Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 20 June 2021

“…and there were other boats with him”.

The sudden storm on the Lake in Galilee was not uncommon then, as now. The fishermen were aware and knew what to do. We presume that they set out at night willingly; all weather reports must have been favourable. Suddenly, unexpectedly and in the dark, they were hit hard. Distraught, fearful and on the point of despair, anger was rising in their being. We presume that the other boats had crew and people feeling the same.

It occurs to me that their situation is not unlike ours in Australia. Initially, COVID-19 caused much panic amongst us all. Certainly in Victoria, the confusion continues. As we slowly emerge from lockdown four, dragging more or less willingly our sister states along; they are wanting our spending power but scared of our presence, there is evidence of more and more anger, distrust and a feeling of enough is enough.

Our scientific age with a plethora of experts, proposes answers to our health but so far has not allayed the fears of many. The ancient cry “do you not care? We are going down” is not prefaced by the word “Master”.

We do have a good health system. We do have competent nursing staff and competent doctors just as the disciples had a great teacher and relatively good boats.

But…

We have set out on our voyage happily. We have tried to build on the hand -me -downs of the earlier generations. We have been mesmerised by the gains and gifts of recent science. (Our priestly retreat this year was conducted on Zoom). Maybe, we have just got on with the sailing and let the Master gently go to sleep. We, like the fisher-folk, know what we are doing!

But…

Our biblical history is replete with accounts of our ancestors making hay and then finding the silos empty because of their wastefulness. So, too, our Church history. Then they turned to their God. We have the boat with the sleeping Jesus. If we awake him and implore his assistance, not only will our boat reach the shore safely, but all those other boats sailing with us.

Mons Frank

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 13 June 2021

Welcome back to Mark’s Gospel. In a sense it’s back to basics after the glory days of Pentecost and subsequent feasts.

Lockdown has dominated people in Victoria these past weeks and everything is not back to the ancient normal; for example, you can stand outside the perimeter fence at our premier football ground and watch the game but you may not enter and lean over the oval fence. And so it goes on…is it that ground that we are called to plant mustard seeds? Still, at early morn, a handful of sturdy volunteers were at the ground putting up the QR code and reminding passers-by, like me, that only 150 players and officials were allowed into the ground at any one time. Six teams to contest with all that accompanies and is needed, for the three games to proceed. (In a little aside, or perhaps with a touch of irony, I was told that the Government would pay the costs of the umpires!)

Pondering the encounter, I was reminded that the mustard seed which grows into a large plant was known to be a hardy and intrusive plant. Maybe that is the point of the parable for us in these robust and disturbing times. Perhaps we have been so well watered and cared for in the past decades that our mustard seed plants have been over protected, withered and we need to replant.

Before we do, let us recall another message of the Word today and repeated often in Mark Chapter 4, “Listen”.

Sometimes Mark adds phrases like, “You that have ears to hear” or, like today, “so far as they were capable of understanding”. Pope Francis is constantly urging our leaders to listen to their people, an alert for those running the processes of the coming Plenary Council.

Despite the varying climatic conditions surrounding the Sea of Galilee, the mustard seed prospered, hardy and invasive.

So too us.

That is what the kingdom calls us to be.

Mons Frank

Corpus Christi 6 June 2021

Reflecting upon Pentecost, the Church over the centuries has given us, immediately, three feasts to celebrate great truths of our faith:

            Holy Trinity

            Corpus Christi

            Sacred Heart.

In a sense it is the ‘big’ Church reminding itself and us, to reflect deeply upon the gift of the Holy Spirit and put into practice what we learn and hear. So, we proclaim our understanding of the true God…Trinity.

         We proclaim our understanding of the gift given at the Last Supper.

         We proclaim our understanding of the nature of Jesus, “true God, true Man”.

These post-Pentecost feasts are but further encouragement to us to, I repeat, ponder the Spirit and allow the Spirit to help us discover more and more the mystery of God’s great love for each one of us.

In his book ‘Damascus’, the novelist Christos Tsiolkas of the Greek Orthodox culture, reminds us of two realities that the gift of Jesus gave to our world. Without denying the command to love God, he brings to life vivid and disturbing accounts of poverty, brutality, and harshness of life in the time of Jesus and beyond, the power of “to love my neighbour”. He demonstrates that in both the Jewish and Gentile culture, all ruled by the conquering Romans, with empire built upon subjection into slavery of the peoples, the profound challenge that the newly redeemed Christians proclaimed to their communities by their attempts to love everyone, including slaves and by the welcome to all who joined in faith at “the Meal”.

Unlike the prevailing custom, the men in the first circle and the women in the surrounding circle, let alone the men eating first then the boys and, eventually, the women and girls last with the left overs, the new Christians sat together shoulder to shoulder. They suffered, were tortured and died for their proclamation, but eventually triumphed…and our world began to change under the influence of the Spirit.

Many people, even in high places, are beginning to wonder how our civil society, let alone our Church communities, are going to emerge, let alone survive the pandemic challenges; where is truth? why me? my perceived Qantas rights, community needs to vaccinate or not, and other emerging challenges.

It occurs to me that we, by rediscovering the proclamation of the Trinity and the reform of our gathering; by reflecting more appropriately the action of Jesus in his self-giving, to accept the invitation to eat and drink (for we are all or should be in the action together), then our generation, too, may bring our world from its current turbulent state to align itself with the ideal of the Kingdom of God.

Under the Spirit we have evolved to speak of the “twofold table of the Lord’s Word and of the Supper” (Vatican II). As disciples, we must receive both. The Spirit will be with us as we seek to bring our understanding of both “altars” to our world.

Mons Frank

 

Trinity Sunday 30 May 2021

Greetings from lockdown…with handcuffs this time, an interesting use of authority and power, yet again! 

Matthew uses authority in our Sunday translation.  Other translations use power and that has started, after a due lockdown pause, a line of thought.

The events in Belarus in recent days illustrates the understanding of ‘authority/power’ being proclaimed in our world at the moment.  To that event we add the trial of the Australian journalist in Beijing; the arrest, trial and sentencing of the Independent Media mogul, the Catholic Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong; our Churches being bombed in Myanmar and so the list goes on. There is a recent book on Putin and how the KGB recaptured Russia where, in vivid detail, the philosophy guiding these regimes is spelt out.

No wonder my friends in Estonia are worried!

Against this we come up to the Great Commission this weekend in Jesus’ words to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

It is to be exercised not by guns or stuffing ballot boxes with false votes, but by “baptising in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. No wonder some hesitated!

Occasionally, I wish that his power would cleanse the world as his Son cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem!

And there is the rub.  The Trinity is holiness and love, the battle royal is not between rockets and bombs but between fighting and love.

We are called to be on the side of love.

We are called, especially as disciples, to recognise that the loving Father has given his commission to his only Son who in turn offers us, through Baptism, a share in that loving power. We are not alone when we attempt to carry out the Great Commission, the Spirit of the Risen Christ will guide us and protect us and be with us until the job is done.

Paul writes, “The Spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives…”

Jimmy Lai commented, “If they can induce fear in you that’s the cheapest way to control you and the most effective way and they know it. The only way to defeat the way of intimidation is to face up to fear and don’t let it frighten you”.

We have “the spirit of (family)” and for help we can cry out “Abba Father”.

Amongst others this weekend, ask the Trinity to strengthen Jimmy Lai!

Blessings,

Mons Frank

 

Pentecost Sunday 23 May 2021

Sometimes things simply happen!
Sometimes we say coincidence!
Sometimes we may even hint that the Spirit is at work!
Sometimes we judge that the Spirit is at work!

Consider the Jewish people from all over the then-known world were gathering in Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot. A most holy time in their civic and religious calendar. Initially, a time of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest but was transformed, in time, to recall the giving of the Law to Moses with the implied revelation…God loves you, diverse, unruly, stubborn and full of failure as you are.

What the reading tells us today is that what we call Pentecost happened that year when diverse, unruly, stubborn and separate people from all over the then-known world, all came to Jerusalem to remember their history. To their surprise, and that of the gathered followers of Jesus, the bar was heightened by the gift of the Spirit. They heard for the first time that the same God loves even Jews and Proselytes, Cretans, and Arabs. And we celebrate the same feast this week with the competing sounds of rockets on Jerusalem and bombs on Gaza. How the Spirit must weep!

We also celebrate this week the beginning of the Ignatian Year, celebrating the cannonball that put Ignatius of Loyola on his back for a long recuperation and eventual conversion. Now, 500 years later, we marvel at the contribution Ignatius made in reminding our world that God loves us.

Teresa of Calcutta, to the observation that her work was but a drop in the ocean responded that the ocean was made up of many drops! I add…and some drips! As others have added their drop to the message of God’s great love for us and his desire for the creating of peace and harmony, perhaps this Pentecost Sunday we can cheerfully commit ourselves to adding our drops to the great ocean of love,  peace, and truth that the Spirit has invited us to contribute to our world…and if you are feeling a little down, remember, many drips make a drop!

Happy Pentecost

Mons Frank

 

Ascension of the Lord 16 May 2021

Some weeks are more crowded than others!  Sometimes it happens with Liturgical weeks too. We can feel, just get on with it which was, perhaps, what Jesus was gently saying to the Apostles as he disappeared from sight and left them “still staring into the sky”.  No jet trails to indicate where He had gone. 

So to set our scene; we have Ascension, Pentecost and the Australian feast of our patroness, Mary Help of Christians. We are also called to honour and work through, yet again, the teachings in ‘Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ reflection and teachings. Such questions the Pope raises were not on the minds of the Apostles as they headed back to Jerusalem.  ‘Care for our Common Home’ from their point of view was not an issue, even though their methods of fighting over centuries had produced more than a number of deserted areas and more than one dead oasis by 33 CE. 

The waiting…the not knowing what was going to happen…what did being baptised with the Holy Spirit mean? One good thing…this time they seemed to do what Jesus had asked them to do, they stayed in Jerusalem and their presence there, aided by the Spirit, sanctified the place…conveniently forgotten in these days of yet another terrible situation in Jerusalem.

“It is better that I go away” or words to that effect, said Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit will come. So we don’t need the face to face presence of Jesus…but we do need the activity of the Holy Spirit. We need the strength of the Holy Spirit to put into practise the teachings of Jesus, particularly the call to love one another. Our job is to bring healing of bodies and souls as he did to our brothers and sisters and increasingly now in our time, to our Mother Earth.

We, too, need to “return to Jerusalem”, to ponder the world around us. To rethink the teachings of Jesus and the updated commentary of Pope Francis.

Let us all find time this week to take a break and await the Holy Spirit to activate us.

A word from St Francis of Assisi may help: 

        “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth, 

          who sustains and governs us,  

          and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs”.

                                    (The Canticle of Creation…St Francis of Assisi) 

Blessings.

Mons Frank

Sixth Sunday of Easter 9 May 2021

“You in the West, you think you’re playing Chess with us. But you are never going to win because we are not following any rules”. Attributed to a Russian mobster, and quoted on page 448 in the recent book, ‘Putin’s People’ by Catherine Belton. That is one version, a 2020 proclamation of how to live and be happy ever after.

Another concept is offered in today’s Gospel, “love one another” with reflections upon that proclamation by Peter in the house of Cornelius.

We are confronted with the simple teaching by Jesus, “What I command you is to love one another.”

Sounds simple…but we still live in a world inhabited by the likes of the Russian mobster.

In addition to the commandment to love, other gifts are promised…

Does the promise of being offered joy excite you? Or does your recent experience of joy only reflect the packaged tinsel of the allurements of Mother’s Day?

What about the statement, “that God does not have favourites”? Surely, he can’t mean Tom, Dick or Harry!  They had been on the agenda long before Peter said, “The truth I have now come to realise…”. Hope for me yet!

This statement, “What I command you  is to love one another” was, in a sense, unthinkable then given the experiences of their history, even recent history with their neighbours the Samaritans. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is still unthinkable, perhaps even unfathomable today; but we have the Holy Spirit working and abiding with us.

Further, we have been called “friends”. Maybe that is where we end today. Let us spend some time pondering that we have been called friends by Jesus. Me, a friend. Hard to believe.  But it is true!

Perhaps it is time that the Russian mobster heard that even he is loved by God and God wants to be his friend. Somehow, we have to spread that message.

Blessings to all women this weekend.

Mons Frank

The Fifth Sunday of Easter 2 May 2021

In recent years, Bendigo has replanted vines and is now the centre of the Heathcote Bendigo wine region with over fifty different vineyards. It is a return to the glories of the 1870s and 1880s. The mining boom of the late nineteenth century also saw the decimation of the forests surrounding the city. For a time, until the city fathers acted, the city became a dust bowl. Today we are surrounded by luxuriant vines and many, many native and imported trees. The leaves in both sectors are brilliant in their colours, this year, perhaps, a comment upon a wet Spring and a dry Autumn. The leaves are beginning to drop. A slight breeze brings out the blowers and brooms. Some just allow the leaves to rest where they fall. An initial pruning to be followed by the vine dressers and the tree doctors. Today’s parable is more easily understood by those who have eyes to see!

It is easy to say that a good pruning is essential for the vine, we do not easily accept that you and I need a pruning every now and then.

The pandemic is a case in point.

Many resisted and resented the restrictions we all suffered…and it is slight consolation to be told “look at India”. All in some manner or other have been cut off from meaningful relationships and familiar support. Do we expect goodness to be experienced because we have been pruned?

I was reminded at a recent St Vincent de Paul festival that following the excesses of the French Revolution, Paris was swept by a cholera outbreak. At one time, 1,300 people were dying every day. In the midst of that tragedy, someone challenged Frederic Ozanam, “What is your Church doing about this?” And, as they say, the rest is history. The forerunner of Vinnies was established.

We are called to bear fruit. So, we must remain part of the vine. We must expect a friendly pruning every now and then.

His word “abide” is important. It fundamentally means to stay in touch, remain part of me, draw life from the True Vine. And produce the fruits of the Spirit.

Mons Frank

The Fourth Sunday of Easter 25 April 2021

Can you remember the last time Good Shepherd Sunday and Anzac Day fell on the same day?

In his letter Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis uses these words: “Each day offers us a new opportunity, a new possibility. We should not expect everything from those who govern us, for that would be childish”.

The juxtaposition of both days, Anzac and Good Shepherd, offers us an opportunity to reflect upon the appeal of those who sent us to war and that of Jesus who asks us to be like him…a shepherd and a good shepherd.

Both appeals demand a response.  Both, strangely, can have the possibility of death for a cause.  Until the powers that be start acting like bad shepherds, we have choices, we have new opportunities, we have new possibilities.

At the end of the day, various forms of remembrances are commemorated. One is associated with a sense of loss. A loss which seems present whilst families and relatives and even governments remember. All do so for varying reasons. Not all of which are pure.

The other celebrates with great joy, with hymns of praise and shouts of jubilation. A Saint is born. A fellow human has accepted the opportunity, the possibility, and practised being a good shepherd.

The call to war is not always sounded for upright reasons. Our history is littered with examples of power-hungry despots eager to impose their will on others. They demand that the people go to battle. Sometimes the cause is just. The good shepherd, on the other hand, offers us a different call. This call builds on those often presented to our people dating from the time of Abraham, Moses and Isaac. We are offered the fullness of the long-offered gift; that call presented today is to be a good shepherd. Some might prefer to be a good Samaritan. Both have the same author.

Let our self-interest, nor our temptation to return to Egypt, block us from accepting this gift.

So, this week we strive yet again to make acts of self-sacrifice for our wellbeing and for the greater good of the community.  That spirit will link us to the deeper truth of both days. We will both seize the opportunity and accept the possibility…a better world will be achieved.

Mons Frank

The Third Sunday of Easter 18 April 2021

“Peace to you” or, perhaps, the more familiar liturgical usage, “Peace be with you”, has been on my mind these past days.

The expression comes up regularly in the Resurrection story. It often comes from Jesus when the atmosphere in which he appears is full of alarm, fear, meeting behind closed doors, confusion, and bewilderment.

From a purely human perspective (and we might just take a little moment to imagine ourselves in their situation), a most horrible, angry, searing time of cruelty, betrayal, and violence towards Jesus. Not just that of the soldiers, simply doing their job (as no doubt that will be the excuse in Myanmar), but the connivance and hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders of the people as well as that of the Roman officials.

You can well imagine the disciples muttering “What’s going on?” and even using some language known only to the fisherfolk!

Now their insecure world is tipped upside down again…Resurrection!

In the middle of this they hear the words, “Peace to you”. He must be joking. Peace in these times! He must be joking.

What does he mean? What is he offering?

No wonder he chided them!

Later they would remember and put to writing, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”

Still, what does this mean? What are we given?

Many are the realities of our time with all sorts of violence but, like Jesus long ago, our gift today to the broken world is peace.

Peace in our hearts,

Peace in our dealings,

Peace in our relationships.

I think that peace in this context means you don’t have to be alarmed or distressed provided you have committed yourself to he who is the way the truth and the life.

What do you think?

Let us strive to be active people of peace this week!

Mons Frank