|Annie Watson, ARCWP, preached homily on "Mary or Martha"|
at first liturgy as a priest at St. Mary of Magdala
“Mary or Martha?”
Annie Watson, Priest, ARCWP
When I read the Mary and Martha story and I ask myself the traditional question, “Am I more of a Martha or a Mary?” my answer is, I really don’t know. It seems like a false dichotomy to me. Why can’t we be both at different times, or a little of both at all times?
The truth is, I’m never going to have enough time in my life to be a true Martha or a true Mary. I never have enough time to do many of the things I want to do, so I will never be everything I want to be.
Like all of you, I have a lot of responsibilities that take up a lot of my time—and I’m not complaining! I may be a priest, but I am also a pastor’s spouse, and trust me, there is no other job on this planet as demanding as being a pastor’s spouse!
I am also a mother and grandmother . . . mother to three children, three step children, all of whom stretch my ability to be a mom in their own unique ways. I am a grandmother or step-grandmother to five beautiful girls. Other than having a potential basketball team of granddaughters, I hope to one day twist their arms into becoming women priests!
One of my children, Megan, is an amazing 19-year old Special Needs girl, which is a 24/7 job. So, no, I will never fill the Mary or Martha shoes very well. I will always be pulled in multiple directions.
And yet, today I am more than certain of my role as a Woman Priest. As long as I am able, I will serve as best I can this wonderful RCWP community, the ARCWP, and even help out at Fr. Dan’s Inclusive Community of Bloomington, pitch in for Fr. Ryan at St. Luke’s here in Indianapolis, and, of course, continue to serve at my husband’s church, St. John UCC.
Sometimes I will be like Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet and pondering the mysteries of the faith. Sometimes I will be like Martha, hosting others who have come for spiritual nourishment. I love to do both.
I particularly love my new joy of writing and delivering homilies, with my husband’s help of course! He’s been doing this for over a quarter of a century, so I would be foolish not to get his help, input, and training! And having Maria meeting with me every week to teach and nurture is beyond valuable.
I guess I should pause and thank each and every one of you who have had a hand in getting me to this point, including Donna, Janice, Rosie, Bishop Bridget Mary, Fr. Dan, Fr. Ryan, Maria, Nancy, Don, Helen, Mary T, Barb, Mary C, Mary W, and Dotty. I thank all of you for your love and support.
Now I want to give back. One of the things I want to focus on is the recruitment of young women into our movement. I don’t care whether they join the ARCWP, the RCWP, the ECC, or even the UCC! I just want to be a resource for women out there who have experienced a call to ministry in their lives.
When I look at this group, and the other groups I serve and am served by, particularly my sisters in the movement for equality and inclusion, I feel blessed and humbled. I stand with each and every one of you in solidarity.
What I have learned in these last three years is this: that in the end only kindness matters, that we proclaim love in everything we do, that we become less selfish, more open, and more present to others, that our work should be like a fine work of art, that prayer is essential, meditation is required, and action is a must.
I will continue to look deep into myself, embracing my soul, realizing that love and the pursuit of peace is exactly what Jesus, our brother, was all about, that we must believe that they exist, come to know them better, nurture them, and most of all share love and peace endlessly.
We really have nothing to lose. We need to live with as much passion as Sophia has called us to live. It’s not how long we live, but how we live that matters. This is a journey, a chance to change history, a chance for women and anyone else who has felt the hand of oppression and exclusion to be embraced and affirmed within the Catholic Church.
When I look at our inclusive communities, I am reminded of the South African notion of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an idea from the Southern African region that is roughly translated as “human kindness.” Literally, it means “human-ness,” and is often translated as “humanity toward others.”
In a philosophical sense, it means “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” In other words, “A person is a person through other people.”
Hilary Clinton wrote a book based on the Ubuntu philosophy: It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. I have discovered that it certainly takes a community—maybe several communities—to raise a priest!
For Nelson Mandela, Ubuntu meant, “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share; in essence I am because you are.” This means to me that I am who I am today because of all of you. Thank you for that gift!
So, am I more of a Martha or a Mary? I don’t know the answer to that question, and yet I do know that I am in solidarity with the Martha and Mary’s of the world. I know that I am called to serve the various communities to which I have been called to serve.
I know that none of us can do this on our own, that we need each other for support and spiritual growth. I also know that our time is precious, so let’s make the most of it, whether we are meditating like Mary or making dinner like Martha. Let’s learn to see all of life’s activities as part of our sacred calling. Amen.