A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Busy Life

by Maria Kennedy

by Maria Kennedy

When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in Mark 7:6 and accused them—how rightly Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites—He could have been potentially referring to us. After all, like the Pharisees, we’re human. From way back then to now, rich or poor, we all share the same human condition, the human heart, our inner self that experiences and reacts to the world around us, choosing either to love or hate, to reconcile or take revenge, to be considerate or selfish; that part of us that hopes for heaven yet can all too easily fall short of the mark.

To choose to love God we begin by obeying the Ten Commandments. In this Mark verse, Jesus is protesting against the Pharisee’s rules, their man-made rules. One of them, for example, goes against the fourth commandment to honour your father and mother. And Jesus wasn’t too happy about that. In following in Jesus’s footsteps, He further tells us to love God first and then to love our neighbour as ourselves. One modern-day purge offers us a new challenge in Christian love and we have to be careful Jesus doesn’t quote Isaiah at us like the Pharisees. Are we too busy?

Rolheiser’s article in the New Zealand Catholic, number 432, refers to an experiment carried out in 1970 with a group of seminarians. Who could be nicer people wanting to carry out God’s will! Well some of those seminarians, the ones who were made to be busy and to be running late, ignored the needy person in the street the experimenters put in their path, whereas the “unbusy” seminarians offered help. It is pointing to the possibility that our lives can get so busy, we are blinded to the needs of our neighbour. Case in point: my father-in-law while out for a walk in the early morning had a stroke and he collapsed onto the pavement. He later recalled, as he lay there, aware but temporarily unable to move, how a jogger ran past him and disappeared off without offering assistance. Was the jogger too busy, so intent on getting somewhere he ignored the collapsed man on the pavement? As it turned out my father-in-law eventually got up and staggered home without any help from anyone.

It’s hard to resist being busy, especially in today’s world and in today’s work place. In a woman’s magazine I read recently some busy mother’s offered tips. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Plan ahead. Write a list. Discuss and plan. Talk with someone and get some help. Be part of a team. Don’t rush but at the same time keep on. I have spent a life time learning not to be late and avoid that last minute rush. However, as these busy women suggest, by being organised and well rested in a loving and self disciplined way, it gives you preparation time and helps you to avoid the rush. Without the rush you are able to stay in the present moment, remain unflustered, to be calm, to be open to the unexpected and have the ability to respond when needed.Busyness

Yet the question remains, when as Christians are we too busy and our behaviour goes from a busy life to something hypocritical—you’re a Christian and you act like that? I could point the finger to strangers. Perhaps they are Dickensian type characters, so busy after money and/or prestige they don’t care who they step on, but all the time purporting to be pillars of society or the church. Or at myself when being busy is accompanied by unkind outbursts directed at the car in front of me that I accuse of going too slow (40 km per hr) while I’m running late to do some volunteer work. Like those seminarians, probably embarrassed by their actions of not assisting the stranger in need, I was in a tunnel mind set—just got to get there—focusing attention solely on my tasks, my needs and lacking care for others around me. The driver in front could have been elderly, or a learner and they needed a little extra consideration on that section of the road.

When it comes with coping with a busy life and answering the question, am I too busy, I have deliberately left the most important point to the end because in a hectic day it is easy to overlook the obvious—our need for quiet, God-centred reflection. A busy day should start with prayer. In our own way we could tell God we are trying to choose love over hate, to reconcile rather than take revenge, to be considerate and not selfish. We could take the time to tell God we don’t want Isaiah pointing his finger at us and calling us hypocrites.

Lord, help us have presence of mind in our busy lives so we remain open to the needs of those around us.

There’s nothing more we can do really. We do our fragile human best and ask God to do the rest.

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