The Two readings the church gives us today have strong themes of attentiveness. In the familiar Mary and Martha story from Luke’s gospel Mary gets rewarded by Jesus for sitting attentively at Jesus’ feet. Martha is attentive to the needs of hospitality, which also is important. And it is Paul who is attentive to the voice of the Lord in the first reading.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians we hear Paul’s own account of his behavior, attitude and conversion. He acknowledges that his reputation had spread far and wide as a destroyer of the faith. He affirms his call and conversion by the Lord, Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t stop there. He goes so far as to start a lifelong journey to start telling people about his experience. Yes Paul is clear about all three stages: persecution, conversion, and proclamation. However, if you go a little deeper into Paul’s thoughts, you will see that it isn’t exactly this clear cut. The lines between these fold over onto themselves. For example, just because Paul is out proclaiming doesn’t mean his conversion is finished. Moreover, in the early days of his strong headed convictions, we see his conversion has already started. How else could he be so passionate and zealous about persecuting Christians if he didn’t recognize a certain truth in a group of people who professed to be held together by the love of God. Conversion started early in Paul’s life and he really wrestled with it.
That is why I speak of attentiveness. We can live with things for months or even years before we become attentive to them. Mary is very attentive to the Word of God, while Martha is attentive to the needs of hospitality. Neither are wrong nor bad. I would propose that Paul lived with his attentiveness his entire life. In his early days he was a Jewish boy studying the law. As he grew older he became a Rabi and teacher of the law. In his struggle to understand this early community of believers, he was in internal conflict with the scripture and content he was taught. Even in this internal conflict he was attentive to something outside of his comfort zone. In his famous conversion story, it is apparent that he was attentive to the light and the voice. And in his proclamations, we can see how his conversion kept calling him into the mystery of the Resurrected One. Indeed there was an attentiveness in Paul.
Prayer for the day: take some time to tell the Lord how you are attentive to the Holy Spirit’s invitations.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.