Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Multitudes of obligations?

Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that the task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul.

A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R Kelly, with thanks to inward/outward

So much of our Christian life, not to mention elsewhere, is taken up with this “acceptance of multitudes of obligations” that we assume that this is the natural, right and inevitable way to be a Christian. Well, I all too often find myself making that assumption, anyway. It is so hard to turn around, and allow God to look at the whole thing from within us. But it was Jesus himself who said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Dear Mary of Bethany, I think she must have been a particular favourite of Jesus’. Her devotion, her single-mindedness, her willingness to step right outside her culture, her final and absolute faithfulness—it isn’t hard to see why she would have a particular place among his followers. Whether or not you accept the Catholic identification of her with Mary Magdalene, Mary is the woman of tears (John 11.33), the one who saw, where her brothers had so clearly failed to see, the Cross standing directly across the path of her Lord (John 12.1-8), and anointed him for that journey, and as Matthew and Mark (26.13; 14.9) record, he recognised her for it. “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Truly, there is need of only one thing. Mary got it right where her sister, and most of us, fail. No wonder we pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner…”


  1. I never thought of Mary's gift in light of the cross. I saw it from the foreshadowing, but I thought that was our hindsight, not her foresight. The extravagance of the act takes on a whole new meaning - thanks for that insight.

  2. Thanks, Jo - and so sorry not to have acknowledged your comment at the time - don't know how I came to forget!