First Sunday of Advent 28 November 2020

Liturgical beginnings…yet again!

The word ‘thanks’ from Our New Testament reading this Sunday, may well capture our attention as the calendar and the tinsel, trees and lights are heralding the approach of Christmas day. Christmas became a focal cry for our leaders…Let’s be free of virus and be able to travel to family for Christmas. Buckets of money flung far and wide to cover the memories of Covid-19 enforced lockdowns, lack of work, lack of traditional freedoms, lack of open places of worship. Bans on our goods; institutions found to have clay feet and people even in high places still behaving badly. Sadly, evidence, yet again, of corruption across all sectors of our society. Some might suggest that it even feels like a persecution; if so, feel quite at home with chapter 13 of Mark.

Scholars sometime describe this section of Mark as his Apocalyptic section. He uses the literary form, common in his day, to send an encouraging word to the new Christians of his community who have undergone suffering for the name of Jesus…and warns them, there is more to come! John, in his book of Revelation, expounds this theme in much more graphic and symbolic language.

 But there is HOPE.

 Paul begins today with the words “I never stop thanking God for all the graces….” 

 +Perhaps we, this week, could begin our new year by making a list of the “graces” we, our family, our friends, even our Church and country, have received these past months. 

 +Perhaps too, we may say thanks that “Lord, you are our Father; we the clay, you the potter”.

 + Mark urges us to have total confidence in the Plan of God. We do our bit by being faithful door keepers who STAY AWAKE.

Our personal Liturgical, let alone civic, Calendar year will close; the sufferings we endure will, like those of Jesus, end in glory. After all, His kingdom is not of this world, but is discovered within each of us. Being vigilant, being on our guard, being awake will enable us to enjoy the fruits of the Kingdom.

Welcome to beginning again. 

 

Mons Frank

P.S. Thanks for your encouragement for these reflections this past year.

 

Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe 22 November 2020

The word ‘King’ in the Concise Oxford Dictionary is nearly given a column of explanation. Much of what is offered could be applied to Princes, Premiers, Prime Ministers, even Presidents. It could also be applied to Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and Popes. Further, parents, mothers and fathers could find words in that column to help them be ‘Kings and Queens’ in their own families.

Kings seem to be disappearing. Those who remain have had their powers clipped. Sometimes despots, tyrants and dictators replace them in what they camouflage as progressive moves. Temptations then arrive, even for the benign holder of the office; to extend occupancy for life or to seek immunity from prosecution for their misdeeds.

As well as build a Swiss Bank Account.

Whatever the title, the initial charge for the holder of such office was to safeguard their people and to be the final arbiter of disputes.

The vision prayed in the preface of today’s Mass:

  •  a kingdom of truth and life 
  • a kingdom of holiness and grace 
  •  a kingdom of justice, love and peace, 

was spelt out over the centuries, and happily we number many Kings and Queens of all orders amongst the Saints. Added to that charter is the statement in today’s Gospel, “…in so far as you did to one of the least of these brothers (“Tutti Fratelli”) of mine, you did it to me.” All, from the least to the highest, all of us in our kingly sphere will be judged by the same rule, be we of the ten or one talent recipient.

We look over our extraordinary Covid impacted year. Not all can return to the community celebration this Sunday, but we all can, in the privacy of our heart, commit ourselves to the ideals of the Kingdom as proclaimed by Jesus. We then set about the building of that state. 

What building block have you, have I, contributed to the cause this past year? 

Offer the response to our King this weekend.

Mons Frank 

P.S. Thanks for your encouragement for these reflections this past year.

 

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 15 November 2020

The end is nigh!

I am not referring to a successful conquering of the coronavirus in Victoria (fifteen days of no deaths and no recorded cases is worthy of mention) nor to the activities in the USA. Nor that there be but forty days to Christmas.

Next Sunday, celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King, is the final Sunday of our current Liturgical Year. The scripture for these last two Sundays has a focus on “the end” or, better still, the immediate preparation to meet our God face to face. Such is the circle of our Liturgical life. 

We look at “the end” through rather different spectacles this year. None of us has lived through the differing circumstances that have changed our normal lifestyles and that are leading us to what is being called “Covid -normal”.

Whatever, the principle message remains. We are all given gifts. Some, it seems, more. We are asked to use these gifts to enrich our community, to practise the Beatitudes or, as is becoming more popular today, to live the prayer of St Francis of Assisi; “Where there is hatred, let me sow love” is a good place to start in our current broken world.

Gifts are given to help us grow, not to be hidden away. False humility tends to bury the gifts; an insult to the giver and a sad commentary on the receiver.

The gift of Jesus to the world was indeed one of many talents offered to us in the past 2000 years. Many have returned that gift handsomely. Sadly, some have buried that gift; indeed an insult. 

What gift will we return to the Master at the end of this year’s trading? 

Let’s sweep out our house this week and make sure we have a worthy gift to return to our gift giver next Sunday.

Mons Frank

 

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 8 November 2020

Presence is often more important than perfection.

Decisions.

Stick around and share in the light or race off and see what shop is open.

There seems enough light available to welcome the bridal party; gatecrash with the light of those who read the signs. And ask forgiveness, once you were in!

I think the crafty steward who knew he was caught out but discounted his masters debtors (probably sacrificed most of his entitlement), but ensured a house or two that would welcome him in the future, I think he would have remained..and perhaps found some oil for the others after the party.

Presence is important.

At the moment, many are seated at the bridegroom’s door awaiting it to open. Some do have oil for a long wait. Others, well it will be a close call.

Are we able to discern between the groups on our doorstep?

Can we be the provider of oil to sustain people as they wait and wait and wait?

Decisions…

What to do! Where to turn! What to say!

The words in the reading from Wisdom this day may be a starting point:

“Watch for her early and you will have no trouble; you will find her sitting at your gates.”

We are nearing the end of the Liturgical Year. A year like no other in our lifetime… Just check your own lamp and make sure you have enough oil for the final laps!

Mons Frank

Feast of All Saints 1 November 2020

Another beheading…this time in a Church, a Catholic Basilica in Nice, France! At least in Herod’s situation, he ordered the deed. This time the deed was accompanied by the cry that “God is greatest”. 

As John the Baptist was numbered amongst the Saints so, too, the women murdered whilst at their prayers in that Church.

In a recent review of the newly published biography of Graham Green, the English writer A.N. Wilson observes that Green had a “lifelong zest for paradox”. This struck me. In an ancient time, Jesus responded to the death of John by giving the world what we call the Beatitudes, read from Matthew’s Gospel today. Likewise, we have this horrendous attack in the context of Pope Francis recent letter, “Tutti Fratelli”, in which he proclaims a similar path in today’s language to overcome the madness of our age.

Both statements are counter cultural. Both have been and will be sneered at…

Nonetheless, millions of people have found inspiration and solace in the Beatitudes. Used often at weddings and funerals, these words continue to elicit hope and ambition as people set out on their married journey; trust that some aspects have been worked at to offer at the pearly gates.

We give thanks today for the example of the many, many, women and men who have spent their lives in bringing life and hope to our communities. Some we acknowledge, like Mary MacKillop. Others, like Dame Mary Glowrey or Eileen O’Connor will, we hope, in time be similarly recognised. Most will never have a monument, but their good works will be written in the countless hearts of millions of fellow human beings 

Matthew lived and worked and preached in troubled times. Matthew’s advice, eventually written down, was to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes, not the sword. Slowly his world changed. Let us do likewise…and see the changes that make the kingdom come.

Mons Frank

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 25 October 2020

The sun did not shine in central Victoria this morning…the welcome rain event covered the sky. But there was still light…and our world was here even though the AFL Grand Final was to be played outside Victoria for the first time in over 130 years…

Things have moved on. 

Jesus moves the Pharisees on a little in our Gospel this weekend. He lived in a community grappling with 613 commandments in the Torah; Victoria has as many regulations under the Covid-19 decrees, perhaps even more. Both communities, separated by 2000 years, wish to know “which is the greatest?” and, sadly, not always for the purest of reasons. Jesus not only recalls the past teaching, but extends it to embrace “your neighbour as yourself.” Likewise, a long tradition in the Church seeks to extend the practical relevance of the Church’s basic mission “to reveal the face of Christ.”

In his recent Encyclical ‘Tutti Fratelli’, Pope Francis shines the face of Christ on many dark and often forgotten aspects of modern society and basically says that somewhere in that horrible mix lies a human being. We, as Church, can’t be indifferent!

The English journal ‘The Tablet’ recently reminded us that the natural drift is in the other direction, towards the State, and recalls the observation of Thomas Hobbes that that drift becomes “a war of all against all”, where human life becomes “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Sometimes we do not like the blowtorch being directed at us or at our mistakes, omissions and sins. Our papers have had a field day, recently, in pointing out the failings of those in high places, both in Church and State. We hear little of theirs.

Perhaps we need to recapture the memory of Paul’s experience with the Thessalonians, “it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you.”

How we do that in lockdown is a big question. Likewise, the reminder from the Pope that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God and that God’s love is offered to all. 

We, the Baptised, have a huge task. As people seeking the Truth, we are being asked to step out bravely and travel far beyond the great goodness that was taught before the coming of Jesus.

Mons Frank

Twenty- Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 18 October 2020

“Shine on the world like bright stars; you are offering it the word of life.”

It may be consoling, for some, to read today’s Gospel. People 2000 years ago were debating the role of God in our world. The rulers then, and not only the powerful like the Romans, happily took to themselves all power and demanded absolute loyalty to the party line. So many global powers and little-known local tyrants demand similar obedience today, backed up by hundreds of surveillance cameras and other devices. As in Jesus’ experience, there were many people who opposed this draconian system, some genuine, others seeking to have their turn and share in the spoils.

The poll tax was, in one sense, a quid pro quo. We provide the security of the land. Hence, you must provide a payment for services rendered.

One sticking point, then, was the inscription on the coin “Tiberius Caesar, August son of the divine Augustus, high priest.” The locals, certainly in Palestine, had qualms about “divine” and “high priest”, but still handled the coins. Thankfully we do not, in most countries, have that dilemma…but!

The other side of the answer also causes friction and, indeed in some quarters, increasing friction today. “Give back to God what belongs to God.” This is illustrated in Victoria as I write, by the enforcement of 10 people in the open for religious services (some different rules apply for weddings and funerals), but 10 can be seated without masks in hotels and other eating establishments. Further, up to 50 in the open! Service to God is running a poor second.

Getting the balance…there’s the rub!

It is not only in public life. It is a challenge whenever we put out feet on the floor each morning. How am I to give back to my God today? “The Lord is great and worthy of praise.”

As Paul contends, we are to show our faith in action, to work for love, and to persevere through hope. In doing so, we will then shine on the world like bright stars and offer it the word of life. 

Mons Frank

P.S. Saturday October 17 is the Tenth Anniversary of the Canonisation of Mary MacKillop.

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time 11 October 2020

To the same people, the leaders, chief Priests and Pharisees, yet another invitation is issued by Jesus, to join the new understanding of the Kingdom of God or, as some prefer, the Reign of God. Despite their city being burnt, a veiled reference by Matthew to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, he has Jesus saying, “it is never too late to make your commitment!” 

The parable makes the point that it is not enough to show up at the banquet. One must be prepared to enter into the banquet as a full participant. That call of the Church during the Second Vatican Council to “full active conscious participation” not only in the Liturgy but, also, in the general life of the Church, echoes the call of the King.

We still have a few hurdles to overcome…by all.

Simone concluded her interview with these words, “I don’t know how to pray much. But I think that we must offer God the trials we experience and the graces we receive, even when we don’t know what he will do with them.”

And that is part of the mystery of the banquet because the banquet is, in reality, the mystery of God.

If you haven’t picked up the wedding garment, or perhaps laid it aside, the time is now. Accept the invitation, again. We are called to live in the Lord’s own house for ever and ever.

Mons Frank

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 4 October 2020

“He expected justice, but found bloodshed, integrity, but only a cry of distress.”     Isaiah 5:7 

What a few days: President Trump in hospital with Covid -19. And all the fallout…what of his vineyard? 

Pope Francis in Assisi.  Proclaiming the continuing example of St Francis and his love for all creation.  What of his vineyard?

And we…asked to ponder this weekend, a double dose of the “vineyard”!

We have received a tradition of almost 3000 years of being reminded of the love our God has for His vineyard, be it our individual yard or that of the whole people of God. On the one hand is the recurring theme of the love of God and His expectation that it would yield grapes, and on the other the huge disappointment when only sour grapes appear. The ultimate disappointment is the wanton destruction of all the messengers that were sent, including Jesus, and the many since 33 CE who have been destroyed by ungrateful tenants.

There are those who seek to undermine and destroy the current chief messenger, particularly as he continues to unveil his new yet ancient teaching, “Fratelli Tutti” (Where is your brother?) This phrase from the Book of Genesis has been on Pope Francis’ lips from very early days in his pontificate. It is the title of his latest Encyclical signed in Assisi on October 3. The vision he keeps proclaiming and fundamentally asking believers to practise, is that faith leads a believer to see in the other, a brother, a sister, to be supported and loved. The anthem played incessantly on your ABC. “We are one, but we are many” contains much derived from the vineyard, but too often fails the sour grape test in practise.

So, we are asked to look carefully at our personal vineyard this weekend. It may need pruning. It may need fertilising. It may need harvesting. We hope it is not destined to be destroyed.

Whatever the analysis, the words of the Psalm today are apt, “God of hosts …visit this vine and protect it” 

And we in turn say, “And we shall never forsake you again”. 

 

Mons Frank

                              

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 26 September 2020

Leadership…ah, the joys and sorrows of that position.

So, the breaking news before morning tea headlines the resignation of the Health Minister in Victoria and the departure of a Cardinal in Rome; resignations received or suggestions offered…we may never know. Amnesia is not restricted to the State of Victoria! Both Ezekiel and Matthew might have a further word to offer today if they were still with us. What they have left is pointed enough for each of us, “When the upright man renounces his integrity…which of the two did the father’s will?”

The commentators remind us that in this section of his book, Ezekiel is trying to answer the community, fearful of coming destruction, “Whose fault is it?” Many wanted to blame others, their forefathers, anyone. Ezekiel reminds them (and us) that each one is responsible for his or her acts; and he adds…each one is capable of conversion or apostasy. 

Confronting Jesus was the Jewish leadership, caught between the people who were happily moving to the words of John the Baptist and away from the Temple, perceived to be in league with the hated occupying Romans. Yet again, Jesus appeals to the leaders to repent as “the tax collectors and prostitutes did”.

We are all leaders. Some with greater responsibility than others. To raise a family is perhaps the greatest honour and challenge to personal leadership. Even in that setting the question of ‘settling the blame game’ is part of the growing to maturity. 

Leaders help people, even little people, to accept responsibility for their own lives and deeds. And we learn that it is better to pick up the banana skin, even if it is not ours.

We all must accept that there are times when we need to say seriously, “I am sorry I have done wrong. To seek pardon. Change is possible. God will forgive. The right path can be chosen.”

Today’s Psalm is perfect for an end of day prayer…try it!

Mons Frank