ST. AUGUSTINE ON ST. MARTHA (July 29): Blessed are they who receive Christ in their homes.
Our Lord Jesus Christ liked the home of Martha, her brother Lazarus, and her sister Mary. As our Lord’s friends in Bethany, they took loving care of Him. We should ask God to help us unite Martha’s intense work and Mary’s contemplation. Orthodox tradition relates that Martha fled Judea after the persecution following the martyrdom of St. Stephen, assisting his brother Lazarus in the proclaiming of the Gospel in various lands. Mary joined them later and the three of them came to Cyprus, where Lazarus became the first Bishop of Kittim (modern Larnaca). All three died in Cyprus.
Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labour among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travellers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.
Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travellers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Saviour, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit. For the Lord willed to put on the form of a slave, and under this form to be fed by his own servants, out of condescension and not out of need. For this was indeed condescension, to present himself to be fed; since he was in the flesh he would indeed be hungry and thirsty.
Thus was the Lord received as a guest who came unto his own and his own received him not; but as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God, adopting those who were servants and making them his brothers, ransoming the captives and making them his co-heirs. No one of you should say: “Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!” Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says: Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me. But you, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labours you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one.
But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveller to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarrelling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?
No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realised there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.
Almighty ever-living God, whose Son was pleased to be welcomed in Saint Martha’s house as a guest, grant, we pray, that, through her intercession, serving Christ faithfully in our brothers and sisters we may merit to be received by you in the halls of heaven. Through our Lord.
SEE AS WELL: JULY 29 – SAINTS MARTHA, MARY AND LAZARUS GOSPEL COMMENTARIES
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