The feast of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the family at Bethany, once feast of St. Martha alone is celebrated on July 29th. The family were all friends of Jesus and blessed with one of his most important miracles. The church wants us to see them all together.
But Martha still stands out in today’s feast. The gospel readings from St. John and St. Luke feature her. Martha met Jesus when her brother Lazarus died and spoke those beautiful words of faith when Jesus asked if she believed he could bring life to the dead. “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” ( John 11: )
Her faith was also the faith of Mary and Lazarus too. Jesus was at home with them.
Yet, there’s another side of Martha I can’t resist. The Martha who does everything and sometimes runs out of steam doing it. No matter how strong our faith, we’re still human. Isn’t Bethany Martha’s house? That’s what the gospels seem to indicate.That’s why this favorite picture of Martha introduces this blog.
The 13th century Tuscan artist, Giovanni di Milano, brings us to Bethany where Jesus is visiting Martha and Mary. The table’s set for four people. That would be Jesus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
All of a sudden a knock on the door, and standing there are some of Jesus’ disciples, led by Peter. One of them gestures towards Peter, as if saying “he told us to come.”
Poor Martha in her apron holds up her hands, “What am I supposed to do?”
There will be no miracle, except the miracle of Martha’s hospitality. More than four will be fed.
That story’s in the gospel if, like the artist, we let our imagination roam a little bit.
Almighty ever-living God, your Son was welcomed to Bethany, Martha’s house, as a guest. Grant, we pray, that through her intercession and that of her brother and sister we may serve Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters and finally be received by you into your heavenly home. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Dear Father Victor, thank you for how your reflection and prayer lead me to the words of Thomas Berry, CP: “Our sense of who we are and what our role is must begin where the universe begins.” (Thomas Berry, “Reinventing the Human,” in The Great Work, 162). Another Passionist who simultaneously humbles and Inspires our human spirit! Thank you!