What a contrast the readings for mass are today! Moses came down from the mountain carrying two tablets of stone that God Himself had written by His own hand and found the people partying and worshiping a golden calf. After all that God had done for them by setting them free from slavery after hundreds of years of bondage and then leading them out of Egypt by his own hand through the Red Sea, and yet the people still turned from Him. It’s enough to make you want to cry that people could be that indifferent to the creator of the universe who loved them enough to answer their prayers, in person! Maybe that is exactly what Moses felt when he looked at the people partying and worshiping a calf they had made for themselves. He lost his temper. Moses really lost it and threw the tablets down the mountain and broke them. Then he went on a rampage and burned the calf and ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it of all things! Talk about anger. Whew. Modern Christians would have a hard time witnessing this type of justifiable anger, let alone believe it was a righteous act. Sometimes we shy away from any kind of negativity in our faith because we think it is not a sign of holiness to be upset or angry, but that sure wasn’t the case with Moses.
You would think God would be pretty upset by all of this Himself though. If you think about it, Moses destroyed the tablets of the law that God had given him, the ten commandments, and God wasn’t even mad about it. Not one word is said about the broken tablets. What is pretty awesome is that after everything the people had done, Moses still asked God to forgive their sin. He still loved the people and so did God, because God seems to be more focused on leading the people to the land He had promised them, than being concerned about their outrageous sins. He assured Moses that they would be punished for their sin, but He wants Moses to go on and focus on their future.
The people in the reading of Exodus had the faith of a fly though. The moment Moses was out of their sight, they gave up on him coming back and decided to make their own god. However, Mary and Martha’s faith in the gospel reading today is an entirely different story. Their faith was solid and unwavering. What is so amazing about this, is that the Israelites witnessed God’s miracles first hand and yet dismissed their faith at a drop of the hat when Moses delayed coming back. Then, look at Mary and Martha in today’s gospel. They had not yet seen the miracle of Jesus raising their brother Lazarus from the dead and yet, they believed in Jesus Christ. When Jesus told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Mary answered “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
If Martha had responded to Jesus with a lack of faith, it makes you wonder if Jesus would have raised Lazarus from the dead? I guess we will never know, but one minor detail that is easy to overlook about this whole thing, is that Martha is the one Jesus chided for complaining that Mary wasn’t helping her serve a meal in the gospel a few days ago. This same Martha had a faith in Jesus that was rock solid though. She is not remembered so much for her deep and abiding faith, as she is for snapping at Jesus to ask him to make Mary help with the serving.
Martha’s deep and abiding faith is a model for our own lives. She believed in Jesus, even though she felt like her brother would not have died if Jesus had been there. She also said “but even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” That takes faith. Pure faith, an unshakable faith in the Lord, no matter what.
No matter what life throws at us too, we should remember that Jesus is with us through it all. It isn’t his fault, or God’s fault, when bad things happen. They can not prevent these things from happening to us, but they can be with us when they do happen. Later in this gospel reading it says that “Jesus wept”. (Jn 11:35) Why did he cry? Was it because Jesus felt compassion for Martha and Mary that deeply? That when Mary and Martha hurt, he hurt too? Does Jesus do no less with us? Perhaps Christ can not prevent all the bad things from happening to us either, but he loves us and when we hurt, he hurts with us. It takes faith to believe that he does. That Jesus loves us that deeply, even though he is not physically here with us during our lives. He is in the Eucharist that we receive at Sunday’s mass though. We carry the Lord deep inside of us and there is no doubt that when we hurt, he hurts too.
Today, let us trust the Lord, that he is really with us. He lives within us and feels the same things we are going through too. Christ’s compassion knows no limits. Like Martha though, we need to place our trust in him. We need to trust that Christ really is the son of God and he loves us enough to be with us every moment of our lives and will one day raise us too, on the last day.
May the peace of Christ be with you as you go about your day today.