St. Martha holds a very special place in my heart, so you can imagine my excitement when this past Sunday’s Mass held those famous “Martha vs. Mary” Gospel readings. I always feel kind of bad for Martha because she’s remembered as the one who got schooled by Jesus for being too wrapped up in her own little worldly cares. Rarely do people ever continue to read what the rest of Scripture says about her.
Like many other Saints, the reason why I like St. Martha is that she is so relatable. We’ve all been there. Tired, worn-out, asking God why He has us doing so many things at once. Then we look at someone, whether it be a friend or family member, and think, why do they get to be so happy? Why am I the one doing all the work? How is this fair, God?
Martha in the Bible
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” – Luke 10:40
Martha appears in the Bible three times: Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9.
In her first appearance, Martha is all kinds of stressed out trying to host a dinner party for Jesus (who wouldn’t be?). She becomes even more distraught when she sees her sister Mary moseying around having a good ole time with Jesus. When Martha complains to Jesus, He tells Martha that of the two of them, Mary is doing what is right.
In the past, that part never really rubbed me the right way. All Martha is trying to do is get some help in the kitchen, right? But what Jesus is trying to say is that Martha’s priorities aren’t straight. He tells her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42)
I know how I would react in that situation. I would probably throw a fit and tell everyone that if they’re hungry they can make their own food. However, Martha, being much more graceful than myself, takes to heart what Jesus tells her, just as a good, humble servant does. Jesus asks Martha to have the intention of serving Him rather than serving the world. This is something He asks of all of us. Every once in a while we should stop and really ask God, “What is Your Will for my life?”.
Martha’s next appearance is in John. She is grieving the death of her brother, Lazarus, when she hears that Jesus is near. She makes no hesitation, stops her grieving and runs to Christ. She puts absolute trust in Christ and His power, knowing that only He can heal her pain. That’s all that Jesus wants from us when we are in trouble. He wants us to run towards His open arms.
In the last episode, we hear about that famous trio of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. While the two former are causing a ruckus, Lazarus screaming about how he came back from the dead and Mary pouring some overpriced perfume all over Jesus’ feet, all that we read about Martha is “Martha served”.
Isn’t that beautiful? She doesn’t ask for anything; not for grandiose sermons, not for life-changing visions or impossible miracles. All she wants to do is serve Jesus. And that’s all something we should all want, to serve Jesus with our whole lives.
What we can learn from St. Martha
There is so much we can learn from St. Martha: humility, service, obedience. In everything we do, we should do to serve Jesus. When you are working on a boring project at work, do the project to serve Jesus. When you have to clean the house, clean to serve Jesus. When you change your child’s dirty diaper, change that diaper for Jesus. It’s when we don’t do things with the intention of following Christ that burdens are just burdens. They easily become unbearably heavy, just as they did for Martha.
When we take Jesus out of the picture, suffering has no purpose. When we stop being Christ-centered, our lives become aimless. But when we ask Christ to help us carry our crosses, suddenly life becomes a lot easier. Suddenly, peace and joy are attainable again. And when you think about how your suffering is leading you to Heaven, it’s not that bad. When you think of how your suffering could be bringing someone else closer to Christ, it seems worth the pain.
In life, we all have different paths to sainthood. For most of us, married life, for others, religious life, and for some, consecrated single life. But the one thing that we are all called to do is to love, serve and follow Jesus.
St. Martha has been a powerful intercessor and great “Saint friend” to me, and prayers to her are very effective for those who suffer from anxiety like myself. Scripture says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” (Luke 11:5) meaning that she was very close to Jesus. If we ask for her intercession, she can help us become closer to Jesus, too.
Here’s a link to the St. Martha novena, prayed on every Tuesday (I really suck at this novena, BTW). It’s especially helpful for those worried and distracted, but is helpful in any seemingly impossible circumstance.
So what do you think? Are you more of a contemplative like Mary or active like Martha? Post in the comments!