Tuesday, 30 July 2013

" Christ in the home of Mary and Martha" by Johanes Vermeer

Feast: July 29
Feast Day:July 29
Palaestina (modern-day Israel)
Died:80, Tarascon, Gaul (modern-day France) or Cyprus
Patron of:butlers; cooks; dietitians; domestic servants; homemakers; hotel-keepers; housemaids; housewives; innkeepers; laundry workers; maids; manservants; servants; servers; single laywomen; travellers

Last week, we talked about Mary, and Yesterday, it was Martha's turn. Again, a Saint whose life is not as historically documented, so what we know is Bible based. We already know the familiar story of how when Jesus was invited to visit their house:  Mary listened, and Martha worked. But St. John has given us a glimpse of the other and deeper side of her character when he depicts her growing faith in Christ's Divinity (Jn 11, 20-27), a faith which was the occasion of the words: "I am the resurrection and the life."  Many know this story well: how Lazarus, her brother, was ill, and finally died, and how Jesus came days later, almost intentionally taking his time so that he would have the opportunity to illustrate to the world his greater powers...(one final expression of his divinity before he faced his passion); How Martha still trusted that Jesus could ensure her brother's place in heaven, but didn't yet understand the fullness of his power, until he explained it to her in plain terms. The Evangelist has beautifully indicated the change that came over Martha after that interview: "When she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The Master is come, and calleth for thee.""

  So while we remember Martha as the one who chose to express her love for Jesus in the way she hosted him, and while we celebrate this aspect of her personality by making her the Patron saint of so many who work in the hotel industry and in housekeeping, she also becomes a much greater model of conversion for us in John 11. Her faith in Jesus was already very strong and commendable...and at that moment in time, it  became even stronger. A reminder to all of us that, even when we thing we've been converted to the faith, there is always room for a deeper conversion in our life...quite a few of them in fact!!

 The story of Exodus 32, like that of Exodus 14 (the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea) is not an easy one for us to read. Both these passages -and many others like them in the Bible- depict a God who is rather angry and destructive, even vengeful. This is a God that the Israelites  needed to believe in as they faced a very hostile world with many enemies and threats, but not one we relate to very strongly. However, what I'd like to draw your attention to in the Golden calf story, is not how angry and vengeful God is, but how strong in his faith Moses is, something we see in his reaction to the sin of his people. This 'sin', in the end, could have been worse! They simply became impatient, didn't know what was going on, and in their confusion, created their own false idol which they proceeded to worship.  Unfortunately for them, this act  was an expression of their lack of trust in the God that had led them out of slavery, and into this new land. And granted, things weren't going so well for them, but at least they were 'free'.

 Perhaps the problem was that they didn't know what to do with the freedom.  Like Adam and Eve, it's in their freedom, that they chose to act against God.  Moses' response? Anger. Obviously...he put a lot of effort and energy into being God's mouthpiece...this golden calf was not what he wanted to see. Sure, he may have overreacted with the whole ' grounding (the golden calf)down to powder... scattering it on the water and making the Israelites drink" (  32:20) Still, like Abraham before him, Moses' relationship to God was so close, so intimate, the he decided to answer for this sin himself: (speaking to God) " If you could only forgive their sin. If you can not, then strike me out of the book you have written". (32:32)  I'm still trying to process the act of faith illustrated in his words. It's not a Christ like action..he's not offering himself unto death with the intention of being resurrected and redeeming his people from their sins! Still, he IS taking on the sins of his people, not just out of love for them, but more importantly, out of love for God. He is so close to God at this point, that he can not keep in his heart the sin that his people has committed against him. It's an act of deep love for the divine, and it's the reason why in the end, God does not destroy the Israelites. As the Psalm says, he planned to destroy them, but Moses' courage, honesty and deep love and faith convinced God to do otherwise.

Many people have interpreted this passage differently, but for me, Moses' disposition before God is the only thing that stands out. He really does become a role model for me, as I contemplate the sinfulness of our world. Of course, we all would like to be like Martha, always laboring, concerned about getting things done and ensuring that everything is perfect.Unfortunately,  nothing  is perfect in our world. There will always be brokenness and sinfulness. Many may find this depressing and live in  hopelessness. I do too sometimes. However, knowing what Christ has done for us, how he has redeemed our personal sins  with his life, death, and resurrection,  restores my hope, and gives me the strength to do like Moses: to  face the sins of our culture head on. Nowadays, I feel that's our main issue: Personal sin will always be there. Many will be challenged in their faith to abandon any sinful practice they have in their lives,and to follow a path of righteousness. This gives me cause to hope. The hopelessness settles in when I look at our Societal sins:  Racism, war, violence towards minorities,  pollution of the environment or any other social issue. These are sins we must answer for (whether we're involved with them or not!) That's the  lesson we get from Moses:  He didn't build the damn golden calf. But he still took responsibility for it!! This forced him to deal with this problem head on. I think it's healthy for us to do the same with the sinful behavior in our world. If we were to start saying 'I'm not the one who polluted this planet in the first place!! Why should I fix it!!?' we'd be even worse off than we already are!  More importantly, Christians must remember that Jesus' victory over sin has not stopped the sinfulness of humanity. Instead, it becomes our guiding light in a darkened world, a light that nourishes our own journey and inspires us to become the next Marthas and Moses of the world!!


Exodus 32: 15-24,30-34

Moses then turned and came down the mountain with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, front and back;
tablets that were made by God, having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God himself.
Now, when Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "That sounds like a battle in the camp."
But Moses answered, "It does not sound like cries of victory, nor does it sound like cries of defeat; the sounds that I hear are cries of revelry."
As he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing. With that, Moses' wrath flared up, so that he threw the tablets down and broke them on the base of the mountain.
 Taking the calf they had made, he fused it in the fire and then ground it down to powder, which he scattered on the water and made the Israelites drink.
Moses asked Aaron, "What did this people ever do to you that you should lead them into so grave a sin?" Aaron replied, "Let not my lord be angry.
You know well enough how prone the people are to evil.
They said to me, 'Make us a god to be our leader; as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.'
So I told them, 'Let anyone who has gold jewelry take it off.' They gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out."

30 On the next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a grave sin. I will go up to the LORD, then; perhaps I may be able to make atonement for your sin."
So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Ah, this people has indeed committed a grave sin in making a god of gold for themselves!
5 If you would only forgive their sin! If you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written."
The LORD answered, "Him only who has sinned against me will I strike out of my book.
Now, go and lead the people whither I have told you. My angel will go before you. When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."

Psalms 106: 19 - 23

19They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a molten image.
20They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt,
22wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea.
23Therefore he said he would destroy them -- had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

Luke 10:38-42

13 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
14 She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
15 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

No comments:

Post a Comment