Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reflection for Mary, Mother of God Feast

May the Lord’s Face Shine On You

A Reflection for January First, Mary Mother of God

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21,

By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD

Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mery, Franklin, MA

The Psalm for the liturgy of New Years Day proclaims a message we all should be shouting from the rooftops, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, How awesome are your works!”

When we couple that with the direction given in the first reading of the day from the book of Numbers chapter 6 verses 22-27 on how to greet people “You shall say to them: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.”

We receive a direction of living our life in accordance with the teachings of Christ and therefore Almighty God. Our hearts should be filled with the knowledge and love that the King of Glory, Jesus Christ brought to this world. Was not just happenstance, but was part of God’s design from the very beginning of time.

As if to reinforce the truth, that we have all been chosen by God as his children and therefore heirs to the kingdom of heaven we have the words from the second reading found in Galatians 4: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a son, you are not a slave any more; and if God has made you son, then he has made you heir.”

The Gospel tell us that the name chosen for the child was not a family mane but that it was given to the infant according to the instructions Mary received from the Angel Gabriel.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception. "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:22

Besides being the feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, today is also commemorated in the western church to celebrate the motherhood of Mary, “the Theotokos” in Greek meaning mother of God. The Gospel reading reminds us that Mary pondered all that had come to pass and also the things she was told would occur in her heart by the priest “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2: 34-35.

There should be no doubt in anyone mind that Jesus is the promised one of the ages and as such we need to heed the things He has instructed us to do. We also have to keep in mind that through the centuries many things have been added to what Jesus instructed, mainly for the purpose of gaining power and wealth. Those things have very little to do with living our life according to God’s will. Celibacy of clergy was an idea that came many years after Christ, the early church had women deacons, the early church blessed same sex commitment ceremonies, liturgies were celebrated in the language of the people. These are just some of the things that churches enforce that were not defined by Christ.

All the grandeur, splendor, pomp and circumstance that is associated with some churches fly in the face of what Christ taught. By His birth in a simple manger alone; Christ gave us a lesson that He came to give hope and promise to all and that the poor and needy where more acceptable than the rich and powerful. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” this teaching should cause us to think about how we treat others and is it the same way that we would want to be treated?

Jesus Christ came to earth to save us, to open up the gates of heaven to all people. Almighty God sent us His son in human form to teach us the truth, to lead us in the path of righteousness, and to gain for us eternal salvation.

As we begin a New Year let us make a new beginning in our relationship with Almighty God through His beloved Son, Jesus the Christ. Let us vow to make the changes necessary in our lives so that we come closer to God in all that we do. Let us set aside time each and every day to acknowledge God and ask His help in making us a better and newer person. Let us examine way that we can actively make a difference by our actions and deeds. Can we be more compassionate toward those who are suffering from poverty, hunger, homelessness and serious illness? Can we do more to support the spreading of the Good News of Salvation preached by Jesus Christ? Can we make time in our schedules to pray and receive the bread of life, the Eucharist?

As the sports adage says; “The ball is in our court” how are we going to play it?

May the New Year bring peace to the hearts and minds of all people, May the wisdom of God infuse the inner being of all especially the leaders of the worlds governments and religions so that they find a pathway to peace and unity and bring about the promise of The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. AMEN

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Reflection for Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011 Reflection

By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD

Divine Mercy Parish/ Mission Sts. Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy

An All Inclusive Independent Old Catholic Parish and Ministry

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.(John 1:14) Glory to God in the highest, and peace to all people on earth with whom He is Pleased. Today is born unto us a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (John 2:14, 11) His name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) And Mary brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”.(Luke2:7-14) When Jesus came to earth in goodness and loving kindness He saved us by the virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which was poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

All the above passages are from one of the three masses assigned to Christmas.

What we need to ponder as we hear these passages is how Jesus, the King of Kings came into this world and why God choose to send him in the way he did.

The King of Kings, Lord of Lords was not born in the warmth comfort of a home or inn. No, he was born in a humble cave used to keep the farm animals sheltered from the elements.

His crib was a feeding troth filled with hay for a mattress and the warm breath of a donkey and a cow provided heat.

Mary and Joseph, his parents, had accepted God’s will for them even though it could have left them open to criticism and [possibly even death since the birth of the child would have meant that they had sexual relations before they were married a crime punishable by death.

Jesus first visitors were simple shepherds, not the elite of the world.

God sent us a sign by this choice for Christ’s birth.

God was trying to tell us to live our lives simply and not by seeking fame or fortune.

We were given a message that the simple things in life are what count like family, friends, and the beauty of nature.

Christ’s birth as a poor homeless individual was a sign to us to be more compassionate toward the poor and homeless, aged and sick.

His birth was also a sing that we never know what a small baby will achieve in life which is why we need to respect life.

From Christ’s humble birth in a manger came the most powerful and largest religious movement of all history, Christianity, based on the teachings of Christ.

I often think that God sent Christ as a last resort. God got tired of how humans continually changed everything God had inspired the prophets of old to tell people and mad God into a vengeful God rather than what God actually was, a God of Compassion, mercy and LOVE.

God decided, I believe, that the only way to set things straight was to send His only begotten son, into this world in a natural human way and not in a thunderous miracle.

God wanted to set the record straight on how He expected humans to live and treat each other.

Every event of Christ’s life recorded in scripture, is a message to us to be accepting of the diversity God created, compassionate toward the poor, aged, sick and forgiving toward those who do us wrong.

Christ welcomed all who came to him and discriminated toward no one. He sat and ate with those considered sinners.

Christ is referred to as “The Light of the World” which means He was sent to light the way for us, like a brilliant beacon that guides ships away from dangerous shoals and reefs toward a safe harbor.

Christ was born to clarify God’s will and dispel the darkness that prevailed and sadly still causes so much pain and suffering because of man’s interpretation of Christ’s teachings.

Christ came to comfort us in times of distress by assuring us that there is a great reward awaiting us at the end of our earthly life if we follow his example.

The miraculous birth we celebrate today is that of God made flesh.

God gave us a human image to equate to; a human being that had to endure all the human feelings, emotions, problems and joys that each of us has to experience in our journey of life.

Christ endured the pain of loss of a parent and friends, Christ experienced the joy of a wedding of a friend. He became angry at the greed and callousness of the priests and temple employees.

Christ’s message was one of Love, forgiveness, compassion, mercy and generosity.

On this day we celebrate God’s gift to us of His only son and God’s promise of salvation to all his children, let us present an offering to Him that reflects the way of life He advised us to lead.

Let us begin to be more compassionate to those who are suffering from hunger, illnesses such as AIDS and cancer, poverty, homelessness and substandard housing, and discrimination and bullying.

Let us work hard to eliminate the ills of our society and bring about a time of equality and justice for ALL God’s children.

On this day that we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace let us make a concerted effort to bring peace into the world beginning with our own families, friends and neighbors whom we might be have hurt in some way.

If all of us strive toward this goal, what a huge difference it could make in a world where greed, profit, power and a disregard for the needs of hundreds of millions of people seems to be the norm, especially among some who claim to actually be Christians.

As Neil Armstrong said upon landing on the moon, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, a small change in our behavior can become a giant leap if each person whose life was changed in even a small way were to reciprocate by making a difference in another’s life, miracles could happen.

In the news this week we have heard of strangers who have gone into stores like Wal-Mart, K Mart and Target and paid off the balances due on peoples lay-a-Way’.

According to the news it influenced others to do the same. That is what a gesture of kindness could do.

This week I have made over 40 Christmas arrangements for distribution to some of those nursing home patients and shut-ins I visit. It cost more than $250 which the ministry could not afford, but I felt that the ray of hope and enjoyment it could bring into the lives of those receiving them was far more important and a way I could do what I believe Christ would have done if he were walking this earth today. We are called to be Christ’s hands and feet as his ministers, which means we are supposed to try to live as we believe Christ would have lived today.

By our taking a small step toward bringing peace into our own lives we might prod others to do the same and eventually this “Virus of Peace” could envelope the whole world.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27)

With these words of Jesus I end this joyous message of Christmas and pray that the Peace and infinite love of Christ will invade your hearts today and all the days of your life.

Merry Christmas and May God bless us all with a peaceful and joyous New Year. AMEN

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reflection for the Feast of Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Feast Reflection

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

On this, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother let us reflect on what that means in the overall story of God’s gift to all humanity of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who was born of the virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit.

Almighty God deemed that Mary should come into this world free of the stain that all others before and after her have come into this world with, original sin, so that she would be a pure receptacle within which Our Savior Jesus Christ would be conceived in.

He sent His messenger, the angel Gabriel, to her to inform her that she had been chosen to bear the promised of the ages.

Mary responded with apprehension but with the affirmative words “Let it be done unto me according to thy will”.

In our lives, we often are faced with challenges or situations where we have great apprehension but after prayer, we feel that what we are facing is God’s will.

Do we respond with “Let it be done according to thy will O Lord”? Or do we complain because it is difficult?

I often wonder what went through Our Blessed Mothers mind when Simeon told her, “a sword will pierce your soul.”

If we had been told that, we would run for cover or accept it as God will that had to be accomplished.

Mary accepted it with the same full acceptance as she accepted her conception without having a sexual relation and being unmarried.

Mary was totally accepting of God’s will in spite of the fact that it held extreme danger for her since an unmarried woman with child was supposed to be stoned to death.

If only each of us could only become more like Mary, accepting our lives as God chose it for us and make the best of them by living our life with the purpose of bringing greater honor and glory to God.

I am certain that Our Blessed Mother was instrumental in my being where I am since the order I was accepted into after so many years of applying to religious orders after my marriage ended, was The Servant Franciscans of the Immaculata, an order dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother.

When that order disbanded I felt called to found the Franciscans of Divine Mercy.

On this feast honoring the Immaculate Conception of Mary, let us dedicate ourselves to being more like Our Blessed Mother, totally and completely accepting God’s will for us. Let us strive to live our life in a manner that reflects her life by accepting what God sends our way even the less than desirable as Christ accepted his passion and death in order for us to have forgiveness of sins.

By accepting all that comes our way we can be assured that we will be blessed with all God’s gifts we will need to gain eternal peace for all eternity.

On December 8th in 1957, I was living in a walk up in New York pursuing my second love Theater, after being told by the Josephites that I needed to think about my vocation to the priesthood and being laicized from my vows as a deacon, I could not seem to fall asleep because some words kept going round and round in my head.

I finally got up and wrote what was in my head down and then went back to bed and sleep. The next morning when I got up, I went to the table and there was what I had written. I thought, “My mother will like this”, and I mailed it to her.

In 1987 after she died, as I was going through her things, I came across the original paper with what I had written on it. I would like to share it with you now.

I call it, A Sinner’s Prayer


O, Mary Immaculate, Virgin so fair

Mother of our Savior, please hear my prayer

Intercede dearest Mother to your Heavenly Son

Tell Him I am sorry for all the wrongs and sins I have done

Ask Him to guide me by the gifts of the Holy Spirits truth in all of my ways

So that I may be with Him to give glory and praise at the end of my days. Amen