Our nation has been reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Where were you when man first stepped on the moon? I was one-year-old. I don’t remember much about it. It is fitting and right to have this reflection. It was and remains one of our nation’s greatest accomplishments and not just for what was achieved but how it was achieved. A goal was set and as a nation we rallied around that goal and we devoted the resources, the time, the energy, the skill needed to achieve that goal. In a sense, it was not just one man who took that first step on the moon but a whole nation. It was a great moment and will hopefully be one of continuing moments in humanity’s outreach into space.
Br. Guy Consolmagno is the director of the Vatican Observatory. I just read an interview with him about the significance of the moon landing and in the interview he reflects on how the moon landing offers concrete lessons for people of faith. One lesson is “hope”. That even as we face what seems to be impossible problems we can work together. Another lesson is how God is creator of all – not just the earth and all of its wonders but all the universes and galaxies with all of their untold wonders. All of creation proclaims the glory of God! Finally, the moon landing speaks of a compatibility and not an opposition between science and religion – both (when truly and authentically lived) enhance and support one another.
In reflecting on these lessons, Br. Consolmagno shares something he once heard from a person who works with the poor, “a short-term urge leads to addiction, but a long-term urge leads to purpose.” This is played out, I think, in today’s readings.
One thing to note in the encounter between Abraham and the three men is that there is really nothing mystical or exceptional about it. It was a hot day and three men are walking by. It would have been very easy (and understandable) to just let them continue on and not expend the energy needed to welcome and host them. A short term urge. But Abraham made a choice – a choice not guided by the short term urge (of laziness, basically) but rather the long term commitment of hospitality and going out of one’s way to welcome the other. In this choice Abraham and Sarah were blessed with the promise of a child, and from that child – a nation. A long-term urge leads to purpose.
In the gospel Martha welcomes Jesus into her home and she quickly sets about the work of serving and then complains when her sister Mary does not do the same. (It is interesting how the gospel here points out how even the work of hospitality – for which Abraham and Sarah were blessed – can be twisted to be more about a fix for the short term urge.) Martha’s outer busy-ness and complaining is a reflection of the anxiety and the worry she carries within. Anxieties and worries and our choice for them can become addictive realities in our hearts. Mary chooses the better part. She also had worries and anxieties but she set those short-term urges aside in favor of the long-term urge of just sitting at our Lord’s feet and listening. Mary was blessed by this choice.
Much in our world and society is focused toward the short-term and even attempts to train us for the short-term alone. This is a reflection of our fallen state and our fallen world. But today’s readings along with our nation’s reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing offer a different perspective and a different way to live faith and even life itself.
“…a short-term urge leads to addiction, but a long-term urge leads to purpose.” The blessing that Abraham and Sarah knew, the blessing that Mary knew can also be known by us. We just need to make the choice.