When we read about Martha and Mary in the Bible, we usually emphasize the encounter they had with Jesus in their home at Bethany (see Luke 10). We know that account well: Martha complained that the household chores had been left to her because her sister Mary had neglected them. Jesus responded by saying that “Mary has chosen the better portion.” “Better” is a comparison; the truth is that both sisters had chosen well, but on that day and at that moment Mary had chosen better. Sadly, so many read the account as an either/or story, instead of a both/and story; either we are to be active in service or quietly prayerful vs. both actively in service and prayerful.
It is easy, then, to equate Martha with “the world” and Mary with “the spiritual,” which is the logical conclusion to the thinking that Martha had chosen poorly. Again, the fact is that both sisters had chosen well! Nonetheless, many people still have a tendency, mistakenly, to mis-read the encounter which the sisters had with the Lord in their home. Let’s not forget that it was Martha who initially opened her home to Jesus, she provided generous hospitality to their guest, and she anticipated the very foot-washing “ministry” that Jesus would demonstrate at the Last Supper (saying, “as I have done, so you must do”).
Later, Lazarus (their brother) became seriously ill and died (John 11). Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus, asking Him to come. Hearing Jesus was coming, Martha, being the forthright woman of action, went to meet Him while, interestingly, Mary stayed home. In the end, Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ Martha said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.’” In word and in deed, St. Martha offers one of the most heartfelt and convincing testimonies in all of the Bible. May she inspire us and encourage us today and always.
O, admirable and holy St. Martha, may we count on you in our trials. In thanksgiving, we praise God for blessing you with steadfast faith and great courage. Comfort us in our worries and difficulties, we humbly beg you. By the immense joy which filled your soul when you received the Savior of the world in your home in Bethany, we ask you to intercede for us, for our families, and for our world, so that we may keep Jesus in our hearts, serve Him well, and acknowledge Him, truly, as Lord of our lives. Pray for us, now and always. Amen.