Home Catechetical Corner Our Lenten Journey, March 11: St. Martha

Our Lenten Journey, March 11: St. Martha


Not much is known about the life of St. Martha, except for the few mentions she receives in the Gospels.

What we do know is that Martha, along with her sister, Mary, and brother, Lazarus, were good friends of Jesus. We don’t know how they came to be friends. We could stretch our imagination and imagine them perhaps growing up together. Regardless, they were close enough to him to welcome him into their home.

Martha is mentioned specifically twice in the Gospels; once in a lesson about priorities, and the other as witness to one of Jesus’ most powerful miracles.

Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha by Harold Copping. (Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain)

The Gospel of Luke recounts a visit Jesus made to their house. While Martha is serving and cleaning up, Mary is seated at Jesus’ feet, taking in all that he says. Martha speaks up for herself: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” He annoyance is pretty clear.

But Jesus reminds her of what is important: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Jesus reminds Martha that it’s important to focus on God instead of getting bogged down with earthly concerns.

The other time we encounter Martha is in the telling of one of Jesus most powerful miracles in the Gospel of John: Raising Lazarus from the dead.

As the story goes, Lazarus fell sick, and his sisters sent for Jesus. He arrived too late; Lazarus had been dead for four days.

“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone 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 Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Even in her grief, Martha’s unconditional faith in Jesus as the Messiah is strong.

Not much more is known about Martha, other than that in some traditions, she and Mary are counted among the women who were at the foot of the Cross at Jesus’ death and those who discovered the empty tomb on Easter morning.

St. Martha’s feast day is July 29.

She is the patron saint of cooks.

Read her biography at Franciscan Media here: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-martha/

The Domus Sanctae Marthae, where Pope Francis lives, is named for her: Read more about it here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/domus-sanctae-marthae

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem loosely based on his interpretation of Jesus visit to Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Read It here: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_martha.htm

A novena to St. Martha can be found here: https://novenaprayer.com/st-martha-novena/