Saint Martha

July 28, 2017

The Pastor's Page

Saint Martha

July 29 is the memorial of St. Martha, a dear friend and devout disciple of Jesus. Martha’s story is told in three places: Lk 10:38-42, when Martha served while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to him; Jn 11:1-44, the raising of Lazarus; and Jn 12:2, the anointing at Bethany.

Little is known about Martha’s family. The gospel gives no information about her parents, whether she was married, if she had children, or if she had more than two siblings. She did have a sister Mary and a brother Lazarus.

Martha lived in Bethany, a village on the east side of the Mount of Olives not far from Jerusalem. When Jesus visited there he stayed at Martha’s home. It may have been the regular place where he stayed, and it likely served as his home away from home.

Jesus had a special love for Martha (Jn 11:5), and she had a special devotion to him. When Jesus arrived at her village, “Martha welcomed him” (Lk 10:38). She was exceptionally cordial. She warmly and eagerly brought him into her house and was delighted to have him as her guest. She dropped whatever she had been doing and focused all of her attention on serving him. She went to the kitchen to prepare a meal, and her work was a labor of love.

Martha’s hospitality is heartwarming, a sincere and authentic act of kindness, and it serves as a stark contrast to the cold reception that Jesus received from so many others. When Jesus came into the world, “his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11b), but to those who do accept Jesus, as Mary did, Jesus gives the “power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). Martha clearly was a child of God, and her faith and inner goodness serves as a beautiful example. As Martha welcomed Jesus, so should we. Martha’s hospitality is an inspiration for us to welcome Jesus into our homes, minds, and hearts, and to devote ourselves completely to him.

Martha, the cook, dedicated herself to service (Lk 10:40), and in doing so she modeled herself on her Master who said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28). Jesus also explained that on Judgment Day he would have special criteria for those who will be given a place on his right, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink” (Mt 25:35). For those who serve as Martha did, the king says, “Inherit the kingdom” (Mt 25:34). For Martha and all disciples, service and sharing is the path to eternal life.

When Lazarus was ill, Martha sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love is ill” (Jn 11:3). Martha interceded with Jesus on her brother’s behalf and by doing so, Martha shows us that it is commendable for us to pray to Jesus for the welfare of others.

John wrote his gospel to lead people to believe in Jesus (Jn 20:31), and throughout his gospel a number of individuals profess their faith. It begins with Andrew (Jn 1:41); continues with the woman at the well (Jn 4:19,29,42), Peter (Jn 6:69), and the blind man (Jn 9:17,38); and concludes with Thomas (Jn 20:28). But of all these, Martha’s statement stands out as the boldest, strongest, and most complete. She began by professing her faith in the resurrection (Jn 11:24), and then she declared to Jesus, “I … believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world” (Jn 11:27). Martha’s courage and the depth of her faith stand as an ideal and an encouragement for all believers.

St. Martha is the patron saint of cooks and dieticians, restaurants and hotels, waiters and waitresses, homemakers and housekeepers.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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