One of the tensions, and it should be a creative tension rather than a destructive one is between the active life and the contemplative one. They are and so ought to be complementary both in an individual’s life and within the life of a community. Solitude and contemplation are healthy aspects of the spiritual life though rarely does a person have them as their predominant focus. This is usually the preserve of the contemplative religious orders.

It does not really matter how active one’s life is there will always be a need for contemplation and reflection. It is those of us who are driven by work (the workaholic personality) who find it almost impossible to respect this need because there is always something that needs to be done and I will be the one to do it! This sort of attitude is unhealthy and breeds a sort of messianic complex where I become indispensible to every aspect of my life and ministry. We are not mini-messiahs! Jesus is the only Messiah and we should realize, however difficult that may be, that it is he, Jesus, who is indispensible and not us.

The problem with workaholism and its relationship with reflection is that they are diametrically opposed and the more you work the less likely you are to see the possibility for reflection in your life. The irony of this is that the busier we are the more we need to reflect and contemplate in order not just to recharge our energy levels but to know where our energy and talents are best used. The workaholic rarely does anything really well; he achieves a lot but it is usually of mediocre quality rather than producing high quality work in a much smaller field or range of situations.

As we reflect on this story of Martha and Mary let us be aware of how it might apply to us in terms of our attitude to both work and service and prayer and contemplation.

Do I tend to be service or contemplation oriented? Do I need to grow in the weaker side of my preferences?

Jesus, you balanced your ministry with times with your brother apostles and prayer. Help me to find the right balance in all the necessities of life.