Easter Sunday 17 April 2022

On Good Friday night, the Passion Play returned to the streets of Bendigo after many years absence. An estimated 2000 plus people attended, accompanied by burnouts, laughter from an adjoining outdoors cafe, and an intermittent gawking of passing foot traffic. Perhaps, similar to the time of the event in Jerusalem. The majority remained silent. Eyes fixed on the players, an occasional nod of acceptance as the familiar scenes were played out. The silence after the crucifixion was palpable…I felt many were echoing the line from the crowd at the historic occasion, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One”.

The recent torments in many regions of Australia, of fires and more fires, storms, constant rain, and heartbreaking floods have raised a similar refrain in some hearts. “Where is God in all this?” One quick answer, that perhaps it is natural and, as yet, we do not have enough records to guide us. This will not satisfy the generation demanding instant answers.

But God is around and working in his people.

The almost universal condemnation of the war against Ukraine surely signifies a shifting moral conscience of people. Likewise, the outrage of the people of Myanmar and, more recently of the people of Sri Lanka, evokes memories of the battle that Jesus waged on behalf of the average person; most, after all, were not citizens of Rome and, today, too many rulers do not regard their people as citizens.

It is also worth noting that this weekend brings together major memorials for Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sikhs…celebrated with different rituals but all calling their followers to be better people. It is true that this year is not the first time these faiths share the weekend. But I think it is the first time in Australia that leaders of these traditions have stood together. Surely, God at work.

On the journey to such witness, perhaps a word from the scholars may give each of us encouragement to likewise witness.

Our English “to see” does not pick up the nuances of what the original Greek expresses in today’s Gospel.

John stops outside the tomb. He saw the material. The cloths so arranged and pondered.

Peter arrives, goes in. He sees the whole scene and scrutinised the scene. What is going on?

John, less hesitant now, enters and “sees”. Understanding begins to hit home and John departs, with the beginnings of his belief in the risen Jesus.

Too often we need this process to appreciate what God is up to!

May each of us advance in our belief in the gift of the Risen Jesus this Easter; and if you need a break from Easter eggs, Dragons, holiday traffic etc, then perhaps take a little more time in pondering the many occasions Jesus uses the word, “see”.

Happy and Holy Easter.

Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.

 

Mons Frank

 

Palm Sunday 10 April 2022

“Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering over past,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last.”

In our journey to Holy Week and, particularly, to Palm Sunday…

There was a marriage this day in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne.

There was the report, too, of the marriage in Kyiv at a checkpoint!!!

For the former, bride and groom in formal attire; cream wedding dress and black suit.

For the latter, both in Ukraine army battle dress.

Laura-Jane and Robert had their plans frustrated by Corona Virus on two previous occasions.

Lesya and Valerie had their plans interrupted by “a peaceful military operation”.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt that had never been ridden on, in stark contrast to the Roman ruler who would ride a fully grown horse as a sign of his power. The people recognised Jesus’ statement; his teaching was not about the powerful but about them. And they praised him, whilst the powerful, worried about the challenge to their position, were plotting his downfall.

He had offered hope.

Likewise, against the prevailing trends, our young couples celebrated hope for their respective communities.

We all know the seemingly triumphant evil outcome for the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and High Priests; blood, violence, and death. But what we really know is that in Jesus, goodness overcame evil, and we received “An Easter of unending joy”.

This event became a legacy to inspire and uplift countless generations of people over the last 2000 years. You and I are recipients of that historical encounter.

Let each celebrate the 2022 Memorial with great joy, despite the evil around us.

Have a blessed Holy Week

 

Mons Frank

Fifth Sunday of Lent 3 April 2022

“And now, celebrating the reconciliation Christ has brought us” (words from Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation 11).

Building Blocks 1. “See, I am doing a new deed…” “I am making a road in the wilderness…” (First Reading)

  1. “I am still running…” (Second Reading)
  2. “Neither do I condemn you…” (Gospel)

Violence generally provokes more violence, even in the playground. War, let alone “special military operations”, generally provoke more wars.

“You did it” is not best responded to by “I didn’t”. Howls of “I’ve been left out” usually do not result in piles of goodies arriving. You all can rapidly add to the list.

Jesus could easily have asked for more details; “Was she a married woman or a betrothed girl?” The law provided different penalties in his time. He may even have asked to interview the menfolk directly or indirectly involved. Perhaps he was mindful of the passage of Isaiah read today, “See, I am doing a new deed”.

So, he doodled on the ground, answered the challenge designed to trap him with a new challenge and restored dignity to the women, so abused and ill-treated by the Scribes and Pharisees as a chattel.

“Neither do I condemn you, go away and sin no more”.

A new order is proclaimed, and a new direction given to us.

This new order is difficult, as Paul talks about today. He, too, has had a new order experience which changed him irrevocably. But he had to keep running the race.

Lent is designed to reenergise us for another lap.

I have noticed that some letters and some conversations have expressed disappointment that despite their prayers and charitable works the war in Ukraine has not stopped. “What is God doing?”

Maybe God is doodling, awaiting us to realise the futility of war.

The long history of the Scripture and the long history of the Christian experience demonstrates that God is not idle. We have been told that his ways are not our ways. We must keep running the race of justice and peace and, in a sense, allow time for the “Scribes and Pharisees of the 21st Century” to meditate on their own actions and melt away, one by one, beginning with the eldest.

We can be agents of reconciliation.

We have the where-with all, Bushmasters not withstanding, to bring about reconciliation.

Mons Frank

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent 27 March 2022

Laetare Sunday …a Sunday when we look forward to the Joy of the Easter season

I have a thought that has been buzzing around in the brain for several days this week based loosely on today’s Gospel.

The current crisis in the East …Russia and Ukraine is a little like a City, Kyiv, that historically and religiously sprouted two offshoots. The eldest being Ukraine and the youngest being Russia. The youngest grew, as did the oldest united religiously around Kyiv; but in time, the youngest did its thing, grew powerful, fell into difficult Spiritual and economic ways but always harboured thoughts about its Spiritual roots and the land of its older offshoot.

For a long time, the older offshoot respected the Moscow based spiritual leadership, yearned for a more freer expression of the dogmas and seeking a better home, joined Constantinople. This enraged the younger offshoot and it planned, not a reconciliation with its spiritual ancestor, but desired a forced subjugation.

The Father is left bewailing the acrimony and fighting, but still wishes to follow a more open practice of their mutual and historical spiritual birthright.

Secondly, again a little history, and this as perhaps a line for all to do some homework.

This concept of the Pope yet again consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Blessed Virgin Mary has led some commentators to fear that the East may see this as a attempt by the West to impose again a position on the freedom of the East.

We ought to remember that it was in the East at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD that the word THEOTOKOS describing the divine motherhood of God was agreed to by East and West. Devotion to Mary, historically was blossoming in Jerusalem and Alexandria long before Rome had the major Basilica of St Mary Major. In particular, their image of Mary as perfect, Immaculate and Virgin.

Hence the consecration is offered under the title of “Immaculate“, which may be read in today’s Churches as a recognition by the West of the historical truth coming from the East. As such, a potential olive branch, and a sign of peaceful intent.

A long game is being played here!

Finally in this semi rambling reflection, I still remember quite vividly, an occasion when the late Bishop Daly asked me to be a reconciler in the life of a particular person. We had the agreed neutral observer. We discussed the issues, we were getting nowhere. I then in a sense decided to play the Ace. I said “well, let us consider the teaching associated with the wonderful parable..the prodigal Father or if you like the Prodigal son “. Silence, and then in a loud voice “How I hate that Parable!“ Both the observer and I called it quits.

I hope that the Pope’s efforts to create an atmosphere of Peace will have more success.

The Parable is a gem. Read it again and again

Mons Frank

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 13 February 2022

Arriving at a level piece of ground in one piece, takes on new meaning in the light of many events being contested in the Winter Olympics. Level ground is so important for the new temples much prided today; sporting venues, airports, even car parks! Having spent time on the mountain and having chosen his Twelve, we find Jesus now on level ground with the “big four”.

  • The Twelve
  • The Disciples
  • The crowd
  • The “pagans” from Tyre and Sidon.

It is in that collective space that Jesus offers his vision and message.

What follows, we call Beatitudes, a gift for all.

This is His programme, much different from the agenda of the Little Red Book of Mao, let alone the constitutions of most nations. It is Jesus talking about the morality to guide the restored people of God.

The presence of the “big four”, in itself, is both provocative and prophetic. God’s word is now for all. It will cause great debate and opposition within Israel. The “pagans” will hear the word with joy and they, too, will be cured. An extraordinary moment in world history…which needs to be proclaimed afresh today.

Our poor and marginalised, our lost, lowly and last, need to hear His consoling words anew. The hungry and neglected need the practical help and assistance that reminds them that God is kind to all his creatures…and even kind to those who are not kind, even wicked.

This proclamation renews the vision of the God who spoke to Abraham, Moses and the great prophets.

St Alphonsus many centuries later summarised this teaching in these words, “The supreme law is the salvation of souls.”

Our fractured, disturbed, sometimes violent society, urged on by often hateful and ill-informed comment on social media, needs to hear again this vision of Jesus. It is up to us to find a way. Previous generations have done so. We, too!

We start by practising what we have heard from the Beatitudes.

Mons Frank

Third Sunday in ordinary time. 23-01-2022

Preamble:

Pope Francis has asked us to celebrate this Sunday each year as a “Sunday of the Word of God”. He reflects upon the Sunday Readings every time he celebrates the Angelus at midday in St Peter’s Square, generally on Sunday.

Today we begin the reading of Luke’s Gospel for Year C.

Scholars propose:

  • that the writer was Luke,
  • that the date of composition was approx. 80 CE,
  • that we ought to read Luke / Acts as a united statement,
  • that he wrote the Gospel to the existing Christian community,
  • that he intended to place the story of Jesus and that of the emerging Church in the context of the then known world history.

Such a task, I believe is ours…

Sunday Readings:

It was a very bold statement to link the grand tradition of Isaiah with his own mission in his own town! As we will see in coming weeks, his fine words bringing applause and admiration quickly turned to hostile actions once he began to apply the deep meeting of the texts to the everyday situation of the people, particularly the lonely, the lowly, and the lost. In some sense, Jesus was ‘doing’ an Ezra! He was helping people rediscover their inheritance as people of the Word, much like we have been trying to do since Vatican II. Check out, for example, 1 Peter 1:22-29… “and this word is the Good News that has been brought to you”.

Ultimately, Jesus was not acceptable to his own country because his mission extends beyond his own country. We are the inheritors of that approach and that is the path for us today. Uncomfortable, yes. Unfamiliar for most, yes.

Maybe this Covid time is the time for us, as it were, to visit the neighbour that we have ignored or been frightened of or because we just wished to be left alone.

Christianity is about community for the Word is alive and active.

Likewise, for us.02

Mons Frank

 

 

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 16 January 2022

“There is a variety of gifts……….”

These words jumped out at me, as it were, ringing bells!

Gifts, says St Paul, we who are baptised and proclaim Jesus as Lord, possess many gifts given by the Holy Spirit. Do we recognise the gift or gifts that each of us has, and how do we use those gifts?

Australia has been the centre of interest all because a very gifted man has acted as if other people did not matter.

Paul continues in today’s reading to remind us all that our gifts have been distributed and given for the service of the community.

 Jesus possessed many gifts; his mother recognised this and it seems that occasionally she did ask (we really do not know how often she asked her Son to act … we do know that on one occasion her request to see Him brought the retort that “All who do the will of my father, they are my Mother and brothers and sisters” ) and note well that at Cana the request was for the good of the guests and to save the groom’s family from great embarrassment.

 Our much-feted tennis player does not seem to have had the wellbeing of our community at heart…even his mother has now commented upon that failing.

We are all gifted. Gifted we are in all sorts of different ways.

 As we begin the New Year, perhaps a good idea would be to take time and really identify the particular gifts that we possess from the Holy Spirit and then to use them for the wellbeing of the community.

St Peter wrote, 1 Pet 4:10, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you received.”

 We may have to rediscover just what gift or gifts we have received. That, in itself, is a worthy beginning for 2022.

Using the rediscovered gift or gifts for the wellbeing of the community; that is Christian action.

 Mons Frank

 

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 9 January 2022

Do you remember:

·         parents going from the hospital to the Church before going to the farm?

·         the insistence on selecting a ‘Christian’ name for the child?

·         did you belong to a family that handed down a beautiful white robe to be used by all new children?

·         Baptism at 3.00pm each Sunday afternoon?

As things changed:

·         medicine and health care improved

·         Baptism became more a part of the Mass

·         candles and white stoles became the order of the day

·         parents urged to attend pre baptismal classes (with Godparents)

·         River and Marley and the like took over from Mary and James.

And then…well, I think I will let the children make up their own minds when they grow up.

Nonetheless, for many, Baptism is still a wonderful occasion, even in these troubled Covid times!

What, perhaps, is missing is that general feeling of expectancy amongst the community about the need for Baptism.

There had been many occasions in the long history when a Prophet had called for a sign of repentance and renewal sealed by a ritual of washing in the Jordan. People “flocked to John”. They were looking for more than just a ritual sign; and they got more than they bargained for. “You are my Son the Beloved.”

And for us, there is more than we anticipated in our personal Baptism.

There is the call:

·         to leave the past behind

·         to give ourselves over to a prayerful life

·         to accept our role in renewing the face of the earth

·         to return to a loving God, our love

·         to, like Isaiah, “console my people, console them”.

 

This is a grand feast to remember our own Baptism (when, where, and who were our Godparents)

and to recommit ourselves “to live good and religious lives here in this present world”.

Let us take a step in that direction this Feast day.

Mons Frank

Christmas 2021

“Listen to me, you who pursue integrity,

Who see k the Lord?

Consider the rock you were hewn from

The quarry from which you were cut.” (Isaiah 51:1)

“No one to be lost and everyone to change their ways.” (2 Peter 3:9)

This is my 59th attempt to say something meaningful on the feast of Christmas. A chance occurrence during the week led to these thoughts which are based principally upon the examination of what we can glean from the two women, Mary and Elizabeth, and the two men, Joseph and Zechariah.

 

Many think we have been hard done by during the pandemic; lock ups, face masks, QR codes, signups, quarantine, isolation and, of course, being vaccinated.

Sadly, this has led to arguments, loss of jobs, breakups, and lack of peace. In a sense this is the rock that we have been hewn from, let alone the quarry from which we were cut in recent times.

Some think all was meek and mild when John and Jesus were born and lived. Not so. Consider that their country was occupied by the Romans. The Romans ruled harshly, punished severely. Jews has no rights. In 4 BCE Quinctilius Varus crucified 2000 rebels. There were several other mass crucifixions

between 4 BCE and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The massacre of the innocents, let alone the “head on the dish”, complement the truth that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was the place to fall amongst thieves. They were hewn from very hard rock and cut in a very rugged quarry. It was into such an environment that the baby Jesus came.

 

He came amidst turmoil in the respective families. Joseph had to deal with the common expectations of his community…send her away. Zechariah was world wise and blunt. He laughed at the idea that Elizabeth could conceive. Joseph accepted the instruction and wore the expected humiliation from his community. Zechariah was struck dumb, and the last laugh was on him. But he changed.

One babe was the fulfilment of the promise, the other the proclaimer…No major army. No great Naval power. The babe was to be the source of salvation and the source of peace. Both gave their lives, horribly treated that we might have life and have it to the full.

 

The truth was that, as Peter wrote, “No one to be lost. Everyone to change their ways.”

We have been battling to accept this instruction for 2000 years. Some generations have made more progress, many have rejected the invitation.

This is our time.

Do we stand with Jesus and work for peace; civil and religious? Or do we continue to do our own thing?

May the message of the angels resonate in each and every heart this 2021.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven. And peace to people who enjoy his favour.”

Mons Frank

Third Sunday of Advent 12 December 2021

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

This Sunday the mood of the Liturgy moves to calling us to remember the first coming of Jesus. It asks us to recall the many gifts our world received following the entry into our lives of the presence and work of Jesus.

We labour under the difficulty of 2000 years of Christian inheritance and the centuries of reflection and practise. The stark contrast proclaimed by Jesus was literally revolutionary to the first generations of those who committed to “The Way”. So much in our lives today, accepted more or less by all, was not the reality of the average woman or man in 30 CE.

To tell people to rejoice whilst living under the Roman yoke is perhaps akin to asking the Uighurs to be happy in their many re-education camps in China. If the tummy can stand it, a read of ‘Damascus’ by Christos Tsiolkas, though a novel, will certainly help to understand the roughness of life under the Roman yoke.

So, we have had the experience of the Covid yoke, and it is not finished.

Against that experience and faced with the call to “Rejoice” at the celebration of the gift of Jesus, the Gospel imperative today:

-Two tunics…share

-Something to eat…share

-Exact no more than your rate

-No intimidation

-No extortion

-Be content with your pay.

 

We might add:

-don’t growl too much about masks

-use the QR code

-accept restrictions for the wellbeing of our community

-respect Covid Marshalls (with or without the Tin Star) …

And regularly give thanks for this wonderful country we live in!

Add an extra prayer this week and an act of charity, for those who do not enjoy our gifts…that may assist us to receive the peace of God.

 

Mons Frank