From Deacon Charles Corbalis . . .
This weekend’s Gospel about the raising of Lazarus is rich in images and insights. One of these is the hope it provides for everyone, but particularly those of us with A-Type personality traits.
In this story, we encounter a woman, named Martha, near the tomb of her brother Lazarus who had just passed away. But we know her already. This is the same Martha that Luke introduced us to much earlier in Jesus’ ministry at that infamous dinner party. The one where she made that big, embarrassing scene.
While it was embarrassing, it was also understandable. I t was maybe only the second or third time that Jesus and Martha had met, and likely the first time that Jesus had come for dinner. Martha was anxious. She was probably the one who took the initiative to invite Jesus to dinner in the first place. She was the one who had planned everything out—down to the smallest detail.
But it was falling apart! She hadn’t expected that Jesus would show up with twelve hungry disciples in tow. She hadn’t expected that the whole village would drop-in to see the big celebrity. What a disaster! Martha, had so wanted to put on a great dinner for Jesus and now it was unravelling before her eyes.
She began to lose it. She did what we A-type people instinctively do when things start to go awry…she starts getting overly-controlling, bossy, and frustrated. Her good intentions of throwing a fabulous dinner party for Jesus are replaced with something altogether different. “How does this disastrous dinner party reflect on me? What will Jesus think, what will all the villagers think?” It stops being about Jesus and starts being about Martha and her own vanity. She even gets testy with the guest of honor: “Lord, can’t you see I need help. Tell Mary to help me!”
Fast forward several years to this weekend’s Gospel episode and we see a much different Martha. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” She is still direct; still matter-of-fact; still very sure of herself. She still knows what she wants, but we sense a new level of peace in her soul. She is still confident, but there is a confidence and a trust that now extends beyond herself. It is now with Jesus.
What happened? Jesus happened. We can infer that over the intervening years, Jesus visited Martha’s home many times; using it as a base of operations when he was working in Jerusalem.
This holds a real message of hope for us type-A personalities, like Martha, but applies to all of us as well. Regular encounters with Jesus over a long period of time do transform us. They don’t change who we are; but they do help us gain perspective. They help us keep our focus on the things that really matter. “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Perhaps, as we encounter Christ in communion and in daily prayer this Lent, we can ask: “Lord, where does vanity and anxiety still rear its ugly head in my thoughts and in my life? Help me to transform these into total trust and total faith in your providence.” St. Martha, pray for us!