Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
First Letter of Saint John 4:7-16, Psalm 34, & Luke 10:38-42
Martha, her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus were close friends of Jesus, who visited their home just a few days before the Passion. Many tend to focus on Jesus' apparent criticism of Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the better part by sitting at His feet and listening to Him rather than helping her sister doing housework. Jesus 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 while she was busy with her chores.
Today, the church remembers 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. Responding 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 beautiful appraisal of Martha and Mary in a sermon by Saint Augustine featured in the 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 traveler to welcome, someone hungry to feed, someone with 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."
Question of the Day: How will you choose the 'better part'?
Prayer: "Almighty, ever-living God, Your Son was a frequent guest in Saint Martha's home. Through her intercession grant that we may faithfully minister to our brethren and merit to be received in your heavenly home. Amen." (From the Lives of Saints, Illustrated)