Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year C  14 July 2019

We encounter the Samaritans for the third time in as many weeks. Coincidence or perhaps deliberate by whoever organised the liturgical readings.

Why?

Some might say that we could enshrine, “oh, be a Good Samaritan” into our language. There is a recent book named, I think, ‘The Political Samaritan’ which seeks to uncover how this story has influenced high places over the years. And not only high places.

Our current Pope is seeking to make our Church more missionary, in outlook and in fact. Not necessarily asking us to rush off to distant places and stand in the village square to immediately ram down the locals throats the gift of Jesus, but to open eyes to our current reality and ask “Why is that person lying on the road and no one is helping?”. One great truth of the parable is that most of the listeners in the story would not have criticised the Levite or the Priest. They were obeying the Law. They were protecting their status, and their faith. When the lawyer responded with the teaching, “You must Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” let alone, “and your neighbour as yourself”, the penny did not drop. Samaritans were not neighbours.

Jesus is in effect saying …”Look at your Laws.” And he may be well saying the same to us today: canonically and civilly!

The lawyer moved a little and replied, “The one who took pity on him”. But the Samaritan “was moved with compassion”.  Conversion has begun but is not completed.

So for ourselves.  Let us all be “Good Samaritans”. Not simply because the concept is good. But because people are more important than laws, actions speak louder than words, and pity may bring bandages, but compassion will overcome the evil that reduces the wounded person to an inconvenient object.

Be a true “Good Samaritan”.

Mons Frank

Feast of Corpus Christi Year C 23 June 2019

One feature of the Notre Dame fire reporting was the sensitive details of the Priest and his helpers entering the burning building to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle. That action was comforting to many, appreciated, and seemingly not the subject of ridicule. In the recent past, the same Cathedral had its high altar profaned by the revolutionaries who enthroned the goddess of reason on that same altar that so often held the Sacrament in that place for the life of the world.

That same world, since the time of the Last Supper, has asked many questions about the Body and Blood of Christ. Even the Scripture records some of the doubts. It is comforting in these days to see respect offered to that action in Paris. In one sense, it highlights the position of Paul as stated in today’s Scripture, “This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you”.

We reserve the Eucharist so that it can be passed on to those who cannot participate in the consecrating action.

Paul, the great Paul, was like each of us. We inherit a tradition that has been passed on. Only twelve were present on that fateful night; all since have been on the receiving end and charged with the responsibility to pass it on.

This gift is an extraordinary gift. Taking a point from today’s Gospel, it is a gift of abundance, offered freely to saints and sinners, to the very poor and rich, all are one and the same before the Host. It can be, and is, offered in lonely places, on battle fields, in outback humble churches, in large magnificent Cathedrals. It is offered for the living and the dead, for health and wellbeing, for safety and deliverance.

It is mysterious.

It is also simple… “Take and eat. Take and drink!”

Like all his teaching, we have to ponder and pray, we have to respond to the invitation clothed with the appropriate wedding-feast garment.

Honed in the Jewish Passover ritual, today we participate in the New Covenant built on their tradition “to give thanks, to praise, to glorify, to honour, to exalt, to extoll and to bless”, he who wrought our salvation. This we do in service, in memory of him who came as one who serves.

“It is in giving that we receive”.  Nourished by his body and blood we move to our homes, workplaces and leisure spots to share our beliefs and to strive for justice and peace.

Mons Frank

Pentecost Sunday       Year C      9 June 2019

Heard this week on a talk-back session: “Three places you do not wish to go are Court, hospital or Church; unless you wish to be married or buried.”

I wonder what the Holy Spirit makes of that!

Some two thousand a years ago, an event happened in Jerusalem…one not merely recorded in Scripture but written about in other ways. For many individuals, life changed dramatically on that particular day which ended the Jewish feast of Shavuot. For seven weeks following Passover, the Jewish communities were celebrating their becoming God’s people following the celebration of their deliverance from Egypt on Passover. Jerusalem was thronging with pilgrims from all over the known world. It was time for the Spirit to act, and it did: “We hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.”

And two thousand years later, some want us to do it all again in Latin!  But it is not simply about language.

In one sense it is about the marvels of God.

How often do we stop and really talk to one another about the marvels of God? A little like Louis Armstrong sang so well. It is about “the colours of the rainbow…the smiles on the faces of the people going by”. It is about the many ‘John Vaniers’ found in all parishes and communities making a difference.

The sequence has timely words for us today:

“If thou take thy grace away

Nothing pure in man will stay

All his good is turned to ill.”

Lots of grace is missing in our world today. Our age is experiencing deliberate attempts to displace the life of God and erase that memory from people. Historically, that attempt is not new; it’s been tried before. Our instant Google filled experience hinders our need to stop, pause, listen and experience the presence of the Other. There is more to life than to avoid Courts or hospitals. There is more to faith than being married or buried in a church.

Let us ask this Pentecost that “our wounds be healed, our strength renewed. And wash the stains of guilt away”

Indeed, in confident faith let us call loudly to the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth.

Mons Frank

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord   Year C   2 June 2019

All sorts of things have happened this past May: elections in India, Indonesia and Australia; the World Cup of Cricket began in England (where else?); the Pope, amongst other activities, visited his Diocesan Assembly gathered in his Cathedral without  Mitre or Crozier and later in the month he travelled to Romania; and two great men died, John Vanier and our fellow Australian Les Murray.

Many consider that Les Murray was, and remains to this date, our greatest poet. I cannot comment on that and I have not read many of his works. Shame.

John Vanier changed the attitude of our world and left behind over 150 communities providing real homes for those with profound disabilities.

Les was born, the only child, to fiercely proud dairy farmers in Nabiac, New South Wales. He lost his mother aged 13, was severely bullied at school and left the Free Kirk Presbyterians in his early twenties to embrace Catholicism. Forty years later, his father could not bring himself to mention it.

John was born, the fourth child of five, into a truly devout Catholic Family. His father lost a leg in the trenches in the First World War, served his Canadian people in all sorts of postings and became Governor General of Canada in 1959. John grew up in a household where his father went to Mass every day and spent 30 minutes in personal prayer.

Les Murray dedicated all his works “to the Glory of God”.

John Vanier reminded the world that “everybody is beautiful”.

One can ponder the tributes in days to come. Many call Vanier a saint, already! Others suggest Murray to be Australia’s greatest poet.  Read his poem. ‘Poetry and Religion’. Maybe a saint in many years to come.

These words are  in today’s reading from Ephesians:

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory,

give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed

To bring you to full knowledge of him.”

Both Les and John have done that.  From vastly different backgrounds with different talents, in different worlds. Both have ennobled we humans.

As we approach Pentecost may we be encouraged to use our gifts and talents to do likewise, with the help of the same Holy Spirit.

Mons Frank

Sixth Sunday of Easter  Year C 26 May 2019

Maybe Australia, in a sense, and all Australians should devour this Gospel today and ponder the aspects particularly reported in Verse 27a:

“Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you.”

Amidst all the wash up of the Election results with calls to slash wrists, to complain about how some people voted, to wonder what went right and what went wrong, one truth stands out…no violent demonstrations in the street, no suggestion that the vote had been rigged, a cordial acceptance of the result and all went back to their beer or red wine. There was peace!

You may care to debate what sort of peace, but it was vastly different in Indonesia, in India or in the recent results in South Africa or Nigeria.

 

I think it is worth reflecting on this act of nationwide ‘peace’. It may not be all that Jesus had in mind, but I believe that this experience is a result, in part, of our faith background, of the acceptance in the past; particularly of the gift of this teaching of Jesus.

We are not perfect.

Lots of aspects of our society need improving or changing, but on one crucial day in our history there was an expression of peace not experienced in all parts of the world.

We ought to say thanks… and work harder to allow this gift to be a valuable characteristic of our society.

It is a timely reminder of the abiding presence of the Spirit and I think that the basic call of this weekend is to fire up in all of us a deeper recall and recognition of the gift of the Spirit.

“It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves,” was a catchphrase of the early Church. Let us endeavour to make that practise more so ours in family decisions, at work, and above all in the work of the forthcoming Plenary Council.

Mons Frank

Fifth Sunday of Easter  Year C   19 May 2019   

 “Keep the mystery of Easter alive in us always.” So the Church prayed on the Fourth Saturday of Easter in the Office of Readings.

Then we are asked to listen to the Acts of the Apostles for Sunday:

“On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans.”

As recommended by the recent Royal Commission, the Bishops of Australia have set up a small committee to review the current governance structure of the Australian Church; unprecedented but desperately needed. Timely, in view of the next phase of the process leading into the forthcoming Plenary Council.

On May 9 this year, Pope Francis visited his Cathedral, St John Lateran, and took part in the Rome Diocesan Assembly. He sat, listened to the reports of several people engaged in the pastoral work of the diocese, took notes, then, as their Bishop, responded. It seems that he spoke freely, without notes, but emphasised his vision for a renewed, missionary Church.

Sometimes on Saturday the ducks are all in the right place!

We have the experience of the early Church.

We have the example of the current leader.

We have the call from the people and the Royal Commission.

We have the cries from the pews.

We see the need for a renewed Church to bring life to a broken and confused world.

We need not be afraid to cast out into the deep. Jesus trusts that his now eleven disciples are, even in their confused and ignorant state, not comprehending his teaching, and he, nonetheless, still reminds them:

“you also must love one another.”

The call is still valid.

If we are to renew our world with the mystery of Easter, then change we must, but always based upon the words:

“By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

 Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Easter Year C 12May 2019

We are in the midst of a brawl between Jesus and the ‘Jews’, a term John uses to describe those opposed to Jesus.

The subject is ‘the nature of the Messiah’.

The site of the action is the last remaining section of the Old Temple; the Portico of Solomon.

The time is the Feast of Dedication, the reminder of the restoration of the High Altar after its desecration by the Syrian invader Epiphane. He offered sacrifice to Zeus and erected a pagan altar over the Holy One, hence the ‘abomination of desolation’ or ‘the desolating sacrilege’. This was torn down three years later in a successful revolt led by the Jewish Priest Mattathias.

Into this feisty cauldron of time, place and ideas, Jesus responds to their asking “Are you the Messiah?” in those and similar words that we hear “I am the Good Shepherd “and the closure of that claim with today’s words: “The Father and I are one.”

This, in effect, seals his death warrant.

It is always proper and useful to gain some insight to the context, time, place, setting and history of important events. In effect, Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel what is reported elsewhere: “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up”. Another nail in the cross!

What does the Good Shepherd ask for and offer?

He seeks of us to hear his voice, to follow him, and he promises that we will have eternal life and that we would never be lost.

For two thousand years it has been as the other readings report today: “It made the pagans very happy to hear this (proclamation of the Word) but the “Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas”. Sadly, recent events have proved, be it Christchurch, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, that in our world “these are the people who have been through the great persecution”.

Expressing faith in the ‘other’ is still a major challenge. It calls us “not to do our will but the will of him who sent me”.

We have a Good Shepherd to help us.

Mons Frank

Third Sunday of Easter   Year C   5 May 2019

Some say that John’s Gospel contains more symbolic scenes than Matthew, Mark or Luke’s. Determining that is a cold wet day activity, by the fire with a glass to concentrate the mind and body. Whatever that invitation, a close look at this Sunday’s Gospel could well occupy a cold day itself!

Consider the role of fire: denial by its warmth a few days ago, now the accompanying warmth and glow; a grand profession of love.

Consider floundering in the sea: professional fishermen, no catch, until Jesus appears.

Consider the invitation to bring some of the fish that they had caught.

We may respond in various ways, for example; What ‘fire’ in my life brings back memories of ‘denial’ and subsequent expression of ‘love’?

Or…how often have I tried to accomplish a task, floundered and forgot to ask for the help of Jesus?

Or…the oft expressed words ‘No presents’; a real party is when we all contribute.

Pondering this Gospel will lead to all sorts of conclusions and, perhaps, some new determination of action. It changed the life of Simon Peter in a great public act of forgiveness and healing. He would remember charcoal fires for the rest of his life. Its heat and light would add spice to his preaching and commitment.

We all flounder at times. Do we call upon the Word made flesh or simply pack our nets away and go out and do the same another day?

Whatever the symbols and all their meanings, this whole post-resurrection episode really emphasises the truth. “Without me you can do nothing.”

Try to deepen your personal relationship with the Resurrected Christ, Jesus of Nazareth this week.

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Easter  Year C   28 April 2019

The assault in Sri Lanka on Easter Day was, and is, an assault on faith; and not just Christian faith. Like Christchurch; an attack whilst people are at their devotion and prayer. The assault upon Jesus, too, was an assault on devotion (“I have come to do the Father’s will”) and prayer (“into your hands I commit my spirit”). The forces of evil that attacked Jesus, ultimately because He offered people an alternative way of being and living, are still at work today for fundamentally the same reason. They do not like what we preach, despite our failings, nor our attempts to practise what Jesus demonstrated, “Love one another as I have loved you”.

For Thomas, the way to belief and change in his life came from the invitation to “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side.” Perhaps for us today, we too need somehow to put our finger and our hand into the wounds of the Body of Christ that surrounds us.  We can’t be indifferent. The wounds are many. Nominate those in your area of influence. Be brave and thrust out your finger and hand.

The Resurrection story also has another incident that offers us hope. That initiative by the lake shore; when Jesus broke bread and fish at breakfast. Seizing the moment, He turned an otherwise simple gathering to one pregnant with meaning. We need to be alert for these quasi sacral moments. They are there and we can all act in a similar manner.

Our continued prayers for the victims of both atrocities.

Let’s find ways to support families affected in our neighbourhood.

Mons Frank

 

Easter Sunday   21 April 2019

The blessing of the new fire at the Easter Vigil is always a cause of comment. Will it be big enough to be of symbolic worth? Who dreamt up this practice anyway? What happens if it rains? What is the best method of transferring light to the Paschal Candle?  We can search the scriptures and there are lots of references to fire…often the purpose is to cleanse the earth. After Pentecost, there is another meaning associated with “tongues of fire”.

Popular culture is full of stories about the discovery of man-made fire. There were plenty of fires to greet the arrival of human beings. Bush fires and volcanoes were present to challenge the humans and it took many generations for us to master the setting of fire, the carrying of fire, and we have not yet mastered the art of putting fires out.

The once-a-year physical fire in the Church’s Liturgy is deliberately the first act at the Easter Vigil and it ushers in a vision for the human race of renewal and hope. For the Parisians, the Notre Dame fire in Holy Week will be a cause célèbre. It may even be a call to remember their heritage. The beliefs that impelled their ancestors to build a structure that remained a gigantic symbol of ‘another way’, full of beauty, beauty that not only inspired the locals, but encouraged other communities to do likewise and transform concepts of worship for centuries.

Even in its devastated state, it still speaks and calls and reminds us all of ‘that other way’.

Our Holy Week is now vastly different to that of former years. For many, simply a holiday; for others, a day to be entertained. Some voices this year were heard longing for a day of rest and peace.  Perhaps for our Church, reflecting upon the New Fire might give each of us a desire to remind all of ‘the other way’.

It won’t be easy, but then it was not easy to build Notre Dame.  Undeterred, and without hydraulics, power tools and electricity, we are the beneficiaries of their faith.

Maybe it is now our time to build new Cathedrals, to usher in a new era of faith in the truth of the resurrection.

Happy and Holy Easter, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Mons Frank