Friday, December 25, 2009

Holy Family Reflection

Feast of Holy Family

A Reflection by Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD

Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

In his homily for the feast of The Holy Family Father Thomas Rosica, CSB of Toronto begins this way; “In the afterglow of Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. This weekend we are invited to reflect on the gift and mystery of life and the blessing of family life in particular. In Luke's Gospel we read the story of how Christ astounded the priests of the Temple when he was but a young boy. He had stayed behind after Joseph and Mary left to return home. When they discovered Jesus missing from the caravan, they returned to the templeto find him with the chief priests who were astounded by His knowledge. (Luke 2:41-52).

The reading from Colossians 3:12-17 instructs us with these words; “You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful. Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I agree with Father Rosica that the readings do raise several questions for us and I believe them to be these; how are we, as followers of Christ’s teachings living those teachings? How do we treat those children of God that we encounter daily on our life journey? Do we discriminate against some of God’s children because we feel they do not conform to our way of life, are a different color, race, nationality or sexual orientation than we are?

That word made flesh, the light of the world, was Jesus Christ and he made it quite clear as to how we should live our lives in order to please the Father/Creator who sent him. We needed to; “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, body and soul and love your neighbor as you love yourself” “Love one another as I have loved you” was what Christ taught us and he also made it quite clear exactly who our neighbor was in His parable of THE GOOD SAMARATON. Our neighbor is everyone on the planet regardless of race, nationality, sexual orientation, married or single.

If we are to be true followers of Christ we need to treat all people alike and treat them with dignity and respect. We need to stop aggression and greed. We need to put an end to poverty and care for the sick, aged, and poor.

We need to educate all the children of the world and proclaim and acknowledge God by what ever name. Every person in this world is a part of the Family of God.

The Holy Family is the example of how families should be. Mary was the Theotokos, (God bearer) Joseph the descendant of David and earthly father of the Christ child was a faithful follower of the Jewish faith and a firm believer in the creator/God and accepted God’s will even though he knew he might be scorned for having “sired” a child without being married to Mary. Joseph heeded the messengers of God who came to him twice without question but with faith.

As the words in that wonderful Sister Sledge song WE ARE FAMILY say; “We are family I got all my sisters and brothers with me. We are family …. Have faith in you and the things you do. You won't go wrong.

On this feast of the Holy Family let us realize that we, every man, woman and child on the face of the earth is a part of the family of God. Let us strive to live together in harmony and peace. Let us seek ways to end injustice, poverty, homelessness, addiction, war and begin to care for one another as Christ cared for all He encountered.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas 2009 Reflection

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD,

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Based on the Scriptural Readings for vigil Masses Midnight and and Christmas Day 2009

These words of the well know Christmas Carol written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing” could not express the feeling we all should be having this blessed day nor the mission we have been called to live by the birth of this infant child called Jesus of Nazareth.

On Christmas day there are three sets of readings, one for the Midnight Mass, another for the mass at dawn and the third for the later mass of the day. There is also a special reading for vigil masses held earlier in the evening of December 24th.

When you combine them all they provide us with the very powerful truth and reason for living according to God‘s will.

John 1 begins with these words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

These words remind us that Christ came from God, and is God and that He took on the human form in the same manner as every other human being ever born or to be born, as an infant. He came into this world in the same way as well, being born of a woman.

Let us try to understand the darkness that seems to encompass so many today.

I believe that God chose this way in order to let us know that we are all created in His image and we all have a job do to in this world for God.

God has given us free choice therefore we can not accept the job He wishes us to do if that is our choice.

There is so much symbolism in the miracle of Christmas. God chose simple people, not the rich and famous. Christ was born in a poor stable filled with the animals of the farmers and travelers.

The announcement of Christ’s birth was not to the great and mighty or the High priests but to simple shepherds. God did this to let us know that he calls everyone not just the rich and famous.

Didn’t Christ say “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-25

The readings also provide us with the purpose of Christ’s coming to earth; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus”. We are called to live sensibly, to be generous, kind, and not to discriminate. Somehow that message seems to be lost on many people today.

Everywhere we hear of news of people who steal, rape, murder and let us not forget wage wars all in search of money, power and domination at the expense of others.

We are supposed to be the caretakers of God’s creation but many do not take that God given responsibility seriously.

We have been charged by God to care for this planet earth and all God’s creatures yet we are destroying the ecosystem that God created because it is cheaper and more profitable than using alternative energies that are possible.

“Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and encourage and reprimand all authorities. Let no one take no notice of you.” Titus 2:11-15

Jesus told us the way we should live and that message was “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul and body and love your neighbor as you love yourself”

God so loved the world that He gave His only son to us. There is no greater gift anyone could ever receive so what gift are we giving God on this His birthday?

The perfect gift would be to be kind, considerate, loving, caring, forgiving, charitable, and respectful of the differences that God has created in all things. We might worship God more and talk with him which is called praying.

The reading from Hebrews lets us know that even the angels are to worship Christ and that His kingdom will last forever.

"Let all God's angels worship him. In speaking of the angels he says, He makes his angels winds,

his servants flames of fire. But about the Son he says, Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,

and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Hebrews 1:6-9

On this Christmas day of 2009 let us follow the directions of the angels who announced the Good News to the shepherds watching their flocks. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

Let us try to be persons God will be pleased, so that we can fully enjoy the peace and joy the birth of God’s son celebrated this day.

Let us return God’s gift to us by being more tolerant of the differences in others, charitable in giving to organizations and people in need. Let us be concerned about the homeless, sick, poor, aged and disabled of the world.

Let us speak out against injustice, war, and greed. In short, let us make a difference in the world and make it a better place tomorrow than it is today.

By doing this we will affirm that indeed there is “Joy in the world because the Lord has come and instilled in us His way so that we have become His instrument here on earth to bring about the promised peace of Christ.”

May the promise of Christmas fill you with comfort and peace and may that peace be extended from you to all you encounter.

Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus

All Materials are copywriten (c) Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

4th Sunday of Advent Reflection

4th Sunday of Advent Reflection

By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
"Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled" these words from the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent 2009 indicate how powerful the child in the womb of Mary was. We must remember that Mary accepted the will of the Lord in spite of the possibility that in doing so she could be stoned to death.
How accepting are we of God’s will? That is the lesson and the question we need to examine this last Sunday before we celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The preacher of the Pontifical Household has urged the faithful to follow the example of Mary and give birth to Christ this Christmas. Not physically, of course, but spiritually.
We are reminded of the words of St. Francis concerning the birth of Christ; “We give birth to him through holy works, which should shine forth as an example for others. How holy and dear, pleasant, humble, peaceful, lovable and desirable above all things it is to have such a brother and such a son, our Lord Jesus Christ!”
As we go through life often times we are faced with problems or trials that we would rather not have to deal with. I find that some of life’s most difficult times are lessons sent by God to lead us toward the place he desires us to be or tests like those Job had to endure as proof of His complete trust and love of God.
Saint. Francis is telling us that when we love God with a sincere heart we give birth to Christ spiritually especially when we accomplish deeds that manifest Christ’s teachings to the world.
What would have happened, I wonder, if Mary had told Gabriel “You have got to be kidding! You want mew to bring forth a child without being married?” “No Way!” “I could get stoned to death as a harlot”
Jesus Christ came to this earth to enlighten us and to be the light that would lead us to the path that would achieve everlasting life. Christ came to teach us the truth of God’s teachings and will and to rebuke all the man made rules and regulations that had been imposed over the years..
Christ came to give us the keys to open the doors to heaven for all who desire to follow the path He taught us. The path of Christ is a simple one; “Love God with all our being and love each other as Christ loved us” Christ loved us enough to die for us. There is no greater love than that.
Mary’s acceptance of God’s will was the first step in our redemption. If she had refused Christ would not have been born and the prophets fulfillment would not have happened which means we would not be celebrating Christmas this coming Friday.
Let us attempt to follow Mary’s complete trust in God and accept His will for us.
Let us learn to be happy with How God created us and to accept others as God created them.
Let us give each other the gifts of brotherly/sisterly love and diligently try to bring about a time of justice, equality, truthfulness and fairness to every individual on the face of the earth since we all are children of God no matter what nationality or religious denomination.
This Christmas let us renew our efforts to bring about a time of peace and justice to all. Let us dig down and support those who are in need.
Let’s support those charities that are trying to help others. Let us make time for God a major focal point in our daily schedule. Let us place our complete faith and trust in God as May did and tell God “Not our will but your will be done unto us according to your word” AMEN

May God's infinite love and blessings fill you with comfort and peace, this coming Holiday Season. May you have an abundance of joy, love, peace and good will for you your family and friends.
Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus
Franciscans of Divine Mercy
All Materials are copywriten (c) Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mary, A Lesson on Trusting in God

Mary, A Lesson on Trusting In God

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD,

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy


The Feast of The Immaculate Conception celebrates Our Lady‘s complete trust in Almighty God. We celebrate God’s greatest gift to humankind, His beloved son Jesus Christ, and the fact that God decided that Mary would be free of original sin that the rest of humankind is prone to so that she would be a pure vessel for Christ to be conceived in by the Holy Spirit and nurtured to human life for nine months.

When the Angel Gabriel, informed her that God had chosen her to bear the promised of the ages with these words "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:29-35. Mary asked; “How can this be, for I know not man?. "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

This fulfilled the promise from God when He drove Satan from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:14-16 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” and in Isaiah 11: 1: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse: from his roots a branch will bear fruit.”.

What faith in God Mary must have had to accept this message. After all, the punishment for having a sexual relation without being married was to be stoned to death as an adulteress.

Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message was “Let it be done to me according to God’s will” Luke 1:38

In our daily live we are often faced with challenges or situations where we have great apprehension do we respond to them with “Let it be done to me according to God’s will” as Mary did or do we gross and complain because things are difficult.?

What went through Our Blessed Mothers mind when Simeon told her "A sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2: 34-35 I think if I had been told this, I would run away rather than face a future filled with suffering.

Mary was an example on how we should respond to the challenges God sends us because, as we have seen from how this story turned out, God will also give us the tools to deal with the problems he sends.

Mary placed her trust in the message of Gabriel as we should also in our life. We need to seek God in prayer and putting our trust in God will for us.

When we we do this we come through our difficulties alright.

Even Jesus, when faced with what was about to happen after His entry into Jerusalem cried out to God "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Matthew 26:41-43

On Dec. 8th, 1957 I could not fall asleep because of thoughts flashing through my mind, I finally got up and wrote down what I was thinking and went to fall into a peaceful and deep sleep. Upon awakening the following day I noticed a paper with writing on it. After reading it I thought, “My mother will like this” and mailed it off to her. 30 years later, after mom passed on, I found the original paper I had written that night. I end this reflection with the words I wrote that Dec. 8th 1957 which I have called A Sinners Prayer.


Written in 1957 By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

O, Mary Immaculate, virgin so fair, mother of Our Savior, please hear my prayer.

Intercede, dearest mother, to your heavenly son.

Tell Him I am truly sorry for all the wrongs and sins I have done.

Ask Him to guide me, by the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit, in all of my ways

So that I might give Him honor, glory and praise with all the Heavenly elect when I come to the end of my earthly days. AMEN

Friday, December 4, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent Reflection

A Time of Preparing, A Reflection for Second Sunday of Advent 2009

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD, Pastor Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday and I personally believe that it is a very appropriate name but not for the reasons that it was coined. I feel it is appropriate because it begins a time when people are more concerned with the commercial aspects of Christmas rather than the true meaning of the word. Christmas is really a conjunction of Christ and Mass

The word Christmas comes from "Cristes Maesse", an early English phrase that means "Mass of Christ and the word "Mass" in religious usage means a "death sacrifice." The first recorded celebration of the birth of Christ was about 200 AD and the choice of the date was more to placate pagans and have a celebration that coincided with the Winter Solstice.

Christmas is really the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ who would become the ultimate and final sacrifice.

What is missing these days is the reason for Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ who became the ultimate sacrifice or “Mass” for the forgiveness of our sins and to open the doors of heaven to all people.

Today we find most people are centered on shopping for the perfect Christmas gift, decorating their home with lights and trimming, and planning parties. The season of Advent is supposed to be a time when Christians focus on the promises Christ made to us and examine themselves as to how they are living in accord with the guidelines Christ gave us.

The word Advent comes from the Latin “Adventus” which means coming or arrival.

The Aramaic word is “Marantha” which means “The Lord Cometh”. So, in essence, it means to look forward to the Coming of our Savior. The word also has roots from the Latin “Ad” meaning to or toward and “Veni” meaning to come.

The season is one of expectation and anticipation of something that is to happen in the future.

The Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Advent has the foretelling words of the Prophet Isaiah “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

The redeemer promised by Isaiah would be one that made all things right by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of humans. Because of Christ’s sacrifice we have the ability to have our sins (mistakes) forgiven and we have the right to the ultimate gift from God, eternal life.

My question is; “Are we living our lives “Semper Paratus” (Always Ready)- the Coast Guard's motto?

When Christ was asked when the He will come to claim His kingdom. His answer was “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father” (MATTHEW 24:35-37)

If we never know when we will have to face the Lord isn’t it wise to always be prepared?

All around us today we see the forces of evil using the same tools that Satan used from the beginning of time to challenge God‘s dominion. Satan tempted Adam and Eve with it "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (GENESIS 3:4-6).

The Devil even tempted Christ “the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (MATTHEW 4:8-9)

Satan’s tool of temptation is “GREED“, The desire for power, fame, wealth and superiority.

Just this last week we saw two people sneak into a State Dinner so that they could mingle with the rich and famous and get publicity.

Every ad for Black Friday has featured luxury things that one can have but no where did I see ads for feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick or being a companion to the lonely and aged.

People want to accumulate more wealth, far in excess of what they need for everyday needs, because it is perceived as success. Even some Religious Institutions have compromised the basic teachings of Jesus Christ in order to attain power and wealth.

Children are starving and dying all over the world because of poverty and wars while millions of food is wasted and thrown in the garbage and trillions of dollars are spent to wage war.

The time is now for us to begin to place Christ at the center of our lives, to put the real meaning of Christmas back into the holiday for without CHRIST there is no Christmas.

Let us truly prepare ourselves by asking God for forgiveness of our failure to live according to His teachings. Let us be more mindful of the needs of others by contributing to charitable organizations and return a portion of God’s gifts to us by supporting ministries that proclaim Christ’s message of infinite and everlasting mercy, forgiveness and love for all His children. I leave you with the following prayer.

An Advent Prayer

Come, long expected Jesus. Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive my prayer as a part of my service of the Lord who enlists me in God’s work for justice.

Come, long expected Jesus. Excite in me a joyful response to the Father’s joy. I seek His will so I can serve Him with gladness and love.

Come, long expected Jesus. Excite in me the love and peace that is a rightful gift to bring to the manger of Our Savior. Raise in me an honest reverence for God and a honest gratitude for His gift of His son to the world.

Come, Long expected Jesus. Fill me with your peace and guide me in my service to you as I attempt to live according to your teaching.

Come, Long expected Jesus. Strengthen me so that I may be your instrument of bringing peace and harmony to all I encounter on my daily journey through life.

I ask these things in your name Jesus as you live and reign with the Father, Almighty God, and the Holy Spirit as one God, now and forever unto the ages of ages. AMEN


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All Materials are copywriten (c) Franciscans of Divine Mercy