GEN 18:1-15;LUKE 10:38-42

THERE IS NEED OF ONLY ONE THING. MARY HAS CHOSEN THE BETTER PART AND IT WILL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HER. All of us who are Cistercian monks and nuns are very familiar with these words of our Lord. From very early times they have been understood to be a justification of the monastic way of life. This saying clearly indicates that our Lord prefers attention to his words to service of his physical needs. It was easy to apply the preference he expresses here to a style of life that is based on the primacy of divine realities over distracting occupations even though they be dedicated to good causes. Later on, in the Acts of the Apostles we find the twelve themselves putting this same principle to work as they made practical arrangements for the Church’s ministry. “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table…. We shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2,4). ”

What is this one thing that is necessary but that we too occupy ourselves with listening to Jesus and making his words our own. We should cultivate a great respect for words and learn to treat them with care. Words have a special character that allow a person to instill something of his own self into another. We can use words for imparting life and hope and love to others. By the words we employ we can make another person aware of some potential for good that she did not realize she possessed. But such words as enhance life and contribute to the happiness and betterment of another must be words of truth. They must come from an honest and pure heart. We must put into them something of what is best and truest about our self if they are to prove efficacious.

There is a special relation between he uttered word and the Holy Spirit. The words that Jesus spoke to Mary, like all the speech that came from his mouth, were not uttered at random. They were drawn forth from the depth of his heart, prompted by the Spirit. In fact as he himself stated during his ministry to those who resisted his teaching: When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught m (John 8:28); and again he affirmed very clearly shortly before he went to his passion and death: “The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dells in me is doing his works (John 14:10).” The Lord in both places speaks of words as being works, deeds. His own language was Aramaic and in that tongue, as in Hebrew, the term ‘dabar’ means both word and deed. We find this usage, for example, in St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. They shepherds, having received the revelation from the angels said to one another: ”Let us go to see this word the Lord has made known to us.”

St. Benedict urges his monks to use words with care, to avoid any ill considered words, above all to take care never to speak evil of another, or to be critical. For words not only can impart life; they can also destroy it. Words can lead others astray as well as give light that leads to truth. And so it is that we do well to take care in our use of words. Moreover, we do well to exert our self to gain possession of life-enhancing words, as Mary of Bethany did, by sitting at the feet of Jesus and taking his words to heart, that is by considering how she could make use of them in his service. Knowledge of God, of his love for us, of the ways he expects us to live and to serve him- these are made known to us by the words of Jesus and of those whom he chose to preach in his name. Like Mary may we treasure his words by turning them over in our hearts and by putting them into practice in love.

His words then will become our deeds and they will be for us words of eternal life, to the praise and glory of God the Father.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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