Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Awsome Truth

The Awesome Truth

A Reflection for the week of October 24th based on the readings from Sunday October 23rd

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

Sometimes the Readings from Scripture are, in the words of the young, Awesome!.

Think about it, when Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was he replied, “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”.

It would appear on the surface that to follow that commandment would be easy.

Then we look at what we are asked to do. “Love God with all our heart.” All? But the heart is such a small organ and I need to keep room for my family and friends. How can I give ALL my heart?

The answer is easy, when you realize that each of the persons you want room for in your heart are living examples of Almighty God.

They were created in God’s image and likeness and in loving them you are loving God.

Love God with all your soul? Just exactly where is my soul?

Science has never identified it, no X-ray ever shows it, Do I have a soul? Again the answer is easy.

Your soul is the feeling of compassion you extend to those who are less fortunate than you are. Your soul is that feeling deep down when you seek God because deep down, in that unseen recess of your being, there is an empty feeling. Your soul is that unknown attraction that draws you toward others, the feelings of joy, love, sadness, elation all emanates from deep within you.

In the first reading of today (Exodus 12:20-26) we are even given directions on some of the ways we might express our love for God. We are told “You shall not molest or oppress anyone”. Anyone! According to the dictionary the word MOLEST means: “to annoy, interfere with, harm, to assault or attack, to engage in nonconsensual sexual relations.”

In other words, to have respect for the dignity of every one of God’s Children. I wonder if those pedophile priests or the people who killed Matthew Shepherd or those who would deny people the Gay and Lesbian community the same rights as every other person ever read that passage and if they did how they can claim they are believers and followers of Jesus Christ.

There are so many, many ways that we can express our love of God in heart, mind and soul if we only think about it. One good step toward that objective would be to accept ourselves as God created us, to begin to love the gifts we have been given and not always desire to be other than the person God created. We can begin to examine how we can use the gifts God has given us not for our own glory and edification, but for the greater honor and glory of God.

We can start looking for the God in others and not always look for the worst in people.

It is not easy, but, like the old adage says “You cannot have the beauty of the rose without having some thorns in your life”

May Almighty God grant each of us a greater appreciation of ourselves as He created us, and instill in our hearts a more compassionate understanding of all His Children. Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On Givine God that which is His

Sunday October 16th Reflection 2011

A Reflection for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/Franciscans of Divine Mercy

“Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God”. Matthew 22:21

How do we give back to God those things that belong to Him? The Gospel reading for the twenty ninth Sunday of Ordinary time informs us that we should give back to the government that which is theirs and to God that which is His.

We therefore are advised by Christ to live up to the obligations we owe to our government and give to God what God deserves, honor, praise and glory.

We have a choice, we can choose to serve those human gods of Greed, power, domination, discrimination, materialism and self-effacement or do we choose to follow the way of Jesus Christ. The answer should be very easy if we seek not only everlasting peace in the hereafter but in this world we live in. We soon will be asked to fulfill one of our obligations to government by voting for the person who will have the ability to make not only this country but the world a better place.

This weeks Gospel tells us to give government what it requires of citizens, one of which is to vote. When we exercise that right we not only will be fulfilling our obligation but if we do it with an eye toward which candidate will best meet the way Jesus taught and which candidate will insure a government that is compassionate, kind and concerned for all God’s children especially those most in need of help, the poor, sick, elderly and homeless we will be giving honor to God.

When Jesus Christ was transfigured God informed us clearly who Jesus was with these words; “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:4-6).

When we read the teachings of Christ, we find clear concise guidelines as to how we are expected to live our lives. These are found in The Sermon on the Mount, and in the “GREAT COMMANDMENT”, "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-30)

Could Christ’s teachings be any clearer, yet so many try to FIT THEIR POLITICALLY CORRECT AGENDA” and reject things that might put a financial strain on the few who have gotten rich and powerful through means that was not always best for the majority. The Book of Isaiah (58:10) teaches us that; if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday.

When we fail to be concerned for the well being of ALL God’s children we are not, and we cannot, claim to be serving God and giving back to Him what He deserves.

Jesus, in the stories of his everyday life, rejected no one, not even those who were to crucify him. Jesus sat and ate with those that Jewish law forbade eating a meal with. We can dislike the way another person acts, we can reject their choices as not acceptable, we have the freedom to choose not to associate with some people because they lie, cheat, steal, murder, and act in an manner that is offensive to God, But, When we decide that power, money, prestige, fame, and greed are more important to us than living according to God’s way, we are not serving God.

We need to remember what we have been instructed, we should judge a person, even our elected officials, by their past deeds. Have they fought to feed the poor and clothe the Naked and provide adequate housing to the homeless or sought equal pay for equal work? Have they spoken out against atrocities and war? Do they respect and love all of God’s children and seek to have all treated fairly?

In the recent debates the candidates who would like to replace our current president have used character assassination, lies and advocated policies that would harm the poor, aged, sick while helping the rich get even richer which are not policies that are consistent with the teachings of Christ or the way someone who claims to be a Christian should be advocating.

The question poised at the beginning of this reflection was, “Do you render to God that which is God’s and to Caesar that which is His” As Christians we are called by God to fight for equality, justice, compassion for all God’s children especially the poor, sick, aged ,homeless and hungry using The teachings of Christ as our guideline. They are found in the Sermon on the Mount and in the commandment “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 a life of and practicing equality, justice, compassion, mercy, peaceful coexistence and charity you will be rendering to God that which is His and to Caesar what is His and fulfilling your civic duty. AMEN

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sunday October 9th Reflection

Do You Reflect God in your Daily Life?

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus/Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that “Many are called, but few are chosen” The king invited many to the banquet but they rejected his invitation. He then sent out his servants to bring in all they met to partake of his banquet all he asked was that they come properly attired. How are you attired? When you look in your spiritual mirror what do you see? Are you dressed clean and neat? Is the reflection cast back at you sharp and clear or do you see streaks or do you see dirty spots on the mirror?

If you see spots on your reflection ask yourself what is causing those dirty spots. Possibly you are not accepting yourself as God’s child.

Maybe there caused because you spend too much time thinking about yourself and your needs instead of finding out how you can use the gifts God gave you to help those less fortunate than you.

One thing that can cause dirt and streaks on your reflection is the distance you put between you and Almighty God.

You believe in God and turn to Him when you need something like healing or a job, but you fail to communicate with him as your best friend every day.

Sometimes, just possibly, when you look in the mirror you do not recognize the person staring back at you. You need to ask why.

There are, of course, those times when you can see another figure behind you who seems to be calling to you. That reflection can either be the dark, frightening and foreboding presence of Satan who is trying to entice you to turn away from God and live only for the moment and the pursuit of pleasure, fame and fortune.

The image behind you might be a beautiful luminescent image that seems to glow from within which is the reflection of God, the Holy Spirit or your guardian Angel whispering to you to follow the path of righteousness.

Take a good look at yourself in that mirror; do you reflect the infinite love and mercy of Jesus Christ?

Do you live your live in a way that would prompt God to say “Welcome, My good and faithful servant”?

What you see in that mirror is how others see you and react towards you.

If you live your life always striving to be kind, generous, thoughtful, forgiving, and not discriminatory of any individual, even those with whom you disagree, you are well on the way to seeing God in your reflection and others will see that as well and be drawn toward you.

If, however, you discriminate because God created someone a different race or nationality as you or because they have a same sex orientation, or been divorced, or worse yet, that an individual is not of the same religious denomination as you, then your reflection is going to be full of blotches, stains and streaks and your image in the mirror needs to be cleaned up.

Jesus Christ did not reject anyone, he called and welcomed all who came to him seek to hear him and learn the way to gain heaven, even those who were sinners seeking forgiveness telling them to “Go and Sin No More”

Christ sat at table with those who according to Jewish tradition were unclean, teaching them how to attain salvation.

Christ endured suffering and even death on the cross in order to free us from the burden of sin and open the gates of heaven to all.

His example showed us how to live but he told us it would not be easy and that we might be ridiculed and rejected and even have to suffer in order to live according to God’s will.

God has even given us a source of strength in the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit; Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

They are if we seek them out and ask God to bestow them upon us.

I close this reflection with a prayer I say at least twice a day which I wrote for a weekend retreat in 2006.

Prayer for God’s Infinite Love

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflection on Saints Sergius & Bacchus

Feast of Saints Sergius & Bacchus October 7, 2011

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy

On October 7th we celebrate the feast of Saints Sergius & Bacchus, the patron Saints of this ministry so I decided to tell you more about the Saints and why the mission was founded since so many have never heard of the saints.

Our mission here in Franklin Massachusetts was founded to serve all those in the New England area and through the internet who have felt rejected and alienated because of their sexual orientation or divorce with the message of God‘s infinite mercy and love for ALL His children.

As for who Saints Sergius & Bacchus were the answer is a couple of men who were Christian soldiers in the Roman army and in a loving committed blessed Holy Union ( Marriage) in accord with the traditions of the Catholic Church at that time in history.

Most people never heard of them because they do not fit the current church’s political positions although they have feast days in both the Roman and Eastern churches especially the Orthodox churches but in the Roman church their feast was replaced with a feast day honoring Our Lady of the Rosary.

I have a very strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother under all of her titles and I also believe that the Rosary is a powerful prayer mantra that should be prayed often but I also believe that knowledge of the lives of all the saints and their feast days needs to be known because the saints can offer us hope and example on how to live our lives.

Even though I had read the LIVES OF THE SAINTS from cover to cover through more than 60 years of religious education and work in the church I had never heard of Saints Sergius & Bacchus until I came across their Icon while on a retreat at the Benedictine monastery in Vermont. I was there trying to perceive how and under who’s patronage I would establish a ministry to the GLBT community since none of the Roman churches in the area wanted any part of that kind of ministry. While perusing the gift shop I noticed the Icon of two male saints in an embrace and wondered who they were. When I turned the Icon over and read the history of Saints Sergius and Bacchus I was totally surprised and immediately knew that God had sent me to find them.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were attached to the household of the Emperor Maximilian. They were Christians and lovers. Yes you read that correctly.

It was not for their sexuality these young men were canonized. It was for their faith -- one of history's most poignant ironies, given the church's unflinching campaign against gay love.

They, by the way, are not the only saints who had committed same sex relationships there are others like Saints Polyeuct and Nearchus and we all know of King David’s love for Jonathan as described in the book of Psalms which is attributed to having been written by King David. There are many other couples who are saints, both male and female, who historical records indicate were in committed blessed relationships.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus were ordered to enter the Temple of Jupiter to participate in a sacrificial ceremony to the god, they refused. For this act of defiance, the lovers were stripped of their arms and badges of rank, dressed in women's clothing and led through the streets of Arabissus (near Comana in Cappadocia) which, for a Roman soldier, was abject humiliation. Then they were sent to Resapha in Syria (Augusta Euphratesiae in Mesopotamia), where they were tortured. Bacchus was whipped until his flesh was raw and he died October 1st AD290, confessing his faith in Christ

Sergius's faith faltered with the death of his lover, but was reinforced when Bacchus appeared to him in a vision saying, "I am still with you in the bond of our union." Sergius kept the faith and after a great deal more of torture, he was beheaded on October 7 AD290. Like his lover, he died a martyr for the love of Christ.

The tomb of S. Sergius at Resapha become a famous shrine and was honored by great gatherings of Christians because of the frequent miracles there.

Sergius and Bacchus became the heavenly protectors of the Byzantine army, with the two Theodores, Demetrius, Procopius and George.

Their "acts" are preserved in Latin, Greek and Syria.

In AD431, Bishop Alexander of Hierapolis built a magnificent church in Sergius’s honor.

In 434, the town of Resapha was raised to the rank of an episcopal see, was named Sergiopolis, and soon became one of the greatest pilgrimage centers of the East. Many churches in many towns bore the name of Sergius (sometimes with Bacchus) and in the seventh century, a church was dedicated to them in Rome.

There have been two popes named after Saint Sergius.

During the middle Ages, the relationship of Sergius and Bacchus was considered an exemplar of compassionate union, and possibly even marriage, based on agape (brotherly love) and mutual respect.

In the East, Sergius and Bacchus were universally honored.

Since the seventh century they have had a celebrated church in Rome. Christian Art represents the two saints as soldiers in military garb with branches of palm in their hands.

I strongly recommend that all who love Christ and believe that he is our savior and redeemer take it upon themselves to read the many histories of the church, not just the Roman version, but the versions preceding the establishment of Rome as the “central” seat of the church.

What we now call the Eastern Orthodox churches were all, except for Russia, established before Rome and their historical records are more intact and open than those of Rome.

I am ending this brief history lesson with a prayer I wrote in honor of the patron saints of our ministry.

Prayer To Saints Sergius & Bacchus

© Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD,

Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Almighty and merciful God, Your Holy Martyrs, Sergius and Bacchus loved each other and You with such complete abandon that they were pleased to suffer torments and give their earthly lives rather than deny you.

They were subjected to disgrace, humiliation and ridicule in an attempt to embarrass and discredit them and force them to renounce you, O Lord.

Their love for each other and You, O Lord, sentenced them to earthly degradation and loss of their earthly lives but gained for them eternal live and glory with you.

I pray that they will intercede on my behalf to you, O Blessed Lord, and plead my case so that I may join them and all the saints, when my days here on earth are over, giving endless praise honor and glory to You Almighty God and father now and forever. Amen

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blessings on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

The Canticle of the Sun

by Francis of Assisi

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility. AMEN, AMEN All praise and glory be yours Almighty God unto the ages of ages. AMEN

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Transitas of St. Francis Reflection

Transitas of St. Francis Reflection

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

These words from the peace prayer of Saint Francis could not be more poignant today than they were at the time they were first reportedly proclaimed by our Seraphic Father, Saint Francis of Assisi.

Recently I revisited the film THE GROUND TRUTH, which depicts the effect of war on the innocent youth of our nation who served their country in the belief that they were doing their patriotic duty after the tragic and horrendous events of 9/11.

The film is told in their words and the words of the parents who lost their children.

The parents were proud of their children who were serving their country but they feel abandoned by their country after their child gave the ultimate sacrifice.

I was reminded while watching the film of the life of Saint Francis, who, like those young men and women in the film went off to fight for his country in the belief that what he was doing was the right thing.

He came to the realization that war was not the answer. When he became very sick while serving he saw a vision of Christ.

Francis returned home after recovering to denounce all violence and the corrupt and excessive ways of the world. He rejected all the fineries and luxuries of the world for the simple life.

Francis then went on to proclaim a sense of God’s infinite mercy and love and the message of Christ peace into the world and the church of his time.

THE GROUND TRUTH will cause you to evaluate not only war as a way of resolving differences but also how we should treat those who give so much but in return are often forgotten.

The film will open your mind just as the powerfully vision of Christ did for Saint Francis.

The toll of war is one that society will live with for centuries to come and if it is not addressed today, it will take its toll on our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I am reminded of a song we used to sing so often with the students, LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH written by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson in 1955, another time of an uncertain and questionable war.

It says the following; Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me, Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, brothers all are we, Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.”

The acceptance of wars and violence has spread to our young and schools where bullying is becoming an epidemic and has caused some to commit suicide.

Ask yourself if the consequences of war are worth the toll that is being taken on our future generations. There has got to be a better way.

In addition to the wars another problem we are facing in this country, just as in St. Francis time, is the need to have excessive wealth. Highly paid athletes are striking for higher and higher wages when they already receive, in many cases, tens of thousands of dollars a game.

Another issue is that ome politicians would cut social programs that help the poor, aged and unemployed of which almost 10% of our nation are attempting to live without jobs.

Saint Francis’s society suffered from all of the same problems we are faced with today and he knew that they were in total opposition to what Christ Taught and worked to change the mindset of the people of his time.

Is it possibly that St. Francis on his feast day and Almighty God are trying to open our minds today to the realization that today’s society is living in total opposition to the teachings of Christ and God’s will for us.

Let us all begin to say aloud the words of Christ found in John 14:27, "Peace be with you my peace be unto you" (Luke 24:36) Let us call to mind the direction we are given in Psalm 34:14, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” And in Jeremiah 28:9 “But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true."

We can find further confirmation of God’s direction to us in Luke 1:79 “those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

I end with the words from Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” and Christ’s words on the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they shall be known as the Children of God.”

May the spirit of Saint Francis and His desire to bring the peace of Christ into everyone’s heart and soul fill us with that desire and draw us to action in achieving true and lasting peace among all God’s children.