Memorial of Saint Martha
The story of Jesus admonishing Martha for helping in the kitchen instead of sitting at his feet has always bothered me. Of course we should pay attention to the words of our Lord and not be concerned about mundane details. However, people do need to eat, buildings need to be paid for, and somebody has to take the kids to school. If we want to build up the Kingdom of Christ someone is going to have to make the bricks.
Ignatius had a great respect for men and women who “made the bricks” to build the kingdom of God. He also knew that any construction project would fail if we turned the plans towards our own self-interests and personal gain and away from what is really best. For Ignatius, the direction was always God’s greater Glory and the means usually entailed lots of hard work.
Martha, in Christian iconography and witness, has always testified to the dignity of work. Ignatius dedicated the first home for victims of domestic abuse, established in Rome in 1543, to Saint Martha. He saw in this saint a woman who knew that following our Lord meant a commitment to God’s will and that commitment meant rolling up your sleeves and getting the job done, with of course the grace of that same loving God.
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.