The following is the homily given by Father Bob Ray at the Mass of the Resurrection for Sister Martha Buser, OSU, on November 28, 2023.

First of all, Martha told me a couple of years ago, “When I die, tell them I’m happy.” From Martha’s lips to our ears, “She’s happy!” Martha believed the end result of living in Christ, is genuine and lasting happiness. The readings Martha chose for today’s Eucharist contain three pillars which anchored Martha in her spiritual journey toward God’s happiness. In Deuteronomy, God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and holding fast to him; for that means life for you and length of days. (Deut. 30, 18-20)

Last summer, after one of Martha’s falls, she was in the hospital and was very weak. We thought she might die from the concussion. During the night she had a visitation from God in a dream. She was given the choice to live or die. With strength and firm resolve, Martha said, “I choose life!” The next day Martha came to life again.

For Martha, the path to happiness was also grounded in Saint Paul’s words to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet it is no longer I who live,  but Christ, who lives in me” (Galatians 2:19-20). Martha grew in intimacy and union with Christ throughout her 92 years. That intimacy was her lifeblood. It was an intimacy she shared with us through friendship and service. Her passion as a spiritual director, was to support others in living that same intimacy in Christ.

From the Gospel of John, we hear our Martha’s identification with the Martha of scripture. Jesus said to his friend, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha said to him, “Yes, Lord I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one coming into the world” (John 11: 17-27). From that passage, Martha Buser adopted the contemplative stance of her scriptural namesake. “I have come to believe.”  Faith is not static; it is a gift that unfolds and deepens with time and grace.

Martha helped me write this homily. You know that she was alert to where she saw God during each day of ordinary life. She bought Ignatius Loyola’s mantra of “finding God in all things.” Here’s a story to illustrate this. On Thanksgiving Day, South Louisville has a tradition of folks running a 5K race around Iroquois Park Hill. This happens in the morning before the turkey and dressing. After our simple feast at home, I took a walk in the afternoon around that same hill in Iroquois Park. As I was walking, Martha was on my mind. As I was walking, I noticed there were messages of encouragement for the runners, written in chalk on the pavement. One caught my eye: “You’re in the flow.” I said to myself, “That sounds like Martha.”  You’re in the flow…living in Christ is living in grace…a graceful dancer flows across the floor. Martha was in the flow. Martha helped others find the flow. When life became choppy and the Evil One disrupted their flow, she helped them return to the flow. Choose life. Live in Christ. Come to believe. You’re in the flow. Stay in the flow.

Think of the major disruptions to the flow of life, which happened during Martha’s 92 years. World War II, the Korean War, followed by the baby boomer prosperity and the “Leave it to Beaver” fifties. At that time, Martha was Sister Olga, busy establishing her Ursuline life as a teacher. Then the ’60s and ’70s happened and all hell broke loose. In the midst of it all, a sweet old pope was elected whom they thought would only live a few years. He seized the moment of turmoil and decided to open the windows of the Church to let some fresh air in. Vatican Council II happened. Now disruption entered the Church and religious life. WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? WWMD, What Would Martha Do? Martha turned her sights on Angela Merici and Ignatius Loyola, with a little bit of Francis of Assisi, through her friend Bonaventure. Martha seized the days of crisis as an opportunity. She took the deepest insights of Angela and Ignatius: the masculine and the feminine and married them into a ministry of spirituality and spiritual direction which has blessed everyone here present and many beyond these walls.

In brief summary of all this, Martha carved in flesh, in word, and in action, the core spirit of these spiritual mentors. Know that we are sinners, loved by God.

That’s all you need to know. We are sinners, loved unconditionally by God.

In one of its Eucharistic prayers, the Church prays that we might read the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel. Martha and many great women and men chose life, chose to live in Christ, chose to continue coming to believe that God was doing something vital, in the midst of all this turmoil. Martha invited us, and served us in our own prayerful discernment about how to respond to God’s invitation to find new life and redemption in the midst of chaos.

Martha and other saints among us, believed that God would continue to reveal his deepest desires for us and for our Church and for our world. Martha especially showed us how women and men can be equals and complementary companions in ministry. We will find the abundance of God’s life, not through competition and division, but through respect and dignity and mutual love as brothers and sisters in the same company.

Martha said, “I strive for adequacy, not perfection.” And on her coffee cup it is written, “Whatever, I’m still fabulous.”  May her spirit and God’s spirit sustain us in adequacy, and in knowing that all persons are always fabulous in God’s eyes.

God’s peace,

Fr. Bob Ray