A few years ago I discovered the wonderful ways that God uses my imagination in my prayer, not to take me away from reality into fantasy, but to bring me into what is most real for me and therefore to my personal and privileged place of encounter with Jesus.
Today’s feast of St. Martha reminds me of this revelation. Let me explain.
I had always thought of Martha, Mary and Lazarus as a middle-aged (perhaps elderly) trio who had been unlucky in love and unable to muster the courage to leave the securities of their childhood home.
One day as I was praying with this gospel account I imagined Martha and Mary as a couple of teenagers with their younger brother coping with the absence of their parents, perhaps after a messy divorce or through the loss of death.
In today’s gospel account of Jesus arriving in Bethany after the death of Lazarus I sense the devastation of these young sisters at their little brother’s death, especially if he had been entrusted to their care by the departing parents.
I can see and hear the shock of the family and friends who have gathered to support Martha and Mary. Few things are more difficult to live through than the untimely death of a young person.
And I hear Martha, the great woman of faith, really put Jesus to the test: ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’
Martha expects a miracle, and Jesus does not disappoint.
Perhaps our problem is that we don’t expect miracles from the God who is waiting for this bold and faith-fuelled invitation?