A brief reading from Luke’s gospel…
Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. Martha’s sister, Mary, sat down at Jesus’s feet and listened to him speaking. Martha, who was distracted with all the serving said: ‘Do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do all the serving? Please tell her to help me.’ But he said to her: ‘Martha, Martha you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed. Mary has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’
A few years ago, Robert Fitzgerald AM spoke to members, staff and volunteers of the Society on the importance of good governance for faith-based charitable organisations. He mentioned that governance objectives for the Society are; (i) safeguarding the identity; (ii) promoting the mission; (iii) embedding core values; (iv) developing ‘right relationships’ based on trust and respect, and (v) delivering best interest outcomes. These perspectives were good to hear as they encapsulate our purpose and life, especially that purpose and life in a secular world.
This form of governance expresses a Society, which is more than a compassionate NGO. What is crucially significant is that our people attend to those we meet and serve through a pastoral approach. This pastoral position is shared in our prayerfulness, reflections and conversations.
Pastoral care is an essential aspect of our work. In its simplest form, it is an approach of being present to another. In broad terms, I believe, it is the telling and reflection of life stories, understanding them as presented and discerning them in the light of a spiritual journey believed, proclaimed, celebrated and lived to its full. It offers little instruction or advice but hears someone’s story with empathic active listening. It is a taxing role especially when we are time poor living very busy lives.
Similar tensions are expressed in the gospel story of Mary and Martha. Martha’s ‘way’ of presence is by fulfilling the need to do something. In fact, the gospel tells us that she ‘was distracted with all the serving’. Mary’s ‘way’ is very different as it is much about nothing apart from being with Jesus sitting at his feet. There is a tension between the ‘ways’. The nature of a pastoral approach is a reflection on this tension, to grow as Christians we need to find that place which is open to the good works of Martha and the contemplative attitude of Mary. A pastoral approach is marked in the expression of Blessed Rosalie, ‘Be kind and love, for love is your first gift to the poor. If you have nothing to give, give yourself’. In this, we continue to show a spirituality which is being present to those we meet offering a spirit that is practical, engaging, relational and always responding in love.
Advent, in the Christian tradition, is a time of longing and hope. Our pastoral presence to another is so needed in these Covid to post-Covid times as we head toward the Christmas season, through Advent. Sharing our presence rather than presents can seem like a difficult task when we are being busy. Advent provides a wonderful reminder to instead share our presence every day through a letter, a visit, a phone call, or a conversation – something that helps warm and transform someone else’s life. This ‘being with others’ is similar to our Vincentian spirit of ‘being for others’.
Lord, may we continue to be one for another; present in our conversations, reflective in our thoughts and prayerful in our lives.
May the Peace and Spirit of the Christ child continue to bless us. ♦