29th of July (Tuesday) Feast of St Martha.
Saint Martha of Bethany.
Martha is mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and John. She lived in the village of Bethany near Jerusalem with her siblings Lazarus and Mary. She welcomed Jesus and the disciples into her home, and was witness to the raising of her brother, Lazarus.
1) 1 John 4:7-16.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42.
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Gospel: John 11:19-27.
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Martha’s rugged faith
Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus were close friends of Jesus, who often visited their home and went there just a few days before the Passion. Many tend to focus on Jesus’ apparent criticism – that her sister Mary had chosen the better part by sitting at his feet and listening to him rather than bustling about attending to the details of hospitality (Luke 10: 38-42). Jesus does not downplay housework; rather, he invites Martha to keep her focus on the life of the spirit even while working and not to let anxiety distract her. He does not preclude Martha’s listening to him from the kitchen – where she was preparing a meal for them all. The woman in the kitchen will often know exactly what is going on in the rest of her house.
Today we remember Martha’s deep, personal faith in Jesus. It is she who believed in “resurrection from the dead” for those who die in faith. When Jesus calls himself the resurrection and the life, promising that they who believe in him will never die, it was at Martha’s prompting, as she mourned the death of her brother Lazarus. Responing to her prayer, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and many came to believe in him after this sign of his life-giving power.
There is a fine appraisal of Martha and Mary in a sermon by Saint Augustine featured in today’s Liturgy of the Hours: “Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labour among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travelers on a journey without a fixed abode. We are on our way, not yet in our native land. We are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. … But you, Martha, are blessed for your good service, and for your labours you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveller to welcome, someone hungry to feed, someone ill whom you could visit or quarreling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury? No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, but we ourselves shall be fed. So what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, ‘Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.'”