Gospel reading for this week’s reflection:
Commentary on God’s Call
Not many people think of their lives as being easy, and you’d be hard pressed to say that Mary MacKillop had it easy, yet compared with Mary of Nazareth our lives really are very easy. Their easy because we have someone to follow, we have a guide in life someone to turn to in times of need, someone to carry us when life gets us down, but Mary had no one.
Mary was asked to birth a new world order, she was asked to risk her relationship with Joseph, to risk becoming an outcast of society, to give up what little she had and all of this she did with only her faith in God to see her through. In accepting the call of God she became Shepherd to the World, she showed us how to live a life of a faith filled service and gave us the greatest Christmas present imaginable: our Lord.
Imagine what it must have been like for her, she had no guide to follow, no Gospel to turn to, no Saint to look to for an answer, she was asked to be the first light of the new dawn. She bore to life a radical way of living, a way so radical that even today people try to dull it down, try to shift focus from the Gospels to human institutions, from the spiritual to the festive. But Mary is our way back to what Christmas is about, to what our faith is about because it is with her that it started, she shows us what living for the common good truly entails and her example calls us to turn from individualism to societal concerns.
Mary MacKillop like the Mary before her had a new and difficult path to forge in Australia; she, like Mary, said ‘yes’ to God. She said yes to actively thinking and engaging with her environment, to seeing the problems of society around her and working at way of healing those problems, not stop-gap measures or meaningless aid. Her efforts to educate carry through to our generation when we see the children of her schools educated, productive members of society who give back through their lives what they received through the instruction of Mary’s sisters.
Mary said ‘yes’ to starting a new style of religious life, one that matched the dreams of the new nation, one not contained by location but spread out as far as the people settled. She faced so many challenges in her life: she was excommunicated for her unwillingness to yield the call of God in favour of the call of a Bishop. But at each turn she found not loneliness and despair but the love of God, the same love that inspired Mary of Nazareth to heed her call and throw caution to the wind. When denied a bed for the night in a local convent Mary MacKillop was offered shelter at a local hotel, hardly a place for a model nun but the perfect place for a disciple of Jesus. Denied the presence of her Lord by Bishop Sheil; the Jesuits gave Mary MacKillop Mass and to this day honour her place among them and continue to show her and her followers the light and love of God.
Mary MacKillop’s life, like Mary of Nazareth before her show us that while a life of service is marked with pitfalls and exclusion it is filled by the love of God and brings so much love to those brave enough to share in it.
Questions to Ponder
Picture yourself in the reading, where are you? Inside the room, speaking with Gabriel, beside Mary or watching from afar? What does your place in the story say about you?
What do you think of Mary’s acceptance of God’s call? What does her acceptance say about Mary MacKillop’s following of God?
How does the story speak to you about your own following of God in life?
Shepherd to the World
“Let it happen to me as you have said.”
With these words the world was born
Her strength of courage larger than the ‘verse itself
She had no guide to follow; no shepherd to tend her.
Alone, terrified, disturbed by what faced her
She did not baulk from her God
She did not shirk her duty
Mary stepped up to the challenge of birthing the new world order.
Jesus was not there to lead her
There were no disciples spreading the Good News
Mary had no Cup to drink from, no water to walk over
Alone, terrified, disturbed, she faced her faith.
She had no guide to follow; in acceptance she became Shepherd
Dawning the way forward to new life with courage unmatched by any disciple
Through the simplest of words she gave new life to us all:
“Let it happen to me as you have said.”
Image: “Mary MacKillop” by Sr Mary Brady OP+