The Holy Family   Year C   30 December 2018

Already the Hot X Buns are in the stores. No time to ponder the gift of Christmas and the many faceted sorts of family gatherings. Those important get-togethers have moments of joy…the prodigal daughter turns up…of sadness, the beloved sister, mother, grandmother goes peacefully to God. The car is stolen. The special gift did not arrive. These and many other happenings around the day do not destroy the significance of the occasion. It’s the relationships that are renewed, reborn, established that really make the home and the family. That is the place for treasured memories to be wheeled out, hidden stories to be revealed, lovingly the births and deaths to be highlighted and the pains and bouts of ill health to be consoled. All this in a changing world with changing ideas about family and the various roles within the many new forms of family.

From Mary and Joseph we can glean some element of their family. They were small. They were pious, the yearly pilgrimage on the feast of Passover in spring. Did they also go up on the other great Jewish feasts of Booths and Pentecost?

Mary and Joseph suffered the pain of the missing child. What parent has not had such similar stress? Then to encounter their son debating the pros and cons with the doctors of the Law, and in the Temple! Nothing, not even memories of the various angel visitations, quite prepared them for this! And the young man, Jesus, now twelve in that society, how did he handle the different pull of duty and piety towards his parents and the emerging recognition of his higher calling to his Father? Many families find this challenge when faced with daughters and sons debating their vocation to religious life or priesthood.

It was a different time and perhaps my kitchen ruled then, but Jesus went down learned the trade, pondered his vocation and lived under their authority, and as far as we know did not get drafted into service with King Herod or the Roman authorities. And the Scripture reminds us that “Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and people.”

 

I guess that is the dream for all families.

 

A blessing on your home and family today and may it remain with you in the coming year.

 

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Advent  Year C  23 December 2018

 I recently had an evening meal with a group of Afghan refugees, called a Jamshod dinner. Most of our Afghan people are from the Hazara areas, violently persecuted by the Taliban. Our Chair for the evening, Mahamod, recently received news of an attack on his village and 55 people were killed. In the course of the evening, I was asked to explain why Australia celebrates Christmas and why we give gifts.

Today’s Gospel answers that question.

Mary is gifted by God (and so is human history).

Mary, in turn, flees from the locals to visit and gift Elizabeth. John leaps in the womb and the world rejoices in Elizabeth’s words of gift; “Of all women you are the most blessed” (gifted)!

I suggested in a different language, the above truths and offered the thought that we gift to others in appreciation of what God has gifted to us. There were nods of understanding. On the other side, I attended a funeral service, run by the wife and children for a very gifted man; no hymns, no prayers, no blessings, no mention of thanks for the great talents and undoubted gifts the dead man possessed. It seemed that all was taken for granted.

Like many traditions, gift giving is renounced by some today, particularly at Christmas. We don’t have to be as extravagant with our gifts; we can’t possibly match the offering of the Tremendous Lover, but we can offer gifts to others that remind us of what God has done for us. This we can do personally, and our Christian founded nation can and ought to do, even if they call it Foreign Aid. And it ought to be aid for the people without strings and not for the ruling class.

May your Christmas be one of loving gift-giving and receiving ‘in the widest possible sense’, that card, that phone call, that visit, that smile, that handshake, that extra minute of meaningful exchange. May it remind everyone that we take nothing for granted and relish that we are gifted in life and faith. May we strengthen our families, and may we have a healthy dose of the peace promised to people of good will.

Mons Frank

Third Sunday of Advent    Year C  16 December 2018

“What must we do?”

John had obviously had an impact on that group of listeners. Maybe each of us has met an inspiring person in recent days, or maybe we are in a situation in which our care, concern or love for an individual causes us to ask ourselves “What can I do”? It is a more joyful situation than the oft heard exclamation “Oh, I should have done that?” or “If only I had known.” One can easily enumerate a series of happenings when we get caught. So often similar words are heard after a suicide or in a serious illness or, at times, in cases of family violence.

“What must I do?”

We still have the resources to share our tunics, to charge the appropriate rate, and to be a society that avoids intimidation and extortion, let alone be content with your pay! However recent Royal Commissions and ones to come in the New Year seem to indicate that there is plenty of room for improvement. Is any human being really worth $18 million to run a business for 365 days?

Each of us can implement John’s instructions at a personal level. Each can be an agent of change at our work place; though it may take time. We may have to recruit help, but it can be done and, in doing so, brings a sense of well being and a touch of joy to all concerned.

“What must I do?”

On another level, for this beloved Church of ours we must act there. The Church has called for ideas and practical suggestions to rid ancient restrictions and find a new expression of the authentic Gospel. Answer the call. All reform ultimately begins with people at the local level owning their position, in our case, at the parish level and making things happen. So, bring joy to the Plenary Council staff. Send your ideas. In a sense your ideas and involvement become the winnowing fan and is an expression of the activity of the Holy Spirit!

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Advent  Year C 9 December 2018

It appears that the state of Victoria is to have yet another Royal Commission; this time the police. We will soon be a perfect state, maybe broke but cleaned up. I am reminded of a phrase from William Riley in his book on the Apocalypse: “Once we stray from our mission, we can find ourselves making messes, even if they are the results of good intentions.”

The proclamation of a baptism of repentance by John today, is as pertinent as it was “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign”.

We know, for we have been reading and listening to these accounts for years that life was not perfect during the rule of Pontius Pilate; nor did things improve under the leadership of Caiaphas, happily aided by his father-in-law Annas. Just ask those who witnessed their actions in the Sanhedrin!

Into this society appears John; a voice crying in the wilderness, but not ineffective. He too urged his followers, like many prophets before him, and many since, to give up extortion, blackmail, gouging and acquisitiveness and to begin to share with those more needy. And he won many followers and opened their hearts to the message of Jesus. No matter how small we feel, we can do the same. Through us “all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”

This week look for the voice of the Spirit whispering a message of hope and healing, even where the woundedness is greatest.

Come Lord Jesus!

Mons Frank

First Sunday of Advent    Year C   2 December 2018

Welcome to the new liturgical year. The Sunday Gospel readings are from Luke (Year C). It is good that we begin again and that we have these four weeks trying to get our heads around what we as Christians believe…the gift of Jesus Christ. We are called to go through his life and times, not as if we were being introduced to the story for the first time; rather we take our learned knowledge and try to build on that.

I would like to suggest that an aspect of this ‘New Beginning’ is rooted in the deep Christian call to be agents of hope. When Luke was writing, there were many examples in his world of ‘awfulness’. The Romans were rampaging, signs in various places seemed ominous; some would say “worlds are ending”.  But we are here. We are a new force for good in our seemingly collapsing world.

It is not difficult to see signs of doom and destruction around us, ask the Ukrainians. Talk to the drought and fire ravaged peoples. Consider Syria. Look at the persecutions of Christians. The annual report of the agency ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ reports that 300 million Christians are subject to abuses such as violence and arrest…and we think we are hard done by!

So, from the Evening prayer of the Church for the Vigil of Advent, I offer a structure for the coming week to direct part of your prayer.

You will bring us Wisdom                     e.g. tackling sexual abuse

Understanding         e.g…….

and New vision.              e.g.  the plenary Council

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

You will bring us Good News              e.g…………

and Power to transform our lives.    e.g.  take action in the work place

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

You will bring us   Truth.          e.g………….

Show us the way to the Father.      e.g. read the daily Advent Scripture

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

Born of a woman, open in our flesh the way to eternal life.     e.g. renewed roles for women

Open in our flesh the joy of life                      e.g …….

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

I have left gaps.   You add to all the offerings and have a wonder-filled Advent.

Mons Frank