Pentecost Sunday 5 June 2022

“We are short staffed tonight. Please be patient.”

Notices like this are seen often around Bendigo…and elsewhere, I presume.

One, at a nearby hotel, adds, “You may experience a short wait before we can serve you.”

And then it adds, “But we are doing our best.”

I am sure that the few Apostles gathered in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost Day may well have been fearful, perhaps of the Jews again. After all, they were in Jerusalem! Perhaps somewhat confused by the recent command to go first to Galilee and after those experiences, to now go back to Jerusalem. What is going on? They remembered his words, “Go to the whole world” and even with the gift of the Spirit were surely thinking, “But we are so short staffed!”

It is one thing to have had that wonderful experience of speaking in foreign languages and, after all, they were only Galileans; and then to wake up next day with some understanding of what had happened and, what’s more, what has to happen.

They, too, perhaps said, “Please be patient”.

In time, they realised that a great part of their mission was what Phillip learned in the presence of the Ethiopian eunuch, “How can I, unless someone shows me.”

It is nearly 2000 years since the first Pentecost.

Against a background of bustling suburbs, declining rural population, cultural changing CBDs, and a few resurgent regional centres, there are many signs of short staff in our Australian Church communities. There are even places very short of customers.

We, perhaps, need to take a deep breath and ponder, are “we hearing them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God?” and, secondly, what sort of staff do we really need?

Big questions as the delegates gather for the next session of the Plenary council.

In the meantime, “You may experience a short wait before we can serve you.”

It is consoling to know “we are doing our best…”

But…we are called to renew the face of the earth.

COME HOLY SPIRIT.

.Mons Frank

 

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord 29 May 2022

“I would like to say a Hail Mary for all the mothers…in Texas”.

Spoken a little emotionally, but strongly; brought a deep silence to the 40 plus community of residents and members of the Chaplaincy Team. We had gathered in the beautiful prisoner designed and built Chapel in Loddon Prison around 5.30pm on Friday night.

The work of the chaplaincy has just resumed this month after a Covid ban of two years. There are two prisons in Castlemaine; the new Middleton and the longer established Loddon. Between 700 and 800 men live there. The Chaplaincy service provides opportunity for nine faith groups to be available for the welfare of the residents.

We were celebrating the feast of the Ascension. The locals read. They really sang. The responses were loud and clear. All in all, a very humbling experience.

The reading from Acts asks us “…to be witnesses not only in Jerusalem but also…” in prison. The man who asked for a “Hail Mary for the mothers” changed the atmosphere and we all were more prayerful. It enabled a much younger man to announce that he was present for the first time… He was welcomed.

The Gospel account has Jesus reminding his disciples of their Scriptural history and of his work with the words, “You are witnesses to this.”

My first prison visit since my first prison visit at Beechworth in the late 1960’s (they asked how long I was in), reminded me that even in prisons there have been changes, thankfully, but some things remain the same.

The value of witness…even in small things.

Looking back on those encounters I think the value of the Chaplaincy is to make real the words of Paul today, “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you…”

Our witness, outside the walls, can do the same.

Let’s stop standing looking into the sky and get on with the job.

Mons Frank

P.S. According to Sister Mary O’ Shannassy SCG, the Victoria budget for Correctional services is $8 billion pa.

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter 22 May 2022

It is Federal Election Day in Australia. We are all commanded to cast a ballot, to make a vote. Sadly, and unlike the first major voting platform read about in the account given in Acts, its conclusion read today, our decision won’t include, “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and us…” Even in the so-called Theocratic States, the Holy Spirit does not get a hearing.

So, in our church, we must be different!

Phase two of the new Plenary Council is about to begin. Hopefully the members will allow the Holy Spirit to be heard.

One continuing challenge for our Church is being addressed in the reading from Acts today. What truths are the essential truths that all the different cultures of the earth must hold and practise to claim to be disciples of the Risen Lord? That answer has taken years to define and express. Hence, our Creed and several expressions of those truths.

What then follows is as important: how do we put these truths into practise?

And ever so quietly (after many chapters of debate) this first great meeting of the Church dropped the need of circumcision. It was considered by the followers of Moses to be essential. They demanded circumcision for the so-called pagans, as well as Baptism. Not so said the Assembly (and, as always, some no longer walked the new way).

Here at home we face similar challenges. Our inherited traditional Irish church has to learn to live in harmony with the faithful followers of the Risen Lord who come here, so many as refugees, but with different Catholic practices.

It is not a question of who is right and who is wrong, but can we learn from each other and, like our early ancestors, “not lay any burdens beyond these essentials”? A big task in rapidly changing cultures.

We today are not left lonely!

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit

Whom the Father will send in my name

Will teach you everything”.

Our prayer this week is a constant “Come Holy Spirit”.

Mons Frank

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter 15 May 2022

“I give you a new commandment.”

All societies, civic and religious, need rules. The original Mosaic Law eventually prescribed 613 commandments. No wonder ordinary folk listened to Jesus and his New Way.

A recent journey to an appointment in Melbourne revealed that there were 9 major prohibitions on the Train, but the newish Tram listed 13! That’s inflation!

In another age, I mused, we would not have such a list on public transport. In our new age, increasingly removed from a sense of responsibility towards the common good, it appears that we might be chasing the Mosaic number. That solution failed once and is failing as we write in Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Afghanistan, to mention but a few.

But all societies need traffic lights.

Instead of the don’ts, Jesus appealed to our better nature and invited us “to love one another. To love God. To love your neighbour as yourself.”

This new proclamation did break through the old order. We read that the early Christians were known for their love of people…a characteristic not outstanding in the Roman Colosseum! Likewise, the spread of the faith in Korea was often attributed to the wonderful lives of the early women converts. Somehow, the Gospel message appealed to the women who embraced the proclamation and lived accordingly. Many paid dearly with their lives, but their example triumphed.

Jesus proclaimed: the chosen ones, even after years of listening and walking together, failed to grasp the message. Nonetheless, these same followers lost, yet loved, in their misunderstanding, failures and ignorance, eventually saw the light in his death and resurrection.

They became witnesses to his Truths.

And whilst it may not be super evident to our bleary eyes in the here and now, this truth from the Apocalypse excerpt read today is still true…

“Behold, I am making the whole of creation new.”

And that includes the recently measured “black hole”.

To cheer us up in this age of discontent, we might just embrace the final sentence of the Acts read today, and assemble our local family, street, Teams, Family Group, Cardijn and other local Church assembly, and “give an account of all that God has done with us”.

We might be gently surprised.

 

Mons Frank

 

Fourth Sunday of Easter 8 May 2022

“Truth” said Pilate. “What is that?”

This was the response to the statement by Jesus, “I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”

We see in our readings this Sunday, several examples of incidents involving Jesus, Paul and Barnabas that indicate reaction to the proclamation of Truth, particularly when the words spoken urged people to “remain faithful to the Grace God had given them”. The invitation was not happily received by all; in fact, there was opposition and, sadly, violence.

It is not easy to proclaim truth, even when done in charity!

Our world is being harmed by deliberate and planned misinformation and the proliferation of so called ‘fake news’.

The report published this week that indicated Pope Francis reminded Patriarch Kirill that “the Patriarch cannot become Putin’s Altar Boy” is rather startling and refreshing. The two leaders met in Havana, Cuba, in 2016. It was the first meeting in nearly 1000 years between the Pope and the Moscow based Orthodox Patriarch. They were to meet again on June 14 in the Holy Land. That meeting was aborted very soon after the “special military operation” (another example of fake news).

Keep in mind that when Rome speaks of ‘Ecumenism’, it principally speaks of reunion between the Latin Church and Orthodoxy. We, down under, have a much broader view of that movement and a significantly limited experience of Orthodoxy. Truth must be spoken. “Brother”, said Francis, “we are not State Clerics”. A reminder for all clerics. If his words set reunion back another 1000 years, then the Pilates of our world may still respond with “What is that?”

The pagans rejoiced when the locals rejected the words of Paul and Barnabas.

The sheep were strengthened by the declaration, “The Father and I are One”.

John revealed the triumph of the faithful seeing “the Lamb (who) will lead them to springs of living water”.

Our water is rather muddied and polluted at the moment…maybe it has been thus for many eons. We, the baptised, “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit” are still called to continue to proclaim the Truth …Jesus is the Son of God.

Be witnesses to the Truth.

Mons Frank

P.S. A joyful Mother’s Day to all women.

 

Third Sunday of Easter 1 May 2022

Fire!

To warm the cold, to cook the food, the site to gather, to tell the stories and the place to heal.

We presume that the choice of a fire with fish being grilled was no accident.

All would have been aware of Peter’s statement around the fire during that awful night. Their own doubts and fears, even after the first sighting with Jesus, had added to a sense of betrayal and had not been processed.

Frightened, confused, shamed and doubting the concept of “going fishing” was as good an excuse to do something which might help them sort things out. Certainly, a better option than going to the hotel and becoming blindly drunk.

We have all been in that space…we just had to do something to clear the mind, to sort things out, to regain composure, to change the confusion. Let’s go for a walk!

Sometimes it helps to return to the “site” of the original failing.

The presence of the fire would not have been lost on Peter.

John’s recognition of Jesus allowed Peter to declare his deepened love. Over the side, cloak following, he just had to be with Jesus.

Tortured by his denial, he was now eager to seek forgiveness and to pledge his willingness to do whatever Jesus asked, including professing his love three times. That must have been heart wrenching, “Lord you know I love you”. Yes, but the repair job necessitated a threefold affirmation.

Mercy in abundance, forgiveness extended, a new beginning requested and with the third “Lord you know everything, you know I love you” sets the role description for all Peter’s successors.

It also offers us a wonderful template for our conversion when we fail. Similar mercy, forgiveness, and new beginnings are ours if we can approach the “fire” of divine love.

Perhaps we ought build our confessionals around fires.

Mons Frank

P.S. Happy May Day and celebrate Joseph the worker!

Second Sunday of Easter 24 April 2022

“In times when we are shocked by scandals

And mediocrity, remind us

that life does come through dying

And in the breaking of the bread.”

Our gospel today contains elements of mediocrity, gathered “for fear of the Jews”, and scandal perhaps. “Unless I see the holes…” Thomas was not prepared to accept the testimony of his friends, “We have seen the Lord”. Even after all this, they were back in the room but “the doors were closed”. Maybe some of the minds too!

You don’t bump into a “resurrected” person every day of the week.

And in the midst of all this, the beautiful greeting, “Peace be with you” may have been initially one challenge too much! Peace in the middle of all this mess. One can almost hear the chorus “No way!”

In time, they learnt that peace was present in the reality of Jesus.

Many have reported that the Easter ceremonies were wonderfully attended this year. Does that mean that we have learnt something at last, despite the pandemic and the current war? Or does it mean that we are trying to be a sign of peace to the current generation? Maybe we have discovered that it is good to gather together, like the disciples on that fateful occasion, and take comfort in the community. Hopefully, the Risen Lord will become present to us as He was to them, despite our fears and doubts.

And, if we jump that hurdle and gain confidence, then maybe we, too, will work signs and wonders as the first disciples did. Then we, too, may be instructed to “write down all that we see of present happenings” to give encouragement to the coming generations.

“Life does come through dying

And in the breaking of the bread.”

Mons Frank

 

Easter Sunday 17 April 2022

On Good Friday night, the Passion Play returned to the streets of Bendigo after many years absence. An estimated 2000 plus people attended, accompanied by burnouts, laughter from an adjoining outdoors cafe, and an intermittent gawking of passing foot traffic. Perhaps, similar to the time of the event in Jerusalem. The majority remained silent. Eyes fixed on the players, an occasional nod of acceptance as the familiar scenes were played out. The silence after the crucifixion was palpable…I felt many were echoing the line from the crowd at the historic occasion, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One”.

The recent torments in many regions of Australia, of fires and more fires, storms, constant rain, and heartbreaking floods have raised a similar refrain in some hearts. “Where is God in all this?” One quick answer, that perhaps it is natural and, as yet, we do not have enough records to guide us. This will not satisfy the generation demanding instant answers.

But God is around and working in his people.

The almost universal condemnation of the war against Ukraine surely signifies a shifting moral conscience of people. Likewise, the outrage of the people of Myanmar and, more recently of the people of Sri Lanka, evokes memories of the battle that Jesus waged on behalf of the average person; most, after all, were not citizens of Rome and, today, too many rulers do not regard their people as citizens.

It is also worth noting that this weekend brings together major memorials for Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sikhs…celebrated with different rituals but all calling their followers to be better people. It is true that this year is not the first time these faiths share the weekend. But I think it is the first time in Australia that leaders of these traditions have stood together. Surely, God at work.

On the journey to such witness, perhaps a word from the scholars may give each of us encouragement to likewise witness.

Our English “to see” does not pick up the nuances of what the original Greek expresses in today’s Gospel.

John stops outside the tomb. He saw the material. The cloths so arranged and pondered.

Peter arrives, goes in. He sees the whole scene and scrutinised the scene. What is going on?

John, less hesitant now, enters and “sees”. Understanding begins to hit home and John departs, with the beginnings of his belief in the risen Jesus.

Too often we need this process to appreciate what God is up to!

May each of us advance in our belief in the gift of the Risen Jesus this Easter; and if you need a break from Easter eggs, Dragons, holiday traffic etc, then perhaps take a little more time in pondering the many occasions Jesus uses the word, “see”.

Happy and Holy Easter.

Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.

 

Mons Frank

 

Palm Sunday 10 April 2022

“Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering over past,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last.”

In our journey to Holy Week and, particularly, to Palm Sunday…

There was a marriage this day in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne.

There was the report, too, of the marriage in Kyiv at a checkpoint!!!

For the former, bride and groom in formal attire; cream wedding dress and black suit.

For the latter, both in Ukraine army battle dress.

Laura-Jane and Robert had their plans frustrated by Corona Virus on two previous occasions.

Lesya and Valerie had their plans interrupted by “a peaceful military operation”.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt that had never been ridden on, in stark contrast to the Roman ruler who would ride a fully grown horse as a sign of his power. The people recognised Jesus’ statement; his teaching was not about the powerful but about them. And they praised him, whilst the powerful, worried about the challenge to their position, were plotting his downfall.

He had offered hope.

Likewise, against the prevailing trends, our young couples celebrated hope for their respective communities.

We all know the seemingly triumphant evil outcome for the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and High Priests; blood, violence, and death. But what we really know is that in Jesus, goodness overcame evil, and we received “An Easter of unending joy”.

This event became a legacy to inspire and uplift countless generations of people over the last 2000 years. You and I are recipients of that historical encounter.

Let each celebrate the 2022 Memorial with great joy, despite the evil around us.

Have a blessed Holy Week

 

Mons Frank

Fifth Sunday of Lent 3 April 2022

“And now, celebrating the reconciliation Christ has brought us” (words from Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation 11).

Building Blocks 1. “See, I am doing a new deed…” “I am making a road in the wilderness…” (First Reading)

  1. “I am still running…” (Second Reading)
  2. “Neither do I condemn you…” (Gospel)

Violence generally provokes more violence, even in the playground. War, let alone “special military operations”, generally provoke more wars.

“You did it” is not best responded to by “I didn’t”. Howls of “I’ve been left out” usually do not result in piles of goodies arriving. You all can rapidly add to the list.

Jesus could easily have asked for more details; “Was she a married woman or a betrothed girl?” The law provided different penalties in his time. He may even have asked to interview the menfolk directly or indirectly involved. Perhaps he was mindful of the passage of Isaiah read today, “See, I am doing a new deed”.

So, he doodled on the ground, answered the challenge designed to trap him with a new challenge and restored dignity to the women, so abused and ill-treated by the Scribes and Pharisees as a chattel.

“Neither do I condemn you, go away and sin no more”.

A new order is proclaimed, and a new direction given to us.

This new order is difficult, as Paul talks about today. He, too, has had a new order experience which changed him irrevocably. But he had to keep running the race.

Lent is designed to reenergise us for another lap.

I have noticed that some letters and some conversations have expressed disappointment that despite their prayers and charitable works the war in Ukraine has not stopped. “What is God doing?”

Maybe God is doodling, awaiting us to realise the futility of war.

The long history of the Scripture and the long history of the Christian experience demonstrates that God is not idle. We have been told that his ways are not our ways. We must keep running the race of justice and peace and, in a sense, allow time for the “Scribes and Pharisees of the 21st Century” to meditate on their own actions and melt away, one by one, beginning with the eldest.

We can be agents of reconciliation.

We have the where-with all, Bushmasters not withstanding, to bring about reconciliation.

Mons Frank