REFLECTION FOR TODAY
July 29, 2021
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Lk. 10:41-42
Today we celebrate the memorial of the Holy Sibling of Bethany, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. This was formerly a memorial in honor of Martha. On February 2, 2021, Pope Francis expanded this memorial to include Martha’s sister and brother, Mary, and Lazarus. Thus, today we celebrate these three siblings together.
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were close friends of Jesus. They lived in Bethany, which was only a short distance from Jerusalem. Martha is remembered in our gospel reference today as a symbol of active praying in preparing the meal and getting worried about her sister Mary leaving the work of preparing the meal for her alone while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. She is also remembered as telling Jesus “if you have been here my brother would not have died.”
Mary is as a symbol of contemplative prayer from our gospel reference as she sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Mary is also seen as the one who poured an entire jar of expensive perfumed oil on Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair just six days before Jesus’ death. Some scholars have associated Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala. It is for this reason Mary of Bethany is added to today’s memorial to avoid the confusion.
Lazarus is well known for the fact that Jesus brought him back to life after being dead and in the tomb for four days. Little else is mentioned about Lazarus in the gospels except for the fact that he dined with Jesus at the table and that the Pharisees wanted to arrest Lazarus at the time they were also seeking to arrest Jesus and that he was the sibling of Martha and Mary.
Why do we have this memorial honoring all three of these siblings together? When this memorial was established, the Congregation for Divine Worship said, “In the household of Bethany the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them.” By honoring these siblings together, we are especially reminded of the importance of remaining close to family and inviting Jesus into our family.
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived together and shared a common life of love. They invited Jesus into their family life, and He accepted their offer. Jesus’ choice to befriend this family is an indication of His desire to unite each family and to befriend each member of every family so as to be the central source of their shared love and unity. Family love is central to our human lives. And though not every family enjoys unity and mutual love, we must never forget that God wants to enter every family just as He did with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Reflect, today, upon your own family. In which ways does Jesus desire to befriend you more? How does He desire to enter your family life and strengthen it with His love? And how does He want to use you to help? Even if your family struggles in various ways, know that God wants to love you and your family in the same way He did the family of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Though they were not perfect, He loved them, nonetheless. And He desires to do the same to you and your family.
Lord Jesus, You chose to love the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. In doing so, You also reveal to us Your desire to love all families with a holy love. I invite You into my life and into my family, dear Lord. Please strengthen our bonds, bring unity and mutual respect. Please remove any past hurt and division and enable every family to share more fully in Your friendship and love. Jesus, I love You. Jesus, I trust in You.