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

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 20 September 2020

 

“…for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways.” 

Even before Isaiah penned these words, followers of the true God faced this dilemma: God does not play the game according to our rules! And the same conundrum faces the 2020 believers.

“My ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”

We have a great example of our willingness to change the rules, even after we have agreed to the contract in today’s parable; the debate about Job Keeper and Job Seeker is an update on aspects of the parable. Some recipients received more than their accustomed wage, others less, but they all received. One would not dare to suggest that the Government is “the Kingdom of heaven” and the PM “the landowner”, but you can have some delight and debate in following that path. In time you will reach the nub…how do we balance justice and mercy in our dealings as the parable reflects the truth of God’s justice and God’s mercy.

“…my ways are above your ways.”

Often in his ministry, Jesus was accused and criticised of his company keeping; his association with disreputable people (tax collectors and sinners). His concern for the marginal in his society is obvious, just as it is evident since the time of Leo XIII and his earth-shattering letter “Rerum Novarum” which has spawned a series of teachings, letters and instruction urging our Church to, more and more, do what Mary MacKillop did. The denarius was accepted as a basic unit to enable the family to live for the day. All got a meal!

How do we, today, ensure that all get a meal? 

As has been suggested, the parable known as the parable of the Prodigal Son is now often referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Father…so, too, today’s parable might deserve the title, ‘Prodigal Employer’.

Whatever the title, we are called to acknowledge, “How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.” Comforting, yes, but at the same time challenging, for “my ways are not your ways”. 

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 13 September 2020

All communities have their ups and downs, even the new Christian community that Matthew wrote for. Amongst others, Paul too, had a number of problems with the Corinthians. We have found ‘troubles’; some very peculiar to Covid-19, in our communities. 

Locally, school communities suffered, somewhat unjustly, when staff were reported as being positive with the bug. The social media had a field day spreading the gossip, not knowing all the facts and making the presumption that the individual had deliberately brought the bug to the school. Not much sympathy for the health and wellbeing of the person.

As the first reading says, “Resentment and anger, these are foul things…” Their effects can multiply as fast as the bug itself! 

Well, what can be done and what can you and I do?

First and foremost, we must believe in the importance of forgiveness. Whatever the injunctions in today’s scripture, and there are many, from our Christian perspective we begin with the words and action of Jesus from the Cross…

 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

It is a high benchmark. It sealed his teaching. He left a legacy. The great dictators of the last 100 years, whether they be like the Hitlers and Maos of the world to the lesser villains like the Pol Pots, they did not leave a legacy of goodness. 

So, in our book we aim for quality not quantity.

We believe that the life and death of each of us can make a difference. 

We believe that to expect justice from God we must practise justice with all, and if we want mercy from God then we must be merciful to others.

Secondly, we must live what we proclaim.

In our increasingly semi-religious society, we need to bring our beliefs more to the surface and confront the increasingly harsh and judgemental atmosphere that surrounds us.

                “Not seven, I tell you but seventy-seven times.” 

Mons Frank



Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 6 September 2020

As we keep saying in Victoria, even on Father’s Day, it is different this year!

So, let us try to be a little creative…after all, Spring has sprung, even in central Victoria.

Historically, Mother’s and Father’s Day seem to have arisen from the whim of the commercial world. The same enterprising spirit is trying to overwhelm our traditional family day, Christmas, and some try to counteract the emphasis on Mother’s and Father’s Day by saying that every day ought to be Mother’s and Father’s Day. But if the days are to be split, can we cope with suggesting you read the word from Ezekiel, “I have appointed you sentry to the House of Israel” (be you Mother or Father).

Given that context, is it fair then to ask, “How do you warn them? or “How do you recognise wicked people?”

As sentry, can you easily, “…go and have it out with him alone”?

Or, if that fails, have you got “one or two others” that you can call upon to take the next step of reconciliation? The major sentry for Australia may be pondering this action after a rather disappointing National Cabinet meeting this week! Or, for that matter, the Pope might be looking for “one or two others” to help him build bridges within the Catholic tradition, let alone with other faiths!

Jesus seems to accept that there are times and situations which seemingly can’t be resolved. It seems harsh to hear Jesus suggesting “treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.” Obviously, Matthew’s community is having a few problems!

So where does that leave us?

We all need a sentry in our household and, perhaps, many in our community. We must try to be reconcilers and, perhaps, Paul’s word will give us encouragement, “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour.”

Let us keep trying to build peace.

Mons Frank

P.S. A happy and blessed day to all who bear the title, Father.

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 30 August 2020

“You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced; 

  you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.”

These are the opening words, attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, in this Sunday’s Scripture. Somehow or other, this year, the juxtaposition of the liturgical feasts of St Monica, followed by our remembrance of her son, the great St Augustine and yesterday’s recall of the savage death of the young John the Baptist, all seem to highlight the importance of the Gospel dialogue between Jesus and Peter. (I often ponder this incident. Would it have been written down by other authors recalling the beginnings of their movement? Peter recently anointed as the ‘rock’ being told “Get behind me, Satan!”)

on the opposite stance, “Who do you say I am?”

Monica “…a lifetime of prayer, saved her husband and her son…

Augustine, brilliant and still one of the great minds of all time, eventually wrote, 

“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new”.

John the Baptist…with his extraordinary statement, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Monica, Augustine and John all came to experience Jeremiah’s experience,

“There seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.”

So, too, did Peter. His is so really a very human journey, one that gives all hope.

Monica witnessed by a life of prayer,

Augustine by his wonderful writings and pastoral zeal, 

John, by courageous denouncing of injustice, 

Peter by always getting up after his many fails.

Many calls, many paths. 

What is yours? 

What is mine?

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time 23 August 2020

Who do you think you are?

That attitude was behind many of the incidents involving people caught in violation of some regulation during our Covid-19 shutdown. The ‘offender’ responded to the officer by questioning her or his credentials. In doing so, scant regard was shown to the general community, almost an attitude of “I’m alright, I’m correct, who do you think you are?” 

One aspect of our faith is based upon the opposite stance, “Who do you say I am?”

The first scenario created anger, division, and a certain amount of opprobrium. The second requires a soul search and a decision based upon experience and proper judgement. One creates negativity, the other the possibility of new life.

Happily, Peter, despite his obvious humanity, made the right call and Matthew records the incident, perhaps twenty or so years later, when writing for his new community, the one called “Church”, as distinct from the continuing “Synagogue”.

As we grow, we all have to respond to the following questions at one time or another and, perhaps, on many occasions: 

How…we perceive ourselves?

How…others perceive us?

How…our friends perceive us?

How…God perceives us?

All that can be quite confronting…but if we try, then we will be more able to answer the great question posed by Jesus “Who do you say I am?” and confidently affirm, like Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

 

Mons Frank

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 16 August 2020

Was Jesus having a bad day?

Our experiences of bad days are being added to as the lockdown continues, and not only in Victoria. Notice, hoarding again in the ‘Shaky Isles’! Jesus’ words to the woman seem so out of character when compared to his obvious respect for women in other events recorded in the Gospels. 

Well, I guess he is entitled to a lapse or a day off. In recent weeks, the Scripture has indicated his desire for a bit of solitude, particularly after the John the Baptist episode. They were family.

On the other hand, it is Matthew’s account and he is particularly keen to help his mainly Jewish community come to grips with the renewed truth that the God of Jesus Christ loves all. Busting long-engrained prejudices was as difficult then as now. Witness the response to the proposed accord between the Emirates and Israel!

What a wonderful commentary on this subject is the second reading today, written years before the words of Matthew.

So, maybe Jesus was giving a lesson to his disciples that they, the original chosen people, may have to lift their game. Regularly in their history of obedience and disobedience they often failed to see and understand their call to bring others to the knowledge and love of the true God.

The true God is merciful, forgiving and loves all. So, after the lesson, the cure is granted…and you disciples, in a sense, says Jesus, note the word of approval, “Woman, you have great faith.”

I think Isaiah would have nodded his approval. Check the first reading. A d ose of encouragement for us ‘foreigners’ who centuries later have attached ourselves to the Lord.

May we continue to be people of faith and continue to serve him and love his name.

 

Mons Frank