Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 29 July 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
We are truly grateful that the incidence of new infections of the corona virus seems to be dropping in the Western Cape. But, in many ways, this is the most critical time for us because – as we have seen in other countries – it is at this stage that people tend to relax and think that the danger is over. So please, keep to the hygienic measures we have been taught and use your mask, properly fitted, when you are outside your home.
Today we remember St Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, and a family that were the special friends of Jesus. In the Gospel of today’s Mass (John 11:19-27) we hear her make a profound declaration of faith. This is what she said in response to Jesus’ question:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the son of God, he who is coming into the world.”
Let us pray:
Loving Father, amidst all the busyness of our lives, the joys and anxieties, may we also recognise in your Son Jesus that he is indeed the resurrection and the life. Help us always, Lord to place our hope in him and touch our lives with the same love that inspired St Martha to welcome and serve Jesus with openness and generosity. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, amen.
Martha gave an amazing act of faith, professing her belief in Jesus as the son of God. It is akin to Peter’s profession when responding to Jesus’ question, who do people say I am? After relating different opinions, and when the disciples themselves were asked, but who do you say I am? Peter responded You are the Christ, the son of the living God. Martha expresses her faith recognizing in Jesus the resurrection and life itself. Her response is an overwhelming “yes” to God. She has been transformed by her encounter with Jesus, and that transformation has filled her with life.
We hear about Martha in the Gospels of Sts Luke and John. In the Gospel of Luke (10:38-42) we hear that Martha opened her house to Jesus. In other words she received and welcomed him generously and whole-heartedly. She was a good and loving person. In the culture of the time it would have been unheard of not to manifest that welcome by offering something to eat and drink – indeed, it is still the custom in many cultures today. As she busied herself preparing something for the Lord, she expressed concern that her sister Mary remained at Jesus’ feet listening to him and not helping her. Jesus seemingly gave her a mild rebuke saying that she worries about so many things when, in fact, only one is necessary. He also said that Mary had chosen the better part. Jesus was not repudiating Martha’s desire to serve but perhaps she understood service too narrowly and only saw it as catering for one part of human need. Whereas we are called beyond a superficial interaction, from only recognizing the outer person to a recognition of the humanness of the inner person. It is a type of communion with the other, a “meeting of souls”.
This impacts many aspects of our lives, for example almsgiving. The Scriptures frequently uphold almsgiving as a virtue, an act that assures us of forgiveness and mercy from God. But sometimes we miss the point by giving money because it may become the easy way out of getting rid of someone, or because we feel guilty, or because the person asking on behalf of a charity might look poorly on me if I don’t respond positively. Our almsgiving is meant to be something much more – it is meant to be an act of solidarity, a sacrifice we make willingly and generously, not just giving from excess but allowing it to hurt us a little. It is the recognition of the other person as a person. No matter how smelly, dirty or poor he or she may be we recognize that this is my brother, my sister, my mother, my father.
Martha was a transformed person, filled with faith and hope. We pray that the Lord will similarly transform us to be the people he wishes to be, so that we can recognize the humanity of others with all its strengths and weaknesses, and not just to see someone as a body in front of my eyes. In so doing, we strive not only for our own personal transformation but for the transformation of the world – a world that is kinder, more just and more compassionate. A world in which the dignity of each person is valued and people are allowed to live their lives without the bitterness and violence of poverty and discrimination. May we become more like Martha in her service, generosity and love.
Let us now pray fro God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus revealed himself and taught the truth through dialogue and compassion. Help us always to open our hearts, as St Martha did, so that your Son will transform our lives with his love that we may serve you by serving our neighbour. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.