House For Six

Saint Martha - Did I Choose the Wrong Saint?

Deme CrinionComment
I remember this part of my catholic journey....the part where I had to choose a confirmation saint.   This was to be a hero of our faith that would serve as both a role model and intercessor for me along my own faith journey.  It was also to be one that you connected with on a personal level in some way.....and I had a really hard time choosing.

In studying so many amazing saints, I was overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring lives and stories of such courageous men and women...and yet none had really spoken to me in a personal way.  Then I revisited the story of Mary and Martha.  Most of us are familiar with this one, but if not here's a quick recap....

(Luke 10:38-42) 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.'"

Now, the heroine in this brief passage is Mary.  Jesus commends her for choosing what is best.  Martha was not wrong for serving and she was not wrong to want Mary's help, but she was distracted by her worry and her work.  Mary chose what was better.  So obviously Mary would have made a wonderful patron saint!  But I chose Martha.  Here's why...

We only hear about Martha two other times in Scripture.  The next time is when Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus has become very ill.  The family sends word for Jesus to come, but he remains where he is for two more days and does not arrive to the family until days later. By this time Lazarus has died and the sisters are mourning.

Martha hears that Jesus is coming and she runs to meet him.  My first thought was,  "Look at Martha! First we see her distracted by busyness and so concerned with doing the right thing that she neglects to spend time with her Lord...and here she is, now running to greet him!"  But wait, what does Martha say......

(John 11:20-22) "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  Martha said to Jesus, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

She lays a bit of a guilt trip on Jesus - Why didn't you come sooner?  If you had been here this wouldn't have happened..." We see her frustration and her passion.

And in the next passage we see her faith...

"Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."  

Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."  

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?"  

She said to him "Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." 

Did you catch her response? "I have come to believe that you are..."   This is why I love Saint Martha.  Faith and understanding have not been easy for her.  When asked about her belief, the response we hear from her is not, "Yes, Lord!  Of course!".  The fact that she has "come to believe" indicates that Martha has undergone a process of faith.

The third and final mention of Martha in Scripture is very brief.  It simply states "and Martha served".  Beautiful.  Serving was Martha's gift, and she was never called to abandon it.  In this last reference, Martha simply served.  Her heart was right. 

I chose Saint Martha because I identify with her struggle.  I too am anxious about many things.....things I need to surrender through time at my Lord's feet...I can forget that relationships are more important than my to-do list....that I need God's help and time with Him in order to serve and live my gifts well.

What an advocate for me!  Saint Martha struggled.  She had her priorities misplaced.  She had a heart that needed to grow in faith and charity.  And it did.  Her heart was finally right and she used her gifts well. 

I still have much to learn about Saint Martha, but the more I discover, the more I realize just how right she is for me...

Turns out Saint Martha is the patron saint of home makers - little did I know that my greatest joys and greatest struggles would come in this realm.  

And her feast day is celebrated on July 29th, my mother's birthday.

I don't think there is a more perfect Saint to be my champion, guide and advocate.  Happy Feast Day, Saint Martha!  Pray for us! And help us all to set aside our worry and anxiety in order to choose what is better.