Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sunday July 17th Reflection

The Good seed is the Word of God

A Reflection for Sunday July 17th 2011

By Rev. Fr. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/Franciscans of Divine Mercy

We often hear the expression “Money is the root of all evil” and sometimes it seems that it is very true.

All we have to do is look at the current situation in the world and more explicitly in the United States and ponder if that is not the case.

In reality the root of all evil is NOT money but man’s DESIRE FOR POWER and symbols of status; greed and the seeking of great wealth to increase one’s status in the eyes of powerful people, or jealousy over losing control over people because of a loss of status in the world of finance is the actual cause of the evil that often occurs. Money is an obvious measure of one’s status, so it’s easy to confuse the two.

The actual statement from which this expression came is; “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” and is found in Timothy, 6:10.

Every day we are reminded that the US is headed to a major financial crisis unless the people who were elected to govern it can come together and make changes to the budget in order to forego a collapse of the government.

One political group wants to cut services to the poor and aged but is unwilling to the eliminate tax breaks that the super-rich get that allows them to pay less than the average working person.

This is a perfect example of how the desire for money and the power it can bring has corrupted even those who claim to be Christians.

They are willing to ignore the needs of the poor, aged and seniors on low fixed incomes while the cost of the daily necessities of life keeps going up.

Another example that is in the news this week is how some newspaper have used illegal means to obtain information in order to sell newspapers. Even some Religious denominations have succumbed to this desire for money not for humanitarian use but for status and the symbols of status and power.

The reading from the book of Wisdom 12 for this Sunday talks about being kind to your brothers and sisters in Christ, which means every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. “You are mild in judgment, you govern us with great lenience, for you have only to will, and your power is there. By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men” It is sad that our government leaders do not follow this kind of governing.

Kindness, Compassion, Justice, Mercy, and Charity are virtues that often seem to be in short supply in our world today. They have been replaced with the notion that we should live with the concept of obscene salaries for CEOs and higher and higher dividends and profits for the giant corporations.

In August 2004 Andrew Greeley wrote in the Chicago Sun Times; “The most serious spiritual problem in the country today is reckless and untrammeled greed. Greed caused the disgraceful corporate scandals that fill our newspapers. Greed is responsible for crooked cops and crooked politicians. Greed causes the constant efforts to destroy unions that protect basic worker rights. Greed has produced rash tax cuts that have given money to the rich and in effect taken it away from the poor.”

Sadly, things have not changed but only gotten worse since 2004.

The oil companies continue to earn exorbitant profits which have caused the prices for gasoline and heating oil to more than double in the last year which has caused the cost of food and other basics of life to constantly increase yet the government has cut 10% from what individuals on food stamps receive claiming that the cost of living has gone down. I don’t know what country they are living in but it is not the same one I live in.

Seniors who live on their Social Security have not gotten a Cost of living increase in more than 3 years.

This is a prime example of Greed causing great evil because it is hurting those who can least afford to be hurt, the poor, aged and ill.

In his comments in 2004 Andrew Greeley went on to say; “No one said during the bizarre deification of President Reagan that he taught us that greed is good and that we should feel good about our greedy country. Greed is the reason that the country is being run by the insurance, pharmaceutical, weapons and petroleum industries. Greed causes worldwide sex slavery of women and children.”

This situation has only gotten worse in the last seven years.

One of the results of the economy problems is that agencies like food banks, Salvation Army, Religious and private charities and churches, ours included, who attempt to relieve the suffering of the poor, aged and ill have experienced a huge drop is donations resulting in their inability to help all who are in need.

The time is now for every person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and believe in a God of Compassion, mercy and love, to take inventory of their lives and seek the Holy Spirit’s help is making the changes necessary to eliminate the seeds of evil mindset that have overtaken the good seed of the Word of God. We must live the words of Christ in the Beatitudes and what He called “THE GREATEST COMMANDMENTS”; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” We must become more mindful of the needs of others especially the poor, sick and those who contributed to our economy all their productive adult lives and now are forced to live on low fixed incomes that are often below poverty standards.

Just as the enemy, the evil one, has penetrated the minds of some people, sowing bad seed into their minds, especially the young, making them think that wealth, material possessions, fame, power and luxurious living is what to seek, we must harvest the bad seed and destroy it so that we can reap the good which is the teachings of Christ. As the Gospel today advises; “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Today’s reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans affirms; “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. … and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well our needs” from Romans 8:26 - 27

Let us rid ourselves of self-indulgence and instead begin to find ways to be charitable, compassionate , forgiving and most importantly, live daily the teachings of Christ by loving, caring for our neighbor ( every human on the face of the earth) as Christ loved and cared for all He encountered. AMEN

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Word of God Reflection

Let The Word Be Your Guide

A Reflection for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2011

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus? Franciscans Divine Mercy

"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” (Luke 8:16)

The words above are from the last line of the Gospel of Luke and I have chosen to begin this reflection with them because they tell us that we should never hide our faith and be ashamed of believing in God.

The Gospel reading for today from Matthew is the parable story of the farmer who sowed his seed.

Christ used the sowing of seeds to represent how some people receive the inspired word of God found in the Holy Scripture we know as The Bible.

The parable is explained in this way in a part of the reading that was added by Doctors of the Church many years after the actual first telling and writing of what Christ Said so that those who heard it, remember the Holy Scriptures were not available to every person like they are today.

“The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop”

The earliest copies were all hand scribed and only available to clergy and in later years to the very rich. The History of THE WORD OF GOD which is what all denominations who believe in the One God, Creator of All, call the Scriptures is very interesting.

Two Hundred years before the birth of Christ the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts which contain The 39 Old Testament Books and the 14 Apocrypha Books was hand written. It was not until near then end of the 1st Century after the birth of Christ that the books that make up the New Testament, or the teachings of Christ and the Epistles attributed to the Apostles were hand scribed in Greek.

Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, identifies the 27 books of the New Testament which are today recognized as the canon of scripture in the year 315.

Three Hundred and Eighty Two years after the birth of Christ St. Jerome produced all 80 books of the Bible in Latin. By the year 500 the Bible was translated into 500 languages, remember, all these translations were done by hand and often resulted in some changes from the original Aramaic and Greek that was the original languages that scripture was written in.

About the year 600 the only language that the Bible was allowed to be written in was Latin and that continued until the year 995 when an Anglo-Saxon translation was created which was the beginning of a translation into what we now know as English.

The first hand-written English Language version of the Bible was produced in by John Wycliffe an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian of all 80 Books.

In 1455 when Gutenberg Invents the Printing Press; the Bible started to be mass-Produced Instead of Individually Hand-Written. The First Book Gutenberg ever Printed was the Bible in Latin.

The Bible has had many translations, many changes and yet, if one looks really close, and compares the different versions we have available, and does the research, we can deduce what was the first things that were transcribed by the first writers in both the Old and the new Testaments and what God was attempting to teach us on how we should live.

One method I like to use is to try to find the same things in multiple Gospel Stories and some time I also check what are called the Gnostic Gospels like the Gospel of St. Thomas. Most theologians will agree that when we find the same “words of Christ” in multiple Gospels we can be fairly certain that they are what Christ taught.

Most of us have heard the gospel and scripture stories all our lives, some have been read the Bible stories from the time they were little children which means we have heard the inspired word of God as given to the prophets and the disciples but what have we done with it?

I personally like to refer what is found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Like and in different wording but the same message in John, which is the only Gospel that was actually written by the Apostle to which it is attributed. Those readings instruct us “TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER” “ LOVE GOD AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” in other words we are told by Christ, who if we are Christians believe was the son of God sent by God to enlighten us, that the key to the kingdom of heaven is to Love God and Love all God’s children which would mean we do not hurt anyone by actions that The Commandments individually detail.

In the writing of the Epistles of St. Paul we have affirmations of how THE WORD OF GOD should be received and accepted.

"I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once...." 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 "...our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance..." 1 Thessalonians 1:5 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Let us be like the Good seed; “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” and hold The Word of God solidly in our hearts and attempt, with all the energy we can muster and with deep sincerity and love of God to live The Great Commandment; “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, the second is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22, Luke 10, Mark 12) Or “Love one another as I have loved You” (John 13)

God knows we are not perfect and that it is not easy for us to completely follow his command and the teachings of Christ but the one common denominator we have with almost all the saints, and certainly those who are revered among the greatest saints, is admitting how sinful we are and their need to constantly imploring God for forgiveness and strength to overcome their weaknesses.

Why should we be any different than they? Morning and night and during the day I often turn to God and pray for the ability to resist the temptations that plague me.

I pray for guidance and direction in my ministry. I plead for the means to proclaim God’s infinite mercy and love for all His children and to not give in to the thoughts that I am failing God because of the limitations I have.

Like any journey we travel on we encounter many different roads. Some are lined with the beauty of God’s creation with verdant fields or lush foliage, others are filled with pot holes and detours and we struggle to reach out destination.

The destination we are aiming for is everlasting life with Almighty God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Our beloved mother Mary and all the angels, saints and heavenly elect.

The guide book to achieve that goal is Holy Scriptures so we should try to have a daily dose of meditation on the scriptures just like we take our daily vitamins or the medications that we need to keep us healthy.

We clergy daily pray the Daily Prayer or Divine Office which has scripture readings to meditate on but there are many resources out there for people to us, the bottom line is to keep referring to what I like to think of as “THE GUIDE BOOK TO ETERNAL LIFE” The Holy Inspired Word of God, found in Holy Scripture, The Bible. By listening to God “speaking to us” through the inspired word, we can avoid the pitfalls and dead ends that this world materialism and secularism put in our path to complete trust and faith in God. AMEN

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reflection On Being Called By God

On Being Called

A Reflection on Matthew 4:19, Matthew 19:29, Matthew 28:10, Luke 18:22, Luke 18:29

Br Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD, Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans Divine Mercy

Over the last 8 years I have pondered why I and any individual who believes they have been called by God to be God’s servant here on earth was called and what are our duties and responsibilities and what should be our priorities.

In Matthew 4:19, we read the following; “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers for people.” And in Matthew 28:19 we read; “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” which spells out our primary responsibilities; which are to make God known to ALL people and making them an active part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Since we know that all the apostles except for St. John were married and had families, how did they resolves the problem of having families with what we find in Matthew 19:29 and Luke 18:29; “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

Did Christ, who advocated justice, compassion and mercy and by his own life families, actually mean they should leave their responsibilities to their families or did He mean that they needed to put the needs of God and service to God first and foremost in their lives. I believe that God meant that God had to be at the heart and core of their lives and service to God and God’s children had to be the number one priority.

I believe that our responsibilities as a servant of God require us to have our priorities in the following order:

Firstly everything pertaining to the service of God and God’s children must be at the top of our priorities.

Since we have a responsibility to support and feed, clothe and shelter ourselves and our families we need to have a source of income that provides for our families wellbeing as the second priority of our life.

One way we who are called to be servants of God could incorporate both number one and number two priorities would be to work in an occupation like a nurse, doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, teacher, in nursing homes and hospices, working with the homeless, in food pantries, a corporation like Angel Flight or any field that services and helps people since that is what God has called us to do.

We have to teach the Truth of God and let people know that Gods is a God of Love and calls every human being to love one another by showing compassion, having charity, rejecting violence.

God desires that everyone care for one another, hold all people as equals and welcome all people.

One of the primary rules of the Old Testament was hospitality which is the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. It was the lack of Hospitality that was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah not what some claim.

There is no greater calling a person can receive from God than to be a servant of God as a Priest and there is no role greater than that. All the titles, Monsignor, Bishop, Cardinal, are but political titles indicating a higher rung on the corporate ladder but the primary responsibility is that of a priest first and foremost.

The highest title in the early church was a Bishop, the titles Monsignor and Cardinal were additions and created to indicate a position of royalty which in my mind is completely in opposition to Christ’s teachings and example.

Christ and the first disciples wore simple homespun clothing, lived simply and rejected the trappings that the Hierarchy of Christ’s time had adopted. In Matthew 23 Christ admonishes them for their life styles and their rules that prevented people from the worship of God. “The scribes and the Pharisee sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others”.

Every day I pray that I will honestly fulfill God’s call to me to be his servant here on earth and I examin each evening how well I have done that day, I agonize when I feel that I have failed in some way by not being as kind as I might have been to a person who disturbed me in some way.

The following are two prayers I offer both morning and evening asking God through the Holy Spirit to help me be a good and faithful servant to Him.

“Almighty God, I give you my hands to do your work; I give you my feet to go your way; I give you my eyes to see as you do; I give you my tongue to speak your words; I give you my mind that you may think in me; I give you my spirit that you may pray in me; Above all, I give you my heart that you may love in and through me all with whom I come in contact with each and every day. I dedicate myself to doing your will in all things and to becoming an instrument through which you might bring peace and harmony to all your children here on earth. AMEN

“Almighty and merciful God, open my mind, my heart, and my soul to your infinite love. Instill within me the knowledge of your truth. Guide me in your ways in all the things I do so that I may be unto others a reflection of your love towards them. Allow the light of your truth to flow through me towards them in order that they may come to know you better. I pray that all those with whom I come in contact with each and every day may be brought into a closer union with you and enjoy the promise of Your salvation earned through your beloved son, Jesus Christ, in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension. I humbly ask this in the name of your beloved son, Jesus Christ, who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever unto the ages of ages. AMEN

As Father Provincial of the Franciscans of Divine Mercy I ask every member of our small band of Franciscans Brothers and Sisters to always hold the teachings of Christ and our Seraphic Father Francis as their guidepost to life, to have God at the center of their life and to have compassion, mercy, respect and love for ALL God’s creation especially God’s children. That is what I feel we have been called to do daily as servants of God. AMEN