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Who is this woman serving Jesus in the home she shared with her siblings Mary and Lazarus, outside of Jerusalem? Why still venerated among Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Eastern Orthodox Catholics whose feast day is celebrated today?

Her name is Martha, derived from the Aramaic, “the mistress,” or “the lady.” Outgoing, practical, accustomed to hard work, she recognized something special about Jesus and was the first to offer hospitality. A frequent guest when needing respite from teaching, he enjoyed her friendship and meals. However, his attraction to Mary’s spirit irritated Martha and drew her feisty complaint, recounted in Luke’s Gospel and still viewed as pejorative.

However, there’s more to Martha. She, it was, who first understood Jesus’s statement, “I am the resurrection and the life.” following the death of Lazarus in John’s Gospel. Instinctively, she knew who he really was and blurted, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.” Unlike her sister’s mysticism, hers was grounded in the here and now.

On this day, I also celebrate my younger sister Martha who takes after her namesake. Quick to discern others’ needs, even quicker to offer practical help lightened by humor, she has supported my diminishing health with nightly phone calls. When in town, she has completed errands, sat with me in emergency rooms, drove me to appointments, bought special foods, even cut my hair several times. And always, the “Do you remember when…” stories that deepened compassion for our past and our having survived it.

Martha is currently sitting by the bedside of her former husband, receiving hospice care in a Toledo, Ohio nursing home. That’s what she does…

 

Salt sprinkles upon summer’s vegetables, steamed just right, pleasure my taste buds and prompts taking more forkfuls until satisfied. Without salt, blandness settles upon my tongue like crud, shrinks hunger, and diminishes satiety. Indeed, salt seems to enhance foods like symphony conductors, their musicians—The end result satisfies, deeply.

Toward this fulfillment many yearn today, given the multi-faceted impoverishment that cripples psyches, that discounts the spiritual, however expressed. Such evil mirrors the mythological Hydra, a gigantic water-snake-like monster with nine heads, one of which was immortal. In ancient Greece as well as today, such monsters spew unbridled terror resulting in cookie-cutter posturing in boardrooms, courts of law, churches, and universities. Change is suspect and frowned upon.

In view of this deplorable situation, how retain salty spirits? How access humor still lodged in our depths? How inhale winds of harmony, of shimmering colors, of nature’s imprints? I ask myself these questions, daily.
Of necessity, I watch Jesus in the Gospels salt his followers with counter-cultural behaviors: There is blessedness in being poor in spirit, in being meek, mournful, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, open to suffering, and hungering for what is right—all reversals of wayward instincts on rampage for power, prestige, and sexual aberrations.

Jesus says further, Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.

Thus a fresh discipline emerges from within that lightens our steps, no longer trudging to the tin-horn band tooting nonsense. Boldly, we step out of line for a different path that works and follow it with the like-minded. It works.

 

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