How do we make our home a place, another Bethany, where Jesus is welcome?
The story of St. Martha, St. Mary, and St. Lazarus is one of the most familiar stories in the Gospels. In Luke Chapter 10, we read:
“As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. 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. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’” Luke 10:38-42
In order to fully digest this Scripture, we need to understand the fullness of what was occurring.
Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC. explains in his book, Jesus King of Love, that during Jesus’ first visit to Bethany, Mary was still a wandering sheep. However, Lazarus and Martha invited him to their home and they were touched by this visit. On the second visit, there were flowers and joy. On the third visit, Lazarus and Martha counted the hours until his return and discussed with Jesus their sorrow at Mary Magdalen not following his commandments. Then, the Gospel discusses how Mary Magdalen repented and how she broke the alabaster box (a symbol of her heart) at Jesus’ feet. She then once again lived with Lazarus and Martha, all strengthened by the bond of knowing and following Christ.
With this, we more fully understand both Jesus’ relationship with the family, and his level of comfort in their home during this visit. Remember, it was in response to the death of Lazarus that “Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him.’” (John 11:35-36). Martha, out of love for Jesus and her guests, worked hard to serve them and make certain they were comfortable, according to the norms of the day.
In first century Palestine, it would not have been common for Mary to be sitting at Jesus’ feet as a disciple. Mary was doing something out of the ordinary, so Martha expected Jesus to back her up. It must have been shocking to be told that Mary picked more wisely!
This story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus challenges us to make our home a place where Jesus is both welcome (as he was in their home at Bethany), and a friend.
“The great need of our times is the reconstruction of Nazareth, or if you prefer, the reproduction of the family of Bethany, the home of the true friends of Jesus. I say ‘Bethany’ because Nazareth, in its sublimity, will be unique throughout all ages, whereas in Bethany are all creatures of our own condition, cast in our mold of clay, and therefore this home is wholly and perfectly imitable,” challenges Fr. Crawley-Boevey. “And how many homes have, as Bethany had, what we can never imagine in Nazareth, souls like Magdalen’s, and prodigal sons. Call to the Master, hearken to Him, treat Him as an intimate Friend, and you will witness resurrections even more marvelous than that of Lazarus and conversions as wonderful and as touching as that of Magdalen.” (Jesus, King of Love. pg. 130)
In this manner, Fr. Crawley-Boevey provides several striking insights.
First, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus prefigure us. Despite lacking the grace of Immaculate Conception and the perfection of Our Lady or even the heroic virtue of St. Joseph, they provided a place of respite for Jesus. They contained all the weaknesses of our own families, yet Jesus entrusted himself to eat, rest, converse, and relax together in their home. In short, Jesus immerses himself in the family activities and familial relationships at Bethany.
Secondly, Jesus seeks this leisure together with us and in so doing He will heal all those broken areas within our homes. You see, the Lord will do great and mighty deeds for his friends. This includes great and mighty healings such as the conversion of Mary and even raising Lazarus from death. But we must first become friends of Jesus.
This then begets two questions, “How do I become a friend of Jesus?” and “How specifically do we make our home a place, another Bethany, where Jesus is welcome?”
Father Crowely-Boevey’s recommendations include “enthroning” an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a prominent place within our home and practicing “night adoration” by making a holy hour once a month in front of that image. Night adoration allows our Friend, Jesus, to come rest, converse, and relax with us in our homes. His repeated visits foster bonds of friendship which make Jesus a member of the family as in Bethany. I highly recommend Father Crowely-Boevey’s book Jesus King of Love for a full description of these beautiful practices.
However you do it, let your home be another Bethany.