On Wednesday, the Church will celebrate the feast day of St. Martha, a contemporary of Christ who is mentioned in both the Gospels of Luke and John.
St. Martha lived in the time of Jesus. She, along with her brother Lazarus and sister Mary had a special friendship with the Lord. The Scriptures tell us, "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5).
This friendship with Christ is illustrated in the three Gospel passages in which Martha is mentioned. Through her example in these Gospel stories, Martha teaches Christians about faith, love, and service to the Lord.
Martha first appears in Scripture in Luke 10:38-42. Martha and Mary receive Jesus as a guest into their home. Martha immediately strives to show him hospitality, and becomes "burdened with much serving," while Mary simply sits at the feet of Christ, "listening to Him speak."
Frustrated and overwhelmed, Martha turns to Jesus, asking Him to intervene, saying, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."
Jesus responds to Martha by saying, "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."
With this response, Jesus reminds Martha, and us, that listening to Him is the most important thing in life, and warns against the many daily worries that can distract us and prevent us from putting Him first in all things.
Martha is then seen putting her faith in Christ above all when she next appears in Scripture in John 11:1-53, mourning outside the tomb of her brother Lazarus who had died four days earlier. When she hears that Jesus is coming, she immediately goes up to meet Him.
Martha professes her faith in Jesus, saying, "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."
When Christ proclaims himself to be "the resurrection and the life," Martha responds with an affirmation of her faith by saying, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
This display of faith is confirmed as Jesus proceeds to raise Lazarus from the grave in front of all present.
The final mention of Martha in Scripture is in John 12:1-9. In this third and last instance, Jesus is at a house in Bethany, reclining at table with Lazarus. In this passage, Mary draws criticism and complaint from some gathered in the house by anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive oil. Martha is not the focus of the passage; she is mentioned only briefly, described with the simple statement, "Martha served."
In this final passage, Martha is seen serving the Lord with silent simplicity. The peace she demonstrates here greatly contrasts the nervous anxiety she had previously shown in serving, and she has now found a visible way to show her faith and love for Christ.
We know nothing about Martha’s later life, and have no reliable records of her death. Her feast day is July 29, and she is the patron of housewives, servants, waiters and cooks.