July 29, 2015
We normally think of Martha and Mary together. But if we celebrate the feast of St. Martha today, why isn’t there a feast of St. Mary of Bethany? We celebrated it one week ago on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene. Here’s the Collect from the 1962 Roman Missal translated into English, “Lord, we pray You that we may be helped by the pleading of Blessed Mary Magdalene, whose prayers so much availed with You, that You did call up her brother Lazarus living from the dead.” Knowing that the Church celebrates these two saints as the sisters of Bethany helps us reflect on a real family with a colorful past who weren’t born saints, but became saints.
Maybe Martha thought that Mary with her notorious past should be more discreet, should be making amends, should be helping: should, should, should. That’s just one possible scenario but we do know that Martha is “anxious and worried about many things” (Lk 10:41). Perhaps God was inviting Martha to learn from her sister’s humility.
When their brother Lazarus dies, both sisters go to Jesus and say almost the same thing. Martha stands. Mary falls at Jesus’ feet and weeps (see Jn 11:17-35). That humility comes from a heart that has been touched by mercy. Seeing the different actions and attitudes of Martha and Mary allows us to see Martha as a real woman who is in the process of becoming a saint. Whatever Martha’s spiritual growing pains were—whether they were jealousy or embarrassment over family—she learned to choose the better part. Martha became free; she became a saint! And in this freedom, all her hospitality, all her generosity, all her work is fruitful in new and supernatural ways. It helps us to heaven.
We are invited to choose the better part with St. Martha in bringing our burdens, jealousies, and anxieties to God as we become completely free to be saints now.