January 21, 2015

Martha on the Wall [ACNM]

Some of us are Marthas, and some of us are Marys. For me, the writing -- or at least the picture -- was on the wall. I had never given too much thought into Luke's story about Martha welcoming Jesus and associates into her home, getting right to work serving them and eventually learning to do so without complaint. This point became quite clear to me in Martha's own room.

At the end of 2014, I concluded a three-year term on the pastoral council at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Pflugerville, Texas. During the the last two years, I served as chairman of the council. Seeking nomination for an elected position is not normally something that's part of my modus operandi as an introvert. But sometimes God puts us in unexpected situations, as we've seen over and over in the Bible.

During the last meeting of my first year on the pastoral council back in October 2012, the group needed to appoint someone to serve as interim chairman in order to plan the first meeting of the following year because both the chairman and vice chair were leaving the council.

Someone said, "How about you, Adam?" The immediate answer that popped into my head was, no way. But I knew that the right thing to do was to say yes. And how hard could it be? All I would need to do was prepare the agenda and lead the first meeting only up until the part early on where the council would formally select a new chairman for the year.

With more than enough work and family responsibilities competing for my time, I fully expected the council to select a chairman who would be able to focus the position. Clearly that wasn't I. Or maybe it was. At the first meeting of the new year, the team quickly elected me chairman for 2013.

I was not thrilled, but I accepted the role and tried to serve the parish well, although I was never fully comfortable in doing so. At the end of 2013 I had one more year left on my term. I informed the pastor that I was looking forward to serving my final year but was not interested in being chairman again. So at the first meeting of the new year I planned to ask the council to select someone else to lead.

Our first meeting in January 2014 was cancelled due to an ice storm. So we held the meeting a few days later during our annual pastoral council overnight retreat at Cedarbrake Retreat Center.

When it was time to elect officers for the new year, I informed the group of my decision and asked them to select a new chairman. Pardon the cliché, but the other members immediately twisted my arm and forced me to be chairman again. I reluctantly accepted the role. But admittedly, I spent the rest of the meeting silently stewing because I didn't want to do it again.

At the end of the evening, I returned to my room at the retreat center. Each room in the building was named after a saint. I happened to be in the St. Martha room. I sat down on the bed, still peeved over not being able to step aside as chairman. Then I looked up and noticed this framed image of St. Martha on the wall.

That's when I began to reflect more deeply on Luke's story of Martha and Mary. Martha served but with some great anxiety until Jesus set her straight. Then she learned to serve with a better attitude. Clearly I needed an attitude adjustment too. And there was Martha on my wall setting me straight.

[To read the rest of this story, please click over to Austin Catholic New Media.]


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