29th July – St Martha

st marthaToday’s Saint Martha was the sister of Mary of Bethany and Lazarus. In the West, her feast day comes a week after that of St Mary Magdalene because of the old and probably erroneous tradition that Mary Magdalene was the same person as Martha’s sister. One of the options for today’s gospel tells of the resurrection of Lazarus.

John 11 is one of the most powerful chapters in the entire Bible. It makes for compelling reading. It tells the story of one of the most awe-inspiring miracles Jesus performed: the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead.

We are informed by John that Lazarus had already been dead for four days – this miracle was therefore certainly no mere resuscitation. Many Jews believed that the soul remained near the body for three days after death in the hope of returning to it. If this idea was in the minds of the mourners, by the time Jesus arrived, with at least four days having passed, all hope was truly gone – Lazarus was as dead as dead could be.

Martha goes out to meet Jesus as soon as she hears he is approaching, while her sister Mary remains at the house. Faced with the tragedy of her brother’s untimely death Martha displays a remarkable faith for she proclaims, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world’ – echoing the words of Peter’s great confession (cf. Matt. 16:16 ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’). When Peter made his proclamation, Jesus declared that the revelation of this truth could come only from God the Father. Martha’s faith was richly rewarded with surely one of the greatest miracles in the entire New Testament.

In the context of this most amazing miracle is found the shortest verse in the whole Bible, `Jesus wept’ (v. 35). How wonderful that the One who had the power of life and death, who would show that he is the Resurrection and the Life, should weep so openly for his dead friend. If we knew the heart of God we would weep too because it reaches out to us in our need, poverty and humanity. Jesus’ words to Lazarus are his words to us: `Take off the grave clothes and let him go’ (v. 44). Through the grace of baptism the Lord speaks these words to us because this grace ushers in the new life of the Spirit and the opportunity for us to live as God’s children and inherit everlasting life.

Lord, you promised that if we believed we would see the glory of God. The glory of the risen life in us is the glory of being filly human, fully alive, enjoying God’s presence in this life and in the life to come. (Taken from Bible Alive)

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