Memorial of St. Martha
Martha gets a bad reputation among Christians. Everyone remembers the time when Jesus chided her for being so busy, but few people remember when Martha was with Jesus at the tomb of her brother Lazarus. Here, Martha expresses confidence to Jesus that “whatever you ask of God, God will give you,” and when Jesus asks if she believes that He is “the resurrection and the life,” she replies that she does, and that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God.” If the heart of Christianity is the belief that Jesus, true God and true man, has conquered death, then Martha makes one of the first true professions of faith in history.
This profession does not come out of nowhere. Martha has known Jesus for some time—He is close to the whole family. She knows Jesus as one friend knows another. When we express true confidence in a friend, it is from long knowledge of what the friend can and cannot do. Martha has faith in Jesus because she knows Jesus. If we wish to have faith like Martha’s, we need to take time to know Jesus and reflect on His presence in our lives. If we are only active in the world, and never passive, never thinking about the gifts we have gotten and are getting from Jesus, we will never have Martha’s faith that even death can be overcome by Jesus.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.