> Reflection on St. Martha

Reflection on St. Martha


By Sister Marianne Ferguson

In Scripture, we read about Jesus and His disciples visiting the home of Martha. This is rather uncommon because women did not usually own houses by themselves in the Jewish culture at that time. Martha’s sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching as a disciple; again, most unusual for women in that society. Martha follows the usual role of women — serving Jesus and the disciples. Mary gets the benefit of the Lord’s teaching while Martha has to work in the kitchen. Some of us are acquainted with that situation.

Jesus is not too sympathetic when Martha asks him for help.  But they have a very close relationship because Jesus calls Martha by name twice. In the Bible, when a person is called by name twice as “Abraham, Abraham; Samuel, Samuel; Simon, Simon,” it usually indicates a special calling by God. Jesus tells her that she is worried and anxious about many things. Some Bible scholars think that he is referring to the quote, “man does not live by bread alone.” If we followed that advice we might find that if we really listened to the Word of God, we might lessen our own anxiety about so many things.

It might look as though Jesus is putting down Martha, but when we look at this passage carefully we see that this story is at the center of Luke’s gospel. The preceding story is the parable of the Good Samaritan, symbolizing service. The following story is Jesus teaching the Apostles to pray the Our Father. In this story, Martha and Mary symbolize the methods to attain a closer relationship with God and to spread His Kingdom. They are the models of service and prayer together that women can imitate today. Our challenge is to live up to these models.