Scripture: Lectionary 462. Oct. 8th. Jonah 3:1-10. Psalm 130:1-2,3-4,7-8. Luke 10:38-42:
The Scriptures present Jesus visiting his friends, Martha and Mary. We all recall this passage since it appears several times in the liturgical cycle and is kept alive by many writers who present themes relating to contemplation. I wish however to focus on Martha who is the protagonist and the catalyst in this pericope. It is she who gives it a colorful and practical flavor from which we can learn. Of course, both she and Mary have something to teach us, but I today feel that Martha is more my friend for teaching me something about interaction with Jesus and making him comfortable not to mention her sister Mary!
Is it really all about the active life and contemplative life? Is this more an interpretation coming from vowed religious rather than from other vocations such as married persons, individual professionals, busy persons who work long hours and travel an hour or two to work?
In the time of Jesus and in the New Testament there is no mention of contemplation. The word is not there. The scene is more about hospitality and practical virtue that makes things go well for those invited and also for those who were not so practical in preparing a meal and a home for guests. I see Martha actively engaged with the Lord Jesus in an I-Thou type of relationship where one can even offer some insights that may help the one who is busy yet attentive to the Lord. Martha definitely is the central person in this event with Jesus. She makes it happen as a catalyst and a hostess for her dear friend Jesus. He is very conscious of both Martha and Mary, but only Martha is speaking and attending to Jesus’ ordinary needs.
Just a few days ago, while reading the selection taken from St. Vincent de Paul’s letters where he advises his community members not to neglect the poor even when they disturb one’s prayer life. Charity is to come first and by leaving chapel or your room your helping them is not only a service but a prayer. I believe that is the slant I am giving to the Martha-Mary narrative.
We note that the word for “deaconess” is used in the verb for serving, thus, both Mary and Martha were probably disciples of the Lord who exercised a special ministry of service. Martha is prominent in the second narrative about the two sisters in John chapter 11 and part of 12. It is Martha who has the role of expressing total faith and trust in Jesus and proclaims him as the Anointed One of God, the Messiah. She, not Peter, is the one who identifies who Jesus is from a faith perspective. She leads Jesus to bring out the fact that he is the Resurrection and the life. Her encounter will lead to the resuscitation of Lazarus their brother.
Certainly, we learn about how much both women loved Jesus. Martha fulfilled not only the practical things connected with hospitality, but also manifested her love in being able to make Jesus aware that she sure could have used some help from Mary. I learned on this day more from Martha than from Mary. Perhaps, I can be a catalyst like Martha in some of the conversations, chores, and encounters I will have this day. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.