Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time       Year B          28 January 2018

“His teaching made a deep impression on them…”

“Here is a teaching that is new”.

We are still in chapter one of Mark. The call has been issued; some have already responded. Now, time to proclaim the Good News.

Just what did Jesus proclaim on this occasion? Well it is not recorded. What we do know is that Jesus often preached at Capernaum; he stayed in the house of Peter and Andrew; he healed Peter’s mother-in- law; he cast out demons; but eventually both Matthew and Luke report that he cursed the town for its lack of response to his preaching about God’s Kingdom and his call to repentance!

The Pharisees soon became aware that their position in that society was being threatened for he “taught with authority” and they began to plot against him.

This preaching business can be very fickle!

Yet there was something very attractive about him and what he said.

Was it his demeanour?

Was it his Parables?

Was it his proclamation of liberation from oppression both from within and without?

We all want to be free from that which disorders our lives, yet when offered the possibility of a way to kick the habit, be it addictions or attachments, there seems to be a voice, very powerful, offering resistance. The world we think we know can seem more secure than the promised land.

It seems that the people of Capernaum faced the same difficulty as we do. Do I stay in the same house, not venturing out, bemoaning my fate but find it rather daunting to take the first step to liberation?

The possibility of freedom can be very frightening, but it is the way of the Kingdom.

Mons Frank.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B 14 January 2018

One can imagine that Mark was asked one day, “How did it all begin?” And they were not referring to the creation of the world; after all, they had that answer in their Scriptures. ‘It’ referred to the following of Jesus. Mark has his version next week. Somehow we get John’s version to kickstart year B.

Things begin in Scripture by ‘calls’. So we have Hebrew Bible examples in Samuel this week and Jonah next week. We might try to remind ourselves of the ‘calls’ in Scripture that we can remember. Some, like Abraham, come readily to mind; others we may have to dig a little deeper into the memory bank.

But take time and dig.

On most occasions the call is accompanied by a dialogue: “How can his happen since I am a virgin?” said Mary or “Where do you live?” from the disciples (of John) referring to where do you teach? After all they called him ‘Rabbi’ which means Teacher.

Sometimes the call was not understood or appreciated initially. Samuel today is a case in point.

Further, the response to the call often has a twist in the tail. “We have found the Messiah”… but as it turned out, not the true Messiah. The Messiah was only fully revealed in his Passion, Death and Resurrection. He was not fulfilling the pent-up hope of a downtrodden community that wanted revenge on his enemies. Pope Francis reminded the people in Myanmar, so oppressed and so abused for the past 60 years, that our way was not “revenge, but reconciliation”, brave words in the first face to face encounter of the perceived ‘boss’ and his ‘subjects’ in the history of the world. By his actions he demonstrated that he was not ‘a boss’ and they were not ‘his subjects’.

So, calls can be both dangerous and life giving.

A Sandhurst priest now retired and living in Canberra, John Ryan, has written a little book titled ‘A Priesthood Imprisoned’. Much of the text, to my mind, is recounting the same journey as the Gospel today. A previous formation, mine included, was in a sense like that of the two disciples “We have found the Messiah”. However the journey is really about the Messiah capturing us on his terms. Some like St Paul get to that point in a flash…others, like most of us, get there by degrees: daily prayer, acts of charity, worship with the community and a commitment to use our bodies for the glory of God. And, in a sense, that is what ordinary time is about.

Mons Frank

P.S. A little note. I am helping out during January in the parish of Kerang/Cohuna/Pyramid Hill, a round trip of approx. 350 kms. I said my first Christmas January Mass there in 1962 /63. It causes me to ponder. Last Saturday, it was 46 degrees at 6.10pm in Pyramid Hill and 40 degrees at 8.30pm in Kerang.

The Feast of the Epiphany. 7 January 2018

 

‘Make the most of a prickly situation.’ So proclaimed the New Year T-Shirt.

That struck me as an appropriate response to the message of this day’s readings. If Mary and Joseph had got over the excitement of the birth and then had to face the immediate challenges of a new mouth to feed and body to clothe, then the visit of the shepherds would have startled them. Such men were not always thought of as being ‘good shepherds’… then these strangers from the East, visit and talk about “the infant King of the Jews”. Herod will not like that (and we know what happened in the past to all who sought to take that title from him).

More prickles!

The Psalmist singing “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you”, would not excite the Kings of Persia let alone the Romans…prickles again!

Along comes the phenomenal Paul. His own people, let alone his former colleagues, the Pharisees, would be more than puzzled to hear his words “it means that pagans now share the same inheritance.” That became a real prickle. Even for the great Peter that statement was, for some time, a major prickle. In our own time, Pope Francis is offering more prickles to the establishment whilst the ordinary believer and non-believer alike are in awe at the words (and actions) that come from his mouth.

Prickles.

We all have prickles to deal with.

We have great examples in today’s Scripture on how to deal with the challenges. Each situation is different, but the Spirit that guided then is with us still.

Call on that Spirit first and then you will make the best of the prickle situations.

Have a productive New Year

Mons Frank

The Feast of the Holy Family.   31 December 2017

Family, family life, indeed family violence, all feature in and on our news media all too often. The Christmas and New Year period regularly feature examples of breakdowns whilst the feasting tries to raise the bar and celebrate the ideal of family life. Luke reminds us today that some people in Israel welcomed Jesus early in his life such as Simeon and Anna; we know from other sources that others were indifferent or, like Herod, positively opposed. It appears that some things remain the same.

We are called to raise the banner for family. We are asked to recall for all the wonderment of the birth of a child. The dangerous passage has been breached and new life is facing daylight. The local world changes. The new parents are suddenly faced with challenges that no amount of preparation has, or could, enable them to be conscious of the changes coming to their lives. They face the beginning of being “our family”.

And so begin all the hopes and fears. How do we nurture and shape the new life just arrived?

Like Joseph and Mary, we ought to present the new life to the author of all life in an act of thanksgiving. Baptism is one such act, but it is an act that demands follow up and, in time, Confirmation and Eucharist.

Opportunity ought to be given; that people like Simeon and Anna are able to rejoice and give praise for the new life in the community. We may need such people to enable the community to withstand the challenges, the occasional fragility the sadness’s that can rock the family unit. All families at some time or other will have the Mary experience: “a sword will pierce your own soul too”…but not destroy!

Make family day a day of conscious reflection and thanksgiving. And, as Pope Francis asked for in his prayer intention for December, “may the elderly (all over 35 ed.), sustained by families and Christian Communities, apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.”

Mons Frank

P.S. All God’s blessings for the New Year.

Christmas 2017

With the proximity of the fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day and the great variety of readings available for our instruction and edification, may I reflect upon the fact of the Christmas Story.

It is in effect the timely, but from a human point of view so untimely, action of the Holy Spirit. Once Mary said “YES”, then things began to change; and with those changes came the words of encouragement: “Do not be afraid.”

Consider Gabriel speaking to Mary, the angel in speaking to Joseph in his dream and the angels speaking to the shepherds. In all cases, their preconceived worlds were taken apart, turned upside down, and the proposed future changed for ever. And all the comforting words were “Do not be afraid!” Afraid, of course I am afraid!

Some of the terrifying questions are written in the Gospel accounts. Some we can speculate about. The world did not appreciate the importance of the event then, and many parts still deny the fact of history in 2017. Here we are 2000 years later still celebrating that event of far away Bethlehem and, as a Buddhist friend remarked to me this week, “Christmas is important to many non-Christians.” Still, we are afraid of what the Holy Spirit did, and what It might do now.

Our world has had a tumultuous year made more tumultuous by the modern means of communication. It was tumultuous in the days of Herod and his decree about all the young baby boys under two engendered great confusion and fear. Sadly, many under two still suffer the same fate. Our Church, especially our Leadership, has had a tumultuous year as well; we all suffer with them. Maybe the call of the Spirit acting in a different way still has the same message: “Do not be afraid.”

So, let each revisit the crib.

Let each note, hear, smell and see what is going on in the crib.

Ultimately it is about new life, new hope for broken humanity.

Let each receive the message and bring that message to our families and our world

Visit the Crib, everywhere.

DO NOT BE AFRAID!

Mons Frank

P.S. A very happy and holy Christmas to you all. May the season be restorative and peaceful.

Third Sunday in Advent.  Year B 17 December 2017 

Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday.

Bendigo TAFE is in the midst of a building boom all under the banner of excellence in the Education State.  One Campus has a sign “Food and Fibre Excellence Centre.”

We rejoice this Sunday, for several reasons. Christmas is just around the corner, and with that fact our history reminds us that we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. Others rejoice for school has ended, some, too, for it is holiday season.

This gift of the loving God has given rise to many customs designed to honour the event, including the offering of gifts to one another. That action has largely been overtaken by commercial motives, which seek more and more sales whatever the reason.  The continual presentation of the failures of leadership, has not only embarrassed the people of God, but has clouded our presentation to the world of the true purpose of our beloved faith. The God who first revealed his glory on Mount Sinai, now gifts us again in giving us his Son. After all, only the Son has ever seen God! However, as we tell the story of the Son, we will learn the story of God’s loving action within the human story.

Our source of food and fibre…the liturgy celebrating Eucharist and the Word in the scriptures will surely be our source of excellence and enable us to change our world as the early Christians changed their times. We need to represent these truths in proper language appropriate to our times, a task undertaken successfully on many occasions in the past.

So, despite the hubris and flotsam and rubbish, nonetheless, we should rejoice and shout loudly:

” Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

Mons Frank

O Jerusalem! O Parliament!

Second Sunday in Advent.         Year B.          10 December 2017

O Jerusalem!  O Parliament!

Decisive action in and about both places. Lives will change, and decisions will be questioned. Jerusalem has been on the agenda for 3000 years for the Mediterranean world and the great monotheistic faiths. Greatly ignored by the rest of the world for much of that time. If we survive for another 3000 years, I wonder what will be written about Thursday’s events in Canberra.

Against that we are called to “prepare a way for the Lord”.

The scholars tell us that Mark’s Gospel was not written to prove that Jesus was “the Son of God “nor simply to give us biographical information about Jesus. Rather, it was an attempt to engage the readers and listeners in the unfolding story of Jesus. Crucifixion did not kill the story, let alone the reality of who he was and, further, what He continues to do, if only we let Him act in our lives. We need to be caught up by His message, hence the call to “Prepare” and allow ourselves to be challenged to believe that the powers that seek to destroy His legacy will not prevail.

The call to “Prepare” is age old in our faith tradition. Down the ages, various props have arrived to assist – Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, cribs, Jesse Trees, even Christmas trees and carols. All have served us well, but in an age as I saw in Singapore recently, “Fresh Christmas trees, direct from the USA”, one ponders the continuing relevance of such symbols. We, of course, can make the symbol truly relevant by preparing.

In a sense we need to “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem” and be prepared to “Go up on a high mountain” and be a “joyful messenger to Jerusalem” and to announce once again ”  Here is your God.”

Make those symbols come alive this week.

 

Mons Frank

 

First Sunday in Advent Year B. 3 December 2017

We begin again!

The Year of Mark.

As many have noticed, Mark is shorter in words and a little more blunt in ideas. “Stay Awake” (or as a close long-term friend said to me this night, and now suffering in the hospice, “Francis, give me an exit plan”). In one sense, we begin to discover our Christian Exit Plan this weekend. Yet again, it will take 52 weeks to explore, but each time we set out on the journey, some things will strike us in a way that we never considered before.

Most challenges will be very similar.  Wars and rumours of wars, suffering, illness and death to be coped with. Revelation of scandal, bribery and corruption. Stories of rape, murder and brutality. And the list goes on and on.

Against this, the broader thrust of Mark 13 was to remind the community that there was hope. It had been delivered to them in the suffering and death of Jesus. This meant that the world can be transformed. As the Pope remarked to the people of Myanmar “Conciliation, not revenge, is our way.” It is the destiny of all people to reign with Jesus in glory. This gave Mark’s people a horizon of hope with which to measure their current sufferings. If they “stayed awake”, such vigilance would help them to find significance and ethical direction in their actions in the present.

It is true that as Isaiah wrote

“No ear has heard, no eye has seen any god but you act like this for those who trust him.”

 

The command to be on your guard and to stay awake will surely help us to discover our Exit Plan.

Welcome to Advent 2017.

 

Mons Frank

Feast of Christ the King. 26 November 2017

It’s that time again. The end and the beginning. The cycle of death and resurrection continues, as Paul says, “so all will be brought to life in Christ”.

It takes some doing and even after 2000 years of effort, not only do we need to begin…again, but we may even have to learn again the basic truths that we are committed to.

Pope Francis will be in one of his “peripheries” this coming week during the liturgical end and the beginning. It seems likely that both Myanmar and Bangladesh will not only receive messages of thanks, but possibility receive a word or two from this Sunday’s Gospel. The fact that the sheep and goats in Myanmar are brown in colour will not distort the message.

” I was hungry …

I was thirsty …

I was a stranger…

Naked…

Sick…

In prison.”

And you did something about it!

We will wait and see.

One response might be for each of us to ponder his message week by week in the light of the Sunday readings.

I might try to do that myself.

 

Mons Frank

 

P.S. Thanks for your words of encouragement over the past year. If you wish to continue, do nothing. Otherwise let me know.