Up until this year, the Feast of St Mary Magdalen and the Feast of St Martha followed each other one week apart, so Magdalen on 22 July and Martha on 29 July.
From this year, the Feast of St Martha becomes the Feast of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus. In the document accompanying this change, Pope Francis sees the change as putting the emphasis on the three of them being the one family, and on the gifts of hospitality and friendship.
These three people were friends of Jesus, he was received into their house and he enjoyed their hospitality. Luke, in chapter 10, verses 38-42, tells us that Martha welcomed him into her home and wasn’t afraid to have a dig at Mary in front of him.
In John chapter 11, verses 1-44, when Lazarus’ illness is reported to Jesus, the words used were “Lord, the one you love is sick” (verse 3) and the text continues: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (verse 5). And Jesus wept when he came to the tomb of Lazarus (verse 36).
The liturgy of this feast will emphasise these lovely gifts of friendship and hospitality enjoyed by Jesus and will urge us to value these great gifts as well.
By Fr Frank O’Loughlin
Main Image: Christ in the House of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Jacopo and Francesco dal Ponte known as I Bassano (Bassano del Grappa 1515-1592) / (Bassano c. 1549 – Venice 1592).