Should You Take Action, Or Listen?

Doesn’t it sometimes seem like the Bible tells us to do one thing, and then it turns around and tells us to do something completely different?

In last week’s Gospel reading of the Good Samaritan, Jesus reminds us on two occasions to DO something:

“You have answered correctly; DO this and you will live.”


“Which of these, in your opinion, was neighbour to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and DO likewise.”

Yet, in today’s Gospel reading, he seems to chastise Martha who’s trying her best to DO something for Jesus! Instead, he praises her sister Mary who simply sat there and listened:

“There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

So which path are we supposed to follow? Do or listen? Take action, or sit still?

How Do We Face Our Burdens?

We had an interesting discussion during community yesterday about this fine balance. It was especially relevant since I know various members (myself included) who are facing especially challenging burdens at work.

Many of us are grappling with uncertain career choices, difficult colleagues, unfair bosses and seemingly impossible tasks in the office.

Faced with these challenges, our temptation is to simply try harder, work longer hours, and push through the barriers with our own human strength.

But as Catholics, we know that this can’t be the right path. We know that we need God’s grace in everything we do. Sometimes, when things get especially rough, I take comfort in heading to a church or adoration room and simply being there, trying to be present with God.

Yet, the practical side of me keeps nagging: How can you be sitting here when you have so many things to do? You’ll never finish it all if you keep doing nothing! GET UP AND SOLVE SOME PROBLEMS!

It’s such a struggle when we oscillate back and forth between doing and listening, listening and doing! How are we supposed to reconcile this difference?

Doing What God Wants Us To Do

The answer might lie somewhere between Martha and Mary: Between doing and listening.

The answer, I suspect, is in doing the things that God wants us to do. 

We can’t just do do do do do do and hope that we will push through based on our own human efforts. We also need to “sit beside the Lord’s feet” and listen to what He has to say as well. Because maybe, if our hearts are open to Him, He’ll point us in the right direction.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to practice for the past week. Every morning when I sit down with my to-do list, I say a simple, short prayer: Lord, help me to be open to Your will. Help me to do the things that YOU want me to do.

I wish I could say that the Heavens opened, a light shone down upon me, and I suddenly had clarity on how I should tackle my day. But no, none of that happened. But at the very least, I could proceed keeping Jesus in mind when I’m deciding on my next word or action.

It’s still a work-in-progress. I admit that I’m not the best at listening to the soft promptings of God.

But I can take cue from today’s Gospel to remind myself to be less of a mindless do-er. To simply sit still, listen, and then get up and do what God wants me to do.

Image credit: Waiting For The Word



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