July 28, 2016

Memorial of Saint Martha of Bethany, Virgin

St. Martha of Bethany
July 29th the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Martha of Bethany. Scripture records the special relationship Jesus had with Martha, her sister, Mary and her brother, Lazarus. Martha lived with her siblings in Bethany, a small village two miles outside of Jerusalem in the province of Judea. Our Lord visited them often. We read of three such visits in Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9. The most famous of these is from the Gospel of Luke:

"As they continued their journey he 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.'"

Martha subscribed to the custom, paramount in the Middle East, of showing hospitality toward visitors. She busily served Jesus and his disciples without assistance from her sister. Martha implored Jesus to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained that certain individuals are called by God to contemplate and listen to Him. From Martha one lesson learned is that there is both active and contemplative work in service to the Church. Martha is the second person in the New Testament (after Peter) to attest that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God. She is the patron saint of servants and cooks.

The Life of St. Martha

Martha was born of noble and wealthy parents, but she is still more illustrious for the hospitality she gave to Christ our Lord. After His Ascension into heaven, she was seized by the Jews, together with her brother and sister, Marcella her handmaid, and Maximin, one of the seventy two disciples of our Lord, who had baptized the whole family, and many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea, exposed to certain shipwreck. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles.

This miracle, together with their preaching, brought the people of Marseilles, of Aix, and of the neighborhood to believe in Christ. Lazarus was made Bishop of Marseilles and Maximin of Aix. Magdalen, who was accustomed to devote herself to prayer and to sit at our Lord's feet, in order to enjoy the better part which she had chosen, that is, contemplation of the joys of heaven, retired into a deserted cave on a very high mountain. There she lived for thirty years, separated from all human intercourse; and every day she was carried to heaven by the angels to hear their songs of praise.

But Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the people of Marseilles by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew in the company of several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence. She foretold her death long before it occurred; and at length, famous for miracles, she passed to our Lord on the fourth of the Kalends of August. Her body which lies at Tarascon is held in great veneration.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Collect Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, whose Son was pleased to be welcomed in Saint Martha's house as a guest, grant, we pray, that through her intercession, serving Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters, we may merit to be received by you in the halls of heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer to St. Martha

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worries to listen to his words and be present to him this day. Amen.

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