Twenty -fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year B   16 September 2018

I have noticed that we seem to be a little more interested in our family history. Many are searching for evidence and information about the past. I bumped into Helena McCloskey, a member of the International executive of Teams. She hails from Cheltenham England and recently became more aware of a forgotten link in the family history.  Let’s call the man Jack. As a youngster, under 18, he was charged with stealing a shirt and a handkerchief and sentenced to death. He was successfully apprenticed at that time and his master went out of his way to appeal. Hence the sentenced was commuted; transportation for life to NSW.  What then happened to him? The hunt is on.

Further, there seems to be a series of TV and radio shows dealing with ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Who are you really?’ That other show some time back, ‘Go Back to Where you Came From’, attracted some comment.  We meet the sign on our way to the Teams meeting in Fatima: ‘Tourists…go home’. On White Night here in Bendigo, our newest Priest, young Dean Bougart, was attempting to bring order to the car park at St. KiIlians (a worthwhile undertaking) and was told in no uncertain terms to “go back to where you came from” in an unpleasant voice.

So it’s no wonder that even the disciples were interested to know more about Jesus and eventually Jesus himself gave them the opportunity to get an answer to what they were thinking: “Who are you?”  He, of course, turned it around. He made them think and took the initiative with his “Who do people say I am?”

Mark 8:27-35 is fundamental to this Gospel and this section attempts to clarify who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. The disciples get more than they bargained for and, so too, for us.

Peter’ s answer then is still valid for us: “You are the Christ”. Whatever they understood then, we are taught that Christ, the anointed one, is the Son of God.  Easy to utter, a life time of meditation to plumb the depths of that answer. Jesus then begins to shatter their lifetime hope of a warrior Messiah and victorious conqueror. It’s through the cross that victory will be attained, a scandal for the Jews and foolish for the Greeks.

We find ourselves in a similar place today.

I mentioned last week that maybe the current scandals in the church could well be our cross and that salvation for the world from this terrible scourge of child sexual abuse and family violence will come from our renewed appreciation of who Jesus is (he is still the Son of God) and that he continues to remind us that there are no quick fixes for anything in following him without the reality of the cross in its many manifestations. It is not all about being nailed to wood. Fixing our structures and living by the Gospel is a beginning, yet again.

We need to look at life from the Divine perspective.

We ask tonight to be strengthened so to look and then to act.

Mons Frank

 

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year B 9 September 2018

It is Child Protection Sunday in all Catholic Churches in Australia, a far cry from the Second Sunday of the month ‘Children of Mary Sunday’ of my youth. And, perhaps yours. We also find Jesus still in Gentile country, much to the discomfort of his disciples and perhaps to the wonderment of some who thought his message was only for the chosen people, then considered to be the Jewish Nation. However, Jesus brings new wine to the people and as he indicated elsewhere, Gentile territory did not seem to be the appropriate new place to be if you need new wine skins. Most disagreed, except the locals who seemed pleased to have someone talk sense and bring great doses of mercy to their suffering community.

The caveat for us is that every now and then we need a big bowl of new wine and an appropriate new skin.

We deplore and abhor what has happened in the ranks of Church personnel. One violation is one too many, one church is one too many, one nation is a nation too many; so we ask forgiveness and set about finding a new wine skin. That path will not be easy; to succeed we need to heed the advice of Hetty Johnston the founder and Executive Chair of ‘Bravehearts’ who wrote in the Bendigo Advertiser last Saturday, “Child protection is everyone’s business.” It was a positive article and still contained some disturbing figures e.g. “every 90 minutes a child is sexually assaulted somewhere in Australia” and “the majority of these crimes (sexual assault against children) are perpetrated inside the family unit or by someone known to the family.”

The miracle related in today’s gospel is ultimately about giving a human being the ability to hear and to speak, one on one or to a crowd. I believe that new voice and new hearing is what is needed today. To be able to speak about these crimes is vastly important for the victim; to be able to listen is required of the community.

The scholars tell us that Mark relays this story of Jesus to emphasise that the message of Jesus and the power that he manifests is to remind his community and those that hear or read his message, that it is for all. As it went beyond Israel in Mark’s time, so too for us. It now calls us beyond physical healing. We may not have the power to loosen the ligaments of the tongue, but we can break the age-old taboo of children being seen and not heard.

A Church in mission must reach out beyond its own culture, it is called today to confront the scourge of sexual violence against children.

Perhaps in the mysterious way in which our loving and merciful God works, our Church suffering may be the Cross of this generation that propels the world to a new and more respectful appreciation of its little ones. It is still early days, but it is good to know that the eminent scholar working in this field, Hans Zollner, visiting and helping child protection agencies in Australia, has recorded that in dealing with this scourge, the Australian Church is far ahead of other comparable institutions.

It is great news for us, all of us. And with all the posters, meetings, discussions, permits and plastic cards, some light is appearing at the end of the tunnel! We are making the scripture message “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed” come to life!

Peace.

Mons Frank

P.S. As you know I have been away, initially associated with Teams, in particular the world meeting in Fatima, but am back and willing to have another go at a reflection, with encouragement from many sources. If you wish to not receive, please let me know.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 1 July 2018

“But they laughed at him.”

A fierce reception when you have just made a journey over the sea to your home country! He had just been on the other side which was mainly Gentile territory. We sometimes forget that in his own times, to speak with or to visit such places was frowned upon. Trade, like today, was a different matter. One could argue that Jesus went to trade ideas, but the destruction of the pigs in the land of the Gerasenes did not enhance his reputation, even though he saved the possessed man. So welcome home after busting one taboo.

God loves all, even a possessed Gerasene!

Now he faces on home territory two more taboos.

What do you do with a crowd that knows that the woman should not have been in their midst, let alone touched even the hem of his garment? Then he goes charging off to visit the twelve-year-old, she who is ready for marriage. That is bad enough, but she is dead! And then he places his hand on her.

God loves all!

Our world still has taboos. Some are different to those in Jesus’s time, some are not.

This Sunday celebrates the life and times of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and particularly their womenfolk who suffer much violence and yet have produced some extraordinary female leaders.

Let us try to take another step in breaking down the taboos that haunt our communities.

Mons Frank

Feast of John the Baptist (His Birthday) 24 June 2018

“What will this child turn out to be?”

From our perspective, we could comfortably say that no one could have imagined John losing his head because he stood up to King Herod. It would have been beyond conception that a man from the hill country could have been capable of stirring up the wrath of the King.

Some like to remember that the Church has placed this feast around the solstice…the turn of the season… asking us to celebrate the gift to the world of the one who announced the turn of the old order in the coming of Jesus. Others, perhaps, like to recall that despite all the obstacles, including the doubts of Zechariah and Elizabeth (and on the surface, reasonable doubts), the divine plan was fulfilled. Some ponder the seemingly waste of a good man’s life. His community, as Jesus once said, “are so unteachable.” We pause in judgement, for are we any better?

John reminds me of a recent article by Andrew Hamilton in the Madonna on ‘Heroes’. We all need heroes. They inspire us to learn, to play, to research, to pray. They also are harbingers of hope. Hope that there are still people who stand for something positive, for a change in how we act; that not everything is done for glory or the bank account, that remind us that each of us is capable of doing good. As Andrew wrote, “Heroes are not burdens, rivals or role models. They are, above all, gifts to be housed in our imagination, given to us for celebration and encouragement.”

As we remember and say thanks for John and the gift of his short life, let us remember and say thanks for the heroes we encounter each day such as the checkout person who is so patient in tough working conditions and the grand example of generous seniors who volunteer their time to care for the next generation. This list is endless, the recognition is often missing, and some lose their lives helping others.

We often say of the new born who comes unexpectedly (and sometimes unplanned and initially unwanted), “What will this child turn out to be?” May we hope that the child will grow in wisdom and grace and be a light for us as John has been down the centuries.

Not a bad record for a young man who was killed to save the face of the King; who raised no army nor won a physical war but gave hope to a community that, at last, the time of salvation had come!

Mons Frank

 

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time                Year B           17 June 2018

Growth!

Our world and Church is constantly examined by “them” according to some seemingly artificially constructed demand for constant and continued growth. We hear so much about the current GDP or the latest returns on investment as if there is an imperative to be constantly outdoing what we have already done. Who says so? Who demands? And on what authority?

Scripture to day puts another point of view.

I am reminded that two of the great movements in the Church in the past 100 years began like the beginning of our faith, with a small group chatting with the local ordained minister of the Gospel who was prepared to listen and then encourage people to grow according to what they saw and heard and discerned.

Cardijn began with a small group of young workers. Caffarel began with two married couples: out of the former came YCW, out of the latter came Teams, both defied the logic of the times but like the mustard seed, grew. The growth was not simply in numbers but in new knowledge about work and its dignity and marriage and its sacredness.

This agricultural year might just be another lesson on true growth. In another age the village would have understood the laws of growth… planting, waiting, moisture, heat, all outside our control. In our age when the most asked question to a dairy farmer recently interviewed was “how often do you have to milk a cow?” And when receiving the answer of the twice daily seven days a week routine, the look of horror and unbelief declared a loss of appreciation of the true laws of growth.

Our Faith is based upon the scripture laws of growth it cannot be subject to economic balance sheets but can be affected by such demands.

We are to be like the growing tree, already bearing fruit, not yet at our full potential but always open to further growth.

Keep listening for invitations from the sower.

Mons Frank