Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Martha of Bethany

Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) (Studio of)
Jésus chez Marthe et Marie/ Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary c. 1630
Oil on canvas
163 x 219 cm
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille

Johann Heiss (1640-1704)
Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary c. 1604
Oil on canvas
90.4 x 67.5 cm
Staatsgalerie im Neuen Schloss, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Schleissheim

Orazio Gentileschi(1562-1647)
Martha reprimands her sister Mary c.1620
Oil on canvas
132.5 x 154.5 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Bayrische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich

Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869)
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha 1815
Oil on canvas
103 x 85.5 cm
Nationalgalerie (SMB), Berlin

"In this regard, the sisters of Lazarus also deserve special mention: "Jesus loved Martha and her sister (Mary) and Lazarus" (cf. Jn 11:5). Mary "listened to the teaching" of Jesus: when he pays them a visit, he calls Mary's behaviour "the good portion" in contrast to Martha's preoccupation with domestic matters (cf. Lk 10: 3842).

On another occasion - after the death of Lazarus - Martha is the one who talks to Christ, and the conversation concerns the most profound truths of revelation and faith: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died". "Your brother will rise again". "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?" "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world" (Jn 11:21-27).

After this profession of faith Jesus raises Lazarus.

This conversation with Martha is one of the most important in the Gospel."

Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatis (Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, paragraph 15) (15th August 1988)

"[T]he Gospel attests that Jesus expressly called women to collaborate in his saving work. He not only allowed them to follow him to assist him and his community of disciples, but he asked for other forms of personal commitment.

Thus he asked Martha for a faith commitment (cf. Jn 11:26-27).

Responding to the Teacher's invitation, she made her profession of faith before Lazarus was raised.

After the resurrection, he entrusted Mary Magdalene and the devout women who had gone to the tomb with the task of conveying his message to the apostles (cf. Mt 28:8-10; Jn 20:17-18). "Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ's resurrection for the apostles themselves" (CCC 641). These are rather eloquent signs of his desire to involve women too in the service of the kingdom.

Jesus' behavior is explained theologically by his intention to unify humanity.

As St. Paul says, he wished to reconcile all men through his sacrifice "in one body" and make everyone "one new man" (Eph 2:15, 16), so that now "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).

This is the conclusion of our catechesis--if Jesus Christ reunited man and woman in their equal status as children of God, he engaged both of them in his mission, not indeed by suppressing their differences, but by eliminating all unjust inequality and by reconciling all in the unity of the Church."

(Pope John Paul II, General Audience July 6, 1994)