16th Sunday of the Ordinary Time year C
Martha and Mary welcome our Lord
(Luke 10: 38-42)
(By Fr. Peter Madros)
“Jesus entered a village …”
The village is Bethany” (John 11:1), near the Mount of Olives, not far from the Holy City (Luke 19: 28-29), probably it is “Ananiah” in the territory of Benjamin’s tribe, mentioned in Nehemiah 11:32. Archaeological researches uncovered “Herodian” oil lamps going back to the Christ’s period in the first century A.D.
Christians dwelt in that location, at a distance of two hundred meters from the original village and named it “Lazarion” after Lazarus. Later the village was called “Al-Azariyeh” where, at the present time, a small number of Christians live.
“A woman named Martha hosted Jesus”. According to traditions the spouse would host the guest. One may thus conclude that Martha was unmarried , as the Greek word “gynè” does not mean necessarily a married woman but is used to indicate all women in general, unlike some popular dialectal Arabic use of the word “woman” (mar’ah, imra’ah).
The Apostle John mentions that Jesus loved Martha and Mariam and mentions their names before that of their brother Lazarus (John 11:5), although maybe he was older. The aim of the Evangelical expression is quite clear : to emphasize the mutual pure and immaculate affection, love and friendship that tied the relationship between Jesus and the two sisters. That was rather uncommon and unacceptable in the Rabbinical milieu. Today too, our society needs to purify its thoughts and lift up its heart and mentality to a sublime degree above all negative thinking that supposes automatically evil and bad thoughts behind any greeting or conversation between male and female. In order to reach a pure brotherly love, we should adhere to values of a high level, those of Christ and of the Gospel.
“Martha was burdened with much serving”, and busy preparing all kinds of food. We notice this type of attitude in our Oriental societies which means preparing a large quantity of food when people are invited to banquets. Sometimes such banquets cost a lot of money and may cause bankrupcy or the host may accumulate debts, for the sake of showoff and pretence in society and in front of guests. Jesus blames Martha courteously for her exaggeration and expresses the need for only one dish and a moderate amount of food.
St. Augustin writes and comments that Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet and listened to his teachings. Mary preferred to find her meal in what the Lord was saying. Martha was coping with many things preparing the Lord’s meal. Both occupations were good (Sermon 103). Both deeds complement each other. If Martha acted like Mary no one would have had anything to eat, and if Mary stayed in the kitchen she would have missed the opportunity of seeing Jesus and listening to his teachings!
Pretty often, in certain “occasions”, we get troubled and busy with receptions, food preparation and photographing, and we forget the spiritual part of the event especially during wedding ceremonies and Baptism. Therefore we should remember first of all, the holy event granted to us by God for our salvation, in any and every occasion of our human life, and then consider the material and worldly matters.
English version by: Antoine D. Nesnas