Friday, August 21, 2009

August 23rd Reflection

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection

Do You Serve The Lord Your God?

Based on the readings from: Joshua 24:1-2,15-18, Psalm 33:2-3,16-23, Ephesians 5:21-32, John 6:60-69

By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD, Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus

Franciscans of Divine Mercy/ Reformed Catholic Church International


"Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness…. Choose this day whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15)

Just as Joshua challenged the tribes of Israel to chose who they desired to honor and worship, we today are being given the same challenge. Do we choose to serve those human gods of Greed, power, domination, discrimination, materialism and self-effacement or do we choose to follow the way of the son of god, Jesus Christ.

Do we choose to live our lives according to the way Jesus taught by being forgiving, compassionate, kind and generous to all God’s children, especially those in need?

Throughout all of history, one idea has prevailed; it is that there is a supreme being that governs all.

We find it in the histories of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Aztecs, Mayans, Native American Tribes, in fact every known civilization. Humans have recognized that there is something greater than themselves throughout history.

We humans have sought this greater power out, as history has shown, in every generation. They have given that acknowledgement to the sun, volcano’s, lightning and other natural and sometimes human and imaginary things. They have worship their “Gods” under the names of Ra, Zeus, Apollo, Pele the Goddess of Fire, Mercury, Aesir, and hundreds of other names.

When Almighty God made himself known with the words “"I am that I am. Here is what you must say to the Israelites. Tell them, 'I am has sent me to you.' "(Exodus 3:14) we were told who we should give honor, praise and reverence to and whom we should thank for all things.

When Jesus Christ was transfigured, God informed us clearly who Jesus was with these words; “"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:4-6).

God has told us to listen to what Jesus was telling us. To listen to the words and teachings of Jesus Christ, not some mere human individual, but Jesus the son of Almighty God. When we read the teachings of Christ, we find clear concise guidelines as to how we are expected to live our lives. These are found in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the “GREAT COMMANDMENT”, "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-30)

Could Christ’s teachings be any clearer, yet so many try to make this love and service to Almighty God so difficult by injecting a lot of man made things in the way.

The have twisted to original writings of the ancient scriptures and the writings of the apostles and early church fathers and in some cases even rejected some of them because they did not “FIT THE POLITICALY CORRECT AGENDA” of that time.

People found passages that referred to a specific kind of sin and twisted it around in order to exclude some individuals from serving God or even to participate in the worship of Almighty God.

When we choose to ignore the teachings of Christ, when we decide what God means and we judge others as outcasts and deny them the opportunity to worship Almighty God and acknowledge Jesus as the son of God and the redeemer and Savior sent by God, then we are not serving Almighty God.

Jesus, rejected no one, not even those who were to crucify him. Jesus sat and ate with those that Jewish law forbade sharing a meal. Jesus spoke with and treated women as equals.

If we believe that Almighty God created all things, and we believe that Jesus was the Son of God made man, then we cannot even think about acting like a god and making judgments that are the exclusive property of Almighty God.

We can dislike the way another person acts, we can reject their choices as not acceptable, we have the freedom to choose not to associate with some people because they seem to be breaking the commandments of God by lying, cheating, stealing, killing, committing adultery, coveting another’s wife or property and act in an manner other than that prescribed by God.

When we decide that power, money, prestige, fame, greed or sexual gratification are more important to us that living according to God’s way, we are not serving God.

We need to remember how we were taught in Paul’s letter to the Romans 14; “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” and Matthew 7; “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.“ In James 4 we read; “Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it.”

The law of God is very clear, we are not the ones to judge a person because of how things appear “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” ( John 7:24, 51)

We need to judge a person by their deeds. Do they feed the poor? Do they Clothe the Naked? Do they respect and love All of God’s creatures? Do they give shelter to the homeless?

We do not have a right to deny anyone the same rights and privileges as every other citizen.

The question poised at the beginning of this reflection was, Do you serve the Lord ? You do if you live in a manner prescribed by Jesus Christ and do not make judgments according to man made decisions but only by the example and teachings given us by Christ.

“Christ went on, “This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him…Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.“

Let us serve Almighty God not only by claiming to be a Christian but by living out the teachings of Christ in our daily lives. AMEN

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reflection on Anniversary of Ordination

Reflecting on the past 4 years as a priest

On the eve of the start of my 5th year as a priest this Saturday the 15th, I ask myself “Am I being a good servant and disciple of Christ.
I also have become more acutely aware of the blessed opportunity and the many challenges Almighty God has bestowed upon me.
I ponder how well I have done in serving all those who have been made to feel unwelcome and rejected from some Religious denominations and proclaiming to them how GOD LOVES THEM AS HE CREATED THEM.
I pray that I might have inspired them to claim their rightful place within the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
With the words “Your are a priest forever like Melchizedek of Old”, a person goes from being a simple follower of Jesus Christ to an individual who is completely committed and responsible to serve God faithfully and proclaim His truth and teachings faithfully to all of His children He sends you.
As a priest, I have been called to be the hands, feet, mouth, heart and human voice of Almighty God here on earth.
I need to be there to give solace and comfort to those in pain. I need to remember always to affirm God’s love, mercy and forgiveness to all His children. I am called to be uplifting and positive toward all even when I do not feel that good myself.
These responsibilities are not limited just to those who are part of the Faith Community you serve but to every child of God that you meet as you go about your daily life.
In a world that appears to be increasingly more self centered and absorbed in the material things of life and less interested in the needs of others or in helping to support the work of the ministries that serve God’s children.
I often feel inadequate, troubled and disturbed because of my limitations and this has sometimes caused me occasionally to be filled with anguish.
My heart becomes heavy when I see and hear of children of God being turned away from worshiping with a faith community and being denied Baptism or God’s gift of the Eucharist because they were born out of wedlock, or the parents are divorced or worse yet, God created them with a same sex orientation.
Sadness fills me when I see dedicated men and women being denied the opportunity to answer the call they hear from God just because they are married or their gender is female.
Why should a person who is dedicated and has the necessary education and training be refused because of their marital state or sexual orientation just as long as they are willing to live their lives in a manner that would not bring shame or dishonor to Almighty God?
The Church had married priests as recently as 1139. In the fourteenth Century a Bishop Pelsgio complained that woman were still being ordained and hearing confessions and in the 1970’s several women were ordained as priests in the Czech Republic to serve the needs of women imprisoned by the Communists. In the 15th century it was estimated that 50% of priests were married. 7 Popes were married and had children into the mid 1400's. 11 Popes were sons of previous popes. Between 1484 and 1585 6 popes had illegitimate children.
Some priests and some of the hierarchy have forgotten their duty and responsibility to God and have done serious damage to the universal church because they ignored their vows and sexually abused children and others that trusted them. The church is having great difficulty healing the wounds that caused. Many good and faithful priests who have lived their vows faithfully have been hurt by the actions of those who failed.
Many of God’s children have become disillusioned because the hierarchy failed to take action against those who committed these heinous crimes.

In accepting God’s call to be His servant on earth a priest needs to put themselves last before the needs of those whom God has sent him to serve.
All the wealth of the world cannot raise a person any higher in the eyes of God than being a good, faithful and humble servant of God to His children sent to be shepherded.
Many people whom God has called to be His servants on earth have attempted to heal the divisions that have separated the Christian church, established through the inspiration of Christ’s teachings and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Among them was a Protestant Brother, Roger of Taize, who found respect and was welcomed into the company of the hierarchy of all religious denominations, including three popes, the patriarchs of the Orthodox churches, Anglican and other denominations all of whom attended his funeral after he was murdered on August 14th 2005, the day before my ordination.
Brother Roger has been called “the male Mother Theresa and St. Francis of the 20th and 21st
centuries.” He was truly a man of God and a good and faithful servant of God. To me, Brother Roger is what I aspire to emulate and a man who should be a model to all priests even though he himself , like St. Francis the seraphic father of our Franciscan order, was never a priest.
To have been called to the priesthood is a tremendous and overwhelming responsibility which I pray daily I am able to live up to.
I find His choice of me to be surprising and heady, filled with many roadblocks to overcome but I am fully willing to accept if it is His will.
I ask God only that He provide me the energy, health, necessary means, tools and courage to accept all He sends me in order for me to serve Him and those He sends my way as He would.
I constantly ask Almighty God to inspire me and guide my every action through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that I may bring Him honor and Glory.
I pray constantly that I can make a difference in the lives of those who God sends my way and bring them into a closer relationship with Almighty God.
I ask God to constantly lead me and constantly inspire me to know and do His will.
Please remember me and the work of the mission in your daily prayers and ask God to continue to lead me and guide me in my daily service to Him as I begin the 5th year of my priesthood this Saturday.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Is God In Your Reflection??

Is God in Your Reflection
A reflection for Sunday August 9th 2009
By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church International of New England

When you look in the mirror what do you see looking back at you? Is the person you see reflecting God within them? Is the reflection cast back at you sharp and clear? Are there streaks or dirty spots on the reflection? Do you see, in your reflection, the infinite and everlasting mercy and love of God reflected back at you? Every Sabbath in every Church and Synagogue, the priest, Reverend, or Rabbi preaches on scripture readings. This preaching is called a homily, a Sermon or a Teaching. I call mine reflections because it, like those of the pastors, priests or Rabies’, they are meant for you to think about during the following week and reflect on how well you are doing in following God’s intent.This week I am asking you to imagine that you are looking at your reflection in a mirror and trying to discern how well you, in your daily life, are reflecting God’s teachings to those who you encounter.Perhaps, in your reflection you cannot discern the inner God within you because you are not totally open to accepting yourself as a infinitely loving God‘s child because other have told you that you are not welcome in God‘s house for one reason or another. Maybe it is because you spend too much time thinking about yourself and your desires instead of finding out how you can reach out and help others less fortunate than you.One thing that can cause distortions and streaks in your reflection is a distance you put between you and Almighty God. You believe in God and turn to Him when you are in need, but you do not take time every day to communicate with him as you would with your best friend and thank Him for all he has given you.Sometimes, just possibly, when you look in the mirror you do not recognize the person staring back at you. You need to ask why you not recognize that person.There is of course those times when you can see another figure behind you who seems to be calling to you. That reflection can either be a dark and foreboding presence that should frighten you because it is trying to entice you to do go against God’s teachings and as they used to say in Star Wars “Have you go to the Dark side”. The image you see reflected back at you might be a beautiful luminescent image that seems to glow from within which is the reflection of God and the Holy Spirit alive within you. Take a good look at yourself in that mirror, do you reflect the infinite love and mercy of Jesus Christ to yourself and to all you encounter on your life journey? Do you live your live in a way that would prompt God to praise you as “My good and faithful servant”? If so, your image is crystal clear and exactly what you want to envision when you look in your mirror. What you see in that mirror is how others see you. If you live your life striving always to be kind, generous, thoughtful, forgiving, and not discriminatory of any person, even those you disagree with, you are well on the way to seeing God in your reflection and others will see that in you.If, however, you discriminate because someone is divorced, not of the same nationality, race or religious denomination as you, or because God created a person with a same sex orientation, then your reflection is going to be full of blotches, stains and streaks and your image in the mirror needs to be cleaned up. Jesus Christ never rejected anyone who came to him and neither does God. Christ called and welcomed all even those who were sinners so that he could forgive them and encourage them to “Go and Sin No More”.Christ sat at table with all political and religious persons, rejecting no one, teaching them how to attain salvation. Christ endured suffering and even death on the cross in order to free us from the burden of sin and open the gates of heaven to all. His example showed us how to live. He told us it would not be easy and that we might be ridiculed and rejected and even have to suffer in order to be truthful and live according to God’s will.Christ and His Almighty Father have even given us a source of strength in the gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit; Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. The secret here is, we have to seek them out and we have to ask for them. Christ told us “Love one another as I have loved you”. Christ loved us so much he was willing to die so that our sins would be forgiven and we could attain heaven at the end of our “Proving Time” here on earth. Like Gold that is purified in fire, we also must endure times of testing to become worthy of eternal life with God and the heavenly elect.May your reflection have few flaws and may God grant you the fortitude to make the changes necessary for you to see God clearly in your reflection. AMEN