Memorial of Saint Martha
So often we hear of St. Martha in a disparaging connotation or, at the very least, a dismissive one. Nearly every Christian has heard the famous story of Mary and Martha, in which Jesus tells Martha she is always anxious and should choose to follow the example of her sister, Mary: to listen, to reflect, to stop her busyness. Naturally, many women can relate to St. Martha because most of us are doers; we enjoy serving others, caring, and nurturing. It is difficult for us to stop rushing, cooking, or cleaning when guests arrive and instead enjoy their company. Guilt may even slowly emerge when we are inactive.
Today’s Gospel illustrates St. Martha in a different light, however. We catch a glimpse of her heart and her zeal as she seeks Jesus after her brother, Lazarus, has died. Her faith is immense in this description of approaching Jesus and in her supplication: “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” How many of us exhibit this great confidence in desperate times, in hopeless situations?
Jesus responds, “Your brother will rise,” and while He meant this statement both literally and figuratively, St. Martha – in her typical fashion – responds that she does, in fact, believe Lazarus will be raised to eternal life one day. In our humanity, we don’t often see or hear beyond the mere words spoken to our hearts by Jesus – or even other people. We tend to forget that the most meaningful language is the language of the heart, which extends beyond the words expressed into the depth of a person’s understanding of the other, the one who speaks to us.
Jesus knows this about us, just as He knew it about St. Martha; this is why He clarified for her that, not only would Lazarus be raised on the last day, but he would also rise precisely because Jesus Himself is the Resurrection and the Life. Martha, in turn, replies with great anticipation, “I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
Today we understand that, despite St. Martha’s busyness, she still carries a bold and confident faith in Jesus; her heart knows that He is the Son of God, born to save humanity from eternal death. Certainly she was surrounded by many who believed her – and all of Jesus’ disciples – to be mad, and yet her faith prevailed. May we imitate St. Martha’s zeal and confidence in Jesus, especially when life seems dim and grim to us.
Do I listen to Jesus with my heart, or do I simply skim the words of Scripture and apply a rudimentary, superficial meaning from them to my life? How can I learn to connect my heart with the heart of Jesus so that I know what He is speaking beyond mere words?
St. Martha, I thank you for displaying your humanity in such an authentic way because I can relate to the hurried and harried nature you expressed in your life. But I see today that you also carried an immense and prevailing confidence in Jesus as your Savior, so I ask you to intercede for me today. Pray that, like you, I may boldly acknowledge that Jesus can – and does – do anything He wills, even and especially the impossible, because He truly is God. Amen.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing