Friday, January 21, 2011

Sunday January 23rd Reflection

How would You Answer Christ‘s Call?

A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2011

BY Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD Mission Sts. Sergius and Bacchus/ Divine Mercy Parish

Based on Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3, 1 Corinthians 1:10 - 17, Matthew 4:12 - 23

Today’s Gospel is the story of Christ calling the first apostles to follow him and how they dropped everything on the spot to do so. It had me wonder firstly on how I, or any one in this the twenty first Century would respond to Christ’s call and secondly what was it about Christ that common men left everything to follow a very poor carpenter. A hint might be found in the words of the prophet Isaiah from the first reading for this Sunday “in days to come he will confer glory on the Way of the Sea on the far side of Jordan, province of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.”; and from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that explains what Christ was teaching those first followers and continues to call us to do. “I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice.”

The Gospel story tells us ;“From that moment, Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’. …‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’…He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.”

Repeatedly, week after week, we hear how Christ fulfilled all the prophecies that foretold of the coming of the messiah, this week is no different. The prophet Isaiah refers to the one to come, Christ, as “a great light” one that will bring those who walk in darkness into the light.”

Christ did indeed bring light into a world full of darkness and gloom, not unlike the world we live in today.

In order for that light to break through Christ had to take on the pain and suffering of rejection and doubt and ultimately die the ignominious death of a criminal on the cross just so we could achieve the forgiveness of our sins and transgressions and have the opportunity to gain eternal life free of pain and suffering.

Christ began by exhorting all to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”

Today, in a world where there is more emphasis on worldly things and less emphasis on living according to the teachings of Christ and giving God a portion of our daily time, we need to reflect on what Christ brought to us and how he instructed us to live.

The light that Christ brought wiped away the darkness that enveloped the world by showing us that Love of God and love and respect of each other and all God created was the way to live.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians could also be speaking to those of us who live in the world today “I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice.”

Over the centuries that divides us from the time of Christ to this twenty first century there have been many changes made to the words of Christ. Man has taken the simple message of Love, charity, Compassion, and forgiveness that Christ preached and added changes including, the correct language to use, the best was to worship God, who you have to obey, and who can and who can not consider themselves worthy to call on God and Worship him.

Through the years these man made rules and regulations have divided the Church that the apostles formed based on the teachings of Christ.

Many of the disagreements that have split the Universal church apart have little to do with Christ’s teachings but who is in control and sadly, obtaining power, wealth and often a life of luxury.

In my opinion events of recent years like speaking out in favor of a return to allowing married priests and the ordination of women as deacons, as they were in the time of Paul or possibly to allow properly trained women to be elevated to the Order of Presbyter. Is The Holy Spirit attempting to awaken us to greater possibilities of serving God and his ever enlarging flock.

There are so many people who are hearing the call “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people” but are being denied that opportunity because they are married or are women.

In their attempts to heed the call of Christ and God they turn to other denominations that have examined the history of the church past and even recent events in Europe and realized that many of above rules and rites like same sex Holy Unions did exist in the early church and in recent times married men from Anglican and Lutheran churches have been received into the Roman church and in a rare case, I grant you, in the 1970's Ludmilla Javorova and several other Czech were women ordained in the Roman Catholic Church to serve needs of women imprisoned by Communists in the belief the Communists would not suspect the women were Catholic priests.

Virtually all Protestant denominations, as well as the reformed Jews, have women serving as priests, ministers, or rabbis.

The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism acknowledges the action of the Holy Spirit in other denominations (Ch. 1, Art. 3); and states "Whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brothers and sisters can contribute to our own edification." (Ch. 1, Art. 4).

It would seem that Catholicism has something to learn in our journey toward true ecumenism.

With so much dissention and strife in this world, with poverty, hunger, and war claiming so many lives we need to return to the ways Christ instructed.

We need to let His light illuminate the road we will travel, and use the truth of His teachings as our roadmap to bringing about a time of brotherly love and Christian unity.

Only by eliminating those man made regulations that have divided the Christian Faith will we will again gather together as one united faith community in service to the God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and be living out the great commandments proclaimed by Christ “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself".

We begin by accepting ourselves as God made us and accepting the diversity that God created for purposes know to Him alone. e are all children of God, Jew or Gentile, Greek, Italian, Irish, Spanish or German, all are created by God and are His children, let us respect each other and love each other as Christ instructed.

Let us not shut out the light that Christ brought to the world but let us allow the Holy Spirit, the enlightener, to open us up to think beyond the status quo and realize that Christ challenged the norm of His day so we may well have to challenge the norms of today.

Let us actively seek to find ways to, as St Paul advised to the Corinthians, “make up the differences that separate us”, and seek a way of unifying the entire Mystical Body of Christ.

I close this reflection with the words of Pope Benedict XVI who ended his statement this week on Ecumenism with these words “May his example (St. Paul’s) be an encouragement for everyone to accept the Word of salvation and to translate it into daily life, in faithful discipleship of Christ."


Divine Mercy Parish is a Faith Community of the North American Old Catholic Church Franciscans of Divine Mercy.
Pax E Bonum, Peace and all Good.

Recalling Padre Pio's most famous words: "Pray, Hope and don't worry"!

I remain a humble Servant of God,
Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius
Divine Mercy Old Catholic Parish
Franklin, MA