Have you seen the affection and the confidence with which Christ’s friends treat him? In a completely natural way the sisters of Lazarus reproach Jesus for being away: “We told you! If only you’d been here!…”
—Speak to him with calm confidence: “Teach me to treat you with the loving friendliness of Martha, Mary and Lazarus and as the first Twelve treated you, even though at first they followed you perhaps for not very supernatural reasons.”
ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA
The Forge, no. 495
A character in the Gospel provides a particular point of view to understand the image of our Lord: Martha of Bethany. She was a woman of service, a woman of faith, and one of the closest friends of Jesus during His time on Earth. Who else could say that? Wouldn’t we want to be on the list of the most intimate friends of Jesus? She, together with her siblings Mary and Lazarus, lived in the small village of Bethany, a place that came to hold special significance in Jesus’ ministry and in our understanding of how to live our faith in everyday life.
Bethany was a home away from home for Jesus. It was a place of friendship and relaxation where he could step away from the crowd and simply be with his friends. Let’s travel back in time to Bethany and enter the scene where Jesus is a guest in the home of Martha and Mary. As Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to His teaching, Martha is busy with all the tasks that hospitality requires. When she asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus gently corrects her, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
The scene might seem ordinary, even mundane. But if we pause and delve deeper, we can see the extraordinary within the ordinary. We can see a beautiful balance of work and contemplation and a call to infuse our daily tasks with faith and love. This is a profound lesson, especially for ordinary Christians, like us, in the middle of the world, trying to harmonize our work and spiritual lives.
Now it is in the Gospel of John, where we find Martha again in a unique scene in Bethany: the resurrection of her brother, Lazarus. Here, we witness Martha’s unwavering faith in Jesus, even in the face of death. She says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27). In this moment, her faith is tested, but it does not waver. She looks into the eyes of Jesus, acknowledges Him as the Messiah, and trusts Him completely. Jesus brings Lazarus back to life, showing us that faith can bring about resurrection, even in our daily lives.
Somehow Bethany is a prefiguration of what every Christian home should be—a place where Christ is always welcome. Martha speaks to Jesus with the familiarity of any good friend. And the Lord was not afraid to talk to her directly. Our homes could follow that pattern, where love and trust are immense, where talking to God seems normal.
St. Josemaria always saw the tabernacle as our Bethany. In this sacred place, we invite Jesus into our daily lives, work, and hearts. Whenever Our Lord is present in the tabernacle, he should feel at home, like when he stayed with Martha, Mary and Lazarus:
“It’s true that I always call our tabernacle Bethany… Become a friend of the Master’s friends: Lazarus, Martha, Mary. And then you won’t ask me any more why I call our tabernacle Bethany.” (The Way, no. 322)
In this spirit, we should create our own ‘Bethany moments.’ These are moments when we can be like Martha, serving Jesus through our work, and like Mary, sitting at his feet and listening to his words. A ‘Bethany moment’ might look like offering up your work day for a particular intention or taking a few minutes of silent prayer amidst the busyness of your day to converse with Jesus, just like you would with a friend. Perhaps, it could be something as simple as looking at the beauty of nature and praising God for his creation or keeping up our attention at work when tiredness appears.
These ‘Bethany moments’ are not just about adding more activities to our day, but about infusing the activities we already do with a greater sense of God’s presence. So whether you are in a board meeting or at a family dinner, in the middle of a hectic workday or a quiet evening, remember that every moment can be a ‘Bethany moment,’ an opportunity to meet with Jesus.
Especially if, in our daily life, we have the opportunity to visit Jesus in the tabernacle:
“For me the tabernacle has always been a Bethany, a quiet and pleasant place where Christ resides. A place where we can tell him about our worries, our sufferings, our desires, our joys, with the same sort of simplicity and naturalness as Martha, Mary and Lazarus. That is why I rejoice when I stumble upon a church in town or in the country; it’s another tabernacle, another opportunity for the soul to escape and join in intention our Lord in the Sacrament.”
(Christ is Passing By, no. 154)
We can count on St. Martha to help us, not just a saint but a friend of Jesus, a woman of faith who shows us that every moment of our lives can be an encounter with God. Let’s strive to create our own ‘Bethany moments,’ turning our daily tasks into acts of love and service to God.
Image by Otto van Veen via WikiArt