This week NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the surface of the Moon on 20 July 1969. As he did so, he spoke some very famous words: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." In May 1961 the American president, John F Kennedy announced the goal of performing sending astronauts to the Moon and then returning to Earth by the end of the 1960s. He never got to see his dream come true as he was killed in 1963 but he set off in motion this great expedition of seeking and finding.
Most of us would know what it feels like to search for something precious we have lost and the joy and relief when something is found. I think every parent or Aunty and Uncle has a story of losing a child and the experience of terror of not knowing where they are, the desperate seeking and the relief in finding them. But it seems that throughout our lives we are constantly experiencing this activity of seeking and finding.
When I read the scriptures, I see this rhythm of seeking and finding in so many of the parables and stories. The woman who searches for a lost coin, the father seeking the prodigal son, the shepherd who looks for the one lost sheep, the Israelites seeking for a promised land, Joseph who is seeking a way out of prison, Mary and Joseph searching for the lost Jesus in the temple, the disciple’s seeking an end to Roman domination… it goes on and on. Some of these people found what they were looking for, others found something they didn’t expect, and others lived without the longing being fulfilled.
In the gospel reading today it seems that Mary has found what she is seeking. We find her sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening, learning. Martha, Jesus tells us, is worried and distracted. The word translated distracted has the connotation of being pulled or dragged in different directions. Martha’s worry and distraction prevent her from being truly present with Jesus.
If we were to take time to make a list of all the things that worry and distract us, it would quickly become apparent that all of us have something of Martha in us. Distractions can deter us from lots of good intentions, but when we are distracted from God’s presence, we become impoverished. Anger and anxiety begin to characterise our lives more than patience and peace. We act in compulsive, competitive and controlling ways. But Christ’s presence compels and creates love. It reorients and renews the human spirit toward compassion and kindness.