Sharpen The Axe

When I was in Israel recently, I was told a very significant anecdote that happened in one of the infamous concentration camps in Germany during the Second World War. One the SS officials tells the story of how one day when he was looking at this group of prisoners going dejectedly towards their death he felt this strong urge inside him to take off his official regalia and join naked, the procession towards death with the Jews. The Jews had been forced to undress and were walking uncovered. He did not do it, but this impulse, he wrote later, was unbelievingly strong and powerful inside him.

The good news is that there was someone once who did just that. Jesus Christ undressed himself of his divinity and joined the procession of us humans in life which many times is made of aches. Life can be unfair. We are many times afraid and anxious. The hitch is that when we focus on these issues, we get nothing but more frustration. This is why He joined our procession, naked like us, so that there is no need any more for us to feel alone. He came to rescue us!

From what? Saint Paul says from the condemnation of constantly looking at ourselves. There is a story in the Gospel that is very revealing in this respect. It is the story of Martha and Mary. What was the secret of Mary? Simple. She loved Jesus. We find her once taking a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair “and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.” This is why she did not find it inconvenient to sit at his feet and listen to his preaching. Love does these things.

What was the mistake of Martha? Not that she was busy welcoming Jesus and preparing everything in the house- hospitality is sacred in Jewish tradition. Her mistake was that she used her “much serving” to judge and condemn her sister. Many times we do the same mistake. I am the good one – look how much I am sweating. He is the bad one – he is working less than me. The moment I do this, I erase myself from Christianity. Because what is important in Christianity is not working ourselves to death but loving. And the moment you judge, you do not love.

This is why “only one thing is important”. If we want to recuperate a healthy approach to life, we must find time and space every day to spend some time at His feet. These moments of intimacy will put everything back to perspective.

There is a story of a worker who was out in the forest cutting trees. The ax, after much use, became blunt and so the work became even more laborious. But when someone suggested to him to take some time to sharpen the ax, his answer was “I do not have the time”. He did not realize that the time spent is sharpening his ax would make his work easier and more efficient.

Spend some time alone with Jesus and you will see how you have ample time to do the rest! New life comes in many different ways.


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.