Interruptions can be infuriating! I'm trying to compose a sermon. I need peace and quiet. No distractions. The phone rings. I have to answer the door. Or I may be sleeping after a busy day. But I'm brutally woken and have to give the sacraments to someone who is dying.
Of course I respond to these interruptions, but being human, I may mutter to myself and long for a bit of peace and quiet. You may react in the same way, if a crying child disturbs your sleep, or if a visitor comes while you are trying to cook a meal or do any other job, which demands your undivided attention. We quickly learn that although we may make plans, life is rarely as tidy and orderly as we would like.
It's reassuring to know the same was true for Jesus. After a busy day he would try to be alone to relax and pray. Like the rest of us, he needed a bit of peace and quiet. But people would hunt him down, demanding to be cured. And he generously responded to their need.
There's a story in the first three Gospels. It's about an official's young daughter. Mark tells us she was dying, Matthew that she was already dead. Her father, believing in Christ's power, begged Him to come and help his daughter. So Jesus set out for their home. But on the way He was interrupted by a woman, who had been sick for twelve years. She, too, needed Christ's help. Such was her faith that she believed that if she just touched the tassels on Christ's garments she would be cured. As He saw her need and recognised her faith He stopped, spoke to her and cured her. Only afterwards did He continue His journey and raise the dead little girl to life.
These interruptions in Christ's life have led me to re-think my reaction to interruptions in my own life. Instead of resenting them I should see them as God-sent -in truth a God-send. They provide unexpected opportunities for me to meet and serve Him in unplanned ways. It's fine and necessary for me to organize my life, but I must not be a slave to rigid and inflexible plans. I must be prepared to meet the God of surprises, wherever and however He may choose to show Himself and require my service. If I insist on sticking to my plans I will miss a new way of meeting God.
This was very true of Martha when Jesus visited her and Mary, her sister. They showed him their love and hospitality in different ways -Mary by staying with Jesus, Martha by preparing a meal for Him. We all how this can happen when we have an unexpected visitor. Some of us will entertain our guest, while others will prepare some refreshments.
But Martha had got her priorities wrong -she spent too much time in the kitchen, not enough with Jesus. After all, the main point of His visit was to be with His friends, not to have a splendid meal. But Martha was obviously annoyed with her sister, Mary. What's unpleasant about this incident is that Martha wanted to get Jesus involved in this domestic spat and expected Him to take her side. But gently, so gently, He let her know she's got it all wrong. He had a better solution.
Instead of interrupting His conversation with Mary, Martha should interrupt her over-elaborate preparations in the kitchen, and come and join them. After all, that's what Martha really wanted when she asked Mary to give her hand, and so enable her join Jesus more quickly. While she argued that many hands make light work Jesus thought that Martha was making her task unnecessarily heavy.
This story reminds me that I. too, must get my priorities right. I must interrupt my many activities and make time to relax with God and enjoy His company. If I don't my love for Him will grow cold. The same is true in my making time to be with my community and you with your families. I must also remember that interruptions to my planned activities can provide new and unexpected ways of meeting God.
Next week Fr. Peter will Meet God ...'He does send!'