Pope Francis in his encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel” points out that today fewer and fewer people are willing to make themselves available for ministry. Here is his take on why people are reluctant to serve the People of God or who after a few years simply walk away…
The problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, without a spirituality which would permeate it and make it pleasurable. As a result, work becomes more tiring than necessary, even leading at times to illness. Far from a content and happy tiredness, this is a tense, burdensome, dissatisfying and, in the end, unbearable fatigue. This pastoral acedia can be caused by a number of things. Some fall into it because they throw themselves into unrealistic projects and are not satisfied simply to do what they reasonably can. Others, because they lack the patience to allow processes to mature; they want everything to fall from heaven. Others, because they are attached to a few projects or vain dreams of success. Others, because they have lost real contact with people and so depersonalize their work that they are more concerned with the road map than with the journey itself. Others fall into acedia because they are unable to wait; they want to dominate the rhythm of life. Today’s obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross. #82
If at this point in our life we are feeling burdened and annoyed that people seem to ask so much of us it may be good to examine why we feel put upon. Today, the gospel invites us to stand with Martha who, burdened with much serving, came to Jesus and complained, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
What should have been an evening of joy in the Lord’s presence in the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus was turning out to be a burden. Jesus’ answer to Martha might help us: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things. One thing is necessary and Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be denied her.” Could it be that we are putting our time and energy into many things that are secondary so that we have little to give to “the better part” of this life God has given us? How do we know what that “better part” is?
“One sign that we are not in God’s will,” writes Msgr. Charles Pope, “is the experiencing of what we are doing as a burden. We are all limited and human and will experience ordinary fatigue. It is one thing to be weary in the work but it is another thing to be weary of the work. All lot of people run off to do something they think is a good idea. And maybe it is a fine thing in itself. But they never asked God. God might have said, “Fine.” or He might have said, “Not now but later.” Or He might have said, “Not you but someone else.” Or he might have just plain said, “No.” But instead of asking they just go off and do it and then when things don’t work out they will often times blame God: “God, why don’t you help me more! God, why don’t you send someone to help me?”
I think Monsignor Pope is saying that perhaps we get tired and resentful in our daily tasks because we do things for Jesus and not with Jesus; we work for other people but not with others.
“An awful lot of very noble ideas have floundered in the field of the flesh because they were never really brought before God and were not therefore a work of grace.“
What would that night at Bethany have been like if Martha had asked the Lord how he would like to spend it with them? Might she have heard Jesus say, “I just want us to be together”? “Maybe later we can have some leftovers. Put the soup on the back burner and we’ll talk and then decide how the rest of night will go.” If we are already tired just thinking about what lies ahead of us this week maybe today can take our to-do list to the Lord and ask him look it over, correct it, and then bless it.