MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS
1 Kings, Chapter 17, Verse 13
Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Afterwards you can prepare something for yourself and your son.
Anyone can be for the Lord during the good times; but can you still have a heart of faith and love during the worst of times. Here Elijah asked the widow of Zarephath to not be afraid and make a cake for him from the last of her food during the worst famine in her lifetime. What she did was just that and by her faith Elijah was able to multipl the oil and flour and later even raises her son back to life. The lesson here is sin brings suffering fidelity brings nourishment. The power of Yahweh to take away life and to restore it is here demonstrated, as is Elijah’s confidence in the Lord.
The Widow’s Generosity
The widow of Zarephath was challenged by the prophet Elijah to share what little she had, in spite of her desperate circumstances. Because of this poor woman’s generosity and goodness, and Elijah’s faithfulness, God strengthened the prophet’s faith and renewed his capacity for ministry. The Lord used the prophet to bring consolation and peace of mind and heart to the widow and her son. Authentic ministry is always mutual: we set out to help others and we end up being helped and blessed by the very people we set out to help! The Lord will provide for us, beyond outward appearances of weakness, failure, fatigue, trepidation and fear. God always does far more than we can ever ask for or imagine! This striking Old Testament story forces us to ask some serious questions of our own lives.
· How have I responded to the needs of those around us when we've felt that we’ve got little or nothing to give? Do we worry that there will not be enough for us if we give away our money or our time? Elijah exhorted the widow with the words, "Do not be afraid." This same admonition is repeated in the Gospels and was also the refrain of St. John Paul II's long, fruitful, prophetic Petrine ministry: "Be not afraid!"
· How does fear affect our lives and keep us from obeying the spirit of the Lord? Do we cling to those things that cannot help us, forgetting to trust in the goodness of God? The widow of Zarephath was generous with Elijah. She gave to the limit of her resources, and God rewarded both the widow and her son.
· Do we have that same radical faith and trust? Do we behave as if we are owners of our talents and resources or simply as if we are God's steward? This reading causes us to make some firm resolves with our own lives. Let me suggest a few concrete actions based on this story from the First Book of Kings. It is important to consider our own willingness to be generous with both material goods and with our very being. Perhaps this week we can ask God for the grace to respond charitably to those who ask of us, whether it is a worthwhile charity or the neighbor, friend or colleague who simply needs to talk and to be heard. The well-to-do who put money in the treasury were never condemned by Jesus; he simply pointed out the nature of their contribution. They gave from their surplus, and thus it did not "cost" them as much to give.
· Do we have a surplus from which to contribute? If so, do we use this money in the best way possible? How do we consider our charitable giving? Are we concerned with the poor, the sick, the homeless, refugees and those on the peripheries of society? Do we use our wealth to help create a culture of life? Or are we more interested in building up our personal security? Perhaps we can pray this week for wisdom and a spirit of generosity so that we will use our money to help further the kingdom of God.
Australia and Our Lady Help of Christians
Events had happened in Europe only several years earlier, and this no doubt was still fresh in people's minds. Napoleon Bonaparte had jailed Pope Pius VI who died in goal, after which Pope Pius VII was elected. Just a short time later, he too was jailed by Napoleon, who kept him prisoner at Fontainbleau, 35 miles from Paris. The Holy Father vowed to God that, if he were restored he would institute a special feast in honour of Mary. Military reverses forced Napoleon to release the Pope, and on May 24th, 1814, Pius VII returned in triumph to Rome. Twelve months later, the Pope decreed that the feast of Mary Help of Christians, be kept on the 24th of May.
Australia became the first nation in the world to have, Mary, Help of Christians as Patroness: the first church to celebrate May 24th on a national scale (elsewhere the feast was restricted to Rome and specified places); and the first country to have a mother-cathedral under the same title.
Mary Help of Christian’s patroness of Australia and of the Military Ordinariate (Feast: 24th May)
Almighty God deepen in our hearts our love of Mary Help of Christians. Through her prayers and under her protection, may the light of Christ shine over our land. May Australia be granted harmony, justice and peace. Grant wisdom to our leaders and integrity to our citizens. Bless especially the men and women of the Australian Defense Force and their families. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us.
Things to Do:
· Make a virtual visit to the chapel of Our Lady, Help of Christians at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
· Read more about Our Lady, Help of Christians.
· Travel via the Internet to the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians built by St. John Bosco as a monument to the Virgin Mary, with the title Help of Christians, as the mother church and spiritual center of the Salesian Congregation.
· Manhood of Christ Day1, Twelfth Week.
The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 1986.