Fourth Sunday in Lent   Year C  31 March 2019 

‘Winners and Losers’

Sadly, the pages of our papers and even some segments of our TV News, summarise all the stories from politics to sport under the title of “Winners and Losers”. Whatever became of the statement “It is much better to have played the game, to have been part of the contest, than never to have played at all”?

Chapter 15 of Luke has three main parables; we lose the sheep, we lose the coin, we lose the sons; but redemption is at hand…

The introduction is important.

One group is seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he has to say. The other is complaining. Earlier, Luke reports that this same group “grumbled”. Later they “formed a deep grudge” against the teaching of Jesus. It appears that the teaching they were opposed to is that Jesus was offering hope, new life and welcome as members of the restored people who had listened to the call and teaching of the prophet to fundamentally those considered, by society, to be losers!

You can’t have losers in the Kingdom!

Well, just listen to the third parable in this chapter; “A man had two sons etc.

Both sons were a disappointment to their father. The younger demanding his share as if his father was dead. The older, caught in resentment because he had slaved all these years. The father risks the loss of one who physically withdraws from the farm, loaded with untimely loot. The other, lost emotionally, stoking his alienation and bursting out with pent-up anger. The anxious father caught, like many a parent, between love and despair; but love wins! The father is even-handed in his compassion and concern that extends to both children. This is the image that Jesus wishes to offer the community of His Heavenly Father. He loves us all, even losers. The Kingdom is to be offered to all!

Paul grasped this message after his conversion having, perhaps, identified himself very closely with the elder son. That experience eventually led him to be the apostle to the Gentiles; those considered worse than the tax collectors and sinners!

Lent is racing along. We have had all sorts of malpractice and injustice paraded before our eyes in recent days. Let us not forget that God has reconciled us to himself! We must shout to all like Paul, “…and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God.”

 

Mons Frank

Third Sunday in Lent  Year C   24 March 2019

It has been a long week for most. Bendigo has had three gatherings in the wake of the Christchurch storm of destruction. A vigil at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral; around 300 attended on Sunday night. 170 attended the paid Bendigo Interfaith Council Dinner on Thursday addressed by Sherene Hassan from the Australian Islamic Museum, and Friday, a public vigil organised by the Islamic Association with 300 plus in attendance. It would have been appropriate at each celebration to have taken off our shoes as indeed the atmosphere evoked ‘Holy Ground’.

The three ceremonies now strike another thought. The owner of the fig tree was hoping for some fruit, perhaps a big harvest. Was he being too ambitious? Was he being too greedy? Was he being too impatient? Since the eruptions in Bendigo following the granting of the planning permit to build a Mosque (building is to begin in June/July this year), protesters visit the site each Thursday and other people continue to work for peace and understanding. Jesus reminds us this week, not to rush to judgement when ‘new Pilates’ wash and mix blood. Towers will continue to fall down. Our three events seem to have changed the mood in Bendigo for a significant group of Bendigo leaders and citizens.

As in Jesus’ time, bad events cause us to wonder and to look for solutions; and, indeed, we ought! However, we note that in this chapter of Luke’s account, Jesus is well on his way to His trial, humiliation, and death. He rightly adds that we ought not only turn away from sin but accept the fact that God has visited his people. The Kingdom has been proclaimed and all are invited to enter. Again today, the gift of basking in the presence of God may cause us to “cover our face”, to bow down or, like Peter, to say “It is good for us to be here. Let’s build three tents etc.”

Moses, Peter and ourselves have to realise that such insights are given to call people to action on behalf of our broken, wounded, unjust world.

Each of us can simply close our eyes and, in a sense, say our prayers.

What the God of all beings longs to hear is “Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.”

Mons Frank

 

Second Sunday in Lent  Year C   17 March 2019

What a week in Oceania!

It began, dominated by the Cardinal, but overtaken by the murderous attack in New Zealand! A numbing effect on Wednesday, overwhelmed by the unbelievable massacre on Friday.

Paul speaks about the Saviour coming to “transfigure these wretched bodies of ours”. We sure need a dose of the Saviour’s wisdom and assistance at this moment. The same Saviour had seen and experienced huge horrors in his life time. He may not have been conscious of the massacre of the children. But he certainly knew about the beheading of John the Baptist. He was aware of the deaths of those killed in the collapse of the Tower. He witnessed the regular punishments dealt out by the occupying power. But whilst healing the sick and curing the lame he taught “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s…” He did answer Pilate’s questions.

In spite of all the madness in his time, he offered the way of the Beatitudes, spoke of the need to take up the cross and become living witnesses of the Gospel. He was, as Peter proclaimed, “the Messiah”. The Son of God did not need a tent. After all, he was much more than a simple man. The injunction from heaven should stir us all to action: “Listen to Him.”

So, the action of taking off to the mountain (our take, going on retreat) is still valid. We need to step aside every now and then to pray, to listen to his word, and be nourished by him.

Sunday worship is a start. But it needs supplementing.

Pray for all our wounded sisters and brothers this weekend.

Mons Frank

First Sunday in Lent     Year C   10 March 2019

Like many others, I have a habit of remarking “What a week that was.”

…The shocking murder of two women reminding us that at least one woman dies each week from domestic violence.

…The oft quoted claim that one in four children suffer from some form of violence. It found another hearing.

…The further claims and counter claims regarding Cardinal Pell.

All helped to make it another difficult week.

Looking back, I never heard of these sorts of matters growing up. Protected, well yes. Naïve, maybe. But then, the papers were more refined, except the ‘Truth’ and we did not take the ‘Truth’.  TV did not arrive in the bush till the early 60’s and that fixed the movie pictures and their theatres for the most part.

It strikes me that Lent comes at a propitious time this year.

One commentator suggests we read this gospel account against the then current Hellenistic view widely accepted in Luke’s time, that the purpose of life was:

  • love of pleasure
  • love of possessions
  • love of glory.

These were often pursued with immense eagerness to the extent that they became synonymous with vice.

Jesus, in this account of the temptations, rejects the active and complete pursuit of these attractions in his answers to the satan, by choosing another way. This choice then sets him apart as a righteous person, a sage truly capable of teaching virtue and, hence, worth following. And we are called to follow him first and foremost!

So we are asked personally, regardless of what others may say, to give priority to the non-active pursuit of material comfort, to reject the desire to have power over others, and to avoid the testing of God.

Let us follow Moses’ injunction to bring happily the first fruits of our labour and present them to our loving God. We then pray that all those with power, be they in civic or religious position, quickly come to realise that the only power they have is that given to them “by my Father” and given so that they might humbly serve.

Mons Frank

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time    Year C     3 March 2019.

I am mindful of the opening words of the Scripture this weekend:

“in a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind”.

We have all been shaken this week…I, from a distance.

I have been in NZ working with TEAMS in Wellington, Hamilton and Taupo and assisting with beginnings in Auckland. So I have missed the face to face encounters at home:  It has been difficult enough from a distance, I can’t quite imagine what it is like to be on the street at home. That will come.

One possible outcome, no matter the final result, is that the role of the laity in the life of the Church has to be acknowledged and the involvement of our baptised members, many or few, must be accelerated.

Our Church has been through many, many trials since the harrowing death on Calvary. The joy of the Resurrection was attacked by Paul in short time. Then came his and other conversions. Failures brought forth repentance; hope and growth followed.

We read Paul’s words today:

“Never give in then, my dear friends, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.”

So it is time to examine how many splinters are in our eyes, all our baptised eyes or, if you prefer, have we been picking figs from thorns?

Being shaken in the sieve is not pleasant, or comfortable or for many, seemingly not just. But shaken we are. Uncomfortable we feel. “What the hell?”  we may exclaim. Maybe we need to pray the Psalm a little more attentively this weekend. I am reminded of those words attributed to Job in the context that it is His Church and that the Holy Spirit remains with us, if we take the good things from the Lord then we must accept the testing things.

All in all, let us continue to “Give you thanks, O Lord ” and pray in big doses for one another.

Mons Frank