Martha and diaconal service

And Martha served
καὶ ἡ Μάρθα διηκόνει
John 12:2

Martha all too often is seen as being less holy than her sister Martha, based mostly on an interpretation of the account of Mary and Martha in Luke’s Gospel (10: 38-42).

I, however, see that the problem is not that Martha’s serving of the Lord is less holy than Mary’s sitting as a disciple at the feet of Jesus; the problem might be that Martha was preoccupied with her tasks and failed to just sit, at times, at the feet of Jesus and listen as a disciple.

But in the Gospel of John (11: 19-27), Martha is the one who recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and professes her belief in the resurrection.

Shortly after, there is a dinner at the house of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary – just six days before the Passover, before Jesus would give His life up. Lazarus sits at the table; Mary anoints the feet of Jesus; “and Martha serves.”

Here there is no disparaging remark about Martha’s insistence on hospitality and service. It is stated as a fact.

In a sermon (103), Saint Augustine notes that Martha’s privilege can be ours:

Mary received Jesus as a guest…. But do not say. “How blest they who received Christ in their own home.” Be not saddened that you live in an age when the Lord is no longer to be seen in the flesh. He has not deprived you of Martha’s privilege: “when you did it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to Me.”

We can all be deacons, servants of the Lord.

One response to “Martha and diaconal service

  1. I just came across this quote from Dorothy Day, on the Catholic Peace Fellowship Facebook timeline:
    “Words from Dorothy Day on this memorial of St. Martha: ‘the loveliest of all relationships in Christ’s life, after His relationship with his Mother, is His friendship with Martha, Mary and Lazarus and the continual hospitality He found with them–for there was always a bed for Him there, always a welcome, always a meal. It is a staggering thought that there were once two sisters and a brother whom Jesus looked on almost as His family and where He found a second home, where Martha got on with her work, bustling round in her house-proud way, and Mary simply sat in silence with Him.'”

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