Memorial of Saint Martha

Ex 32:15-24,30-34; Ps 106:19-23; Jn11:19-27

It didn’t take long in their journey for the children of Israel to long for a god who was familiar to them.  When Moses was so long gone up the mountain of the Lord then they had their excuse, “Make us a god to be our leader; as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.”  During their time with the children of Egypt they came to know and worship many different gods.  They needed someone to worship at this point in the journey, so they gave up their dignity—to dance with abandon before a calf that eats grass.  Even this offence did not turn the Lord God away from his people. Moses, his chosen one, turned back his destructive wrath.  The New Moses, Jesus Christ, turns back the wrath of God from the offences of all peoples everywhere.  His great mercy in our lives is like a tiny seed that becomes a large bush sheltering all the various birds.  Those who are responsive and faithful to His Covenant seem so small, but like yeast in the dough their active witness makes the whole loaf rise and nourish all who hunger and thirst.  Such is the hidden power of a morsel of bread and a cup of wine; the Eucharist makes present the mystery of the Kingdom of God.  Where the King abides there is the Kingdom.


Moses stands in the breach between God and His idolatrous children.  What a place to be!  In this fiery space, Moses offers himself to atone for the grave sin of the people. The Lord’s response to his offer reveals God’s true nature.  He is not like us.  His ways are not our ways.  Unlike Moses whose anger flared up so that he cast the tablets of stone and broke them upon the base of the mountain, God does not loose it.  Rather, we hear of his divine patience, “Him only who has sinned against me will I strike out of my book.”  Punishment is given by the Lord to teach his children.  Still, we need to learn the real dangers of idolatry. If we love and adore anything other than the Lord Our God, we become what we love and adore.  We exchange the glory of our dignity as children of God for an identity with a grass-eating bullock.  Not only does this insult our Creator, who has made us in His own image and likeness; it gives us a great excuse to submit to our own base instincts. We no longer have to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect; we can be like whatever god we have created for ourselves.  Idolatry is not just a problem our ancestors struggled with; it is our problem. Indeed, our most pressing problem.


Many of the Jews join in with Saint Martha and Saint Mary to share their grieving. The friend of the Lord has died. The Lord Jesus had heard of his coming death, and he waited a few days before responding to their summons. Like the messianic secret in the Synoptic tradition, the Lord Jesus is no mere miracle worker. He has not come into the world to fulfill our expectations; he has come to reveal the truth that in him is our true life. Even in the midst of suffering and death, we are alive in Christ for the glory of the Father and in the Holy Spirit. His hesitation is no lack of compassion; he did this to reveal that he is the Lord of Life for his friends Martha, Mary, Lazarus and for all of his friends in every age. However, such behavior is confusing and painful for those who love Lazarus. They question the Lord and wonder about the truth of his love, about his power to save. Such questioning is overheard in the conversation that Saint Martha has with the Lord Jesus. Martha speaks for Mary and for all gathered in grief. The Lord Jesus hears from his closest friends the very same concerns that his Father has heard from the chosen people all through their history. Where is your swift response of compassion O LORD? “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yes, Martha you are right, and your honesty reflects your practical concerns for all the details of life and relationship. The Lord Jesus responds to her candid questioning with surprising simplicity, “Your brother will rise.” Immediately, Saint Martha professes her faith in the ultimate power of God in Jesus, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” However, this is not the Lord’s intended meaning. So, he tests this honesty when he proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Right now Martha, I am the source and guarantee of life for your brother and for all who are here today. These words of comfort are spoken, today, to us and to everyone in each generation unto the last day. Even before his own passionate death and glorious resurrection the Lord Jesus proclaims the truth of his identity for Saint Lazarus and for us. We who believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God, have life in him. That life is abundant now, and it lasts unto the ages of ages. This honest encounter between Saint Martha and the Lord Jesus models for us the kind of prayer that reveals and strengthens our faith even in the face of our incurable wound.