Second Sunday in Lent  Year C   17 March 2019

What a week in Oceania!

It began, dominated by the Cardinal, but overtaken by the murderous attack in New Zealand! A numbing effect on Wednesday, overwhelmed by the unbelievable massacre on Friday.

Paul speaks about the Saviour coming to “transfigure these wretched bodies of ours”. We sure need a dose of the Saviour’s wisdom and assistance at this moment. The same Saviour had seen and experienced huge horrors in his life time. He may not have been conscious of the massacre of the children. But he certainly knew about the beheading of John the Baptist. He was aware of the deaths of those killed in the collapse of the Tower. He witnessed the regular punishments dealt out by the occupying power. But whilst healing the sick and curing the lame he taught “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s…” He did answer Pilate’s questions.

In spite of all the madness in his time, he offered the way of the Beatitudes, spoke of the need to take up the cross and become living witnesses of the Gospel. He was, as Peter proclaimed, “the Messiah”. The Son of God did not need a tent. After all, he was much more than a simple man. The injunction from heaven should stir us all to action: “Listen to Him.”

So, the action of taking off to the mountain (our take, going on retreat) is still valid. We need to step aside every now and then to pray, to listen to his word, and be nourished by him.

Sunday worship is a start. But it needs supplementing.

Pray for all our wounded sisters and brothers this weekend.

Mons Frank

First Sunday in Lent     Year C   10 March 2019

Like many others, I have a habit of remarking “What a week that was.”

…The shocking murder of two women reminding us that at least one woman dies each week from domestic violence.

…The oft quoted claim that one in four children suffer from some form of violence. It found another hearing.

…The further claims and counter claims regarding Cardinal Pell.

All helped to make it another difficult week.

Looking back, I never heard of these sorts of matters growing up. Protected, well yes. Naïve, maybe. But then, the papers were more refined, except the ‘Truth’ and we did not take the ‘Truth’.  TV did not arrive in the bush till the early 60’s and that fixed the movie pictures and their theatres for the most part.

It strikes me that Lent comes at a propitious time this year.

One commentator suggests we read this gospel account against the then current Hellenistic view widely accepted in Luke’s time, that the purpose of life was:

  • love of pleasure
  • love of possessions
  • love of glory.

These were often pursued with immense eagerness to the extent that they became synonymous with vice.

Jesus, in this account of the temptations, rejects the active and complete pursuit of these attractions in his answers to the satan, by choosing another way. This choice then sets him apart as a righteous person, a sage truly capable of teaching virtue and, hence, worth following. And we are called to follow him first and foremost!

So we are asked personally, regardless of what others may say, to give priority to the non-active pursuit of material comfort, to reject the desire to have power over others, and to avoid the testing of God.

Let us follow Moses’ injunction to bring happily the first fruits of our labour and present them to our loving God. We then pray that all those with power, be they in civic or religious position, quickly come to realise that the only power they have is that given to them “by my Father” and given so that they might humbly serve.

Mons Frank

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time    Year C     3 March 2019.

I am mindful of the opening words of the Scripture this weekend:

“in a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind”.

We have all been shaken this week…I, from a distance.

I have been in NZ working with TEAMS in Wellington, Hamilton and Taupo and assisting with beginnings in Auckland. So I have missed the face to face encounters at home:  It has been difficult enough from a distance, I can’t quite imagine what it is like to be on the street at home. That will come.

One possible outcome, no matter the final result, is that the role of the laity in the life of the Church has to be acknowledged and the involvement of our baptised members, many or few, must be accelerated.

Our Church has been through many, many trials since the harrowing death on Calvary. The joy of the Resurrection was attacked by Paul in short time. Then came his and other conversions. Failures brought forth repentance; hope and growth followed.

We read Paul’s words today:

“Never give in then, my dear friends, never admit defeat; keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.”

So it is time to examine how many splinters are in our eyes, all our baptised eyes or, if you prefer, have we been picking figs from thorns?

Being shaken in the sieve is not pleasant, or comfortable or for many, seemingly not just. But shaken we are. Uncomfortable we feel. “What the hell?”  we may exclaim. Maybe we need to pray the Psalm a little more attentively this weekend. I am reminded of those words attributed to Job in the context that it is His Church and that the Holy Spirit remains with us, if we take the good things from the Lord then we must accept the testing things.

All in all, let us continue to “Give you thanks, O Lord ” and pray in big doses for one another.

Mons Frank

 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year C   24 February 2019

The prophetic statement beginning with ‘Blessed’ or ‘Happy’ from last week, is added to this Sunday. Are we really called to love our enemies?

Well, that is what he said.

Do you think it was what he really meant?

The famed Mandela of our time said, in effect, that he always tried to befriend his enemies; and he had plenty to practise on. We all know someone who seems to have a positive word for everyone. Or, indeed, that character who turns up at the critical moment with a dish of food and breaks the “We don’t know what to do” atmosphere.

David’s action in not raising his hand against the Lord’s anointed was, in a sense, occasioned by his reading of an injunction of the Word of God; but then you and I are anointed by the waters of Baptism. That gives an increased motivation for following the teaching of Jesus.

It is tough at times for us…as well as our leaders.

In Australia, we will face some very difficult decisions in the lead up to our May election. Let us not create enemies by our actions, let alone demonise those who are with us or who wish to be with us. It is perhaps a good time to heed the opening words, “I say this to you who are listening.”

Listen carefully before you act.

Mons Frank

P.S. These reflections arose out of a desire to respond to a need expressed by a number of people in Teams. It has expanded over the years to members of the Cardijn Community International; others have joined, all are welcome.

This coming Monday is the 80th Birthday of Teams and this Sunday sees the formal commissioning of the First Four teams in Hamilton NZ. Please spare a prayer that this initiative of Teams Oceania will bear fruit and GROW!

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year C       17 February 2019

‘Hope blooms in the desert’ was the banner headline of the English Tablet this week…a reflection on the visit of Pope Francis to the Emirates.  The banner headline of the Saturday Australian was ‘Farmers of the drought count flood costs’, a reflection on the now abundant green grass and the loss of 450 cattle on St Elmo Station outside Julia Creek.

“How happy are you who are poor” says the gospel today. I am not sure how I would approach the homily in Julia Creek this weekend. I think it would be easier in Abu Dhabi!

The proclamation of the Beatitudes is that of the Prophetic Messiah. Jesus begins to fulfil the words of Isaiah which he uttered in the Synagogue in Nazareth. The new era has begun: whatever he meant on this occasion, his kingdom was to have a focus on the “poor” in Luke, and the “poor in spirit” in Matthew.

Poor is poor in Julia Creek and in Abu Dhabi!

We use the Scripture term, “prophetic”. Others use the expression “the upside-down logic of the gospel”. Our current Pope seems very much at home with this description as he reminded his many listeners in the Emirates that the Beatitudes represent an “overturning of that popular thinking according to which it is the rich and powerful who are blessed, those who are successful and acclaimed by the crowds”. The Pope went on: “just and meek, he did not offer resistance, but allowed himself to be condemned unjustly. In this way Jesus brought God’s love into the world”.

Fulfilling the challenge of the Beatitudes is a never-ending task. Each generation has to tackle it. And we will have a rather challenging task adding the ‘hell and high water’ of the current disasters to the seemingly huge challenges posed by homelessness, to name but one.

The Gospel extends the hand of hope and perhaps cuts through the tangle of red tape that strangles action in our times. In many ways the Pope’s visit was a prophetic sign that things can be different.

Can we, too, in our communities be such a sign of hope?

Mons Frank

P.S. For those in Teams, the Bishop of Hamilton NZ will formally inaugurate the Teams Movement in his Diocese. Let’s pray that all goes well.

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time    Year C   10 February 2019

An initial work of the Prophetic Messiah.

Where do we go to find our leaders? What a shake up for another big end of town.  Would the bright tellers have been more understanding of the customers and not as interested in bonuses and profit?  Who knows? Finding good and faithful leaders is difficult for all ranks of society.

It would have been presumed that leadership would be found amongst the scribes and chief priests. But the prophetic side of Jesus went to the countryside and to a group of small business men. They knew their trade. They obviously were reasonable providers (I wonder what Peter’s wife thought when Jesus spoke to her husband and he took off, leaving her to catch the fish as well as do the dishes). So Peter responded, acknowledged the Prophet, and began the journey to “net” people.

We have another example, in Luke’s words, where the contrast is exposed: the seeming lack of human potential and the subsequent reality of Divine fulfilment. We recall Mary saying, “I know not man”. And Elizabeth receiving a message from the Angel about her barrenness and Gods fertility. Indeed, nothing is impossible to God!  (Let us be on the lookout for further examples of the reversal by God’s action to seemingly crazy objections by humans.)

So we are off and running! Some have thrown in their lot with Jesus. We know that they did not disappear from Capernaum full time. Winter would have been impossible. We do not know all that he taught them. We know some of their journeys were with Jesus and some were without him. We also know that Jesus saw something in Peter that gave him confidence; that in time Peter would ‘strengthen his followers’ as all supreme leaders of our faith are required to do. Like Peter, they have, on occasions, been called from unexpected backgrounds as you and I are similarly called.

For ourselves, do not try to escape by putting your head in the sand, hoping not to be called. That act might just incline the Lord to call…and ask us to go “netting”.

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time     Year C  3 February 2019

It has been hot in the southern parts of Australia, but it was very hot in the Synagogue of Nazareth. We talk about road rage, and that can be violent. And for Jesus, his own people turned on him and, in the words of the Gospel, “hustled him out of the town…took him up to the brow of the hill…….intending to throw him down the cliff…” Things were indeed hot on that hill and would be even hotter on the Calvary hill a few months later.

Why?

We began these reflections for 2019 by asking the three great questions that Luke seems to be about answering:

Who is Jesus?……He is God’s Son!

What sort of a Son is he?……An obedient Son!

What kind of a Messiah is he to be?……A prophetic Messiah!

His crime in Nazareth seems to be that he dared to proclaim the Good News to everyone, citing the examples of Elijah and Elisha who delivered the ‘others’ from famine and drought and cured the lepers from Syria.

How could a genuine Prophet and one claiming to be “anointed with the Spirit” be interested in ‘others’?

His platform is not strictly economic or political, but it will have those overtones if carried out. Its revolutionary proposal is for Jesus and his followers to offer cures, comfort, healing and teaching directly to the people and this radical approach is compounded by their personal efforts being offered directly to all people, not simply to the chosen people. It was too much. You can’t say all are welcome. But He did and asks us to do the same.

 

P.S. For those with access to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter four of that document has Pope Francis reflecting upon today’s second reading. Well worth a visit and well worth doing it in a small group.

 

Mons Frank

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year C    27 January 2019

Australia Day weekend. Possibly only in Australia.

The statement in the Gospel today ought to be pondered in the context of these holidays. At Lake Weeroona this morning, we were greeted by the sight of portable concrete bollards running parallel with the adjacent road. And we sang, somewhat tiredly (after all, it did make 47.7 Celsius on Friday). What has happened to the land of the free? And then sang more for “those who’ve come across the seas”. We happily have settled some 2200 Karen people in the past ten years and the latest figure is that 162 families are buying their own houses.

So where does good news for the poor, liberty to captives, new sight for the blind, set the downtrodden free, let alone proclaim the Lord’s year of favour, fit in with our year just beginning? It will be full steam ahead next week with school resuming.

Nehemiah reminds us of an earlier beginning, and it began with a rediscovery of the Word of God. Jesus, and we note that he could read and we wonder who taught him, kickstarts his ministry at home with Scripture. He adapts it to his circumstances and, as we will see next week, gets run out of town for his proclamation. Thus, he answers one of our Lucan questions, he is to be a Prophetic Messiah and will, in time, suffer the fate of the Prophet.

 With the Pope in Panama proclaiming the example of Saint Oscar Romero, maybe our looking at the Gospel this week may lead us to ponder in our homes, at work, in our Teams or in a Cardijn inspired group, let alone in our parishes, that we too “have been anointed with the Spirit” and we are called to announce today that same call of Isaiah and of Jesus to our generation. And not only us, but our Church must discover, via the call to the Plenary Council, just who today are the poor, the captives, the blind and the downtrodden. Then we set about doing something about our discovery…in Church and in small groups; at work, at play…and in our personal lives.

Happy Australia weekend…we are indeed blessed.

Mons Frank

The Baptism of the Lord   Year C  13 January 2019

The Church’s liturgical year slips into Ordinary Time this Sunday and in choosing Luke for the Gospel (in some sense it is no wonder) it is very clear that from now on we must be focused upon Jesus. John has departed to prison. We meet Jesus at prayer (a little sign to us all); we are reminded of his identity “You are my Son” and a gentle alert, “my favour rests on you.”

So, we better watch out, we better not fail, for the answer to the ‘feeling of expectancy’ has arrived.

In following Luke’s account, it might be useful to keep in mind the following questions (and brief answers) to help us understand what Jesus began to do and teach.

Who is Jesus?……He is God’s Son!

What sort of a Son is he?……An obedient Son!

What kind of a Messiah is he to be?……A prophetic Messiah!

These questions will be answered during the course of the year, and with those answers will come the challenges to each of us who are determined to hear his call. Don’t be afraid to seriously ask “How would my reaction fit in with the call to participate in the preparation for the Plenary Council” when you hear a slightly different call or see something in a new light. Remember, when reading the Scripture, it is not just any old book! It is the book of books which outlines the sins and sinners as well as the game changers and saints.

We are called to be game changers and saints for we, too, are beloved daughters and sons via our Baptism.

Welcome to the New Year.

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Advent  Year C 9 December 2018

It appears that the state of Victoria is to have yet another Royal Commission; this time the police. We will soon be a perfect state, maybe broke but cleaned up. I am reminded of a phrase from William Riley in his book on the Apocalypse: “Once we stray from our mission, we can find ourselves making messes, even if they are the results of good intentions.”

The proclamation of a baptism of repentance by John today, is as pertinent as it was “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign”.

We know, for we have been reading and listening to these accounts for years that life was not perfect during the rule of Pontius Pilate; nor did things improve under the leadership of Caiaphas, happily aided by his father-in-law Annas. Just ask those who witnessed their actions in the Sanhedrin!

Into this society appears John; a voice crying in the wilderness, but not ineffective. He too urged his followers, like many prophets before him, and many since, to give up extortion, blackmail, gouging and acquisitiveness and to begin to share with those more needy. And he won many followers and opened their hearts to the message of Jesus. No matter how small we feel, we can do the same. Through us “all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”

This week look for the voice of the Spirit whispering a message of hope and healing, even where the woundedness is greatest.

Come Lord Jesus!

Mons Frank