Today is the feast day of Martha, the sister of Mary, whose feast day we celebrated last week. Together with their brother Lazarus, here is one family that Jesus loved and was very close to. I can imagine Jesus considered their place his second home. The stories in the gospel about this family teach us what true love and friendship.
One of the reasons Jesus kept coming back to visit them must have been the food Martha always had ready for him. Martha must have been a great cook for Jesus to keep coming back for more. Jesus loved to eat to be with people and his friends. He started his ministry at a wedding. He went to the houses of even the Pharisees to have dinner with them. He called down Zacchaeus to dine at his house. And when he gave his disciples a memorial by which they would remember him, it was a supper. Filipinos love to get together and eat. It takes the slightest excuse for us to gather up and have a feast. Someone leaves and there is despedida; that someone returns and there is bienvenida. There are birthdays, anniversaries, reunions and all sorts of special days that serve as an excuse to get-together. And when we just have the urge to see one another, who needs an excuse? Friendship and love are enough reasons to come by for a visit.
The second reason Jesus kept coming back to the Bethany was Mary. Mary just loved being with Jesus and just listen to all his stories. And he had lots of them. He called them parables. Friendship is about being present to the other person. Friendship is about togetherness to share food, to share stories, sometimes just to enjoy each others presence even if no words are spoken.
The third reason is of course Lazarus. Friendship is about being there when the friend needs you the most. Lazarus died and Martha was saying that if Jesus had been there, her brother would not have died. Jesus came anyway and he brought Lazarus back to life. Friendship and love are about being in the service of the other.
A shared meal. Presence. Service. This is what true love in friendship is all about. I remember one family in Guadalupe that my fellow seminarians and I loved to visit when we were in San Carlos Seminary. We enjoyed Mamang’s cooking which was always a welcome respite from the simple seminary fare we had everyday. We loved chatting it up and singing with Marge, Ruth and Anabel. We shared stories with the brothers Edgar (RIP), Rey, Boyet and Jerry. And many of us have been helped and served by this family in more ways than one, with me even up to this very day.
A shared meal. A simple visit. An act of kindness. These may seem small and insignificant but they all have the power to change lives and even change the world.
‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’