Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bad rap for St. Martha

Reflection for Mass at Feast of St. Martha, July 29, 2009:

John 11.27: Martha "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.'"

St. Martha has always been one of my favorite saints; much for the same reason that Thomas is. I am a very well named Thomas. I need to see the nail marks and the wounds far too often to be brought to belief.

If you ask someone what we know Thomas the Apostle for, without wasting even a moment, the word "doubter" comes running off of their tongue. The Doubter. Doubting Thomas. These are so much a part of our culture today it is possible to know these phrases even if you don't know Thomas.

But, this is a bad rap. Yes, Thomas had his moment of doubt. But, he concludes that story with perhaps one of the greatest proclamations of faith to be found in Scripture as he humbly proclaims, "My Lord and my God!" Why don't we remember him as Thomas the Faithful!

Which brings us back to Martha. St. Martha is likewise remembered too often for her less than glorious moments. I think we often hear Martha in the Gospel complaining. Jesus comes to visit at her house; Mary, her sister, sits at the feet of Jesus; Martha complains, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."

Again, when Lazarus, her brother has died, Jesus arrives, Martha complains,"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Too often, this is what we remember. But, just as for Thomas, this isn't the full story for this wonderful saint.

What I like about Martha is that she voices for us perhaps our similar reaction to difficulties. Even if we haven't said it out loud, we've more than likely felt the same way that Martha feels. We've wondered at the death of a loved one. We've been angry to be the only one seemingly doing the work.

But the story doesn't end there for Martha. Just as Thomas made his great proclamation of faith, "My Lord and my God," so does Martha. Once she's gotten her anger and confusion out at the death of her brother, she goes on to proclaim, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." Yes, Lord, I believe in You; I beleive You are the Messiah; I believe You are the one to set us free; to lead us to the Kingdom; who can triumph even over the small and the great difficulties in my life.

Thank God for Martha and for Thomas and for Peter, who denied, but whose stories went on to redemption and glory. They are our witnesses, not as models we can never be, but as human beings as flawed as we are, but triumphant in and through the Grace of God.

Let us pray through St. Martha that we too may overcome our challenges of life and of faith, and arrive at the glory to proclaim, "Yes, Lord, I believe!"

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