Memorial of Saint Martha
Today, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Martha. The lectionary provides two options for Gospel readings. The first is from the Gospel of Luke, probably the more well-known passage, and the second is from the Gospel of John. In Luke, we see Martha as busily taking care of Jesus and his companions while Mary, Martha’s sister, sits at the feet of Jesus. The second passage depicts Mary after the death of her brother, Lazarus. She states her trust in Jesus, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Between the two passages, we see the portrait of a complex woman of faith.
In one story, she appears to be a busy body who focuses on the details but misses the point of her service: to be with Jesus. She starts to get frustrated that no one, especially her sister, is helping her with the task she feels is important. We can imagine Jesus reading her face to understand that Martha was upset, and speaking to her as he did. Jesus offers her advice without denigrating her work. Her anxiety and worries from the love from which originally acted.
She proclaims Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah. Even some of the Apostles do not have as bold as a statement of faith in the Gospel stories. Especially at the loss of her brother, she would have just cause to reject or distrust Jesus. She grieves while knowing the Lord hears her cry of pain. While the details might trouble her in one story, she clearly recognizes who and what is important in another scene.
Martha demonstrates to us that our personal friendship with Jesus will have a similar dynamic. We might become detached from the initial spirit of generosity or love that moved to us act. We will need to be reminded by others or God in prayer that the work of our lives is meant to unite us to God. Also, our discipleship is marked by the moments of trust in Jesus where we would have great reason to doubt. Our Christian discipleship is never clear from one story like Martha’s depiction in the Gospels.
How do you identify with Martha? When are moments you need to reminded about the point behind your work? When did you experience the Lord filling you with faith when you were going through a time of pain or suffering?