Second Sunday of Lent 28 February 2021

How do you establish your authority? Be you a parent or Prime Minister, let alone a priest, Bishop or Pope. Civic history is littered with the stories of those who tried, let alone the history written in the words of the scriptures.

Much of that history contains the same elements as read in the book of Genesis…killing, lies, blame others for your faults, resort to violence, do anything to save your own skin. Many subscribed to their version that “power comes from the barrel of the gun” and that attitude is not limited to the current attitude of the Myanmar Generals or the Party in Beijing or the attitude of staffers in Canberra, let alone that of Facebook!

Down the centuries, we in church have suffered the fate of those elected to serve who, in a sense, became tyrants of all. Every now and then, a person like Catherine of Sienna or a Francis of Assisi turned up to remind us of what we ought to be about.

So, again, how do you establish your authority?

Some say Abraham learnt a great lesson in the events proclaimed in the first reading today. Don’t act like the accepted norms of those around you. Our God expects something different.

The Gospel account of happenings on yet another mountain reminds us that our actions need to be based on a severe listening to the words of God. Not always easy to listen, let alone listen to HIS words!

Paul speaking from, in a sense, both sides…after all he was armed with the charge to eliminate the followers of the new Way in Damascus, and had experience in dealing with Stephen…reminds us of the way in which God established authority through his Son…a great example of service and self-giving. Tough, but a better world will result if we act like that.

We might even be transfigured!

Mons Frank

First Sunday of Lent 21 February 2021

Welcome to Ash Sunday!

Seeing that most things have been turned on their heads and heels this past year, now it is our traditional Ash Wednesday – not celebrated in Victoria this year.

Wednesday is really not important…but ashes are; and the call of the season is symbolised by our positive participation in the liturgy and reception of the ashes.

“The time has come,” says Mark. We, in Victoria, felt that as we emerged from our third lockdown; some experienced the reality of boredom, of panic, of fear, of loneliness, of deep concern about the future. Many in Israel felt the same in their longing for the Promised One, the Saviour, the Messiah. All had mixed emotions and hopes. Some awaited a great deliverer from the oppressive yoke of the Romans, not unlike the hopes in Myanmar at this moment. Others, with a little more biblical knowledge, awaited the one who was coming to settle accounts, to pass judgement and to punish sinners, particularly those sinners identified by the leading hands in the community.

We have a taste of that position today and not only in Canberra.

Surprise, surprise. The messenger of the God of Surprises had another surprise:

          “The time has come,

                      The kingdom of God is close at hand.

                                  Repent,

                                            and believe the Good News.”

They, and perhaps we too after 2000 years, were not expecting that!

So, what is meant by “the kingdom of God, repent…and Good News”?

Mark endeavours to unleash his inspired understanding of these statements in his work; we are asked to revisit these words during our Lenten journey.

Start today. Ashes may help. Time in the wilderness could be useful, allow the angels to look after you and, if all that fails this week, “What love-mischief can we, can I, do for the world today?”

 

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

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 7 February 2021

Read slowly the Scripture from Job today before venturing into the Gospel.

Words written perhaps 2500 years ago describe the many fears experienced by many people in these past twelve Covid-19 pandemic months. “Restlessly I fret till twilight fails.”

How often we have been reminded, “Remember that my life is but a breath.”

I have read that it takes sixteen hands of eight strong nurses to gently turn a Covid patient enabling them to breathe more easily.

It took one gentle hand of Jesus to expel the fever from Simon’s mother-in-law.

Fear of the “devils” or “unclean spirits” has dominated these early words from Mark. Our generation is experiencing fear in a manner that it has never experienced.

Where will it experience the gentle touch of the caring Jesus?

One lament in recent times was the absence of the hug, of the handshake, of the cuddle given by the grannies, let alone the kiss of friendship and of peace. Touch is so important to true human experience. A challenge in these times is to find ways in which we can be the agent of healing touch. Or, if we have received the healing touch, how can we, like Simon’s mother-in-law, provide a thankful service to the community?

Keep the eyes on alert and discover how often the works of Jesus were accompanied by healing touches and comforting words.

May we learn to do likewise.

Mons Frank

 

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 31 January 2021

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

An explosive question then, and for us now!

What do you want or, as the popular demonstrations shout, “What do WE want?”, never a cry of “What can we do for you?” tends to dominate our world. Somehow the demon recognises that there is power in this man, this Jesus of Nazareth, power to change situations.

Whatever the demon was then, and there are more demons in our lives than the ‘demon drink’, the same truth remains today for us, there is a power for change available for us.

Many proclaim that they are agents of change. Some with bullets, others with powerful media campaigns. Some with smart slick personal presentations, others with veiled threats. They are the powerful external forces that tend to want change on their untested terms. Their form of change is often simply replacing one form of demon with another!

 Each of us has our own personal demon or demons.

 Can we confront them? Can we be delivered from them?

 The Gospel suggests that the people of Capernaum, on this occasion, recognised Jesus as a good, positive and powerful person. They were impressed. We do not know what he taught on this occasion. What we do know is that on another occasion, people from this same town took him up a hill to kill him. Whatever they heard on that occasion did not lead them to consider, let alone change, their ways. Maybe the big picture gives us hope. Jesus did not give up on people when they failed to listen, to accept or to change. He will not give up on us when, yet again, we backslide. A bit like Thomas… it took many lessons for him to be able to say with conviction, “My Lord and my God”.

 Let each of us continue to listen to his invitation to change and rid ourselves of our demons!

 Mons Frank

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - 24 January 2021

It’s about leadership!

Occasionally, our Sunday Scriptures report aspects of this important role in our society.

Our world, currently, is experiencing many challenges to perceived forms of leadership. The rather horrific clamp down in Hong Kong, the less than transparent governance model in Russia; not all democracies are pure from that point of view either. Much of our world has been saturated by pro and con versions of true and fake leadership in America. Mark moves rapidly in chapter one of his work from the arrest of John the Baptist for proclaiming TRUTH, with the many consequences, including his beheading, to the first words of Jesus:

 “The time has come,
The Kingdom of God is close at hand,
Repent and believe the Good News.”

Another proclamation of truth, in a sense a mission statement, that will end in violence and crucifixion!

It is one thing to make a proclamation, another to attract followers to implement the mission or vision.

What is it in the human condition that alerts some to follow?

What is it indeed that governs leaders to choose followers?

In a sense, the rest of the Gospel story is Jesus’ attempt to proclaim new rules for the governance of the Kingdom of God. He does not want us to simply accept the rule of oppression, divide and conquer, my way or the highway!

To do that he needs help; then and now.

So, he changes the rules for selection. He did not go to Jerusalem, the seat of power, both civic and religious. He did not go to the new cities springing up under Herod. Somehow, he recognised a yearning in the fishermen, gave an opportunity to the Tax Collector to change profession, and to those of doubting minds an opportunity to arrive at faith. Not all ‘yes men’.

Why not women? One answer, he already had a mother and many women doing their bit, and we know that that society had these new women replacing the Judiths and Esthers of bygone years.

We are all called to leadership.

We live in changing times.

There will be more opportunities, at all levels of governance in civic and religious society, for all!

The call is here. But, will we bring HIS model of governance with us?

Happy Australia Day as we grapple with these pertinent questions.

Mons Frank

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - 17 January 2021

“What do you want? ” or, as one translation uses, “What are you looking for?”

What are you looking for is an apt question of many at the moment. We in the border bubble need clarification on lots of travel issues. Recent VCE graduates are trying to gather their thoughts after receiving their scores and make initial decisions. Many are wondering about their housing situations, particularly location. Just what is going on in all our lives. Covid-19 is forcing decisions upon us as few forces have in recent years.

Then there is another area of life…its purpose, its point.

This has troubled people down the ages and today we read of many people from different backgrounds and from different ages all caught up in that process, “What are you looking for?”

The readings deal with an initial response…

                “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” or “Come and see!” but also an implication of answering the call, “Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit”.

Once we put our shoulder to the plough there is no turning back. More questions will come our way. Some we might manage on our own. Others will need the assistance of an Eli, or John, or an Andrew.

Last week we were urged to have a listening ear. This week our mantra is “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”.

Things will change if we accept the call from God, however we hear it.

Mons Frank

The Baptism of the Lord - 10 January 2021

The See, Judge, Act methodology so favoured by the Cardijn inspired movements seems to be making a comeback in many circles of influence. Many note that it seems to underpin the approach of the current Pope in much of his writings. Austen Ivereigh returns to that theme in his co-authored new book ‘Let us dream: The Path to a Better World’. The word “Listen” shouts out at us in the reading from Isaiah today, e.g. “Listen, listen to me”.

It struck a chord for I recently read the suggestion (for a new year resolution) that we should practise “listen, talk, reach out” in our daily lives.

Isaiah further adds today:

            “Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.”

The disturbing events of the past week, shutdowns, lockdowns in Australia, 1000 deaths on Saturday in the U.K, invasions of the Capital in USA, mass arrests in Hong Kong are but a few of the happenings in our world.

How do we tackle such a mess?

One suggestion today is that we come to appreciate our own Baptism more and more and act accordingly. That seems a reasonable idea but …?

We note that Jesus went off to the desert to ponder after his experience of the gift of the Holy Spirit at the hands of John…and such experiences did not spare him trials and suffering, but he triumphed. Is that sufficient encouragement for us?

 Again, Isaiah reminds us today that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways”.

Sometimes we need a method to harness our activities.

There is a desire amongst Christians to act…but three Hail Marys is not necessarily the only way, or the best way.

It appears that the Latin American Church helped form the current Pope in the ‘See…listen, Judge…talk, Act…reach out’ method to help the process of conversion to the intent of the Gospel; it may help us do likewise.

Mons Frank

The Epiphany of the Lord - 3 January 2021

Well…not too many bangs to welcome 2021, many whimpers and in our border towns much confusion, many delays, and the returning holiday makers then faced seemingly compulsory tests even if their travels did not take them within 100 kms of the hot spots.

At least the Magi received their message in a dream…

Herod did not know they had left. Our modern day “Herods” make sure the world hears but can’t assume, let alone be assured, that we listen and act.

Fascinating that the birth of the child, destined to preach Good News provokes hostility before he can even walk!

Isaiah had spoken about the one to come. He had urged people to “lift up your eyes and look round”, an ancient suggestion translated in our times by the injunction to “read the signs of the times”. It seems that the Magi, representatives of the “pagan nations”, were more astute than the representatives of the chosen people.

Nonetheless, and in spite of all the difficulties, the harassment of the people, the murder of the baby boys, the fleeing into Egypt …………

   *The quest for truth received a definitive and extraordinary thrust

   *The spirit of openness to all people was announced

   *And there is in the written record a refusal to paper over the cracks in the days ahead to effect cheap    
     compromise.

No wonder the Magi came armed with gifts! 

So, let’s begin our journey together for another wonderful year.

By the way, what gifts are you going to carry in your travel bag this year?

Mons Frank

Sunday 27 December 2020 The Feast of the Holy Family

Many reflections on radio, read on TV and written in the newspapers over this Christmas period, seem caught between trying to reconcile the Covid Christmas economy with the very obvious independent desire to celebrate Christmas with family; even hardnosed commentators and savvy politicians recognised that this Christmas was more important than the Boxing Day sales.

We must be home for Christmas.

Most in Australia were able to make it. Some were caught up in the mini outbreaks of Covid here. Overseas it was much more destructive on family gatherings. That sense of conflict and personal suffering around the Christmas season 2020, might make us remember that similar pain existed for the family of Nazareth; made to travel by the Roman occupying power and very difficult terrain which, even today the hardy walker can traverse, or if she or he decides, take a donkey as companion, hoping that the necessary service stations would be open. In their day they hoped for board and lodging. It was not always available.

Yes, conflict and personal suffering accompanied Joseph and Mary; even in the Temple; “a sword will pierce your own soul too” added to the prophesy that “this child is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel”.

Fascinating, is it not, that when God’s love encounters human suffering there is conflict and suffering.

It can’t be avoided. It can be conquered.

Just as Mary and Joseph fulfilled the civil law and got counted, so too they presented their child to the Temple, brought joy to Simeon and Anna, and in a sense offered HOPE to the world

In our families, this year especially, whilst we honour our civil obligations, let us remember the God who loves us, the Son who gave his life for us, and the Spirit present in us through our Baptism and Confirmation. Honouring those realities will enable each of us to have truly happy and holy families.

Let’s bring a touch of peace to our New Year gatherings.

Mons Frank