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.
Scripture Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 55:6-9; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a
As the season of Autumn approaches the weather changes and the winds start to bring the hope of rain and cooler weather. So it is in the Church. As we seek to listen to the Holy Spirit this 25th Sunday of Ordinary the Scriptures would sharpen our focus upon the Kingdom of God, upon Christ the King. Through the parables Jesus powerfully shared He would often begin as He does in our Gospel today: “The Kingdom of God is…”
The other readings we share today speak to this promise and challenge with the emphasis begun by Isaiah the prophet: “Seek the Lord, while He is near…turn to the Lord for mercy…who is generous and forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
In the Gospel, Jesus shares a parable that could seem to challenge our very basic understanding of fairness and justice. In the story of the landowner and the vineyard workers the story of their respective work and wages concludes with Jesus repeating a message threaded throughout His ministry: “Thus, the last will be first and the first will be last.” Is the Kingdom of God unfair? Is our service for God fraught with uncertain benefits? Or is this another eloquent lesson of how majestically different are the ways of God from our ways?
One of the most dangerous and poisonous vipers of deception in the world today is that of entitlement. The concept of believing not in God and God’s Kingdom but in self and ALL to which one may THINK one is entitled has spread to people of all ages and backgrounds. Politicians, media, entertainment and even some Christians play the hymns of self fulfillment with great passion and faith. But the false gospels never match the Gospel of Jesus.
So how do we realize and enter into the way of the Kingdom of God, the ways of Jesus? How do we understand this journey and how the last shall be first? A story from Calvary can help us.
The Last Shall Be First
The heavy beam crushed
the body, the soul of Dismas.
Hope was gone.
His journey to this hill was finished.
The heavy beam,
the most that
was ever truly his,
to the rocky, barren dirt.
Hope was gone.
Soon the nails pierced,
His hands, his feet,
that he had used
for stealing, for sin, for self.
The heavy beams
Dismas and the other thief
had carried now
carried them to justice.
But the third man,
He was different.
The crowds, the soldiers,
The priests and scribes
All crowded to be first.
To mock and taunt,
with their hate, their fear.
Even his fellow thief joined
the chorus of darkness
sung by so many
that were there.
But Dismas could not
the mocking join.
He knew what he deserved,
to what he was entitled.
But the other man,
a few called Him Lord
a few called Him Jesus.
He was different.
Dismas could see.
Jesus would soon die.
The beatings, the cruelty, the hate,
The growing darkness he crushing, felt.
Jesus would soon die.
The pain, the fear of Dismas
pierced and crushed
his broken soul.
But something else was now his,
An heartbreaking sadness,
for his suffering.
To his fading senses Dismis heard
His own voice gasping for Jesus,
when you come into your kingdom.”
In words he never thought possible
the first true words of hope
Dismas had ever heard,
Jesus quietly gasped in return:
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
And through the crown of thorns,
and His bloody tears,
Jesus looked to him.
And Dismas knew
forgiveness, mercy, hope had found him.
Dismas knew Jesus.
by H. Martin
[Tradition is that the name of the penitent thief who was crucified with Jesus was called Dismas]
Mass Readings: I: Sirach 27:30-28-28:7; Responsorial: Psalm 103; II: Romans 14:7-9; Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
The year of 2020 is clearly a year of intense trials and challenges. The Covid 19 pandemic continues unabated. The political strife also increases as election day draws closer. And the past few weeks has seen the entire west coast besieged with wildfires of which even some secular reporters and politicians are referring to now as “Apocalyptic”. Even at midday the skies have been orange and yellow and so dark that lights have needed to be turned on as we seek to navigate these times.
Golden Gate Bridge ~ Week of September 6 at Midday
The longing of many is for the fires, the smoke, the ash to end. Most everyone is deeply weary of these…tribulations. And while we are weary most everyone finds the need to talk of all that is happening. As the discussions flourish many seek to point blame in our need to understand WHY? Depending on the beliefs and the political correctness of the person the blame may go towards poor forest management, climate change or political ineptness. Some are even starting to say this is a judgement for as one Washington politician stated “Mother Earth is Mad”! That statement, in many ways, is an affirmation of Romans 8:22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now…“.
How serious is all this? To the thousands evacuated, often with no home to which to return, it is deadly serious. For those who have fallen sick or lost loved ones the Covid 19 plague is unspeakably painful. To the first responders struggling to save lives and property or the medical workers battling to bring healing to the sick it is, again deadly serious. To the thousands who have lost jobs or are trying to simply learn it is exhausting in the stress that has resulted. Yet, amazingly there are many who seek to either ignore, downplay or deny any of this is occurring.
There are those who believe climate change is a hoax foisted by liberals. Or perhaps it may have some truth but it is simply an end-time reality and nothing can or should be done. Speaking as a retired firefighter who has responded to a few fires I have to say wildfires now are far more intense and destructive on a consistently larger scale than what once was the norm. And they carry a clear message from “Mother Nature”. Or, more accurately, creation and our Creator. The environment is suffering on a global scale from greed and waste. The cult of SELF has resulted in the massive destruction and poverty as individuals have focused ever increasingly on themselves rather than on the common good or the even more rare value of one’s duty to God and others.
The pandemic is still doubted by many of both liberal and conservative values. Open-minded college students robed in the fine and very expensive fabrics of denial continue to gather for parties flaunting any health protocols. Conservative stalwarts who refuse to allow their selective choices in government tell them what to do or rob them of “their rights” imperil many in their mirror-focused love affairs. And, sadly politicians are embracing their respective chosen to ever build upon their empty empires of..self.
All this could be as oppressive and polluting as the smoke filled skies. It could be easy to say..What is the point? If it is so dismal why should we even try to hope?
But as intense, fierce or widespread as the fires and smoke may be or as prolonged and tragic as this plague may be there is even greater hope. Through all this God would make crystal clear His call, His plan for His Creation and all who will listen. We are to be A People of mercy and Faith.
The Place of Hope ~ The place of Mercy and Faith
The Bible readings this 24th Sunday of Extra-Ordinary times bring us the message of our Redeemer that will lead us through any trials. But it is in the opening prayer, The Collect, we find prayerful help:
“Look upon us, O God, Creator and ruler of all things, and, that we may feel the working of your mercy, grant that we may serve you with all our heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen”.
We must trust and remember that even through the thick clouds of smoke and fire, God is looking upon us. God may allow these tragedies. But God does not smile upon them. God recognizes that if love is to be real people must be able to choose. Right from wrong. Good from evil. Love from hate. Others before self. God also seeks to help us understand that these great sorrows are not necessarily caused just by the sins of those suffering. God would rather help us to admit our sins can cause great suffering for others. It is a very sad illustration of this truth that one of the most destructive and deadly of the California wildfires was caused by a group of people having a “gender reveal” party. with fireworks…. in the dry brush.
God indeed is looking upon us and calling to everyone through the smoke and flames, to be a people, not of selfishness and ego, but of mercy and faith. The first reading from the Wisdom book of Sirach reminds of this ancient call. It acknowledges the false pleasure we find in clinging to wrath and anger. It clearly proclaims the better way, the way of God…to forgive. To be a person both realizing their need of God’s mercy and a person freely sharing mercy.
St. Paul in the second Bible reading from Romans begins with: “None of lives for oneself and no one dies for oneself…”. The distance our world has traveled from this truth is immense. But it is only in one simple step, to God, that distance is conquered. The distance our self and sins bring between us and God is immense. But as the Responsorial Psalm proclaims the dimensions of God’s mercy are infinitely greater! “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.”
These great and imperative lessons from God are so beautiful and simple to…hear. But they are far more difficult to embrace and live through our lives. St. Peter understands this battle when, in the Gospel he asks Jesus “…how often must I forgive…”? And to this day we continue to seek to quantify and confine the mercy and forgiveness of God. As it applies especially to others. We seem to want a line in the sand that if someone crosses we are free to..deny mercy…to deny forgiveness. This is sought for how often someone sins. It is sought for types of sin (usually that afflict others….not us). If someone sins this many times! I am done! If someone commits THAT sin! THEY are DONE! But this quantifying of God’s mercy denies The Spirit and power, the purpose of God, Who is Mercy, of God who is Forgiveness.
It was very soon after this conversation with Jesus that Peter told Jesus “help my unbelief!. To truly receive and share this mercy, this forgiveness Who is God takes faith. Faith from a heart, perhaps not wholly and holy perfect but wholly yielded to God. Jesus calls us to mercy, as we are, to become whom we are called to be.
The fires, the pandemic, the political and racial strife are brutally real. But the promises and call of God are an even greater reality. All people, men and women, young and old are fully equipped and able to live the lives of joy-filled faith and mercy, of selfLESSness as opposed to selfishness. Look to the examples of first responders, medical professionals and so many others to see the TRUTH of who we are called to be. Look to the Church, the faithful religious, clergy and especially the individuals and families who daily strive to live for Jesus and others as our example.
Sometimes God allows great flames of affliction to free us from what holds us back from being all He has created and called us to be. Let us listen and follow Him, together in the peace and life found in His mercy.
Mass Readings: I: Ezekiel. 33:7-9; Responsorial: Psalm 95; II: Romans. 13:8-10; Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20
Today, Saturday, September 5th, is the 23rd anniversary of the passing into eternity of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This little woman of immense faith has left us a witness and legacy of eternal riches. An objective study of her life would see a woman of intense, devout faith, courage and love. In recent years some have been surprised to learn she wrestled much with deep weariness and even depression. As with all the saints, with all of our family in Christ, it is imperative to recognize that St. Mother Teresa was…human. As we all are. We need to allow that with her deep and genuine faith she knew discouragement, doubts, weariness of soul. I would expect that with so much expected of her, for so long, that her humanity might well have been expressed in impatience or irritability with others. Any mother would quickly agree that it is a work of draining demand and challenges along with rich blessings and rewards. St. Mother Teresa provides us a very honest and realistic lesson on the Bible readings for this weekend, the lesson that we all, as followers of Christ are called to live our faith responding to our Debt of Love.
Storms of life happen. The basic desire of our human nature is for peace, security, a sense that all is and will be well. It is the ideal often pictured that the family, the church are to be places of such peace and safety. It is also, often the unrealistic ideal that struggles of financial needs, health, relationship conflicts or strife should not be found in our family, in our church. But…storms happen in life. Including in the life of our families and churches. Whether we are facing financial pressures, failures of health or the reality of sin struggles this is the environment of God’s Word for today and the place of our families and churches at least at times, on our journey toward eternity. It is also the setting of the work of St. Mother Teresa.
There is an immense degree of poverty in our world. Certainly of basic human needs of food, clothing, housing or water. Yet the poverty of soul is growing even greater. The loneliness and sense of isolation of so many in this hyper-cyber-connected society is of immense waves that batter human life. And we see the resulting human conditions that result. No one would knowingly, willingly seek to live and scrounge for sustenance in a garbage dump. Yet so many do. Rare would be the soul that would knowingly seek to live the life of a drug addict, or have a home filled with abuse of bodies and souls. I have never met anyone who purposefully chose to live a life. of wanton sexual promiscuity. Unless…. that is the only place they think they may find some expression of love or acceptance. It may be that is the only place they can pretend, for a few moments, that they are desirable..wanted. These great struggles are what God’s Word recognize and provide true hope with which to respond.
The Prophet Ezekiel, in our first reading, speaks of his being called to proclaim God’s Kingdom. He shares the eternal responsibility and consequences of his message. Or lack thereof. The prophet specifically addresses the difficult challenge of responding to the sins of the people. Ezekiel is called to speak honestly of sin and God’s call to repentance. Now we could easily excuse ourselves and say ‘well….that was for A Prophet!! It was for Ezekiel!! I am not Ezekiel, nor am I a prophet. So it doesn’t apply!! Does it?’ Indeed none of us are Ezekiels. None of us are prophets of the Old Testament make and model. But, the same Spirit that worked and spoke through Ezekiel is given us as followers of Christ. The same work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom is given us, the Body of Christ. We are not exempt. We all share this same debt of love.
In the Gospel for today we have a powerful message from Jesus that, in so many genuine ways was lived out by St. Mother Teresa. It is, in a way, illustrated by the tree above. The Kingdom of God, the Church, here on earth is a place and person of great beauty and strength. It is also a person and place of long and deep struggles and storms. For thousands of years now the doubters and haters have said the church is dead. They have gloated it is teetering ready to fall. What is not seen or understood, except with the graces of faith, is that those storms, the wounds, the battles are a part of the strength and beauty of God’s grace at work.
Jesus, in the Gospel talks of what we must do if a brother or sister, in Christ, has sinned against us. There are the three clear, simple steps in which the offense is stated to the person at fault with opportunity of repentance. If the individual fails to repent then they are to be considered as an outsider. Much is often focused upon the process or the punitive results if contrition is not found. And we must recognize immense, cruel abuses of these words have been twisted and applied in the name of church discipline. What is often minimized, or ignored altogether, is the purpose and intent of Jesus in these actions and His Words. We often neglect the redemptive holy healing of God seeking to be applied. It is often so easy to focus on the sin or the strife, especially if the sin or strife is not of our style as opposed to seeing the person. First. Foremost. Seeing the soul above the sin, the sickness or poverty of spirit. St. Mother Teresa saw Jesus in ALL she met. In all to whom she sought to minister. In Calcutta the number of, faithful Catholics and Christians that she might have helped would have been very small. Calcutta is a veritable populace of mostly Eastern beliefs. It did not matter to this saint. The purpose of St. Teresa was to see and care for Jesus in the poorest, sickest, the most fallen. The purpose of St. Teresa was, simply that of her Master to love redemptively. Did she preach against sin? Sometimes very powerfully and clearly. Sins such as greed, abortion, the neglect of the the poor she spoke against with courage and grace. But all sin she preached against by her actions first and then words. Always. In the Body of Christ, the Church, there are, always have been battles of sin, temptation and of the world. These battles have seen souls fall away and souls wounded. As Pope Francis has said, “the Church is a field hospital.” It is to these conditions, these realities that Jesus speaks today. Sin happens. Storms happen. but the redemptive, holy, healing love of God prevails.
St. Mother Teresa lived a life of intense simplicity. While clearly well taught and knowledgeable in her faith her life proclaimed, not a complex theology and moral system but a genuine and deeply rooted love for her Lord and Savior that grew to be expressed in her works of love for the needy, for all people. But what is often overlooked is that these works of love were intrinsically rooted in her love for God expressed in another outreach responding to her debt of love. The prayer life of St. Teresa was shared in her very works. It was also powerfully, devoutly shared in her prayer life with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, with Mary in the rosary and with her Sisters of Charity and the Church.
Jesus in the Gospel concludes this segment addressing the difficult realities of human relations with one of the most beautiful and extraordinary promises of Christ, the Living Word. He states that if two or more are gathered in His Name and agree in prayer IT SHALL BE GIVEN THEM! This consecrates, especially the prayers of the Mass the power of Christian prayer. But it also consecrates whenever two or more are gathered, in His Name. Jesus also makes another extraordinary promise. That whenever we are so gathered. He is in our midst. It is within the infinite holy confines of these promises that followers of Jesus can then gain clear direction and empowering to live out our holy legacy as God’s redeemed, to respond with St. Mother Teresa, all the saints and angels and each other in caring for our debt of love.
The message of Mother Teresa, of the Scriptures of today, of Jesus in our lives is not restricted by circumstances of pandemic, volatile ungodly politics and strife or economic upheaval. They are only affected by our willingness to see the boundless love God has given us and our responsibility and privilege to trust and share Him…to pay forward on our debt of love.
Compromise. Does this word cause a positive or negative reaction? If one were being asked to seek a compromise in their political views it would often be seen as a positive for an opponent to do and a negative if oneself were expected to share in this difficult verb. Our modern world is so filled with intense differing ideologies, beliefs and opinions. And in this world to compromise is usually seen as a sign of failure or weakness.
Prayer: The readings from Scripture today contain powerful promises and lessons about prayer. So would it not be best if the same question were asked as was above. Does the word prayer cause a negative or positive reaction? As most readers of this message have faith as a part of their life it could be assumed that it would be a positive reaction. Unless we are completely honest. Prayer tends, for many people of faith, to be something we know is good, necessary and…positive. Although, it is far easier to talk or read about prayer than to…pray. Prayer is hard work. It often involves us in facing our conflicts, failures or weakness. True prayer also means that our soul is communicating with God. Not just talking at God, but with God and with listening.
We sometimes are tempted to think that our language, the words we use, are a stable unchanging part of life. But both life and common sense, woven with history clearly shows that language is a very dynamic and changing force. It is probably no accident that Scripture (which contains extraordinary amounts of language challenges) is expressed as the “Living Word of God”. As we accept that language can have many chapters and meanings it invites us to look to what words mean now and what they have meant in times past.
Compromise is just such a word. Now it is commonly defined as a settlement of differences…through mutual concessions. It is thus stained with the concept that to compromise means to reduce the quality or value of something. Therefore for someone to compromise their politics or their faith is seen as a danger to be avoided at all costs. But what did compromise mean in other times and places? When Latin (from which this word comes) was the language of the educated Western world it was expressed as: “comprissum”. It meant: Mutual promise, to promise mutually. It is in this ancient understanding of compromise we can see a powerful lesson from the Living Word of God today. We can realize the gift of Compromising Prayer. We can learn the gifts and graces of building bridges, instead of barriers, with God and each other.
The prophet Isaiah, in our first reading speaks of a vital element of design for the House of God, the Church. It is to be a house of prayer, a place of joy.
And such is the powerful, blessedly joyful reality when we enter into our place of worship and simply pray. The quiet prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration is such a gateway into a secret garden of peace and hope as we wait in His Presence.
And although this image shows a time when social distancing was unheard of, or, for some. intense challenges to their understanding of liturgy it does illustrate some very important truths. The Church, the people of God, IF we are to believe our Scriptures today, is a place for ALL people. It is also a place of letting go of our selfishness and taking the hands of our neighbor, As we become a people and and place of prayer. Perhaps this holy posture of prayer may involve taking the hand of a parishioner with whom you have painful disagreements. Perhaps it may mean taking the hand of someone in your domestic church, your family, who has not been cooperating with your point of view. The Church, the House and People of God needs to grow as a place of prayer, a place of compromising prayer. A place of bridges being built.
Our Gospel today shares the account of Jesus and the Canaanite woman who comes to Him desperately seeking deliverance for her demon tormented daughter. To realize the immense lesson of Compromising Prayer this is we need to look at the spiritual geography behind the story.
Jesus has traveled to the region of Tyre and Sidon in what is present day Lebanon. He has traveled far from the Roman Province of Judea, over 100 miles, as a crow could fly. Although He knows there are Jews in this ancient Canaanite land it is still, without any doubt, a land, a place, of the Gentiles. It was a place that the disciples of Jesus would not have expected Jesus to take such a journey. For He had come as the Messiah of the Jews. And even though it was a part of what had been the promised land shared through Moses and Joshua it was a land never fully conquered or claimed by the Jews. It was also, sadly and historically, a place of very negative compromises between the Jews and their pagan, idolatrous neighbors.
But with Jesus we see it become a place of Compromising Prayer. The Canaanite woman came to Jesus prayerfully. She does it right. She acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of David. This praise for God is then followed by her very simple, heartfelt petition. And Jesus ignores her. One of the most difficult places of prayer is when God seems silent. And the disciples weren’t helpful. They complained (now there’s a sad Christian/Catholic tradition). They wanted to send her away. After all, she wasn’t of the right pedigree. But the cruel sins of prejudice cannot abide in God’s Presence, in His place of prayer! Jesus then seems to answer, yet very unfavorably. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This apparent rejection, by Jesus could seem to seal the fate of this woman and her daughter. But what may seem denial or rejection by God can often be a quiet test and invitation to join Him in building a bridge, to work with God in compromising prayer. The woman draws closer to Jesus, gives Him her worship and asks, simply, “Lord, please help me.” Four words of intercession. Jesus then does what seems horridly cruel. He states that it isn’t right to take the food of children and toss it to dogs. He is using both the prejudice and words of the Jews who embraced their assumed superiority. But what Jesus does in seeming meanness is actually a recognition of an immense barrier, a chasm between two peoples. And He is sharing the plans for a bridge. The Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, specifically the street dogs that were mean, often sick and eating whatever garbage they could scavenge. The Canaanite woman takes the hidden hope. She replies… but Lord even the dogs eat the scraps the children drop on the floor. But she uses another word. She uses the Aramaic word for dog as a household pet, companion. This heroine of faith persists in prayer and does not quit until she knows she has reached Jesus. Jesus then commends her for her faith and affirms her prayers. Her daughter is healed. The mutual promise is shared. True compromise is reached. A bridge is built.
But why is Jesus so seemingly mean about it? If He wanted His house to be for all people why deal the prejudice card? The ways and plans of God are not always easy. Jesus knew the sins of prejudice had to be confronted. He also knew that His Kingdom, needing many bridges and facing many barriers would have to have deep foundations on the bedrock of a relationship of faith and love, Between God and His people. Feelings, passing politics or moods would collapse at the first quake or flood. This lesson about compromising prayer was for the woman and her daughter. It was for the disciples who first thought her unworthy.
And this call to compromising prayer, built upon the promises and designs of God is for us today. Let us build these bridges of healing, hope and faith filled prayer that knows the power of promises shared.
Mass Readings: I Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Responsorial: Psalm: 85; II: Romans 9:1-5; Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Sometime, probably in the early 6th century, a young Irish monk of reputable faith and holiness sought to find a place where he could seek and attend to God in prayer, penance and listening. St Kevin of Glendalough would establish strong monastic communities as well as minister to the souls living in the region. His preeminent purpose was always to seek God, to pray, to listen, to follow his Savior and Lord.
This was a time of extraordinary and bold faith in Ireland. Great monastic communities of prayer, study and formation were being established. The expectation and longing of so many of the Irish faithful was that in their hard lives God was with them and would lead them ever closer to His Presence.
Today our world of science and technology is engineered together with devout trust in reason, intellect and humanistic capabilities. The concept of someone listening for and hearing God is met with often mocking skepticism. Even among Catholics and other Christians there is a subtle fear of expecting or claiming to hear God speak. If not for concerns of seeming mentally unstable, then sins of pride and fear of ridicule all mix to make the stories of the early saints and the readings from our Scriptures today seem unreal, if not unreliable.
Was St. Kevin a crazy monk hearing voices as he built his hermitage and church in Glendalough? Was St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta walking a path of faith or of some vision of her imagination as she built her works of mercy? And in our Gospel with the account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, is that a fanciful story of purely spiritual metaphor or a practical lesson in…listening to God?
There can be no question that the human soul is indeed able to suffer from afflictions of the mind that can cause one to seemingly “hear voices”. There are also very real perils of ego presuming to speak for God and uniting with the subtle temptations of pride that can lead to experiences of ungodly suffering and sorrow. To recognize and dread those afflictions and temptations is part of the God given grace to fear that which can be so destructive. But as is so often the case in life, such afflictions and temptations resulting from our fallen nature or the tempter, are but sad counterfeits of the designs and plans of God.
A greatest of realities is that God is indeed Love. [I John 4:8 & 16]. And our loving God, Creator, Savior and King longs to share a dynamic and very real relationship with each human soul. Scripture and sacred history clearly teach the longing of God to walk closely with us, to hear our cares, love, trust and needs and to speak to our hearts. God will do so if we but trust and grow in the gifts of listening to God. Listening especially to God’s whispers.
In our first reading from I Kings we read of the fascinating account of Elijah seeking God’s help and direction. The back story here is very important. Elijah has been faithfully and with courage, proclaiming the message of God to the people of Israel. At this sad time they were mostly a people immersed in idolatry and whims of popular politics and causes. Their relationships with God had weakened into intense and deadly practices and strife. YET God still loved and sought them, especially through His prophet Elijah. But then as now, living for God was not usually easy or popular. Elijah had been faithful. But he was now very weary and discouraged and had run off to the wilderness to hide but also seek his Lord. Elijah’s experience is a lesson for all of us. So often we long for God to come and in great power make clear His will but also His power to deal with the afflictions and our afflicters in life. Elijah needed to hear from God. But God spoke not in a great wind. God spoke not through the fire or even a great earthquake. Elijah wanted….. a clear message and sign from God that would tell him and show others God was on his side. But God was closer than an earthquake, fire or mighty wind. God whispered. In a tiny sound Elijah heard God’s voice. He hid his face in humility and went to the entrance of the cave where he was.
Just as with Elijah, with Peter in the boat, and with us in this post modern era, God uses His creation to get our attention. Often we simply need the life-shaking events to bring us to…pay attention to God. Sadly we often need reminding that it isn’t about our stuff, our work or our status. It isn’t about us. It is about us with God and with each other. Returning to our Gospel for today we see a clear message from God that if we but trust we will hear and know God’s whispers.
Matthew’s account of Peter walking on the water, however imperfectly, is rich in the whispers of God that would teach and guide us to Him. First we see that after Jesus has fed the multitudes He sends the disciples ahead of Him by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He did so that He could have time alone to pray. Jesus, God come in the flesh, so needed the quiet time alone with His Father in the Presence of the Holy Spirit to renew His own soul. How much more have we this same need?
The disciples hear the simple Word of God, the words of Jesus, and in obedience get into the boat that evening and head across the waters of Galilee. God’s whispers often come through the simple needs and works of the day. We must go there. We must do that. We need not go over there. It is in our everyday journey God is often leading us closer to Him. But it is also in our life experiences we may be prepared by God. Several of the disciples were fisherman. They knew the Sea of Galilee. They also knew, very intently, to pay attention to the weather to what was on the horizon. The disciples, as they got in the boat that evening, took notice of the skies, the winds, and sensed this may not be the best time to set out.
God often prepares us for storms we may need to face. In our hearts, our instincts, in “our gut” God may well whisper that we need to prepare for some rough sailing. It may be that God is leading us into a storm. Truly there are storms of life that must be encountered. While we will not know what can or will happen, God does. The storms of a pandemic in the world, the economic suffering, the political chaos in our country or of racial strife that is occurring, none catches God by surprise. Some may ask, “IF God is Love why does HE allow such suffering?” It is because God is Love that he allows us to encounter these storms because of our free will. God does not approve or smile at the immense suffering caused by ego bound politicians (of all parties) or greedy medical, economic practices that neglect and abuse vast groups of people. God may allow such suffering in allowing us the freedom to love…(or not love) as we are created and commanded to do. His allowing such freedom neither separates Him from those who seek Him, nor does it eliminate the ultimate consequences of the selfish, sinful choices that are made that hinder His love and cause so many to suffer. God will use the storms of life to bring all who will closer to Him.
The disciples got into the boat in faith and obedience, and love for Jesus. Yet all too soon, as darkness had set upon them the winds arose and the waves beat upon their boat. As they labored against the forces of the world they were terrified to see…Jesus. For walking on the stormy waters they saw Jesus in a way they never planned or anticipated. So it is with us. When Jesus leads to a time and place where we encounter Him in ways not meeting our expectations, experience or understanding, we can become very upset. If the encounter is intense enough we may, like the disciples get..scared. Jesus can’t walk on the water!!!! That isn’t natural!! God can’t be encountered in that place, with that type of music!! With those people!!! It isn’t the way I believe or with which I am comfortable!!! But we all will be much better able to better hear the whispers of God if we accept that God rather enjoys leading us out of our comfort zones. While Jesus has brought them to this difficult place He reassures them: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” God leads us to face our fears and conquer them with courage rooted in His love.
As the disciples see Jesus, and listen, Peter is moved, beyond his fears, to be closer to Jesus. Peter says..Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” One of the most important ways to discern God’s whisper is to, like Peter, ask: God, if this is you call me closer to You.” What do the many voices we hear bring to our relationship with God? Closer? Or distance? We must remember this whole experience is while the winds and waves were roaring. When God whispers, to the seeking heart, His voice will be heard, even amidst the storms of life.
Jesus says to Peter one word. “Come.” Spoken in the quiet of God’s peace, even with the winds howling, God’s whisper is heard and Peter steps out onto the water. So often we expect God to give us a full detailed itinerary of life. We want all the rules of life, family, church, liturgy, vocations, everything spelled out. IF, God forbid, something occurs outside the expectations we have we cry out: Where is God? Indeed God gives a great treasure of His commandments, His Word, of Holy Tradition that provide us an eternally powerful framework for life. But one of the unchanging graces God gives is the Truth that His followers must actively trust and follow the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us to walk through our own storms, dark nights and overcast to hear His whisper and draw ever closer to Him.
Peter did step out from the boat onto the stormy waves. But very soon common sense and experience got the better of him. He knew..this can’t work. This can’t be right. FEELING the sinking reality of his failure he starts to plunge ever deeper into the deadly waters. But he calls out to Jesus three words: “Lord, save me!” So often we, in our struggle would think I must save myself. I have to come up with my lifeboat, my floatation vest. This applies to us as individuals but also as families, as community. The “committee to design the lifeboat” will have to bring to the task force to build the boat approved plans for review after careful examination of costs, risks factors, and God knows what else, before we may start to build our life boats. So often what is simply needed is first, and foremost, individually or as a group a simple praying from our hearts: “Lord, save us”! Then as we reach out to God, or perhaps for God, we will find ourselves back in the boat and…the waters and winds calmed. And we will also hear Jesus whisper in our ear: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt.”
The Whisper of God is calling us as He called St. Kevin of Glendalough, Elijah the prophet, St. Peter and each of us. God calls us to His place of love, peace and power. He beckons us to the place beautiful in holiness. The whisper of God is calling us to Him.
Mass Readings: I: Is.55: 1-3; Responsorial: Ps. 145; II: Rom. 8:35, 37-39; Gospel: Mt. 14: 13-21
Today the Gospel of Matthew shares the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes. This story contains so many lessons, challenges and encouragements for anyone seeking to grow stronger in their faith. Lessons of simple faith-filled obedience, of God calling us beyond our resources and abilities to lessons of sharing even if it would seem precarious to our well being and of course the profound lesson of Jesus loving, caring for the soul that hungers are all in this holy meal rich in nutrition for eternal peace and life.
But in these many lessons it is easy, at times to overlook the magnitude of this miracle. The size of the crowds was extraordinary for the location and resources at hand. 5000 men PLUS women and children were reported to be at hand and hungry. To help picture this crowd it may help if you have ever been to or seen Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. In a normal, non-Covid afflicted year this baseball venue can easily seat at least 50,000 people.
While the crowd Jesus fed that day was only a fraction of what the ball park would hold it was still immense, especially in light of the location and resources that were available. For sake of our thoughts the crowd Jesus fed was probably at least a tenth of a full crowd watching the Giants play baseball.
And Jesus said: “…give them some food yourselves.” For many to have one extra person show up, unexpected, for supper may be a challenge. But for the disciples that day they had no plans to feed a multitude. Indeed God loves to surprise us beyond our abilities! All the disciples could find was a young boy willing to share his five loaves and two fish.
What is clearly an impossible situation has all the ingredients of a disaster. A huge hungry crowd plus far inadequate resources is more a recipe for a riot than a miracle…except for God. And it is in the light of God’s Word, His truth, the power and grace of this day is realized.
The prophet Isaiah spoke to the multitudes of his time that God was calling each one to come. The thirsty were called to come and drink. The hungry were invited to come and eat. Those who were broke were to come and know they were welcome and would be satisfied. God through this prophet was calling a multitude, hungry for bread and water but even more for the food of the soul God alone could provide. The Israel Isaiah was speaking to were a people stuffed and filled with the hedonistic idolatry and violent strife rampant in their lives. Their world offered so much…that was false and empty…deadly. But God called them to be filled and satisfied in Him.
The epistle of the Romans in our second reading shares the passionate promise of the Holy Spirit that nothing can or will separate us from the love of God. Famine, peril, sickness or war, things present or things not seen, things past or future NOTHING can come between us and the Love who is God. These extraordinary promises from God, who cannot lie, are affirmed in the Psalm for today. Psalm 145 states in holy simplicity: “The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works…”.
These exquisite affirmations from God are so deeply healing and encouraging to our own souls. But they are also very difficult to believe. For the soul, starving for mercy, as was St. Peter after our Lord’s resurrection the voice of Jesus calling him and the others to come from the boat and “come and eat” were almost too good to be true. Peter knew his horrid failure and denial of God, his friend, Jesus. But Jesus still called…”come and eat.”
We can see, in hind sight, Peter’s difficult journey and say how great was God’s love and mercy. But let us go back to the hungry multitudes gathered that day with Jesus. They had listened, with vast, varying degrees of maturity, faith and comprehension. They had heard. And their stomachs growled with hunger. Their faith… some would believe and follow Him. Some would turn away on paths of further wanderings.
But the Gospels are very clear: “ALL were satisfied.” Jesus did not evaluate and judge those who were worthy to eat. ALL were welcome. ALL were fed. All were satisfied. There were, in all realistic likelihood, a full array of the sins of humanity gathered in the Presence of Christ. And He fed them all.
Now some might think of other places in the Gospel where Jesus spoke of those invited to the feast and who would be rejected upon arrival. Indeed those Gospel truths could seem to contradict the lessons of today. But if we listen carefully we realize ..clarity and confirmation.
Jesus calls, invites, as we are, with our hungers and thirsts to be fed and satisfied. He calls us to be filled with the life and assurances of God. And as we understand the multitudes in our story today…ALL were satisfied.” But not all grew on in the fullness of God. Some would allow God to continue to nourish and fill their lives. Some would, after their satisfying fullness wander off to forget and neglect He who called them and cared for them as no other. They would once again search the world to satisfy their hunger that had returned. And some would wander off but when their hunger would return they would return to He who is the Bread of Life.
There was one other miracle that occurred that day that would help all who continued with Christ to know His fullness. As the hungering souls were brought the bread and fish by the disciples they were each called to receive their meal but also to pass on, to share that which they had received with others in their midst. The deeply filling food of sharing allowed those who were willing to grow on in the fullness of God.
Today, as we do miss our Lord’s Eucharistic meal in these unique times, may we still feast and share on the fullness of His Presence in His Word and in that richness share with those we meet who hunger. May we too share in the miracle of allowing: ALL to be satisfied.
Mass Readings ~ 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 26 July 2020
I: I Kings 3:5, 7-12; Responsorial: Psalm 119; II: Romans 8:28-30; Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52
The familiar, powerful and reassuring words of the Holy Spirit, shared through St. Paul in his letter to the Romans are so deeply needed in our lives at this time. “All things work for good.…” . Yet as we look at our world today, perhaps at our own lives or the suffering and struggles of loved ones we wonder, perhaps doubt, and we ask: All Things work for good??
The treasure of God’s Word this Sunday indeed will reassure and provide practical insight into the truth and power of this promise from God.
In Arizona are the Superstition Mountains home to one of the most famous stories of lost treasure. The Lost Dutchman Mine has called people to seek this alleged lost and hidden treasure since at least 1892. Some have died in their quest. Many have failed. None have been known to find this elusive lost, hidden treasure of great wealth despite that search being the driving purpose of many a life. Encountering many trials, discouragements and profound failures the assurance of all things working for good would have been futile at best. The wealth of God’s Word today reminds and reassures us the quest for the hidden treasure of God’s Kingdom will not lead to failure but the eternal favor of God’s purposes.
Jesus in our Gospel today shares more parables focusing on the promise of the hidden treasures of God and God’s Kingdom. And it is within this context we learn the how, the why, the power of All Things working for Good! Our Lord, in His parables affirms that in life the great treasures of God are often..hidden. In life we realize that the great treasures of God are often buried, covered in dusty mystery and faith, shrouded in clouds of suffering and pain or buried in deep mines of loss or grief. Or, sometimes these great treasures are easily evident but missed by meadows of ease or worldly allure or the disguises of being all too familiar. But the map to these great heavenly treasures is given by God to all who will listen and seek…Him.
It is often a reality of our human ego that our opening verse from the book of Romans focuses only upon the first part: “…all things work for good…”. Our humanity rushes to assume “it’s all good”, “I have this all planned!!!” “I am entitled!!!. Yet if we simplify our hearts and quietly Listen to the Holy Spirit we soon learn there is so much more to the verse. Indeed, ALL things work for good!!! ” FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.” It is in the purposes and provisions of the Holy Spirit we experience in soul, spirit and in life that indeed ALL things work for good, WITH GOD.
The context of this great promise cannot be ignored, if we wish to experience the truth and power it would share. The eighth chapter of Romans speaks eloquently of living in the Holy Spirit of God as followers of Jesus, as adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. This life in the Spirit is a life of eternal simplicity and practicality. It is prayerful listening and following after God as His plans, His purposes are realized, day by day. For in light of our specific readings for today it is a life of Seeking, Sacrifice and Sharing in the quest of God.
Seeking... the lesson of Solomon in our Old Testament reading expresses how, as a young king Solomon was given by God an opportunity in prayer. Solomon chose to use that opportunity to indeed pray and SEEK God and the Wisdom only God could bring. So it is with each of us. Many are our opportunities in life. Some are great and exciting thresholds of hope and possibility. Others are seeming dead ends of failure or sorrow. But through out life they are all opportunities to SEEK GOD and the Wisdom of the Heavens.
Sacrifice... Our present culture tends to despise concepts of sacrifice and duty. Yet for those who seek God these graces of faith are absolute necessities. Going back to the Superstition Mountains of the Lost Dutchman Mine anyone who would seek that lost treasure would be mortally foolish to go on their quest without water. So it is for the man or woman, the child of God. If we have not the waters of sacrifice found in the sacrifices of Baptism and cleansing our quest will be a failure. As God’s children it is NOT about entitlement but the sacrifices of love that clear away all the detritus of life that we may see that which truly matters, that we may see HE who matters. It is then we realize that all the baggage we may think we must cling to is purely hindrances to our following the purposes and plans of God in our Heavenly quest.
Sharing… Finally in our quest for Jesus and His Kingdom one of the greatest of paradoxes God would bring us to…share this treasure we seek. To find the infinite treasure that is God that is the eternal Kingdom of God we must be on a quest to share all, any wealth we find. In the world if one discovered a great treasure there would probably be a great effort to hide or protect that treasure from those deemed less deserving. In God’s Kingdom the treasures of mercy, forgiveness, hope, the indescribable gems of holiness are given by God to be..shared. For it is as Jesus said..it is in giving..we receive. It is as Jesus did..in giving sharing the riches of Heaven, through the Cross, we find His love.
As we persevere on our quest to know that ALL things work for good..WITH God, in our quest to discover His treasures in our lives of struggle or ease of sorrow or joy we learn that it is God who calls us to His purpose, His designs. May we each learn the greatest treasure of knowing in our hearts the voice of the crucified King calling us each by name.
Mass Readings: I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Responsorial: Psalm 86; II: Romans 8: 26-27; Gospel: Matthew 13: 24-43
Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy France was established as a monastic community around 708 A.D., according to the story, from a vision of St. Michael the Archangel to a local bishop. For centuries it has been a place of pilgrimage, faith and prayer (besides more worldly uses as a prison and fortress). Now connected to the mainland by a causeway it is easy and safe to access. But for thousands of pilgrims the journey was fraught with changing tides, quicksand and a path often obscure in the tidal waters. While it is easy to visit now, often more from tourists than true pilgrims of faith, it still illustrates the difficult and at times perilous journey that people of faith undertake in seeking the fullness of God’s kingdom.
It also illustrates an important lesson from our readings of God’s Word this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. This Sunday of July, here in California we once again are facing the closure of our churches and the inability to share in the graces of Mass due to the Covid 19 struggles. We are called, again, to grow and share in a deep spiritual communion with God and each other as alone and together in our homes and families we miss the fuller communion of gathering with each other.
These strange tides of change and uncertainty from this virus are tossed and blown by the ongoing storms of politics and civil unrest sweeping the lands. For many we continue with a sense of feeling unsure of what God is doing, where is God leading, or perhaps even…Where is God? The media and most secular experts cry out to “follow the science”, to listen and heed the words of medical, clinical and political experts as we go through this extraordinary time. And indeed heeding the wisdom of science is a matter of life and death. It is vital to be able to separate our fears and feelings from the morass of politics and hype. But it is also important that while the work of the God-given disciplines of science and medicine are essential they are not God or the Gospel. It is good to realize doctors and scientists are seeking, working hard to learn all that is needed in this struggle. And to pray God’s mercy and grace and wisdom to prevail .
This brings us back to our journey to Mont St. Michael, or more accurately, our journey with and to God. Our Gospel during these weeks of summer share many parables. Some are long and rather complex. Others are short and fairly clear. We can realize that these parables of Scripture are also given to us as we encounter the parables of our life. It has been said a parable is an earthly story with an heavenly meaning. So whether in Scripture or in the experiences of the day we encounter lessons of the world with heavenly importance. But, like the earlier pilgrims to Mt. St. Michael, we encounter paths, lessons that are not always clear or easy to understand. We know the peril of the quicksands of human weakness and our limited wisdom. We face the changing tides of popular values and fashionable energies that can sweep us off the causeway of God into waters churning with strife and angry currents. So as we look to our destination (the full presence of God and God’s Kingdom) we would heed the sound ways of God to helps us trust and understand as we take these steps. Much like the first disciples we need to come aside with Jesus and say: ” I don’t understand! …This doesn’t make sense! Jesus… what do you mean? what do you want?”
Whether our pathway is clear and calm, facing tides clearly rising or battered by the often intense storms of life we can experience and know essential, solid rocks of safety and grace that will help us on the path God calls us to share with Him.
First we must remember that it isn’t about our wisdom, our understanding or feelings. The shifting gravel of stress or fear or the perilous quicksands of anger or hate are not where God would lead. The primary place God would lead is into the holy, healing arms of His Son. It is in our relationship with Christ planted deep in the Truth that He is able to forgive, heal, cleanse us of the wounds, muck and mire that we find in this world.
If you have ever had the privilege of digging for clams you know you can experience the reality of sinking ankle, knee or deeper into the sandy mud. It can feel impossible to escape…at least with your boots. And if the tide is coming in it can be a powerful opportunity for…. courage. It is so often an opportunity of needing the help of others.
On our journey to God’s Holy presence we may be stuck in such muck. But the presence of Christ can lift us out of the mire to know His cleansing and healing. Even if we are stuck in uncertainty or in a place well beyond our abilities we can, abiding in God, know the power and help of the Holy Spirit. It is immersed (baptized, confirmed) in the Spirit of God we encounter the grace of the Holy Spirit praying for, with us, perhaps beyond our understanding and vision but always in the purpose and wisdom of God. This year, 2020, has caused many to wonder what God is doing…if anything! Yet it is in the Spirit infused prayers of the Paraclete we learn Jesus is in control. He is on the throne and that whatever happens God will show us the way. And it will be the Holy Spirit who will prayerfully remind us that the path we are on is shared by the angels and saints and who may well lead us to pray to St Michael the Archangel.
As we walk with Christ, in the prayer fullness power of His Holy Spirit we grow in understand as we face the parables of our life, as we learn those lessons and truths God knows what we need. And it it is this holy wisdom brought into our hearts and minds we grow stronger in God’s peace. The parables of Scripture and the parables of our life are lessons given us by God. But as Scripture promises these lessons, this wisdom of God is gentle, powerful encouraging and shared in peace. Indeed these lessons may bring us to or through difficult even painful times. They may call for deep conversion and change. But even with those hard tests and lessons we grow in the peace of heart that this is right. This is bringing me closer to God and the person God created me to be. Jesus never promised a life of peaceful circumstances. He promised us..His cross and His peace that is always greater than what the world may offer.
Finally we encounter, walking with Christ, in the prayer Presence of the Holy Spirit, filled with the peace of God in heart and soul that we are growing in the love of God. The Apostle John, in his first epistle wrote the three words perhaps most oft quoted (and oft in ignorance of the Biblical roots)…“God is Love”. In our pilgrimage to God, to God’s holy mount we are traveling to a place of countless graces, intense, indescribable holiness and majesty. But we are pilgrims always to and in the holy Love who is God. This love saw our fallen sinful failings. And saw us redeemed and made whole. This God who is love sees us on our struggling path through tides and seas of worry and sorrow, fear or doubt and sees us with Him entering the gates of our eternal home. Words will fail to describe all God would share with us in the beauty of His holiness. But the fears that would assail on our path will shrivel and fall away in the Presence of Jesus who will call us to face our fears and allow Him to cast them out as He brings us into our heavenly home.
The parables of Scripture are many and mysterious. As are the parables of life. But these earthly stories with deep heavenly truths will, in Christ’s Presence, the Holy Spirit’s power, the Peace of Jesus and the Love of our Creator will bring us to the joyful gates of God’s holy mount.
15th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 12 July 2020 ~ The Parable of the Sower
Mass Readings: I: Is. 55:10-11; Responsorial: Ps. 65; II: Rom. 8:18-23; Gospel: Mt. 13: 1-23
This 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Year of Our Lord, 2020 is, in many ways far from ordinary. There are frequent discussions on what is the “new normal”, the new ordinary. As we share this gift to gather and celebrate the Mass we realize that with the challenges of the Covid pandemic this gift may again be curtailed for a season. As we navigate the vicious storms of politics and social violence we experience the many powerful and often toxic seeds of discord, strife, hate, fear and doubt. So we read God’s Word today and wonder…
What is the Seed of God’s Word about?
What does Jesus want to plant and grow in the soil of my soul?
The reading from the Gospel of Matthew shares the well known parable of the Sower. In this lesson Jesus speaks to hearts explaining the types of soil in which His Word is sown. He makes clear our free will to chose how the soil of our soul will be for His Word. If we better realize the gift of His Word in our lives we may better allow for our hearts, our souls, our soil to be ready for His Word.
But before we examine this holy seed of Scripture it is important to realize the peril we face with the invasive weeds of the world. Discerning listening to the messages, and especially the fruits, of the words of the world soon reveal their worth. Many varieties of worldly words abound but they all share common traits. Words of anger, hate, judging, fear, doubt and discord are flying through the air in abundance. As another parable of Jesus taught, the powers of hell seek to sow the invasive thistles weeds that would, if allowed , crowd out God’s intent. And we must realize these seeds of destruction are much in the world but they also can be found in our families, our church and in our hearts. May we seek the gardeners of heaven to help us to be ready for God’s Seed!
The Seed of God’s Word is eternally distinctive in many traits. As we look to the beauty of creation we start to realize that God plants an unending array of beauty in the diverse places of life. From fertile meadows to towering forests, to desert drylands or sea side dunes God has the seeds of life suited for each holy place. And so it is for our souls. God has seeds of His promise and purpose for the place we are in life. Yet for each place there are common graces.
The Seed of God’s Word contains infinite blessings. But there are four that are always so needed.
First the Living Word, Jesus, the LOGOS, is The Truth. In heeding the voice of O our Lord in Scripture we allow His Presence, His Truth to be sown and planted in our hearts. And like all good seed, in His time and will, the power, the beautiful veracity who is God will grow. The Scriptures are essential if, as His followers, we are to grow in the Truth that sets us free. Jesus in holy love will plant within us, perhaps in what seems impossible places or ways those seeds in which we can become free to be who He calls us to be.
Secondly this holy voice of God, whispered in the verses of Scripture will cleanse. It is in the light of God’s Word we realize our need for cleansing… for conversion. As a seed, buried deep in the soil sprouts it, by God designed grace, seeks the light essential to cleanse away the hard darkness that would prevent life from growing. And in the nail-scarred hands of the Gardener we too will know the cleansing power of His Word that brings us to seek His light. In the beauty of holiness we see the both the deadly sludge of sin and doubt and turn our hearts to seek, to see who is life itself.
Next we experience, from the seed of God’s Word that as we grow in His Truth, as we take root in His cleansing graces, we come to grow eternally alive. No matter the size the seeds of grace they will accomplish the purposes of God as we allow His work in our soul. Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah affirms that the Word of God that goes forth will not return to Him empty but accomplish His plan, His purpose. Regardless of length of time, drought, fire, storm wounds it will grow to be what God intends. And it will be seen that it is those battles that the real strength and beauty Jesus planned will develop.
This brings us to a fourth and concluding grace as we look at the seed of God’s Word. When God’s promises are planted and sprout, as they grow, taking root we experience a gift God never wants us to be without, the gift of Hope. God knows the places we may encounter in life may not always be easy. But with His Word, in which we are called to abide, we grow in hope. The gnarled beauty of the Bristle Cone Pine grows, slowly, persistently in some of the harshest environments on earth. Void of much water, with little rich soil. These seeds grow through the harsh temperatures, the ceaseless winds to now be recognized as the longest living things on earth. They teach us the power of hope from the Seeds of God’s Word.
As we reflect on the Words of Jesus in the Parable of the Sower may we take to heart the infinite power and worth of those holy seeds He longs to plant in our lives. May we grow, deeply rooted and abundant in He who brings us Truth, Cleansing, Life and Hope.