Memoria of Martha, Mary and Lazarus
Pope Francis in 2021 declared that today is the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the three siblings who were some of Jesus’ dearest friends and who welcomed him to their home in Bethany on various occasions. Previously it was just the feast of St. Martha. Their offer of hospitality and their oasis of rest and recuperation would have been welcomed by Jesus and his apostles after their many weeks of being on the road doing their missionary work of preaching the Good News to all those that they met. In his decree Pope Francis writes: “In the household of Bethany, the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them,” and “Martha generously offered him hospitality, Mary listened attentively to his words and Lazarus promptly emerged from the tomb at the command of the one who humiliated death.”
Reflecting on Luke’s Gospel today, we see Martha running herself into the ground trying to get everything done whilst Mary sits peacefully at Jesus’ feet listening to all that he had to say. Both Martha and Mary were doing the Lord’s will – doing his Work and meditating on his Word. Yet Mary, we are told, had chosen the better part.
I sense that many of us might initially side with Martha for pleading with Jesus to get Mary to help her as she was doing what all women in 1st Century Israel would do, which is to run the household and ensure that all the guests had what they needed. Sitting with the guests was the role of the men of the house. Jesus’ response was not what Martha was expecting.
Jesus is inviting us to spend time with him in silence to listen, pray, reflect, savour the time with him so as to gain strength in order to go out to do his work together. Trying to do everything ‘all by myself’ is just too hard but co-responsibility lightens the load and enables so much more to get done. But first everything has to start by being at the feet of Jesus.
Victoria Raw is parishioner of Te Whetu O Te Moana, Star of the Sea Marlborough, NZ and is active in lay ministry.