Sts. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, July 29
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful, Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” “Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.”
-Just as prayer, work, and Lectio Divina, has been considered as the tripod of the monastic life; so the activities of Martha, the contemplation of Mary, and the penitence of Lazarus, can also be regarded as the tripod of the spiritual life.
-The balance of these three occupations gives us a good understanding in our relationship with Christ. One without the other would be detrimental to our spiritual life just as the lost of the one leg of the tripod would not enable the transit to hit its target.
-Our ultimate goal, of course, is the vision of God, and our proximate goal is purity of heart. To attain this goal, we need a life of service, prayer, and repentance. One without the other would miss this goal.
-Just imagine if a person is wholly engrossed, even in a noble work or apostolate, without cultivating one’s prayer life; it will end up in pure humanitarian enterprise which a social worker can do. It is also dangerous because it would be like running a machine without putting oil. It will eventually break down.
-Imagine also if a person only prays but does not work. To him or her, the words of St. Paul would be addressed: “If any one will not work let him not eat.” And so, if we do not eat, we are no longer human, because angels alone can do that.
-There was a story of a gyrovague monk who went to visit a monastery and saw the brothers working, and he shouted: “Do not labor for the food which perishes but for the food which endures to eternal life.” So the abbot told one of the brothers to bring the visiting monk to his room, give him book to read, but not call him for meals. When the time of meal comes, the visiting monk was wondering whether the brothers had eaten their meal. He was told: “yes, we did.” “Then, why did you not call me,” he said. “Well, we thought that you are already an angel and do not need food anymore.”
-Imagine also if a person works and prays, but does not repent of the faults he or she had committed. Then his or her entire life would be a lie, because St. John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
-Hence, the idea that we should at all times be above reproach makes us a mockery of repentance and forgiveness as well as of love, because it suggests the need always to look good in the sight of our brothers and sisters, and never to be caught in fault. But no one can really escape the truth that sooner or later we will discover our own shortcomings as far as living in community is concerned.
-Martha, Mary, and Lazarus really represent the dimensions of every personality. Martha represents all those things that go into the business of living: washing dishes, cooking, baking, gardening, sewing, decorating cakes, cleaning, etc. Mary focuses for us the times of prayer and quiet, silence and solitude when we can pull it all together in the Lord. Lazarus represents our vow of on-going conversion of manners, because no matter how great progress we made in the spiritual life, we will be deceived if we think there is nothing in us that has to be removed.
-Therefore, the balance and integration of the actions of Martha, the contemplation of Mary, and the penitence of Lazarus is utterly vital to live a good Christian life and monastic life, and to attain to our ultimate goal which is the vision of God and the happiness of eternal life.