Taste and See: A woman of faith

DSC00001 Martha Gloucester.jpg
Mary and Martha sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’

On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

John 11:3-7,17,20-27,33-45

The shorter alternative for Sunday’s Gospel is presented above. (If you want the longer version, go to last Thursday’s posting!).

It focuses more exclusively on the events of Bethany.

The cuilmination of those is the raising of Lazarus, but maybe the emotional heart of the passage is the dialogue between Jesus and Martha – which concludes with Martha’s breathtaking profession of faith in Jesus. A similar profession is heard from Peter in the synoptic Gospels, and which finds its (much muted) echo in Jn 6.69. But here it is Martha who takes a certain pride of place!

  • Who do you know Jesus to be?
  • What difference does this knowledge make to your life?

St Martha. Gloucester Cathedal. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: as we try to listen


The Gospel on Sunday, the 16th in Ordinary Time, has Jesus in Bethany, and – for the Gospels – in an unusual setting. He is not on public display, but a guest in a private home. And he is, seemingly not with the usual band of disciples, but alone, with two women.

And in this domestic setting, confronting seemingly minor irritations, resentments, and maybe jealousy, Jesus offers the simple teaching that what is most important is not our service of him (still less our attempting to impress by our service of him!) but our making time and space to allow him to serve us.

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

Luke 10:38-42

This service of us, his service of us continues still, of course. In the Liturgy Jesus visits us still, offering ministry of presence and word, personally inviting us to ever deeper, ever more fruitful communion with him.

We are invited to lay our distractions, if we can; and, if not, to bring them to him. Either way, any way, we are invited to learn by being attentive to him.

  • What do I hear Jesus say today?
  • What distracts me from listening to him?

Church at Bethany, by tradition built over the house of Martha and Mary. (c) 2012, Allen Morris