We celebrated the feast day of St Martha on Thursday of this week.
While clearly she is a close friend of Jesus, she did not form part of the group of women who travelled with Him on His preaching trips. She was, however, at home to welcome Him whenever He was in the area of Bethany.
Judging by the incident describing her brother’s illness and death, she must have felt very much ‘at home’ with Jesus; she certainly left Him in no doubt as to how she felt.
Some time previous to this occasion , Martha sent a message to Jesus-
“THE ONE YOU LOVE IS SICK”.
Covid 19 has sent the same message to over 16000,000 families in recent months. Sadly, as was the case with Martha’s brother, almost 650,000 have died. The Gospel is “ever ancient, ever new”.
Martha’s earlier message didn’t name her brother or make any request of Jesus. She knew He would know and would react. However it is obvious that she expected Him to come immediately. That is clear from her rather cool and frosty reception she gave Him when He did eventually arrive.
Her earlier message ”THE ONE YOU LOVE IS SICK” indicated the close PERSONAL friendship that existed between Jesus and Lazarus.
Her opening statement when He did come was very different; it was now PERSONAL to her and her brother. The statement is conveyed in deeds and in words. Just imagine the look on her face, the annoyance in her tone of voice and the her steely eyes as she said “if YOU had been here MY brother would not have died.”
He has clearly offended HER by His absence.
She recover her composure quickly and added “…but even now I know whatever You ask of God he will grant it”.
Jesus never lost His composure and assured her that Lazarus’ death had a purpose beyond her understanding and that his death was not the last word in her brother’s story , thereby affording her the opportunity to make her profession of faith in life after death-
“I KNOW HE WILL RISE AGAIN AT THE RESURRECTION ON THE LAST DAY”.
Then Jesus made one of His many ‘I AM’ statements; all of which clearly explain His mission and give us the foundation of our faith . Martha gave Him the opening to make the most important of all the
“I AM” statements - “ I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE”
Jesus is saying to Martha and to us, the Resurrection is a PERSON, a real live, active, involved , available ,ever present person in our daily lives. He is no longer limited by time or space. He is concerned about all the ups- and- downs of our lives. He waits to be invited into all the aspects of our lives. His help is certain.
What is engaging our minds these times is the Corona Virus and all the serious consequences that have already confronted us and continue to so.
In doing our best to deal with so many new experiences, by adhering to all the restrictions and regulations associated with our present reality, we might also have a look at St. Martha’s reaction to her sad situation. She made her feelings known to God in no uncertain manner (“…if you had been here “!) and expected Him to come to her aid. He understood her annoyance and reminded her that He was at her side at all times.
The challenge to us is to situate the teachings and incidents of Jesus’ life into the happenings in our own lives. This PANDEMIC is a dead fit for the MARTHA experience. Time and place are different but the circumstances the same-family sickness and bereavement. Martha sought and found Jesus here. So will we.
HE IS WITH US NOW TOO; HIS WORD IS ALWAYS RELEVANT—“EVER ANCIENT,EVER NEW”.