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  • Andrews Amritharaj

Don’t Fret Over a Fly While Letting an Elephant Sit in Your House

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10: 38-42).

The intention of Martha wanting to be a perfect host is not bad. Who doesn’t want to be a good and welcoming host when guests are invited? It is Jesus himself who has come to their house and she did not want leave a stone unturned. She wants the perfect setting for Jesus and there is genuineness in her desire. But what Jesus is pointing out to Martha is not to be anxious over many things that she forgets the most important thing that is needed: to be with him and listen to him. It was a life time opportunity for Mary and Martha to be with Jesus and Jesus in turn wants to use this opportunity to bring people into a relationship with his Father. In light of this, all other things in life can wait. Mary’s focus was on Jesus and Martha’s was on being a perfect host: keeping the house clean, tidying up the place, preparing food, cleaning the vessels, setting the table, serving … What is the use of being a perfect host if you lose the opportunity to be with the Son of God and listen to him? Mary chose what was important for her. Martha too made a choice; a choice of things that were of less importance.

This brings us to the question of this blog: in families and religious communities what do we focus on? What gets our serious attention? What are we concerned with: trivial things or things that really matter? What really defines us, our families, and communities? Are we preoccupied solely with the fly on the table or the elephant in the house?

The fly on the table could be having undue obsession with:

  • order and neatness in the house

  • where each silverware ought to be

  • where the dishes have to be placed after the dishwasher is emptied

  • the way the washed clothes are folded

  • things left in the sink

  • the way the bed is made

  • the way clothes are hung in the closet

  • things thrown around

  • where the shoes are left

  • children’s table manners

Absolutely there is nothing wrong in wanting a house that is clean and expecting things to be where they are supposed to be; it is a good feeling to walk into a house that is well kept. But the desire for order should not become an obsession to such an extent that it blinds our vision to important and urgent things that really need our attention and time.

The elephant in the room could be:

  • Not taking time to revisit the defining characteristic and values of our family. As a family do we have a list of ‘Priority of Values’ and revisit it once a while? Is our family spiritual? What are we doing as a couple to help each other, and as parents our children to be more spiritual? Do we ever talk about God and matters concerning the soul? As a family do we create opportunities for ‘sacred silence’ and ‘solitude?’

  • Is there genuine joy, happiness, laughter at home? As a family, is hospitality our culture? Does materialism and consumerism play a big role in defining who we are?

  • Is my spousal relationship a fulfilling one? Are there red flags that I need to be aware of and what I need to do to be more proactive in my spousal relationship?

  • Why is my teenage son/daughter becoming more and more aloof? What is the reason for their grades to go down? Do they have sufficient trust and confidence to open up to share what is happening in their life or is the environment one of fear of being judged as a failure and not living up to expectations? Do I know their friends? When they misuse freedom given to them, how do I make them realize their mistake without creating a sense of guilt and shame? Am I prepared to reason out with them rather than expect blind obedience? By our example do they learn that money is important but life is not all about money

  • Do we encourage them to be creative, to stand for their rights by being assertive and not aggressive, and that all forms of discriminations (cultural, religious, social, and economic) is evil and never to be part of it? Are they brought up with the knowledge that the God we worship in the Church is the same God we encounter when we reach out to those in need?

  • Are we genuinely concerned about our aging parents or do we easily pass on the responsibility to our siblings?

  • Am I waiting for the unknown tomorrow to reconcile with my estranged sibling/friend?

Isn’t time to seriously reflect whether we get carried away by things that are of less significance compared to serious (value based) and important things in our life and our family? Let us not waste all our precious time and energy over things and issues that are of less importance compared to value based issues that needs our attention. Sometimes it is fine to ignore the fly sitting on your table then letting an elephant grow bigger and bigger which will eventually bring the house down.

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