Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 25 July 2021

“Give it to the people to eat”, so said Elisha, the man of God.

Our Gospel story today is set in the context of the coming feast of Passover. Jesus, the disciples, and the people would all be aware of the coming feast and holiday season. Etched in their collective memory were the great deeds of their liberating God working, as it were, hand in hand with Moses. We are exposed, today, to the new Moses sitting on yet another mountain.

Something had to happen.

It did, enough to elicit a spontaneous move to make him King.

Abundance. Yet again the new agent of the True God fulfilled the ancient memories of that fabled journey out of Egypt. Not only liberated from slavery but fed in abundance each and every day of their long march. Here, today, again, abundance…., “Giving out as much as was wanted.”

No such abundance offered to NSW by the other States in recent days, even if we are all in this together. So much for Commonwealth.

Often in the gospel, Jesus is seen as a messenger bringing hope to people, so oppressed in their society at that time. He not only “cured the sick” as in today’s reading but was an agent of peace. “Your sins are forgiven”, “Has no one condemned you?”, “Do you love me?” to recall some instances. Real conflicts are not found only on the battlefields. There are many conflicts, in a sense, right here on the grass. Sit down. Let me feed you in mind and body. We will find peace and satisfaction together. And we will do it, not in a miserly way, but in abundance.

So, the lesson is heard again today. Maybe after all the years of hearing this story, we may yet again miss like Philip and Andrew, the point. Take comfort. In time they understood.

Never begrudge hospitality. Make sure there is some left over. You might yet entertain angels in the unexpected guests.

Mons Frank.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 18 July 2021

What a week for shepherds, be they civic or religious!

Take a moment to add your addition to these:

#the riots in South Africa

# the enormous floods in Western Europe

# the scandals unfolding in Brazil

# the growing Covid crisis in Indonesia…and elsewhere

# the decision about the Tridentine Rite by the Pope, these and many others make our fifth lockdown in Victoria seem “small beer”.

Where are the shepherds?

What are they doing?

Against the big picture we are alerted to the ancient warning, “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered” in Reading One.

Then we are given another idea in the gospel. Tired, weary, seeking solitude. He, nonetheless, “took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

We are often given for reflection the baptismal “priest, prophet and king” line. Sometimes we add “shepherd” with a small “s”. We are all called to be shepherds, in our family at our workplaces, when leading the flock on the sporting fields let alone at the supermarket. We are part of a Church that invokes the name of Jesus, hence, we must be concerned about the spiritual and physical hunger of all people today. For many see our need today to be of crisis proportions. Let us deal with what we can at our local level.

There are some words from Pope Francis in the book “Let Us Dream.”

“We have to see clearly, choose well, and act right”. Echoes of another shepherd of blessed memory.

Crises have come and been met before by our predecessors. As he set himself to teach them at some length so, too, must we.

 

Mons Frank

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 11 July 2021

The Sandhurst Church ordained a young man to be a priest today. A very male dominated liturgy; the ceremony was punctuated by numerous issuing of hand sanitiser, no doubt in years to come, such practices will be part of the red print rubrics. Also, face masks. Now there is a challenge for the liturgists. Comment was made, too, on the rather bountiful hugs during the welcoming ‘Sign of Peace’. I hasten to add that the clerical enthusiasm was not repeated later in the Mass. The music was excellent, the Cathedral Choir in good voice (but it is difficult to choir and social distance at the one time).

And then we read the Gospel for this Sunday.

2021 is not 30CE.

Is there anything in the scripture this weekend that might be useful for the community preparing to celebrate a mission experience? Both Amos and Paul remind us that “it was the Lord who took me” as we believe the same Lord took Adi Indri and led him after seven hard years of study to the altar.

Part of that choice had purpose then and now. For Amos to “go, prophesy to your people”, for Paul perhaps put more fulsome “to make us praise the glory of his grace etc.”. In between Amos and Paul we have the Gospel with Jesus telling the disciples to live in community and to form them by their example (travelling light, confronting evil, serving as an agent of God’s healing power and to cast out devils). In latter chapters we will hear their report back.

We are rediscovering the original message that we are all called to mission.

Against this, where do we begin in 2021?

Perhaps a re-examination of all this evidence may give us a path to follow and a blueprint for commissioning.

One hopes this may be part of the work of the Plenary Council.

May we so hope and pray.

Mons Frank

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 4 July 2021

It was his home. He was the carpenter, the son of Mary…and a member of a large family group. We know them. We know all about him.

But they could not handle his wisdom and mighty works. Nazareth had never produced anything startling.

Perhaps, for the first time, Jesus experienced what the great messengers of God had experienced down the long history of God’s people, powerlessness…he could not compel acceptance. All the great experiences that we have recalled these past weeks were of no consequence here in his own village, amongst his own family. Sometimes that happens to members of our own family, of our own village. A member goes travelling, or off to the big city or to a higher place of learning and can never settle back home, can never again feel acceptance ‘at home’. 

The role of the prophet, or the bearer of news asking us to do something new, e.g., vaccinate for a fresh disease, no matter how many needles we have received from our dentist or taken willingly to achieve a ‘high’, that news is often met with scepticism and refusal. Likewise, when deeper reflection on the word of God invites us to get involved with a ‘good work’. Such news can provoke a “why me?” response.

Yet we need prophets. 

We especially need prophets of the true God to remind us of the Good News. 

We need people among us to exhibit wisdom and work mighty deeds.

We need such people who keep proclaiming and, sadly from our point of view, keep proclaiming despite rejection. Jesus sadly moved his mission from Nazareth at that time. He now concentrated on his new family. But he continued to exhibit wisdom and perform mighty deeds. 

This week try to identify a person in our Church community and one in our Civic community who is in the mould of the prophets of old. Hold them in your prayers…we need them even, if like the master, they suffer rejection in their own home.

 

Mons Frank

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 27 June 2021

Illness and death.

Two constants in our lives; often the cause of solid questions…Why me? Is it fair? Response to these trials is often not unlike community, let alone individual, reactions when a waste dump is proposed “Not in my backyard!” Nonetheless, we all have to deal with the twin realities. 

Our teaching today is part of a series of manifestations of Jesus’s power revealed in the past few weeks by Mark. 

Power over chaotic nature…crossing to the Gentile shore. 

Power over the demons in the Gentile land. 

Power over sickness and death, crossing back to the Jewish shore and next week, the lack of faith in his home town. 

Too much to consider in one week, but a challenge to be explored privately.

Illness and death are still with us.

So, what is to be learned from today’s accounts?

Obviously, Jesus exhibited great love for the afflicted women…and he did not let the social mores and customs of the Jewish law prevent him from allowing his clothes to be touched or to take the hand of the dead girl. The latter, almost a ‘death’ sentence in those times for a male.

Further, we note that the number twelve is used in both narratives. We see those healings reflect Jesus’s concern for the wellbeing of the community. He restores, to both women, their life-giving capacity. Both can now bring forth life from their bodies. Both can resume their honoured place in their communities.

Faith can exist in difficult situations.

For some reason, our society is under great pressure when questions of life and death arise. Four States have now legislated ‘dying with dignity bills’. Sadly, all have passed abortion provisions. Some are reluctant to provide adequate palliative care funds. Our Gospel illustrates a different approach. It is our duty now to find a way through this morass, as early Christians overcame the less than noble practises about life in our early history. 

Faith still exists and can prevail in our times.

We can still bring wholeness and dignity to our communities.

Mons Frank

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

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 27 June 2021

Illness and death.

Two constants in our lives; often the cause of solid questions…Why me? Is it fair? Response to these trials is often not unlike community, let alone individual, reactions when a waste dump is proposed “Not in my backyard!”  Nonetheless, we all have to deal with the twin realities. 

Our teaching today is part of a series of manifestations of Jesus’s power revealed in the past few weeks by Mark. 

Power over chaotic nature…crossing to the Gentile shore. 

Power over the demons in the Gentile land. 

Power over sickness and death, crossing back to the Jewish shore and next week, the lack of faith in his home town. 

Too much to consider in one week, but a challenge to be explored privately.

Illness and death are still with us.

So, what is to be learned from today’s accounts?

Obviously, Jesus exhibited great love for the afflicted women…and he did not let the social mores and customs of the Jewish law prevent him from allowing his clothes to be touched or to take the hand of the dead girl. The latter, almost a ‘death’ sentence in those times for a male.

Further, we note that the number twelve is used in both narratives. We see those healings reflect Jesus’s concern for the wellbeing of the community. He restores, to both women, their life-giving capacity. Both can now bring forth life from their bodies. Both can resume their honoured place in their communities.

Faith can exist in difficult situations.

For some reason, our society is under great pressure when questions of life and death arise. Four States have now legislated ‘dying with dignity bills’. Sadly, all have passed abortion provisions. Some are reluctant to provide adequate palliative care funds. Our Gospel illustrates a different approach. It is our duty now to find a way through this morass, as early Christians overcame the less than noble practises about life in our early history. 

Faith still exists and can prevail in our times.

We can still bring wholeness and dignity to our communities.

 

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