Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 22 October 2017.

Archaeology reveals that the coins in Roman times always belonged to the Emperor. I am not sure if that situation was invented by the Romans, but Governments since have adopted that attitude. Maybe some consider it a mere technicality, but give back what is already Caesar’s neatly blunts the argument and enables Jesus to raise the bar and to introduce the higher priority of giving back to God…some say “neat”, others caution “he has deepened the hatred towards himself.” Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

We, in Victoria, more so than in other states, have two major questions facing us as community…the End of Life Bill in the Victorian Parliament and the Plebiscite Vote on Same Sex Marriage. We consider these weighty matters knowing that the Kingdom of God is among us and we are charged with furthering the work of the Kingdom. This necessarily means that differences of attitudes will be present and, thus, we are urged to put the Good News before the community. As Paul suggests, we need to show our “faith in action”, that we work “for love and persevere in hope”.

Serving God through civil society is, and always has been, a challenge. Some generations have managed the task better than others. Perhaps today’s events are really a massive wake up call to all committed followers of the Lord. Get involved in your community. Become paid up members of various associations. Have a voice. Be respectful but firm and,  as Paul said elsewhere, have an answer for all who question.

It is our duty to pay as much and indeed much more attention to ‘God’s things’ as to ‘Caesar’s things’.

Mons Frank

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Year A. 15 October 2017

Come to the banquet!

The papers this week reported on an international survey of 23 countries and 17,000 people. On average, 740 people in all countries were polled. On that basis, 740 of the Australian population were respondents. The general conclusion was that “Australians are tolerant of, if negative on, religion.” Faith and faiths are receiving bad press at the moment, ours included, yet our works, hospitals, aged care, schools, Vinnies etc. are busier than ever. The banquet parable arrives at a most appropriate time.

This parable of the wedding feast is an outline of the desire of God for all people. It is obviously written from a Christian perspective, one honed by Matthew’s experience in his work post-resurrection. We often call this teaching “a reflection on the gift of salvation”, something a little unexpected, and perhaps offering another understanding of the God of love and mercy. Given the culture in which it was first delivered and the experience of Matthew and his community, it offers another side of the frequently described “God of punishment” of parts of the Old Testament.

The banquet image of the Kingdom of God or of heaven, is not exclusively New Testament. Witness the first reading today.  Matthew is reminding the Chief Priests and elders that God issues the invitation, not them, and he suggests if they had listened, Jerusalem may not have been destroyed in 70 AD.

In view of the seeming breakdown of social cohesion and the moves to dethrone God and faith from our public discussion, it might be time for us to remind the world that God loves all; tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes, as described in Jesus’ day, and we, in our day, need to review how we relate to the recently released prisoner, the young grappling with addiction issues, those battling with gender issues, and the challenges associated with mixed race marriages, to name a few.

All are called.

But, and a big but,

an appropriate response is necessary.

Find the appropriate jumper!

Mons Frank

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 8 October 2017

We work through Matthew Chapters 21 to 23, mindful of the growing hostility to Jesus and of the author’s intent to cheer his local community who were suffering because of their commitment to the following of Jesus.

One is inclined to agree with the scholars who suggests these words are to place the life, suffering and death of Jesus in line with the mistreatment of God’s messengers throughout the centuries!

Some events of the week are just too horrendous! But added to the mass killings and injuries of the days, arrives a little booklet “Catholic Missionaries in New Guinea in World War 2”. It reminded me that of nearly 500 Nuns, Brothers, Priests and Bishops working at the start of hostilities, 176 died at the hands of their captors and virtually all infrastructure had been destroyed.

Lest we forget…I had!

The parable today is principally directed to the leaders of Israel. It was their duty to protect nourish and care for the vineyard. Isaiah reminds us that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the House of Israel” and God expected it to yield grapes.

The leadership had failed. It had abandoned the values inherited, its networking was Romanised and ignored the poor. It failed to make a real difference to the lot of its people and, in so many ways, it was unapproachable; certainly not by “sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors”. In Isaiah’s words, the Master “expected justice but found bloodshed, integrity, but only a cry of distress.”

In the challenging circumstances of our times, in the redrawing of many social boundaries, it may be helpful to remember that we believers have been here before. Let us focus on the gift of the historical Jesus and the reality of the Christ of faith and continue to keep doing all the things we have learnt from him and his faithful followers. “Then the God of peace will be with you”.

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 1 October 2017

The battle for leadership, Godly style, continues and will for the next few weeks. John the Baptist had rattled the nerves and the sense of security of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The High Priests Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Elders were doing their utmost to appease the Romans and maintain some control over the people. John’s movement was not Temple centred, was popular and people were responding. They were damaging the leaders’ arrangement with the Romans. It was evident that some, perhaps many, and even the despised tax collectors and prostitutes, were recognising the Heavenly source of both John’s and Jesus’s origin, teaching and authority.

Something had to give.

Leadership is never easy, even in grand finals! Circuses are one thing: food, jobs, warmth and security are another. Caesar and God will arrive soon.

During the week I had a disturbing conversation with a better than average fourteen-year-old who told me (and subsequently sent me the 41-minute transcript, as you do) that the speech of the U.S. president to the U.N. was the best speech he had ever heard and that Donald Trump was right to place America first. It rattled my cage a little.

Some comfort came in the words of the second reading for this weekend.

“Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.”

Leadership is difficult and challenging, particularly when Godly principles are involved with human designs.

Let us continue to proclaim the welfare of the community.

Let us joyfully accept the invitation to go to the vineyard…and GO!

 

Mons Frank