Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 13 June 2021

Welcome back to Mark’s Gospel. In a sense it’s back to basics after the glory days of Pentecost and subsequent feasts.

Lockdown has dominated people in Victoria these past weeks and everything is not back to the ancient normal; for example, you can stand outside the perimeter fence at our premier football ground and watch the game but you may not enter and lean over the oval fence. And so it goes on…is it that ground that we are called to plant mustard seeds? Still, at early morn, a handful of sturdy volunteers were at the ground putting up the QR code and reminding passers-by, like me, that only 150 players and officials were allowed into the ground at any one time. Six teams to contest with all that accompanies and is needed, for the three games to proceed. (In a little aside, or perhaps with a touch of irony, I was told that the Government would pay the costs of the umpires!)

Pondering the encounter, I was reminded that the mustard seed which grows into a large plant was known to be a hardy and intrusive plant. Maybe that is the point of the parable for us in these robust and disturbing times. Perhaps we have been so well watered and cared for in the past decades that our mustard seed plants have been over protected, withered and we need to replant.

Before we do, let us recall another message of the Word today and repeated often in Mark Chapter 4, “Listen”.

Sometimes Mark adds phrases like, “You that have ears to hear” or, like today, “so far as they were capable of understanding”. Pope Francis is constantly urging our leaders to listen to their people, an alert for those running the processes of the coming Plenary Council.

Despite the varying climatic conditions surrounding the Sea of Galilee, the mustard seed prospered, hardy and invasive.

So too us.

That is what the kingdom calls us to be.

Mons Frank

Corpus Christi 6 June 2021

Reflecting upon Pentecost, the Church over the centuries has given us, immediately, three feasts to celebrate great truths of our faith:

            Holy Trinity

            Corpus Christi

            Sacred Heart.

In a sense it is the ‘big’ Church reminding itself and us, to reflect deeply upon the gift of the Holy Spirit and put into practice what we learn and hear. So, we proclaim our understanding of the true God…Trinity.

         We proclaim our understanding of the gift given at the Last Supper.

         We proclaim our understanding of the nature of Jesus, “true God, true Man”.

These post-Pentecost feasts are but further encouragement to us to, I repeat, ponder the Spirit and allow the Spirit to help us discover more and more the mystery of God’s great love for each one of us.

In his book ‘Damascus’, the novelist Christos Tsiolkas of the Greek Orthodox culture, reminds us of two realities that the gift of Jesus gave to our world. Without denying the command to love God, he brings to life vivid and disturbing accounts of poverty, brutality, and harshness of life in the time of Jesus and beyond, the power of “to love my neighbour”. He demonstrates that in both the Jewish and Gentile culture, all ruled by the conquering Romans, with empire built upon subjection into slavery of the peoples, the profound challenge that the newly redeemed Christians proclaimed to their communities by their attempts to love everyone, including slaves and by the welcome to all who joined in faith at “the Meal”.

Unlike the prevailing custom, the men in the first circle and the women in the surrounding circle, let alone the men eating first then the boys and, eventually, the women and girls last with the left overs, the new Christians sat together shoulder to shoulder. They suffered, were tortured and died for their proclamation, but eventually triumphed…and our world began to change under the influence of the Spirit.

Many people, even in high places, are beginning to wonder how our civil society, let alone our Church communities, are going to emerge, let alone survive the pandemic challenges; where is truth? why me? my perceived Qantas rights, community needs to vaccinate or not, and other emerging challenges.

It occurs to me that we, by rediscovering the proclamation of the Trinity and the reform of our gathering; by reflecting more appropriately the action of Jesus in his self-giving, to accept the invitation to eat and drink (for we are all or should be in the action together), then our generation, too, may bring our world from its current turbulent state to align itself with the ideal of the Kingdom of God.

Under the Spirit we have evolved to speak of the “twofold table of the Lord’s Word and of the Supper” (Vatican II). As disciples, we must receive both. The Spirit will be with us as we seek to bring our understanding of both “altars” to our world.

Mons Frank

 

Trinity Sunday 30 May 2021

Greetings from lockdown…with handcuffs this time, an interesting use of authority and power, yet again! 

Matthew uses authority in our Sunday translation.  Other translations use power and that has started, after a due lockdown pause, a line of thought.

The events in Belarus in recent days illustrates the understanding of ‘authority/power’ being proclaimed in our world at the moment.  To that event we add the trial of the Australian journalist in Beijing; the arrest, trial and sentencing of the Independent Media mogul, the Catholic Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong; our Churches being bombed in Myanmar and so the list goes on. There is a recent book on Putin and how the KGB recaptured Russia where, in vivid detail, the philosophy guiding these regimes is spelt out.

No wonder my friends in Estonia are worried!

Against this we come up to the Great Commission this weekend in Jesus’ words to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

It is to be exercised not by guns or stuffing ballot boxes with false votes, but by “baptising in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. No wonder some hesitated!

Occasionally, I wish that his power would cleanse the world as his Son cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem!

And there is the rub.  The Trinity is holiness and love, the battle royal is not between rockets and bombs but between fighting and love.

We are called to be on the side of love.

We are called, especially as disciples, to recognise that the loving Father has given his commission to his only Son who in turn offers us, through Baptism, a share in that loving power. We are not alone when we attempt to carry out the Great Commission, the Spirit of the Risen Christ will guide us and protect us and be with us until the job is done.

Paul writes, “The Spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives…”

Jimmy Lai commented, “If they can induce fear in you that’s the cheapest way to control you and the most effective way and they know it. The only way to defeat the way of intimidation is to face up to fear and don’t let it frighten you”.

We have “the spirit of (family)” and for help we can cry out “Abba Father”.

Amongst others this weekend, ask the Trinity to strengthen Jimmy Lai!

Blessings,

Mons Frank

 

Ascension of the Lord 16 May 2021

Some weeks are more crowded than others!  Sometimes it happens with Liturgical weeks too. We can feel, just get on with it which was, perhaps, what Jesus was gently saying to the Apostles as he disappeared from sight and left them “still staring into the sky”.  No jet trails to indicate where He had gone. 

So to set our scene; we have Ascension, Pentecost and the Australian feast of our patroness, Mary Help of Christians. We are also called to honour and work through, yet again, the teachings in ‘Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ reflection and teachings. Such questions the Pope raises were not on the minds of the Apostles as they headed back to Jerusalem.  ‘Care for our Common Home’ from their point of view was not an issue, even though their methods of fighting over centuries had produced more than a number of deserted areas and more than one dead oasis by 33 CE. 

The waiting…the not knowing what was going to happen…what did being baptised with the Holy Spirit mean? One good thing…this time they seemed to do what Jesus had asked them to do, they stayed in Jerusalem and their presence there, aided by the Spirit, sanctified the place…conveniently forgotten in these days of yet another terrible situation in Jerusalem.

“It is better that I go away” or words to that effect, said Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit will come. So we don’t need the face to face presence of Jesus…but we do need the activity of the Holy Spirit. We need the strength of the Holy Spirit to put into practise the teachings of Jesus, particularly the call to love one another. Our job is to bring healing of bodies and souls as he did to our brothers and sisters and increasingly now in our time, to our Mother Earth.

We, too, need to “return to Jerusalem”, to ponder the world around us. To rethink the teachings of Jesus and the updated commentary of Pope Francis.

Let us all find time this week to take a break and await the Holy Spirit to activate us.

A word from St Francis of Assisi may help: 

        “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth, 

          who sustains and governs us,  

          and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs”.

                                    (The Canticle of Creation…St Francis of Assisi) 

Blessings.

Mons Frank

Sixth Sunday of Easter 9 May 2021

“You in the West, you think you’re playing Chess with us. But you are never going to win because we are not following any rules”. Attributed to a Russian mobster, and quoted on page 448 in the recent book, ‘Putin’s People’ by Catherine Belton. That is one version, a 2020 proclamation of how to live and be happy ever after.

Another concept is offered in today’s Gospel, “love one another” with reflections upon that proclamation by Peter in the house of Cornelius.

We are confronted with the simple teaching by Jesus, “What I command you is to love one another.”

Sounds simple…but we still live in a world inhabited by the likes of the Russian mobster.

In addition to the commandment to love, other gifts are promised…

Does the promise of being offered joy excite you? Or does your recent experience of joy only reflect the packaged tinsel of the allurements of Mother’s Day?

What about the statement, “that God does not have favourites”? Surely, he can’t mean Tom, Dick or Harry!  They had been on the agenda long before Peter said, “The truth I have now come to realise…”. Hope for me yet!

This statement, “What I command you  is to love one another” was, in a sense, unthinkable then given the experiences of their history, even recent history with their neighbours the Samaritans. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is still unthinkable, perhaps even unfathomable today; but we have the Holy Spirit working and abiding with us.

Further, we have been called “friends”. Maybe that is where we end today. Let us spend some time pondering that we have been called friends by Jesus. Me, a friend. Hard to believe.  But it is true!

Perhaps it is time that the Russian mobster heard that even he is loved by God and God wants to be his friend. Somehow, we have to spread that message.

Blessings to all women this weekend.

Mons Frank

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 14 February 2021

Greetings…from the lockdown state of amnesia. We are doing it again, just in case we have forgotten what it is like. Further, for those who read the tea leaves tossed up by public life and public spokespeople, our first reading on Saturday February 13 was from Genesis 3: 9-24. It is a brilliant commentary on the ‘blame game’. Finally, in this somewhat uncharacteristic commentary, before we look at the readings for this shut -down Sunday, let alone Ash Wednesday, take comfort in the Old Testament reading for Sunday. We, too, have to shield our upper lip and to cry unclean at the borders, and to live apart outside the camp Commonwealth.

We presume it was deliberate. Sadly Mark is not here with us in the flesh to question, but is it not  fascinating that he, the Leper begins life outside, is touchingly welcomed into full life and he, Jesus, finds himself “outside in places where nobody lived”.

Did he need a rest? 

Did he need to escape?

Did he need some privacy?

Did he need to pray?

We could spend many moments pondering. Did Mark intend that? Was it a warning that sometimes great acts of kindness, healing or simply being attentive to others produces an effect like “Jesus could no longer go openly into any town”. All this and we have just finished Chapter One of Mark.

What an exciting beginning to this person Jesus!

At TEAMS this week we rediscovered the following prayer. You may find it useful and helpful.

May we who are merely inconvenienced, remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors, remember those most vulnerable 

May we who have the luxury of working from home, remember those who must choose between their health and making the rent.

May we have flexibility to care for our children when the schools close, remember those who have no options. 

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the turmoil of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love during this time. When we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbour. Amen

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Advent 20 December 2020

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall and to have witnessed the most important encounter between heaven and earth since the creation of the human race! All done in a fleeting minute, with a very insignificant person in a, then, insignificant town, in a relatively insignificant country. 

How odd of God. Or rather, (when we take our darkened spectacles off) why should we be surprised? 

All through the oral and written history of our religious tradition, God chooses the weak to confound the strong or you may prefer the words of the Magnificat, “He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly”.

But…always in God’s time, at God’s pace, and in God’s way.

And there’s the rub. 

We want it now, immediately and on our terms.

Maybe that is why we have four Sundays in Advent. To slow us down a little (we have nearly rushed into pre- Covid speed in Victoria), to help us really look at the Lucan story and notice more keenly that Mary took her time, asked pertinent and respectful questions before she answered, “let what you have said be done to me.”

And the world changed as it awaited the Saviour.

As God offered Mary a choice, in many similar ways we, too, are offered opportunities to side with God and to bring sense and peace and hope to our world.

Let us resolve, again, to give the Angels good news of our responses to report back to heaven!

Have a very happy family and prayerful gathering this Christmas.

Mons Frank

 

Third Sunday of Advent 13 December 2020

What is normal and, for that matter, what is Covid-19 normal? It is a bit like “Who are you?” and possibly there would be more answers (and subsequent questions) than John received. Likewise, there are just as many anonymous “We must take back an answer to those who sent us”, Pharisees today! 

This past week has been a rather fascinating taste of what was and what might be, in my life. You may enjoy looking back on your week…and ponder the experiences.

I began with the celebration of the first big congregation at one of our large Churches, St Kilian’s in Bendigo. Congregation very quiet, no coughing. Not many children. The week ended with celebrating Mass in a small rural setting for the first time since March. Interspersed were two very large funerals, a solemn Ordination, a most joyous wedding. The deacon had been waiting for five months (after seven years of study) and the young couple, on hold since Easter. In between, Christmas gathering with my Team and a review of the small Cardijn group in Bendigo. 

The palpable joy of being together was evident at all occasions. There were abundant shakes of the hand, hugs and kisses. People were delighted to be together and to make contact. Touch is important for us humans. “Come Thomas, place your hand in my side, in my wounds, and believe.” 

Isaiah’s words came alive for me.

 +Good news for the poor – many felt the poor that they experienced, lifted by being back in familiar                  surroundings. 

 +To bind up hearts that were broken – reunions of grandparents with the especially new grandchildren.

 +Liberty to captives – for some, the veil of fear had been lifted.

 +Freedom to those in prison- the prison of separation.

 +Proclaim a year of favour…what proclamation do we bring to our world and families this Christmas
 after this experience? 

Many have rediscovered the pleasure of the garden, some revived the ancient craft of knitting. Families have often reconnected, and the boon of Zoom has eased burdens.

Isaiah also said today “For as the earth makes fresh things grow, so will the Lord make both integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations.” 

If we dig a bit deeper, it is happening before our eyes. 

Let’s embrace the good that has come our way and not return to the suffocating demand of recent times.

Mons Frank