Archive for the ‘Sts. Martha and Mary’ Category

Why Did Jesus Delay?

March 25, 2023

5th Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

In 1582, St. Teresa of Ávila was journeying across Spain to establish new Carmelite convents. The rivers that season were so high that in some places the entire road was covered and obscured by water. It was clearly too dangerous to continue through those waters aboard the carriage, so Teresa and her companions advanced cautiously on foot, with Teresa leading the way. At one point, she lost her footing and fell down into the muddy water. Upon securing herself against the flowing current she exclaimed, “Oh, my Lord, when will you cease from scattering obstacles in our path?” Jesus replied to the mystical nun, “Do not complain, Daughter, for it is ever thus that I treat my friends.” And Teresa famously and dryly replied, “Ah, Lord, it is also on that account that you have so few!

In today’s Gospel, Martha and Mary send word to Jesus about their ailing brother, Lazarus: “Master, the one you love is ill.” “Now,” St. John records in his Gospel, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” Is not this a surprising twist? Because Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters he delayed departing for their village for two additional days. And by the time Jesus arrives in Bethany with his disciples, Lazarus has been four days dead in the tomb.

Martha and Mary each say to Jesus what they had likely already lamented to each other: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” You can imagine their unspoken, anguished question: ‘You’ve healed others, you’ve helped strangers, so why didn’t you come to help us, your dear friends, when we needed you?’ When Jesus saw Mary weeping and those with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and Jesus wept. So the Judeans remarked, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” And Jesus, perturbed again, went to Lazarus’ tomb to resurrect him.

Jesus had told his disciples days before, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” And when they mistook him as saying Lazarus was merely napping, Jesus clarified, “Lazarus has died.” So Jesus came to Bethany fully-intending to raise Lazarus from the dead. But what troubled Jesus and why did Jesus weep? Was he mourning for Lazarus? Imagine if you learned one of your friends had died this morning but you were also certain that you friend would be alive and well again just fifteen minutes from now. How much would you mourn? As much as Jesus was crying for Lazarus, I believe Jesus wept more so for Mary and Martha and those in the crowd. He weeps for them and for all humanity in all of history who mourn and struggle with fear, doubt, and pain because of the scandal of suffering and death in our world.

We naturally desire to live easy lives; to be untouched by hardship or losses. But Jesus desires far greater things for us than mere ease. Before they left for Bethany, Jesus told his disciples, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” These events were divinely permitted and intended for the greater glory of Lazarus and his sisters, too. Imagine if Lazarus had never gotten sick and died and been raised by Jesus — would we even know his name today? Instead, his story with Christ, his life because of Christ, has blessed the world, including us. Martha and Mary, through enduring this trial, were also blessed. Imagine the intensity of their faith in Christ and their courage in facing death after this experience. Jesus made these sisters a blessing for every generation to come.

Because Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and St. Teresa of Ávila, he allowed all of them to experience trials. It is ever thus that he treats his friends. So be open to walking, to accepting, to trusting, Christ’s providential path for your life. Even if this journey may be harder than we would choose for ourselves, his path leads to better blessings and greater glory with Christ.

The Work & Riches God Esteems

August 6, 2013

Two weeks ago, Martha approached Jesus to complain about her sister, “Tell her to help me.” Today, a man goes to Jesus to complain about his brother, “Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” While both complaints are seemingly appeals for justice, Jesus refuses them. They are actually centered on selfishness rather than love. Jesus says, “it will not be taken from her,” and “take care to guard against all greed.”

The rich man in the parable says to himself, “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry,” but the God says, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you.” The rich man is about to come to face his judgment as a truly poor man—possessing no wealth “in what matters to God.”

Martha is corrected for being obsessed with her anxious, self-centered work. The Rich Man is condemned for aspiring to an easy life of leisure. We are called to avoid both errors as we work diligently with generous love to accrue the kind of riches that God esteems.

The Real Jesus — Monday of Holy Week

April 20, 2011

Who is Jesus? What is He like? Jesus is not the things that many people dismiss as being. Jesus is not an ancient myth or a bedtime story. Jesus is not a heavenly Mr. Rogers. Jesus is not a mean guy on a cloud. Jesus is not a hippy and Jesus is not an unmanly wimp. Jesus is not a weirdo, or a freak, and yet Jesus is not ordinary either. Jesus is not a religious fanatic and yet Jesus is not tamed. Jesus is not far away and He is not inactive. Jesus is not out-of-date and He is not irrelevant. Jesus is not a joke but He is not a stick-in-the-mud either. Jesus is not just a “nice guy” or a “buddy.” Jesus is not just a Jewish carpenter who died a long time ago. Jesus is not just a social reformer or a moral teacher who transformed the entire world more than anybody else. Jesus Christ is God and the greatest human being alive.

Our secular culture and sometimes Christians themselves create false pictures of who Jesus is, what He’s like, and what He’s about. And these false depictions can make us hesitate to draw closer to Him. But with the real Jesus, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. In the real Jesus there is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.

My prayer today is that each of you would all come to know the real Jesus Christ better. This is relationship is at the very core of what it is to be a Christian. Listen to what Pope Benedict wrote for the opening of his very first encyclical: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (This event, this person, is of course Jesus Christ.) “We have come to believe in God’s love.” In these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his or her life.

In today’s Gospel, Mary the sister of Lazarus approaches Jesus at a dinner with an alabaster jar of ointment. The jar was made of a type of marble and had a narrow neck to pour out the precious oil slowly. However, Mary breaks the jar and pours it entirely on Jesus’ feet, and its fragrance fills the house. When Judas saw this he criticized her, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” Some of the other disciples felt that way too. (Imagine spending $25,000 on a gift for someone.) But Mary knew the real Jesus in a way that Judas never would. She knew Him, and loved Him, and therefore desired to pour her entire self out for Him. If you know the real Jesus like Mary did, it makes sense.

I pray that you will seek to know the real Jesus through a commitment to daily prayer, without which spiritual growth is impossible. Ask Jesus in this Mass to reveal Himself to you. Then you too shall know Him, love Him, and pour yourself out like Mary the sister of Lazarus did, and then fragrance of the wonderful life will fill the house for all.

The Author of Life — Tuesday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 5, 2010

If you took our Catholic faith and boiled it down to its most central and fundamental truths what would you have? I think you would end up with these four foundations:

First, that God is three divine persons who are one in being, a union we call the Trinity. Second, that Jesus Christ is both God and Man, a reality we call the Incarnation. Third, that Jesus Christ, to save us from sin and death, suffered, died, resurrected and ascended, an event we call the Pascal Mystery, and from which Jesus empowers His Church’s sacraments. And fourth, that every, single, human being has inherent worth and surpassing value, a truth we call the dignity of the human person. It is this fourth fundamental truth of our Catholic Faith that I will focus upon today.

The psalmist says to God:

“Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made”

From the womb, God fashioned your inmost being, giving you an intellect to know, a freewill to act, and a desire for loving communion with others. Made in God’s own image and likeness, made for a purpose and made for love, every human life is precious from conception to natural death.

Sadly, laws sometimes disregard this dignity, and even Christians can forget it too. Martha looked down on her sister because she thought Mary was not being useful enough or productive enough. Martha only saw Mary as causing a burden to herself, yet Mary was exactly where the Lord willed her to be.

As Mrs. Eichstadt said before, God has a providential plan for each one of you. Like St. Paul, the Lord has set you apart from your mother’s womb for a great story which He has in mind. But anyone who would presume to cut short an innocent life would deprive God of a masterpiece.

Assisted suicide or euthanasia rips out the crucial final chapters. Suicide, murder, or neglect of our neighbor unto death, would end a story halfway. And abortion prevents the story from ever being told. Jesus is the author of our lives and He is to be the one who decides when our lives end. Maybe you will always remember the homily when Father tore up a book, but remember this too: every human life is precious and worth more than many, many books.

We’re in a Hurry — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

July 18, 2010

The other day I was thinking about this homily when I heard the words of some modern poets on my radio. They said:

I’m in a hurry to get things done,
Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die,
But, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

This goes to show that we still have a Martha problem today. The group Alabama said that they didn’t know why we get in a hurry, even though we’re not having fun, but I think I know the answer. The reason is that our loves and good desires are mixed with fears. If we would take that fear away, we would find peace.

Martha loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him well, but she had fears mixed in. She was the one who invited Him to the house and He probably had His apostles and other disciples with Him. She was busy serving them all, perhaps making the biggest meal she had ever made, and she was full of worries. “What if I’m a poor host and Jesus is disappointed with me? What if there’s not enough food for everyone to eat?”

We are often the same way. We fear that our lives are on the edge of disaster if our own plans and efforts should fail. We worry about bad things happening to ourselves and the people we love. We are anxiety about how Jesus feels about us.

Martha had a great desire to do good, but Martha’s fear tempted her to do harm. Her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. (The Greek word for disciple actually means “one who sits at the feet of.”) Martha tries to take Jesus’ disciple away from Him.

Similiar thing can happen in our live on account of fear mixed with love. A husband and father can obsess about his work, out of a love for his family and a desire to provide, but his family can be left feeling like they come second in his life. A wife and mother can be so concerned that her loved ones will be safe and happy that she tries to control everything, making her family less happy because of it. Martha’s problem and ours is not that we work–work is a part of life–but in how we go about it.

Jesus says to Martha, and to us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” What is this one thing we need? We need the peace of Christ. What is the peace of Christ? It is several things.

It is the awareness that God is near and guiding us. In the first reading, three heavenly visitors approach outside of Abraham’s tent. Now, the Holy Spirit dwells within our tents, Jesus is at our side, and we have a Father above. We are never left on our own.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that whatever may happen to us or those we love, it is for our good. As St. Paul observes in the second reading, even his sufferings are a cause for rejoicing for they advance the salvation of the whole Church with Christ.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that misery is not just around the corner, nor is happiness out of reach. Happiness is at head, in the knowledge that Jesus loves us, likes us, cares about us, and cares for us. Living in the peace of Christ means there is no reason for us to be unhappy.

Let us continue to do works of love for God, ourselves, and others, but let us do them always in the peace of Christ.

Tuesday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

October 6, 2009

Velazquez, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. 1618

Today you heard two familiar Bible stories. In the first reading, Jonah reluctantly preaches and the Ninevites, who wholeheartedly convert. In the Gospel, Martha serves while Mary listens at Jesus’ feet. The characters in these two stories would seem to have nothing in common with each other… but that is not so.

What do Martha and Jonah have in common? Both Martha and Jonah are doing work for the Lord, work which they found to be unpleasant. What do Mary and the Ninevites share? What do they have in common? Both Mary and the Ninevites are doing the one thing that is needed, they have turned themselves towards the Lord. Now let’s apply their lesson to ourselves as students.

Ever since I was five years old, up to this very year, I have been in school as a student every year of my life. So I’ve sat through a lot of classes; some which I really enjoyed, and others that I didn’t. Now it’s easy to work on a subject we enjoy, but in other classes we’re like Martha and Jonah, it’s God’s will for us that we be there, doing what we’re doing, but we’re certainly not thrilled about it.

So the next time you feel bummed-out in one of your classes (hopefully not in one of my classes) try doing this: Turn your eyes and your heart to the Lord, like Mary and the Ninevites, and offer yourself and that hour’s work to Jesus.   You already have your cross, so use it for a spiritual sacrifice. What difference will it make when you redirect yourself and your work like this to the Lord? There’s only one way to find out.