Saint Brigid of Kildare – Readings

Saint Brigid of Kildare – Commentary on Romans 12:3-13; Ps 148; Mark 3:31-35 or Luke 11:27-2There is a choice of two Gospel readings for today's feast. In Mark 3:31-35 we read that the mother of Jesus and his family members had arrived to the place where Jesus was. We had been told a little earlier that they had been looking for him and were saying, "He is out of his mind." Perhaps they were responding to the accusations of the Scribes that Jesus was possessed by an evil spirit – Beelzebul. Standing outside the place where Jesus was, they sent in word to call him. In the place where Jesus was, the crowd seated around Jesus told him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you." But, looking around at those seated together with him, Jesus responded: "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." The key word in this passage is ‘outside'. The family of Jesus were on the ‘outside'. Those ‘inside' are those who are truly with Jesus, those who identify fully with him. In the family of Jesus a new set of relationships is established. It is not based on blood but on being ‘inside' with Jesus and to be with Jesus is to accept entirely his message and to be one with him in his mission to establish the Kingdom on earth. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was, of course, on the inside. She was the one who had said in response to the angel, "See the maidservant of the Lord; let it happen to me according to your word." And this was a pledge she kept right up to that terrible day when she stood by her Son dying an appalling death on the cross. Brigid, too, answered the call of Jesus to enter religious life against the wishes of her father. It was a call to a deeper relationship and to a more committed way of life. The alternative Gospel reading is from Luke 11:27-28. One day, while Jesus was addressing the crowds and obviously with great effect, a woman in the crowd called out: "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!" It would be as if someone today were to say, "God bless the woman that produced a son like you!" To this Jesus replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and follow it." We do, of course, give Mary special honour as the Mother of the Son of God. It makes her unique in the whole world and was an extraordinary privilege. But Jesus is saying that his Mother's real greatness is elsewhere. Her being chosen as the Mother of Jesus was pure gift on God's part. We might say it was passive greatness. Jesus is saying that Mary's real greatness originates in that unconditional ‘Yes' that she gave to the angel, a ‘Yes' that she never once withdrew, so that she stood by the side of her Son to the painful end, even when his chosen disciples had fled to preserve their lives. We might say that same of Brigid. Her greatness was not in her administrative skills, in being abbess of a large monastery of men and women or in the influence she had in the building up of the Irish Church. Rather, it was in her total dedication to the love and service of Christ her Lord such that even in her lifetime she was seen as a saint. The First Reading is from the Letter of Paul to the Romans (12:3-13). Here Paul is emphasising the communal nature of the church. Individuals are not to see themselves on a higher plane than others. And he compares the Christian community to the human body in which there are many different parts, with different functions. But each part has a common role – to work for the wellbeing of the whole and not just in its own interests. And he lists a number of gifts or charisms which can be found in any community: prophecy, ministry, teaching, sharing resources and so on. There is often a strong tendency for Catholics to see themselves in a very individualistic way and to look on the ‘Church' as a provider of what they need to ‘lead a good life' and ‘be in the state of grace' so that they can ‘go to heaven'. But this image that Paul gives in today's reading is really what the Church is meant to be – a community of brothers and sisters all actively contributing to the spiritual and material wellbeing of each other. Would that our parishes would be more like this! The religious life of which Brigid, too, was a part is a living out of this reading and is meant to be a sacramental model for the way the whole Church lives.

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