Memorial of Saint Martha
(Exodus 35:29-35; Luke 10:38-42)
It seems capricious of the Church to honor Martha with an obligatory feast while not giving at least similar distinction to her sister Mary. After all, in Luke’s gospel even Jesus recognizes that Mary has acted more wisely than her sister. However, if part of the Church’s strategy in naming saints is the edification of the faithful, we have to search for what Martha has to teach us.
First and most important, Martha shows us not to be shy about approaching Jesus. He is our friend who will help us when we are perplexed, especially when our distress is over how the world is run. Second, Martha provides one of the best examples of the virtue of hospitality in all the gospels. She sacrifices herself to entertain Jesus just as the Benedictines remind us that we should treat every guest as if she or he were Jesus. Finally, in the gospel of John Martha makes the same act of faith in Jesus as Peter does in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke when she calls him, “the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Martha may not have sat at Jesus’ feet, but she knows his worth. We are wise to contemplate Jesus’ words like Mary and be ready to serve him like Martha.
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Exodus 40:16-21.34-38; Matthew 13:47-53)
Years ago religious sisters taught their pupils to make room for the Holy Spirit. They were to reject sin so that the Spirit would find in them a fitting place to reside. The lesson may sound naive today, but it is not far from what the author of Exodus pictures Moses doing in the first reading.
The reading is quite emphatic about Moses being the builder of the Lord’s Dwelling. Moses takes great pains to follow the instructions he had received for the Dwelling. The result is obviously favorable. The glory of the Lord fills the Dwelling like a cloud of smoke. It serves as a guide leading the people through foreign terrain to the Promised Land.
Is it really too pious a thought to consider our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit? The body, we might say, is the tent wherein lies the soul which the Holy Spirit occupies. Like Moses we need to take care of our bodies with a healthy diet and exercise routine. Even more important, we should avoid polluting our souls with sexual fantasies. The Holy Spirit will guide us to our eternal destination when we invite it into such an orderly dwelling place.