The Feast of Mary MacKillop

The feast of Mary MacKillop is of special significance this year as Mary will be canonised in Rome on Sunday 17th October. Because Mary MacKillop was declared patron of the Archdiocese of Brisbane last year, her feast day today is celebrated as a solemnity throughout the Archdiocese in place of the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The first reading for the Mass of Mary MacKillop is Judith 8:11-17, 28-31. Passages from Judith are never read at Sunday Mass. It is one of the books of scripture whose status was uncertain in the early Christian Church because they were contained in the Greek but not in the Hebrew version of the Old Testament. They are recognised by the Roman Catholic, Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches as ‘apocryphal’ or ‘deuterocanonical’ books and included in a separate section of the bible.

In this passage, Judith reprimands the leaders of Bethulia for ‘putting God to the test’. She argues that faith means waiting for deliverance, not coercing God. Unusually for a woman in ancient Israel, Judith criticises the theology of the male leaders of her community. No wonder this reading was considered appropriate for the feast of Mary MacKillop!

The words spoken by Uzziah in response to Judith can also be applied to our new saint: “Everything you have just said comes from an honest heart and no one will contradict a word of it. Not that today is the first time your wisdom has been displayed, from your earliest years all the people have known how shrewd you are and of how sound a heart.”

Mary demonstrated an abiding trust in God's providence, so the choice of Psalm 31 for the feast is particularly apt:

Be a rock of refuge for me,
a mighty stronghold to save me,
for you are my rock, my stronghold.
For your name’s sake, lead me and guide me.

Release me from the snares they have hidden
for you are my refuge, Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
It is you who will redeem me, Lord.

In today’s second reading, Colossians 3:12-17, Paul describes the proper response of the Christian community to God’s love for and forgiveness of them:
“As the chosen of God, the holy people whom he loves, you are to be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another;
forgive each other if one of you has a complaint against another.”

Mary MacKillop modelled this behaviour throughout the trials and tribulations of her life, and certainly followed the precepts set down in today’s gospel reading from Matthew:
“Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

At Mass this weekend, and perhaps daily leading to up Mary’s canonisation, we pray:
“Holy God, source of all goodness, you show us in Mary MacKillop a woman of faith who lived by the power of the cross. Teach us to embrace what she pioneered: new ways of living the gospel that respect and defend the human dignity of all in our land.” (Opening Prayer Feast of Mary MacKillop)

Elizabeth Harrington