Talking about Mary

Mark Gilbert

You would have to be living on another planet not to notice the avalanche of publicity about Mary MacKillop at the moment.

This week we heard about Kathleen Evans and her miraculous cure from cancer.

What a wonderful story! A little Aussie battler, facing a death sentence, prayed for by family, friends and a church community - now cured, able to enjoy her daughter's wedding and the prospect of grandchildren to come!

Only the most cynical of people would not want to praise God for such a wonderful cure.

At the very least it causes people to consider the possibility of a power greater than themselves and admit that as humans we don't have an answer for everything.

The story of Kathleen Evans gives us a great opportunity for conversation starters about God and what He is like over the water cooler.

Shouldn't we raise concerns?

But what about Mary MacKillop's role in all this? How can we respond?

There are some obvious concerns the publicity about Mary raises. There is much more talk about Mary than Jesus and God, and people are being encouraged to pray to Mary or pray with Mary who has been dead for over 100 years.

Is there any reason to believe dead believers can or would listen to tens of thousands of people talking to them, and if they can are they able to do anything about it?

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16 suggests that dead believers are unable to help those in Hell, nor are they permitted to warn the living, because there can be no greater warning than the resurrection of Jesus.

The pattern of prayer in the Bible is to pray only to the Father, thru Jesus with the Holy Spirit. The addition of another go-between makes God more distant. The attributing to humans the powers only God has elevates humans beyond their God given capacity and robs God of his glory.

Try a different tack

However, when talking with people from a Catholic background, rather than raising these concerns straight away, it would be better to take another approach.

Generally speaking, experiences in this world are a big part of the way most Catholics understand and relate to God. The sacraments are all physical experiences of God. As physical beings we want to be close to God physically - to touch him, to have some close contact with Him. That is why the relics of Saints are so popular - people want to touch something that is close to God here now.

If I could run down the street and give Jesus a hug today - nothing would stop me! But Jesus told his disciples that, while they would have to wait to be with him physically again, he was sending someone who would bring God even closer than a hug - his own Spirit. His Spirit keeps us trusting and obeying Him, His Spirit keeps changing us to be more like Him, His Spirit keeps us going till we see Him face to face.

Because God's Spirit lives in the hearts of all believers in this world now, we have an even greater experience to share, we have an even greater miracle to proclaim. God's work in our lives!

Miracles for today

I think we can use all this talk of miracles to talk about the amazing things God has done and is doing in our own lives and in the lives of the believers around us, not through some Saint, but directly, through His Spirit.

The experience of changing a selfish person into someone who lives their whole life for Jesus, the experience of changing someone who was unsure where they stood with God to someone who knows where they will be spending eternity, the experience of changing someone who despised Christians to someone who loves church, the experience of someone who once lived for money but now is content to give most of it away.

For those Catholic people who are highly tuned to listen to experiences this may prompt them to find out more about the amazing experiences happening all around them all the time, or at least start to question their own experience.

As a starter you could say, "You know I think miracles happen every day ."