Monday, July 28, 2014
By Jean M. Heimann
July 29 is the feast of St. Martha, Virgin (who died in France around 80).
Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus at Bethany, a village not far from Jerusalem. They are mentioned in several episodes in the Gospels.
On one occasion, when Jesus and His disciples were their guests (Luke 10:38-42), Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him while her sister Martha busied herself with preparing food and waiting on the guests, and when Martha complained, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part.
When Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had died, Jesus came to Bethany. Martha, upon being told that He was approaching, went out to meet Him, while Mary sat still in the house until He sent for her. It was to Martha that Jesus said: "I am the Resurrection and the Life." (John 11:1-44)
Again, about a week before the crucifixion, as Jesus reclined at table, Mary poured a flask of expensive perfume over Jesus' feet. Mary was criticized for wasting what might have been sold to raise money for the poor, and again Jesus spoke on her behalf. (John 12:1-8)
On the basis of these incidents, many Christian writers have seen Mary as representing Contemplation (prayer and devotion), and Martha as representing Action (good works, helping others); or love of God and love of neighbor respectively.
Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood, but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travelers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit.
No one of you should say, "Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!" Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says, "Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me."
~ from a sermon by Saint Augustine
Patronage: Butlers; cooks; dietitians; domestic servants; homemakers; hotel-keepers; housemaids; housewives; innkeepers; laundry workers; maids; manservants; servants; servers; single laywomen; travellers.
Christ’s correction of Martha teaches us that the active life can be good, but it always lies in the shadow of the contemplative. In other words, before we can be fruitful, we must first be prayerful. Both the active and contemplative lifestyles are important in our lives. Some vocations require more of one than the other, but we all need to make the time to pray, meditate, and contemplate. However, we must continue to give emphasis to both in our lives, as they are interdependent on one another.
As Pope Francis has stated, "Even in our Christian life dear brothers and sisters, prayer and action are always deeply united. A prayer that does not lead to concrete action towards the poor, sick, in need of help, is a sterile and incomplete prayer." But he added with equal emphasis "when we pay more attention to doing in the service of the Church, when we give more weight to objects, functions, structures, and forget the centrality of Christ, when we do not reserve time for dialogue with Him in prayer, we risk serving ourselves and not God present in the poor."
A Prayer to St. Martha
O blessed St. Martha, your faith led Jesus to proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life”; and faith let you see beyond his humanity when you cried out, “Lord I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” With firm hope you said, “I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him”, and Jesus called your brother Lazarus back from the dead. With pure love for Jesus you welcomed him into your home.
Friend and servant of our Savior, I too am “troubled about many things”. (mention your intentions) Pray for me that I may grow in faith, hope and love, and that Jesus, who sat at your table, will hear me and grant me a place at the banquet of eternal life. Amen.