Mary of Bethany: One Who Listened
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus was the unconventional one who neglected "women's work" to listen to the stories and parables of Jesus. She stands for joy in the present, thankfulness, equality, and faith in God's plans.
Over the hills, I see the light of dawn, the gift of a new day. But I have learned that there are many kinds of light and many kinds of gifts.
I am Mary, from Bethany. My father was a merchant who often made journeys to foreign lands in search of special things to sell in the city. He always brought back small gifts for me and my sister Martha, and my brother, Lazarus. Each time father arrived home, I would sit spellbound, listening to him describe where he had been. And when his guests visited, I would curl up in a corner, unseen, to listen. Men in strange robes and turbans, sharing stories of faraway places and mysteries...how I longed to know all this and be part of it! But I was a girl, and women have their place.
Another man visited often--Jesus-- and although his robes were not fancy, the stories he told were more fascinating than those of the traveling merchants. Once, when Jesus was at our house, all the men had settled around him as he spoke. Quietly, I slipped into the room and sat outside the circle, hoping that no one would notice. But someone did -- Martha.
From the kitchen, she motioned insistently for me to come help her prepare food for the men. I shook my head. She scowled at me and gestured more forcefully. This time, Jesus and my father saw our little drama. Father said, "Mary, help your sister." But Jesus stopped him, and offered me the choice to stay or go. I chose to stay. His acceptance gave me the strength to ignore the grumbling of my sister and the disdain of some of the men who see women as dust, not sunlight.
Jesus began to speak again and I was transported, lost in his words. When he was done, I went to help Martha. She would not look at me. I said, "Martha, please understand me. I am not like you, content to accept the role placed on us by men." I saw anger flash in her eyes. "It is you who do not know me," she said pushing past me through the door to serve our guests. Perhaps she is right.
And now comes this dawn, after that dark Friday. I have much to think about. Jesus did so much for me. He gave me three gifts.
The first gift was to allow me to witness his inner world for just a small piece of time. To sit at his feet and hear his words, not muffled through a door or told by someone else, but straight from his mouth. He gave me the joy of basking in the light of his wisdom.
The second gift -- a miracle, restoring life to my brother, Lazarus! Because Jesus understood our sorrow, he commanded the tomb to give up its hostage. He brought my brother from darkness to a new light.
And now this last, greatest gift -- the gift of his own life.
Once I craved a man's world with learning and travel, but I see now that this pales beside the life I will have if I live what Jesus taught. Being a woman will not hinder me, for he welcomed everyone, and his message was for all people.
How can I repay these gifts? How can I share his light? Perhaps, I can tell my story to women who are struggling to find meaning in their lives. They must know that they are beloved daughters of God, that they too can lead others to the ways of Jesus.
I believe that we can all be gifts. I believe that we can all be the light.
From The Women of Holy Week by Veronica Hughes and Deborah Landis
Three School Girls: covering their faces near the town of Shigar, Karakoram Mountain Range
Spanish Oak as Mother: The artist connects to the tree's perennial lesson of turning light into food - nurturing the soul.
If you would like to contribute to Reflections, view our Submission Guidelines