Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July 4th Weekend Reflection

A Reflection for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

and Independence Day 2011

By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD, Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus & Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Based on Readings from Zechariah 9:9-10, Psalm 145, Romans 8:9-13, Matthew 11:25-30

This weekend we in the United States will be celebrating the 235th anniversary as an Independent nation founded on the principals of equality and justice for all.

It saddens me that so many politicians and citizens of this great nation have lost sight of that founding principal and even more saddening is that they dare to call themselves Christians meaning that they are supposed to follow Christ’s teachings.

On December 23, 1776 Thomas Paine wrote in a publication called The Crisis the following words “These are the times that try men's souls. The complacent citizen and the self-righteous will, in this time of crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of every man and woman.” I believe that these words could very well refer to what is happening in this country now.

Certain political hopefuls for the role of President of this country are advocating policies that would cause millions of our poor and low income senior citizens to be forced to live lives that are in some cases worse than those found in third world countries.

In one of the richest countries in the world the very politicians who are advocating cuts in Medicare, Food Stamps and other programs that help people have the basics of life, earn monthly salaries in excess of the yearly income of the people who their proposed cuts would hurt most.

The Mass readings for this Sunday have an affirmation that Christ was sent by Almighty God, that Christ came to instruct ALL humanity to have compassion for the poor, sick aged and marginalized.

The first reading prophesizes that the messiah would; “He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:9-10)

The second reading tells us the following; “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:9-13)

The Gospel reading is an affirmation that Christ was sent from God; “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

Since Jesus the Christ is from and of God we, therefore, who claim to follow the teachings Christ gave us and call ourselves Christians need to consider the needs of those who have not been blessed with as much as we may have been and who certainly do not have the resources that so many have today.

Most of our senior citizens never imagined earning the salaries that so many today expect. They would have considered someone who earned $75,000 a year to be extremely rich. The salaries some receive for playing a sport or acting in films and TV where only received by The super-rich industrialists and financiers such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew W. Mellon, Andrew Carnegie, J P Morgan, The Vanderbilt and Astor Families.

Tom Paine had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly.

I believe that we, in this nation, are facing another time of crisis. So many individuals and corporations seek only to accrue dividends and huge profits for their investors by cutting jobs and raising the prices of basic goods or shipping jobs overseas for the cheap labor while at the same time as they receive tax cuts from our Government allowing them to have huge profits. These same people and the politicians who support them claim they are Christians. Their actions are in complete opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Those individuals are denying millions of the basic values our founding fathers had when they established our constitution. When people are being denied equal rights because of their social condition, age or sexual orientation there is no justice.

The God who created all things and gave His only beloved son to us to teach us how to Love and respect each other would not approve of how this nation is denying citizens equal rights or how they deprive it’s most vulnerable and poorest and aged citizens of affordable health care and decent housing but spend billions to wage war against other countries that expend the lives of our youth and future.

Most of the very same politicians who are advocating cuts in Medicare and who have reduced Food Stamps for those receiving them claiming the COST OF LIVING had gone down while every news media organization including those considered part of the conservative are telling us how the cost of food has gone up considerably.

Every elected official receives, in addition to their salaries which as I stated before are more per month than what millions receive yearly to live on, also get FREE health and Dental insurance, subsidized meals in the Congressional dining room, grooming in the congressional barber and beauty shops, FREE parking and reimbursement for Gas and travel, some of which many would consider a luxury vacation.

These are all things those living on only their Social Security which is often less than $1000 ( One Thousand Dollars) a month have to pay for.

The Time is now for all to evaluate how our country is heading and speak up for equal rights and justice for ALL THE PEOPLE. Our Constitution Says; “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our

In the book of Wisdom we read; “Love Justice, you who judge the earth think of the Lord in Goodness and seek Him in integrity of heart” (Wisdom 1:1) “God does not rejoice in the destruction of the living for God furnished all things that they might have being…ALL the creatures of the world are wholesome” (Wisdom 1:14-15) “It is the wicked, the sons of Satan who with hands and words invited death and destruction considering it a friend” (Wisdom 1:16) We are also told in Wisdom 15 “Justice is undying”.

The truth is that justice is undying unless the devil has taken control of those humans who are commissioned to uphold it. This nation’s founding fathers had a deep-rooted sense of faith in God.

Justice is undying only when it is coupled with honesty, trust, faith and generosity, compassion and freedom.

I urge each and every one who reads or hears this message to think about our freedom, think about how you are contributing to the ideals this country was founded on. Are you being generous, trusting, honest, and faithful to what Christ taught when he told us; “Love one another as I have loved you” and “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17); “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

Are you working to insure that EVERY citizen is accorder the same rights and privileges as the others? Are you accepting the unique differences of races and beliefs that have melded together to form this more perfect union? As long as each and every person is respecting the RIGHTS of the other, and reaching out to all with the same LOVE that Jesus demonstrated to all He encountered, there is a chance that we might find ways to end poverty, homelessness, violence, prejudice, hatred, and discrimination that have been injected into this world by Satan to keep us confused and unbalanced and casting doubt on the Love of Almighty God.

I pray that God will inspire the leaders of this nation and the world to find peaceful and compassionate ways to bring about a more perfect world where equality, justice, truth, honesty, trust and happiness exists for all God’s children. AMEN

Rev. Robert Francis Johnnene OFD

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Corpus Christi Reflection

Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ 2011

A Reflection by Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Sts. Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

The feast of Corpus Christi this year is celebrated the Sunday following Trinity Sunday which was last week. This feast day is one of very special significance because in honoring the Eucharist, especially following the celebrations of the Ascension and the Trinity the church proclaims one of the basic beliefs of the Catholic faith, that in the Eucharist, or Holy Communion as some refer to it, we actually are receiving the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The feast of Corpus Christi is one of the most exalted mysteries of Catholic beliefs and one often disavowed by some Christian denominations because it yields nothing to the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation but requires absolute trust in the Word and teaching of Christ which is proclaimed in the Gospel for today and in the words of consecration we priests invoke.

On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Blessed Sacrament when Christ took the bread and blessed it and took the cup and proclaimed the words we use in the consecration. In the first reading from today St. Paul tells us the following;  "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf”

Since Holy Thursday is linked closely with the final days of Christ’s earthly life and therefore often with sadness it was only appropriate that we celebrate the gift of that day to us of Christ’s body and blood or in Latin, Corpus Christi .

The Eucharist is often called “The Bread of Life” because of the promise by Christ that “He that eats of My Flesh, and drinks of My Blood, lives in Me, and I in him” which is found in the Gospel for today. Those words found in John 6 are a clear explanation of why we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi as a separate joyful feast and one that is affirming and welcoming and clearly shows Almighty God’s infinite and everlasting love for us.

In the Eucharist we have been given Christ as a companion to us for as long as we live and through partaking of this bread of life we receive the strength to overcome the daily temptations that plague us. The Body of Christ is a sustaining strength for us and therefore a life giving source.

Paul reminds us; “Brethren, I have received of the Lord, that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take you and eat, this is My Body which shall be delivered up for you; this do for the commemoration of Me". (1Corinthians 11:23-26)

Throughout the Gospels and Epistles we are advised that by refusing to recognize Christ as actually present in the Eucharist will bring condemnation upon those who receive without believing that Christ is actually present in the bread and wine. A few years ago I was so blessed to be present at my 7 year old granddaughter’s First Communion and so impressed at the devotion and piety she exhibited when going to receive the Eucharist. Her entire being glowed, it seemed, and returned with reverence and prayerful continence to her place. Afterwards I asked her if she knew what it was that she had done and she replied, “I have just taken Jesus into me”. I saw the same recently at the First Eucharist of some young people at St. Joseph Cupertino Faith Community, our parish in Fall River Massachusetts.

If only everyone could have that kind of piety, love, devotion and belief as they approach to receive the Bread of Life the children had at their first Holy Communion. It saddens me that so many in these times forgo taking time to attend the Eucharistic Celebration which we commonly call “THE MASS” to partake of the gift of Christ’s body and Blood in the Eucharist, as well as thank God for all that he has provided them.

I believe that we could resist all the temptations we are faced with every day easier if we partook of the Eucharist more often.

Maybe we would become more faithfully to the teachings and examples Christ taught and saints like Francis, Clare, Mother Therese of Calcutta often spoke of and St. Thomas Aquinas Exalted in the very special Alleluia sequence he wrote especially for the Feast of Corpus Christi which we heard today a part of which says; "Bread of the Angels, for us is given, broken, for our pilgrims food, and token of the promise by Christ spoken, in the Paschal immolation, in old types pre-signified. Alleluia Jesus, Shepherd mild and meek, shield the poor, support the weak; help all who your pardon seek, placing all their trust in You: fill them with Your healing grace! Source of all we have or know, feed and lead us here below. Grant that with Your Saints above, sitting at the feast of love we may see You face to face. Amen. Alleluia"

The Eucharist gives us the strength to resist temptation and become less judgmental of the differences God has created for reasons known only to Him. It helps us to become more loving and open to accepting all people as children of God. We might even become more concerned for the wellbeing of all people in this world and be more active in speaking up for equality, justice, fair wages for all people and against war, genocide, greed, poverty and homelessness.

Christ taught us that; “As often as you do this, you do so in remembrance of me” (Lk 22.) (1 Cor 11)

How lucky and blessed are we to be able to partake of the Eucharist and have Christ within us every day if we so desire, what a special gift and one that again shows us how much God loves us. Let us return that love by partaking of the Eucharist as often as possible and thereby help us to be more Christ like in our daily lives.

Even though none of us is truly worthy of receiving such a gift from God we also know that God loves us and forgives us any wrongs we have done if we but ask and by that forgiveness we become worth to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I close this reflection with the words of St. Francis concerning the Eucharist; "What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation" "...In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood." - St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is Church ?

What is Church?

A Reflection by Rev. Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Often I am asked why do we have to go to a church and what church is the right one or The One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.

Last evening, I experienced CHURCH in a very real way when I was invited to take part in an interfaith Taizé Prayer service at the Holy Paraclete Old Catholic Parish in Providence Rhode Island.

I felt that The Holy Spirit was alive and truly present in that building which is still in the construction stages of development to become a place of worship named after the Holy Spirit.

In what was once a mechanic shop a space is being created for the honor and glory of God and in it last evening clergy and people from different religious denominations gathered together to offer prayers, songs and to meditate on the Beatitudes.

To answer the question this reflection began with, I will tell you that CHURCH is not a building, a denomination but PEOPLE. People gathered together in the Name of God.

As we are told in Matthew 18:20; “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Over the last three weeks the Universal church has celebrated The Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity. Sunday we will honor the great gift God has left us of himself, The Eucharist when we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ).

Over the last 67 days we who accept Jesus Christ as the promised of the ages and dare tpo call ourselves Christians, have honored and celebrated the basic truths of Christianity found in the Profession of Faith, Christ was sent from God to be born in human form and live as a human. He suffered, died, rose, from the dead thereby conquering sin and death and allowing forgiveness of Sins. Christ then ascended back to the Father and the Holy Spirit only to send the Holy Spirit to be with us. We affirmed our belief that God is three divine persons distinctly coexisting in unity as co-equal, co-eternal, and consubstantial, which take faith to fully understand since it defies that which is human. Finally on Sunday we will celebrate the Gift of himself Christ gave us in what is often called “THE BREAD OF LIFE” The Eucharist.

Gathered together last evening My heart was overcome with not only the by the devout spirituality of those gathered but the full understanding of the words that we sung “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est” which means “Where charity and love are, God is there” and those that came into my heart and head “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which means “Come Holy Spirit”

In TaizĂ© France is a faith community founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz who was not a Roman Catholic and was considered a Protestant, but who came to be revered and accepted by every major religious denomination because the monastic community He established had a deep commitment to peace and justice through prayer and meditation. Brother Roger was a full participant in every session of Vatican Two in spite of the fact he was not a Bishop, Cardinal or even a priest but a “Non Catholic”.

Brother Roger was revered by Mother Therese of Calcutta because they both were committed to living the Word in deed as well as word.

Church is People, gathering together to give honor, glory and praise to God and to seek and listen for God speaking to them and guiding them in their day to day lives. That is Church and no one faith can own that but it is owned only by those who live it and by God who created all things. AMEN

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2011 Trinity Sunday Reflection

Trinity Sunday 2011

A Reflection based on Readings from Exodus, 43, Daniel 3, Corinthians 13, John 3

By Rev. Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD, Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

The readings for this Sunday honoring the Blessed Trinity of God the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit proclaim one important message that we need to burn into our memory and hold fast to since it sums up the most important thing we need to know about God. God is a God of LOVE, MERCY, and COMPASSION. In essence, God is LOVE consummate. In the first reading from Exodus we read where God himself proclaimed to Moses the following; “"The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity." The Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday comes from the book of Daniel and is the ultimate praise prayer that we should profess every day and one which we Franciscans do say at least twice a day in keeping with the fact that St. Francis himself prayed it often throughout the day. It is simple and yet very powerful. “Glory and praise forever! Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; And blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all age, Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, praiseworthy and glorious above all forever. Glory and praise forever! Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. Glory and praise forever! Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne upon the cherubim, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. Glory and praise forever!”

The second reading informs us on how we should live with one another and again it is a message of extending love like that Christ exhibited to all we meet especially our family, friends and members of our Faith Community. The reading tells us to; “Encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” The reading ends with a prayer that we say several times as we celebrate the Mass. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”

The Gospel begins by reminding us of how much God and His beloved son loves us when it says; “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” St. John then goes on to remind us that God is not interested in being a God of condemnation; “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

It is, I believe, very appropriate the this year Trinity Sunday that celebrates the 3 distinct separate manifestations of Almighty God yet the unity of them happens to fall this year on Father’s Day since Christ called God His Father. He even told us that when we pray, say; “Our Father who art in heaven”

God exists as three persons but is one God, meaning that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have exactly the same nature or being as God the Father in every way. Whatever attributes and power God the Father has, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have as well. "Thus, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely loving, and omniscient." All this means that since all the attributes of God are Consubstantial meaning "of one being" in that the Son is "generated" ("born" or "begotten") "before all ages" or "eternally" of the Father's own being, from which the Spirit also eternally "proceeds.". All 3 personas of God are the same and therefore the great power and force that is God is LOVE.

To sum up, if we are to become Christ like or God like, we need to work hard on being more loving and accepting of everyone, even those who don’t always treat us well.

That is very difficult, but remember, as he hung on the Cross Christ called out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. To be forgiving of those who have done harm to us is the ultimate way of expressing Love but it is extremely difficult and requires us to be reject the normal human reaction to retaliate. I find that I need to constantly implore the Paraclete to give me the strength and inspiration to be able to become more loving in my relationships with those who do not always treat me well. And since God is generous and loving I find that somehow I am able to forgive and be cordial to those who have hurt me.

Whether we pray to God in the name of Adonai, Yahweh, El-Olam, Jesus or The Paraclete (Holy Spirit) we are praying to the one and only God. The same God that Abraham, Isaac, Moses, King David, Jacob, Mohammad, the Apostles and all the Saints prayed too.

In short, let us establish a line of communication with God and let us try to have more love for all those we encounter. Just possibly, if we can achieve that it will start spreading like a virus that invades people turning their hearts of stone into hearts filled with compassion, mercy and the desire for a world without war, hunger, poverty, homelessness and prejudice. AMEN

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pentecost Reflection

Pentecost 2011 Reflection

Based on the readings from: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13, Psalm 103, John20:19-23; also John15:26-67; 16:12-15

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans Divine Mercy

Veni, Sancte Spiritus Come, Holy Spirit, Come

“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit” (. 1 Corinthians 12:3) “In the one Spirit we were all baptized, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

“Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home shed a ray of light divine!” with these words the beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit, VENI, SANCTE SPIRITUS, begins. The feast of Pentecost is also called the Birthday of the church because it celebrates the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles after which they were heard by people of every race and nationality to be proclaiming the truth of Jesus teachings in the language of the listener.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us “No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” It is in this letter that one of the most redeeming passages of scripture can be found. Paul informs us “everyone has different gifts bestowed on them by God through the Holy Spirit.” He goes on to affirm that there “Different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces them all. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” “For in one Spirit we were all Baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greek, slave of free person, we were all given to drink of the one Spirit”

The Gospel admonishes us to “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

It is the Holy Spirit that guides and inspires us, just as it inspired those who wrote the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is a living Spirit, Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we are assisted in refraining from behavior that is displeasing to Almighty God and separate us from Him.

To elaborate on how we might possibly cause ourselves to be separated from God and the Gifts He freely gives us through the Holy Spirit would take more time than we have and would really require a series of Reflections but essentially we separate ourselves by giving in to the temptations of the Seven Deadly Sins. Each of these “Desires of the Flesh” or deadly sins affords us many ways of sinning. They are human faults that every individual has; our task is to try our best to resist their lure.

One thing that I personally can attest to is that, if we call upon God daily, or as many times as we need to in order to resist the temptations that plague us every day, and ask Almighty God to send us the Holy Spirit, God will oblige. One of my daily prayers begins with “Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart and kindle in in me the fire of your love so that I might be renewed”

In John 16: we are promised, “The Spirit will guide you to all truth. The spirit will not speak on its own, but will speak what he hears from me and declare it to you”

The truth is that God is a merciful, loving, forgiving and compassionate God. God is always there awaiting your call to Him. He does not have an answering machine, voice mail, or a secretary. He always listens to what we are saying and will respond to us according to what He feels is best for us. God always answers our prayers, just not always in the way we want. Many times God actually comes to us and speaks to us in our dreams, or quiet times and even sometimes while driving a car, listening to the I pod, watching TV or playing ball.

Unfortunately, often we are too preoccupied to listen to what he is telling us through the Holy Spirit.

I suggest that the time is NOW for us to begin to be more receptive to those calls from God. Don’t put Him on hold, but take a break from whatever we are engaged in and listen with an open and receptive heart.

We need to allow ourselves to “Receive The Holy Spirit” so that we can begin to develop a deeper and closer relationship with Almighty God and thereby begin the elimination of the “Desires of the Flesh” that have prevented us from receiving all the gifts of The Spirit, Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. AMEN

A 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 for all of his creations. Assist me to be an instrument of God's Word to all I encounter. Give unto 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 our creator, Almighty God, as one triune God, now and forever. AMEN

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reflection on The Our Father

Our Father Reflection

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans Divine Mercy

The following is a reflection from the Gospel of Matthew 6: 7-15 where Jesus teaches the Apostles how to pray and gives them and us the prayer we know as THE OUR FATHER.

Christ’s first instruction is on how we should pray at all times was; “ In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

In this Jesus is telling us not to rattle off our prayers in a hurry and to actually take time to think about what we are saying. Prayer is not just a recitation of the words but is a conversation with Almighty God, Christ, Our Blessed mother, or our favorite saints. We should be talking with them as though they were there in the room with us. Yes when we say the traditional prayers like the one we are reflecting upon that Jesus himself taught us we should still feel the words we are saying not just rattle them off from rote memory.

This applies especially the great prayer, the Mass.

Christ reminds us that God knows what is in our hearts and our minds even before we speak them. The purpose of praying is not the words but in centering ourselves to be with God.

I often tell people that taking time alone with God and talking to him as though He were sitting opposite them is a calming and centering exercise and it brings us closer to God as well as helps us to focus.

By taking time to focus on what we are saying and to speak the words that come from our inner being we enter into a reverent communication with Almighty God.

Jesus then goes on to teach us words we now know as THE OUR FATHER.

"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

In this simple prayer we sum up all our beliefs and our wishes.

Christ reminds us again, in no uncertain terms, what our request to God and the answer depends upon he said; For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:15)

Therefore, when we pray the Our Father, we are acknowledging many of our beliefs as Christians because we concede:

1. God is our Father, and like our paternal father whose seed brought us into being, God brought us and all things into being by willing them into existence.

2. We affirm that the name of Almighty God is Holy and needs to be revered above all persons and things.

3. We are acknowledging that the kingdom of heaven is something in the future not to be found in this mortal world.

4. We acknowledge that we agree that God’s will MUST be done in all things, in both heaven and here on earth.

Notice it is, God’s will, not our own desire and will. This is often very difficult for us to embrace and it is also one way that we so often find ourselves in troubling by insisting on having our own way in spite of all other things.

5. We next go on to ask God to provide us the daily necessities of our life.

The key in this part of the prayer is ‘DAILY NECESSITIES’.

When we ask to win the lottery or get a flat screen TV or new car God may not consider them to be necessary for our existence and if fact, God may see that in getting them we would be endangering our eternal salvation.

6. In asking God to forgive us our debts we are asking Him for forgiveness of the things we might have done that separated us from Him and put us in debt to God. We also must remember we need to be willing to forgive those who have hurt us. This is a extremely important part of the prayer. If we are unwilling to forgive others how can we expect God to forgive us. Christ even reiterates this when He cautions “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 18:35)

7. Finally, we ask God to keep us from being tempted by Satan, but to deliver us from all evils, those imposed upon us by others and those which come out of our own selfishness, greed, anger, prejudices and stubbornness.

When Christ repeated the caution a second time about forgiving others He did so, I am sure, because He knew how difficult it was going to be for us mortals.

One of the most difficult things for people to admit is that they are wrong.

It is even more difficult to go to someone you have done a wrong too and ask for their forgiveness.

It is even more difficult to forgive someone who you really admired and cared deeply for who has wronged you.

Many people just cannot admit to another they are wrong. We see this daily on the news and TV. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence that a decision one made was wrong, some people cannot admit it and plead innocence.

As we prepare for the feast celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the actual birth of the Christian Church, we might want to reflect on how we pray and whether or not we are doing all we can to reach out to those we might have wronged and seek their forgiveness or better yet, have we forgiven those that have hurt us and extended to them the love of Christ.

I suggest this meditation because it may require some time for us to digest.

To be true followers and believers of Jesus Christ and to truly love God with all our being, we need to open ourselves to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to put into practice in our daily lives what Christ taught us.

We need to live the Gospels not just preach and read them and we need to partake of Christ within us through the Eucharist. I love how St. Francis described the Eucharist; “The lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, who so humbles himself for our salvation that he hides Himself under an ordinary piece of bread” (from a letter to the entire order by St. Francis)

Like the Tau cross all Franciscans wear which represents our being “marked” as converted to a life based on the teachings of Christ and strengthened by the Eucharist.

The Tau, which is the Greek letter for an “X” which is what Ezekiel in chapter 9:3-6 says all who repented their sins and were converted should be marked with.

We Franciscans have dedicated our lives to not only preaching the messages of peace, brotherhood, love, charity, mercy and forgiveness but attempt to embrace those teachings in our daily lives with the help and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, that Christ promised would be sent by God to be with us always. AMEN