Monday, 08 August 2022 12:51

Homily for the Feast of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Fr Jude Agorchukwu CSSp Assistant Priest from St John the Evangelist Church, East Frankston with Rev Kevin Pattison, Parish Deacon, St John the Evangelist Church, East Frankston Today is the feast of our first Australian saint, St Mary of the Cross, or Mary MacKillop, daughter of Scottish highlanders, Flora MacDonald and Alexander MacKillop.  Born 15 January 1842 Fitzroy, died 8 August 1909, North Sydney.  She was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI.  180 years since her birth.

Melbourne in 1842 was only 7 years old.  A village founded in 1835 in the Port Phillip district of the Colony of New South Wales.  Made roads – few, Sewerage - primitive, safe water supply - early days, education - no system until 1850, hospitals - nil.  There was only one priest, Rev Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan OFM, who laid the foundations of St Francis’ Church in 1841, the first church.  Mary was baptised there.  There was some religious tension in the settlement with an assassination attempt on Fr Geoghegan’s life.  It is to this settlement that her Scottish parents migrated. 

She received her schooling in faith and education from her parents.  As her father had alcohol problems, money worries were part of Mary’s life and the ‘boom and bust’ gold days saw the MacKillop’s suffer continual financial instability.  From her teens to mid-twenties Mary supported her family, working in a stationery business and then as a school teacher and governess for one of her sister’s family on a property near Penola, South Australia.  So Mary’s priorities of faith, the value of an education as the foundation for a fulfilling life, and the need to serve the poor, those on the fringes, were formed in those years. 

Her first priority was to serve the poor, so in Penola SA, she opened a Catholic school in 1866 (she was 24).  This first school set the pattern for many to come – it was for the children of the working class, providing a basic but thorough education, aiming to make children independent, employable and well-grounded.  From there grew a religious congregation of sisters, the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, dedicated to meeting the material and spiritual needs of struggling people.

Her personal motto was ‘never see a need without doing something about it’.

Today’s Gospel is appropriate for the message of her life.

Our faith requires us to make a choice –a choice between the vision of life that Jesus offers or a preoccupation with money and possessions.  They are not compatible.  They involve conflicting goals and different visions of what is most important in life.  Our society’s vision sees success as the accumulation of capital.  We are driven to accumulate.

Clearly some material things – like food and clothing and shelter – are necessary to daily living.  St Paul in his epistles makes it clear that we all need to work to provide for ourselves.

We need to:

  • Pay mortgages
  • Build sufficient superannuation or funds so that we don’t live our retirement years in poverty.
  • Try to help our children financially so that they can be independent.

To be concerned because I have no money to pay my rent with the landlord knocking at the door is very different from wondering whether I will ever be rich.  It is a matter of perspective and balance.  This balance was the focus of St Mary MacKillop’s vision – to give the poor the chance to have the basics, because such basics are liberating.  Having the basics gives us the freedom to have things and to use things in so far as they are needed to love and serve God and others for His sake.  She didn’t focus on possessions.  It was a characteristic of her sisters that they did not own their schools, they were parish schools, freeing her sisters to focus on service.

marymackillop 350Jesus urges us to get things in perspective.  To liberate ourselves from worry and anxiety.  We are invited to look at the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. They do nothing except be themselves and God takes care of them.  We are often so busy regretting the past or worrying about the future that we never get to enjoy life.  

This perspective Mary achieved.  She was in love with life.  She could find God in all things and served him in every activity and event.  In practice, finding God in all things gives us the opportunity to consider our lives here and now as the precise place where we can already experience the fullness of God’s love.  “You have everything you need right now to be happy”.  Enjoyment and happiness are only in the present, the present moment.  Nowhere else!

Jesus calls us to live in the present moment.  St Mary of the Cross MacKillop did this.  Living in the present moment empowered her to live her motto, ‘never see a need without doing something about it’

Rev Kevin J Pattison
Parish Deacon, St John the Evangelist Parish, Frankston East