St. Martha is probably best known for the two stories that feature her in the gospels. The first is when she is upset with Jesus because he is conversing with Mary, who is not helping with the details of hospitality. The second instance is when Jesus goes to the home of Martha and Mary to comfort them in the death of their brother Lazarus. In the first instance, Martha does not come off as well. Her sister Mary has chosen the better part. But in the second story, we see the face of Martha profoundly evident.
It is Martha in this second story that goes out to meet Jesus confident that he can do what ever God wants. “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” It is Martha who is able to say with confidenceis Martha who is able to say with confidence that Jesus is the Christ. It is Martha reminds us even the most difficult circumstances, that our faith, our relationship with Jesus can bring us comfort and consolation.
There is even a congregation of women religious dedicated to the spirit of hospitality shown by St. Martha. Known as with the Marthas, they are committed today to their mission of “hearing, embracing, and responding to the cry for Gospel hospitality.” This is so important in a world where we can feel nameless, simply a number. The rise of technology, the increasing use of automation and phone calls, the ways in which we can be chained and tied to our cell phones. All of these things, if we’re not careful, can cause us to forget the importance of human dignity and a genuine and real human interaction.
In a world that is increasingly becoming more violent these days, it is important for us to cultivate the spirit of hospitality in our own lives. We who have so much, can be afraid that it is running out. God, who has poured out abundant blessings upon us, calls us to be generous, hospitable, and welcoming. We are called to imitate this generosity of God, even though it can never be outdone.
And so many people today are looking for a welcome. There are those of unaccompanied minors that we read so much about these days in the newspaper and see on television. There are those refugees from war who seek only to be free from violence. There are the poor in our midst that we might not seek to acknowledge, and increasingly there are too many people in our society that are simply thrown away.
And so if anything is true on this feast of St. Martha it is the importance of hospitality, of making a welcome place in our heart for God and God’s people.