Holy Week!

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord       Year B           25 March 2018

The final week of contradiction.  On the one hand, loaded with extreme examples of man’s inhumanity to man; you name it, it can be found…lying, treachery, hypocrisy, abandonment, betrayal, desertion, extreme violence, jeering, abuse, indifference and murder.

The other side, at the Cross, the truth of Jesus’ identity is revealed…spoken by the perceived enemy, the Roman Centurion, and witnessed by a faithful few, mainly the women.

Against a seeming increasing resort amongst many civic and some Church leaders to act out of a ‘might is right’ position based on political, military or even trade power, we find revealed the way of redemptive suffering.

“The Son of Man came…to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The powers of darkness stalked the cross at 3.00 pm that day.

In hearing Jesus say, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” they not only missed his earlier words “Father, forgive them they know not what they do” but they misinterpreted his voice. Anguish, yes, but He was praying Psalm 22: “He did not hide his face from me but heard when I cried out to him.” The prayer was answered, again in contradiction.

Think again: Darkness over the whole land. Creation in mourning. The veil of the temple torn. Jesus, the New Way to the Father.

And the little or forgotten people whose instinctive acts of kindness and presence:

The offering of vinegar

The looking for Elijah

The Roman Centurion

The silent presence and witness of the women all point to the truth of the words proclaimed:

“In truth this man was a son of God.”

 

Have a wonderful and truly Holy Week

Mons Frank

Fifth Sunday of Lent Year B 18 March 2018

 

Articles and books appear frequently commenting upon the so called ‘Culture Wars’ waging in our society. ‘Changing the culture’ is another catch -all – phrase embracing footy clubs, work places, Parliament Houses and Churches as well as nearly all other institutions that, seemingly, are not performing! Even the culture of the family gets a run in certain outposts; there are those seeking to change all inherited deposits of faith that have underpinned human society for generations. In a sense, we have recorded for us in all readings today, the truth of the greatest culture war ever waged in human history.

” Deep within them I will implant my Law.”

The new Covenant seeks to change human behaviour, to offer a way to live together in peace.

“Anyone who loves his life loses it.”

When we fight for our entrenched ways, we end up tarnishing or losing what we have inherited at the least, and at the worse, losing totally ‘our’ way of acting. The culture clash of Christianity, with all the traditions it encounters, is demanding. For some foolishness, for other laughable, for those who accept the teaching and example of Jesus, liberating. Many who accept the gift do lose their lives, often in terrible circumstances, as indeed do many who reject the call similar to that of the Greeks. “Sir, we should like to see Jesus.”

When we try to bring justice in the workplace, respect in family life, to reduce violence in the community, and to promote an attitude of deep concern for our many neighbours, then we are grappling with the challenge to be the grain of wheat that falls to the ground. One grain will do very little whilst remaining on the shelf. Let us commit ourselves, yet again this Lent, to be buried in the soil so we can be part of the rich harvest.

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Lent Year B 11 March 2018

 

“Two went to pray? O rather say

One went to brag, th’ other to pray:

One stands up close and treads on high,

Where th’ other dares not send his eye.

One nearer to God’s altar trod,

The other to the altar’s God.”

Richard Crashaw (1633- 1649)

We often speak about the journey of Lent referring to the passage of time e.g. 20 days done, 20 to go, or for the Catechumens in the RCIA programme, only two more Scrutinies before Baptism.  This week we meet Nicodemus. He is a Jew but not one of the ‘Jews’ in John’s Gospel. We meet him several times in the Gospel account as he struggles to fully accept the teaching and implication of throwing in his lot with Jesus. He never rejects Jesus, nor disputes his teaching but, and perhaps like many today (and in every age), his faith at this point does not quite match the criteria announced by Jesus. However, all is not lost. There are still chapters in the Gospel for Nicodemus and days in Lent for us.

Our journeys will be different.  Hopefully, not as disastrous as that of the chosen people related in brief in Reading One. Some can be as disastrous, and we read about them every day.

Paul reminds us that “God loved us with so much love…though dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ.”

He further reminds us in those mind-boggling words that “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it”.

So, sinners we were never meant to be…nor to remain in that state.

This week let us take another step “to the altar’s God”

 

Mons Frank

 

Third Sunday of Lent Year B 4 March 2018

 

“The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just.”

I noticed the proclamation of the new Ten Commandments when travelling on a tram in Melbourne recently. Right above my eyes in the ceiling was a long list of individual visuals with a rather large Red Cross superimposed. I counted and sure enough there were ten items.  Even the modern self- proclaimed secular society cannot remove itself from the ‘ten’ though we seem to be rapidly moving to the old Jewish legalism of over 520 regulations or interpretation of the original ten. I pondered, are we better off today with our prescriptions?

Historically, the giving of the original Ten Commandments was a remarkable intervention by the spirit of the loving God for his people. It followed last week’s story of Abraham and jumps the Exodus account… a new chapter begins; it has its ups and downs, its time of faithfulness and denial. Psalm 105 laments the backsliding:

“But they soon forgot his deeds and would not wait upon his will.”

The same Psalm celebrates the continuing faithfulness of the loving God and His deeds to restore and save the people yet again:

“Then they believed in his words and they sang his praises.”

Jesus gives notice that the same Spirit is coming to deepen the engagement of the loving God with his people in his actions in the temple. Time to move on and take a fresh look at their relationship with their traditions. The loving God was asking them to leave the “temple boat” behind and once again cast out into the deep. Yet again, resistance; but the Spirit found some response. It was difficult to believe in a crucified Christ. We love to hold on to the baggage of our previous lives.

It seems to me that we are in a similar situation not only with the reception of the Vatican II Council, but also in accepting the invitations of the current Pope to implement its directions.

Let us commit to try and be comforted by Paul’s words:

” For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

In accepting all the violence that humanity could load upon his shoulders, Jesus chose not to transmit the trauma of the Cross, He was not destroyed but all was transformed with love. The bruised and battered body rose on the third day and remains a most potent sign of the continuing love of a faithful God for his Covenanted people.

That becomes a sign of hope for all generations even in times of, yet again, rattling sabres!

Mons Frank

 

Second Sunday of Lent Year B 25 February 2018

“O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son”.

These words from the opening prayer for this Sunday grabbed my attention; there are many other recorded happenings in the readings.  Abraham, for example, is engulfed with terrifying options and one cannot comprehend the emotions that must have wracked his mind, even if he did emerge from a culture that practised human sacrifice. His listening not only saved his son but certainly changed the culture of the coming chosen people who on many occasions stood out in their world. They did not practise human sacrifice.

The chosen three were urged again to “Listen to him.”  They had heard that before. Perhaps like us, some messages take time to gel.

These past days have witnessed the inability to listen to what is being said, whether in the Victorian Parliament or the world of the AFL or, for that matter, even at Federal level.

To listen to one another can be very difficult. To listen to one another in marriage is considered essential by so many marriage counsellors (yet so often, the lack is the major cause of difficulties). The continual cry of those harassed in the workplace or victims of violence let alone those abused in sexual matters is a cry for someone to listen to their stories.

The Gospel asks us to listen to what the Beloved Son says and to observe what he does. Listening gets us eventually to the heart of the matter and helps us to arrive at the truth. Even after this episode the disciples were still failing to comprehend; not surprising, for they were being asked to take in the truth that Jesus was the Son of God! One could argue that that call was the most important call to the human race ever.

The way to acceptance suggested by the Father Himself was “To Listen.”

Perhaps the way to peace and harmony in our family, our Church and in our community, would be enhanced if we all learn to really listen to one another!

Mons Frank

First Sunday of Lent Year B 18 February 2018

 

“Drive to distraction is one thing but driven into the wilderness is another.”

I have been troubled by the concept of wilderness this week. The term tends to summarise many a conversation entered into, but happily, not all.

For some, the wilderness is the assumption played out in the media that the fault in Canberra is that the person was a staffer. W hat about the action itself?

For others it is the seeming insanity of guns and America.

For others, it was the headlines in the Age and the subsequent badly and ill-informed writing that followed attacking the wealth of the Church.

For others it was being told that you have heart failure.

Wilderness was not always considered as a bad dark place. In the great stories of the history of Israel, Moses fasted for forty days at Sinai. Elijah did the same near Mount Horeb. And good things came to the people, including the Commandments as a way of living an appropriate life. There are green shoots to be discovered in the desert; not so much the ones we are looking for, but rather the ones that God has in store for us, if we can stay the distance. In a manner of speaking, that is the call of Lent: to find the true wilderness and to hear the message God has for each of us.

Jesus emerged from his wilderness to proclaim the Good News from God. That will be the hope for each of us too. That concept is wonderfully expressed by Peter in the excerpt proclaimed today; his reflection on the new sacrament of Baptism.

As in Mark’s day, so in ours. Our path to faith led us, via Baptism, to an acceptance of the promises offered down the ages, in particular, that God would be faithful despite our wildernesses, and that He continues to love us now. Like them, we too, have to be on our guard, acknowledge that the Kingdom of God is close at hand, repent and believe the Good News.

Let’s enter Lent with great confidence.

Mons Frank