Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year B   18 November 2018

We are in the last days of the Liturgical Year. Next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. We try this week to establish a statement that we can offer our leader as we say thanks for the past year of grace.

On the way, we might consider…are we at the end or are we about to engage, thankfully, in a new beginning? Ends and beginnings, are they not a constant reality? Consider: the Brigidine Sisters said “good bye” to the Beechworth community this past weekend and in doing so closed the book on 132 years of commitment to that community. The locals awaited the inevitable, hoping it was not the end. The Sisters offered the vision that it was time for a new beginning. Four young women from Ireland arrived just after Ned Kelly was jailed in Beechworth, and they came to a town that earlier had hopes of being a capital and had begun to build their Church accordingly. But the gold ran out.  It proved not to be the end.

At a conference today of the Inter-faith Networks of Victoria, I learnt that Australia has 20% of the world’s poker machines. We are possibly 0.2% of the world’s population. The faith communities are at the beginning of trying to change that situation. One council area in Melbourne lost 132 million dollars last year in payments to government and the owners of the machines! The industry promotes the slogan ‘Gamble responsibly!’

The parable of the fig tree calls us to recognise the signs of the times. Will someone seize the opportunity in Beechworth? Will the Inter-faith networks give a lead in Victoria? Will we all take seriously the opportunity presented by the appeal, to let our voice be heard in the opportunity presented by the forthcoming Plenary Council consultation? What will you and I present with the bread, wine and collection to our leader next Sunday? Let it not be a fatalistic end, but rather a faith-filled new beginning.

Mons Frank

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year B    11 November 2018

What a weekend.

We do not celebrate or remember many national, let alone international, centenary events in our lifetime.  The events associated with the ‘war to end all wars’ has preoccupied many Australians for the past four years. For some, a chance to finally say “goodbye” to dead, known and missing. The pilgrimage to the war cemetery was always to be done…and that has been done. For others, to visit and ponder the absolute madness that changed the world and changed the involvement of the civilian population; all became combatants with the consequent horrifying loss of life and staggering numbers of refugees in the past 100 years.  More and more we need the power of the Prophet Elijah to turn our “handful of meal” and “little oil in a jug” to feed the survivors!

In the midst of the destruction, two significant Priests were discovering what the Spirit was calling them to be and to do with their lives. Out of many experiences before World War Two began, both men aided by and accompanying wonderful baptised lay people, began significant movements in our Church that last to the present day. Joseph Cardijn from Belgium breathed life into youth and, behold, the YCW.  His next-door neighbour was taken up by the Spirit of the YCW in his time as a branch Chaplain, and when approached to teach two young couples about the wonderment and sanctity of marriage basically said “I don’t know, but let us journey together.” They did, and the movement called in Australia ‘Teams- a Movement for Married people’ was born. His name was Henri Cafferel.

Both men remind me of the widow. They went to the Temple with basically empty pockets. The peace conference at Versailles fundamentally led by the rich and famous, set the conditions for WWII. The millions upon millions of dollars spent on arms since, has produced war after war, destruction and debris, broken nations, broken families and broken people. Bourke St Melbourne is yet a local testimony to the effects of war.

Cardijn and Caffarel left legacies of worldwide significance. The YCW is still found on all continents and is making a steady comeback in Australia. Teams recently held their six-yearly gathering in Fatima with nearly 9000 delegates from 80 countries.

As we pause and reflect on the sacrifice made in WWI and say thanks for all those who contributed, let’s also remember those who worked at a different level and whose contribution to our world still lives on.

Lest we forget!

Mons Frank

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time    Year B    4 November 2018

We still find it a pleasing experience for someone to say thanks to us. Pope Francis reminded the world in his exhortation on ‘Love and the Family’ that the three most important words are still “please, thanks and sorry”.

In Mark’s Gospel, the episode we read today is the last happening on the road. We find Jesus in the Temple next week.  He has been harassed, insulted, scorned and plotted against. After all the teaching and the good works he performed, even his own chosen followers had let him down. I wonder how he felt when they started to argue about first place at table, let alone in the Kingdom!

This episode is different. The scribe seems genuine. His question is akin to what many good and thoughtful people were asking. He seemed to fully appreciate his Jewish tradition…a tradition that taught that the Torah listed 613 commandments; 248 written in a positive form, 365 in the negative. So, it is a good question.

Jesus responds by adding his own twist, quoting his own Jewish tradition (and we would say a revealed tradition); “There is no commandment greater than these.”

I ponder, what did Jesus feel when he heard the reply of the Scribe? We know what Jesus said; “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”. Yes, but how did he feel? After all the knock backs, the lack of sincere questioning, the refusal to listen; surely there was a movement of the Spirit and a sense that it has been worthwhile. Somebody got it!

Did the scribe get it because he was respectful or because he had begun to listen?

Jesus began his reply by quoting the age-old teaching which included “Listen Israel: The Lord our God is the one Lord.” We can live the great commandment if we can listen a little more intently to what the Spirit is asking of us.

A little prayer:

Teach me to listen Holy Spirit.

For your voice-

In busyness and boredom,

In certainty and doubt,

In noise and in silence.

Teach me Lord to Listen. Amen.

Mons Frank

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year B  28 October 2018

What do you want me to do for you?

Jericho! Only 15 or so miles from Jerusalem, all uphill, with an occasional obstacle like robbers. It features several times in the Gospel; we locate the Good Samaritan on this road. Remember the man up the tree. On this occasion the Passover is coming, and Jesus is deliberately “going up” where he will be “lifted up”. This is the last of his teachings about faith and discipleship on the road. The rest in Mark happens in Jerusalem, the killer of the Prophets. In one sense, Jesus is preparing the people for a new era, the way of the Cross, the way of rejection by the locals, the way of betrayal by his own chosen disciples, the way of death by the Jewish and Roman authorities.

What do you want me to do for you?

I suggest we can update the scene a little and recognise that in the call of the Plenary Council we are being invited to go up to our Jerusalem and that, in some sense, we Catholics are the new Bartimaeus. I would ask you to imagine you are sitting on the road, your faith recognises the call. What do you cry out?

The call has gone out that we are invoking the Holy Spirit to help us see again.

What do you cry out?

What is it you believe needs to happen to get our beloved Church back in the market place?

This week I had a germ of an idea. By way of illustration, I would like the Plenary Council to encourage all Church communities to organise themselves to have their Church open for at least one hour a day. To have it manned so that greetings can be shared and explanations given as to why we have the signs and symbols that we do. That this is a movement of the whole Church community. We are all equally baptised. It may not take away all our blind spots, but it would be interesting to see the changes in our community. Surely, we have a minimum of seven people in our faith group that can give one hour a week to “open the doors”! It is an idea that I will send to the organising committee.

What is your idea?

How can we see again?

Son of David, have pity on me!

Let’s us make a loud collective cry!

 

Mons Frank

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year B     21 October 2018

It is a little comforting to read, yet again, that all was not well with the followers of Jesus. Leadership woes seem to paralyse Australian life at this moment, so perhaps our focus this day on the challenge of, and to, leadership is timely.

Gentile: Roman power in Jesus’ time was exercised primarily through force, intimidation and a network of patronage that tried to ensure absolute loyalty to the Emperor. Sounds like many States today. Beware of visiting a Saudi consulate, especially if you are a journalist. Another form is a parliamentary majority that provides the pictures on TV of MPs hugging and cheering when they pass a vote to make abortion legal. They never consulted the unborn.

We witness the battle Jesus has in trying to proclaim a “service model” and, indeed, we witness a similar battle in Rome. At this moment, Pope Francis has issued a document called Episcopalis Communio (EC) in which he writes, “The Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.” Now that is a change!

We, as followers of the Gospel, are called to imitate he who said, “I have come not to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.”

Some of the Apostles saw the opportunity to sit at the top table. Others got mad either because they did not think about the opportunity or because they objected to the brothers hogging both positions.

Leadership in family, at work or on the sporting field is not easy. The temptation to take the Gentile part is ever present. We strive to adopt the other way.

Keep trying.

Mons Frank

Twenty -eighth Sunday in Ordinary time   Year B     14 October  2018 

“I prayed, and understanding was given to me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.”

Most people tend, at some time in their life, to ask in their own way “What must I do to inherit Eternal life?” Their words reflect the basic sentiments of the rich young man. I believe that in their own way, they hear the substance of Jesus’s response; to keep the commandments.  They may not see the response as clearly as the young man. After all, he did not have to battle finding answers in his time as we now face our different challenges, e.g., as the paper said today, “to win back our pride we had to lose our ego” (The Australian). Being Prime Minister offers no protection from responding to the challenge of gay children and schooling. Some of our chicken farmers are under supreme pressure from the big retailers and the RSCPA to reorganise their sheds, to the extent that they have to install chains hanging above the chooks so they can play with them! These questions never arose in the time of Jesus but they, and others, are just as important in finding a proper response to the basic question that is still of major importance in our rapidly changing world; “What must I do to inherit Eternal life?”

One response is that taken very literally by Francis of Assisi. Not everyone can do that as literally as he did; and he was a very rich man. But we can use our riches, health, intelligence, information and wealth to bring change to our world. That will enable us to have treasure in heaven.

To move positively in our age, despite all the challenges, we need to heed the message about the Word of God in our Second Reading today and sincerely petition for the Wisdom offered in the First Reading.

Times are not easy, but soldier on and remember the words of Francis of Assisi:

“All the darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of one candle.”

LIGHT YOUR CANDLE.

Mons Frank

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time   Year B 7 October 2018

The history of marriage is a minefield to explore and one must be aware of the context in which we talk and the ongoing desire of people to marry even in the turbulent times called the 21st Century.

Grand traditions surround marriage in different cultures. Legal prescriptions surround the entering and the leaving of the state of marriage; celebrations take various forms and some form of dowry is expected; again, be mindful and respectful of the culture.

The readings today begin the era in which the concept and the truth of the sacramentality of marriage begins. Whatever the reality of coming together and leaving, Jesus draws us back to the ideal of marriage in the context of his time and with the truth that the Pharisees knew the book of Genesis. They deliberately try to trap him; he then not only repeats the original ideal, but challenges the Pharisees by reminding them that both parties can commit adultery, not just their interpretation that only the woman could do so. So, in a sense, in this important and wonderful world of marriage, Jesus repeats the ideal and strengthens the responsibility of both parties.

It is 2000 years since Jesus so taught; truth that eventually for the Catholic Church evolved into the doctrine of the Sacrament of Marriage.

The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church (Amoris Laetitia, para.1). The words go on to say, “As the Synod Fathers noted, for all the many signs of crisis for the institution of marriage, the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant”.

The document is rich in reflection and proclamation. The exposition in Chapter Four of the famed Hymn to Love by St Paul is given a right papal working and is a must for all newly married, long-time married, those preparing for marriage and indeed for those seeking to rebuild despite whatever has happened; its proclamation is good news for all people.

Pope Francis calls us again to make the journey as families to proclaim the truth, to encourage others by the joy we experience, to assist those struggling by sitting with them and recalling our struggles; but above all, to keep walking together. “What we have been promised is greater than what we can imagine.” (Amoris Laetitia para. 325).

Mons Frank

 

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time  (Grand Final weekend)  30 September 2018

The National Council of Priests of Australia held their bi-annual conference in Canberra earlier this month. Driving in, we stopped at the suburb of Dixon. It seemed that on every corner there were youngish people begging. I felt very uncomfortable; Canberra, our national capital, our richest city. Later in the week, Archbishop Prowse in the course of an interesting homily remarked that “Homelessness was a major problem in Canberra”. How can this be?

This Sunday, the Australian Catholic Church is meant to reflect upon issues of social justice on this, our annual Social Justice Sunday.  Against the words of James and in the light of the Royal Commission; “All your gold and all your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body.”

Another Royal Commission and the Gospel; “But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith etc.”

A coming Royal Commission into the Aged Care Sector might well reflect on the joy of “a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ etc.”

Today we are called to ponder ‘A place to call home’, making a home for everyone in our land.  We have some soul searching to do! And, hopefully, not another Royal Commission to do what elected representatives are elected to do.

The passages we have been reading and musing over these past few weeks are a challenge for us to read the signs of the times and to put our energies to confront the evil we recognise, to accompany those already battling the evil, and to bring our Christian strengths to the task.

Bill Hayden wrote recently that “Christianity for me represents the qualities I have attempted to apply in my life but from now on will strive to uphold with faith.” So, too, for us as we continue to explore the hidden truths in our Gospel and Catholic teaching.

We are not alone. There are countless numbers of Eldads and Medads in our communities. We bring a firm conviction and, in addition, we enjoy the help, guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit. Take time to ask the Spirit to assist you in the tasks you adopt!

Mons Frank.

 

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time                   Year B            23 September 2018

“He then took a little child.” Many in the pews will react to these words today in vastly different ways. Years ago, the action would have conjured up images of the gentle kind and loving side of Jesus. That is still a reasonable reaction. Others will immediately react and hurl abuse in our direction.

For a moment, recall the context. Jesus is trying to instruct the disciples on his forthcoming deliverance “into the hands of men”. And he didn’t need any particular enlightenment from his Heavenly Father to work that out! The disciples are already discussing the places of honour. His eyes must have been rolling. Remember, too, that in Jesus’ time, a child was not valued as being innocent; the child had no social status, no legal rights. In a sense, the child was in effect a ‘non-person’. Jesus upends that position by putting his arms around the child; this embrace a sign of acceptance of one who was considered a social non-entity, the child was worthy of respect and care.

Would they get the message? Things are going to be different in the Kingdom. At least that was the hope, even in this moment of sure frustration.

We’re here today pondering this incident because, eventually, millions of people got the message; some, a bucketful.

The child returns this year to haunt us a little but also to call us to re-engage with life and turn the tables on those who do evil. It is worth remembering that often the Spirit works through the least important member of the community. We don’t have to have the highest place at table to do good immense good!

We are all important because we all are children of God and if we allow, we too will feel the embrace of Jesus.

Mons Frank

 

Twenty -fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year B   16 September 2018

I have noticed that we seem to be a little more interested in our family history. Many are searching for evidence and information about the past. I bumped into Helena McCloskey, a member of the International executive of Teams. She hails from Cheltenham England and recently became more aware of a forgotten link in the family history.  Let’s call the man Jack. As a youngster, under 18, he was charged with stealing a shirt and a handkerchief and sentenced to death. He was successfully apprenticed at that time and his master went out of his way to appeal. Hence the sentenced was commuted; transportation for life to NSW.  What then happened to him? The hunt is on.

Further, there seems to be a series of TV and radio shows dealing with ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Who are you really?’ That other show some time back, ‘Go Back to Where you Came From’, attracted some comment.  We meet the sign on our way to the Teams meeting in Fatima: ‘Tourists…go home’. On White Night here in Bendigo, our newest Priest, young Dean Bougart, was attempting to bring order to the car park at St. KiIlians (a worthwhile undertaking) and was told in no uncertain terms to “go back to where you came from” in an unpleasant voice.

So it’s no wonder that even the disciples were interested to know more about Jesus and eventually Jesus himself gave them the opportunity to get an answer to what they were thinking: “Who are you?”  He, of course, turned it around. He made them think and took the initiative with his “Who do people say I am?”

Mark 8:27-35 is fundamental to this Gospel and this section attempts to clarify who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. The disciples get more than they bargained for and, so too, for us.

Peter’ s answer then is still valid for us: “You are the Christ”. Whatever they understood then, we are taught that Christ, the anointed one, is the Son of God.  Easy to utter, a life time of meditation to plumb the depths of that answer. Jesus then begins to shatter their lifetime hope of a warrior Messiah and victorious conqueror. It’s through the cross that victory will be attained, a scandal for the Jews and foolish for the Greeks.

We find ourselves in a similar place today.

I mentioned last week that maybe the current scandals in the church could well be our cross and that salvation for the world from this terrible scourge of child sexual abuse and family violence will come from our renewed appreciation of who Jesus is (he is still the Son of God) and that he continues to remind us that there are no quick fixes for anything in following him without the reality of the cross in its many manifestations. It is not all about being nailed to wood. Fixing our structures and living by the Gospel is a beginning, yet again.

We need to look at life from the Divine perspective.

We ask tonight to be strengthened so to look and then to act.

Mons Frank