Christmas Day 2016

“Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census.” One result was that Joseph packed his gear and took the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. A word from the then most powerful ruler in the becoming land we call Europe, interfered with the ancient powers of Syria Egypt and Persia and the Word became flesh in the town/city foretold by the Prophets….Bethlehem.

I read recently “human symbols are adequate vessels of the Good News about God.”

Our age often has trouble with the foibles of the human race. From race riots to wilful vandalism to shooting down passenger jets to rioting against a non-Muslim governor in Indonesia, to more evil acts of blatant murder and terrorism, let alone the alleged plans for parts of Melbourne for this Christmas Day.

Christmas Day in our culture still embodies aspects of being a sign of God’s plans for his beloved human race. We sing, and more in tune, to the carols. We exchange gifts. We greet people and we do share with those who are doing it hard. Sure, we could do better, and not only today. Not everyone rejoiced on what we call that first Christmas morning (or was it night)? That is not how our wise God seems to work.

Caesar Augustus had no idea of the ultimate effect of his word (maybe he only wished to increase his tax base). God, on the other hand, was sending a Word for all people of good will!

Oh, the Mysterious ways of the living God!

Ask that this Christmas we all may take another step in coming to meet Jesus, the Living Word of the Loving Father.

A happy and holy Christmas to all.

 

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Advent. Year A

Good News!

I saw a picture this week of a Mass being celebrated in the damaged remains of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, two days after it was recaptured from Islamic State forces in the City of Qaraqosh. The Archbishop of Mosul joined the local Archbishop, Petros, to celebrate this new beginning. One Archbishop exiled from his Cathedral, the other returning to his semi wrecked building. Destruction and hatred against the Good News.

Paul reminds us today that the Good News is “about the Son of God, is about Jesus Christ” who came into this world as “the Word made Flesh” with no army, no bodyguard, no political ambitions, just Himself with ultimately a message of love.

Love God. Love your neighbour.

Joseph did not know what to do and down the ages there have been many Josephs who have experienced the same dilemma. Good News seems to provoke reactions…some a slight slap on the wrist and a knowing “tut tut”. Others have been in the realm of the Master’s Cross and we all share in that experience.

Today let us remember that Mary trusted in the Angel’s message and, together with Joseph, they placed their faith in their different experiences and together were able to acknowledge the gift of love that they, and the loving Father, were bringing into the world.

Despite the opposition, let us be prepared to be messengers of joy and proclaimers of Good News.

 

Mons Frank

Third Sunday of Advent. Year A

“On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

Announces that the Lord is nigh;

Come then and hearken, for he brings

Glad tidings from the King of Kings.”

 

Some celebrants may even join in today with the theme of joy, after all, we call this Sunday Gaudete or Rejoice, by wearing rose coloured vestments (finding a suitable rose colour to match the celebrant is a worthy task, if not impossible).

The joy comes in shorthand, because the Messiah brings Good News. To John’ s probing question

“are you the one who is to come or are we to await another? ” Matthew has Jesus answering by first appealing to the traditional writings (see references in today’s reading from Isaiah, and rejecting the growing anticipation that the Messiah would be a famed general and defeat all their enemies!)

Good News was as needed in 30AD as much as now. Too many today still wish for a general in or out of uniform. What is needed now, as then, is “by their fruits you will know them”…

The move is on in Victoria to have a compassionate state sanctioned (and of course with many watertight safe guards) end of life assisted suicide law. I ponder the motives of those who bring forth this proposal in the days leading up to the celebration of the Gift of he who in our tradition is

“the way, the truth and the life”.

 

Our claim to be followers of Jesus stands or falls on whether we are Christ like in our conduct. Each age has to help the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk to bring life. And in doing so to proclaim Good News.

 

Stretch forth thine hand, to heal our sore,

And make us rise to fall no more;

Once more upon thy people shine,

And fill the world with Love Divine.

 

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Advent. Year A

 

The concept of repentance occurs in most faiths and pops up at different times, even in civil society!  The latter does not always use the term ‘repentance’ but many are calling for our Parliament and its members to amend their ways and to make their paths straight. Similar calls emerged from Archbishop Coleridge this week to the Leaders of our church following the Bishops Conference in Sydney.

Repentance comes up in Matthew’s account of John the Baptist’s explosive entry into the public life of Palestine. Calling the leaders (scribes and Pharisees) a “brood of Vipers” does lay something on the line. He refuses to baptise them, for he judges they are not willing to repent, at least on John’s terms.

Matthew tell us that John’s call for repentance is to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and he does so in the Biblical sense. This means that for him, and us, repentance involves a willingness to turn one’s life around in the sense of a complete reorientation. For some, like St Paul, that turn around was almost instantaneous. For others, it is a lifetime’s work. For us, we commit to try again this Advent “for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven”.

Tensions arise in Advent. As I write, it is a glorious early summer day in Bendigo. The air is warm, the sky a brilliant blue, just a little breeze and the roses are magnificent. Yet we are called to eagerly await the coming (in glory) of Jesus. Maybe we need to remember that He has come in the flesh and our immediate need is to make a little more room in our lives to appreciate His presence.

 

Mons Frank