Monday, July 22, 2019

“The One Thing Needful” - Meditate on Our Lord’s Teaching.

In the Gospel story of Mary and Martha, Mary gave her priority of listening to the divine words of Jesus sitting at His feet while Martha was too busy with other things,
Jesus said to Martha,
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled by many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chose that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Lk 10:41)
Jesus also says,
Seek He first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt 6:33).
To meditate on God’s commandments means taking time to study them, to fully understand them and know how to fulfill them. We must do this because we love God and love His commandments.  He has taught us that a God-pleasing life gives us the certain hope of our salvation and eternal life.

Taking the time to meditate on God’s commandments includes in addition to the study of Scripture, time for personal prayer, attending worship services. To follow the example of Mary does not mean we ignore the necessities of daily life of this world. We all need time for our work, to prepare meals and care for our household. But, It is important to give the right priority to the use of our time and to give top priority to meditate on His commandments so we are able to live them in our daily life.

Saint Theophan puts it this way:
When it is said that we must choose “the one thing needful,” It is not suggested that we drop everything—but only to keep our efforts in line with the merits of the undertaking: to dedicate the primary effort for what is most important, and only a secondary or even tenth-degree attention and effort upon things of secondary or subordinate importance. Put into first place pleasing God and salvation through fulfillment of the commandments, and in second, third and fourth place all other things related to sustaining life. Adhere to the first with all your heart, and to the latter casually, touching them as it were with the tips of your fingers, and you will be a true performer of what the Lord has said about “the one thing needful” and about the choosing the good part.
The grand mistake of our times is that everyone one is busied with many things so that no time is left for meditation on His commandments learning how to incorporate into our lives all the elements of an Orthodox way of life. When we’re so busy with all the cares of the temporal world, when it comes time for prayer, meditation or reading the Scriptures or even attending worship services, what do we do? We act just like Martha. We only make time for these higher activities as much time as all the other things leave for us. Our priority is misplaced because we choose to give those things which lead us to unity with God a lower priority, and only give our effort that is left over from everything else. As Jesus tells Martha, “thou art busy and troubled by many things.

Saint Theophan puts it this way:
Applying this saying and generalizing it, we get the following: When all cares in a person are about temporal needs only, and the matter of salvation and pleasing God is always pushed towards the rear on account of them, and what is related to it is fulfilled only inasmuch as those cares allow, and at that carelessly, hastily, by halves, then with him the principal concern is not where it should be, and subordinate things are not in their proper place.
This is why our society is in such turmoil. This is why we have difficulties in our closest relationships and in our family. Taking time for meditation, prayer and worship is not wasting our time. It is what we must learn to give the highest priority. Our choices need to change. We need to have concern for our salvation and put our emphasis on doing what is essential to be able to live a God pleasing life. Only in this way will we find peace, harmony and true joy.

Prophet David records the following in Psalm 118.

I meditated on Thy commandments which I have greatly loved. (Psalm 118:47)

Reference: Psalm 118: A commentary by Saint Theophan the Recluse, pp132-134.

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