Memorial: the mystery of Mary of Bethany
EP Books, 120 pages, £6.99
Star rating: 4
Mary of Bethany, sister to Martha and Lazarus, was one of only four people personally commended by the Lord. In her case, it was for her actions and the understanding and faith behind them.
The book gives a helpful identification of the three Marys in the Gospels and an explanation of why the sinful woman of Luke 7 is not one of these three. The life of Mary of Bethany is then explored, and particularly her insights, which were greater than the disciples’, and the reason for her personal accolade from the Lord.
She was commended because she had ‘done a good work’ (Mark 14:6) in preparing Jesus for burial and chose ‘that good part, which cannot be taken from her’ (Luke 10:42).
The author highlights the contrast of Mary’s peace with Martha’s turmoil. Also noted are her listening ear, wise life-choices, spiritual insight, lack of personal ambition and her humility.
We also see her understanding that, when life gets hard, the issue is not so much what the Lord can do for us (or we for him), but rather who God is.
We are challenged to think about the good works we do and question the idea that what we do for Christ is as important as what he has done for us. When we become ‘weary in well-doing’, wishing others would play their part, we are reminded of the gentleness with which the Lord said ‘Martha, Martha…’ (Luke 10:41).
We are invited to think about the pull of materialistic worldliness and the things which influence our choices. Jesus said that good works come from the Father (John 10:32) and are for the glory of God (Matthew 5:16).
Women reading this book are asked to reflect on Mary’s quiet grace, lack of self-focus, calm spirit and choice to remain silent when criticised. We are encouraged to pursue a ‘Mary faith’ by dedicating ourselves to knowing God. This is a book to read more than once.