Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 6 September 2020

As we keep saying in Victoria, even on Father’s Day, it is different this year!

So, let us try to be a little creative…after all, Spring has sprung, even in central Victoria.

Historically, Mother’s and Father’s Day seem to have arisen from the whim of the commercial world. The same enterprising spirit is trying to overwhelm our traditional family day, Christmas, and some try to counteract the emphasis on Mother’s and Father’s Day by saying that every day ought to be Mother’s and Father’s Day. But if the days are to be split, can we cope with suggesting you read the word from Ezekiel, “I have appointed you sentry to the House of Israel” (be you Mother or Father).

Given that context, is it fair then to ask, “How do you warn them? or “How do you recognise wicked people?”

As sentry, can you easily, “…go and have it out with him alone”?

Or, if that fails, have you got “one or two others” that you can call upon to take the next step of reconciliation? The major sentry for Australia may be pondering this action after a rather disappointing National Cabinet meeting this week! Or, for that matter, the Pope might be looking for “one or two others” to help him build bridges within the Catholic tradition, let alone with other faiths!

Jesus seems to accept that there are times and situations which seemingly can’t be resolved. It seems harsh to hear Jesus suggesting “treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.” Obviously, Matthew’s community is having a few problems!

So where does that leave us?

We all need a sentry in our household and, perhaps, many in our community. We must try to be reconcilers and, perhaps, Paul’s word will give us encouragement, “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour.”

Let us keep trying to build peace.

Mons Frank

P.S. A happy and blessed day to all who bear the title, Father.

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 30 August 2020

“You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced; 

  you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.”

These are the opening words, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, in this Sunday’s Scripture. Somehow or other, this year, the juxtaposition of the liturgical feasts of St Monica, followed by our remembrance of her son, the great St Augustine and yesterday’s recall of the savage death of the young John the Baptist, all seem to highlight the importance of the Gospel dialogue between Jesus and Peter. (I often ponder this incident. Would it have been written down by other authors recalling the beginnings of their movement? Peter recently anointed as the ‘rock’ being told “Get behind me, Satan!”)

on the opposite stance, “Who do you say I am?”

Monica “…a lifetime of prayer, saved her husband and her son…

Augustine, brilliant and still one of the great minds of all time, eventually wrote, 

“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new”.

John the Baptist…with his extraordinary statement, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Monica, Augustine and John all came to experience Jeremiah’s experience,

“There seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.”

So, too, did Peter. His is so really a very human journey, one that gives all hope.

Monica witnessed by a life of prayer,

Augustine by his wonderful writings and pastoral zeal, 

John, by courageous denouncing of injustice, 

Peter by always getting up after his many fails.

Many calls, many paths. 

What is yours? 

What is mine?

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time 23 August 2020

Who do you think you are?

That attitude was behind many of the incidents involving people caught in violation of some regulation during our Covid-19 shutdown. The ‘offender’ responded to the officer by questioning her or his credentials. In doing so, scant regard was shown to the general community, almost an attitude of “I’m alright, I’m correct, who do you think you are?” 

One aspect of our faith is based upon the opposite stance, “Who do you say I am?”

The first scenario created anger, division, and a certain amount of opprobrium. The second requires a soul search and a decision based upon experience and proper judgement. One creates negativity, the other the possibility of new life.

Happily, Peter, despite his obvious humanity, made the right call and Matthew records the incident, perhaps twenty or so years later, when writing for his new community, the one called “Church”, as distinct from the continuing “Synagogue”.

As we grow, we all have to respond to the following questions at one time or another and, perhaps, on many occasions: 

How…we perceive ourselves?

How…others perceive us?

How…our friends perceive us?

How…God perceives us?

All that can be quite confronting…but if we try, then we will be more able to answer the great question posed by Jesus “Who do you say I am?” and confidently affirm, like Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

Mons Frank

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 16 August 2020

Was Jesus having a bad day?

Our experiences of bad days are being added to as the lockdown continues, and not only in Victoria. Notice, hoarding again in the ‘Shaky Isles’! Jesus’ words to the woman seem so out of character when compared to his obvious respect for women in other events recorded in the Gospels. 

Well, I guess he is entitled to a lapse or a day off. In recent weeks, the Scripture has indicated his desire for a bit of solitude, particularly after the John the Baptist episode. They were family.

On the other hand, it is Matthew’s account and he is particularly keen to help his mainly Jewish community come to grips with the renewed truth that the God of Jesus Christ loves all. Busting long-engrained prejudices was as difficult then as now. Witness the response to the proposed accord between the Emirates and Israel!

What a wonderful commentary on this subject is the second reading today, written years before the words of Matthew.

So, maybe Jesus was giving a lesson to his disciples that they, the original chosen people, may have to lift their game. Regularly in their history of obedience and disobedience they often failed to see and understand their call to bring others to the knowledge and love of the true God.

The true God is merciful, forgiving and loves all. So, after the lesson, the cure is granted…and you disciples, in a sense, says Jesus, note the word of approval, “Woman, you have great faith.”

I think Isaiah would have nodded his approval. Check the first reading. A d ose of encouragement for us ‘foreigners’ who centuries later have attached ourselves to the Lord.

May we continue to be people of faith and continue to serve him and love his name.

 

Mons Frank

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 9 August 2020

There are many ways to drown! 

Whilst the Gospel takes us to the Sea of Galilee, in reality an inland lake, in Victoria we are experiencing other forms of drowning; the state of disaster declaration, curfew in Melbourne, stay at home for all in country Victoria, endless news bulletins and Covid -19 graphs taking the place of football ladders! At least Peter could see Jesus and a physical hand came to his rescue. 

And masks. Drowning now in lack of facial recognition.

The scholars tell us that the thrust of Matthew’s Gospel was to demonstrate to his community, principally made up of former worshippers at the temple, that Jesus, who said, “It is I”, is really the one who does what God does and speaks as God speaks. For centuries, their scriptures spoke about the deeds of the living God. Note the anguish, “mental anguish” in Paul’s words to us today. He reminds us of his brothers of Israel, of their chosen status, and ends recalling that “They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God, for ever blessed!”

Life in the early communities was anything but easy. Sure, there was an initial wave of believers. As always, things settle and then generation after generation are made, like the disciples, to go on ahead to the other side. 

There will be “the other side” to our current storm. He who said that he would be with us always to the end of the ages, is still able to come across the waters. 

Perhaps, like Peter, we need to learn again how to cry out “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water”.

Mons Frank

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2 August 2020

And we think we have troubles…

Especially in Victoria! Perhaps the way forward this week is to ponder the Scripture in the context of Jesus’ “troubles”!

Matthew places today’s excerpt in the immediate context of the beheading of John the Baptist. Barbaric. Cruel. Hopefully, embarrassing to some attending the banquet in a sumptuous palace, laden with food that the majority of the populace, especially in Galilee, could not even imagine. A room full of arrogance, power, heartlessness and, seemingly, indifferent to the value of human life.

This story sickens me more and more as I grow older. The scheming, plotting and the whole concept of “give me here, on a platter, the head of John the Baptist” and it was done and delivered within the hour to the banquet. It reflects acutely the “what do I want?” rant of so much of modern society.

This scenario is often played out in our world today. Often not reported, details seem to emerge years and years later. 

And John was Jesus’ cousin! No wonder he wanted to “head for the hills” in the face of such atrocity.

People then looked for answers, for leadership, for a way forward, for HOPE. As we do in Victoria, and as elsewhere in our world today.

So, what does Jesus do?

Apart from leaving his “bolt hole”, he began to talk with those who sought him. He took pity on them and healed their sick and, surprisingly, said to the disciples…”Give them something to eat yourselves”.

The Royal Palace is exchanged for a grassy landscape, service replaces command, genuine pity replaces indifferent arrogance, and they all ate the lake fish and the land bread as was offered.

All ate as much as they wanted…the abundant Son of the abundant Father at work!

How do we, today, begin to act likewise…Each will have to look into one’s own circumstances.

A couple of suggestions…

 +We need to raise our eyes to heaven and ask for a blessing on our work.

 +Perhaps it is time for a weekly interfaith prayer meeting in every street. 

 +Have we a street roster to check on the neighbours?

 + If you have an idea, let your Council or local MP know.

 +Perhaps read the Second Reading (Romans 8: 35, 37-39) every day this week. 

Remember Isaiah’s words, “Listen, listen to me and you will have good things to eat”.

 

Mons Frank

 

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 26 July 2020

More parables this weekend! These are about the future, more precisely, a concept dear to the heart of Jesus… the Kingdom.

In my early youth, we were often taunted with the words, “there will be pie in the sky when you die”. I did not understand what the taunts were about. Later the realisation that we Catholics were often talking about heaven, and its rewards and its blessings, that perhaps many thought we were so indifferent to the current needs of the world. “Put up with it now…for your reward will be great in heaven”.

Much of that has passed, some still remains. 

Some suggest that in a world of scarcity inhabited by most of his disciples and their families and their fellow citizens, that Jesus set out quite deliberately to proclaim a world of abundance that foreshadowed the Kingdom. He was sent by an abundant Father. Jesus gave abundant wine at Cana, loaves upon loaves at the feeding of the five thousand and so on. Be of the abundant school, he seemed to say.

Recent events in our local Australian world highlight the world of fear of scarcity. The stories of pasta, flour and toilet rolls being hoarded during the first wave of fear of the unseen virus and repeated to a lesser degree in the current second wave, all confirms the observation that hoarding produces enemies!

You know the mantra “you have more than me”. It is no good replying that “I need it for an emergency…”. The quick reply will be of the order, “but I am in need, I want it…now!” 

I think we need a big dose of Solomon’s request made in reading one today, “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil”.

It is a good time to be reminded about, in a sense, the illogical world of the Kingdom. Our logical world, trying to balance supply and demand and forgetting the poor and homeless, is not performing much better than the world of Herod, Pilate, John the Baptist and Jesus. 

  Perhaps we ought to take a deeper look at the Kingdom of heaven.

Mons Frank

 

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 19 July 2020

One ought to be able to sleep in peace. But, as the parable indicates, sleep for some means time for evil; work for others.

In the doing of good, do we, occasionally, fail to keep an eye open, to be on our guard, to do the rounds and, sadly, fall into the trap of “Well, I have prepared the soil, I have selected good seed, I have planted appropriately, so now I can rest”.

Some of these parables were written against the background of confusion in the new emerging communities, particularly for Matthew. His people had enthusiastically embraced the Good News of Jesus. Many of their relatives and friends had rejected the same Good News. Why, and what will happen? We often want immediate answers to our needs and questions. Our age is often characterised by the slogan:

 “What do we want?

   When do we want it? 

   NOW!” 

Matthew’s community may, or may not, have been so noisy as us today, but to help answer the dilemma, Matthew brings out parables that approach the dilemma from various viewpoints. Ultimately, the answer provided is patience, tolerance…and leave the resolution to God.

Sound advice. However, some would see this as a cop out! It is not totally satisfactorily for many in our time.

We want a vaccine…NOW. 

We want answers…NOW.

We want everyone to be vegetarians…NOW.

We want all of our conflicts solved…NOW and on our conditions!

Maybe some of the anger, some of the disillusionment with a seeming lack of progress can be attended to if, when we do good things, we don’t go to sl164eep and, in a sense, leave the night open to the work of the evil ones. Be reminded of the other word of Jesus, “If you had known what time the thief was coming etc.” The thief has the advantage, but the parable suggests that all will be accorded justice in time.

Allow the Spirit to assist us in our weakness, after all, it is his work that we are called to partnership. What a privilege.

 

Mons Frank

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 12 July 2020

Is it the sower?
Is it the soil?
Is it about farming practises? Or is it about the need to continually sow?

One day, as we say, the penny might drop and I…..

                  might listen (at last) 

                  might see (at last)

                  might understand (at last).

The seed is good. 

When sown, it is at the mercy of the elements; wind, rain, and where it lands.

In one sense the parable is asking me:  

                                                    Am I a path?

                                                    Am I a rock?

                                                    Am I a thorn bush?

                                                    Am I good soil?

In another sense, it is about perseverance. The true sower keeps throwing out seed!

Against the background of the current Covid-19 pandemic, a juxtaposition of the instructions to ‘Keep Safe’, the four rules can be seen as a seed thrown, and all can fall in the four landing grounds. We will not dwell on the harvest at the moment.

Our seed is the vision of the Kingdom of God. Matthew’s community was grappling with this reality. Not all the Jewish community longing for the Messiah, accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Not everyone today will accept Jesus and his teaching.

       But, we keep working for justice.

       We keep working for respect.

       We keep working for the poor.

       We keep working for reconciliation.

       We keep working for peace.

Seeds do land in fertile ground and people and society are the beneficiaries. Thorns are plentiful. Rocky paths abound. Paths are paved with concrete. 

There is still good soil.

We must persevere with the sowing!

Mons Frank

 

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 5 July 2020

Many of us have been to Hong Kong. We have watched the action in that city, pre and post Covid-19. We have seen footage of brutal power being exercised since July 1.

I feel saddened for the families and my church-going friends still in that city facing the future. The chariots, horses and bows of the first reading are being rolled out again as we write… and there is no sign of a king coming to the people riding on a donkey!

We know that hundreds of years after this was written, Jesus himself rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, demonstrating his approach to power based on his teaching. Yet again, many dismissed this approach. But he did not back off. He kept proclaiming another way and, knowing that his way was revolutionary and people centred, he reminded those who choose this path that they will grow weary and feel overburdened. He, thus, calls us to come to him again and again. To our ears it sounds crazy. His yoke easy?  His burden light? 

Once again, the paradox of the Gospel.

Here in Australia and particularly Victoria, we are enduring, like the world, the hardships of Covid -19. Nothing to be compared with many other countries. That is not of great consolation when you live in certain designated postcodes, nor is it to be compared with the suffering of the poorest of the poor sifting through the tailings of the jade mines in Myanmar.

So…………

  • Can we smile a little more this week?
  • Can we offer a cheering word to those overburdened?
  • Can we petition more earnestly for the downtrodden of the world?
  • Can we ride into people’s lives…on a donkey?
  • Can we proclaim peace for the nations?
  • Can we help all we meet to find rest for their souls? 

Mons Frank