St. Martha

Reading Exodus 24:3-8
Gospel John 11:19-27

“‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.’”

On this feast of Saint Martha, the Gospel Reading must come from the feast day. The other readings may come from the day in Ordinary Time, which the feast supersedes. However, there are two options for the Gospel Reading on this feast. Both, of course, feature Martha.

The first option offers a bit more flattering portrait of Martha. The occasion is the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary. Martha goes out to meet Jesus, while Mary sits at home, which is an interesting contrast to the sisters’ respective roles in the other Gospel Reading for the feast. Martha’s words to Jesus express not only her love for her deceased brother, but also for Jesus, as well as faith in Jesus. Yet Martha is missing something. When Jesus declares to Martha, “Your brother will rise”, she does not understand fully what Jesus means. Jesus is promising that her brother will return to her, not on “the last day”, but on that very day when Jesus and Martha are speaking. It’s to Martha’s credit that when Jesus makes more clear His intention, Martha makes clear her faith in Jesus. This faith in Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life”, is a model for our own faith.

The second option for the feast’s Gospel Reading is perhaps the better known Gospel story about Martha. Martha is overshadowed by her sister Mary, the latter being an example of putting “first things first”. Nonetheless, perhaps the example of Martha in this passage is more like most of us Christians. To identify with Martha in this passage is to humble ourselves and to recall that our good works are empty if they don’t proceed from a faith that’s nourished by the Word of God.