Franciscans Celebrate the Feast of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus


(Christian Media Center)

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.”
(Sirach 6:14)

This statement from Sacred Scripture makes us understand the value of friendship. Jesus Himself had friends, too ….

This is what a group of Franciscans recently rediscovered in Bethany – a small village located three kilometers from Jerusalem.

Father Michel Sarquah, ofm, who is in charge of Sanctuary of Bethany, stated: “Jesus often used to come to Bethany to visit the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. As a man, he needed friends, he needed to go to see them, he desired to talk and spend time with them.”

And who were Jesus’ friends?

Father Diego Dalla Gassa, ofm, who is responsible for the Gethsemane Hermitage, said, “His friends were people who were attracted to him. They seemed welcoming, they loved the Master. That is why, in the Gospel of John, it is said that Jesus loved Martha, that He loved Mary, that He loved Lazarus. He found people who were ready, willing and able, like ‘adult children’, always available to welcome the Master.”

Father Marcelo Cichinelli, guardian of the St. Savior’s Monastery, celebrated a mass on the day in which the Church celebrated the feast of the saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

During the homily, the head of the church, Father Michael Sarquah, spoke of friendship. He said friendship was a very precious gift and that Christ, as a true friend, took risks for Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary. He restored His friend’s life to help them envision the resurrection that He and His disciples would (eventually) experience.”

However… What was Bethany in the time of Jesus?

“This is a mystery,” says Father Dalla Gassa. “To actually know how to answer this question, we should go back in time … However, what do we understand and conclude? That Jesus needs to be welcomed. In Bethany, He was welcomed. He still asks to be welcomed. Let us also be small ‘Bethanies’.”

After Mass, everyone went in procession to the place where Jesus resurrected Lazarus. After a brief moment of prayer, all those present were able to enter the place and make their own requests to God.

Subsequently, following an ancient tradition, friars and pilgrims headed to the Mount of Olives.

First, they prayed in the Chapel of the Ascension, where, according to Tradition, Jesus ascended to Heaven. Finally, they headed to the Church of the ‘Pater Noster’, where Christ Himself taught the disciples the ‘Our Father’ prayer.

Father Dalla Gassa shared, “We friars love to visit the places where Jesus had meetings, where Jesus prayed, where Jesus gave teachings. It is known from the Gospel that, after Jesus’ departure from Bethany, He came to this Mount where He not only met people, friends and disciples, but also taught them the prayer of ‘Our Father’. For this reason, we need to come here and literally touch the places where Jesus taught, where Jesus had gatherings, and especially where Jesus made possible for us to meet God, the Father.