Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said 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.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“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.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
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.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“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.”
If you read through the two Gospel choices for today's Celebration of the Eucharist, the Memorial of St. Martha, you can readily see Martha's passion for Christ. In the first, from John's account, Martha runs out to Jesus to implore his help and assistance over the passing of Lazarus. Luke's passage shows Martha actively performing service in the name of the Lord. Martha speaks of her commitment, "But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you" (John 11:22). Martha continues, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world" (John 11:27).
Martha serves as a powerful example of running to the Lord in our moments of need. Go to Him; He is ready to comfort us. She also serves as a model of faith in Christ. Similar to Peter's insight, Martha recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah sent to save the world. May we, too, have a passionate belief in Christ and faith that He makes all things work for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
In both cases, though, it is poignant to note Mary's actions. Mary stays inside as Martha runs and converses with Jesus. Mary sits at Jesus's feet and listens to Him as Martha serves. In the first passage (from John), Mary is not mentioned again, but she serves as a contrast to Martha's movement and words. In Luke's telling, Mary's comparative inactivity receives accolades from Jesus. In response to Martha's plea asking for help from her sister, Jesus responds that Mary has chosen the better path. "There is need of only one thing," Jesus explains. "Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her" (Luke 10:42).
Mary actions juxtapose Martha's. Mary's inactivity starkly contrasts with Martha's activity. Despite the positive qualities displayed by Martha, Mary provides an alternative and better approach. She stays inside, possibly because of her confident and convicted faith in the will of the Lord. She has already accepted His plan, even though she does not yet fully know what that is. Furthermore, instead of serving, Mary sits and listens to Jesus. No act of service can merit our salvation, no good deed can win Christ's favor, no amount of activity can earn fulfillment.
Sit and trust in the Lord. Sit and be with the Lord. Have faith. Listen. This, the Lord tells us, is the preferable approach. Stop trying to impress Him and allow Him to impress Himself upon you. Recognize your dire need for Him and give your heart completely to Him.
He is all that we need. Like Martha, let us run to Him. Like Martha, let us profess our faith in Him. Like both Martha and Mary, let us trust in Him and give Him all that we have and all that we are.