George F. Riley, O.S.A.
Saint Thomas Monastery
Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 5
In the sixth century, St. Benedict founded a dozen monasteries in Italy that would shape Europe for centuries to come. Carved over the entrance of the first Benedictine monastery at Subiaco is the famous motto, Ora et Labora: “Pray and Work.” In the death throes of the classical world, in the decay of ancient institutions and customs, St. Benedict located the foundation of spiritual growth and endurance in the balance of contemplation and activity.
Mary and Martha have often been used by theologians, preachers, and catechists as exemplars. Christians have been told that Mary, “who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak,” and Martha, “burdened with much serving,” represent two necessary dimensions of the life of every disciple. There is a time to say the rosary, and a time to scrub the floors. There is a time to welcome guests into our homes, and a time to sit with Christ in the temple of our hearts. The key is balance. Don’t keep tired, hungry guests waiting, and don’t worry about the day’s chores during Mass. Balance demands clear vision. I must know who I am, where I am, and what is right for the moment. Anyone who has watched people play with their phones during a family dinner knows that balance is hard to achieve.
Let me suggest that the difficulty of balancing work and prayer is mirrored in the challenge of balancing past and future.
There are Christians today who think only of the future. The City of God, the True Church, is too slow in coming. They are hung up on future forms, future ministries, future lifestyles. The Church never is, but always to be blest. They find it hard to work and pray in the present. And there are Christians of the past. They suffer beneath the conviction that all is decay and loss. They dream of catacombs. They find it hard to work and pray in the present.
But the past is gone, and the future is not yet here. We must be Christians of the present.
St. Paul tells us that “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past” has been manifested to us now. Today, this day, we must be concerned with handing on what we have received to those not yet saved in Christ. We are the point at which the Church lives and breathes in this world.
Let us ask ourselves:
• How often, at the end of a day, do we kneel before our Maker and wonder exactly what we have accomplished in the past 24hours?
• How often do we wonder why we haven’t become better followers of Christ?
• How often does our prayer life finish a very sad second to our work life?
• How often do we put off to tomorrow the prayer that must be done today? How often do we boast of the good deeds of the past that we should imitate today?
Remember, everything has a price. Only man has a value before God, an eternal value!
Be a true Christian of the present. Now is your moment of time. Make it your moment of truth by blending Christ into your daily work and prayer life.