Friday, September 25, 2009

2 Weeks of Special Feasts

2 Weeks of Special Feasts to Reflect Upon
Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church New England

The coming two weeks has very special meaning not only to me, our ministry and the Franciscans of Divine Mercy but to the entire Universal Church.
Beginning with the feast of the Archangels on the 29th of September and continuing through October 7th the church celebrates the lives and memory of many important saints whose lives have given us inspiration.
On the various feast days you may want to pray for the intercession of those honored and reflect on their life and how they lived to serve God and others and, like the patron saints of our ministry, Saints Sergius and Bacchus, who were willing to die rather than deny God. I will be posting special reflections for some of these feasts but I thought a “heads up” on the forthcoming two weeks was in order.
September 29th is the feast of all the Archangels those we often hear about Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Urial and the others.
On October 1st we celebrate the life of SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX known as Therese of the Child Jesus; the Little Flower; the Little Flower of Jesus. Cured from an illness at age eight when a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at her, she became a Carmelite Nun at age 15. Therese defined her path to God and holiness as "The Little Way," which consisted of love and trust in God. This message of trust is one we all need to take to heart. Since one of my favorite relatives was also a member of the Carmelite order, I have long had a special devotion to St. Therese because of my cousin Sister Ann of Jesus who was a Carmelite.
On Friday the 2nd of October we celebrate the feast in honor of Our Guardian Angels whom God has given the task of watching over us and guide us if we seek their guidance.
Sunday October 4th is traditionally the Feast of Our seraphic Father, Saint Francis of Assisi who founded and wrote the rule by which all Franciscans live. Francis preached the Gospel of love, compassion and mercy of God and spoke out against the luxurious excesses that many of the church hierarchy were living. Francis gave up a life of wealth and prestige for one of poverty and service to the poorest and rejected of his time.
Sunday the 4th is also designated as Respect For Life Sunday which seeks to remind all of us that ALL LIFE is precious and a gift from God. All life, regardless of race, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation deserves respect.
October 5th is the feast day of Saint Faustina Kowalska who received from the Lord a message of mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world. Her life was based on deep humility, purity of intention, and loving obedience to the will of God in imitation of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The message of the infinite and divine mercy and love of God is now being spread throughout the world. St. Faustina had a vision of Christ with his arms outstretched and rays of the colors of the rainbow were radiating from His Sacred Heart which we now know as the Image of Divine mercy. Our Franciscan Order is dedicated to the message of Divine Mercy.
Wednesday the 7th is the feast day of the patron saints of our ministry, Saints Sergius and Bacchus. Saints Sergius and Bacchus were lovers in a blessed committed relationship who suffered persecution and martyrdom rather than deny the love of Christ. I will be posting a reflection of there history and how they became the patrons of our ministry later this week. The 7th of October is also the feast honoring Our Blessed Mother Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary.
On each of these feast days, you may want to take a moment to reflect on the saint being honored and offer a prayer of petition asking them to intercede on your behalf to Almighty God for your special intentions and help in living your daily life in accord with God’s will as Christ taught us..
Each of these saints lives is stresses the message of the infinite and everlasting compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness of Almighty God for all His children and God’s desire for all His children to participate in and be active participants in His Mystical Body, The Church, through prayer, the sacraments and living a life that reflects Christ’s message of Love for all people regardless of their sexual orientation, race, marital status of practice of worship to Him.
May God Bless each and every one of us with the knowledge of His truth and the courage to live in a way that brings honor and glory to Him. AMEN

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sept. 27th Reflection DOING THE WORK OF THE LORD

Doing the Work of The Lord
A Reflection on the Readings for September 27th 2009
Numbers 11:25-29, Psalm 18, James 5:1-6, Mark 9:38-48
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church of New England

This Sunday’s readings have, it seems to me, a very important message for all who claim to be Christians and followers of Christ. One of the most important is found in the message of the Psalm which affirms the truth about Almighty God. That truth is that He listens to us and answers our prayers. If we put our lives in God’s hands, He will protect us and make life safe for us. There is, of course, one condition and it is, we have to live according to how Christ’s instructed us.
“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God.” (Psalm 18)
A second and even more powerful message is that by placing our measure of success in material things we are leading ourselves to possible destruction. The message found in James 5 is crystal clear, on several points.
One concerns how we gain our earthly wealth. If we have accumulated profit at the expense of others that profit will be like a fire that consumes you. It also places blame for many of the problems that our world is facing on those who live for material and financial gain without concern for those who are in need.
“Now an answer for the rich. Start crying; weep for the miseries that are coming to you. You stored up as your treasure for the last days a burning fire. Laborers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realize that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them“. (James 5).
The third message found in this weeks’ readings concerns those who seem to feel that they speak for God and can decide who is worthy to participate in offering honor, praise and glory. .They firmly believe that their path is the only path to God and that they can decide who is worthy and who is not.
In the Gospel reading when the apostles told Jesus that they tried to stop people who were not of their group from prophesying and performing miracles in the name of Almighty God Jesus said: “You must not stop them: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’ anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck”. (Mark 9)
Lastly, the reading from numbers has a very interesting and thought provoking idea for us to ponder.
It concerns a supposition about what the world would be like if everyone was given the gift of prophesy by God. "If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!" (Numbers 11)
Imagine if every follower of God had the gift of prophesy. If that were actually the case, the world might not be so quick to declare war against other nations. People would be more likely to be concerned about the needs of the poor, hungry, aged, sick, and more likely to be more compassionate and less judgmental. People would realize that a pure love between two people is a good thing not to be disparaged and condemned.
As we contemplate the messages of this week’s readings and how well we are living our daily lives in accord with them let us keep in mind what the scriptures taught us on what God expects of us.
He put us here to gain the greatest wage and wealth of all, Everlasting life in His presence.
We have been sent out into the vineyards to be the hands, feet, mouth and spirit of Almighty God and to actively wage the battle against the powers of darkness who are attempting to replace His infinite mercy, love, and compassion with hatred, discrimination, war, violence, greed and self-gratification.
The following is a prayer I offer each day as I attempt to go about my daily life humbly serving God as best I can while seeking God’s strength to improve.

O Lord, you are my rock, my fortress and my deliverer in whom I take refuge.
Almighty God, I give you my hands to do Your work; I give you my feet to go Your way;
I give you my eyes to see as You do; I give you my tongue to speak Your words; I give you my mind that You may think in me; I give you my spirit that You may pray in me;
Above all, I give you my heart that You may love in and through me all to whom I come in contact with each and every day. I dedicate myself to doing Your will in all things and to become an instrument through which You might bring about peace and harmony to all your children here on earth. AMEN (Written by Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD in 1991 for a retreat weekend)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday Sept. 20th 2009 reflection

The Last Shall Be First
Reflection on Readings For Sunday September 20th 2009
Wisdom 2:12-20; James 3:16-18; Psalm 54:3-8; Mark 9:30-37
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine mercy

This week’s readings have a series of powerful messages for us to consider. They talk about how people who boast about how great they are, how powerful they are could very well be in danger in God’s design of things. I have chosen a few of the passages from Sunday's readings for us to reflect upon and consider how and where we, and those in the public eye, are living them.
"Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is, first pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness". (James 3:16)
Where you have envy and selfish ambition, you find disorder and every evil practice. Envy and selfish ambition, how often have we and leaders of corporation, governments and churches followed those goals? How does the scripture tell us to overcome those evil conditions in our life? By seeking God’s wisdom and live a life that is considerate of others, full of mercy for those who are suffering because of poverty, illness or who have hurt us in some way. We are told to seek out peace not vengeance.
Remember what we are told in Romans 12:18-20; “Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord.” In James 3 we are told “The harvest of Righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” Since we are in the seasonal time of harvest, possibly we need to work harder than ever before to harvest peace between those with whom we have had disagreements. We need to try to find the common ground to settle the petty differences that have divided all who all claim to worship the one and same Creator God, The God of Abraham, Isaac, David, Jacob and the Almighty Father of Jesus Christ.
We have sown the seeds of discontent among the seeds of peace and goodwill. Now we need to harvest peace and goodwill and leave the discontent for the weeds to be burned and destroyed.
Mark’s gospel tells the story of how the apostles were arguing about who among them was the greater. Christ knew this, as He knows all of our thoughts, words and actions, and when they got to where they were to rest, Christ gathered them together and asked what they were discussing. When no one answered, Christ sat them down and told them; “Jesus sat down and called for the Twelve to come to him. Then he said, "If you want to be first, you must be the very last. You must be the servant of everyone. Jesus then took a little child and had the child stand among them. Then he took the child in his arms. He said to them, Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me. And anyone who welcomes me doesn't welcome only me but also the One who sent me."
Can Christ’s message to us be any clearer? If we wish to be a true leader, the first of firsts among people we need to become a servant to all. We need to have the innocence of a child that knows no anger or hatred. Hatred, violence, anger are lessons that are learned and then nurtured by people with agendas of their own.
Our only agenda in life should be to live, work and think of what Almighty God wants from us. We need to live our life attempting to emulate our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, in all of our daily lives.
We can begin doing this by examining how we relate to the issues that our family and the world are facing today. Do we judge people on how they look, their color, the church they attend, who their partner in life may be, how much money they have? We should judge them on how they are respectful of the needs of others, how they are always ready to help someone in trouble or need, by their love of Almighty God.
We live in troubled times. We hear many versions of how life is going to change for us by doing one thing or another. Politicians will be promoting their agendas over the next months all claiming to improve our lives. Television networks are all vying for our eyes claiming to be the #1 network that gives us the best news and entertainment. Advertisers tell us our lives will improve by using their product. The truth is the only way our lives will ever change is if we change them within our selves. Our lives and the world condition will only change when we begin to make a serious examination of our behavior and how closely it and our lives are being lived in relationship to Christ’s teachings. The challenge is ours alone. We can not be seeking to be the top gun but must be willing to be the servant. We need to become a servant of God, serving our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and work to harvest peace among all God’s children. May God give us the Wisdom to live according to His way. May God grant us patience, compassion, forgiveness, and courage to live according to his way so that we may be welcomed into His Kingdom with open and loving arms. AMEN.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Exaltation of Holy Cross Feast Reflection

Reflection for The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Readings From Numbers 21:4-9, Philippians 2:6-11, John 3:13-17
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church of New England

“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world”On Monday the universal church celebrates the feast commemorating the finding of the sacred cross upon which Christ died by Saint Helen about the year 325-326
According to some records it seems that not only were the High Priests afraid that someone would steal the body of Christ and claim that he had risen as He said he would they not only convinced Pontius Pilot to post guards at the tomb of Christ, but they ordered some temple workers to go out and bury the cross Christ was crucified on so that no one would ever find it. These workers did not know which cross of the three they found was the correct one so they buried them all and then covered them with mounds of stone. Years later, the emperor Hadrian had a temple built on the hill of Golgotha to honor Aphrodite. The temple was built over the place where the crosses had been buried and covered also the place where Christ’s tomb was.
Saint Helen decided that she would undertake a search for the cross after her son Constantine had related the story of his vision of the cross which told him to fly it as a sign and he would be successful in his battle.
Upon her arrival in Jerusalem the venerable Saint Helen had no visible sign of where to look because the area had the temple built on it. She instructed that the temple be destroyed especially the statue of Aphrodite. She then was drawn to the area where the pile of stones were visible after the destruction of the temple and instructed workers to dig there. Three crosses were uncovered as well as nails and other items The excavators also found a tomb which they believed might have been the actual tomb of Christ, since records indicate that Christ was buried in a rock sepulcher close to the place of His crucifixion.
St. Helen could not be sure which cross was the true cross but Saint Marcarius, the Bishop of Jerusalem, suggested that they have a gravely sick woman brought near to the crosses and hoped that if one of them was the true cross, the woman would be healed. Upon touching the last of the three crosses, she was instantly healed. Saint Helen was so overjoyed she ordered her son to have a church built on the site and a major section of the cross was placed in a Silver casing and placed in the church while another section was brought to Constantinople. The cross remained in the church in Jerusalem until 614 when the Persians plundered Palestine and took the cross to their own country. In 628 the Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross and restored it to it’s rightful place.
Tiny Pieces of the cross have been scraped off from both original pieces and have been distributed over the years, usually imbedded in a replica of Christ crucified. The amazing thing is that the original major pieces have never shrunken in size. I, myself, have had a piece of the cross imbedded in the crucifix of my rosary beads since they were brought from Rome for me by my cousin Bishop Minnahan.
As the Gospel reading of John proclaims “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.’” and the reading from Philippians reminds us that; “Jesus Christ’s state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.”Let Us Pray; Through the sign of Your Holy Cross, protect your brothers and sisters, Lord Jesus Christ, from all the temptations of the evil one and lead us to a greater love for each other as you loved us.
It was by your cross, O Christ, that you redeemed all mankind from their sinful ways and opened up the gates of heaven to all who proclaim you. May we be welcomed into your presence when our time here on earth is over to join with all the Heavenly elect. AMEN

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sunday September 13, 2009 Reflection

Reasons to Love The Lord, Our God
A Reflection for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2009
Based on readings from Isaiah 50:5-9, James 2:14-18, Mark 8:27-35
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church of New England

“The Lord has opened my ear. For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.” (Isaiah 50:5-9)
These words from the book of Isaiah foretold how Jesus Christ would be treated and how Jesus would react to the ridicule and ultimate sacrifice He would endure.
These words also should remind us that we might have to endure taunts and even rejection because of our love for God and because the way of Christ is not the way of today‘s society.
Christ taught compassion, love, mercy, and forgiveness. These are qualities that are in short supply in today’s world.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:14-18)
These words of James, the brother of Christ and head of the church at Jerusalem, explain how we need to act in order to proclaim our faith. In no uncertain words they say that we live our faith by our actions.
This has been the theme of the last few weeks and a constant theme of Christ’s teachings.
Many people proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ, but they have blinders on towards the suffering and pain that exists all around them. If they are aware of it, they seem to have no desire to put an end to it.
Our nations leaders who for the most part claim to be Christians are engaged in discussions to make our health plans more affordable and the best in the world for all people regardless of their income yet they resist because of what it might cost or because of their party affiliations.
What happened to the idea of “Government for the people”
So many people give lip service but somehow little is really done to bring and end to homelessness, poverty, affordable medical assistance for the poor and seniors on low fixed incomes and affordable quality education for every person.
The Government can find trillions to explore space, wage wars, give tax breaks and incentives to the rich and corporations that pay their executives exorbitant salaries, often a thousand time greater than the average worker receives.
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark 8)
These words of Christ tell us that to become followers of Christ, we must be willing to endure the crosses we are given. We must deny ourselves things that are considered luxuries so we can care for the needs of those who are poor, ill and unable to care for themselves without help.
Every day I pray to God asking him to provide me with the tools to do His work here on earth and be able to bring comfort and the sacraments to those who cannot get to church or have been told they were not wanted.
I try to spread The Good News of God’s everlasting compassion, infinite love and mercy for all His children.
God always hears our prayers, but He only answer us with what is best for us and at the appropriate time. When people who are sick, need a job or desire to sell their house or some other need ask God’s help, He hears them, but always gives them what is best for them.
Sometimes he calls the sick person home to him as the best way of ending their suffering.
It leaves us feeling sad, lonely, and sometimes angry but we need to realize that God did what was best for them. That is what it means to deny ourselves. We must accept God’s will in our lives, just as Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane pleaded “Lord remove this cup from me, but not my will, but yours be done”
Maybe if we make that prayer the qualification of all our petitions to God we will not be dissatisfied with God‘s answers to our prayers. I have found that when God deems it right He provides those things I need. My favorite poem FOOTSTEPS reminds us how God sometimes carries us when we thought He had abandoned us. God never leaves us but we often leave God out of our lives. I have learned that God needs to be a major part of our life and in a perfect world God is the center of our life.
We cannot allow ourselves to give up on God, worshiping Him and asking Him to be with us just because some have told us we are unwanted, or others try to claim that God is a myth, and still others who are supposed to represent Him have committed heinous crimes. We need to put our trust in God and love Him with all our being. Jesus instructed us with these words; “LOVE THE LORD, YOUR GOD, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, MIND, SOUL AND BODY AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF” (Mark 12:30) Christ also said “LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” God loved us so much He was willing to die so that our sins could be forgiven and we could attain everlasting life with Him forever. AMEN

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sunday Sept. 6th Reflection

Being Doers of God’s Word
A Reflection for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Based on readings from: Isaiah 35:4-7, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37
By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church of New England

"My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that? Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.” This reading from James 2:1-5 for could not be any clearer or a stronger reminder of how we are called, as Followers of Christ, to treat all the people we encounter on our journey of life.
We are told quite clearly not to discriminate against anyone. We are not do judge anyone as regards to their worship or their coming to seek God or ask forgiveness.
The only judge of a person in regards to their relationship with Almighty God is God Himself.
When we make assertions that this one or that one surely belongs in Hell we are assuming a power that belongs to God alone. Throughout the holy scriptures we find a common thread on how to live out our lives here on earth. From Jesus commandment to us, “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) to those of the readings for this Sunday..
We have been told in the past few weeks that it is how a person lives out their faith and not how much they say words of prayer that is important. We need to put action behind the prayers. We need to live so that when we face God He can say to us; “" 'You have done well, my good and faithful servant!' (Luke 19:17) “You have done well because “When I was hungry. And you gave me something to eat. When I was thirsty. you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger. you invited me in. When I needed clothes. you clothed me. When I was sick you took care of me. and when I was in prison. you came to visit me." '(MATTHEW 25:35-36)
Matthew 25:40 sums up how we can be real followers of Christ and how we need to live our lives in order for God to greet us with those words “Well Done my Good and faithful servant.” “Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 )
We have been called to Feed the hungry, Clothe the naked, Visit those in Prison, quench the thirst for those who thirst, care for the sick and aged and not discriminate. James wrote his letter or epistle to the people of the faith community of Jerusalem some time before he was executed in 62 AD. James if referred to as “The Brother of Christ”. James was the leader of “Bishop” of the Christian Community in Jerusalem and was one of the twelve that advised Paul on Christ’s teachings since Paul never actually knew Christ in person and all Paul writes about is second hand knowledge from those original apostles he actually had the opportunity to meet.
Chapter 2 of the first epistle of Peter begins, “Stop being hateful! Quit trying to fool people, and start being sincere. Don't be jealous or say cruel things about others.”.
In James’s first epistle chapter 1 verse 22-27 says: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; and once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Just imagine how much this world could be changed for the better if each and every one of us were to live our lives in accord with these teachings. It is never too late to begin. We all have an opportunity to make a difference in this world. Look around and see where you can begin to serve God by serving others. This, I feel, is the message of this week and the message of how to live as a follower of Christ.
May God guide us and lead us in our service to Him today and always. AMEN