Sunday, 21 October 2007

Martha and Mary: The MacKillop Story

Bible readings for this week’s reflection:
Psalm 27: “In God’s company there is no fear.”
Luke 10:38-42: “Martha and Mary.”

Commentary on Mary’s early years:
Have you had the opportunity to read about Mary MacKillop’s early years yet? If you have not then I highly recommend "The Black Dress" by Pamela Freeman, a fictionalised narrative from Mary’s childhood through to just before she started religious life. It weaves the reader in and out of Mary’s struggles and the way in which she is torn between her duty to her family and her calling from God.

Mary, for various reasons, became the main provider for her family, a duty that tied her to her family’s debts and struggles and prevented her from running away with Jesus.

Eventually she was able to find a way to help her family and answer God’s call. Julian Tenison Woods, among other things, suggested a living arrangement for her family that provided Mary with an avenue to take up her calling.

Whenever I reflect on the story of Mary’s early years my mind wanders upon the story of Mary and Martha from the Gospel of Luke 10:38-42.

Sisters, Mary and Martha welcome Jesus into their home when he comes to their village. Martha the more practical of the two goes about preparing a meal for Jesus and making their home comfortable for him, while Mary sits by his side and listens to him speak. In what must seem like an attempt by her sister to get out of doing any work Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to come and help her. No doubt she felt sure he would not let someone get out of their fair share of the work.

But to her surprise Jesus says that it is Mary and not Martha who has chosen the better duty to fulfil.

This isn’t a put down of Martha; rather it is an assertion that women as well as men can be thinkers and disciples and that pursuing the spiritual path is not ‘getting out of’ work but has great value of its own.

I always imagine Mary MacKillop being pulled by her commitment to her family, to being Martha in her family and in the community; while simultaneously being drawn in another direction entirely, to being herself, to being the Mary by Jesus’ side.

In life we all face decisions, big and small, that impact not just on ourselves but on those around us, in Mary MacKillop we have a guide to living whole, to staying true to our commitments and ourselves.

Mary became a religious sister but she never stopped being her mother’s daughter, we know from her letters how often she communicated with her mother and how honest and forthright those communications were. Through her we see that no matter what direction in life we take it is never an end to who we are; only a continuation of what was started at Baptism.

Questions to Ponder:
Picture yourself in the story of Martha and Mary: where are you?

Are you preparing the food, sitting by Jesus’ side or watching from a distance?

What does your place in the story say about you?

Where is Jesus in your life? Are you comfortable with this?

What do you think of Mary MacKillop’s struggle between the Martha and Mary parts of herself?

What does this say to you, where you are, in your life today?

Reflection: The Wise Women of our World.

Marys, the wise women of faith
They mark out the path to God
They show us how to make our lives a living prayer.

Mary answered the call of God
She overcame her fears
She gave birth to the new world.

Mary chose the better part of life
She sat by Jesus’ side
She taught us how to live.

Mary walked in the footsteps of humanity
She was excommunicated into the love of Jesus
She gave us a model of living whole.

Marys, the wise women of the world
They responded to God and taught us how to do the same
They are our compass on the path to Jesus.

Image: Mary's Divine Providence by Maree Azzopardi*