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Posts Tagged ‘via activa’

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Martha was busy with much serving.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mere mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of it,  results in mere activism and busy-ness and as evidenced in Martha:  resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See  Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world. Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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