Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reflection for Easter 2011

Be Not Afraid, He is Risen

An Easter Reflection by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus

Alleluia, Alleluia “This is the Day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24). “Do not be Afraid, You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, He is not here, He has risen” (Mark 16:6). “Why do you search for the living among the Dead” (Luke24: 5 ) “He is not here, He has been raised, exactly as He had promised” (Matthew 28:6).

These words taken from the four gospels telling of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ should have special meaning for us and fill us with hope and trust in God.

The first phrase, one that I especially love and keep deep in my heart, is “Do Not Be Afraid” simply put, if you have faith in God and the truly believe the promises of Jesus Christ, there is nothing in life that you need to be afraid of. By placing your trust in the will of God and believing that everything in life has a God given purpose, even the dissention that causes separation, bickering, and the power seeking of all those who profess to be followers of Christ.

In these days where division seems to be all around us in government and even faith communities we need to seek out what the root cause of it is. At the heart of most of the discourse is the desire for power, control and most of all, MONEY.

How foolish are we mere mortals, we allow our pride, greed and envy to cloud our eyes so that we forget the message proclaimed by Jesus through His resurrection. The message that with God, all things can be conquered, even death. We also seem to conveniently forget what Christ has taught us by His life, words and deeds. “Love one another as I have loved You”

Christ proved His love for us in the ultimate way, by willingly accepting death, not just any death, but the ignominious death of crucifixion. What greater love can a person have but to be willing to give up their own life for another.

Christ not only conquered death, he conquered our sins because by His overcoming death and with His resurrection he brought us forgiveness for our weaknesses and gained for us the promise of everlasting life.

Jesus came to us from Almighty God to be a “Rabbouni” teacher to us. He came to teach us the way to our own salvation and glory. The sad thing is, all too often, we are either not willing to truly hear the teachings of Christ or if we do hear them we choose not to follow them because they are inconvenient for us.

All the proclamations of Halleluiah, all the prayers, all the ceremonial trappings and fancy vestments are for naught if we do not follow them through with actions. If we do not assist the poor and needy, speak out against injustice and discrimination and share our gifts with those who are less fortunate. We need to affirm, as Mary Magdalene did when she proclaimed “Rabbouni” that Jesus was the teacher and we learned His lessons and follow them.

Jesus was, is still, and always will be the head of the church. He is still directing those who believe through the Holy Spirit, “the giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the son. With the Father and the son, is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets.” (Nicene Creed)

He speaks to each and every one of us who desire to know His truth and seek it out. He does not just speak to the hierarchy but to all who, through Baptism, have been called to “priesthood” not just those who have been consecrated as “Presbyters”.

Each and every person who has been born again in Baptism need to open their own hearts and minds to listen for the voice of God speaking within us and judge how what we are feeling and hearing complies with what Christ taught us in not only His words but by His actions.

We need to acknowledge Christ by seeking the truth as found in His teachings. We need to act in our daily lives in the manner that Jesus instructed us.

“Why do you search for the living (Jesus) among the dead? “He has been raised, exactly as He promised”

Jesus is alive; he is alive in the hearts and souls of all those who have been reborn through Baptism and who faithfully live according to His instructions. Christ is alive in every person who partakes of the “living Bread” he gave us in the Eucharist.

He gave himself to us, died for us and rose from the dead to conquer forever death from sin. Jesus taught us the way in order for us to know how to carry on His work here on earth while he and the Father watch over us.

On this Easter day, we need to believe and accept God’s will as taught by Christ in words, deed and actions and emulate them in our life.

On this glorious day when we celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Let each of us who believe in Him and accept the call to “Come Follow Me” (Luke 18:22) work together to bring all who believe in the message and teachings of Christ together. Each and every one of us needs to make a concerted effort to repair the breaches that have torn us apart into separate factions, usually over some man made regulations that were instituted for the purpose of gaining control, power or political gain and which have nothing to do with God‘s will.

There is only one God. There was only one Jesus Christ. Christ, though His Apostles established one church, one faith.

It was not until that church, for political gain under Constantine, began to selectively pick and choose the teaching that fit their agenda and objectives that separation began and culminated when one Bishop decided that He, and only He was infallible and those who were supposed to be his equals were now subservient to him.

Every Baptized Christian is called to be God’s servants, His disciples.

All of us are called to live our faith and the teachings of Christ in our thoughts, words, and actions and not just by giving lip service.

We need to not only talk the talk but we need to Walk the walk.

Those of us who have been called to be shepherds and presbyters of His flock need find ways to work together with one voice just as Jesus spoke with one voice.

We need to stop the name calling and jockeying for power and financial gain and come together in unity with one message, the message that Christ claimed was the two greatest commandments, “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, mind, soul and body and the second is like unto it, Love your neighbor as you love yourself”

By living that way when we proclaim, “Alleluia, Alleluia, This is the Day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be Glad, Jesus Christ has risen, Jesus is alive. Alleluia, Alleluia.” on Easter Sunday morning we are saying that Jesus lives today in each of us and we are attempting to live in accord with His teachings every day.

Let us pray; “Give praise to the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever. Alleluia, Alleluia. Send down Your spirit of love upon us and through your goodness make us of one mind who you have bless with the Paschal Sacrament. All glory honor and praise be yours, now and forever. AMEN.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Reflection on The Entombed Christ

Holy Saturday Reflection

The Day of The Tomb

A Reflection for Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus/Franciscans of Divine Mercy

"We Adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the World" these words we say during the Stations of the Cross are a powerful affirmation of what this entire Lenten season is all about. Without Christ's death, we would not have the gift of redemption. When Jesus went to the cross, he did so willingly. He knew that he was taking all the sins of the world with him. That by the shedding of His blood, Christ made peace by reconciling everything with God according to Saint Paul. By Christ's death, a new light was brought to all men.

Today is commonly called Holy Saturday for many reasons the most obvious one is that it comes at the end of Holy Week. Holy Saturday in Latin is, Sabbatum Sanctum, which means the "Day of the entombed Christ" because it is the day Christ's body lay in His tomb. We reference it in the Apostle's Creed when we say "He descended unto the dead."

Holy Saturday is a day of suspense between two worlds, that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection and the restoration of the Light of the World through Christ's rising from the dead through which we gained everlasting live because when he rose we overcome our death by sin.

Because of this reason no masses are held until the Easter Vigil begins that evening.

At Nightfall on Holy Saturday the Easter Vigil service or, Great Service of Light begins and it is a time of expectation as well as joy. The Easter Vigil Liturgy was restored to the liturgy in 1955, during the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.

The Sacred Liturgy of the Easter Vigil signifies Christ's passage from the dead to living and it begins in darkness (sin, death) and is enlightened by the new fire and the candle representing Lumen Christi - the Light of Christ or the Paschal Candle. The Candle signifies The light of Christ's Truth by which the Mystical Body of Christ, the community of believers, is led from spiritual darkness to the light of God's truth.

Christ's baptism, which our own baptism imitates, is represented during the liturgy by the blessing of the water of baptism by immersing ("burying") the candle representing His Body into the font

During the liturgy we recall God's sparing of the Hebrews whose doors were marked with the blood of the lamb; when we are sprinkled with the blessed water by which we were cleansed from original sin through Christ's sacrifice, and we repeat our baptismal vows, renouncing Satan and all his works.

When a parish has people who had not been baptized as children or Confirmed and who had gone through the preparation period known as RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation of Adults) The entire faith community will be present as they are Baptized and/or Confirmed. This year our Faith Community of St. Joseph Cupertino in Fall River Massachusetts will be welcoming into the Mystical Body of Christ, The Church, 6 persons and I am pleased I will be a part of that glorious celebration as a co-celebrant.

The Easter Vigil Mass rejoices at Christ's bodily resurrection from the darkness of the tomb; and we pray for our passage from death into eternal life, from sin into grace from the anguish of the Cross to complete peace and infinite mercy and love of God, and from this sinful world unto the everlasting live with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and all the heavenly elect in heaven.

The Sacred Liturgy of the Easter Vigil celebrates Christ's offering himself up as the sacrificial lamb on the cross through which we gained the promise of everlasting life. Without the cross, the tree that gave us the promise of everlasting life, we would still be floundering around in the darkness of sin and confusion.

The triumph of Christ is not something of the past, it is a living thing. It is something we are called to live every day.

When we are faced with oppression, illness, rejection, alienation we need to recall that all these were faced by Jesus Christ. By his life and death, Christ made holy every aspect of the human experience. We need to look upon our lives and live them with that in mind.

Our lives are holy, they are holy if we are willing to work hard to live by the example Christ gave us.

Christ spoke out against injustice, Christ welcomed the outcast, Christ challenged the unjust rules and regulations of His time and we are called to do all of the same.

The cross is a symbol of Christ's triumph and this Paschal Season is our liturgical means of participating in Christ's gift of redemption.

Our challenge is to live by the lessons Christ gave us every day of every year.

Let us then celebrate Christ's willingness to suffer the indignities of the passion and a criminal's death on the cross, which brought us the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation and make it ours by being faithful to Him and carrying our crosses proudly for all the world to see by our actions and daily life.

In today's society there are many crosses being offered for us to take up.

Can we carry the cross of speaking out against injustice even though it may bring us scorn and reproach by friends and family?

Can we speak out against acts of discrimination and bigotry even though by doing so we may find ourselves in the minority?

Do we have what it takes to allow ourselves to be stripped of all our pretensions and allow the world to see our true selves?

Can we give of ourselves enough to be of assistance to those who are not able to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves?

All these are things that require us to give of ourselves and deny ourselves of being comfortable with the status quo.

Let us not only renew our Baptismal vows but let's promise to be work harder every day to live our life in accord with Christ's teaching to Love God with all our heart, mind, soul and body and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves which means we become more mindful of the needs of others and not just our own needs. AMEN

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Palm Sunday Reflection

Palm Sunday 2011

A Reflection for Palm Sunday by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Divine Mercy Franciscans

Divine Mercy Parish, Franklin, MA

Today we celebrate Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem but we must keep in mind it marks the beginning of the week that details the suffering that Christ was willing to endure so we could have forgiveness of our sins and achieve everlasting life with God and all the heavenly elect.

The week highlights what Christ was willing to GIVE UP in order for us to receive forgiveness of our sins.

For this reason throughout all of the history of the church the faithful have been asked to GIVE UP some of the comforts and luxuries that make our lives pleasurable.

As a Franciscan I and the members of our Divine Mercy Franciscans follow the rule of St. Francis who is most often shown surrounded by animals not just because he respected all of God’s creatures but because they reminded him of Christ’s teaching found in Matthew 6 :26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

St. Francis saw in animals a vision of the poverty of God, a freedom for life not dependent on possessions, a freedom that lives by giving and receiving, rather than by possessing.

The hallmark of St. Francis’ commitment to life with and for the poor is the practice of voluntary begging. Voluntary begging, for Francis, is the act of intentionally and publically relying on the charity of others for the sake of one’s livelihood and a means of caring for those who are in need because of illness, age, poverty and homelessness.

Item one of the Rule of St. Francis it states “This is the rule and way of living of the brothers: namely to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, without personal possessions”, and Item 6 it states “The brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house, nor a place, nor anything; but as pilgrims and strangers in this world, in poverty and humility serving God, they shall confidently go seeking for alms. Nor need they be ashamed, for the Lord became poor for us in this world even to giving up His earthly live in order for us to gain forgiveness of our sins and achieve everlasting life with God and all the heavenly elect. .”

On this Palm Sunday and the final week of Lent called Holy Week this reflection will talk about specific ways we can practice self-denial to and in a small way participate in a very small way in the suffering that Christ endured during his week of passion.

It is so easy for us to be attracted to material riches and the creature comforts they often provide but to be true followers of Christ we need to make a categorical decision not to let them become an idol we honor more than we honor God.

One way we can overcome this constant temptation and respond to our neighbor's needs by share with others what God in His generosity has given to us or allowed us to earn is to make a donation of the cost of what we give up to a charity or your faith community so they can help others as St. Francis instructs in his rule item 6.

Saint Paul, in Romans 15:25-27 speaks of the collection for the Faith Community of Jerusalem which tells us that even in the early church the work of proclaiming the Good News of Salvation required all the faithful to participate and care for each other. It is no different today.

A Faith Community is only as successful as how many of the community get involved in doing the work of God by providing the means to do it.

There is no better way for us to show our intercommunion and fellowship with the Body of Christ than to “Do unto others as we would have done unto us.” (John 15:13)

All over the world ministries and churches are having difficulty meeting the basic needs of their faith communities. Even here in the United States many faith Communities have difficulty because of and the sluggish economy meeting the weekly operating expenses let alone fulfilling the food, shelter, and other services the poor, aged and sick of their area need due to high unemployment.

I hear the same story from pastors all over this country how they are struggling and having difficulties because collections and donations have dropped drastically

Recently a Boston Globe story reported that the average per person weekly income of the Greater Boston are is $1000 (One Thousand Dollars) a week. Considering that there are many who do not receive even $250 a week, I have to wonder what others must be making for the average to be that high and how those on the high end of the wage scale are helping those at the bottom.

The average weekly salary in the area is more than I receive to live on for a whole month and I use some of my income to support the needs of our ministry.

If everyone reading or listening to this reflection would just give the cost of a daily cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks for the week to their Church the result would make a huge impact.

I pray that everyone who this reflection reaches will reflect on their sharing of the gifts God has given them to have, especially in light of how the recent disaster in Japan reminded us how quickly everything can be lost, consider making an offering that helps those less fortunate the impact could be awesome.

The Church from the earliest times has called on Christ’s followers to give of themselves as Christ was willing to give for us.

Giving up something does nothing unless it also has a positive result like Christ’s Passion and Death.

As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:25; “ I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”

May Almighty God inspire you during this last week of Lent to be merciful and generous to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ and neighbors of the world for it is not what we have given up that will open the gates of heaven, but what we have done to help others. AMEN