Feast of St Martha

Today we celebrate the feast of St Martha as Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Luke (10: 38-42) in which Martha welcomes Jesus into her home.

Martha, as we know from the Gospel, was the sister of Mary of Bethany. She was also the sister of Lazarus. Her feast comes exactly one week after that of Mary Magdalene because an old, and probably incorrect, tradition that had Mary Magdalen as the same person as Martha’s sister.  It is still a point of debate.

Fr Paul says he has often wondered if the script writers from the Brady Bunch adapted part of today’s Gospel for one of the series. The Brady Bunch, as you know, was a story about a man, his wife, six children, a maid and a dog. The middle daughter, Jan, always used to say of her older sister ‘Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!’ It was all about Marsha! Today in the Gospel, we hear Jesus saying ‘Martha, Martha… you worry and fret about so many things and yet only one is needed’.

Today’s Gospel is one of three places in two gospels that Martha and Mary appear. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear of Jesus visiting the two sisters in their home, being made welcome and spending some time with them.  In John’s Gospel, the only other Gospel to mention Martha and Mary, they appear in connection with two events: the raising of their brother Lazarus from the dead, which Martha is a witness to; and the anointing of Jesus in Bethany.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, Martha is fulfilling a very important role, she is providing hospitality to the visiting Jesus. She puts her heart and soul into this hospitality and she doesn’t realise that spending time with the guest, spending time with Jesus is of importance, too. Both the roles the sisters fulfill carry equal importance.  Jesus is reminding Martha that what Mary is doing is of value, just as what Martha does is, too.

For our reflection today Fr Paul invites us to reflect on ‘How can I be hospitable when someone is in need?’ and, rather than getting tied up in being busy, worried and fretting about so many things, accept the challenge Jesus places before Martha and take time just to sit and listen to Jesus.