Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reflection for Sixth Sunday of Easter 2011

Love of Jesus is love of God

A reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter 2011

Based on Acts 8-5-8, 14-17, Psalm 66, 1 Peter 3:15-18, John 14:15-21

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

The Gospel Reading for the sixth Sunday after Easter is extremely plain, telling us that by loving God and keeping His commandments every day God will not only hear our prayers but will love as Christ loved Him and he will be with us always.

In reading the following passage from John 14 we cannot interpret any other way except that by following Christ’s teachings we are living in accord with God’s desire for us.

The reading also emphasizes that when we live our lives according to the teachings of Christ we are given the Holy Spirit living within us to be our counselor and guide.

‘If you love me you will keep my commandments. I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you. I will not leave you orphans…. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father” (John 14:15-23)

Even though the Holy Spirit cannot be seen Christ affirms that the Spirit lives within us who accept Christ and attempt, to the best of our human ability, to live our daily lives with love for all God’s children, with compassion for the sick, aged, lonely, hungry, homeless and marginalized in accord with what Christ himself called the greatest commandments. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Gospel ends with a firm affirmation that; “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

The questions we have to ask ourselves are these;

“Do we seek God and take time every day to communicate with God which is often called prayer?

Do we partake of the gifts Christ gave us in the Eucharist regularly?

Do we speak out against injustice, violence, war, poverty and discrimination?

These are the things that Christ did when He walked this earth and showed us the way to the Father.

Do we give back to God a percentage of the gifts He has given to us by contributing 10 % of what we receive in time or in a monetary donation to support the work of the church or charitable organizations who help the poor, needy, and disadvantaged?

At the present time we are collecting personal care items and also single bedding items and bath towels for a family homeless shelter in our area and this is just one of many opportunities for us to give back some of what God has given us.

This ministry has an enormous debt that is making it difficult for us to do all we would like to do because of the monthly payments and we would welcome any help we receive. There are many ways you can give back to God some of what He has given to you if you just look around.

Combined with prayer, partaking of the Sacraments and being generous with the gifts God has bestowed upon us we demonstrate not only our love of God but are living testaments to the Greatest Commandment according the Jesus Christ.

Christ was more than happy to give everything of himself including his earthly life just so we could have everlasting life and forgiveness of sin but He only asks us to follow what he called the Greatest Commandments by loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Christ gave us the example. If we wish to be welcomed into the Fathers house and claim the place prepared for us there we must live in accord with Christ’s teachings and not some man made regulations.

The following prayer asks the Holy Spirit to abide within us and guide and lead us every day of our life. The more one invokes the Holy Spirit, the more we feel the Spirit Christ promised working within us. May Almighty God fill us with the Spirit and shower us with His infinite mercy and love every day of our life. AMEN

Prayer to The Holy Spirit

By Father Robert Johnnene OFD

O Most Holy Spirit, merciful Comforter; Come, I beseech you, and take up abode in my heart.

Let my weaknesses be penetrated with your strength, so that I may always do what is right and just.

Fill my heart with charity toward all I encounter. Enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts.

Purify and cleanse me of all sin and sanctify my soul protecting and shielding me from the temptations that plague me.

Make me truly humble that I may be pleasing to Almighty God.

Instill within me an honest respect of Almighty God and all of His creations. Assist me to be an instrument of God's Word to all I encounter.

Give me the gift of Wisdom to know and live according to God’s will. By your generous bestowing of your gifts, help me to live a holy life and grow in the everlasting love of Christ so that I may join with all the heavenly elect when my days here on earth are ended.

I ask this through Jesus Christ, my redeemer and savior, who lives, and reigns with you and our creator Almighty God as one triune God, now and forever. AMEN

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Reflection For Today

“Semper Paratus”Always Ready

A Reflection for Every Day By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD

Franciscans of Divine Mercy/ Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus

“No one knows the day or the time. The angels in heaven don't know, and the Son himself doesn't know. Only the Father knows”. (Mark 13:32) I find it truly amazing that so many who consider themselves believers and followers of Jesus Christ, or Christians, seem to forget these words from Holy Scripture.

All last week, the everywhere you looked, people everywhere were talking about the “prediction” of a so called pastor, that the Apocalypse, Rapture or the end of this world as we know it was going to happen at 6:00 PM on Friday.

As this reflection can well testify, he was wrong “AGAIN!” for the third time, and now says , “ooops, I got it wrong again and my calculations were off by 5 months”

The following may sound like the beginning of a joke, but it actually happened. A Jewish Rabbi, a pastor of another denomination, a priest and I were talking about the events of the last week along with a neighbor of mine and we all said the same thing at about the same time. “The end will come for every one of us at some time and we need to be prepared as the motto the Coast Guard says we need to be “Semper Paratus” to meet our maker.” It may come very quickly without any warning like it did for my father or the victims of the recent Tsunami, earthquakes, Tornadoes or an accident or it may come after a lingering illness where the family prays that the persons suffering will come to an end as I did for my mother who suffered for more than four years.

This brought us to another observation and comments about how in this day and age attendance by members of the various Religious denominations has dwindled to such a degree that all over the world churches, Synagogues and other places of worship to God are closing because of the lack of attendance which leads to the denominations not being able to afford to keep them open and also the lack of people who are willing to make a commitment to the service of God and His people.

In short, God is the furthest thing from too many people’s minds.

Sundays are just like every other day. People make plans to shop, get their hair done, play golf or go to the beach but no where do they have time, even for an hour, to gather together as a faith community to thank God for what they are able to do and also to offer petitions to God for the needs of other or for themselves.

The gospel reading for this coming Sunday instructs us “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” And last week we heard the following; “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”. If we couple all the passages from Scripture mentioned above together how is it that we can continue to live our lives so care free and have God as the person we turn to only when we are in crisis and forget about him and His commandments, especially the TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS according to Jesus Christ; “; “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is THIS; YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these.”

As I go about tending to those who are ill in the nursing home and hospices and as I myself have reached the youthful age of 75, I often wonder if this persons illness is the illness that will be the last one on this earth or will the person recover to live to use their God given gifts in a manner that will reward them when they are finally called home to God with these words “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:14-30

Daily I examine my own actions to determine if I did all I could do to help those in need of comfort, spiritual uplifting or just some companionship and conversation. Have I shared myself and the gifts God gave me with others?

During these troubling times with the downturn in the economy, wars raging, famine, genocide and continued high unemployment, gas prices continuing to skyrocket causing prices to soar on everything we hear daily of the excesses of so many and the exorbitant salaries being demanded by performers and professional athletes I have to wonder when people are going to wake up and come to the realization that “YOU CAN NOT TAKE MATERIAL THINGS WITH YOU WHEN THE END COMES FOR YOU”

I know of a woman who had acquired huge resources in property, money and other material things but was one of the least generous people I have ever known. Her life in her final years was extremely lonely and she complained bitterly that; “no one, even her children, seemed to care”. She died in a huge mansion alone but she did leave a huge fortune to her children who also inherited her bitterness probably because they never really knew love, kindness or saw charity in their lives.

So many people misuse the gifts that God gave them and I am certain that they will be called to answer for their misuse when they face that judgment spoken about in the Book of Daniel and when their “End Time” comes.

We need to acquire the motto “Semper Paratus” as the way of living so that we will be ready when we are called before God to answer for how we used the gifts he gave us.

God is going to ask us to answer for how we used His gifts to us. He will ask if we shared our resources with those in need. Did we show compassion for the aged and sick? Did we practice brotherly love to all God’s children regardless of race, creed, marital situation or sexual orientation?

Christ in the Beatitudes gave us the instructions and the way to live when He preached in the Sermon on the Mount and the parables like The Good Samaritan.

As The Gospel readings for this coming Sunday and the Readings from Last Sunday have made extremely clear there is one way, and one way only to god and that is keeping what Christ 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, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is THIS; YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” , and remembering that we NEVER know when our end time will come so we had better be prepared and brgin to place God at the center and forefront of our lives and make time for him not only on Sunday, but every day that we live. AMEN

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Easter

In The Breaking of the Bread

A Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Lent 2011 By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

“Were not the Scriptures open and our hearts burning within us as He spoke?” “By the breaking of the Bread their eyes were opened to them” These words taken from the Gospel of today should give us pause to think. What would it take for us to recognize Christ today?

Jesus told us He came to bring a new covenant, a clearer meaning of all that had been written before by the prophets. Jesus came into being, sent by Almighty God, to open up the scriptures to all people of all nations, races and genders.

Jesus came to simplify the message of Scripture for everyone.

Jesus came to dispel the idea that God was a vengeful God, but was a God of mercy, forgiveness and Love. Last Sunday we celebrated the feast honoring the Divine Mercy of God but even in light of all that has happened since the disciples met Christ on the road to Emmaus and chatted with him but did not recognize him until he sat with them and broke the bread there are people who do not accept or believe.

Jesus told us that the greatest commandments were “You shall 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” (Luke 10:27” “Do this and you shall live” (Luke 10:28)

I do not think that Christ’s teaching could be any clearer. Yet, throughout the entire history of the Christian faith, men try to impose all sorts of rules, regulations and conditions onto this basic message often preventing those who desire to know, love and serve God from doing so.

I grant you, that sin interferes with our expression of love for God. So what is sin? Sin is anything that hurts another, sin is anything that defames or injures your body, soul and mind or another person.

In short, sin is doing anything that does not acknowledge your love of your neighbor or yourself.

In order to accomplish this act of love for God and all His children, we need strength to overcome the many temptations that plague us every day.

We get that strength from frequent prayer (conversations with God), participation in partaking of the bread of life given to us by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. “Take, eat, This is my body” (Matthew 26:26) “As often as you do this you do so in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).

The Eucharist is much more than just a remembrance of Jesus Christ, it is His Body and Blood given to us to assimilate into our body’s giving us the strength to overcome the enticement of Satan.

In the Breaking of the bread, we call to mind the way Christ’s body was broken because of our sins.

In the mixing of the water and wine, we call to mind the blood and water that poured forth from Christ’s side when pierced by the lance.

Every time we receive the Eucharist, we strengthen our ability to repel sin.

Just as the disciples, whose hearts were ablaze with the Scriptures being opened to them when this stranger they met traveling to Emmaus told them “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” it was not until the invited stranger sat with that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, the Risen Christ when “he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

We too can have our hearts and eyes opened to Christ, living in our midst, through the Eucharist and by looking for the qualities that a follower of Christ should be exhibiting; compassion for the poor, aged homeless and unemployed, forgiveness toward those who have wronged them in any way, generosity with the gifts that God has given them and love of all they encounter as they travel life’s road.

We can deepen that recognition of Jesus by daily prayer and scripture reading.

Christ is the one and only head of the church, all the rest of us are mere servants of Christ who are here to shepherd and guide His flock toward the promised reward of everlasting life with God and all the heavenly elect when our days on this earthly plane are over. AMEN