Saint Martha

Lectionary: 401/607

Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

I know a fine young Veteran with a severe drinking problem who reminds me so much of my young self it hurts.

He has returned to treatment repeatedly -- most substance abusers return to treatment several times before they settle into their new way of life -- and he always asks the same question, "Why do I keep doing this?" 

I have urged him not to ask that question. "Knowing the answer won't help. And if you ever understand why you relapse, it will not be for many years."

"In the meanwhile, obey the Lord!" and I remind him of the authority he knew in the military. He says he enjoyed his brief military career. 

Jesus understood that military authority. He was so faithfully and instinctively obedient to his Abba/Father/God that a centurion recognized him as a colleague, though of a different "army." Jesus described that obedience in John 5.30: 
“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.
There is a lot to be said for understanding things. Our scientific culture searches and researches for explanations of why things are as they are. Children learn that attitude early in life; almost as soon as they can talk they ask, "Why?" 

Eager parents will explain things to their child. And then they'll send them off to school to learn more about this world and how it works. 

But sometimes the child will ask "Why?" once too many times not about scientific research but why he has to make his bed since he's going to sleep in it later anyway -- and the answer will sound throughout the house, "Because I said so." 

Explanations and reasons are wonderful things but in the end authority answers the question. 

In the second alternative gospel of today, from the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus asks Martha, "Do you believe this?" 

She replies, "“Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. In those words I hear a woman say, "I believe you because you said it."  

"Believe in the words I have spoken." That is a constant theme of the Gospel. Jesus' last word in John 21 is, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." 

Many people are critical of the Catholic Church and its structures because we rely so much on authority. They want explanations. But when explanations are given, even reasonable ones, they still argue and refuse to accept the teaching, since they don't like the reason and cannot agree with it.  

For many the relationship ends there. And that's a shame. It's unfortunate and sometimes tragic. 

I have learned to hear the explanation and ponder it. I feel my rebellion. I don't have to like it. But, very often, I come around. I let the reason reshape my thinking. 

What me, worry?
Some things may never make sense to me. There are changes in the Church and its policies I hope for but don't expect to see. If they come they'll come in God's time, not mine. And that's okay with me. Why should I worry about it? (See illustration...)

Embracing authority is welcoming the mystery of life in all its dimensions, so much deeper, wider, higher and grander than my comprehension. And far more beautiful. 

As we celebrate Saint Martha -- a woman who scolded the Lord! -- we ask God to give us her willing spirit. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.