A new term has been coined recently—“stay-cation.” Some people, because of financial or time limitations, choose to spend vacation time at home rather than visit a resort. I’m not sure what people do on a “stay-cation,” but I suspect they use the time to catch up on work around the house, run errands, and maybe hit a restaurant or two. Or maybe they just lie back on the couch and saturate themselves with TV shows.
I have a suggestion for “stay-cation-ers.” Contemplation. This is not a new idea. Great saints like Teresa of Avila created life structures that allowed them to spend a good part of their day in the practice of contemplation. They assure us that this is the highest and most satisfying experience known to the human race. Many of us were brought up with the idea that the gift of contemplation was reserved for those who live in monasteries. This, of course, is not true. Today’s gospel story talks about one of the most celebrated contemplatives—Mary, sister of Martha. She was just an ordinary girl who loved to “waste her time” with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
“Jesus 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.”
As we read on, we find that Martha showed her love for Jesus by inviting him into her house, giving him a place of refreshment, and preparing a dinner for him. Mary, on the other, hand showed her love for Jesus by just sitting at his feet and “listening to him speak.” Mary could have chosen to hustle around the house set up the table, bring Jesus a drink, or find cushions to make him more comfortable. Instead, however, she did nothing but sit with Jesus and listen to him. We, contemporaries, would probably label Mary as “lazy.”
Jesus appreciated the love of these two women and looked forward to the refreshing times when he visited their home. We wonder whose act of love Jesus valued the most. When Martha started complaining to Jesus that Mary was leaving all the work to her, Jesus said the famous words,
“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.”
Mary was engaged in the supreme activity—listening to Jesus.
I looked up the origins of the word “contemplate.” The “con” refers to a joint action between one person and another or between a person and a god. “Templum” referred to a sacred space that “augurs” marked off in the sky for them to study. As these men took time to study a piece of the sky, they expected that their “gods” would speak to them. In time the “templum” became the inner temple that exists in every human heart. And, for us Christians, the “partner” who speaks to us in our inner temple is the living person of Jesus Christ.
As Mary listened to Jesus, her inner temple was awakened and became alive with the presence of God. She found the secret that monks pursue in their monasteries, and she found it in her own living room when Jesus visited her family.
We can have the supreme “stay-cation” experience right in the safety of our own homes. When we take time to allow Jesus to visit us, and let go for a while of what fragments our attention, we can expect our inner temples to be touched by the Word of God himself. This practice of being still before Jesus is a challenge for us who live in a busy culture that dedicates itself to “usefulness” and “getting things done.”
The good news is that we don’t have to wait for spring break or formal vacation time to take a “stay-cation” with Jesus. We can do it today. We carve out a piece of time, get comfortable, close our eyes, and imagine Jesus walking into the room. Then all we do is see ourselves sitting at his feet and listening to whatever he wants to tell us. Jesus will take it from there. When doing this, we may have to resist the “Martha voice” inside us that keeps saying “make yourself useful.”
“Come Holy Spirit give us the desire and resolve to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him.”
“The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to the soul that seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).