Today’s Gospel: John 11:19-27 or Luke 10:38-42
There are two possible Gospel readings for today, but both center on the iconic Martha in the New Testament; we nearly always read references to and mention of her in conjunction with her sister, Mary. We also know from Scripture that Martha and Mary are sisters to Jesus’ beloved friend, Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead as a magnanimous act of love in friendship.
When I was growing up, if a person was referred to as a “Martha,” it was considered a cheeky comparison, one that no one desired. It meant that she worked too much, worried and fretted about nearly everything, and didn’t take the time to simply listen and pray as her sister, Mary, did so effortlessly at Jesus’ feet. I was often personally called a “Martha,” and the title became so comfortable to me that, to this day, I wear the alias with resignation and even acceptance.
Who was St. Martha? Though the more famous account in Scripture portrays her as busy, harried, and a perfectionist, the other Gospel from John displays her great faith in Jesus. She says to Him after her brother, Lazarus, has died, “I know Lazarus will rise again, in the resurrection on the last day.” Then Jesus responds, “I am the Resurrection and the life.” And she replies with confident faith, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
In a sense, we are all like Martha to some degree, especially as women: it is in our nature to serve others, to be hospitable and to make sure that dinner is edible and cheerfully offered to family and guests alike. I know I often picture Martha when I am in a frenzy preparing for a social gathering at our home; it seems the burden falls on me to ensure the menu is just right, the guests are comfortable and that our home provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I am also a worrier by nature and am constantly giving this weakness over to the Lord.
Yet I love how Martha’s faith counters her anxious nature; it makes her relevant to us, doesn’t it? She is human, after all, yet she is who we strive to be: one who is intimately connected to Jesus: so close, in fact, that she is a personal friend of His. While the world surrounding her is filled with skeptics and critics of who Jesus was, she still believed – incredibly and profoundly – that He was the Messiah.
Life isn’t much different these days: we live in a world that denies the divinity of Christ, or at the very least, ignores Him altogether. But we, like Martha, are called to rise above and beyond the world, to see beyond the naysayers and the Pharisaical hypocrites. We are called to live an authentic faith, in spite of and despite our weaknesses.
In what ways do I exemplify St. Martha in my own life: am I anxious or worried often? Do I tend to busy myself instead of sitting with Jesus in the quiet of my heart? Is my faith strong enough to proclaim to the world that I am a follower of Jesus?
Dear Jesus, you said to look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field when I am worried about the details of my life; for, if you care for them, how much more will you care for me? Thank you for my humanity: my shortcomings and my struggles, so that I may be led by the grace of humility to trust you more and more each day. Amen.
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing