Third Sunday of Lent 20 March 2022

“Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.

Scholars tell us that a certain Rabbi Eliezer whose teachings were part of the local tradition in Jesus’ time, urged people to repent the day before they died. His disciples countered by saying that as a person could die any day, therefore all of life should be one of repentance!

This Third Sunday of Lent call us to consider “repentance”. We have had the presentation of Jesus away in the desert for forty days. Then, with companions on the mountain top. In a sense, today asks us, “What are you going to do having pondered these events?”

We don’t need to necessarily recall the bloodletting of Pilate, let alone the sudden fall of the tower of Siloam to be reminded of sudden and unprepared death. The murderous bombing of people in Ukraine, let alone the recent deaths of Rod Marsh, Shane Warne and Kimberley Kitching, are current examples of sudden death.

The massive sudden loss of lives on the roads is perhaps blunted by our belief that it is not going to happen to me! But it does.

We were told on Ash Wednesday, “Repent and believe the Good News.” The fig tree was expected to bear fruit; so too, those who believe in the Good News.

What are we to repent of then?

Listing things is always dangerous. We are to examine ourselves, measured against the call of the Gospel. So, into one’s own inner space and let the Spirit give you that haircut.

To help with that examination, you may have time to compare Luke and his fig tree with Mark 11:12-14, or Matthew 21:18-19. For the more adventurous, look up Micah 4:4 and Joel 2: 22. Check what is in common, but remember, time is against us.

“It may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down”.

Mons Frank

Second Sunday of Lent 13 March 2022

“Abide with us, that so, this life Of suffering over past, An Easter of unending joy

We may attain at last”.

This stanza is taken from one of the ancient hymns of the Church and used in the hour of readings in the Prayer of the Church. It struck me this year, maybe because of my connection with the suffering people of Myanmar (now down to six hours of electricity each day) and the horrid headlines coming out of Ukraine. At least we can deal with floods and drought, let alone fires, in relative peace and with enormous support.

So where do we find the promise of joy in this week’s readings to carry us a little further on the road to Easter?

Firstly, there is the story of God interrupting the wandering life of Abram and his family to make a Covenant, giving Abraham new purpose in his life and establishing a promise of being chosen.

Secondly, a development of that Covenant occurs on the mountain when God reveals to the world that Jesus is special:

“This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.”

The inner Jesus had been hidden, perhaps their eyes had not been open nor his words understood. Whatever, when they looked back, their silence was broken and the power of the Spirit enabled them to reveal to the world the real Jesus…Easter!

We need to make a similar journey. Our true inner life, made in the image of God, has to be revealed to ourselves and to our world. Lent is meant to allow the Spirit to blow, sometimes furiously, at other times, like a gentle Zephyr, that which inhibits our being revealed, like too much hair or enveloped in cobwebs, needs to be blown away.

Let us resolve to “Listen to him” more attentively this week we may not have time or ability to go up a real mountain, but we can go to a special “mountain place” and pray.

Listen to him…

Let the Spirit blow!

Mons Frank

First Sunday of Lent 6 March 2022

Lent.

Lent is a little like having a haircut. The sun feels warmer and the wind fresher around the ears. The haircut tends to make us all feel better…was it not one of the real nuisances of the pandemic? Hairdressers and barbers were severely curtailed. In some ways, the cut restores hope. And whatever the beginnings, liturgically, and however we celebrate it today, Lent is ultimately a time to refresh and invigorate hope; hope that has been tarnished, dashed, even sometimes extinguished. Ultimately, the season leads to the proclamation of the Easter message, “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.”

Hope in today’s restored Liturgy is offered for those seeking Baptism (and so many are in parishes all over) as well as refreshed hope for those worn out by the trials and tribulations of daily life. After all, the personal trials, the inhumane treatment, and physical brutality taken on by Jesus and, to a lesser extent by the two thieves (guilty of crimes), the innocent Jesus conquered all the hate and ignorance and manipulation of his religious traditions by envious and power-seeking leaders of his people, to triumph.

Hope was restored to humanity!

Few will read the scripture of this Sunday and not see the parallels of today’s world. One finds it hard to believe that in our enlightened society (true in many aspects), people can be so cruel to other people.

Evil is so obviously real in our world and on display everywhere and, thankfully, this current experience has shocked and awoken a world often consumed by the slogan, “What do I want?”

We are still full of selfish mistakes and witness examples of superpower aggression.

It is much easier to look outside ourselves and point out the faults in our neighbours!

But the Gospel challenges us at the beginning of Lent to go into our inner space and to connect with the themes of the Gospel related temptations that Jesus faced:

  • to POSSESS all the kingdoms
  • to DEVOUR all the bread
  • to THRILL on the high parapet
  • to IMPRESS all the glory.

We all succumb in some way or other.

Have a haircut this Lent and let the Holy Spirit lead you though the desert and emerge with a new invigorated hope for yourself and for our world.

 

Mons Frank

Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time 27 February 2022

We often say, “what a week” or words to that effect. Most of us have not seen the pictures of an invasion of an independent state as we have seen these past few days.

I was taken by the opening lines of the first reading, “In a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind, so too the defects of a man appear in his talk. The kiln tests the work of the potter, the test of a man is in his conversation”.

We know Jesus was aware of his Scriptural heritage. Just wonder if our Gospel today is his updating of the book of Sirach, the excerpts which we read today.

The Russian Foreign Minister is quoted as saying, “No strikes are being made on civilian structure”. The dead will be so comforted and realise that there is no war.

In our Diocese, we have a Ukrainian Church in Wodonga. It is a legacy of another war and another refugee crisis and of their contribution to the great Snowy Mountains Irrigation and Hydro projects; we, at least, owe time for prayer.

This week, Jesus continues to raise the bar governing our behaviour The ethics of his teaching, he proclaims, are not based solely upon our reason (what is best) or character (she, he is honourable… shades of Shakespeare) but are to be founded more deeply upon our understanding of our relationship with the loving God. We are to be faithful because our God is faithful.

Planks are hard to move…and thankfully, others seem to have all the planks. We need to look into the mirror occasionally and find our own personal splinters!

The ancient world, scholars tell us, valued the ideal that character preceded action. A person’s deeds, therefore, reveal the state of his heart.

How apt is the conclusion to today’s gospel reading, “For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart”.

A fine mirror not only for the leaders today, but for each of us.

We ask for peace, we help our Ukrainian neighbours as we can, and pray for the mothers and fathers who will be left to mourn the dead.

Mons Frank

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 20 February 2022

This Gospel reading will be proclaimed in the Ukraine this weekend. I am not sure how enthusiastically I would proclaim “Love your enemies”, let alone, “pray for those who treat you badly”. The relationship between the Russian people and the Ukrainian people has certainly had its up and downs in the past years and, yes, the current crisis is not manufactured by the ordinary people, but the Gospel excerpt is, to say the least, challenging!

To a lesser extent, the news that WA is opening its borders to the rest of Australia, again, may resolve some of the hostility that that lockdown has produced, and enable families to reconnect. So, it is perhaps timely to ponder the truths that Luke records in proposing Jesus as the teacher of morality for the restored people of God.

We are the restored people. Baptised, as we are into the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, does make a difference. We can, and do, fall back into the old ways of “tit for tat”, “do as you would want to do”, let alone, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”.

The marching season of “pride” and “Mardi Gras” and similar movements and associated events is upon us. They do raise tensions.

The restored law of love, our banner, demands a standard of human relationships that involves a

“going beyond”, more than the old, accepted norm of reciprocity and now asks us to “do as God would do”. Jesus went beyond in giving up his life freely, and in a most horrible way, to practise, as it were, what he preached. That is the norm for us.

Tough.

In a sense one joy in being the children of The Most High, is that we can imitate in the world the kindness of God towards the world.

So, perhaps there will be times this week when we need to bite the lower lip and smile.

Mons Frank

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 05 February 2022

Abundance…

We are often bombarded with signs like “Buy in bulk and save” or, as my Tyre Shop advertises, “Buy three and get one free”. Really!

I am not running a competition for the most shameful example of dubious advertising.  However, I think that each of our readings today reminds us of the reaction of three people, Isaiah, Paul and Peter who, in different ways, met the God of abundance.

These men were gifted with an experience of the great God of love, in ways that you and I may not, as yet, have had. There is still time. It might be profitable to pause and recall an experience of that love. We all do have experiences; we are often reluctant to talk about them because, sometimes, we say like Peter, “I am a sinful person”. Remember, Peter was not making a moral judgement; rather he was in the tradition of Isaiah and other great prophets and Holy People, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Awe and wonder strike the human in the extreme presence of the Holy One.

We note, too, that the experience is accompanied by the Word, often a Word that not only has implications for the individual, but also for the whole of creation.

Isaiah – became the great voice and leader of the chosen people

Mary – became the mother of the Saviour

Peter – with all his bluster and omissions, became the leader of the Apostles

Paul – began the great mission to the Gentiles.

What about you and I?

We are reminded today to revisit our call. Maybe, we have said like Peter, “Leave me Lord”. Now is the time to revisit our prayer life, or to resume those acts of kindness. Or to take a punt and say yes, “Here I am, send me”. Yes, come to grips with that niggle that I have put on the back burner!

His abundance is real.

Mons Frank

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 30 January 2022

Will we have to have an airlift to the West?

The Highway is cut. It may take ten days to have a temporary rail line rebuilt. Even the North is cut off from Adelaide…but Brisbane can supply Darwin. And all because of rain.

“…do the same here in your own countryside.”

The bird’s route is scarcely 35 kms from Capernaum to Nazareth taking in a small deviation to pass through Cana. But our country is our country and don’t you do anything for them, let alone others.

Rage is produced by the recall of the works of Elijah and Elisha. Sidonia did not belong. Syria was not our country; both people helped were Gentiles…but we are the chosen people. Being reminded of their own history, and by a local, “This is Joseph’s son, surely?”, provoked a rage and an intention to murder. Rushing back into our minds are the words of Simeon, “This child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel”.

What a beginning for Jesus!

And all he is really on about is to bring Good News.

One of those that fell and rose was Paul. The excerpt read today will be familiar to many. Read often at weddings, reflected often on Golden and other anniversaries, it is a song for all. Surely Jesus’ heart would have been moved when Paul produced this work. A work destined for all people and coming after Paul took the message to the Gentile world.

We can get locked up into our own country, suburb, town and state too easily.

The Gospel is much, much bigger than that.

In many ways that is the message of Pope Francis, “Don’t lock up the Good News”.

It is always hard to start again.

Nonetheless we have to “slip through the crowd” and find ways of announcing the Good News to our world. Read slowly the excerpt from First Corinthians 12: 31-13: 13 and start this week by saying “hullo” to someone near you.

Mons Frank

 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 24 October 2021

Confessions…be they of faith, wrongdoings, repentance, or belief, are not easy, be they public or private, let alone grave or even frivolous. So, on “let out” day, Friday 22 October in Victoria, the downside of the gates being opened was to announce to the congregation, 30 persons, all double vaccinated, that I, the celebrant, was, as required by decree, double vaccinated! That certainly was not in the faculty sheet upon Ordination. I did not feel quite like Bartimaeus.

What with all the commentary emerging from many sources from the first session of the Plenary Council, the huffing and puffings of government agencies trying to rejoice that the lockdown was being lifted, the conflicting news about the “washed and unwashed” (we are a welcoming church), and the media sensationalism about having a beer at midnight…blind Bartimaeus’ cry “Master, let me see again” is a dash of realism. “Let me see again.”

All was not clear or peaceful in the throng; disciples, and a large crowd that left Jericho with Jesus. We have had in recent weeks the wrangling over places at the table, the sadness of Jesus as the young man took off (his riches won the battle on that occasion), and the “What’s in it for us?” from Peter. Jesus must have been wringing his hands and wondering, “Why me? Is this all I have going for me after all the miracles, example and words?” And, overriding it all was the false hope circulating that he, Jesus, would be the leader of the revolution! Rome would be no more. He was the revolution of course, but not on their terms or in their understanding. “Master, let me see again” was a summary of Jesus’ presence. To see the Father is our hope, and to follow the Way, Truth and Life is our Journey.

The restoration of his physical sight was important for Bartimaeus but his insight into the real person of Jesus (Son of David) was more important, for him and us.

Bartimaeus, lead us to Jesus!

 

Mons Frank

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 17 October 2021

“Can you drink the cup that I must drink?”

We have been alerted by Mark. “They are on the road, going up to Jerusalem”. Excitement was evident. The great feast of the Passover was to be celebrated in the Holy City. Huge interest was being shown to the teacher from Galilee. Was he the person to set the people free? James and John wished to have good seats at the celebration…it didn’t really matter about the other ten. The scene reminds me of the two men desperate to obtain seats to the Grand Final in Perth recently. Broke most rules to get there; now in jail.

Jesus must have sighed a great sigh! Will they ever learn? Will we ever learn? So, another lesson about the order in the Kingdom and the way forward. There will be pain and suffering, the Father allocates the seats, no room for scalpers. The way forward will be through service. “Can you drink the cup that I must drink?”

It is a great counter vision to the ethos of the time…and to our age also.

There are too many examples today of progress being dependent on throwing weight around, H/K, threats and intimidation, Taiwan, advancement in career at a sexual price, even “father knows best” in our own Church circles.

Many years ago, in discussing the acceptance, or not, of a person for work within the Church, my friend remarked “Can he drink the cup?” Sadly, it turned out…no.

“Can you drink the cup that I must drink?” is still a touchstone for us. We all need to imitate the kind of servant leadership shown by Jesus, who gave his life that others might be free.

True greatness involves the service of others. Let us find a little way to be of service to another this week.

Mons Frank

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 26 September 2021

The National Geographic’s TV series on Egypt is currently examining the rise and decline of the different Tombs of the Pharaohs and their predilection for equipping their final resting place with all the “goodies” to ensure their passage to eternal life and eventual resurrection. It hit a hurdle in the latest episode. James, in his almost belligerent outpouring in the second reading, would be saying “I told you so!”

The recent episode involved a grand dig to remove huge amounts of sand, a door was discovered, the archaeologist crawled in, the tomb was completely empty, no signs of looters…just termites.

 “Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths”. James 5:2

Where do we place our priorities?

For Mark, facing the persecution of his new community, he proclaims, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

The spirit of hard and fast rituals, harsh legalisms, and desire to be really separate from the existing communities, both Jewish and Roman, found it difficult to handle kindly acts by different sides. So, the acts of the Good Samaritan, the Roman Centurion caused wonder. You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink is now replaced by…

“If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he most certainly will not lose his reward.”

Another nail in the old order, another call to conversion for us.

Sure, there are things in our lives that we must work to tear out. Greatness in our community will still be measured by service within that community.

Let us try this week to recognise more clearly the “Christ” in the face of the hand who offers us a cup of water.

Mons Frank