A commemorative Mass was recently held in the Cathedral to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Eileen O’Connor, who is on track to become Australia’s next saint. Eileen co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor with Fr Edward McGrath in 1913 and the order ministered at New Farm in Brisbane from 1956 to 1990.
At the heart of the bible and therefore at the heart of all biblical religion including Christianity there is the mystery of a liberating obedience. If you want to be free and genuinely free then you must learn the way of obedience which is the way of the open ear.
We see this in the book of Exodus, where the people, once Moses puts the commands of the Lord before them, say with one voice ‘we will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed’; and then later on they say ‘we will observe all that the lord has decreed we will obey.’
The problem is however subsequently they don’t, and nor do we, because you see all of us are like the field and indeed the church as a community is like the field of which the Lord has spoken. The field that contains both weeds and wheat. We say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the one time. We say we will obey but we don’t quite manage the obedience that we pledge. So there is the field of our heart that has both wheat and weeds; there is the field of the church that is no different. The problem is that we won’t shed blood. That’s what obedience, real obedience, radical obedience, requires.
The covenant will always demand the blood; the blood of the covenant, which will eventually be the blood of Christ on the cross. But it is also our blood because we say ‘no’ to the shedding of blood; ‘no’ to the sacrifice and ‘no’ to the cross. Therefore we are those who say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’, ‘we will obey.’ But we don’t quite. We are both wheat and weeds. However in the community of the church down through time, there are certain people who are willing to shed the blood to live the sacrifice, and therefore to live the mystery of the Lord’s cross. There are men and women who find their way into a radical obedience which becomes the radical liberation which is promised to us in the risen Christ. These are those whom we call the saints. It’s not that they’re perfect. None of them is, but they have found their way to that radical obedience into the mystery of the Lord’s Cross, and therefore into the freedom that is Easter. It is certainly true of Eileen O’Connor, that she shed the blood, that she lived the sacrifice and that she entered deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s cross.
Therefore we pray this morning that she, who founded Our Ladies Nurses of the Poor and who entered her own poverty, which is the poverty of Christ, who made her rich in the midst of that poverty. We pray that the time will come when Eileen O’Connor will join Mary MacKillop in the joyful company of all the saints.