|Memorial of St. Martha
Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21
John 11:19-27, or Luke 10:38-42
Today we remember and honor Martha of Bethany. Scripture notes that Jesus was a friend of Martha and her sister, Mary and her brother, Lazarus.
So, it should be no surprise that in both of today's gospel accounts there is a recognizable familiarity in the dialogue between Martha and Jesus. Martha's directness in her open conversations with Jesus reveals an intimacy of friendship and trust. Martha is not afraid to speak her mind with Jesus, and Jesus is equally at ease in talking with Martha.
In Luke, Martha challenges Jesus to remind Mary that Martha needs help with serving the people who had come to listen to Jesus. Surely Martha and any others who overheard Jesus' reply were a little 'taken aback' by Jesus' replies. He doesn't insist that Mary return to the traditional woman's role of serving, but rather that not only was it OK, but that Mary "has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." I personally can identify with Martha's frustration of trying to get everything done; but I also rejoice that Jesus takes this opportunity to break with tradition when he acknowledges that Mary's choice to join the others in listening to Jesus was also valid. Women were invited, just as the men to be part of Jesus' followers.
In John's gospel, Martha doesn't wait for Jesus to arrive at her house after her brother, Lazarus, has died. (Jesus risks the growing danger of his enemies' retaliation when he visits his grieving friends.) Martha goes to meet Jesus on his way to her home. Again, in her direct manner and her anguished cry, she almost seems to chastise Jesus for not arriving sooner: "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." As Jesus and Martha talk, Martha realizes that not only could Jesus have healed her brother Lazarus, but that Jesus seems to be saying something even greater. They are not only talking of rising from the dead on the last day, but Jesus asks Martha if she believes that he is the 'resurrection and the life.' Martha professes her belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ. This truly is a moment of revelation and a leap of faith between friends. Jesus meets Martha in her anguish and need, yet invites her to another level of understanding - and she responds in her public affirmation, " . . . you are the Christ, the Son of God.... "
Today, we are in anguish and are grieving as Church in the realization of the clergy sexual abuse of children and young people that has been allowed to go unanswered. Perhaps there is a very real sense of wondering where/if God has been with us . . . how could this horrible situation exist for so long?
How do I/we bring this to our God in prayer? How is God there for us now? Can I believe that God's presence/healing love can be with us?
The US Bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People", which was approved at the June 2002 meeting in Dallas calls for lay involvement in the process of giving pastoral aid to those who have been abused as well as assisting the church in each diocese as it addresses the allegations of sexual abuse by priests, deacons or other church personnel.
I believe that it is imperative that I/we continue to be in dialogue/prayer
with our God as we struggle to find God's presence in the midst of the
church's present scandal. But I also believe that now is the time, as lay
persons, to urge our church leaders to listen to what anguish and pain
exists due to the sexual abuse, to respond to the needs of those who have
been abused, and to involve all of us, lay and ordained in the process
of addressing the scandal and building avenues of healing. It is time for
us to be in direct dialogue within our church and our communities, just
as Martha was direct in her dialogue with Jesus. It is only then that the
true healing love of God can be experienced in our midst.
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