By Denise Trull
Jesus loved everyone He knew, but in different ways.
He loved His apostles as a teacher and a patient brother. He loved the sick with the tenderness of both hand and voice. He loved sinners and lifted them up with His gentle, but solemn admonitions to sin no more. His love expanded into joy as He witnessed their sudden and happy release from sin's grasp. What must have been His smile at their wonder that it was no more -- only peace. Perhaps He held their faces in His hands just a few seconds longer to bask in the "reason why He came" -- this healing of sinners.
He loved His mother with a depth of mutual and intense understanding we can only guess at. He loved His father Joseph for all the reasons we love our fathers. For his care, his protection, his wise advice, his work ethic, perhaps his humor.
But Martha was loved as a family friend. This is a special kind of love. A family friend is the comfort friend. It is their house you go to when you need to rest — when you need some familiar recipe served hot and good as you tiredly sink to the table. You gravitate there for conversation about anything other than work. Perhaps you need their laughter to ease the load. The family friend’s place is where you do not need to be "on." It is a place where you might ask for advice or simply share a sorrow and know that sympathy will be swift and kind. I think that was Martha to Jesus. He could trust her with His heart -- its thoughts, concerns, and sorrows. It is a magnificent thought in its implications. That He desired friends like this always moves me. That He was familiar with them -- that they knew His mother and perhaps his grandmother and the normal news from Nazareth to share and talk over with Him.
Jesus confirms the importance of the family friend in loving Martha -- that God blesses and affirms the special love available to humans in the context of another’s home shared freely with others. And that we should give that to one other.
It is at the raising of Lazarus where we see this love the best. Jesus, as we know, gets there too late. But Martha is so sure of His friendship and His love for their family that she cries out, "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died." And then He does something heart wrenching and unforgettable: He weeps, and bitterly, that Lazarus is dead. Even knowing He is to raise him up, He weeps for the horror of death and the hold of the devil on the world. This was a personal hold -- one He had grown to love and cherish and banter with -- Lazarus, His dear friend. Gone. As a human, did He feel that agonizing, hollowed out sorrow we all feel when death comes too closely in those we love as friends?
Martha was the witness to these tears after she had proclaimed that even though he was dead, Jesus was God and He would do something beyond her wildest imaginings. This was her moment of faith. The moment she realized that this friend who always made it to her door and shared her food and her conversation -- THIS was God who had come through her door all those years. And He was weeping. God was weeping for her brother. I don't think she would ever have been the same after that moment, but, being Martha, I am sure she reached out and embraced Jesus with her habitual need to make things better. What a moment that must have been -- to dry the tears of God.
What a great saint Martha was and is. We can pray with her for our friends, living and dead. We can pray to her to help us make our homes a place of refuge for others, and a dwelling place for God. Martha will always help us with her lovely and habitual need to make things better.
St. Martha, pray for us!