Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
His mother treasured all these things in her heart. There are two occasions that Scripture speaks about Mary reacting to the things that happen in this manner. Once was when the shepherds who came to see the baby Jesus, spoke about the things they had been told about the child (Luke 2:19). And the second time was finding Jesus in the temple after he was lost for three days (Luke 2:50). Mary treasures these things in her heart. What does that mean? It means she reflects. She ponders. She keeps things she hears and sees close to herself.
Mary had the spirit of a contemplative. It’s a beautiful spirit to have. Many of us — most of us? — have an active spirit. We’d rather be doing things, than sitting down seeming to do nothing. We get the perfect example of both types of people in the story of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. Remember them? They were friends of Jesus who invited him over for a meal one day, and while Martha busied herself in the kitchen, Mary sat down at his feet listening to the things he had to say (see Luke 10:38-42).
Martha wasn’t very happy, however. She felt her sister had abandoned her to do the work. Finally, she went to Jesus and told him to make her sister help her. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42). What part had Mary chosen? To sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him. To sit at the feet of Jesus and love him. This is the foremost quality in the heart of the contemplative.
However, the two are not mutually exclusive. It is better to be a contemplative, but this doesn’t mean it has to be a permanent state of being. Consider Mary (we’re back to talking about the mother of Jesus now). Although she did a lot of “treasuring things in her heart” — these were just two instances that Scripture records; I am sure there were more — she wasn’t sitting around contemplating things all day. She was very active in service. To give you one example, after the Annunciation, Scripture says that she “set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,” to minister to her cousins Elizabeth who was pregnant.
When we are contemplative, it gives us an opportunity to know the will of God for our lives. Do think about this. If God wants to reach out and tell us something, how can he, unless we remain still and seek him out. This is one of the reasons why Jesus tells us that when we pray, we should isolate ourselves from the world, zip up, and listen. He did this himself, getting up early each morning to spend some time in contemplation. Then, when his Father told him what needed to be done for the day, he went out and did it.
So, let us be active contemplators.