Saturday, April 5, 2014

The MARTHA Connection

I must confess that in certain ways I can relate to and appreciate Martha, who is now known as St. Martha, whose feast day is celebrated on July 29. 

On one hand Martha and I could be exact opposites, since she apparently was very concerned with domestic chores and I want as little to do with household chores as possible and would much rather be involved in church activities.  Yet I think I have been termed a "spiritual Martha", because I find it easier and more enjoyable to be involved in working for the LORD than praying. 

What I do relate to and love in Martha is her honesty and her ability to be herself with the LORD and tell Him exactly what she thought and felt.  In this Sunday's Gospel she tells JESUS point-blank, "LORD, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."  It's true.  JESUS COULD have healed Lazarus and prevented his death but chose not to do so, since there was another Plan in place.  Martha is honest enough to tell JESUS the truth and not cover it up with pietistic verbiage. 

She also had great faith, not only to have the freedom to tell the LORD her thoughts and feelings and know that she would not be rejected, but also to believe that JESUS could still do something and that He is the Messiah, in spite of her disappointment.  She was disappointed that JESUS did not do what she wanted Him to do--how often I have felt this way--but she still believed in Him, in Who He is, and what He could do.  She was clearly upset, grieved, frustrated and disappointed, but she did not lose faith or lose heart.  Martha clung to her faith in JESUS in spite of her frustration, grief and disappointment.  YES, her practical nature got a bit in the way--she was hesitant to have the stone moved away from Lazarus' tomb, since she anticipated the stench of a dead body 4 days in the tomb--but when reminded of JESUS' promise, she conceded and cooperated in one of JESUS' greatest miracles--a miracle to be exceeded only by His own resurrection from the dead not long afterwards. 

So let's admit, we gotta love Martha.  In the ungrammatical but popular slogan of the late 1960s/early 1970s we can depend on Martha to "tell it like it is" and be totally transparent with JESUS and to say what many of us might think or feel in our minds and hearts but be afraid to express. 

JESUS loves honest people who are without guile--I think there is a special place in His heart for people like Martha and like Nathaniel (who, when told by Philip that JESUS was the Messiah, responded, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth" but then came to faith when JESUS knew who he was and saw him under the fig tree) and like the apostle Thomas, who voiced his doubts and questions.  Although on an earlier occasion JESUS told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part--sitting at His feet and listening to Him in the position of a disciple rather than being so worried about either the preparations or the clean-up--I think that Martha demonstrates a very special relationship with the LORD JESUS from which we can learn and which we can share.

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