Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year 2013 Reflection

A New Year, Same Problems A Reflection by Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD Based on Readings from: Numbers 6:22-27, Psalm 67, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21 Mission Saints Sergius and Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy Divine Mercy Old Catholic Parish, Franklin, MA Independent Catholic Church of the Americas www.missionstsergius.org On Tuesday we begin a new year and my questions are: “IS THE WORLD BETTER TODAY THAN IT WAS ON DECEMBER 31ST 2012?” I am sorry to say, “I do not think we have learned anything” since we still have grid lock in our government people who are unemployed, homeless, discrimination still exists, the elderly and those on low fixed incomes are having a more difficult time trying to have even the basics of life and all this while some flaunt their riches and seek to gain even more. The economy is still in a bad way. Unbelievable scandals still continue to come to the surface concerning leaders in Government and Religion. When I was growing up I was taught that it was OK to commit a mistake as long as you learned from it and never did it again. So what exactly has happened to that concept since I was a youth? Recently we have heard of some famous people who had drug and alcohol problems or had gotten into altercations with individuals or stolen items and were given sentences that were the equivalent of a slap on the wrist because of their popularity and they turned around and continued to be in the headlines for offences, they just did not seem to care or felt they were better than others and did not have to comply with the rules. After centuries of conflicts that have taken millions of lives you would think we would have learned to settle disputes with discussions and compromise rather than wars that kill innocent people. People still resort to violence rather than sitting down and finding a resolution that both parties can live with. People still distinguish and judge people on nationality, religion, race or sexual orientation and feel comfortable excluding people for one of those reasons rather welcoming God’s diversity. Being Inhospitality was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah Since before the time of Christ people used their wealth, political and Religious positions to subjugate others and laud themselves over those they should have been taking care of. Christ spoke about this many times. There is the story of the Good Samaritan, The money changers in the temple, the Widow who gave her last cent, and my favorite The Sermon on the Mount where He tells us how we should live. The first reading for New Year’s Day from Numbers instructs us 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.” All Christians and even the Jewish people in the Old Testament have receive directions of how they should life their lives. Christ taught in parables and plainly when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount and chastised the money changers in the temple. So why do we find it so difficult to live in accord with these teachings? I wish I knew the answer. The second reading from Galatians 4 states; “The proof that you are sons of God is that God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’, and it is this that makes you a child of God, you are not a slave anymore; and if God has made you His child, then he has made you heir.” This statement reinforces the truth, we have all been chosen by God as his children and therefore are His heirs to the kingdom of heaven. The Gospel tells us that the name chosen for the child was not a family name 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 in accordance with Jewish law, 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 The western church celebrates the motherhood of Mary, “the Theotokos” a Greek word meaning “Mother of God. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jesus is the promised one of the ages and as such we need to listen to what He has instructed us to do. We must also 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 as described by Paul and St. John in scripture, 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 ways we can actively make a difference in this world by our actions and deeds. Let us try to become more compassionate toward those who are suffering; the hungry, homelessness, sick, aged and unemployed. We all can do more to spread the Good News of Salvation as preached by Christ? Let’s make time in our daily schedules to pray and talk with God. As the sports adage says; “The ball is in our court” Now the question is; how are we going to play it? I close with this prayer: 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 world’s 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. May we all work to change the way we do things and may we actually learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward in a new direction to bring about unity, compassion, charity and peace to all God’s children throughout the world. AMEN

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Reflection

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Christmas is a very special time in the universal church and one of the two celebrations where there are more than one set of reading. The celebration begins with the vigil mass the evening before Christmas Day, and then the Midnight Mass, the Dawn Mass and the Masses during the day. Each of these masses have a separate set of readings and combined they give a full telling of the prophesies foretelling the coming of the redeemer or Promised one and the events leading up to the actual birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Isaac Watts who lived from 1674-1748 wrote the following words; “Joy to the World, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing” I cannot think of any more appropriate words to express the feeling we all should be having this blessed day or the mission we all have been called to live our lives daily by the birth of this infant child called Jesus of Nazareth. As I stated at the beginning of this reflection, Christmas day there are three sets of readings, one for the Midnight Mass, another for the mass at a special reading for vigil masses held earlier in the evening of December 24th. When you combine them all they provide us with the very powerful truth and reason for living according to God‘s will. John 1 begins with these words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John reminds us that Christ came from God, and is God and that He took on the human form in the same manner as every human being ever born or to be born, as an infant. He came into this world in the same way as well, being born of a woman. Let us try to understand the darkness that seems to encompass so many today. I believe that God chose this way in order to let us know that we are all created in His image and we all have a job do to in this world. God gave us free choice therefore we can refuse to accept the job He wishes us to do if we so choose. There is so much symbolism in the miracle of Christmas. God chose simple people, a carpenter and a humble Jewish woman, not the royalty or the rich and famous. Christ was born in a poor stable filled with farmer’s animals which were the source of his warmth on a bed of hay laid out in a feeding troth. The announcement of Christ’s birth was not to the great and mighty or the priests of the temple but to simple shepherds. God did this to let us know that he calls and loves everyone as he created them and not just the powerful, rich and famous. Christ even told us “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-25 The readings provide us with the purpose of Christ’s coming to earth; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus”. We are called to live sensibly, to be generous, kind, and not to discriminate against one another for any reason. Sadly, somehow that message seems to have been lost on many people today. People seem to be motivated more for material things than for Spiritual gifts. Everywhere we hear of news that depresses us and causes to wonder where God is in all this like the terrible tragedy that occurred in Newtown Connecticut and of people who steal Christmas gifts from people especially gifts that have been collected for those who are in need, and we hear of wars that seem to be raging in order to gain wealth, property, money, power or domination at the expense of others. Rest assured, God is here, he is near but we need to seek him out and not be ashamed to express our trust, faith and love of him. We need to always make time for God in our daily lives not just when tragedy strikes. Christ came into this world to clear up the mess that humans in their frailty and imperfect state have made of God’s creation and will. We are supposed to be the caretakers of God’s creation but many do not take that God given responsibility seriously. We have been charged by God to care for this planet earth and all God’s creatures yet we are destroying the ecosystem that God created because it is cheaper and more profitable than using alternative energies when possible. “Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and encourage and reprimand all authorities. Let no one take no notice of you.” Titus 2:11-15 Jesus told us the way we should live in these words; “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul and body and love your neighbor as you love yourself” God so loved the world that He gave His only son to us. There is no greater gift we can ever receive than the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of everlasting life we gained by Christ’s coming into the world and his wiliness to suffer, die and resurrect in accordance with the scriptures. Now I ask you, what gift are you planning to give Christ on this His birthday? The perfect gift would be to be kind, considerate, loving, caring, forgiving, charitable, and respectful of the differences that God has created in all things. We might involve God more in our daily lives by talking with him often called praying. In the reading from Hebrews we read that even the angels are to worship Christ and that His kingdom will last forever. "Let all God's angels worship him. In speaking of the angels he says, He makes his angels winds, his servant’s flames of fire. But about the Son he says, your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Hebrews 1:6-9 On this Christmas day of 2012 let us follow the directions of the angels who announced the Good News to the shepherds watching their flocks. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." Let us try to be people God will be pleased with, so that we can fully enjoy the peace and joy the birth of the son of God that this day celebrates. Let us return God’s gift to us by being more tolerant of the differences in others, charitable in giving to organizations and people in need. Let us be concerned about the homeless, unemployed, sick, poor, aged and disabled of the world. Let us raise our voices against injustice, war, and greed. In short, let us make a difference in the world and make it a better place tomorrow than it is today for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. By doing this we will affirm there is “Joy in the world because the Lord has come and instilled in us His way so we have become His instrument here on earth working hard to bring about the promised peace of Christ.” May the promise of Christmas fill you with comfort and peace and may that peace be extended from you to all you encounter.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2012 Reflection is based on the readings from Micah 5:1-4, Psalm 80, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-44 By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD, Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus Franciscans of Divine Mercy Divine Mercy Parish, Franklin, MA Independent Catholic Church of the Americas www.Missionstsergius@msn.com www.franciscansdivinemercy.org This is what Christ said, on coming into the world: “You, who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.” Notice that he says first: “You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:5-10) On Tuesday we will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice of all time. Christ came into this world, as the reading from Hebrews seems to imply, for the sole purpose of offering His human body as a sacrifice for the remission of all the sins of humankind. Christ came to fulfill, not only all the promises of the prophets, but the prayers of those who found the demands of the hierarchy of the Jewish faith to be oppressive & unreasonable. Now why would God assent to making life easier for his children? The reason is very easy to answer, because our God is an infinitely loving, caring, merciful God who desires us to love not only Him, but each other. Our God is a God of justice not oppression. God only asks of us what Christ himself told us was 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 your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27) On December the 8th when we celebrated the Feast of The Immaculate Conception we were reminded of how Mary trusted the words of the Angel Gabriel and accepted the challenge to be the bearer of the promised of the ages even though she might be stoned to death because she was not married yet. The God bearer or Theotokos as the Eastern Churches call Mary trusted in God and gave of herself totally. She accepted the burdens that she faced without complaint and in that she is a model for us to follow.. When Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth whom the Angel Gabrial had told Mary was in the sixth month of her pregnancy even in her old age and having been considered baren Mary was greeted with these words.; “Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ (Luke 1:39-44) In the reading from Micah 5:1-4 we hear; “The Lord says this; But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old. He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God. They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land. He himself will be peace.” Christ came to earth as the greatest gift God could provide us; The Three kings from the various parts of the world that followed the star to Christ’s birthplace knew in their hearts that this baby was the greatest King of all Kings. As we proclaim in Song often, “God of God’s and King of Kings” They brought with them rare gifts to bestow upon this new born child. Today we need to ask ourselves what gift are we going to give to the Christ Child, Have we made it a priority to plan for and think of an appropriate gift from us or have we been too consumed with preparing decorations and buying presents for friends and family to give our gift to God too much thought? It is not too late; we have two days to prepare ourselves to receive the new born Christ Child into our hearts, minds and homes. Let us make a commitment to make time every day to think about and talk with God, this is what prayer is. Don’t just ask God for things, but thank God for the gifts he has given us. For myself, I do not know why he has blessed me so much. I truly feel most unworthy of all that he has given me and I cannot thank God enough. I close with this Advent Prayer and the wish that God will look mercifully upon us and our ministry and grant us the ability to continue to serve Him and those who have found us with the same kind of compassion and love that Christ gave. AMEN AN ADVENT PRAYER Almighty and merciful God, we come to you this advent season to give you thanks and praise for the many gifts you provide us every day. We ask forgiveness for our transgressions and sins and promise to strive in our daily lives to live according to the way you taught us. Guide us by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be more mindful of the needs of ALL your children and help us to do our part in bringing about the peace and brotherhood for all the children of God throughout the world. Help and guide us in working to bring about the promised future proclaimed by the angels on the night you were born. “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth” We ask this in the name of our redeemer and savior, Jesus Christ, your son, whose coming among us we celebrate this Advent Season. AMEN

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gaudete Sunday Reflection

Gaudete Sunday Reflection By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy www.missionstsergius.org Based on Readings from: Zephaniah 3:14-18, Philippians’ 4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18, Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice; exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! these words from the book of Zephaniah 3:14-18 and the following from St. Paul, in his letter to the people of Philippi, sends us a very powerful message on how to live our life when he begins with these words; “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near…..There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.” These messages of hope are the reason this Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, Meaning a Sunday to Rejoice .and the vestments are ROSE rather than purple. During this season of advent as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation his coming brought to all of the human race we should reflect on what Paul tell us in his letter to the Philippians. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. … Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. …. Now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Rejoice in the Lord! With so many grumbling about one thing or another these days and with the economy and the world in a state of turmoil and with the daily news services reporting one horrible event after another it might seem difficult to REJOICE.. Just the knowledge that so many children of God around the world are living in poverty, suffering from discrimination, homeless, and being killed because of the greed and power seeking of others, we might wonder how we could ever REJOICE IN THE LORD! It might just be that the cause of all the suffering facing the world today is that so many have put God totally out of their daily lives and replaced Him with the desire for fame, fortune, power and just plain greed. Many claim that they are too busy to give God a portion of their time every day or even on Sunday. They have to work, shop, a game of golf or a sporting event to go to or some other reason rather than take an hour of time devoted to Thanking God and Seeking God’s blessings. If they would just take some time to think they might come to the realization that all good things came from the creator. If only they realize that, just maybe, they might come to the awareness that they need to thank God for what He has provided them and acknowledge God’s presence in their life. People are so busy decorating their houses and purchasing gifts in preparing to celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa that they focus is on the commercial aspects of the holidays and people forget what true meaning of these holidays; REJOICING IN GOD’S GOODNESS AND GIVING THANKS. Without God, none of these holidays would exist. Let’s make sure that we have set aside time in these last two weeks of Advent to thank God for all He has provided us. Let’s plan to attend a religious ceremony as a part of our celebration plans. For those who are Christian, attend church and receive the Eucharist. The Gospel tells us the way to live with these words; “If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!” Christmas is the time we set aside to recognize Christ’s coming here in order to teach us the way to happiness and everlasting peace and open the way for us to achieve eternal salvation. Let us acknowledge that precious gift from God, the Gift of His beloved son and make room in our lives every day to “Rejoice in Him” through prayer and works of charity, compassion and love for ALL God’s children. Let us strive to live our life every day in a manner that is in accordance with the way Christ instructed in this weeks Gospel reading and let us work toward being more considerate, compassionate, understanding, forgiving and caring person to all we encounter in our daily life. rather than just concentrating on our own needs. What a wonderful way to present our gift to Almighty God in thanksgiving for all He has done for us. AMEN

Gaudete Sunday Reflection

Gaudete Sunday Reflection By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy www.missionstsergius.org Based on Readings from: Zephaniah 3:14-18, Philippians’ 4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18, Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice; exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! these words from the book of Zephaniah 3:14-18 and the following from St. Paul, in his letter to the people of Philippi, sends us a very powerful message on how to live our life when he begins with these words; “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near…..There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.” These messages of hope are the reason this Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, Meaning a Sunday to Rejoice .and the vestments are ROSE rather than purple. During this season of advent as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation his coming brought to all of the human race we should reflect on what Paul tell us in his letter to the Philippians. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. … Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. …. Now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Rejoice in the Lord! With so many grumbling about one thing or another these days and with the economy and the world in a state of turmoil and with the daily news services reporting one horrible event after another it might seem difficult to REJOICE.. Just the knowledge that so many children of God around the world are living in poverty, suffering from discrimination, homeless, and being killed because of the greed and power seeking of others, we might wonder how we could ever REJOICE IN THE LORD! It might just be that the cause of all the suffering facing the world today is that so many have put God totally out of their daily lives and replaced Him with the desire for fame, fortune, power and just plain greed. Many claim that they are too busy to give God a portion of their time every day or even on Sunday. They have to work, shop, a game of golf or a sporting event to go to or some other reason rather than take an hour of time devoted to Thanking God and Seeking God’s blessings. If they would just take some time to think they might come to the realization that all good things came from the creator. If only they realize that, just maybe, they might come to the awareness that they need to thank God for what He has provided them and acknowledge God’s presence in their life. People are so busy decorating their houses and purchasing gifts in preparing to celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa that they focus is on the commercial aspects of the holidays and people forget what true meaning of these holidays; REJOICING IN GOD’S GOODNESS AND GIVING THANKS. Without God, none of these holidays would exist. Let’s make sure that we have set aside time in these last two weeks of Advent to thank God for all He has provided us. Let’s plan to attend a religious ceremony as a part of our celebration plans. For those who are Christian, attend church and receive the Eucharist. The Gospel tells us the way to live with these words; “If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!” Christmas is the time we set aside to recognize Christ’s coming here in order to teach us the way to happiness and everlasting peace and open the way for us to achieve eternal salvation. Let us acknowledge that precious gift from God, the Gift of His beloved son and make room in our lives every day to “Rejoice in Him” through prayer and works of charity, compassion and love for ALL God’s children. Let us strive to live our life every day in a manner that is in accordance with the way Christ instructed in this weeks Gospel reading and let us work toward being more considerate, compassionate, understanding, forgiving and caring person to all we encounter in our daily life. rather than just concentrating on our own needs. What a wonderful way to present our gift to Almighty God in thanksgiving for all He has done for us. AMEN