Feast of Ss. Martha, Mary and Lazarus
Knights of Columbus Board Meeting
July 29, 2022
On the cusp of our Supreme Convention, we gather this afternoon in this beautiful chapel which is the true home of the Nashville Dominicans. Mother Anna Grace and dear sisters, we are most grateful for your hospitality and for the spirit of joy and prayerfulness with which you and your community received us. We have gathered as the Officers, Board, and State Leadership as also wives and family members of the Knights of Columbus. We are here to beg God’s abundant blessings upon our Convention, upon those who have worked so hard to organize it, and upon those who will lead it and participate in it – that it will give God glory and advance the mission of the Order, rooted as it is in the Gospel principles of charity, unity, and fraternity.
Every Supreme Convention entails a lot of hard work and preparation. But this time, we have been setting the stage for the first in-person Convention in the three years. Perhaps the prayers and example of the three saints we celebrate today will help to focus our prayerful preparations for the events that are to follow. The three saints are Martha, Mary, and Lazarus – two sisters and a brother. What do we learn from these saints, these friends of Jesus, in this hour?
Martha and Mary
We begin with Martha who seems to have had the most assertive personality in the family! When Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary, as you recall, Martha took charge of preparing the meal and seeing to all the details of hospitality. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, sat near Jesus soaking in his every word. Martha complained to Jesus, saying, in effect, ‘tell my sister to do her share of the work!’
Jesus appreciated all the hard work Martha was doing, but he declined her request, and pointed to the real hospitality he was looking for – not a freshly prepared meal but rather a loving receptivity to his words of spirit and life. This is how we make Jesus welcome in our midst!
For her part, Mary seems to have been less outgoing than her sister Martha was. All we know of her is that, when Jesus visited her home, she listened intently to him. When Jesus came to their town of Bethany, following the death of Lazarus, John’s Gospel points out that Martha went out to meet him, “while Mary sat at home”, thereby painting for us a portrait of a contemplative spirit. In our Tradition, Martha has symbolized forms of active discipleship – whereas Mary has stood for those who embrace the contemplative life. I would suggest that we need a little of both in our lives, never more than right now. I would further suggest that you Dominicans have figured out how to do this well. For your motto is “veritas” – “truth”, but your tag line is “contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere” – “to contemplate and to hand on to others the fruit of contemplation.” We can engage in evangelization only to the degree that we contemplate the Person of Christ.
In these busy days leading up to our Supreme Convention, we, as Knights, may find ourselves “anxious and upset” about many things. There is a tyranny of details involved in putting on a successful Convention. Pulled in so many directions, we may lose sight of the one necessary thing that will make our Convention a true blessing for the whole Order – namely, welcoming Jesus into our midst; Jesus who comes among us in Word and Sacrament. This does not exonerate us from all that we have to do but suggests that we find time in these days to listen to the voice of the Lord, perhaps to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament Reserved. For the way to welcome Jesus into our Convention is to welcome him into our hearts, so that our words, decisions, and conduct bear witness to the charity, unity, and fraternity that flow from the heart of Christ.
Lazarus and Mission
We know less about Lazarus, except that he was the brother of Martha and Mary, that Jesus raised him from the dead, and that he subsequently dined with Jesus. But that is really quite enough to absorb from his life what Jesus wishes to accomplish in his Church through the Knights of Columbus.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus arrives in Bethany only after Lazarus had died. Martha had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill, but Jesus delayed in coming for four days – and Martha seems to take him to task: “Lord, if you had been here, by brother never would have died.” But Jesus followed another plan, not Martha’s, namely, the redemptive plan of his heavenly Father. For Jesus came into the world to manifest himself as “the Resurrection and the Life” – and one of the ways he did so was by raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus emerged from the tomb bound hand and foot by burial wrappings – as Jesus said to those nearby, “untie him” – “set him free”, words that our Tradition has applied to the Sacrament of Penance wherein we are freed from the binding force of sin and death.
The raising of Lazarus opens our eyes to the power of Jesus over sin and death, and to the mercy with which he frees us from the restraints that sin imposes on us. In the Lord, we find freedom from sin, freedom for holiness, freedom to do his work. And isn’t this at the heart of the mission of the Knights of Columbus – to help husbands and fathers to find that kind of freedom in their own lives – so that they can be better Catholics, better husbands, better fathers. Let us remember how important this was to Blessed Michael McGivney whose first concern was the spiritual well-being of his Knights and their families. In Lazarus, let us meet anew the Christ who frees us from sin and death! We ask his intercession that we, and our brother Knights and families may ourselves be unbound, freed from the bonds of sin and death especially the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist but also in the generosity and love with which we live our vocations, engage in charity, and seek to build up a civilization of love and life.
With our eyes fixed on Christ and with our hearts ready to welcome him, we can be sure that the 140th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus will bear the good and lasting fruit of the Gospel. And may God bless us and keep us in his love! Vivat Jesus!