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Martha, her sister Mary, and her brother Lazarus lived together in Bethany, a small town near Jerusalem. The Bible does not mention other family members, leading scholars to believe Martha was the eldest and possibly a widow. Mary and Lazarus, likely single and under 20 years of age, lived with Martha. All three held Jesus in high regard and welcomed Him into their home whenever He passed through Bethany on His way to Jerusalem. The Gospels record three significant visits of Jesus to their home.

1. Jesus’ Teaching at Martha’s House: While teaching at Martha’s house, Jesus defended Mary’s choice to sit and listen to Him rather than helping Martha prepare meals for the guests (Lk 10:38-42).

2. Raising of Lazarus: After Lazarus’ death, Jesus visited and miraculously raised him from the tomb (Jn 11:1-44).

3. Anointing at Bethany: Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfumed oil six days before His final Passover (Jn 12:1-8).

Martha’s family appeared to be financially comfortable, as their house could accommodate guests and Mary could afford expensive perfume worth “three hundred days’ wages” (Jn 12:5). Their source of income remains unknown.

The siblings’ names hint at their roles in the Gospel narratives. Martha, derived from the feminine form of “Mar” (Lord), signifies the mistress or head of the household. Mary’s name, from the Hebrew “Miriam,” means “bitter, beloved, or drop of the sea,” recalling Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was associated with the bitter destiny of the Israelites and their deliverance through the Red Sea. Lazarus, from the Hebrew “Eleazar,” means “God has helped,” symbolizing Jesus raising him from the dead.

Martha and Mary, though sisters, had distinct personalities, representing two essential aspects of Christian life. Martha, the head of the household, showed hospitality to Jesus and His disciples but was busy with preparations and missed out on Jesus’ teachings. Mary expressed her devotion by sitting at Jesus’ feet to learn from Him, challenging Martha’s focus on household duties. Lazarus, the youngest, became renowned because Jesus raised him from the dead on the fourth day.

Martha is the patron saint of cooks, homemakers, and restaurant servers, and as a family, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are patron saints of siblings. The Catholic Church initially celebrated Martha’s feast on July 29, but from July 29, 2021, Pope Francis combined this feast with those of Mary and Lazarus. This change clarified the distinction between Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala, whose feast is on July 22.


The story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus offers profound lessons for Christians today. Martha’s dedication to service and hospitality reminds us of the importance of serving others and creating a welcoming environment. Her story, however, also cautions against becoming so consumed by service that we neglect the presence of Christ in our midst. Mary’s devotion and attentiveness to Jesus highlight the necessity of spiritual growth and prioritizing our relationship with God. Lazarus’ miraculous resurrection exemplifies the power of Jesus over death and His profound love for His followers.

As Christians, we are called to balance service and devotion, ensuring that our actions are rooted in our love for Christ. Let us strive to be hospitable and caring like Martha while also being attentive and devoted like Mary. And let us have faith in Jesus’ power and love, knowing that He is the resurrection and the life.

In all our endeavors, let us remember the words of Jesus to Martha: “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:42). May we, too, choose that good part by sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning from Him, and carrying His teachings into our daily lives.

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