There is an inherent tension in Dominican life. On the one hand, we are active in ministry, engaged in the Sacred Preaching. Yet on the other hand, we recognize that this preaching comes out of the foundation and flows from contemplation. These two tensions are very difficult to hold together. On the one hand people can be more active in their personality, engaging in all kinds of busyness. On the other hand, there are those who are more reflective and not as engaged in activity.
And so it is not surprising, on this feast of the holy Rosary, that we are presented with the Gospel of Martha and Mary. In many respects, they represent this tension between action and contemplation. Martha is busy about so many things. And they are good things. She wants the house to be clean, the food to be prepared well, and the visit of Jesus to go well. She wants to provide for him all of the things of hospitality. Mary, for her part, is focused on the importance of the visit of Jesus. She is engaged in hearing his words, presumably about many things, and perhaps most about spirituality.
This becomes a problem for Martha, because she has allowed the tasks of the visit, to become more important than the visitor. This is not to suggest that working hard to entertain guests is a bad thing. It is to suggest however, that when the things she was doing were not done for the sake of the visitor, then they become less important.
Mary has chosen the better part, for Mary. We could presume that Martha, if she have been able to see the work she was doing as an example of how to serve Jesus, she might not have been so frustrated at her sister. In Dominican life, we can look upon these tensions in the same way. Western society rewards activity. Those who are seen as important people, successful people, are often those who do the most things. People who are more reflective in their life, are often valued less. It is why schools can struggle for money for the arts or for music. It gives rise to the stereotype of the writer who struggles to make ends meet. And in ministry, it can be seen that because prayer does not necessarily produce an observable product, it becomes less important.
In Dominican life, in its ideal expression, we view the action of our ministry only as successful when it arises from the foundation of our contemplation. Today we are giving an example of a tremendously powerful tool in keeping these two elements like together. We are given the example of the rosary, which both forces us to be contemplative, while at the same time reflecting on the tremendous deeds of God and of Jesus. If you strive to hold contemplation and action together, then learn to value the rosary.