Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.

Welcome to Redwood Journal

Redwood Journal is a collection of writings authored by Harry Martin, including book and article publications and blog postings collected from earlier websites. It is, in a very real sense, a journal of the author reflecting his life and work, much among the Coast Redwood country of Northern California.  But it is, even more, a journal of his tasks as a servant of the Cross, a douloscross.  It is a journal of one who follows He who died upon the Cross, made red by His blood  and arose from the tomb through His holy love.

Over the years these tasks have included firefighting, restaurant and camp cook, disaster medical planner, Protestant pastor, Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, fire services chaplain, mental health advocate, Beeswax candle maker, writer and husband and father.   All of these tasks, privileged assignments, for this simple servant of Christ have been sought to be done gloria Dei, for the glory of God.

NOTE:  Every effort is made to identify and credit any image or media sources.  If an image or any information is needing credit or approval please advise and it will be corrected.


Featured post

Climbing the Lord’s Mountain, First Sunday of Advent

1st Sunday of Advent ~ 27 November 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 2:1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 122; II: Romans 13:11-14; Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

Advent in the Year of our Lord 2022 has arrived! A very happy and blessed new year! We begin this year, this holy season as always in anticipation of and preparation for the return of Christ our Savior and King! Yet for many, it may seem but another Advent. The call to anticipate, and prepare for the coming of Christ may seem but a repetition of many Advents passed. It is easy to succumb to the temptation to think it is just another Advent. But is it?

Jesus, in our Gospel reading we share, tells us that as it was in the days of Noah so it will be when He returns. Life will be going on as always. In the context of the Gospel, our Lord speaks of the ever presence of war, famine, natural calamities, and simply, sadly of sin. But Jesus also makes plain that for many the time of His coming will be days and times as usual. People will marry, families will grow, and people will work and build their lives. But amongst all this will be the clear message: Our Lord is returning! As Noah, filled with faith and courage built the ark so we too are to be making strong our faith in the ark of God’s mercy and love. As it was in the days of Noah so it is for us. It is a time of preparation. It is a journey. Noah built the ark that would take him, his loved ones, and creation on a journey of faith that would ultimately end on an holy mountain.

This Advent we too are on a journey of faith and courage. We live in a world where everyday life, thankfully does go on. But we also live in a world where violence, crime, hate, and strife grow. And as Noah was called to do his part to save creation so we too are called to diligently work to save our common home from the flood of greed and abuse afflicted upon life in countless deadly ways. We share the trek on God’s path of faith, courage, and love that leads to His holy mountain upon which the ark of our faith is to come.

As the prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “Come let us climb the LORD’S mountain… that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” The path up the Lord’s mountain is not easy. It will, in times and places cause us to seek God for the strength and wisdom to proceed. It will take us far beyond our understanding and abilities. But it will lead us to Christ who is coming. This trek up the Lord’s mountain is a path of faith, holy discipline, and love.

Our Trek of Faith: In our Gospel, we are reminded of Noah as he built the ark. We know the story. We take it at face value. But we need to remember Noah had never seen an ark or a boat of any kind. There is no account that at this point in creation travel upon masses of water was heard of or necessary. Whether one takes the story as literal truth or spiritual truth the message is powerful and clear. God was having Noah live by faith. So it is with us. In diverse ways, Jesus calls us to prepare and anticipate His return by leading us up, in faith His holy mountain. Out of our comfort zones, perhaps well past our present understanding of how, what, and where God may lead or do we are called to seek His return. This Advent is a trek of faith upon a path that may be unknown and with dangers seen, and unseen.

We share our Advent trek of holy discipline. For anyone who has enjoyed hiking or backpacking, there is an understanding that there will be places and stretches of the journey that take real discipline to stay the course. Simple fatigue, blisters, thirst, hunger, and even fear or uncertainty can challenge the slow and steady steps we must take. St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy reminded him that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a disciplined mind. All of us, as disciples of Christ, are called to live lives of holy discipline. There may be many false images that could come to mind as to what this might mean. But what the Holy Spirit seeks is to bring us to faithfully exercise our trust in God as we plod on with God. It is about recognizing we are not called to the indulgences of this world but to the building up of our shared trust in God as we discipline our thoughts, desires, and appetites for our King. One example that anyone who has hailed will understand is to discipline our words. When the path is cool, flat, and easy well might there be a steady flow of words and chatting. But when the trail is steep, the drop-off far and unforgiving and the hand-holds few the words quickly cease. All effort is on the trek, except for words of warning or encouragement as may be needed. Among Christians many are the words that flow without ceasing. These words often cause strife, confusion and sorrow. We are called, together to climb God’s mountain. May we remember and respect that as the prophet said, very clearly the ways, the paths are in the plural. Might it be for the best if we focus on our Lord and the steps he class each of us instead of fretting about others on paths, in ways that may differ from us? This Advent quest then is better realized to be a way of faith, of holy discipline and also of love.

The Advent path of Love: Jesus warns us in our Gospel that we must stay awake, to be ready when He comes. The fatigue of the journey is very real. The need to prepare and be ready is pressing. Noah must have faced great exhaustion as he prepared for his holy trek. The preparation for the journey defies comprehension. Indeed it is yet another year. This Advent we may well be tempted to doze, to nod off. It must be understood God knows our limitations. He has made us to need to rest. It is in the Gospel Canticle from Night Prayer (Compline) we pray: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in his peace.” The simple, faithful discipline of this prayer is rooted deep in Christ, in an awareness of walking (and resting) in the Presence of the Crucified King. There is a way, without fail, of awakening our anticipation and seeking Christ’s return. It is love. Whether we are in a place of loss or struggle or a time of blessing and peace with God’s love our hearts will truly hunger for our King who calls us to be ready for Him.

Climbing the Lord’s mountain is truly a trek needing genuine faith, holy discipline, and growing love. It is a path of real struggle and at times, suffering. But it is a trail upon which others have gone. Preceding us they have lovingly placed hand-holds and carved out of the hard stone the steps we must take. They have shown us the way, the way of the saints in the paths of God. It is perhaps with some holy irony that we are led up God’s holy mountain as we prepare for Advent upon the path that would transcend all eternity, the way of the Cross.

The Thanksgiving Path

Thanksgiving Mass ~ 24 November 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass: I. Sirach 50: 22-24; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19

Thanksgiving Day is here! We gather and share our gratitude to God and for each other. We remember and share for and with those who struggle with hunger, for shelter, and safety. We realize that thanksgiving, while common to think about is often not as easy to realize and express. Even our gatherings of family and friends may be seasoned with undesired tensions, worries, and anxieties. Yet when brought all together would teach us this feast of thanksgiving is a complex meal of many ingredients and parts. It takes a commitment to prepare and share this feast. It takes an even greater commitment to prepare and share the path of thanksgiving.

Our celebration coincides with the old harvest festivals. The Autumn colors and brisk weather help us to be mindful of the beauty of creation and the power and graces of our Creator. As we lift our eyes to the colors of fall we, with the help of the angels, lift our hearts in praise to God, our Creator, and Redeemer. And as we share our gratitude this day we are reminded this is a path we are called to share every day, regardless of season or time. It is as we walk this day in the light of God’s Word we are shown this path.

Each day, as we take our steps of life we are to remember the path of thanksgiving is a path of our free will. None of us is ever forced to be grateful. The refrain from the beautiful psalm of gratitude (145) proclaims; “I WILL praise your name for ever, O Lord.” The Bible, the saints, and life as well, all powerfully teach us life is not always painless or without struggle. This reality brings us to our Gospel for today. We hear the account of the ten lepers who sought healing from their leprosy from our Lord. God indeed gave them their healing. Yet only one, a Samaritan returned and knelt at the feet of Christ to give thanks. Life can easily cause our focus to become fixed upon our afflictions, upon ourselves. Why the other lepers did not return in gratitude we are not told. We are only told of the one who exercised his free will and resolved to give thanks to Jesus. We are shown that whatever the season or the day that to choose to be grateful is our choice to make. For the leper, the day that began in suffering with no end in sight ended before Christ in praise.

This choice, this exercise of free will leads us to take steps of thanksgiving. Gratitude brings us to God. Praise and thanksgiving lead into the very Presence of our Savior, our Lord. There is a very real power in the steps, the path of thanksgiving. Just as there is a very deadly power in steps of ingratitude, grumbling, and complaint. One path leads to God and to life. The other brings us to doubt and despair. These holy steps of thankfulness bring us to a place of genuine and holy action, to be grateful.

Our steps of praise bring us to God. As we come into and grow in the holy awe of His Presence we are humbled, we are brought, like the leper, to our knees. And we cannot but be thankful. And, as our Gospel affirms, in that holy place of humble gratitude (the cross) our love for God, and our faith in our Lord are brought to greater freedom. It is there we learn how much for which we have to be thankful. For life. For the beauty of creation. For God’s Church. And for each other. And always, most especially for God. We may not always understand or feel as well, as hopeful, or as peaceful as we might. Our paths will not always be easy or painless. Great may be the courage we need to take our steps in faith. But when those steps are taken with a will to be thankful we will realize, whatever the day or season, God is with us.

Being Unconditionally Pro-Life and Club Q

Monday ~ 21 November 2022

Club Q Mass shooting in Colorado

Just before midnight on Saturday, 19 November, a gunman entered an LGBT nightclub in Colorado and started shooting at random. Before being subdued by patrons he had killed at least 5 people and at least 18 others were wounded. The media has been covering the tragic story but there has been a generally deafening silence from the Christian and Catholic voices. Very few voices have expressed sorrow and outrage at this new mass shooting. The fact that these were gay men seems to have qualified this event, for some, as of little consequence. Very few have been the offers of prayer and compassion. As a Catholic deacon, I find this very troubling. As a man who is unconditionally Pro-Life, I find it scandalous.

Organizations and voices commonly in the front row of opposing abortion are busy focusing on political abortion wars. Even the Christian voices who rightly cried out at the Ubalde school shootings or the Buffalo market mass murders are very quiet. Is this because those who died, those who were wounded, are judged as so disordered as not worthy of life? Perhaps if they had repented and changed, then would they have been worthy of note or our prayers?

Those who were killed, and wounded were all likely gay men, perhaps lesbian, perhaps transgender. But they were also, and more importantly, they were people, created by God, in His image. Were they sinners? Of course, as are all of us. But they were people, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and partners. And however imperfect their lives may have been it should be noted they died in a place seeking to be happy, to find love. Instead, they met violence. Hate found them. I am not advocating promiscuous, unbridled sensuality in the quest for fulfillment. I am simply recognizing that this event occurred among people living with the hope and quest for life and love. A quest shared by the immense vast majority of all humanity, straight, gay, Catholic, Hindu, atheist, or whatever.

I believe our God, our Savior, our King is calling us to a deep examination of conscience. What happened in the heart of Jesus as this occurred? What was the response of Mary our Mother as these young people were attacked? This same question should be applied to the shootings at Ubalde, Buffalo, and all the far too many places where life doesn’t matter.

I believe those who profess to be Pro-Life need to allow the Holy Spirit of Life to open our hearts to not just the unborn (as truly sacred lives as they are) but to the elderly, the disabled, those on death row, or simply those who are different in color, faith or sexual orientation.

This post is about the sinful loss of life that occurred at Club Q, at Ubalde school, The Brooklyn market or any place the sacredness of any life is destroyed and denied.

I pray especially for the people who died at Club Q. May they find God’s mercy and love denied them here on earth. I pray for their loved ones that the compassion of God would reach out past fear and hate to comfort and help them in their losses. And I pray for all of us that we would be deeply, fully awakened to the sacredness of All life, unconditionally.

Christ the King

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Solemnity ~ 20 November 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: II Samuel 5:1-3; Responsorial: Psalm 122; II: Colossians 1:12-20; Gospel: Luke 23: 35- 43

Jesus Christ ~ King of Kings

Long ago there was a garden. The beauty, life, and joy could not be fully expressed in words. There was no need or sorrow for death, violence, anger or greed did not exist. Peace and contentment flowed in an abundance beyond measure. Innocence and the freedom of simplicity had established an order of care and stewardship that nourished life in abundance. This was the garden of God, the garden of the heavenly King and Creator. And it was good. Until.

It was good until the fallen angel, the enemy of God came and brought the seeds of envy, hate, and doubt that would be sown in the hearts of the two people, our spiritual parents. This would bring their expulsion from the garden. It would result in the beginning of immense suffering and sorrow for all creation. Sin would infect and prevail among those God had made, in love, in his image. And the enemy of God, the devil rejoiced. For he thought he had won. The prince was sure he had conquered the King.

Millenia later there was a young man who had been chosen by God to reign and lead his chosen Hebrew people. The young man, David, while called by God had experienced countless trials and tests as he sought to follow the Shepherd of his soul, his Lord. The old enemy, harboring intense anger in the stubborn refusal of God to surrender his throne, had used demons of jealousy and hate to try and destroy this young man. But faith in God prevailed. David was anointed, king. And even more. He was promised a son of his that would one day reign forever as the Lord, the King of Kings. This King would rule from a heavenly city, Jerusalem, from the house of the Lord.

It would be in that city of God that this King of Kings would come, victorious, riding on the colt of an ass. Yet again and in the evilest and dark of ways fallen angel deceived and led this King, Jesus, to be betrayed, condemned, and crucified. As the nails were pounded into the hands and feet of God’s only Son the evil one was ecstatic! The harsh clang of hammer and nail was, to the evil ears a cacophony of delight. What had begun in a garden so long ago was going to be finished. Here and now! As Jesus was dying on the cross the hate-filled taunts of those who served the prince of lies resounded with the cries of the men on their crosses. Satan smirked when he heard one of the thieves call out to Jesus to remember him when he came into his Kingdom. The evil one shook his head with arrogant joy as he thought of the kingdom the tomb would hold for Jesus. So great was his pride he never heard the promise of God that on that very day he would be with him in paradise. All seemed so settled in the heart of darkness when Jesus uttered his final words. “It is finished.”

It is over two thousand years later. The battles of good and evil, sin and salvation seem more intense than ever. Wars and rumors of wars, great destructive pandemics, storms, and strife of every description seem to prevail. The cruel reality of the powers of darkness cannot be denied. To trust in God, to hear and believe the promises and power of the King of Kings, Jesus the Christ is a quest of heart-rending difficulty for many. And, once again, the evil one smiles with the sense, the darkest of hopes, that God has failed. And he would be correct. Except for God.

“Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12

The great celebration of Christ the King comes at a point of time every year that offers us eternal hope. As it was. in the Garden, as it was with the reign of King David, as it was on Calvery with Jesus The King and as it is now… Jesus Christ, our God, reigns! Infinite are the lessons we could explore about Jesus our heavenly King. Yet one is always and especially relevant now. Jesus the King reigns, yesterday, tomorrow, and even today.

Jesus Reigns, over the past. Whether we fear the reality of the original sin we have inherited from our early parents or whether we struggle with questions and perhaps the guilt of matters past we must remember. Jesus is Lord. On the cross, he won and brought us forgiveness and peace. Prayerfully we must seek and allow the Spirit of God to search the dusty memories and fears of the past and bring them under the shed blood and healing mercy of our King, our Savior, our God who reigns. And freed from the past we can better learn that worries of the future are not what God our King has provided for us.

Christ Reigns, over the future. Great are the very real concerns of what may happen tomorrow. But, when we are honest we must admit we simply don’t know all the future will or may bring. Indeed there will likely be struggles, sorrows uncertainties. We will each be called by God to cross the threshold of eternity. But if our faith is in Christ our Savior, our King great is the holy hope and promises of our eternal home in God’s mercy. So whether it be uncertainty about a job, an health matter or eternity may we remember Jesus, our Lord reigns!

Jesus, Reigns…Today. Real are the tangled webs of the past that would seek to trap and hinder us from following God. Today. Piercing can be the siren cries from the future that would seek to draw us in worry and anxiety upon the rocks of the future upon the shoals of what may, or may not ever happen. Christ our King calls us to trust, follow, and love Him today! It is in the eternal freedom of the cross that the Holy Spirit brings us to dwell, to practice the very real Presence of God in the midst of our day. Today. With the family, at work, during Mass, whatever moment we are in is a moment where Jesus would have us know He is in control. Perhaps we, our life may not be. God is still there and will lead us through whatever storm or blessing we are in.

To realize this great grace and provision of God has infinite and eternal possibilities. But to experience this, to experience more fully, Christ our King we need only to pray and trust..”Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

Christ The King Comes

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 13 November 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Malachi 3:19-20; Responsorial: Psalm 98; II: II Thessalonians 3:7-12; Gospel: Luke 21: 5-19

This weekend we enter the final two weeks of Ordinary Time. Next Sunday the Solemnity of Christ the King will help us focus on the eternal Truth that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This both culminates the liturgical year that is passing and anticipates the joyful anticipation of Advent. This feast of our faith also would remind us that the reign of God is victorious and eternal. The times, the challenges, and the changes we encounter in our day-to-day journey are but holy grace moments in eternity.

But it is rather easy to write or say such things, as truthful as they may be. And for anyone encountering struggles of life or simple weariness of the stuff and bother of our days it can sound like so many empty platitudes. As real as the issues and challenges we face how do we know and enter into the reality of eternal graces found in trusting and confessing Jesus Christ as our God, Savior, and Lord?

Again, as always God, the Holy Spirit gives us light and insight in Scripture so that we may learn and grow in the power and victory of Christ our King, even in the midst of sorrow or loss.

Our first reading from the book of the Prophet Malachi speaks of those times that have occurred and will occur in the last days of the holy purging graces of the fire of God. Spoken to the people of God it is a reminder that we must heed in our lives that which is eternal and that which is temporal. Many are the needs and, truthfully, the desires of our life in this world. Companionship, home, hearth, clothing, food, health, and prosperity are all good blessings from God. But they also can become excesses and even idols that clutter and deter us in our journey with He who walked away victorious from the tomb. Malachi reminds us that while these THINGS of life may be good they will not last. They are not eternal. And that the cleansing fires of God’s love will lead us to that, and to who is eternal.

“The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice! So proclaims the antiphone to our psalm for today. We are reminded how all of creation praises and glorifies God, our Lord, and King. Many are the cruel injustices afflicted upon creation and humanity by both worldly forces and even in the name of God. The psalm, God’s Word would seem to be absurd in the harsh meanness of life. But it is the very praises we bring to God, in the middle of our storms or droughts, that free us to know that our God reigns! When we dare to remind Satan he is just a liar and Jesus, our King, and God is The Truth that we enter into the peace, and power of God’s Kingdom.

Our next reading from St. Paul’s second letter to the Church at Thessalonica while the reign of Christ our King, is that even our preparations for His return are vital we are to be a people of faithful love and work this side of eternity. Too often people have been so distracted by perceptions of faith that they neglect the graces and tasks we are all called to share in the present. As Paul stated if we want to eat we need to work. It has been said that we cannot be so heavenly-minded to be no earthly good. This truth is essential to apply as we seek our coming King. A global example for us all is the temptation to disregard the perils of climate change and the unjust, destructive practices on the earth, our common home. Our faithful love and care for creation, our realization of how we must all work, together, for the just good of all is essential. If we truly believe Jesus is King and Lord of our Heavenly home then should we not be showing Him proper reverence and care of our earthly home? Why would Christ want to see the destructive practices we have honed, here on earth ever approach Heaven?

Jesus in the Gospel for this day would bring to the center of our hearts the practical, spiritual principles we need as we seek Christ, the King who comes. This is one of the intense dialogues he has with his disciples shortly before his passion. He reminds the faithful of all the ages of the tribulations and sorrows that must occur as a part of God’s efforts to turn men and women from sin to the Savior. We are all familiar with these trials as we look at the news about us. As we seek to follow God’s Kingdom of holy love we will be confronting the many domains of hate and discord permeating the very existence of many. Great can be the temptation to ask, to wonder, Where is our Lord? Why, how, is God’s dominion so difficult to experience? But our victorious King provides four standing orders for the FAITHFUL to follow: Do not be deceived, Do not fear, Testify for God, and Persevere with Him.

Do Not Be Deceived! In these times many are the deceptions that flourish and fly around us. It is essential that we grow in the Holy Spirit-led graces of discernment needed every day. We must grow stronger in the Word of God and in the full and whole teachings of the Church. We must recognize that while we are in this world we are not of it and to equate our faith with politics or a politician is very perilous. We must always remember The Spirit of God will always lead us closer to Jesus and the life of holy, merciful welcoming love for which we are called and created.

Do Not Fear! The hate, the doubts, and the fears of this world are well able to infect the church. But they cannot reign. We must remember that there is no fear in love but mature love casts out all fear. Jesus, our King was never afraid to welcome, share, and visit with the sick, the sinner, or the fallen. In love we were welcomed to follow him in the joys of penance and faith in which we are freed to grow in God, our King who is love.

Testify for God! The Beloved Disciple in receiving the great prophetic book of Revelation tells us they (the faithful) overcame him (the accuser, satan) by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. In our Eucharistic reception and love for Christ in Holy Communion and in our personal testimony, our witness of God’s graces we are sharing with others the living Gospel of today. And it is in our sharing we experience The power and Presence of the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom and love we need to share, even in the midst of hate, ignorance, and unbelief.

Persevere! The celebration and eternal realities of Christ our King are a quest. God’s reign can well be encountered in holy moments. The celebration of the Mass, whispers from the Spirit of God as we read God’s Word, sensing God’s peace in prayer can be true, real, and holy moments with God. But the reign of Christ, King of Kings can never be contained in our feelings, understanding, or experience. Those are but moments of God urging us to persevere with and for Him.

CHRIST the KING COMES! As we grow into this opportunity to better seek and prepare for Christ and His kingdom may we invest in and yield to the empowering Spirit of God in our prayers in all our actions.

Our Strength, Our Guard, Our Direction… Jesus

The 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 6 November 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: II Mac. 7:1-2,9-14; Responsorial: Psalm 17; II: II Thess. 2:16 – 3:5; Gospel: Luke 20: 27 -38

Jesus, our Strength, our Guard, our Direction

Another year of faith is coming to a close. As it does we look forward to the coming celebration of Christ The King after which a new year of faith begins with Advent. It has been another season of many blessings and many trials. I would expect God has surprised us all in matters of family, inner life, and in our communities, nation, and world. Life for the Christian for our Catholic faith is often as the illustration above would indicate. We seek to follow Jesus in His sacred path of faith and love. But often we encounter those times and places where the path may not always be as clear, as safe, or as simple as we would like. It is especially in those places we need to draw even closer to our Lord. Whether it be in a time and place of easy, blessed peace or a place of difficulty Christ would have us grow in the reality that He is our strength, our guard, and our direction.

Our Bible readings today illustrate two distinct examples of tribulations and testings that can occur following God. The first reading from the Old Testament book of II Maccabees brings us the poignant account of a mother and her sons being cruelly persecuted for their faith in the time of the successors to Alexander the Great in Israel. As the family refused to disobey God’s Word they were tortured and killed. Their path of faith and love for God was one that led to the crown of martyrdom. But in their excruciating final earthly steps, they knew God’s strength, His guarding graces, and direction into the resurrection embrace of God.

It is in the Gospel we read of another time of testing. Jesus is confronted by the Sadduccees in an effort to ensnare him within a web of questions and theology. The Sadduccees, of course, did not believe in the resurrection. So they chose to challenge our Lord on this issue framed in issues about marriage and a proper interpretation of God’s Word. The Law of Moses stated that if a man dies his wife is to be married to his brother. Their challenge was they presented seven brothers. So, who was to be her husband in heaven? This story is interesting on many levels. First Jesus makes clear that the sacrament of marriage is the only sacrament that is focused on temporal affairs. Marriage does not apply in heaven. Next, this lesson reminds us how we are challenged to become ensnared in discussions, debates, and questions that are not concerns given to us by God.

The enemy of our souls strives to bring us into distress and fear by raising questions and matters that either are not our concern or simply do not exist. Satan loves to fuel fear and strife in our faith, our civil life, and our families. Reflect for a moment on issues in the church, liturgical, doctrinal, and pastoral. Great are the temptations to focus only on ISSUES, PEOPLE, and PRACTICES instead of focusing, together, prayerfully on GOD.

In our civil life, the same demonic discord is seen. As we encounter a midterm election the rancor, hate, and strife are guiding many to fear and foment instead of listening, learning, and respectfully working with our shared common values for solutions instead of strife.

These trials, especially as we anticipate and prepare for Christ our coming King of Kings are to be expected. But these trials, these tests, these many questions are not our Lord. As St. Paul reminds us in the epistle today we are called, by God, to be encouraged in every good deed and word. We are reminded that the lies of the enemy may seem powerful. But they are not. They are lies fueling fear, doubt, and strife. The Holy Spirit brings us, instead the Truth, Jesus, who is faithful. Christ will strengthen, guard, and direct us in His Kingdom and the will of God. We must be alert and heed the sources of our inspiration. Social media, political theories, and conspiracies (right or left), sources such as QAnon are popular and powerful. But look to the fruit of these inspirations. Lies, violence, division, and hatred are not the ways of Jesus. The temptations in our faith encounter the same struggles. We are sought to focus upon, language, practices, and faith that apply to only those who believe and live as we do. Christ opened doors and welcomed any who sought Him in simple faith, repentance, and love.

Whatever the place in our life God would have us know that our Lord is our Strength, our Guard, and our Direction.

Jesus our Strength: Whether it be an intense place of persecution or simply questions about our faith, He is our strength. Scripture promises, as our day is so shall our strength be. Our Good Shepherd may well lead us beyond our comfort zones, and our strengths. But God does so only to bring us into His embrace, His strength.

Christ our Guard: Great and powerful are the battles in this world between good and evil. Easy are the temptations to become fear-FILLED as we see the cruel realities of sin and satan in our world. And sadly many Christians seem to place more faith in the evil one than they do in God and His holy promises. But we are not called to be God’s followers with a bunker mentality. Satan and sin were defeated on Calvary. But the Apostles never-the-less hid in their fears. They hid until the power of the Holy Spirit awakened in them the truth that God was their strength and would guard them against evil. How often do we pray the Lord’s prayer? How often do we pray, “deliver us from evil”? It is time to trust in God instead of the evil we may encounter.

Jesus our Direction: So often as we encounter the challenges and tests of life we struggle, wondering, what am I to do? Where is God leading? Jesus will always give us the strength to follow Him. He will guard our way against wrong steps, as we trust him. We would very much like a flowchart or checklist for God’s will for our life. But that would only weaken faith and love and nourish an intellect weakening in trust and love. Jesus is our direction. His holy cross and His Presence will bring us along to where we are meant to be.

It is time to lay aside anything that hinders us from knowing, trusting, and loving Jesus, our Strength, Our Guard, and our Direction.

What Did Jesus See?

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 30 October 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Wisdom 11: 22-12:2; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: II Thessalonians 1: 11- 2:2; Gospel: Luke 19: 1-10

Jesus & Zacchaeus (Artist not identified)

“Do you see what I see?” So are the words of the Christmas carol. Now not to fret. While Ordinary Time is drawing to a close and Advent is just weeks away I am not trying to rush Christmas. As I reflected upon and studied our Gospel reading for this Sunday, it is just that phrase that kept stirring within me. We are so powerfully moved in life by what we see. Or perhaps what we think we see.

Luke in the Gospel today tells the account of a wealthy and powerful tax collector named Zacchaeus. His work as a collector of the hated Roman taxes and his greedy and unscrupulous worldly dealings resulted in a man who was recognized as a sinner and a Jew of grossly damaged repute. As a man of wealth and power, he was intrigued to hear that Jesus of Nazareth was coming to Jericho. With his curiosity piqued he went with the crowds as Jesus approached the town. But although he was a man of financial and political stature he was physically not. Being short Zacchaeus could not see through or over the crowd gathering in anticipation of Jesus. So he climbed a Sycamore tree so that from the height o the branches he could see Jesus for himself.

Zacchaeus brings us powerful lessons about our own need to seek, to see Jesus. While our lives and conditions differ many of us can relate well to this man and his wrong choices in life. We can relate that we too may allow material wealth and physical desires to crowd our lives and bring about destructive courses of sin for ourselves and others. We can also relate that while life may be full of stuff and bother we need, we hunger for more. We, like Zacchaeus, want to see Jesus. But how much effort do we give our desires for God? Would we climb a tree to better see Christ? Would we press through the crowds of life and the things that would hinder our faith-view of God, of creation? Zacchaeus would show us how we are brought opportunities of God’s grace throughout life and how we are called to choose how are we going to respond to our need to see Jesus.

But this blessed story perhaps, more importantly, shows us another perspective. The lesson of a short man, a tree and Jesus can bring us to a life-changing realization and question. What did Jesus see? As Jesus looked up into the sycamore, and as he saw the well-dressed little man up in the branches what did Christ see?

Jesus saw Zacchaeus. He saw a greedy, sinful man skilled in manipulating money and power for his own advantage. Jesus saw a sinful man. But Jesus saw much, much more. Jesus saw Zacchaeus forgiven, penitent, and the saint-to-be who would follow Him. To better see what Jesus saw we can bring the light of Scripture into our focus.

In the first Bible reading from the Book of Wisdom we understand God overlooks people’s sins. And that our Creator loves ALL that He has made. The Lover of our souls allows that which pleases Him to remain. Yet it is also while God overlooks our sin He does not ignore it. God sees we are much more than our sins and looks beyond to what He has created and redeemed. This holy, heavenly perspective is expressed in God’s mercy that corrects and rebukes the sinner little by little so that we may abandon wickedness and trust in God. Thus we can grow to see what and how Jesus sees.

Our Responsorial Psalm further affirms this celestial view. “The Lord is gracious and merciful…the Lord lifts up ALL who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” As we hear these victorious promises we cannot help but proclaim the refrain from our psalm: “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.”.

As we journey from the Old Testament and our praises of God we come to our second reading. St. Paul in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica reminds the faithful that prayerfully, in holy faith, God shall make them worthy of his calling and purposes. It is from this reminder we return to the Gospel.

As we seek to see what Jesus sees we realize this may be in conflict with the world in which we live. Jesus saw, in Zacchaeus a man far holier and good than the man known by the people of Jericho. But as Jesus saw the sinner so He sees us. As Jesus called Zacchaeus from sin to open his heart and home to God so God calls us. But what Jesus sees and whom He calls may not sit well with the vision and perspectives of the world. No matter how religious or spiritual they may think they are.

When Jesus called the little tax collector to himself when He invited himself to dine and stay with Zacchaeus it was scandalous. Good people, holy people did not, would not be seen going with or dining with the likes of that man. What was wrong with Jesus? Didn’t he realize what kind of man, what a sinner the tax collector was? What Jesus encountered in Jericho he encounters in our lives today. But Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost.

What does Jesus see?

As he looked at Zacchaeus did he see a set of conditions and expectations that would have to be met before communion was shared?

Did he see a man whose very real sins prevented any relationship or mercy unless and until an approved criterion was addressed?

As Jesus looks at souls today struggling in an horrendous array of sin and rebellion does he formulate the judgments and eternal chastisements that are deserved?

Or, does our Redeemer look to ways, to His followers who will share the mercy-filled corrections, little by little that will bring souls back to their God and Savior?

Does Jesus look for his followers that are willing to see the world and each other as God sees us and all He has made?

The Saturday before this 31st Sunday, in the Morning Prayer shared by the Church throughout the world there is a petition from the Intercessions that will change both the Church, the world, and our lives as we, together pray and trust God to empower:

“Enable us to see your image in all men (and women), and to serve you in them.”

It brings us to ask, What will we see, with Jesus?

Persevering Prayer

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 16 October 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 17:8-13; Responsorial: Psalm 121; II: II Timothy 3: 14-4:2; Gospel: Luke 18: 1-8

Persevering ~ Tireless Prayer [Image source unknown]

Sometimes it seems the words of Jesus are simply unrealistic if not impossible. In Luke’s Gospel reading we hear Christ telling his disciples of the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. (Emphasis mine). Our Lord then shares the parable of the woman who insists upon the unjust judge hearing her appeal for justice and his ultimate decision to answer her petitions. Jesus then concludes this lesson with the affirmation that God will always hear and respond to the prayers of those who seek his justice and grace. Then Christ ends with a question of eternal yet very personal significance. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” The lesson is quite clear. God’s people must be persevering, persistent, and weariless in prayer. But how realistic is that? How can it be possible to pray as God says must needs be?

Many are the lessons and powerful promises in Scripture about prayer. The necessity for real, persistent, powerful prayer cannot be denied. As we live in these times of great turmoil in politics, faith, the sacredness of life, environment, climate, family, and personal life there is a recognition of the followers of Christ that prayer is urgently needed on so many fronts. Yet for many our attention and energy are often focused on the debates, discussions, fears, and voices of the world about us. Whether it be in our actual conversations, social media, or our participation in worship at Mass all is often clouded in stress and doubt. These struggles of our faith are also intensified by lives oft beset with schedules of complex and time-consuming demands. In simple, honest reality we can well ask how this prayer-life called for by God is possible?

It is, I believe, necessary to accept this reality, to honestly admit that what God is expecting in our prayer life is not, and cannot happen. It is impossible. Without God.

From the place of our honestly confessing, before God, our inabilities, our failures, and sins, we are brought, by His mercy and grace to learn that He never calls us to be or to do the impossible without God with us. To grow in persevering prayer is to grow in prayer that is immersed in God’s Word and Truth. It is to grow in prayer with His Body, and with others. And it is to grow in the persistent love and passion of Christ.

Prayer Immersed in Scripture and Truth

Persevering prayer is prayer that actively seeks to LISTEN, to HEAR the Word of God. Too often we think of prayer as our voice, our words, our talking to God. And that is very valid. But we must learn to be quiet and let God speak. The ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina is rooted in the expectation and practice of allowing God to speak to us as we prayerfully read the Scriptures. The holy dialogue of Lectio Divina includes Lectio [Read a portion of Scripture], Meditatio [Prayerfully Reflect], Oratio [Respond to God’s Spirit], and Contemplatio [Rest] in the Living Word of God, The Truth who is Jesus Christ. This can be done in a quiet room or garden spot. It can be done by reading a verse or segment of Scripture before driving to work or errands. Then as you travel allow God’s Spirit to lead you through the steps. And it can especially be experienced during Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

Helping Moses Persevere in Prayer

Persevering Prayer will involve praying with others. The Old Testament lesson today shares the story of Moses praying for the forces of Israel as they battled the enemy army of Amalek. The battle went well as long as Moses kept his arms raised in supplication for the soldiers of Israel. But his human fatigue was prevailing in the long battle. It was as his arms were held aloft by his fellow servants that persevering prayer was realized. So it is for us. No Christian is called or created to be an island. We are each a part of the Body of Christ, the Church of God. Very often failures and sins are a result of persevering prayer that failed. Because it was not supported by the faithful. People may complain about the church worship, the Mass, or the priest (or deacon) as not being, doing, or leading as they should. It is essential to remember our liturgy, our shared worship is…shared. What might happen if we held up each other in prayer instead of complaining? In every church community, there are those seeking God as they struggle with temptation, sin, sorrow, or fear. Their struggles may result in failures before God and people. They may leave the church. But what if their community was a place where prayer could be shared in courageous love and faith?

St. Francis & Christ Crucified by Bartolome Esteben Murillo

Persevering Prayer will grow in us as our love and passion are shared with Christ. In our present world passion is often relegated to the appetites of the flesh. Sensual passion is, sadly celebrated as a source of fulfillment and happiness. To grow in true, powerful, persistent prayer may well involve self-denial. The graces of fasting (of many kinds) may be needed. Often persistent prayer may cause us to take the midnight or early hours to pray through. And often it may simply mean staying awake as we pray a rosary or other special devotion. How do we overcome these all too human weaknesses? It is as we seek to grow in the love and passion of Christ we are both freed and empowered to persevere. Our prayers are essential. But this is about so much more than problems, petitions, needs, or issues. It is about seeking and letting God immerse our hearts and minds, our wills for His Kingdom, and His will. The things, problems, and even the horrors of this world lose their magnitude when they are seen and encountered in God’s Presence. A great, consistent earmark of the saints has always been a growing divorce from the things of this world and a greater realization of God’s Kingdom, God’s Presence in creation and in each other. It is as we learn to seek and embrace Christ crucified we are brought into an holy embrace that impels us to seek, persevere, and grow in faith as we seek to honor and love our God.

Persevering Prayer. It is rooted in love. A love and faith that listens for the Word of the Beloved. It is love that would both allow and share in support of the prayers of each other. And it is a holy passion to simply grow ever closer to Jesus. It is a passion that would cause us to seek, when He comes, to have hearts and lives growing in faith for Him.

With God ~ Persevere in Prayer

A Leper’s Lesson

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 9 October 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: II Kings 5: 14-17; Responsorial: Psalm 98; II: II Timothy 2: 8-13; Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19

Jesus and the Leper [Source unknown]

As we journey into the final weeks of Ordinary Time our Bible readings for Mass are reminding us of our shared call and works of faith to live the Gospel message. This is especially seen in the great needs and struggles of our world. We are, as followers of Christ, called to live our faith and love proclaiming God’s Kingdom. Today we are challenged by an ancient affliction that will either cause us to fear and withdraw from the works of God or will free us to grow in the holy, joyful love of God that brings hope and healing. This challenge is shared as we heed the Leper’s Lesson.

In the Old Testament story of the Syrian, Naaman tells of a man who contracts leprosy. He falls from a place of leadership, respect, strength, and control to being an outcast, diseased, struggling for hope, and life. From our Gospel reading, we hear the account of the ten lepers who sought healing from Jesus. The Messiah indeed intervenes but only one man, a Samaritan returns to glorify God and give thanks.

We may be tempted to think the horror of leprosy is a thing of Biblical or ancient times. We are very fortunate to live in a place and time where this disease is not locally known. But the realities of leprosy (or Hansen’s Disease) still very much exist. It is found mostly in countries such as China, India, Brazil parts of Africa, and other places. In the past 20 years, there have been 16 million cases, while in 2020 there were over 127,000 new cases with almost 9,000 of those being children 15 and younger. Fortunately, there is now medical treatment that can cure or stop the effects of this horrific affliction. However in places of war or great poverty the care needed to heal (sound hygiene, water, food, medicine is often restricted.

A Modern-Day Leprous Woman
[Source unknown]

Why is this important for us? Leprosy is virtually unknown in our locale, in our country. First, we must remember we are part of a community far bigger than what we know, day-to-day. The people suffering from leprosy in India, southern Sudan, or Brazil are our neighbors. Their needs are our concern, especially when we realize the blessings and help God has given us… to be shared. We also must realize that there are, in our midst, in our community people who may not suffer physical leprosy but still experience the afflictions of rejection, loneliness, and despair found with lepers. As members of Christ’s Body, His Kingdom we are called to be a people, a place of welcome, hope, and healing. And it is as we heed the Leper’s Lesson we are able to bring God’s care and grace.

As it has been since ancient times so it is today. We are tempted to exclude and isolate those we see as unhealthy, weak, disordered, and unacceptable. Perhaps the fear of contagion may motivate our attitude. We have experienced this reality as we journeyed through the Covid pandemic. There may be times when such exclusion is best. For a season. But isolation, exclusion, and fear should never be our normal course of action, of caring.

In the church today there are numerous places and currents where fear and exclusion are powerful forces. Those of differing races, ethnicities, languages, and liturgy are often suspect. People who may experience issues of sexuality outside the prescribed frame of reference are often isolated unless or until they can show accepted order from their presumed disorders. People who may not meet the accepted norms of income, housing, or mental abilities are, sadly often seen as threats or problems to be met with caution and, perhaps some program that maintains a comfortable distance for those of assumed normal economic, mental or social health. But the lesson from the leper would teach us, bring us to share, listen, learn, ways of caring, and ways of growing, together in the hope and love of God.

We would do well to prayerfully study the lives of those who choose to reject their fears and simply love and care for, as God enables, the lepers of life. Father Damien who followed Christ to care for the lepers of Molokai, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta who included lepers in her compassion and care, St. Francis of Assisi, and saints of today all give us powerful, real examples that when fear is denounced and love is chosen blessing and joy are shared. The suffering and struggles are very real and must not be denied. But the Presence of God, bringing hope and love is ever greater.

The Lesson of the Leper is simple but very real and greatly needed in our world. Leprosy and other isolating, crippling, destructive, and fear-inducing realities are very real parts of life in this world. We, as members of Christ’s Body, the Church are called to decide whether we will allow fear and ignorance to infuse our communities of faith. Or will we choose to follow the example of Christ and His saints and learn to listen, learn, care and grow, together in the hope and love of God that can bring healing and freedom? From our choices, with God, we can then grow from what may be a single life changing encounter with a leperous soul to become communities sharing the healing light and holy life that is Christ.

Basilica of St. Francis ~ Assisi Italy [Photograper unknown]

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