Friends

I am very fortunate to have many good friends, in my town and around the country.  They challenge, support, and sustain me.  They are the source of lots of fun and joy, whether by phone or in person.  This morning I was out for a walk on a beautiful day when a friend drove past in her truck, recognized me, and waved.  Automatically I waved back, smiled broadly, and felt my heart touched–ah, this is a good day.

I have a friend with whom my husband Ralph and I regularly take hiking trips as couples.  Ralph picks out where we go, my friend finds a place to stay, Ralph picks out the hikes, I find wildflowers and interesting things on the trail, my friend takes pictures of them, and her husband brings up the rear finding things we miss and keeping us altogether.  Each of us has a part to play, and the whole is much richer than any one part or even their sum.

Ralph loves for me to bake a fruit pie.  It doesn’t happen very often because they take a long time to make and no time to finish eating.  I have another friend with whom Ralph once shared a piece of his apple pie.  Ever since then she has been begging me to make an apple pie for her.  One day I will, because her friendship has enriched my life beyond measure, including introducing me to people, places, and ideas that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

True friendship—with its equality, intimacy, and oneness—is special.  Jesus tells us that if we obey his command to love one another, we will be his friends.  We will not be servants or slaves to a master whom we must fear and obey for the benefit of the master’s business, which of course we do not know.  If we love, we will be one with Jesus and with God, and can do much good that will last.  It isn’t easy to love, but we have help.  It is quite an invitation.

Queries:

Who are your friends and what do they mean to you?  How are you as a friend?

What is it, or would it be, like to be a friend of Jesus?

Prayer:

Begin by thinking of a neighbor friend and hold that person in God’s love and light.  Next, but not too quickly, move to a special friend from past or present and do the same.  And lastly to someone not yet a friend or even to someone who is very hard to like.  Again, hold that person in God’s love and light.  Thank Jesus for his offer of friendship with you.  Thank God for God’s love of you.

For further reflection:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (See John 15: 9-17).

“And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him” (See Mark 2: 2-12).

To Be or To Do

Whenever I share with a group the story of Mary and Martha told in the gospel of Luke, some of the women in the group will be upset by the story.  They know very personally the work required to prepare food and provide hospitality for guests.  They identify with the overburdened Martha and the pain of not being helped.  Jesus’ response can feel to them like a slap.   I heard a man recently accuse Jesus of speaking from “male privilege” because Jesus didn’t know what it was like to be responsible for preparing meals and serving guests.  Things don’t happen if people don’t do.

So why did Jesus support Mary, who was sitting at his feet and learning from him?  I assume, of course, that in Jesus’ day (and in ours?) the role of women was to do the work of hospitality, which means his response was radical, expanding women’s value and possibilities.  He was also pointing to the importance of tending to one’s soul, of listening to one’s Guide, of being present.

What I find is that trouble comes when I see being and doing as an either-or.  If I go through my to-do list with a rushed and distracted checking off one after the other, the tasks will be accomplished but I most likely will have missed the gifts that were present along the way.  Even with the tasks done, I may well still feel burdened.  As I learned from Contemplative Outreach, if I participate in too much, I will participate in nothing.

The same is true of prayer.  If my prayer is rote, dutiful repetition of words or practices that do not leave me open to be moved by God, I have not been present.  I and the world have not been changed.  A time of true prayer is contemplation (quiet presence with the divine) and also action, an act of being that changes what can happen in an act of doing.

Queries:

Are you more oriented to action or contemplation?  How might you put the two together?

What helps you be present in a situation with all you are, not distracted and thinking about the past or future?

Prayer:

Find a time to sit quietly for 20 minutes, praying in any way that you can, listening with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

For further reference:

“Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (See John 15: 4-5).

“You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth” (See Isaiah 51: 12-16).