Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Martha. Along with her siblings, Mary and Lazarus, Martha was a special friend to Jesus. But, more importantly, she became a fervent disciple of the Lord.
Today’s Gospel presents Martha to us as role model. Martha is an excellent role model for discipleship because she gives us an example of how to be a person of profound faith. It is impossible to be a disciple of the Lord without faith in him. The deeper our faith is, the more solid our discipleship becomes.
In today’s Gospel account, Lazarus has died. The sisters call upon Jesus. The conversation between Martha and Jesus occurs before Lazarus is raised from the dead. (This is a significant detail.) In Martha’s grief, Jesus says to her: “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” Martha does give the correct answer: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world”.
Martha’s answer touches the essential truth about the person of Jesus – Jesus is the Son of God, not just a human hero. Martha loves the Lord so much that she is convinced that Jesus is God wrapped in human flesh. She has a clear understanding of Jesus’ identity. Martha’s profession of faith stands at the heart of Christianity. To hold Martha’s belief is to be a Christian; to deny it is to deny Christianity.
We are not any different than Martha. Each of us must ask ourselves, “What do I believe about Jesus?”
I recall an incident that occurred in the late 80’s. The Sudbury Catholic District School Board was hosting a system- wide PA day. Over 500 educators gathered at St. Francis School to listen to a guest speaker.
The guest speaker was Msgr. Raymond Farrell. (Msgr. Farrell served as pastor of Christ the King from 1981-1987 and was a great mentor to me.)
The basis of his talk was the question, “What do I believe about Jesus?”
His four-part answer made such an impact on me that I still remember it 30 years later. Here’s how Monsignor answered “What do I believe about Jesus?” I believe that Jesus is my friend. I believe that Jesus is my brother. I believe that Jesus is my healer. I believe that Jesus is my lover.
The day after his funeral, the Sudbury Star published a tribute to Monsignor. The headline of the article was: “He was close to God”. And isn’t that the truth! In my opinion, one of the reasons for which he was close to God is that he was able to answer “What do I believe about Jesus?” with such profound conviction.
Martha comes to know a personal God: “You are the Son of God”. Each of us must ask ourselves: How will I fill in the blank: I believe that Jesus is my ____. Today’s Gospel challenges us to fill in the blank with such a conviction so that we, too, can become close to God.
Martha’s life illustrates another important point. We do not go to God through our own human efforts. There is no formula for faith. Faith is a divine gift. Only God can give faith. It can’t be earned or deserved. God freely gives faith. But, each of us must choose to accept the gift. We have to decide to cooperate with the grace. Only then can we turn our whole being – body, mind, heart and soul – over to God.
The good news is that we have been given the same grace that Martha had. (We have not been given a 2nd class version or an inferior version of grace.)
The life of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism, strengthened in Confirmation and nourished at this table is there just for the asking. With this divine help, we can believe in Jesus more firmly; we can trust Jesus more deeply. When hardships and difficulties arrive, when we have to face trials and adversity, when we have to deal with challenges and obstacles, our faith invites us to turn to God, to cry out to him and place all our concerns, worries and anxieties upon him.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to call upon this gift right now, right here, right where we are. With conviction and with confidence, let us entrust our health, our finances, our relationships, our families, ourselves, our entire lives wholly to God and to his loving care.
As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God for the grace to be like Martha – to be firmly convinced, on a deep personal level, that Jesus is God, to go to him and to allow him to be present and at work in our lives.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
July 29, 2020