James Tissot's Jesus at Bethany
This is a post I wrote as one of my Sunday Meditations about a year ago on my personal blog, Daughter of the King. The Gospel for that Sunday was the account of Jesus visiting the home of His friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. I thought I would share that post here in celebration of both St Martha, whose feast we celebrate today, and St Mary Magdalen, whose feast day was last Friday.
These two beautiful saints, it has often been said, represent the image of the Contemplative (Mary) and the Active (Martha). Choosing the better part, I believe, comes when we learn how to be both, often simultaneously!
Our Hearts As BethanyI would like to look at today's Gospel (Luke 10:38~42) from a slightly different perspective. It is one related to an experience I had about a month ago while listening to and reflecting on a meditation I had heard on this very reading.
Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were friends of Jesus. The house in Bethany was a place Our Lord often visited during His earthly life. Scripture tells us that: "foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no where to lay his head." (Luke 9:58) But Jesus knew that He would be welcomed at this home of His friends at any time.
In today's reading we hear how the two sisters related very differently to Our Lord. Martha was always busy with the details of showing hospitality to their Divine Guest, while Mary, as always, was content to sit at His feet and hang on His every word. I sometimes imagine Lazarus in this scene in the background just rolling his eyes at the two of them. Our Lord gently but firmly rebukes Martha in her complaints about her sister's refusal to help; He tells her that Mary has chosen the better part. We never find out Martha's reaction to Jesus' rebuke.
During the evening of reflection in which I heard the meditation on this reading, we were given some quiet time for personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It was during this time that the thought occurred to me that our hearts should be Bethany for Our Lord. He desires each of us to welcome Him, give Him a place to rest, and simply sit at His feet.
I don't think Jesus was all that upset with Martha; he realized that the preparations she was making were necessary, but He also desired her company.
He desires ours as well. Our hearts being a Bethany for Jesus is a thought that has remained with me since that prayerful evening. It helped me to realize that preparing my heart for Jesus in Holy Communion is important, but once I have done that, He simply desires my loving attention to His Presence. The same holds true for my visits with Him during my holy hours. I don't have to spend every one of those hours in formal prayer; sometimes it is just enough to sit quietly and prayerfully gazing at Him in the sanctuary (Psalm 63:2).
My Dear Lord Jesus,
Come Divine Guest and find my heart a place of welcome rest. May You always find my heart and soul ready to receive You. May I never again neglect Your Presence within me because my head is too busy with the details of my day. You always felt welcomed at the home of Your friends in Bethany; may my heart be like Bethany, always ready to receive and welcome You.
May I prepare it as Martha did, then choose the better part, and sit at Your feet as Mary did.
Help me to be content in gazing upon You in prayerful adoration as You gaze lovingly upon me.
Thank You for desiring to be with me always.