Jul 29 – Memorial for Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus
Jesus liked to stay at the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany, when he was in Judaea. One of these visits has ever remained dear to Christian memory. On that occasion Martha, busily serving the Master, asked Him to persuade Mary to help her. Jesus explained to her that certain souls, called by God, should choose a better part still — the primary duty of listening to Him and contemplating Him.
After His Ascension, she was seized by the Jews, together with many other Christians. They were put on board a ship without sails or oars, and left helpless on the open sea. But God guided the ship, and they all arrived safely at Marseilles. Martha, after having won the love and admiration of the Marseilles people by the sanctity of her life and her wonderful charity, withdrew with several virtuous women to a spot remote from men, where she lived for a long time, greatly renowned for her piety and prudence.
The account of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus, led to his widespread veneration in Jerusalem, which was witnessed by the Spanish pilgrim Egeria in 390.
Nothing more is written about him in the New Testament. According to tradition however, the Jews of Jaffa placed Lazarus and his sisters in a leaky boat in which they somehow sailed safely to Cyprus. He said to have become a bishop on the island and died there peacefully 30 years later.
St Mary of Bethany
Mary of Bethany was the sister of Martha and Lazarus of the town of Bethany, just a few miles away from Jerusalem. At some point, Jesus had developed a special friendship with these three siblings and had gone to their house for a visit. During the visit, Mary became engrossed in all Jesus had to say. She sat at his feet, listening attentively, apparently oblivious to her sister, Martha, who scurried about with serving duties. The frustrated Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not being helpful. Profoundly, Jesus replied that it was Mary who had made the better choice — that spiritual matters have a much higher priority than household chores.
“Martha, Martha,” he said, “you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was packing up my old house ready to move out and trying to juggle work and a sick child all at one go, and I remember thinking to myself, “Well I feel like Martha who has no time for the Lord. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I had a chance to write about that?” And wouldn’t you know it, here we are.
I seriously felt like I didn’t have time for the Lord. I was so busy, not to mention anxious and stressed about everything. While I kept telling myself I could do this, it felt like things were spinning out of control. At the back of my mind, I heard a little voice telling me to lift it to God and surrender to Him, admit that I couldn’t do it by myself and that I needed His help. Instead, I kept asking God to help me out of my immediate jams, like help me get my work done, heal the kids, help me sort out this house move. I sounded so much like Martha! I was telling God what I needed to get fixed! And then I also sounded like Martha when my inner voice started whinging, “Lord, I’m having such a rubbish week, don’t you care??”
The Lord does care. And in the same way He gently chided Martha, He also chided me: “Child, when are you going to make time for me?” I had become so distracted by everything that was happening around me that I didn’t have time to be still and be with God. So one night, after everyone had gone to bed, I lay in bed and spoke to God. I apologised that I had not come to Him sooner, both in being present with Him and being dependent on Him. God reminded me that He had already seen the move to the end, that it would be okay, and it truly was. He also told me that I had capable colleagues who would help see through the work and He was right. Most importantly, He reminded me that I was not an island, that I should come to Him instead of trying to take everything on by myself.
And that is the one thing that is necessary, to park ourselves at His feet and listen to Him, as Mary did. God cares about our current state, our well-being. That’s not to say that everything is going to run smoothly, but that He has already seen the end of it and how it will work out and with that in mind, we need not be anxious about everything, as He is in control. He has taken care of it so that we can spend more time with Him. Yes, we still need to do the work, but that shouldn’t distract us from God.
I had been so out of balance when I was trying to do everything on my own, that in the end, I achieved chaos. I thought I was running out of time to complete everything, when in fact I needed a half-time. A half-time to listen, to realign myself with God, to listen to Him and not try to get Him to listen to me on my terms. Let’s take some time to examine how we are all doing with our half-time with God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, I tried to do everything and be everything for everyone; but I ended up worrying about everything, which achieved nothing but stress and being overwhelmed. Help me Lord, to make you the focus of my life, so that in good times and in tough times, my heart is tuned to you and I will learn to rely on you instead of myself.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for gently guiding me back to you when I was stuck in the weeds and distracted. Thank you for being with me and reminding me to have more faith in you, especially when the going gets tough.
Annette. We can all relate to your reflection. Thank you for putting it into words.