Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 24 October 2021

Confessions…be they of faith, wrongdoings, repentance, or belief, are not easy, be they public or private, let alone grave or even frivolous. So, on “let out” day, Friday 22 October in Victoria, the downside of the gates being opened was to announce to the congregation, 30 persons, all double vaccinated, that I, the celebrant, was, as required by decree, double vaccinated! That certainly was not in the faculty sheet upon Ordination. I did not feel quite like Bartimaeus.

What with all the commentary emerging from many sources from the first session of the Plenary Council, the huffing and puffings of government agencies trying to rejoice that the lockdown was being lifted, the conflicting news about the “washed and unwashed” (we are a welcoming church), and the media sensationalism about having a beer at midnight…blind Bartimaeus’ cry “Master, let me see again” is a dash of realism. “Let me see again.”

All was not clear or peaceful in the throng; disciples, and a large crowd that left Jericho with Jesus. We have had in recent weeks the wrangling over places at the table, the sadness of Jesus as the young man took off (his riches won the battle on that occasion), and the “What’s in it for us?” from Peter. Jesus must have been wringing his hands and wondering, “Why me? Is this all I have going for me after all the miracles, example and words?” And, overriding it all was the false hope circulating that he, Jesus, would be the leader of the revolution! Rome would be no more. He was the revolution of course, but not on their terms or in their understanding. “Master, let me see again” was a summary of Jesus’ presence. To see the Father is our hope, and to follow the Way, Truth and Life is our Journey.

The restoration of his physical sight was important for Bartimaeus but his insight into the real person of Jesus (Son of David) was more important, for him and us.

Bartimaeus, lead us to Jesus!

 

Mons Frank

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 17 October 2021

“Can you drink the cup that I must drink?”

We have been alerted by Mark. “They are on the road, going up to Jerusalem”. Excitement was evident. The great feast of the Passover was to be celebrated in the Holy City. Huge interest was being shown to the teacher from Galilee. Was he the person to set the people free? James and John wished to have good seats at the celebration…it didn’t really matter about the other ten. The scene reminds me of the two men desperate to obtain seats to the Grand Final in Perth recently. Broke most rules to get there; now in jail.

Jesus must have sighed a great sigh! Will they ever learn? Will we ever learn? So, another lesson about the order in the Kingdom and the way forward. There will be pain and suffering, the Father allocates the seats, no room for scalpers. The way forward will be through service. “Can you drink the cup that I must drink?”

It is a great counter vision to the ethos of the time…and to our age also.

There are too many examples today of progress being dependent on throwing weight around, H/K, threats and intimidation, Taiwan, advancement in career at a sexual price, even “father knows best” in our own Church circles.

Many years ago, in discussing the acceptance, or not, of a person for work within the Church, my friend remarked “Can he drink the cup?” Sadly, it turned out…no.

“Can you drink the cup that I must drink?” is still a touchstone for us. We all need to imitate the kind of servant leadership shown by Jesus, who gave his life that others might be free.

True greatness involves the service of others. Let us find a little way to be of service to another this week.

Mons Frank

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 26 September 2021

The National Geographic’s TV series on Egypt is currently examining the rise and decline of the different Tombs of the Pharaohs and their predilection for equipping their final resting place with all the “goodies” to ensure their passage to eternal life and eventual resurrection. It hit a hurdle in the latest episode. James, in his almost belligerent outpouring in the second reading, would be saying “I told you so!”

The recent episode involved a grand dig to remove huge amounts of sand, a door was discovered, the archaeologist crawled in, the tomb was completely empty, no signs of looters…just termites.

 “Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths”. James 5:2

Where do we place our priorities?

For Mark, facing the persecution of his new community, he proclaims, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

The spirit of hard and fast rituals, harsh legalisms, and desire to be really separate from the existing communities, both Jewish and Roman, found it difficult to handle kindly acts by different sides. So, the acts of the Good Samaritan, the Roman Centurion caused wonder. You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink is now replaced by…

“If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he most certainly will not lose his reward.”

Another nail in the old order, another call to conversion for us.

Sure, there are things in our lives that we must work to tear out. Greatness in our community will still be measured by service within that community.

Let us try this week to recognise more clearly the “Christ” in the face of the hand who offers us a cup of water.

Mons Frank

 

 

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 19 September 2021

Decisions, decisions, decisions in a changing world!

We sometimes think a past world was golden. But things were changing, even in Jesus’ time. He himself had to battle with change. “Show me the coin. Whose head is on it?”

So, we will be able to stay under water for months at a time…if and when we get our new Submarine(s)! Progress, maybe, but things change. Response to change is at best difficult, but we do need guidance. The disciples, even though they did not understand, still knew things were going to change. And they wished to be in the position of power when that happened. They had to learn the new rules for the new era. And the new rules turned their world upside down and should do the same for us.

In their society, the child had no legal status, was completely dependent upon others. By embracing the child Jesus turns another “commonly accepted decision” of the community upside down. The child (who is a social nonentity) is worthy of respect and care; so, from now on, ALL people are worthy of respect and care.

One disciple at least got the message. They all did in time, to various degrees. James is really worked up in today’s excerpt which we read. He would not have been popular with the hard-line members of his city who were always wanting to fight the invaders.

“Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.”

We are all called to make decisions, even big decisions, and even every day.

We need to be guided by the Spirit and attempt to base those decisions on values that Jesus promotes. It’s tough and we may, at times, be treated like the virtuous of our first reading. We aim, nonetheless, to be a “welcomer, one who does it in his name”.

Mons Frank

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 29 August 2021

Another dreadful week for humanity.

One would think that Covid would be enough to keep us united, but no. Another suicide bombing and the fall out of a seemingly badly executed plan to leave Afghanistan causes panic and fear amongst people.

During the week, Psalm 25(26) was prayed in the formal prayer of the Church. You may have noticed these lines…

“Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men in whose hands are evil plots, whose right hands are filled with gold.”

These lines took me to the central verse of our Gospel today 7:15, “Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.”

We know that the saying applies to all people, but sometimes we males have more to answer for.

The antidote proposed by Jesus, applicable in all circumstances, was for the people to really look at the essential teaching of their tradition (and listen to him and his restoration of the essential teaching of that tradition).

So, too, for us.

We often haggle over non-essentials.

Sixty years ago, the Second Vatican Council urged the whole Church to reassess her teaching and practices in the light of revelation, a call increasingly shouted out by our current Pope.

We all need to rediscover the beauty of the scripture with all its thrills and spills. It tackles the way to release us from our shackles.

“Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you…” says James in the second reading.

As we return to Mark for the final set of Sundays in Year B, we notice the opposition to Jesus heating up. He tries to remind the hecklers to go back to the sources of their tradition. Time and time again they argue for their interpretation. He, however, wants them to rediscover the “Word that has come down from heaven”. So, too, for us!

Make time each day to have a chat with the author of the “saving Word”.

Mons Frank

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 11 July 2021

The Sandhurst Church ordained a young man to be a priest today. A very male dominated liturgy; the ceremony was punctuated by numerous issuing of hand sanitiser, no doubt in years to come, such practices will be part of the red print rubrics. Also, face masks. Now there is a challenge for the liturgists. Comment was made, too, on the rather bountiful hugs during the welcoming ‘Sign of Peace’. I hasten to add that the clerical enthusiasm was not repeated later in the Mass. The music was excellent, the Cathedral Choir in good voice (but it is difficult to choir and social distance at the one time).

And then we read the Gospel for this Sunday.

2021 is not 30CE.

Is there anything in the scripture this weekend that might be useful for the community preparing to celebrate a mission experience? Both Amos and Paul remind us that “it was the Lord who took me” as we believe the same Lord took Adi Indri and led him after seven hard years of study to the altar.

Part of that choice had purpose then and now. For Amos to “go, prophesy to your people”, for Paul perhaps put more fulsome “to make us praise the glory of his grace etc.”. In between Amos and Paul we have the Gospel with Jesus telling the disciples to live in community and to form them by their example (travelling light, confronting evil, serving as an agent of God’s healing power and to cast out devils). In latter chapters we will hear their report back.

We are rediscovering the original message that we are all called to mission.

Against this, where do we begin in 2021?

Perhaps a re-examination of all this evidence may give us a path to follow and a blueprint for commissioning.

One hopes this may be part of the work of the Plenary Council.

May we so hope and pray.

Mons Frank

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