Saint Spotlight Martha of Bethany

Feast Day 29 July 

Martha was amongst the closest friends of Jesus, and was mentioned in the Gospels several times (Lk 10:38-42, Jn 11:1-53 and 12:1-9). In our first meeting with Martha, we hear her complain about her sister Mary for not helping her with the preparation of food to welcome Jesus. Next, we read about her sorrow over her brother Lazarus’ death and her plea for Jesus to raise him to life. Finally, when we read about Martha again, she was only mentioned in two words: Martha served.

At Your Service

In a religious community many years ago an old lay-brother was serving early morning Mass for one of the priests of the house. The two men enjoyed a cheerful, running battle with each other over their differing lifestyles. By contrast to the priest the brother was working manually in house and garden all day every day. On this particular morning the old brother, thinking of their differing fortunes got in a powerful “dig” when he turned to the priest who was disrobing after Mass and said, “Well Father, vestments off, day’s work done!”

Saint Martha would have been proud of him. This saint, patron of lay sisters and of house-wives (and house-husbands) knew very well how galling it can be doing all the manual labour while others pursue more intellectual endeavours.

When Jesus was a guest in her house, and when Martha was busy preparing a meal to welcome him properly, she was less than impressed by her sister Mary’s immobility! Yet in truth her sister was not idle or doing nothing. Mary was paying attention to the Lord, listening to him.

Both of these practices, that of preparing a meal and paying attention to people are part of the practice of hospitality and so Jesus was well cared for in that house in Bethany. No wonder it was like a second home for him and that Martha, Mary and Lazarus were his special friends.

In today’s pressurised world many people do not have the time to make a proper meal or time to spend in the company of others.

It is important for us, therefore, to make time to be “good companions’ sharing our bread together.

One of those times is to be found in the eucharist. At the Lord’s table we find a meal made for us and a welcome ready for us. In the prayers and the readings, the Lord gives us his fullest attention.

Saint Paul tells us to make hospitality our special care. The home of Martha and Mary did just that.

May our daily work and our daily attentiveness be at the service of others. Then when the evening comes we can truly say, “Vestments off, day’s work done!”

Adapted from the Living Word Saints and Feasts