The Better Part
By Louise French
It’s good to be back. I am a returning Jesuit Volunteer from last year’s program, here to make a new start in a familiar program.
And yet so much is unfamiliar. We have a new house in Chinatown and I have a new placement east of the river. We are a new community creating networks, finding new contacts, and I have a lot of new friends to make.
In a big city there are so many neighbourhoods that I could spend all year getting to know each one and still wouldn’t understand the city in its complexity, diversity, layers, roots, and future development. Yet again I am getting to know Toronto from the ground up, starting with the poorest of the poor and their daily-lived struggles.
I want to tell you that I have been busy and productive through all the projects I am working on and the impact I am making. But then all I would be revealing is how I conform to the culture of utilitarianism and individualism, rather than the spirit of Ignatius that we are learning to live out in JVC. I am a human being, and not a human doing.
“Mary has chosen the better part, and that will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)
I can appreciate the work that Martha was doing. Her “work” was not necessarily just making meals or doing the dishes, as the Greek word used was diakonia, which is the origin of deacon, “to serve,” such as in spiritual ministry running a house church. However, as companions to Christ, we cannot give what we don’t have. In the busyness of working for Christ, what was it in His message that Martha overlooked?
What is the better part for me?
Refresh, renew. Return to the beginning where that energy first began. Reconcile the past for the blessing that it was and the failure to be perfect. Failing often provided necessary lessons that blossomed into more Christ-like love for my neighbour, myself, and all of creation. Am I in the fourteenth month of this yearlong program, or the second?
I choose to accept that I am in a new environment and blessed with new people who will embody Ignatian spirituality and community in a new way. I also choose to recognize that I am in a different place in the program than they are, and I have to be patient with myself when I am burnt out and apathetic. I return to the feet of Jesus to listen, learn, and be refreshed by Living Water.
More than anything I need to keep in touch with where I get my strength: God, and the Communion of Saints here on Earth and in Heaven. I cannot offer joy and love to those starving for authentic connection if I am out of touch with God.
I live in the city of corporate structures, efficiency, progress reports, and proper policy procedures. This year will be unproductive, inefficient,
going against all the policies and planned procedures. I am choosing the better part.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
Louise French is a second year Jesuit Volunteer, working at The Mustard Seed, a community centre for homeless, low-income, and those struggling with mental health and developmental disabilities. Assisting the marginalized in creating their own community, belonging, and meaning through weekly activities and workshops.