Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus and they lived in Bethany, a small town about four kilometers from Jerusalem, near the Mount of Olives. Jesus lived in Galilee but when he visited Jerusalem he used to stay at the house of these three disciples in Bethany…
St. Martha of Bethany – July 29th
Perhaps they had also exchanged their dwelling in Galilee for Judea. Martha strove to serve him as best she could and, later, with her prayers she prayed for her brother’s resurrection.
St. John tells us that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus” (Jn 11:5).
“As they were on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his word, while Martha was busy with many things.
So she came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me alone to do my work? Tell her, then, to help me.”
We cannot be sure of Martha’s motivation in making her request to the Lord but everything seems to indicate that she was complaining against her sister. Our Lord appreciated Martha’s service, but at the same time, He knew it was imperfect.
Many times our service, even with good intentions, is mixed with the desire to stand out, the compulsion to be the protagonist and the competition to feel that we are the best.
It is then that comparisons arise: Why does the other one do nothing and I am the one who works? The Lord corrects Martha, penetrates her troubled and divided heart and establishes priorities:
“Martha, Martha, you worry and fret over many things; and there is need of few, or rather, of only one. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10: 41-42
The only thing we need to do is to put our whole heart into loving God, to listen to Jesus who speaks to us, who wants to lift us out of our misery.
Every active life must arise from contemplation.
The active life without contemplation leads the soul to become dispersed and lose sight of the end. The contemplative life concentrates on God and is united to Him by adoration and love. The contemplative life is a kind of novitiate of heaven, for contemplation is the occupation of the blessed in paradise.
Therefore, Christ praised Mary’s choice and affirmed: that “only one thing is necessary”. That means that eternal salvation must be our only concern.
If we contemplate how things are going in any church we can see many activities, programs and ideas…
Is relatively easy to do things for Jesus, but how hard it is for us to be silent before His Presence. We immediately think of things to do. We do not understand that the first and most important thing is to attend to Him directly through prayer.
Jesus found Mary’s contemplative attitude more praiseworthy. How much the Lord would like us all, like Mary, to sit before him to listen to him. She devoted herself to the only important thing, which is the attention of the soul to God.
The Father also asks us, first of all, to listen to His Son
So, isn’t it necessary to work?
Of course, it is. But for the work to bear fruit it must be done after having prayed. Martha’s service is necessary, but it must be subordinate to the Lord’s time.
We must know the moment to leave things, no matter how important they may seem and sit down to listen to the Lord. This requires accepting that we are limited creatures. We cannot do everything. We cannot even do anything well without the Lord.
St. Augustine writes:
“Martha, you have not chosen evil; but Mary has chosen better than you.” St. Basil and St. Gregory the Great consider Sister Mary the evangelical model of contemplative souls and her holiness is not in doubt, however, it is curious that, of the three brothers, only Martha appears in the universal saints’ calendar.
The Resurrection of Lazarus
The 11th chapter of John narrates the great miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus. On that occasion, Martha is mentioned again. Lazarus was dying while Jesus was far away.
The two sisters sent him an employee with this simple message: “Lord, the one you love is sick”. It was a message of confidence that Jesus would act on their behalf.
But Jesus, who was on the other side of the Jordan, continued his work without moving from where he was. To the apostles, he says: “This sickness will be for the glory of God”.
And then he adds to them, “Lazarus our friend has died. And I am glad that this happened without my having been there because now you will believe.”
Four days after the death of Lazarus, Jesus arranged to go to Bethany, the house was full of friends and acquaintances who had come to pay their condolences to the two sisters. As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him and said:
“O Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died; but even now I know that whatever you ask God will grant you.”
Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered him: “I know that he will rise again on the last day in the resurrection of the dead.”
Jesus added: “I am the resurrection and the life. Everyone who believes in me, though he has died, yet shall he live; do you believe this?”
Martha answered: “Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.”
Jesus said: “Where have they laid him?”
And seeing Martha and those with her weeping, Jesus also began to weep. And the crowds remarked, “See how he loved him.” And he went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone at the entrance.
Jesus said: “Take away the stone”.
Martha said to him: “Lord, it already smells bad because he has been buried for four days”.
Jesus said to her: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
So they rolled away the stone and Jesus said with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out.”
And the dead man came out, wearing the shroud and the bandages on his hands.
Martha also appears in a banquet in which Lazarus also participates, shortly after his resurrection: also this time Martha appears as the woman busy in the service, but it may be that by then she already knew how to submit to the Lord with more love, without complaining or comparing herself.
Of the following years of the saint we do not have any historically certain data, although according to the legend of Provence, Martha went with her sister to France and evangelized Tarascon where, according to the legend, Saint Martha defeated the Tarasca, a dragon that threatened the city.
There it is said that they found, in 1187, her alleged relics, which are still venerated in her sanctuary.
The first to dedicate a liturgical celebration to St. Martha were the Franciscans in 1262, on July 29, eight days after the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, identified by some as her sister Mary.
Saint of hoteliers
St. Martha is the hotelier’s patron saint because she knew how to serve very well.
Prayer of the Mothers of Families to St. Martha
O blessed Saint Martha
who so many times had the honor
and joy of welcoming Jesus
in the bosom of your family,
of personally rendering him your domestic services,
and who, together with your holy brothers Lazarus and Mary Magdalene,
you enjoyed his divine conversation and teaching,
pray for me and my family,
that peace and mutual love may be preserved
and mutual love,
that all its members
may all its members live in the observance of the Law of God,
and that God alone,
and not the world or sin,
may reign in our home.
Free my family from all spiritual and temporal misfortune,
help me in the care of my children and subordinates,
and grant me the joy of seeing them united under the fatherly gaze of God
the paternal gaze of God on earth,
to see them reunited in the abodes of heaven.