Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary time.    Year A. 12 November 2017

The liturgical year is galloping to a close, as is the civic year.  “Where did all the days go?” is a rather common saying these past weeks.  Perhaps we have been asleep like the ten virgins! What do we find when the bells are ringing, and action is expected of us?

No oil in our lamps nor in our esky?

Like lamps, our bodies need fuel to do their jobs. The world news constantly gives us examples of the effects of lack of food and good drinking water. Our baptismal life need proper nourishment to complement the physical life of our bodies. Today we are all reminded that the Bridegroom, Jesus, will come to invite us to his banquet.

Will we be ready?

One of the great gifts of life with Jesus is what Paul picked up very early in his preaching: hope. People then and now often are troubled, puzzled, fearful of death… What’s it all about?  In a recent conversation, a prominent country funeral director commented that his company enjoyed Catholic funerals because “they, even in difficult situations, always offered hope, hence Paul’s words that “you do not grieve about them like the other people who have no hope”.

That is the promise.

 

The reality depends upon us having oil in the lamp and a little in reserve against a rainy day.

So, this week, we begin to check our Lamp.

Do we pray?

Do we give of ourselves, let alone of our possessions?

Do we read the Scriptures?

Do we strive to love our God?

Do we strive to bring love to others?

These practises will enable us to trim our lamps when the Bridegroom eventually comes, as surely, He will.

 

Mons Frank

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 5 November 2017

Leadership. The concept keeps being discussed; not only in Matthew’s Gospel but, seemingly, in every department of living. The cry is often for positive or good or caring or even honest leadership. Civic calls and criticisms invade our newspapers, our news broadcasts, our TV and are certainly found in the confines of the new expression ‘the pub test’!

Matthew’s emerging community, engaged in setting a new direction and seeking to draw upon their past heritage, but with eyes looking to the new horizons taught to them by Jesus, were often engaged in fierce conflicts with their former leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees; much like Jesus was in his time with the Chief Priests and Elders. Conflict begun before the fall of Jerusalem in 70CE, continued and continues today.

The emerging Christian communities listening to Jesus, strove to adopt different expressions of leadership. So, for Paul in today’s excerpt, he acts like “a mother feeding and looking after her own children”. Paul strove not to be “a burden on any one of you”, echoing perhaps that teaching of Jesus, “they, (Scribes and Pharisees) tie up heavy burden and lay them on men’s shoulders”.

The new Christian communities had begun a new life together and were asked to participate equally and fully in the emerging community.  The task of us all taking our role in the community, was addressed, yet again, by our Pope echoing the Vatican II insistence of “fully conscious, and active participation” in the liturgical life of the community, and developed since then to all parts of Church life. That reform has hit many stumbling blocks, like so many efforts since Jesus.

Matthew’s model of egalitarian communal leadership has been largely ignored down the ages, but it is still proclaimed. The other model based on power, property and prestige, may give us status in the eyes of the world… but that is not what we are meant to be. Thus, another call this week: We all have some form of leadership responsibilities. How do we exercise such power? Jesus is still a model. “The greatest among you must be your servant.”

 

Mons Frank

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Year A. 29 October 2017

Love. Certainly, a word of the moment.

What do we really mean when we use this word about our clothes, our cat or dog, let alone our holidays or even our house…and then lump it all with “I love my children”. Other languages have many shades of expressions and some have different words. The scholars tell us that Jesus used three different expressions when asking Peter “do you love me?”

  1. Seeking an answer in the Platonic sense
  2. Seeking an answer in the Filial sense
  3. Seeking a response to “a willingness to die for me kind of love”.

It becomes complicated when we simply say in English: “I love you”. Yes, “maybe or what do I love” and, at the periphery, the media encourages the mind to always move in the sexual direction.

It may be helpful to remember that by the time of Jesus, the scholars of Israel had identified 613 precepts of the Torah. How could a pious Jew keep those let alone the average battler?  Our modern society seems headed in the same way. Good government is sometimes equated with “we passed thirty-five pieces of legislation this term, set up a new department to enforce the new laws and added to the pile of red tape”. Sometimes this simply strangles the life of the community.  I think many in Israel would have felt quite at home in modern Australia.

So where does that leave us today?

Our God wants us to thrive, to live with joy and not repression, we are to live in trust not in fear.  “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” Jesus reminds us that striving to live each day, showing our love for God and our neighbour, gives us a precise platform to praise our God and care for one another.

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 22 October 2017.

Archaeology reveals that the coins in Roman times always belonged to the Emperor. I am not sure if that situation was invented by the Romans, but Governments since have adopted that attitude. Maybe some consider it a mere technicality, but give back what is already Caesar’s neatly blunts the argument and enables Jesus to raise the bar and to introduce the higher priority of giving back to God…some say “neat”, others caution “he has deepened the hatred towards himself.” Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

We, in Victoria, more so than in other states, have two major questions facing us as community…the End of Life Bill in the Victorian Parliament and the Plebiscite Vote on Same Sex Marriage. We consider these weighty matters knowing that the Kingdom of God is among us and we are charged with furthering the work of the Kingdom. This necessarily means that differences of attitudes will be present and, thus, we are urged to put the Good News before the community. As Paul suggests, we need to show our “faith in action”, that we work “for love and persevere in hope”.

Serving God through civil society is, and always has been, a challenge. Some generations have managed the task better than others. Perhaps today’s events are really a massive wake up call to all committed followers of the Lord. Get involved in your community. Become paid up members of various associations. Have a voice. Be respectful but firm and,  as Paul said elsewhere, have an answer for all who question.

It is our duty to pay as much and indeed much more attention to ‘God’s things’ as to ‘Caesar’s things’.

Mons Frank

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Year A. 15 October 2017

Come to the banquet!

The papers this week reported on an international survey of 23 countries and 17,000 people. On average, 740 people in all countries were polled. On that basis, 740 of the Australian population were respondents. The general conclusion was that “Australians are tolerant of, if negative on, religion.” Faith and faiths are receiving bad press at the moment, ours included, yet our works, hospitals, aged care, schools, Vinnies etc. are busier than ever. The banquet parable arrives at a most appropriate time.

This parable of the wedding feast is an outline of the desire of God for all people. It is obviously written from a Christian perspective, one honed by Matthew’s experience in his work post-resurrection. We often call this teaching “a reflection on the gift of salvation”, something a little unexpected, and perhaps offering another understanding of the God of love and mercy. Given the culture in which it was first delivered and the experience of Matthew and his community, it offers another side of the frequently described “God of punishment” of parts of the Old Testament.

The banquet image of the Kingdom of God or of heaven, is not exclusively New Testament. Witness the first reading today.  Matthew is reminding the Chief Priests and elders that God issues the invitation, not them, and he suggests if they had listened, Jerusalem may not have been destroyed in 70 AD.

In view of the seeming breakdown of social cohesion and the moves to dethrone God and faith from our public discussion, it might be time for us to remind the world that God loves all; tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes, as described in Jesus’ day, and we, in our day, need to review how we relate to the recently released prisoner, the young grappling with addiction issues, those battling with gender issues, and the challenges associated with mixed race marriages, to name a few.

All are called.

But, and a big but,

an appropriate response is necessary.

Find the appropriate jumper!

Mons Frank

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 8 October 2017

We work through Matthew Chapters 21 to 23, mindful of the growing hostility to Jesus and of the author’s intent to cheer his local community who were suffering because of their commitment to the following of Jesus.

One is inclined to agree with the scholars who suggests these words are to place the life, suffering and death of Jesus in line with the mistreatment of God’s messengers throughout the centuries!

Some events of the week are just too horrendous! But added to the mass killings and injuries of the days, arrives a little booklet “Catholic Missionaries in New Guinea in World War 2”. It reminded me that of nearly 500 Nuns, Brothers, Priests and Bishops working at the start of hostilities, 176 died at the hands of their captors and virtually all infrastructure had been destroyed.

Lest we forget…I had!

The parable today is principally directed to the leaders of Israel. It was their duty to protect nourish and care for the vineyard. Isaiah reminds us that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the House of Israel” and God expected it to yield grapes.

The leadership had failed. It had abandoned the values inherited, its networking was Romanised and ignored the poor. It failed to make a real difference to the lot of its people and, in so many ways, it was unapproachable; certainly not by “sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors”. In Isaiah’s words, the Master “expected justice but found bloodshed, integrity, but only a cry of distress.”

In the challenging circumstances of our times, in the redrawing of many social boundaries, it may be helpful to remember that we believers have been here before. Let us focus on the gift of the historical Jesus and the reality of the Christ of faith and continue to keep doing all the things we have learnt from him and his faithful followers. “Then the God of peace will be with you”.

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. 1 October 2017

The battle for leadership, Godly style, continues and will for the next few weeks. John the Baptist had rattled the nerves and the sense of security of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The High Priests Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Elders were doing their utmost to appease the Romans and maintain some control over the people. John’s movement was not Temple centred, was popular and people were responding. They were damaging the leaders’ arrangement with the Romans. It was evident that some, perhaps many, and even the despised tax collectors and prostitutes, were recognising the Heavenly source of both John’s and Jesus’s origin, teaching and authority.

Something had to give.

Leadership is never easy, even in grand finals! Circuses are one thing: food, jobs, warmth and security are another. Caesar and God will arrive soon.

During the week I had a disturbing conversation with a better than average fourteen-year-old who told me (and subsequently sent me the 41-minute transcript, as you do) that the speech of the U.S. president to the U.N. was the best speech he had ever heard and that Donald Trump was right to place America first. It rattled my cage a little.

Some comfort came in the words of the second reading for this weekend.

“Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.”

Leadership is difficult and challenging, particularly when Godly principles are involved with human designs.

Let us continue to proclaim the welfare of the community.

Let us joyfully accept the invitation to go to the vineyard…and GO!

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time. Year A. 23 September 2017

The Gospel today reminds me of the famous decision of Justice Higgins in 1907, often recalled as the ‘Sunshine Harvester’ judgement from which came the basic wage, our then equivalent of the denarius. Oh, where oh where has the basic wage, sufficient for a man, his wife and three children to live on, gone… the reality let alone the concept?

Yet again we are seemingly faced with a difficulty within the Matthean community for, like its founder, they welcomed “tax collectors and sinners.” This was unacceptable behaviour and teaching for the leaders of the society, even in Jesus’s time. He even dined with them!  We are confronted again with striking a balance between God’s justice and God’s mercy. We need both. The parable satisfies on every score, even though there are those who grumble…still.

With our annual Social Justice Sunday hat on, one might suggest that there is also a line that the Master (or should we call him the good employer) teaches: we would like to think that our work satisfies and contributes to our physical and general well-being. The need for people to have work that enabled them to care for their family is promoted by this parable. The 2017 Social Justice Statement, ‘Everyone’s Business: Developing an inclusive and sustainable economy’, in part, draws inspiration from the parable. We, in our changing and globalised world, might be inspired to reflect again on the need to include justice and mercy in our construct of measuring out the denarius for the labourers. They seem to be missing out in the land that first recognised the justice of having a basic wage.  In promoting such thinking, we will undoubtedly be accused of dining with “tax collectors and sinners”…but is that not where our Master wishes us to be?

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time. Year A. 17 September 2017

“If everyone was an atheist, would the world be a better place?”

I have never been asked that question, until last Friday at a large discussion group in Moama. Would it?

I began the reply by suggesting that we do not have any evidence that ‘the world’ was atheist at any particular time or that the people in small or large countries were totally atheist, even if their rulers professed atheism. The last century had a number of professed atheists: Mao, Stalin (despite his early days in the seminary), Pol Pot to name a few; and even with them we don’t know what was in their mind when they died.

What we do know is that some form of belief in the supernatural, in a ‘God’, in a higher spirit, has been found in all cultures and that there is some evidence that if worship was not offered to the particular deity on certain occasions, then the punishment was severe.

The concept of forgiveness was not highly regarded by all in many cultures. Peter, the spokesman, is struggling to come to grips with forgiving seven times. The eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, or payback systems, was firmly entrenched in his society despite the teaching of the Prophets, as it was in the Roman world in which he lived.

It has been suggested that the concept of seventy times seventy, or forgiveness without limits, is one of the greatest teachings given to the world by our founder who dramatically fulfilled the talk by the walk to Calvary…”forgive them Father” from the Cross is surely gold-plated action.

Both our ability and inability to forgive is measured by our inherited teaching and example of Christ. It has set Christianity apart from other faiths. Its practise has admirers and catcalls follow our failures to forgive.

Last Sunday’s Gospel is complimented by today’s passage. This Sunday remind s us that reconciliation is very much our business despite our forgetfulness at times, our refusal on other occasions, and our inability to offer the hand of friendship. Again, our reflections during the recent Year of Mercy may assist us in being agents of reconciliation during these bruising times of social debate in our beloved Australia.

“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.”
Mons Frank