July 29, 2008
Saint Martha, disciple of the Lord. Memorial
John 11: 19-27
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met 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 God will give you whatever you ask of him." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know that 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."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, how can I help but admire Martha’s faith, even in the midst of her greatest sorrow. Help my faith to be more like hers.
Petition: Mary, increase my faith that your Son is the Resurrection and the Life. Help me to strengthen the faith of others with his consoling words.
1. “My Brother Would Not Have Died” Martha loved Jesus. True to her character as a woman of action, one who served and organized and made things ready for her beloved, she rushed to meet Jesus as soon as she received word he was drawing near. When Martha reached the Master, her heart poured out to him, “half with a reproach that she could not keep back, and half with a faith that nothing could shake” (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, 91): “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” As Christ gazed upon Martha, her face etched with grief — the grief of all humanity before the death of a loved one — how could these words have failed to pierce him to the heart? Yet they were followed just as quickly by Martha’s act of faith: “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” The Lord immediately consoled Martha, with words that only he could utter: “Your brother will rise.”
2. “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Martha responded to Christ with a second act of faith. The first had been toward his person; this one was an act of faith in his teaching: the resurrection on the last day. Before such faith in the midst of so much suffering, the Lord could not contain himself. He pronounced to Martha a definition of who he is that has given light to Christians throughout the centuries: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” How deeply those words must have penetrated Martha’s aching heart, wounded by the death of her brother! How deeply have they penetrated our own hearts and lives? Have they yet become the rock on which we build our entire existence?
3. “Whoever Believes in Me, Even If He Dies, Will Live.” Christ not only reveals to Martha that he is the resurrection and the life, he also reveals to each one of us, his followers, the consequences of this tremendous affirmation. “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” To what does Christ refer with these words that only God himself could pronounce? Certainly when Christians die, they are not raised from the dead like Lazarus. When they die, Christians are born to eternal life, a life of unending happiness with the Trinity and all the saints in heaven. As the Roman Missal’s First Preface of Christian Death proclaims, “Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.” Have we yet come to live for the things above in the midst of all the trials and joys of our fleeting days on this earth?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I am often caught up with the business of everyday life, forgetting others’ needs and losing sight of the joys of eternal life! Increase my faith in you and my courage to transmit your strength and consolation to those around me.
Resolution: I will look for the opportunity to speak Christ’s words of consolation to someone who is suffering or sorrowful.
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