Europe is dotted with magnificent church structures. Some of these churches took years to build and many labors and artisans never saw the completed building. I offer this illustration as a means of understanding our reading from the Letter to the Colossians.
A verse from Colossians that jumps out for me is: “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ….” (Colossians 1:24) At first glance, it is as if this writer is full of themselves, claiming to complete the suffering of Christ. However, the writer is not questioning the actions of Christ. The writer would agree that Christ’s death on the cross was the perfect and complete sacrifice which has freed us from sin and given us salvation.
Rather the writer is commenting on the struggle that is involved in making Gospel manifest to others. How will others hear the Good News and make it part of their lives? While the writer awaits the second coming, he will experience suffering in proclaiming the Gospel. Paul in his own lifetime was stoned, imprisoned, harassed, and eventually executed for his faith. Today there are stories of Christians experiencing ridicule and death while proclaiming the gospel. The task of building the Kingdom of God has been passed on down through the generations, and now it is in our hands.
We live between the times--between what the church is, to what the church is called to be. Our baptismal call is to continue building the kingdom of God. The blueprints have been given to us- love God with all our being, to love neighbor, self, and enemy.
The Martha and Mary parable calls us to find balance between action and contemplation. Acting in Faith only, drains us of energy. Constantly contemplating means little is done. Daniel Harrington writes, “One of the ironies of modern life is that the very devices that save us time and energy often impose new burdens upon us. We can become slaves to our machines. We can spend all our lives acting like Martha, so overwhelmed with practical duties that we end up intellectually and spiritually empty. When we are empty, we are more prone to anxiety and worry. Jesus’ comment to Martha is that she is anxious and troubled about many things.
When we are spiritually empty, we begin to rely on our own abilities, lose focus and are easily distracted, and easily turn away from God’s will. We forget God’s word of not worrying, of remembering he is always with us. Our challenge is to let go of our anxieties and worries, and sit beside the Lord and listen. Around the Eucharistic table, Jesus feeds and tends us through Word and Sacrament, and then sends us forth.
There is story of a passerby walking into a construction site of a church, centuries ago, and asked a women working on stain glass window, what she was doing. She proudly replied, “I am building a Cathedral, sir!” So, when someone sees us helping a person in need, standing up for gospel values, or welcoming the stranger, and they ask what you are you doing. You can proudly declare I am building the Kingdom of God!”
Have a faith-filled week!