Martha of Bethany and Lent

Mary and Martha both play an important part in Jesus’ journey to the cross.

Yet Martha has been the object of condescension throughout the years for not taking the time to reflect, for doing busywork and not listening. Jesus himself praised Mary for “choosing the better part,” when Martha complained that her sister was not helping in the kitchen.

But Jesus would not have enjoyed coming to the little Bethany home had Martha not tended so carefully to the needs of her guests. It is clear that it was a place of rest for he and his disciples. The food must have been good; the house clean; there was safe space for all to lay their heads. They were always welcome, even in the days when people couldn’t call, email or fax to say they were coming. (See John’s Gospel, chapters 11 and 12.)

So, in this Lenten season, when routine calls go out that we should act like Mary — the contemplative sister — let’s not forget Martha and her outstanding ministry in hospitality. She paved the way for Jesus. She attended to him and welcomed his friends. Her hands were busy — busy making a warm and hospitable shelter for our Lord and the disciples — and there is no better way to spend one’s time.

May we, too, welcome Jesus into our hearts and homes, especially in Lent.

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