Fourth Sunday of Advent    Year A    22 December 2019

“This news is about the Son of God.” So wrote Paul in addressing the Romans, a sprinkling of newly baptised Christians, presumably led by Peter forming the initial community in a city of perhaps 750 000 people who had never dreamed of what was being offered to them.

What news!

How ridiculous!

Almost as silly as his talk to the Athenians.

But…how true.

The message is the same today and we are now experiencing similar reactions.

It is rumoured that our public broadcaster is now obliged to use the word ‘festive’ rather than ‘Christmas’!

Pardon, but there is no reason to have a festive season when the temperature is above 40. It is not Australia Day nor is it a Grand Final; and for that matter there is no major horse race! We have inherited the fruit of a tradition handed on to us, that over the centuries has been celebrated as a holy day, and hence a day of celebration, and because of the beginnings with a baby, has become a day of family.

In the midst of all the challenges to inherited practises that marks our age (and indeed some merit challenges), some basic truths need to be remembered and honoured and respected.

So, in wishing you all God’s blessings in this sacred time, I do urge you to greet one another with the message of peace first uttered by the angel of the Lord…but then, add to the salutation, by wishing one another a very happy and holy Christmas season.

Mons Frank

Third Sunday of Advent  Year A    15 December 2019

Advent is galloping towards Christmas!

Have we had, or made, time to stop a little and be gifted by a thought that will help us rejoice, genuinely, at the birth of Christ’s Anniversary?

Or, we might take consolation for our insecurity in the thought that even the seemingly well assured John was experiencing doubt about Jesus. He was, after all, in prison and, no doubt pondering his future, wondering what he, without an army, had done. The thought of his innocence must have caused him torment. Have I wasted my life? And so, he asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?”

Or, again, those around the Prophet might be described as the pious, the holy, the self-assured and the thank God I am not like the rest of men. Each group competing with one another. Each group claiming the high ground. Each group wanting everyone else to come under their umbrella. Standing on the side is the new prophet who is disturbing everyone. What is to be done?

I am reminded of a line from ‘My Fair Lady’, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words etc.”

The latest offering from the latest Prophet is not merely words but, “Go back and tell John what you hear and see etc.”

We know and believe in the gift of Jesus among us, Emmanuel.

For the remainder of this Advent can each of us try to find a little way to help the blind to see.

And which we encourage the lame to walk.

Maybe there is an outcast to be cleansed or a person to be given hearing.

There are many ways to proclaim the Good News, to bring life to the dead.

And, be patient, good things are happening…so keep the faith.

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Advent      Year A   8 December 2019

“The kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”

We are not quite sure what exactly John meant by those words. Scholars make assumptions. Some say it refers to the time when the fullness of God’s power and presence will be acknowledged by all creation. In that context we are still in ‘waiting mode’.

His call for repentance to prepare was accompanied by the ritual act of going to the Jordan and being washed…an historic practise in that culture. There was “the brood of vipers”, even in his time. They led the opposition, and continued to do so to Jesus and sadly, at the moment, to Pope Francis; or, perhaps and better still, to the call of the Spirit.

I write this on the feast of St Ambrose. In 374 the Bishopric of Milan fell vacant. The Catholic and Arian factions were in bitter conflict over the choice of a new Bishop.  Ambrose, the then unbaptised Prefect, tried to be a peacemaker and the people, then recognising his gifts, elected him. So, within a week he was baptised, ordained and installed as bishop. He promptly gave his money to the poor, gave his land to the Church and set about studying Scripture and Theology. He so influenced Augustine that Augustine joined the Church and, as is said, the rest is history. The Spirit spoke through the people and the work of the Kingdom continued. And, for a time, the “brood of vipers ” withdrew.

Advent urges us to prepare, repent, to open our minds and hearts, to allow us to re-look at the Mystery of Christmas. Only the Spirit could have dreamed up the concept of beginning our salvation through the helpless eyes and hands of a baby. The Spirit is still active.  So, too, the “brood of vipers”.

I heard recently of Roseanne Rofaeel, a former student of Kolbe Catholic College, Melbourne  who, despite or because of her refugee background, has established COTS (Christmas on the Streets) and mobilised many young people to begin helping the homeless. The Spirit broke through in her case and others have followed. What did the “brood of vipers” with all their power do?

John’s call and warning to his community contains three elements. They apply to us.

  • The act of washing, alone will not save…
  • Simply saying, “I belong to Abraham” will not protect them.
  • Use the time you have profitably.

Each can do something to show the Kingdom, but this week, perhaps, we just let the Spirit speak; there may be another Ambrose or Roseanne lurking inside us.

Mons Frank

First Sunday of Advent     Year A  1 December 2019

The saying, “once more into the breech dear friends, once more”, seems appropriate as we commence the new Liturgical Year, to ponder yet again, and with renewed enthusiasm, the gift of Emmanuel…God with us!

In the long history of Christianity, many breeches have needed filling. So, too, in our time. The great breech between people and God was filled on that first Christmas.

We have the shared experience of the subsequent 2000 years to call upon. Ever since, people have been trying to do what the gift of Jesus did…cover the territory, fill the breech between God and ourselves. With great success in some eras and some great failures in other times.

Our current experience suggests a number of breeches:

  • Care for the aged,
  • break down of trust for many institutions,
  • self-inflicted harm of body and soul,
  •  failures of so many leadership groups. You add your breeches.

The Liturgical Year provides a framework to travel the gift of the revelation of Jesus in an organised way. He is the great breech filler!

So, let us begin:

  • with listening, listening to Him with the ear of the heart
  • with love, bring passion to our striving
  • with imagination, dream a little about what I can do
  • grab the Scriptures, open them each day
  • amidst the bustle of the day take time to attend to your faith.
  • let’s bring a little light to the darkness
  • stand ready to meet the Living Word.

If, as the Scripture appeals, “we hammer the swords into ploughshares and the spears into sickles”, then we will usher in a time of peace and harmony, in homes, around workplaces, at sporting events. We will indeed no longer have to fill the breeches.

Welcome to Advent.

Mons Frank

Feast of Christ the King Year C  24 November 2019

Royalty has not had a great week in our world.

The battle for relevance continues; for them and for many in high places. This last Sunday of the Liturgical year is now dedicated to celebrating Christ as our eternal King. The Second Vatican Council moved the 1925 feast to the last Sunday of the Liturgical year in an effort to remind us all of the last days and to encourage us to review our offering of the past year, with all its positives and negatives and say, “Lord, it’s me. I will do better in the coming year”.

In 1925 the then Pope attempted to ask the world, against the rise of Communism in Russia, Nazism in Germany and Fascism in Italy, to recognise that giving our lives to Christ our King and his values…was by far a better way to save the planet and live in harmony.

That position calling us to recognise our baptismal dignity, anointed as Priest, Prophet and King, has been developed by successive Popes and Francis is pushing the position even further in reminding the world in recent remarks and teaching, that Kingship bring responsibilities; Kings must accept responsibility for the positive care of their people and the earth they inhabit. People are not simply subjects. As thinking beings, we are all called to act as custodians of all creation, something Pope Francis has again referred to in the current chats with various groups in his current visit to Thailand.

So, thanks for your words over the past twelve months. Meditate if you can on the words, “Over whom am I, personally, King?” And hence, “Whom am I called to serve?”

Thanks for the year.

Mons Frank.