Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time                   Year B            23 September 2018

“He then took a little child.” Many in the pews will react to these words today in vastly different ways. Years ago, the action would have conjured up images of the gentle kind and loving side of Jesus. That is still a reasonable reaction. Others will immediately react and hurl abuse in our direction.

For a moment, recall the context. Jesus is trying to instruct the disciples on his forthcoming deliverance “into the hands of men”. And he didn’t need any particular enlightenment from his Heavenly Father to work that out! The disciples are already discussing the places of honour. His eyes must have been rolling. Remember, too, that in Jesus’ time, a child was not valued as being innocent; the child had no social status, no legal rights. In a sense, the child was in effect a ‘non-person’. Jesus upends that position by putting his arms around the child; this embrace a sign of acceptance of one who was considered a social non-entity, the child was worthy of respect and care.

Would they get the message? Things are going to be different in the Kingdom. At least that was the hope, even in this moment of sure frustration.

We’re here today pondering this incident because, eventually, millions of people got the message; some, a bucketful.

The child returns this year to haunt us a little but also to call us to re-engage with life and turn the tables on those who do evil. It is worth remembering that often the Spirit works through the least important member of the community. We don’t have to have the highest place at table to do good immense good!

We are all important because we all are children of God and if we allow, we too will feel the embrace of Jesus.

Mons Frank

 

Twenty -fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year B   16 September 2018

I have noticed that we seem to be a little more interested in our family history. Many are searching for evidence and information about the past. I bumped into Helena McCloskey, a member of the International executive of Teams. She hails from Cheltenham England and recently became more aware of a forgotten link in the family history.  Let’s call the man Jack. As a youngster, under 18, he was charged with stealing a shirt and a handkerchief and sentenced to death. He was successfully apprenticed at that time and his master went out of his way to appeal. Hence the sentenced was commuted; transportation for life to NSW.  What then happened to him? The hunt is on.

Further, there seems to be a series of TV and radio shows dealing with ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Who are you really?’ That other show some time back, ‘Go Back to Where you Came From’, attracted some comment.  We meet the sign on our way to the Teams meeting in Fatima: ‘Tourists…go home’. On White Night here in Bendigo, our newest Priest, young Dean Bougart, was attempting to bring order to the car park at St. KiIlians (a worthwhile undertaking) and was told in no uncertain terms to “go back to where you came from” in an unpleasant voice.

So it’s no wonder that even the disciples were interested to know more about Jesus and eventually Jesus himself gave them the opportunity to get an answer to what they were thinking: “Who are you?”  He, of course, turned it around. He made them think and took the initiative with his “Who do people say I am?”

Mark 8:27-35 is fundamental to this Gospel and this section attempts to clarify who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. The disciples get more than they bargained for and, so too, for us.

Peter’ s answer then is still valid for us: “You are the Christ”. Whatever they understood then, we are taught that Christ, the anointed one, is the Son of God.  Easy to utter, a life time of meditation to plumb the depths of that answer. Jesus then begins to shatter their lifetime hope of a warrior Messiah and victorious conqueror. It’s through the cross that victory will be attained, a scandal for the Jews and foolish for the Greeks.

We find ourselves in a similar place today.

I mentioned last week that maybe the current scandals in the church could well be our cross and that salvation for the world from this terrible scourge of child sexual abuse and family violence will come from our renewed appreciation of who Jesus is (he is still the Son of God) and that he continues to remind us that there are no quick fixes for anything in following him without the reality of the cross in its many manifestations. It is not all about being nailed to wood. Fixing our structures and living by the Gospel is a beginning, yet again.

We need to look at life from the Divine perspective.

We ask tonight to be strengthened so to look and then to act.

Mons Frank

 

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year B 9 September 2018

It is Child Protection Sunday in all Catholic Churches in Australia, a far cry from the Second Sunday of the month ‘Children of Mary Sunday’ of my youth. And, perhaps yours. We also find Jesus still in Gentile country, much to the discomfort of his disciples and perhaps to the wonderment of some who thought his message was only for the chosen people, then considered to be the Jewish Nation. However, Jesus brings new wine to the people and as he indicated elsewhere, Gentile territory did not seem to be the appropriate new place to be if you need new wine skins. Most disagreed, except the locals who seemed pleased to have someone talk sense and bring great doses of mercy to their suffering community.

The caveat for us is that every now and then we need a big bowl of new wine and an appropriate new skin.

We deplore and abhor what has happened in the ranks of Church personnel. One violation is one too many, one church is one too many, one nation is a nation too many; so we ask forgiveness and set about finding a new wine skin. That path will not be easy; to succeed we need to heed the advice of Hetty Johnston the founder and Executive Chair of ‘Bravehearts’ who wrote in the Bendigo Advertiser last Saturday, “Child protection is everyone’s business.” It was a positive article and still contained some disturbing figures e.g. “every 90 minutes a child is sexually assaulted somewhere in Australia” and “the majority of these crimes (sexual assault against children) are perpetrated inside the family unit or by someone known to the family.”

The miracle related in today’s gospel is ultimately about giving a human being the ability to hear and to speak, one on one or to a crowd. I believe that new voice and new hearing is what is needed today. To be able to speak about these crimes is vastly important for the victim; to be able to listen is required of the community.

The scholars tell us that Mark relays this story of Jesus to emphasise that the message of Jesus and the power that he manifests is to remind his community and those that hear or read his message, that it is for all. As it went beyond Israel in Mark’s time, so too for us. It now calls us beyond physical healing. We may not have the power to loosen the ligaments of the tongue, but we can break the age-old taboo of children being seen and not heard.

A Church in mission must reach out beyond its own culture, it is called today to confront the scourge of sexual violence against children.

Perhaps in the mysterious way in which our loving and merciful God works, our Church suffering may be the Cross of this generation that propels the world to a new and more respectful appreciation of its little ones. It is still early days, but it is good to know that the eminent scholar working in this field, Hans Zollner, visiting and helping child protection agencies in Australia, has recorded that in dealing with this scourge, the Australian Church is far ahead of other comparable institutions.

It is great news for us, all of us. And with all the posters, meetings, discussions, permits and plastic cards, some light is appearing at the end of the tunnel! We are making the scripture message “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed” come to life!

Peace.

Mons Frank

P.S. As you know I have been away, initially associated with Teams, in particular the world meeting in Fatima, but am back and willing to have another go at a reflection, with encouragement from many sources. If you wish to not receive, please let me know.