Paul says today, “So they glorified God because of me.” That was quite a change in the prayer life of the early Church, which, I am sure, had been on its knees begging God for deliverance from this murderous religious zealot who pursued them even into their homes. Paul’s conversion caught everyone by total surprise and was the occasion for the Church to rejoice again in God’s deep love for those who follow Jesus. No one expected this.
That kind of surprise always happens with the experience of the Cross. The very cause of suffering becomes the vehicle of blessing. We are surprised because human eyes alone cannot see this in the pain of the moment. The suffering in body, mind or spirit hounds us. We cry to heaven for escape. We do not know that the Cross is leading to a blessing for our lives that could not have been ours otherwise. God is bigger than the evil we suffer.
Coming to this mentality is a task for our whole Christian life. As Martha in the Gospel reading today, we are busy about many things, many good things. We are even energized by all the services we render—until we are hit by the Cross. That is something we feel should not be happening to us. It does not fit with what we thought our life was about, with what we thought God was about. Our suffering even intensifies because of that.
How to get the whole picture? The Gospel speaks the answer clearly today. We must have “Mary time” with some regularity, quietly sitting at the feet of the Lord, face up into the Sun, allowing the truth of Christian life to stream into us. We need “Mary time,” if even a couple of minutes each day, to have our thoughts reshaped, our expectations refined, our spirits prepared. To not choose this “better part” is to leave ourselves victim to suffering, condemned to a thousand useless deaths. The “better part” helps us see through to the depths of the “bad” experience, to the hidden resurrection emerging from the tomb. That is absolutely surprising to any of us. And it changes our prayer--eventually--from desperate plea to thankful praise.