Martha enjoys prominence in two gospel narratives. In the Gospel of Luke, Martha expresses consternation because she is “burdened with much serving” while her sister, Mary, merely sits at the feet of Our Lord, “listening to him speak” (Luke 10:38–42). Martha says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” In the Gospel of John, however, Martha herself goes to “meet” the Lord while Mary “[sits] at home” (John 11:19–27). Martha says to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Both of these gospels reveal Martha as a woman who astutely notices relational dynamics extrinsic to herself. She is attuned to the relationships of other people. Martha notes: (1) Mary’s relation to Jesus and Mary’s seeming lack of relation to Martha, and (2) Lazarus’ relation to Jesus and Jesus’ relation to God the Father. In this way, Martha shows herself to be a contemplative, of sorts. She recognizes relations between others and even the profound inner-relation of Trinitarian Persons themselves (i.e., Jesus’ relation to the Eternal Father). A certain incisive perceptiveness, thus, characterizes Martha.
Nonetheless, Martha’s focuses on the relationality of others… Martha herself is not a factor in her own contemplation.
As penetrating and as insightful as Martha’s extrinsic contemplation is, however, Our Lord is not satisfied. Jesus loves Martha, and He grace-fully pulls her into personal contact with Himself.
Jesus addresses Martha directly and personally: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And then he asks: “Do you believe this?” Martha’s response captures the reason why the Church celebrates her: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
As Jesus does with all of us, He leads Martha to himself. Here Jesus reveals that He is not only interested in others—He is also interested in us. Directly. Personally.
Divine love draws Jesus to others… to all… even to Martha. Even to us. Not even the Son’s eternal relation to the Father excludes Martha. Jesus’ love is fundamentally inclusive. It draws all people to Himself.
Therefore, at Mass, we ask Jesus to lead us as He led Martha—beyond reflections about other people’s relations to personal, transformative union with him. May God give us the grace to realize what happens when Jesus speaks to us—what happens when He invites us to enter into the truth of Himself. For this truth of Himself is a truth that includes us. It is a loving truth. It is a truth that saves.
In response to Our Lord’s question, “Do you believe this?,” may our hearts respond with Martha’s: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the son of God, the one who [came] into the world”—for them, for us, and for me.