After having celebrated on the 22nd of this month the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, we honour to-day Martha, her sister.
The daughter of noble and rich parents, she lived at Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem. "Jesus," says St. John, "loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus," wherefore He preferred to dwell at their house when He was in Judea. There He spent the days which preceded His death. Martha, who was the elder, therefore often had the honour of being the hostess of Jesus (Gospel, Communion), the divine Spouse to whom she had consecrated her virginity (Epistle). While busy with serving Jesus, she requested Him to bid Mary help her. And Jesus, without blaming her for ministering to His wants, made her understand that certain souls, called by God, choose a still better part, since they commence on earth what all shall do in heaven. Active life, with all its labours and fatigues endured for the sake of Christ whom we serve in our neighbour, is very meritorious; "happy however is the home where Mary causes the complaint of Martha" and refuses to take away from prayer a life which ordinary occupations might appear to claim.
God is indeed the author of all grace and wishes to be recognized as such; and contemplative life, which puts souls in direct contact with Him, assures their personal sanctification more fully and obtains more efficaciously the graces by which a Christian apostleship becomes fruitful. Let us esteem at its just value the position that Jesus reserves to Mary, and if He calls us to share in Martha's solicitude, let us endeavour, like the saints, to make up by the spirit of prayer for what is wanting in active life.
Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem: properea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo laetitiae prae consortibus tuis. * Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego opera mea Regi.
Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. * My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King.
(Psalm 44:8,2 from the Introit of Mass)
Hear us, O God our Saviour; that as we rejoice in the festivity of blessed Martha, Thy Virgin, so we may be instructed in the affection of pious devotion.
From the Catholic Encyclopaedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09721b.htm