Feast of Christ the King   24 November 2018

This year I was struck by the force of the words in the Gospel “to bear witness to the truth.” Why? Perhaps it was because of the release of so many truths hidden from us since 1915, even though I had read much and travelled to see with my own eyes. Like you, we are all, maybe, aware that ‘truth is the first casualty in time of war.’ Then there has been the saga of ‘false news’ plaguing our airways and print media.  And another…we are voting for Government in Victoria this weekend. Truth, like Pilate said, “what is truth?” Our Upper House ballot paper is, in a sense, mute testimony to the varieties of perceived truth in our community at this moment.

In the wake of the Royal Commissions into all styles of institutions, and external examinations of social and sporting associations, one can readily appreciate community scepticism about finding the truth. Will the truth set us free?

That is where we come in!

Whatever Jesus meant when he revealed at his trial that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth (some say it was to reveal the true nature of God expressed in the concept of the Good Shepherd) and if so, then that is the most important truth that all peoples need to be aware of. Jesus was calling all to recognise that truth and then asking us to be similar witnesses.

I see the call to us today, to be women and men who constantly search out the truth; who speak the truth as they see it without fear but with respect. At this time for us, witnesses to Christ via our Baptism and subsequent commitment, we need to speak the truth as we see it to our Church. We trust that our sayings will not be brushed aside as happened at that trial in Jerusalem. Pilate, after all, was demonstrating that he had not heard the word to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  We have heard that word, we should not let any perception or fear of possible inaction, prevent us from speaking the truth.

At the end of this liturgical year may each present to Christ our moments when we brought a little light to our world, a little peace to our neighbour and a little truth to our world.

Mons Frank

So ends the 2018 liturgical year. If acceptable I will try to put on the new hat for 2019. Ideas and observations are welcomed. And if you wish to continue, to a varied group of people in movements like Teams, The Cardijn Community, travellers on the Way, a very happy Advent.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year B   18 November 2018

We are in the last days of the Liturgical Year. Next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. We try this week to establish a statement that we can offer our leader as we say thanks for the past year of grace.

On the way, we might consider…are we at the end or are we about to engage, thankfully, in a new beginning? Ends and beginnings, are they not a constant reality? Consider: the Brigidine Sisters said “good bye” to the Beechworth community this past weekend and in doing so closed the book on 132 years of commitment to that community. The locals awaited the inevitable, hoping it was not the end. The Sisters offered the vision that it was time for a new beginning. Four young women from Ireland arrived just after Ned Kelly was jailed in Beechworth, and they came to a town that earlier had hopes of being a capital and had begun to build their Church accordingly. But the gold ran out.  It proved not to be the end.

At a conference today of the Inter-faith Networks of Victoria, I learnt that Australia has 20% of the world’s poker machines. We are possibly 0.2% of the world’s population. The faith communities are at the beginning of trying to change that situation. One council area in Melbourne lost 132 million dollars last year in payments to government and the owners of the machines! The industry promotes the slogan ‘Gamble responsibly!’

The parable of the fig tree calls us to recognise the signs of the times. Will someone seize the opportunity in Beechworth? Will the Inter-faith networks give a lead in Victoria? Will we all take seriously the opportunity presented by the appeal, to let our voice be heard in the opportunity presented by the forthcoming Plenary Council consultation? What will you and I present with the bread, wine and collection to our leader next Sunday? Let it not be a fatalistic end, but rather a faith-filled new beginning.

Mons Frank

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year B    11 November 2018

What a weekend.

We do not celebrate or remember many national, let alone international, centenary events in our lifetime.  The events associated with the ‘war to end all wars’ has preoccupied many Australians for the past four years. For some, a chance to finally say “goodbye” to dead, known and missing. The pilgrimage to the war cemetery was always to be done…and that has been done. For others, to visit and ponder the absolute madness that changed the world and changed the involvement of the civilian population; all became combatants with the consequent horrifying loss of life and staggering numbers of refugees in the past 100 years.  More and more we need the power of the Prophet Elijah to turn our “handful of meal” and “little oil in a jug” to feed the survivors!

In the midst of the destruction, two significant Priests were discovering what the Spirit was calling them to be and to do with their lives. Out of many experiences before World War Two began, both men aided by and accompanying wonderful baptised lay people, began significant movements in our Church that last to the present day. Joseph Cardijn from Belgium breathed life into youth and, behold, the YCW.  His next-door neighbour was taken up by the Spirit of the YCW in his time as a branch Chaplain, and when approached to teach two young couples about the wonderment and sanctity of marriage basically said “I don’t know, but let us journey together.” They did, and the movement called in Australia ‘Teams- a Movement for Married people’ was born. His name was Henri Cafferel.

Both men remind me of the widow. They went to the Temple with basically empty pockets. The peace conference at Versailles fundamentally led by the rich and famous, set the conditions for WWII. The millions upon millions of dollars spent on arms since, has produced war after war, destruction and debris, broken nations, broken families and broken people. Bourke St Melbourne is yet a local testimony to the effects of war.

Cardijn and Caffarel left legacies of worldwide significance. The YCW is still found on all continents and is making a steady comeback in Australia. Teams recently held their six-yearly gathering in Fatima with nearly 9000 delegates from 80 countries.

As we pause and reflect on the sacrifice made in WWI and say thanks for all those who contributed, let’s also remember those who worked at a different level and whose contribution to our world still lives on.

Lest we forget!

Mons Frank

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time    Year B    4 November 2018

We still find it a pleasing experience for someone to say thanks to us. Pope Francis reminded the world in his exhortation on ‘Love and the Family’ that the three most important words are still “please, thanks and sorry”.

In Mark’s Gospel, the episode we read today is the last happening on the road. We find Jesus in the Temple next week.  He has been harassed, insulted, scorned and plotted against. After all the teaching and the good works he performed, even his own chosen followers had let him down. I wonder how he felt when they started to argue about first place at table, let alone in the Kingdom!

This episode is different. The scribe seems genuine. His question is akin to what many good and thoughtful people were asking. He seemed to fully appreciate his Jewish tradition…a tradition that taught that the Torah listed 613 commandments; 248 written in a positive form, 365 in the negative. So, it is a good question.

Jesus responds by adding his own twist, quoting his own Jewish tradition (and we would say a revealed tradition); “There is no commandment greater than these.”

I ponder, what did Jesus feel when he heard the reply of the Scribe? We know what Jesus said; “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”. Yes, but how did he feel? After all the knock backs, the lack of sincere questioning, the refusal to listen; surely there was a movement of the Spirit and a sense that it has been worthwhile. Somebody got it!

Did the scribe get it because he was respectful or because he had begun to listen?

Jesus began his reply by quoting the age-old teaching which included “Listen Israel: The Lord our God is the one Lord.” We can live the great commandment if we can listen a little more intently to what the Spirit is asking of us.

A little prayer:

Teach me to listen Holy Spirit.

For your voice-

In busyness and boredom,

In certainty and doubt,

In noise and in silence.

Teach me Lord to Listen. Amen.

Mons Frank