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

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

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