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.

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year C   17 November 2019

The end of things features prominently in discussions, in literature, in publications and in social gossip. At this moment, England is awaiting the outcome of Brexit and Hong Kong is awaiting the future of their current lifestyle. Chile awaits an end to the corruption of political leadership and Sri Lanka is facing bad political memories; we could go on and on. The Holy Scriptures are also full of longings for the end of many things, oppression perhaps being the outstanding candidate. As we head to the end of our musings according to Luke for 2019, the readings address the end times. Glimmers of hope are offered, but as in much of Christianity, the call is ultimately to faith.

Remember Julian of Norwich:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

The Psalm ends today with, “For the Lord comes, he comes to rule the earth.”

And it adds for good measure, “He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.”

To the Gospel list of signs “earthquakes, plagues and famines” we, in Australia, might add bushfires, and then Indonesia might trump even that!  All to no avail.

Pondering the “end of things” in that mode is really a waste of time. Today, Paul really nails what is important. What really is important, “We order and call on people…to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.”

You and I can bring about the ‘end’ of so much unhappiness and injustice day by day in being cheerful, helping the down and out, attending gatherings, raising the justice questions, and much more.

So, the word today to all is “keep on keeping on” in all your involvements; make the Teams thrive, bring the ‘See, Judge, Act’ to the fore, create positive family situations and, above all, remain faithful.

“…not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.”

Mons Frank

 

P.S. Teams is mounting a major expedition to Darwin next weekend…your prayers please.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C     10 November 2019

‘Extinction Rebellion’ reminds me of the oft quoted phrase, “the end is nigh!”  Whatever about the current expression, for us praying the Liturgical cycle the other quote is accurate…

The current Liturgical Sunday cycle ends on November 24.

We need to prepare to celebrate our 2019 good deeds for the kingdom on that Sunday as we celebrate Christ our King.

Our reflections with Luke and the other readings this week point us to the great truth of the resurrection. We meet today some of those who did not believe in the resurrection; the other reading point towards that truth we all ultimately needed: “Christ to rise from the dead”. That truth confirms those indicators found emerging amongst the Jewish community, even the Pharisees had come to believe in the resurrection.

Funny, in a sense, how God is so patient with us mortals.

He gave the human race, and particularly the Sons of Abraham, time to muddle through and allow the concept of ‘resurrection’ to emerge by way of their prayerful pondering and thoughts. Our instant generation would not be happy with that approach. “What do we want?  We want the truth (I wonder) NOW!”

Well…it seems that is not how God usually works.

So, our Liturgical year wanders along, recalling the obstacles, recalling the arguments, asking us to review where we are at in the light of the evidence placed before us. And like the original journey to Jerusalem, assisting us each year to make a fresh commitment to the great truth. “Christ is Risen.” As has been said, “God raises the dead to life as easily as God gives life in the first place”.

The Psalm is well worth a slow reading this Sunday.

We all hope to awake “with the sight of your glory.”

Mons Frank

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year C   3 November 2019

On Thursday, the presenter of the 7.30 report on the ABC lamented many times about “what’s happened to our Australia?” and used other words of similar sentiment. The immediate background of the segment was the Woolworths saga, and included a reference to Bunnings and the 7/11 stores, the ABC and others; all of whom have confessed to bad wages practice. Further, there were references to drought and the latest antics of protesters. I wondered if Leigh Sales would get around to suggesting that a reading of the Gospel for this Sunday might provide a way forward.

“…if I have cheated anybody, I will pay him back four times the amount.”

Then, it might have been an honest mistake. Wage rates are often very complex.

Nonetheless, Zacchaeus was a wealthy man.

Happy? Satisfied? Content?

Well, he ran after Jesus in his anxiety to see what kind of man this Jesus was, and as one commentator put it,

“They exchanged trees!”

Reading One reminds us: “Lord, lover of life…(who) little by little corrects those who offend”.

Zacchaeus responds to the self-invitation of Jesus, puts up with the heckling of the crowd and makes his statement, another little correction on his path to conversion. It seems that for one of our newest canonised saints he, too, had a series of corrections on his way to the fullness of faith; namely John Cardinal Newman. Leaving behind our attachments, books or wealth, perceived intellectual positions or simply stubborn beliefs is necessary to enable the heart to accept the invitation to dine with him.

So often in Luke we read that the one who clings to wealth seems very closed to the Prophets call.  Our Pope Francis keeps reminding us in word and deed that our world and each of us must share generously with the poor and least developed nations to hear the genuine call of the Prophet, Jesus.

May we make another correction this week on our road to conversion.

Mons Frank

 

P.S. It has rained overnight in Bendigo; 11mls to 11am. Praise God. I hope all have received rain.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time     Year C     27 October 2019

Close your eyes for a moment and make a picture of the two men in the Temple. Now recite the words of the parable…slowly.

Two…men…went…up…to…the…Temple…to…pray.

Very easy to picture the scene. We know this reflection of Jesus well. Let the picture tell the story for a minute or so. What emerges from the experience?

I try.

 Firstly, they went to the Temple. Points scored. But…

Secondly, did they pray?

To me, it seems that one was telling God, with an eye on the other, to make sure that both God and the man heard what he was saying and received the message, “I am pretty good but as for you…”

The mind then moves to the other human being. I have to go searching… He seems a long way away. As if not worthy to be in the Temple, his eyes are lowered, he beats his breast, and not looking in any direction, he cries out for mercy.

It reminds me of that line from Pope Francis, “I am a sinner upon whom the Lord has turned his gaze!”

Luke’s Gospel has many themes; his delight in showing Jesus’s rapport with women is one. Another is the seeming ongoing attempt to offer conversion to the tax collectors (and sinners) and to the Pharisees (and scribes and lawyers). The former are seen to be open to the Prophet: the latter, self-satisfied and assured. They had no need of conversation so why should they listen to the Prophet, let alone to God!

Last week we were encouraged to pray and to pray frequently.

This week we are reminded that in our prayer we need to be truthful and sincere.

However you pray, pray.

Whenever you pray, be truthful and sincere.

As the first reading reminded us,

The Lord “does not ignore the orphan’s supplication, nor the widow’s as she pours out her story…

The humble person’ s prayer pierces the clouds”.

Keep praying…but be open for the message.

Mons Frank