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

The Second Sunday of Easter 11 April 2021

Do we move from safety to security? 

Or is it from security to safety? 

The Gospel this week begins with the chosen ones meeting behind closed doors, “for fear of the Jews” as John puts it. Closed doors were not an impediment to Jesus! 

Despite all the walking and talking and instruction they had received, despite all the information brought to them by Mary Magdalene, let alone the reports of Peter and John, they gathered, locked up. That seemed to be the best option. 

What do you think when, and perhaps only occasionally, you travel by train, perhaps by tram and the conductor or the automated voice reminds you that you ought “be mindful of the gap”. So, you leave the safety of the carriage for the security of the platform or vice versa. A gap has to be overcome.

Thomas did so in moving to “My Lord and my God!” All the Apostolates had to make that leap and each of us must do so, and some of us, even daily.

Fear has to be replaced by peace. 

Peace arrived at, leads to service. 

Service to others brings change, and in time belief…

That process is a wonderful affirmation of “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

I hope your Easter Octave has been fruitful and that you have been energised in recalling and celebrating the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Mons Frank

 

Easter Sunday 4 April 2021

We celebrate Resurrection Day 2021 with great delight. Locked up last year we all missed something, and not just the parade of the Dragons in Bendigo, let alone the many events like the big Bardifest in Nathalia. All communities had their specific activities to celebrate the inheritance established by our predecessors, of the Easter weekend. They even made Good Friday a holiday so people could make that day a Holy day…that is not so in many parts of the world!

Why do we do it?

Why are we disturbed by the slow but successful move to turn this day into a secular day?

Well, many are the reasons. Principally, because of the handing down of the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.

 

The many teachings of Jesus had not penetrated until the women led by Mary of Magdala proclaimed, 

                 “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb.”

Then the men arrived!

John followed Peter and went into the tomb and proclaimed,

                   “He saw and he believed.”

 

All the words spoken by Jesus until then, in a sense, were just so many words.

“Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead”.

And so, began the witness of millions who in so many different ways have “entered the tomb”; eyes have been opened, testimony again proclaimed, and belief arrived at.

We are still experiencing what Paul experienced in proclaiming the Resurrection.

………Laughed at in public in Athens,

………..Mocked by his own people,

…………..Scourged and beaten by various Civic authorities, but unwavering in his proclamation of the truth –

                         “Christ is Risen.”

We, too, depend upon witnesses as well as the scriptures, and the testimony of those who proclaim and give their lives in service.

May we joyously proclaim, “Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed.”

A wonderful Easter to all.

 

Mons Frank

Palm Sunday 28 March 2021

Holy Week begins. 

  Many have forgotten the importance of this Liturgical week. Many have not. Our Holy Week this year (so good to be back in community face to face) in timing also embraces the Jewish Memory and liturgical celebration of Passover or Pessach, as some call it. In all parts of the world, people will gather, recall and read again about the beginnings of God’s call to lead a new life. It will embrace the good, bad and ugly events of that long journey which leads to Jesus; and we will recall our failures, moments of repentance, and our resolutions to follow He who is the “Way, Truth, and Life”.

We read Mark’s account of the Passion. It begins with another disturbing plot; “The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death.”

Some things have not changed.

The generals in Myanmar suggested that Aung San Suu Kyi be deposed and removed because she had several illegal walkie-talkies in her possession!

We pray she is still alive.

In our Liturgical life, today begins the deep reflection on the most pivotal events since Creation. Paul sums it up in the excerpt read this Sunday. For all people suffering, oppressed, burdened and desolate, not just nations but so many individuals post-Covid, today is a message of hope.

Jesus in his great love for us triumphed! We, too, in him and with him triumph. Getting that message out, allowing it to be received and embracing the strength of that example has never been easy. The yearly recall reminds us of the millions of people who have received and triumphed.

Today is our turn, not just to celebrate but to announce again to a wounded world that…

            “Every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Have an inspiring Holy Week!

Mons Frank

Fifth Sunday of Lent 21 March 2021

The tension is building.
Palm Sunday is net week.
It is not unexpected that Jesus is in Jerusalem… the city that murders the prophets! 
It is not unexpected that there were some Greeks in Jerusalem. 
The festival was renowned! As then, so too now, Jews and Gentiles flock to Jerusalem for the big feast. It seems that Jesus understands that the approach of the Greeks indicates that his hour has come. The word is out to all… even to the tormented societies of today. The difficulty, then and now, is simply: Will I believe his word? The promise made in Jeremiah “I will make a new covenant” is about to be fulfilled, not just with the house of Israel but with all peoples. 

The leaders, Scribes and Pharisees could or would not listen to Jesus because they said he came from Galilee. They failed to do their homework. He was born in Bethlehem. God’s plan has evolved and it is being revealed in all sorts of unexpected ways. We should not continue to make God do what we want!

The plan it seems is still evolving! 

It is difficult, at times, to appreciate that our God is participating with us in the day to day anxieties of our lives, especially when we constantly have the headlines of papers and TV screens filled with evil. But remember the triumph of the Resurrection. Man did not design that scenario! 

As the hour has come for Jesus so, too, for us. Holy Week is just around the corner. How are we going to participate in that hour this year?

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Lent 13 March 2021

Looking in the mirror early in the morning (it sometimes does not seem to improve later in the day), it is hard to appreciate that “We are God’s work of art”. This wonderful expression, attributed to St Paul, must have been consoling to him later in life as he sometimes remembered how he persecuted the new ‘way’ called into being by the same Jesus he met on the road to Damascus. Paul was not always the fiery proclaimer of the Good News; he was a little like Nicodemus…and perhaps like us. Full acceptance of the Good News rarely is found in one of us overnight.

Prior to our Gospel excerpt read today, the earlier verses show Jesus in action, poking and prodding Nicodemus, pushing his curiosity to seek further truths; demanding, in a sense, that Nicodemus does his homework.

What do you really, really think about Jesus?

Come on. Let’s have a real and truthful conversation, no holding back. 

Jesus eventually sends him on his way with a few more solid truths to consider 

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world.”

And for good measure, a few thoughts about light and darkness!

Light and darkness… 

In our pandemic driven world with huge debates around vaccines, let alone racism, gender equality and evil behaviour, this darkness needs an infusion of light.

The confronting image of the nun kneeling in prayer before the heavily equipped troops armed for war against their own people, is surely a moment of light in the midst of darkness in that seemingly hopeless situation in Myanmar! 

John’s Gospel, written a long time after the event, reveals a confident and confronting Jesus happily causing a degree of conflict, not only with the religious leaders but also with the ordinary people…

Who are you? 

Who do you say I am?

And slowly it was said by Peter and down the years, countless millions have affirmed that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It took a lot of prodding and poking to get Peter freely to utter those words.

It is now our turn.

Mons Frank

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