Along with her sister Mary, and brother Lazarus, St. Martha was a personal friend of Jesus. He seems to have come to their house by invitation, not to affect a conversion or anything like that, but just to share some time and a meal. And you know the rest of that story, right? Mary sits at Jesus’ feet while Martha makes all the preparations in the kitchen. Martha quite rightly (in my opinion!) demands that all should lend a hand in the preparation of one’s house for guests. Jesus’ response there is that “Mary has chosen the better part:” this reminds us that everything isn’t always up to us. We are called to do our part and rest in God’s loving care for us.
But today’s Gospel reading is really the great story of Martha’s saintliness. She says three very faith-filled things in and around this passage. The first is that she runs out to greet Jesus and proclaims a small part of her faith: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Here her faith is not quite perfect. She is confused that Jesus was detained and her brother died. But there is that aspect of trusting faith that knows that Jesus has power to do whatever he wills. The second great thing she says here comes right at the end of the story we hear today. In this, she proclaims a more perfect faith: “I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” In this great profession of faith, Martha is just as bold and courageous as St. Peter who proclaims the same kind of faith when Jesus asks him “who do you say that I am?”
The final great thing that Martha does comes right after the story we read today. Having professed her faith in Jesus, Martha now returns to her sister and calls her to come to Jesus: “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” Those who profess their faith in Jesus cannot possibly keep it to themselves. And Martha does not. She goes to retrieve her sister, who once sat at the Lord’s feet, but now for some reason chose to remain at home. Perhaps Mary was hurt that Jesus had not come right away. Whatever the case, Martha’s faith does not leave her sister in the dark. Like Martha, we who believe in Jesus must tell everyone who needs to hear it that the Teacher is asking for them.