"Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus." this unique statement in John's gospel tells us of the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister and her brother. Apparently jesus was a frequent guest at Martha's home in Bethany, a small village two miles from Jerusalem. We read of three visits in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53 and John 12:1-9.
Many of us find it easy to identify with Martha in the story Luke tells. Martha welcomes Jesus and His disciples into her home and immediately goes to work to serve them. Hospitality is paramount in the Middle East (we experienced this during our pilgrimage - especially in Bethlehem where we were treated like royalty). Imagine Martha's frustration when her sister Mary ignores the rules of hospitality and Martha's work in order to sit and listen to Jesus. instead of speaking to her sister, she asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus' response is not unkind, which gives us an idea of His affection for her. He observes that Martha is worried about many things that distract her from being really present to Him. He reminds her that there is only one thing that is truly important - listening to Him. And that is what Mary has done.
In Martha, we might see ourselves - worried and distracted by all that we have to do in the world and forgetting to spend some time with Jesus in prayer - just listening to Him. It is, however, comforting to note that Jesus loved Martha just the same. Her conversation with Jesus shows her faith and courage. In this dialogue she states clearly - without doubt - that she believes in Jesus' power, in the resurrection and, most of all, that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus tells her that He is the resurrection and the life and then goes on to raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead.
Our final picture of Martha in the Scriptures is the one that sums up who she was. Jesus has returned to Bethany some time later to share a meal with His good friends. In this home were three extraordinary people. We hear how Lazarus caused a stir when he was brought back to life. We hear how Mary causes a commotion at dinner by anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. But the only thing we hear about Martha is the simple statement: "Martha served." She isn't in the spotlight - she doesn't do showy things - she doesn't receive spectacular miracles. She simply serves Jesus. We know nothing more about Martha and what happened to her later. According to a totally untrustworthy legend, Martha accompanied Mary to evangelize France after Pentecost.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the most important thing that could be said about us is what was said of Martha, "They served"? May we follow Saint Martha's example of service. Because of her service, Saint Martha is the patron saint of servants and of cooks.
Dear Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worried to listen to His words and be present to Him today. Amen.