A Reflection for Sunday September 9, 2018
Based on the readings for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary time & Nativity of Our Lady
Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalm 146; Letter of St. James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37; John 3:13-17

BY Rev. Robert Johnnene OFM
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Mercy

Yesterday the Universal Church celebrated the birth of our Blessed Mother, The Feast of the nativity of Our Blessed Mother
reminds us of Her willingness to accept God’s will for her although it was not only difficult but could also be deadly for her.
The birth of Our beloved Blessed Mother Mary is called in the Orthodox churches the Theotokos or Mother of God. We all
know that the Greek word for God is Theos from which comes the word Theology which the reasoned discourse concerning
God. We can even find reference to Our Blessed Mother in Islam’s Holy Book the Koran, Mary's (Maryam's) story is in
chapters 3 and 19. Allah (God), through an angel, declares Maryam "pure" and "exalted above all women," chosen to bear
the prophet Jesus. She conceives simply by Allah's decree. In Christianity, Jesus is called the Son of God, divine as well as
human. According to the ancient tradition of the Universal Church, the Theotokos was born of barren and aged parents,
Joachim and Anna, about the year 16 or 17 before the birth of Christ. Joachim was descended from the royal line of David, of
the tribe of Judah. Anna was of the priestly tribe of Levi, a daughter of the priest Matthean and Mary, his wife. With this
knowledge and belief is it any wonder that so many Catholics have a deep and abiding devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
I am sure, the angel Gabriel’s news to Mary must have been shocking and mystifying and filled Our Blessed Mother with
fear but she trusted and had a deep and abiding faith in God and Accepted.
I can relate somewhat to how she must have felt, as I also was afraid that I was not only worthy of being a priest and was
uncertain that I could be a true reflection of Christ and St. Francis, but with trust and faith in God I accepted hoping that God
would guide me through the Holy Spirit.
The readings for this Sunday provide us with a great deal of hope and promise. The Gospel for the Sunday of the pre-Feast
of the Holy Cross, is from John 3: in it we have the reason for Christ coming down and taking on human form. "For God so
loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent
the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." It is clear from this that
God sent His only son down on earth to give us an example of how we should live our lives. Exactly how did Christ live his
time here on earth? He lived it by preaching charity, peace, mercy, forgiveness and in healing those afflicted with illness.
He also lived it by rejecting those rules that man had imposed on the faithful of His time according to Jewish tradition. Christ
spoke out against the hypocrisy of the Jewish Hierarchy. Christ denounced those who were ready to stone a woman for her
sins telling them “Let those among you who is without sin, cast the first stone”
What should we deduce from this? We need to realize that we mere mortals are all sinners in one way or another, and that
we are in no position to be judging others for their indiscretions, but we need to look on them as Christ did, with compassion
and mercy. God, through the prophets, has given us a set of rules to live by, The Commandments, Christ clarified those in
simple language; “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, and soul and body….Love your neighbor as your self”.
To love God with your entire being means just that, to give thanks to Almighty God for all that he provides us. To accept
those burdens we are faced with, just as Job accepted the trials the devil inflicted upon him to attempt to make him turn
away from God, for our burdens may be an attempt by the Evil one to have us loose faith in God, just as he tried to
accomplish with Job. When Satan had caused Job to loose all that he had Job did not loose faith in God but did this; “Then
Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped Almighty God, He said, "Naked I
came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. \5/The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be
the name of the LORD." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. “ (Job 20-22) If we believe that Almighty God
is a merciful and forgiving God, and that He did not come into this world to condemn but to save us then we need to trust in
Him and know that all things happen for a reason known always to God but not necessarily by us.
The other reading for today I have chosen to expound upon is from the Gospel of Mark chapter 7 where Christ has healed
the man who is deaf and had a speech impediment. “He put His fingers into the man's ears. He spit and put His finger on the
man's tongue. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and breathed deep within. He said to the man, "Be opened!" At once, his
ears were opened. His tongue was made loose and he spoke as other people. Then Jesus told them they should tell no one.
The more He told them this, the more they told what He had done. They were very much surprised and wondered about it.
They said, "He has done all things well. He makes those who could not hear so they can hear. He makes those who could
not speak so they can speak."
If having faith In God and believing that Jesus Christ was sent from God to lead us to the truth and If and trust and faith in
Christ could produce the healing of the deaf and opening of the mouths of those unable to speak clearly, what greater things
could happen to us through believing? A trust and a belief in Jesus Christ and Almighty God and a daily reflection on the
inspired Word of God with the blessings of The Holy Spirit we might become clearer in our understanding of how we need to
lead our lives.
Are we like those who were ready to stone a woman because of her sin; are we one of those who feel that one must follow
a set pattern of ritual in order to give God a proper offering? Do we exclude people because they are of a different race,
social class, have been divorced or whose sexual orientation is different from ours. Are we closed-minded and accept what
others tell us without searching out the truth for ourselves?
Jesus even gave us an example of how we need to treat those of a different faith belief in the story of the Samaritan Woman
“The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. (Nor were Men allowed to talk to a
woman who was not a family member or their religion) She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman.
Why are you asking me for a drink?" Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask
me, and I would give you living water." the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring
within them, giving them eternal life."…….."Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you
worship the Father ………the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in
truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must
worship in spirit and in truth." John 4: 9-24
“Worship in spirit and in truth” Where do we find the truth, certainly not in the fallible words of man, but in the infallible
words of Almighty God found in Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church Fathers. We find it is our hearts if we look
deeper enough using as guidelines Christ’s words to bring light into our lives. “So Jesus said to them, " For a little while
longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the
darkness does not know where he goes.”(John 12:35) “I was sent to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to
light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who
have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17-19)  We live our faith by trusting in Almighty God completely. We do this by
accepting Jesus Christ as the son of God; giving thanks and praise to almighty God through prayer and worship for the gifts
He has given us; the frequent reception of the Eucharist which is the bread of life given us by Christ. We need to live our
lives in a manner consistent with Christ’s example and being mindful of the needs and feelings of others; in respecting
others for the right to their opinions even when we do not agree with them; being more open and less judgmental of those
different than we are. We need to be trusting that God knows what is best for us and accepting our burdens without turning
against God for allowing them to happen. That is our challenge. It is not an easy one but we need to remember that it was
not easy for Christ to endure, as a human, the pain and suffering, rejection and deceit He suffered just so we could have the
forgiveness of our sins and the promise of everlasting life. AMEN