiety has such a hold on us that we believe we do not have time left over to give to God. Prayer can seem like a waste of our time in such instances. However, the opposite is true. It is when we are feeling pulled in a hundred different directions that we most need prayer to give us focus. It is when the demands of life have us tied up in knots that we need prayer to unwind us. It is when we feel depleted, weak and used up that time in God’s presence can fill us back up again with His gifts of peace and strength.
Time spent with God whether it is in prayer or in volunteering our time to serve others is never wasted time. In fact, it is really the only time that matters. Whatever work we may be involved in today has only a temporary effect. If we cut the grass or trim the hedges, they eventually grow back and we have to cut them again. If we make dinner, we will soon be hungry again and have to make breakfast. If I spend the week preparing my sermon for Sunday, come Monday I will have to start the process all over again for the following Sunday. However, when we pray, the relationship we forge with our Heavenly Father lasts for all eternity.
We may be tempted to think that work is important and prayer is optional. But it is really the other way around. Without prayer to support us, the rest of our lives would be meaningless. We might be able to get a lot of work done, but it will be tedious and joyless. With prayer, however, our efforts take on new meaning, become more productive and we find ourselves living with more focus and less anxiety.
We can learn this for ourselves in our own lives by following Mary’s example and beginning each day by sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him. All it takes is spending fifteen to twenty minutes every morning in quiet time reading the Bible or quieting our minds to focus on the presence of God. No matter how chaotic the activity around us is, if we spend time with Jesus every day without fail, we will see our hearts begin to change. We will gain a new perspective on life and experience more peace. It is the easiest thing to do and yet the most rewarding. Furthermore, it does not cost us anything except a little time and what we receive in return ensures it will be the best investment we could ever make.
Here in this place, we have taken time out of our busy schedules to sit in the presence of the Lord and to hear His word. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta tells us, this is the most precious part of our week. Nothing we will receive this week, nothing we will accomplish, can be more precious than the Body and Blood of Christ we will share in Holy Communion. God in His great generosity is blessing the time we spend with Him today. If we give Him even more time every day in prayer, we will experience more blessings