29 July 2016
Memorial of Saint Martha
It’s an odd question, but it has to be asked: Why is Martha a Saint? It always seems like her sister, Mary, is the one who’s got it right—not Martha. Martha is the one who’s being overly busy about too many things. Martha is the one who’s impatient with Jesus. She complains to him about not being around fast enough; and she praises Jesus as a simple miracle-worker—like any ordinary Jew would do; even though she calls him “the Christ, the Messiah,” she doesn’t actually know who he really is. Martha always seems to be missing the mark. Why is she a Saint?
Perhaps it’s because of that one line in the gospel of John: “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him.” She went to meet him. Martha had an enthusiasm for Jesus, and she welcomed him with open arms. She didn’t know exactly who she was dealing with, but that’s beside the point; Martha loved Jesus, and dedicated herself to him. And that really gets at the heart of what it means to be a saint.
The word “saint” comes from the Latin “sanctus,” which means “to be holy,” to be “set apart” and “reserved” for something special. In her enthusiasm for Christ, Martha “set herself apart” and focused on him—even though it took her a while to figure out who he was and what that meant for her. To be a saint is to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, and to welcome him into our hearts and minds—however imperfectly we do that.
And so, why is Martha a Saint . . . because she loved the Lord, and she let him love her. And, in that, Saint Martha gives us all hope that we, too, can be a saint.