Friday, October 30, 2009

All Saints Day Reflection

All Saints Day 2009

A Reflection by Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church of New England
Based on the readings from: Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12

“These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.” These words taken from the book of Revelation or Apocalypse describe the heavenly elect or Saints. The book begins with a count of how many are among the heavenly elect. “Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel. After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.
St. John, who is purported to be the author of the apocalyptic book of revelation, used a number that in the time this book was written would have been considered as beyond imagination. I consider this to mean that every person who has died in Christ is a Saint which is why I often call upon the deceased members of my family who I believe lived according to God’s will to intercede to God on my behalf. It is not just those whom the church declares as saints because they gave their life rather than deny Christ like the patron saints of this ministry, Sergius & Bacchus, or declared Saints by the church because their lives were examples of living according to the teachings of Christ like St. Francis, Mother Therese of Calcutta, St. Damien of Molokai. Others have been declared saints because of there spirituality and dedication to fulfilling their call as servants of God.
The second reading for All Saints Day comes from the third book of John chapter 3 in which we read the following; “My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”, which tell me that if we try to live our lives in accord with the teachings of Christ, especially what Jesus called the greatest commandments; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophet depend." (Matthew 22:36-46)
The Gospel reading sums everything up by teaching us how to achieve becoming one of the heavenly elect. Often referred to as The Sermon on the Mount it says; “‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
On this feast celebrating the lives of those women and men who followed Christ’s teachings, many to the death of their earthly bodies, let us examine ourselves as to what we have done or are doing to preach PEACE.
Back in the times of another unpopular war in our nation a group known as “Hippies” went around shouting “Make Peace and love, not war” they were treated with scorn by many and labeled “Flower Children”.
What we need to call to mind is that Jesus was also treated in the same way because He preached a way of life that was not the norm. It is one thing to give one’s life for love of God or to defend your country but so many today are giving their lives in a war that has been raging for more than 35 years and is tribal in nature. As followers of Christ we need to exert ourselves to bring about peace between all of God’s children. Not only between nations, but religious denomination, neighbors, local governing officials and ALL of God’s children.
Another issue that we, as a people of God, need to give serious consideration to is equality and justice and the well being of ALL God’s children and one issue is the current debate on a National Health Policy.
My question is why should our tax dollars be used to provide a select few the finest of health coverage when so many who pay into the tax base are deprived the same kind of health coverage. Where is the justice, compassion, fairness, and equality that we as Christians and followers of Christ’s teachings are supposed to practice?
Many of those who oppose a National health policy do so because they may loose some of the profits and dividends they receive from owning stock in Insurance companies. Others oppose simply because their political party is not in control and they do not want the party in power to be able to achieve the promises that got them elected by a majority of citizens.
Again it is all about power, profit and glory and not about what is right, just, compassionate and fair for ALL people. As Christians, the glory we should be seeking is the Glory of God by living the Sermon on the Mount by caring for the poor, aged and sick.
The Saints who achieved a higher level of spirituality and favor in the eyes of God did so by giving of themselves often by dying because of their love of God or, like St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Therese of Calcutta or St. Damien of Molokai, spent their lives serving those whom society rejected.
On this feast celebrating All The Saints let us call to mind the words of Christ, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” ( Matthew 9:13) and “‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” ( Matthew 12:7) and from the book of Zechariah 7:9 “"Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another”
On this feast commemorating those who achieved the highest level of spirituality let us commit ourselves to work harder putting into action the Beatitudes and the Corporal Works of Mercy as we live out our earthly existence in the hope of attaining eternal life with God and the Heavenly Elect. AMEN

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 25th Reflection on Trusting in God

God Provides When You Believe & Trust in Him

A Reflection of the Readings for October 25 2009

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Today’s readings have one common theme and it is, if you trust and believe in God with your whole being He will provide all your needs. at the proper time. We are also reminded to be on guard always against the power and temptations of the evil one.

The Gospel story tells how having faith in God and believing Jesus is the son of God who came to earth to proclaim God’s infinite love, mercy and forgiveness of God and to teach us the path to salvation.

The Gospel of Mark 10: 46-52, tells the story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, who, upon hearing Christ was close cried out for Christ to heal him. Jesus feeling the man’s faith said to Bartimaeus "Go your way; your faith has made you well." Immediately the blind beggar received his sight and followed Jesus faithfully from that day forward.

The message is a simple one and yet so many today seem to look elsewhere for help in all things.

Our human nature is so fickle that, unless we witness a miracle, we begin to question the truth of Christ’s teachings.

This brings me to the warning issued by St Paul in his epistle. “Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

One of the tools the devil uses is to have us question the truth of Christ teachings and the reality of Almighty God.

We need to be diligent in our quest to attain eternal salvation through Christ every moment of every day.

Some of those who followed Christ suffered persecutions and death, like the patron Saints of our ministry Sergius & Bacchus, in the name of Christ but many others achieved Everlasting glory by living live of compassion and charity for the poor, aged and sick. The one common factor of all who achieved sainthood was a deep and abiding faith which included worship and prayer.

Next Sunday we celebrate the feast of All Saints. All the Saints not only believed in God and the teachings of Christ but they lived them out daily in their lives. God desires us to have that same level of trust and faith in God. Our road to toward Christ is a lot easier than the martyrs but more difficult because of our societies focus on self gratification and achieving wealth and status.

The blind beggar Bartimaeus believed and trusted in God and the ability of Christ to cure him of his blindness and if we truly believe and have complete trust and faith in God like Bartimaeus all things are possible.

St. Paul reminds us that we also have to be on guard against the temptations of Satan to abandon God and seek only pleasure. The best armor to protect us from Satan’s temptations on our road of life in these times of self satisfaction and self gratification, is prayer, the Eucharist, and Faith and trust in God.

God’s promised salvation for ALL His children who believe in Him and seek God’s help to live according to the teachings His beloved son Jesus Christ as given in the Sermon On The Mount and in the Great Commandment; “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, mind, soul and body and love your neighbor as you love yourself”

God is compassionate, merciful, forgiving and more loving than any human can ever be.

If we trust in God as the beggar in the gospel story did, God will provide us with what we ask if it is in our best interest and will help us to achieve everlasting life for all eternity.

The ultimate message to us is; with God, all things are possible, without God we are helpless and open to attacks from the devil. Christ told us; “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me.” (John 12:43-45) Let us go forth today committed to deepen our trust and faith in God and seek His guidance and strength to overcome temptations that we are faced with. Let us be more generous and compassionate toward those who are not as fortunate as we are. Let us accept each person we encounter as a brother or sister and extend to them the love. God gives to us. Let us always call to mind the words found in Matthew 7 :1-3 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I close with this prayer;

Almighty and merciful God, grant me wisdom and understanding and the courage to live according to your ways. Endow me with the gifts of your Holy Spirit so that I will be unto all I encounter a reflection of your beloved son, Jesus Christ. Assist me to be less judgmental of others but show the same compassion and love as Jesus did to all who approached Him. Open my heart to become more accepting of all and more generous with the gifts you have provided me with. I ask this in the name of my redeemer and savior, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit as one God now and forever. AMEN

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reflection for Sunday October 18 2009

Being True To God as His Servant
A Reflection for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Based on readings from Isaiah 53:10-11, Hebrews 4:14-16, Mark 10: 35-45
Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Reformed Catholic Church of New England

"You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."(
Mark 10:42-45)
These words from the Gospel of Saint Mark could not be any clearer but today so many who proclaim that they serve Almighty God do so by trying to appease and pander to the whims of humans beings and their political agendas, even so called followers of Jesus Christ.
St. Claude de la Colombriere, who was Canonized on 31 May 1992 by Pope John Paul II, wrote "Pious Reflections", "Meditations on the Passion", "Retreat and Spiritual Letters" and was the Spiritual director for Blessed Margaret Mary to whom Christ gave the instruction to promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
St. Claude was arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as a conspirator for preaching the way of Christ rather than those of the king. He wrote: “A strange and unhappy slavery is that of a man who seeks to please other men. I vow never to do anything nor to leave anything undone because of what people think. This will set up in me a great interior peace.”
The teachings of Jesus Christ have only show distain for sins of pride exhibited by the religious leaders of His time. He preached mercy, compassion and justice for ALL people. Christ was totally aware of the human condition and our weaknesses.
In the second reading from Hebrews we hear the following words: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who, in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Christ showed us his willingness to forgive our transgressions when He wrote “Let He who is without sin, cast the first stone” when the priests and others were about to stone the woman caught in adultery.
Today’s Gospel is an instruction to all God‘s children, especially those whom God has called to serve as ministers of the Gospel and the Eucharist.
We cannot judge who is and who is not worthy of the love of Almighty God.
We cannot by and allow injustice to be perpetrated against any of God’s children.
We need to be a servant to God’s children just as Christ demonstrated he was a servant when he girded himself and washed the feet of the Apostles. Christ admonished the priests of His time with these words; “My house is a house of prayer but you have made it into a den of thieves” and He took pity on those who the disciples tried to push away when they sought Healing from Christ and cured them.
We are not called to make judgments as to who gains everlasting life, that is the domain of Almighty God.
We who God called to serve as His servants on earth are to proclaim the truth of Christ’s teachings and to be there to supply human comfort, counseling, compassion and direction to those who are attempting to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
We are called to serve Christ by practicing the virtues of Charity, Patience, Fortitude, Forgiveness, Mercy and above all to see all we encounter as a child of God and respect them for how God created them even though they may be different than we are.
God created all things for a reason, His reason, not ours.
It is our responsibility to discern what He created things for and to use them properly according to that use.
We need to take care of all That God created. That means we need to insure that we do not destroy the environment with willful waste of our resources but use them wisely.
Being a servant of God is not an easy task as Christ let us know when He said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Blessed Charles de Foucald wrote a beautiful prayer entitledL: PRAYER OF ABANDONMENT in which he prayed:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this.
Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father. AMEN
We, who claim we love God and desire to please Him could all do well if we abandoned ourselves to serve Him as Blessed Charles did.
In Luke 16 we hear Christ tell us: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Man.”. Let us vow to serve God as best we can which means to love one another as Christ loved us. AMEN

Friday, October 9, 2009

YOU ARE ONE OF A KIND, A reflection for October 11 2009

You Are One Of A Kind

A Reflection for October 11, 2009

by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Reformed Catholic Church New England

When I was preaching a sermon on a recent Sunday one of the members of the Faith Community said to me, “You Are One of a kind” to which I replied “Is that a good thing or a bad thing”, they replied; “Very Good”.

Later I began to ponder on this exchange during the middle of my sermon which was on God’s infinite love for ALL His children. The more I pondered it the more I came to realize that indeed it is a wonderful thing that God has created each of us different.

We have unique genes which separates us from each other and from all the other members of our family. Our children are different from us in some unique way and not exactly a clone of us.

That is the wonder of God’s creation. No two things are exactly alike and for that reason we need to acknowledge and rejoice in that difference. This past week I attended a Spiritual Directors Workshop which centered on the universality of God. It asked us to find God in all things in the universe.

When we recognize the uniqueness of nature and the universe and the order of it all we can not but see the power of God.

In the first reading for this Sunday from Wisdom 7:7-11 we read the following; "I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than scepters and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand, and beside her silver ranks as mud. I loved her more than health or beauty, preferred her to the light, since her radiance never sleeps. In her company all good things came to me, at her hands riches not to be numbered."

The first Reading from Hebrews 4:12-13 says; "The word of God is something alive and active. "

God is alive and in every thing that exists, all things are brought into existence by and through God and all are different.

Just imagine how dull and uninteresting this world would be if every person looked and acted exactly like the other, if every flower was the exactly the same, smelled and looked and the same color. Every day was exactly like the day before. Think about the film GROUNDHOG DAY were Phil (Bill Murray) keeps repeating the same thing day after day.

God, in His wisdom knows how bored we humans can get when our lives become dull.

He also knew that without diversity we would not have developed and grown as we have but would have remained the same as the day Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden for succumbing to the temptations of Satan.

If every person were a genius in the same field we would not have the scientific advancements we have achieved. Our world would have remained as it was 13.7 Billion years ago when God brought it into being.

God gave every person uniqueness and special gifts, as we are reminded in Romans 12:4-11 “For, as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office; thus we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and each one members one with the other. But having different gifts, according to the grace which has been given to you” and again in First Corinthians 12 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things.... and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

God, who is perfection, created people different for reasons only He knows. God had a purpose for all things that he created and continues to create as this universe expands.

We need to respect not only every human person but all of God’s creation for we are all united together with each other and all that is a part of the universe. God is found in all things, even those we consider bad, if we look for God in all things.

We have no right to question God, who is perfection, but we need to be grateful that God did create us with diversity and difference. We need to glorify god for the differences He has created and not exclude anyone because they do not conform to our idea of what people should be.

We need to use God’s gifts to lift up those who are disheartened and always remember the words found in Matthew 7:10-12; “If you, then, though you are Imperfect, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”(Matthew 7:10-12) AMEN

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Reflection For the Feast of St. Francis

Peace Be With You
A Reflection for the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy
Reformed Catholic Church New England

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love."
These words from the peace prayer of Saint Francis could not be more poignant today than at the time they were first attributed to our seraphic Father, Saint Francis of Assisi whose feast day is Sunday the 4th of October.
This year we not only honor the Seraphic Father of all Franciscan orders around the world but the 800th anniversary of the approval of the Rule of St. Francis by which we all live.
There are Franciscans in the Anglican, Roman, Reformed and Old Catholic traditions.
While watching the film of the life of Saint Francis I was reminded of a another film THE GROUND TRUTH which depicts the horrors that our men and women who fight in wars face on return.
Like the young men and women of today in that film who went off to fight for their country in the belief that they were doing the right thing after 9/11, St. Francis had gone off to fight for his state and became very sick and in that sickness saw a vision of Christ. He came to the realization that war was not an answer.
Francis came back to denounce all violence and the corrupt and excessive ways of the world.
He rejected all the fineries and luxuries of the world for the simple life.
Francis then went on to restore a sense of God’s infinite mercy and love and the message of Christ peace into the world and the church of his time.
He lived off the generosity of others and on what he received for his labor, in fact it is a part of his rule that all Franciscans work for their basic needs and beg for things to continue their service to Almighty God.
After watching the film on St. Francis I revisited the film THE GROUND TRUTH, which depicts the effect war has had on the innocent youth of our nation who volunteered to serve their country in the belief that they were doing their patriotic duty after the terrible events of 9/11. The film is told in their words and the words of the parents who lost their children. Most of those in the film feel abandoned by their country especially after their child gave the ultimate sacrifice.
THE GROUND TRUTH, is a film that every person in the world should see. It will open your mind just a powerfully as the vision of Christ did for Saint Francis.
The toll of war is one that society lives with for centuries to come and if it is not addressed today by all of us it will continue to take a toll on our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
I am also reminded of the song I used to sing with my students LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH written by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson in 1955 another time of an uncertain and questionable war. It has the following words; "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me, Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, brothers all are we, Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.”
I urge everyone, on this feast of St. Francis, to think seriously about how war and greed are destroying lives and ask yourselves what you might be able to do to bring about changes.
Ask yourself if the consequences of war are worth the toll that is taking on our future generations.
There has got to be a better way as Saint Francis concluded and just possibly, He and Almighty God are trying to tell us the same thing on this the day we celebrate his life and the 800th anniversary of the approval of the Rule All Franciscan orders live by.
Let us all say aloud the words of Christ found in John 14:27, "Peace be with you .my peace be unto you" (Luke 24:36) and call to mind the directions given in Psalm 34:14, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” And from Jeremiah 28:9 “But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true."
I end with the words from Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” and the words of Christ from the sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be known as the Children of God.”
May the spirit of Saint Francis and His desire to bring the peace of Christ into everyone’s heart and soul fill us with that desire and draw us to action in achieving true and lasting peace among all God’s children.