Recently, I read an article expressing a commonly held opinion about my patron, St. Martha. The article claimed that, in Luke’s account of Martha and her sister Mary (Lk. 10:38-42), Martha is guilty of the sin of presumption because she tells Jesus what to do. While I admit that I am somewhat biased, since she is my patron, I think that this is actually an unfortunate misinterpretation of the text.
Feeling “burdened with much serving” (Lk. 10:40a), Martha turns to Jesus in a prayer that is very sincere in expressing to Him the struggle that is taking place in her heart: “Do You not care…?” “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me” (Lk. 10:40b). It is almost as though she is saying, “I need to know Your love and Your care in this situation, Lord. I need You to do something so that I am not just by myself, so that I am not alone.”
Not long ago, I had an experience in which I felt alone in suffering. In honest prayer, I also told the Lord, “You need to do something.” It was not a prayer either of presumption or of unbelief; rather, the prayer came from a place of deep faith and trust, in the midst of real suffering. And the Lord responded beyond what I could have imagined, with tangible proofs of His love through the love of my Sisters, which assured me that I was not, in fact, alone.
Jesus responded with His tangible love to Martha, too. Imagine Him gently saying her name in response, “Martha, Martha” (Lk. 10:41b). Perhaps at that moment she “recognized Him” and His particular love for her, as Mary Magdalene later would when He said her name outside the empty tomb (see John 20:16). “Martha, Martha” — and then He reoriented her thinking to show her that He Himself is “the one thing necessary,” “the better part,” available as much to her as to her sister sitting at His feet (Lk. 10:42). In fact, she did not need her sister’s help with serving in order not to be alone; He was there with His love and care for her, and with Him she was not alone.
You are not alone, either. Jesus Christ is in every tabernacle in every Catholic church in the world, waiting for you to come to Him as Martha did and to pour out your heart to Him in honest prayer. Go to Him in the Eucharist. Tell Him openly and truthfully all your joys and sufferings. Beg Him to do something for you in your every need. And then wait in trust for Him show you His particular love and care for you.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.