Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on August 8, 2013

christ-ii.jpg!BlogGospel reading of the day:

Matthew 16:13-23

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Two years into his ministry, Jesus asks his disciples who people think he is. Jesus has been showing himself in different situations, revealing new evidence at different turns, and at a point when there is enough information to invite an assessment, he asks his disciples, “So does anyone get it?” Clearly, based on the disciples’ answers, Jesus has caught people’s attention, because the disciples are able to say, “Yes, people are talking about you, and there are various theories out there about who you are.” All the prevalent theories the disciples recite suggest the people perceived a relationship between who Jesus was and the coming of the messiah, but Jesus didn’t fit the popular conception of who the messiah was to be, so the people weren’t hitting the bulls-eye in their speculation. After Jesus has listened to what people are saying, he says, “But what about you? Do you get it?” And Peter answers him, saying, “Yes, I understand.” And because he understands, Jesus calls him a rock and a foundation. When we move from situation to situation in our lives, we are always defining ourselves anew, making choices about how we see ourselves and wish to present ourselves in the current circumstance. But we act from a core set of assumptions. Peter is a rock, because his assumption is that Jesus is the messiah. It is firm ground to stand on. If this fact is woven into the core of our identities, we have a solid basis from which to act and make choices as we interact with the people and events that surround us.

Saint of the day: The first Australian to be canonized, Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842. Her parents, Flora and Alexander MacKillop, were Catholic immigrants from Scotland. Mary, the eldest of eight children, was raised in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. At 16, Mary went out to work, to support her younger brothers and sisters.

036761-mary-mackillopTwo years later she took a job as a governess on her uncle’s farm in the small country town of Penola in South Australia. Here Mary met the man who would change her life forever, Father Julian Tenison Woods. Father Woods, a charming and eccentric priest, shared Mary’s dream of educating the poor. He became her mentor and spiritual guide. Together, Mary and Father Woods opened the first free Catholic school in Penola in 1866, at first in a converted stable and later in this more substantial stone building.

A year later the pair formed a new religious order of nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph, devoted to teaching the poor. Mary took her vows, becoming the order’s first sister and its leader. She was just 25 years old. Within four years of Mary becoming a sister there were 130 Sisters of Saint Joseph. The Sisters of Saint Joseph was the first Catholic order founded by an Australian. They vowed to live in poverty, own no property and were committed to equality. These were central to the order’s rule.

As well as schools, Mary MacKillop and the sisters founded hospitals and orphanages, as well as providing shelters for the homeless, former prostitutes and unmarried mothers. And they raised all of the money themselves–mostly by begging. Other religious orders were controlled by their local bishops but the Sisters of St. Joseph insisted on governing themselves, something that caused considerable friction with church authorities. This conflict, along with allegations of sexual abuse the sisters raised against a priest at Kapunda, north of Adelaide, led Adelaide Bishop Laurence Sheil to excommunicate Mary MacKillop for alleged insubordination in 1871.

Mary_MacKillopFive months later Bishop Sheil was gravely ill and dying; from his deathbed he instructed that Mary be absolved and restored to her order. After returning to the church, Mary MacKillop and the sisters continued their work. In 1873, Mary traveled to Rome for a personal audience with Pope Pius IX and obtained papal approval for the sisterhood. She also sought sign-off on their Rule of Life, as set down by Father Woods. However, that document was discarded and another was drawn up. That caused a divide between Sister Mary and Father Woods, and their relationship never recovered. Mary and the sisters continued to come into conflict with a number of bishops, including in Bathurst and Brisbane, over the issue of their central control.

Mary was also accused of being an alcoholic–she drank brandy to relieve severe menstrual pain–and those claims drove her from Adelaide to Sydney, where she lived for the last 25 years of her life. Mary suffered a stroke in 1902 and was an invalid until her death on August 8, 1909. The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Moran, visited Mary just before she died to give her the last rites of the church. As he was leaving he told two of the sisters that he felt as if he had been administering at the death bed of a saint. Mary was buried in Sydney’s historic Gore Hill Cemetery. She was canonized in 2010.

Spiritual reading: Pray to be ever ready for God’s will even when it takes you by surprise. (Mary MacKillop)

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