Today, she’d be the CEO of Google or Apple. Brilliant, outspoken, direct, she gave Jesus exactly the affirmation he needed to proceed to Jerusalem and his passion. But let Martha tell the story…
“I was at my worst then: exhausted, vulnerable, grieving for Lazarus, angry at Jesus. I was so outraged, I spewed pure venom when he arrived. Lazarus’s place at our table was empty, the brother I loved had vanished, and Jesus’ delay became the target for my fury.
People with better social skills might have welcomed him with, ‘Thanks for trying,’ or even, ‘Your friend is dead,’ but I dumped the guilt trip on him: ‘If you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.’
The accusation hurt; I could tell by the sadness in his eyes. Still it didn’t paralyze him; maybe he continued our conversation because he could trust I wouldn’t mask the truth. I would look him straight in the eye and speak without a shred of syrupy politeness.
Still, he hesitated. It was as if he needed something from me, some mysterious affirmation before he plunged ahead. The roles were reversed: just when I needed to lean on him in grief, he asked for my support!
Even if I’d lost Lazarus, I could still encourage Jesus. Maybe he had taught me how to give people exactly what they need. He had wept with Mary; he had discussed the afterlife with me; now it was my turn to answer the question he hated to ask. So few people understood him; all he wanted was one person to show some inkling.
And I did know who he was. In some quiet, sure place within, I was bedrock certain of his identity. So I said it aloud. Not to sound arrogant, but Jesus forged into that foul-smelling tomb as if propelled by my words. I ran after him, just in time to see Lazarus lurch forth. Three days before, weeping, I had covered my brother’s face with the same linen. Now, I unwound the burial cloths as if unwrapping a splendid gift.
I barely thanked Jesus or noticed him leave. But neighbors said he walked purposefully toward Jerusalem, driven as he had been to Lazarus’s grave. Did my words still echo in his ears? Had I ignited some fire within him? As I had a hundred times before, I asked myself, ‘Now what have I said?’”
Excerpted from Hidden Women of the Gospels by Kathy Coffey, Orbis Books, orbisbooks.com, 800-258-5838
Martha, like all of us, want what we want. She understands who Jesus is and yet she does not know Him. He is a stranger to her just as God is a stranger to us no matter how many hours we pray. I have asked myself, when do I get perturbed? It is that moment when, no matter how hard I try, I am misunderstood. My friends, who should know me but don’t have a clue as to where I am coming from, they totally miss the point as did Martha. Now 2023 years later we still miss the point and hold on to this world as if it were our one and only gift from God. Martha is all of us, angry because God does not give us what we want when we want it. So, few attend mass anymore, for the habit of going has been broken. If we had attended for another purpose then our hearts would have longed for a return, but not so. We have misunderstood God’s celebration as surely as Martha in her narrowness of seeing has also missed the accomplish purpose of Jesus. How we have misunderstood the phrase of Jesus, the Son of Man came to serve not to be served. After all it is all about me isn’t it? Yes Martha it is all about YOU!