he Baptism of the Lord   Year C  13 January 2019

The Church’s liturgical year slips into Ordinary Time this Sunday and in choosing Luke for the Gospel (in some sense it is no wonder) it is very clear that from now on we must be focused upon Jesus. John has departed to prison. We meet Jesus at prayer (a little sign to us all); we are reminded of his identity “You are my Son” and a gentle alert, “my favour rests on you.”

So, we better watch out, we better not fail, for the answer to the ‘feeling of expectancy’ has arrived.

In following Luke’s account, it might be useful to keep in mind the following questions (and brief answers) to help us understand what Jesus began to do and teach.

Who is Jesus?……He is God’s Son!

What sort of a Son is he?……An obedient Son!

What kind of a Messiah is he to be?……A prophetic Messiah!

These questions will be answered during the course of the year, and with those answers will come the challenges to each of us who are determined to hear his call. Don’t be afraid to seriously ask “How would my reaction fit in with the call to participate in the preparation for the Plenary Council” when you hear a slightly different call or see something in a new light. Remember, when reading the Scripture, it is not just any old book! It is the book of books which outlines the sins and sinners as well as the game changers and saints.

We are called to be game changers and saints for we, too, are beloved daughters and sons via our Baptism.

Welcome to the New Year.

Mons Frank

The Epiphany of the Lord – 7 January 2019

Years ago…Syria is only sand and death…and there is no wealth”. Welcome to the New Year of Grace 2019, according to the so-called leader of the ‘free world’.

These words provoked me in the context of our Christmas celebrations and looking forward to the further celebration of the spirit of giving which is implicit in our feast this weekend. Both feasts conjure up a sense of goodness and hope for a world tired and weary in 4 BC, and a world still in need of such gifts in 2019. We simply can’t dismiss a nation so flippantly as was done in the above quoted exchange. Those people are children of the living God who deserve a fair go and protection from the evil ones. They need to hear the hope of the Psalmist today:

“In his days justice shall flourish

and peace till the moon fails.”

We all need to hear those words and have our hopes raised, even a little, that there “will come a leader who will shepherd my people.”

The wise men call us to be people looking for the truth and being prepared to recognise that truth by giving of ourselves and giving in recognition from our bounty.

We believe that our world has been gifted with a new understanding of light, peace and love; or as John Bell of the Iona Community puts it:

Light looked down and saw the darkness,

“I will go there” said light.

Peace looked down and saw war.

“I will go there” said peace.

Love looked down and saw hatred.

“I will go there” said love.

 

So he,

the Lord of Light,

the Prince of Peace

the King of Love

came down and crept in beside us.

Allow the same “he” to creep in beside you this New Year.

Mons Frank

The Holy Family   Year C   30 December 2018

Already the Hot X Buns are in the stores. No time to ponder the gift of Christmas and the many faceted sorts of family gatherings. Those important get-togethers have moments of joy…the prodigal daughter turns up…of sadness, the beloved sister, mother, grandmother goes peacefully to God. The car is stolen. The special gift did not arrive. These and many other happenings around the day do not destroy the significance of the occasion. It’s the relationships that are renewed, reborn, established that really make the home and the family. That is the place for treasured memories to be wheeled out, hidden stories to be revealed, lovingly the births and deaths to be highlighted and the pains and bouts of ill health to be consoled. All this in a changing world with changing ideas about family and the various roles within the many new forms of family.

From Mary and Joseph we can glean some element of their family. They were small. They were pious, the yearly pilgrimage on the feast of Passover in spring. Did they also go up on the other great Jewish feasts of Booths and Pentecost?

Mary and Joseph suffered the pain of the missing child. What parent has not had such similar stress? Then to encounter their son debating the pros and cons with the doctors of the Law, and in the Temple! Nothing, not even memories of the various angel visitations, quite prepared them for this! And the young man, Jesus, now twelve in that society, how did he handle the different pull of duty and piety towards his parents and the emerging recognition of his higher calling to his Father? Many families find this challenge when faced with daughters and sons debating their vocation to religious life or priesthood.

It was a different time and perhaps my kitchen ruled then, but Jesus went down learned the trade, pondered his vocation and lived under their authority, and as far as we know did not get drafted into service with King Herod or the Roman authorities. And the Scripture reminds us that “Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and people.”

 

I guess that is the dream for all families.

 

A blessing on your home and family today and may it remain with you in the coming year.

 

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday of Advent  Year C  23 December 2018

 I recently had an evening meal with a group of Afghan refugees, called a Jamshod dinner. Most of our Afghan people are from the Hazara areas, violently persecuted by the Taliban. Our Chair for the evening, Mahamod, recently received news of an attack on his village and 55 people were killed. In the course of the evening, I was asked to explain why Australia celebrates Christmas and why we give gifts.

Today’s Gospel answers that question.

Mary is gifted by God (and so is human history).

Mary, in turn, flees from the locals to visit and gift Elizabeth. John leaps in the womb and the world rejoices in Elizabeth’s words of gift; “Of all women you are the most blessed” (gifted)!

I suggested in a different language, the above truths and offered the thought that we gift to others in appreciation of what God has gifted to us. There were nods of understanding. On the other side, I attended a funeral service, run by the wife and children for a very gifted man; no hymns, no prayers, no blessings, no mention of thanks for the great talents and undoubted gifts the dead man possessed. It seemed that all was taken for granted.

Like many traditions, gift giving is renounced by some today, particularly at Christmas. We don’t have to be as extravagant with our gifts; we can’t possibly match the offering of the Tremendous Lover, but we can offer gifts to others that remind us of what God has done for us. This we can do personally, and our Christian founded nation can and ought to do, even if they call it Foreign Aid. And it ought to be aid for the people without strings and not for the ruling class.

May your Christmas be one of loving gift-giving and receiving ‘in the widest possible sense’, that card, that phone call, that visit, that smile, that handshake, that extra minute of meaningful exchange. May it remind everyone that we take nothing for granted and relish that we are gifted in life and faith. May we strengthen our families, and may we have a healthy dose of the peace promised to people of good will.

Mons Frank

Third Sunday of Advent    Year C  16 December 2018

“What must we do?”

John had obviously had an impact on that group of listeners. Maybe each of us has met an inspiring person in recent days, or maybe we are in a situation in which our care, concern or love for an individual causes us to ask ourselves “What can I do”? It is a more joyful situation than the oft heard exclamation “Oh, I should have done that?” or “If only I had known.” One can easily enumerate a series of happenings when we get caught. So often similar words are heard after a suicide or in a serious illness or, at times, in cases of family violence.

“What must I do?”

We still have the resources to share our tunics, to charge the appropriate rate, and to be a society that avoids intimidation and extortion, let alone be content with your pay! However recent Royal Commissions and ones to come in the New Year seem to indicate that there is plenty of room for improvement. Is any human being really worth $18 million to run a business for 365 days?

Each of us can implement John’s instructions at a personal level. Each can be an agent of change at our work place; though it may take time. We may have to recruit help, but it can be done and, in doing so, brings a sense of well being and a touch of joy to all concerned.

“What must I do?”

On another level, for this beloved Church of ours we must act there. The Church has called for ideas and practical suggestions to rid ancient restrictions and find a new expression of the authentic Gospel. Answer the call. All reform ultimately begins with people at the local level owning their position, in our case, at the parish level and making things happen. So, bring joy to the Plenary Council staff. Send your ideas. In a sense your ideas and involvement become the winnowing fan and is an expression of the activity of the Holy Spirit!

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Advent  Year C 9 December 2018

It appears that the state of Victoria is to have yet another Royal Commission; this time the police. We will soon be a perfect state, maybe broke but cleaned up. I am reminded of a phrase from William Riley in his book on the Apocalypse: “Once we stray from our mission, we can find ourselves making messes, even if they are the results of good intentions.”

The proclamation of a baptism of repentance by John today, is as pertinent as it was “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign”.

We know, for we have been reading and listening to these accounts for years that life was not perfect during the rule of Pontius Pilate; nor did things improve under the leadership of Caiaphas, happily aided by his father-in-law Annas. Just ask those who witnessed their actions in the Sanhedrin!

Into this society appears John; a voice crying in the wilderness, but not ineffective. He too urged his followers, like many prophets before him, and many since, to give up extortion, blackmail, gouging and acquisitiveness and to begin to share with those more needy. And he won many followers and opened their hearts to the message of Jesus. No matter how small we feel, we can do the same. Through us “all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”

This week look for the voice of the Spirit whispering a message of hope and healing, even where the woundedness is greatest.

Come Lord Jesus!

Mons Frank

First Sunday of Advent    Year C   2 December 2018

Welcome to the new liturgical year. The Sunday Gospel readings are from Luke (Year C). It is good that we begin again and that we have these four weeks trying to get our heads around what we as Christians believe…the gift of Jesus Christ. We are called to go through his life and times, not as if we were being introduced to the story for the first time; rather we take our learned knowledge and try to build on that.

I would like to suggest that an aspect of this ‘New Beginning’ is rooted in the deep Christian call to be agents of hope. When Luke was writing, there were many examples in his world of ‘awfulness’. The Romans were rampaging, signs in various places seemed ominous; some would say “worlds are ending”.  But we are here. We are a new force for good in our seemingly collapsing world.

It is not difficult to see signs of doom and destruction around us, ask the Ukrainians. Talk to the drought and fire ravaged peoples. Consider Syria. Look at the persecutions of Christians. The annual report of the agency ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ reports that 300 million Christians are subject to abuses such as violence and arrest…and we think we are hard done by!

So, from the Evening prayer of the Church for the Vigil of Advent, I offer a structure for the coming week to direct part of your prayer.

You will bring us Wisdom                     e.g. tackling sexual abuse

Understanding         e.g…….

and New vision.              e.g.  the plenary Council

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

You will bring us Good News              e.g…………

and Power to transform our lives.    e.g.  take action in the work place

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

You will bring us   Truth.          e.g………….

Show us the way to the Father.      e.g. read the daily Advent Scripture

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

Born of a woman, open in our flesh the way to eternal life.     e.g. renewed roles for women

Open in our flesh the joy of life                      e.g …….

Come Lord Jesus do not delay.

I have left gaps.   You add to all the offerings and have a wonder-filled Advent.

Mons Frank

Feast of Christ the King   24 November 2018

This year I was struck by the force of the words in the Gospel “to bear witness to the truth.” Why? Perhaps it was because of the release of so many truths hidden from us since 1915, even though I had read much and travelled to see with my own eyes. Like you, we are all, maybe, aware that ‘truth is the first casualty in time of war.’ Then there has been the saga of ‘false news’ plaguing our airways and print media.  And another…we are voting for Government in Victoria this weekend. Truth, like Pilate said, “what is truth?” Our Upper House ballot paper is, in a sense, mute testimony to the varieties of perceived truth in our community at this moment.

In the wake of the Royal Commissions into all styles of institutions, and external examinations of social and sporting associations, one can readily appreciate community scepticism about finding the truth. Will the truth set us free?

That is where we come in!

Whatever Jesus meant when he revealed at his trial that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth (some say it was to reveal the true nature of God expressed in the concept of the Good Shepherd) and if so, then that is the most important truth that all peoples need to be aware of. Jesus was calling all to recognise that truth and then asking us to be similar witnesses.

I see the call to us today, to be women and men who constantly search out the truth; who speak the truth as they see it without fear but with respect. At this time for us, witnesses to Christ via our Baptism and subsequent commitment, we need to speak the truth as we see it to our Church. We trust that our sayings will not be brushed aside as happened at that trial in Jerusalem. Pilate, after all, was demonstrating that he had not heard the word to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  We have heard that word, we should not let any perception or fear of possible inaction, prevent us from speaking the truth.

At the end of this liturgical year may each present to Christ our moments when we brought a little light to our world, a little peace to our neighbour and a little truth to our world.

Mons Frank

So ends the 2018 liturgical year. If acceptable I will try to put on the new hat for 2019. Ideas and observations are welcomed. And if you wish to continue, to a varied group of people in movements like Teams, The Cardijn Community, travellers on the Way, a very happy Advent.

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