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.
Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; Responsorial: Daniel 3:52-56; II: II Corinthians 13:11-13; Gospel: John 3:16-18
Today we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity. Minds and hearts much better than mine have sought to help us understand this immense mystery of our faith. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit…One God in three persons is one of the most profound challenges of our faith and for our understanding. Yet in Scripture from the ancient Hebrew of the Old Testament to the Greek of the New it is a Truth, at times veiled, but also one boldly proclaimed. Although the word “Trinity” is not to be found anywhere in Scripture this living Truth powerfully abides in an holy majesty and infinite love.
This abiding Truth is challenging our understanding to great degrees of frustration. As we wrestle with the Holy Spirit to try to get this essential reality of our faith into our minds we can sense one of those holy whispers of God. We will never understand the Holy Trinity. But we are called to simply relate to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
This blessed realization can be countered at the coast. As we, smell, feel, hear the beauty and power of the Pacific Ocean we simply can embrace our relationship with the ocean we are witnessing. We can recognize that our respective “visions” of the ocean in no way encompass the immense scope of these waters. We indeed can truthfully say we know about the ocean. We can swim, surf, scuba the warm Pacific waters of Southern California. We may visit, work or live along the coast of Northern California on calm warm days and stormy times of intense waves and currents. But our understanding is so…small. We never have explored the deepest depths, the immense miles of coastline, the coral reefs, the creatures of the deep. We realize our understanding is so much like our faith. We are so confident and comfortable with what is familiar. But have no real realization of all that lies beyond our mental grasp..the sister oceans, the diverse waters all provide a living portrait of our Triune God.
This beautiful time to focus on the Most Holy Trinity may we allow what is a very finite example, the majesty of the oceans, to invite us to plunge into our relationship with God.
May we immerse ourselves in the majestic power and love of our Heavenly Father. May the eternal currents of God’s mercy draw us ever closer into His holy embrace, drawing us away from the tiny brackish pools of fear or doubt we may have encountered in our lives.
May we each dive deeply into the eternal love that is God the Son, Jesus. As He pours upon us waves of cleansing and buoyant power, waves that would not drown us in sorrow or brokenness as does the world but waves of hope and life. Waves that even in the storms of life can bring us to peaceful waters of rest and assurance.
And may we each swim freely in the waters of life of the Holy Spirit. Growing in the Truth and our relationship with the fullness of God and each other we then grow in the fullness of God’s people we are created and redeemed to be.
Immersed in this infinite power and holy beauty that is God we realize that there is no way to separate or understand all that is God. But we also realize that we have the tragic power to damage and destroy this relationship of holy love and life.
Rebellion and humans mindful only of self and not of God pollute their relationship with God and each other. This intense sadness is seen in the way we pollute and destroy the creation given us by our Creator to care for and use for His glory and the good of all.
In our pilgrimage of faith my we trust our Lord to lead us to grow in our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Scripture Readings for Mass of the Day: I: Acts2: 1-11; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: I Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel: John 20:19-23 & Sequence
Traditional sacred art commonly portrays the out pouring of the promised Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and our Blessed Mother with, perhaps at times, other disciples in the room as amazed and awestruck… spectators.
This holy day of Pentecost, 2020, brings us to realize that these traditional images, however beautiful, are not as Scripture described the event, not as God intended and especially not as is so urgently needed in the lives of the faithful and the world this year of 2020!
As we continue our shared wilderness journey through the Covid pandemic we have been faced with many uncertainties and challenges. The loss of the ability to gather together for Mass has compounded the difficulty of these days. Recently there had been the hope, and in some areas, the start to allow the gathering for our liturgies and sacraments. In our parish of St. Peters we still seek and await that day in faith and prayer.
All of this has been drenched this past week in the news of a tragic murder of a man under arrest in Minnesota and now another seeming pandemic of civil unrest, riots and anarchy throughout the country. The intensity of anger and hate is combined with great fear and weakness in the broad leadership of the country. This brings many to again ask on what is meant to be a day of great celebration in the Church, Where is God? Where is the power of the Holy Spirit so needed in the world and in our homes and hearts at this time?
The answers to those questions are not in the news or the images and stories on social media. The answers are not in the words or actions of the priests or bishops. The answer to where is God, where is the promised Presence and power of the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of all the faithful. The answers are found when we allow the Spirit of God to search our hearts in the light of God’s Word to see where, in what or who is the faith of the faithful? We are brought to urgently understand, we as the Body of Christ, the people of God, are NOT called to be spectators and observers of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are ALL called to be baptized, IMMERSED with and in the Presence and Power of God the Holy Spirit.
This past year, thus far, has given to everyone intense , ongoing and powerful invitations to…FEAR, to WORRY and DOUBT. We all are given, a regular abundant feast of the gospel of human understanding and opinion. We are instilled with many and frequent sermons of the “truths” and gospel of science, professed medical evidence (even if inconclusive , subjective and contradictory) and the promises of politicians (of left and right) of health, wealth and peace. [Note: This does not imply we are to reject sound scientific and medical direction and care. But it must be seen, not as Gospel but as tools given by God to be used in God’s wisdom]. And now added to this morass of humanistic wisdom we are facing civil violence and unrest of profound dimensions as people, especially the poor and oppressed, respond in their anger, fear and powerlessness. Indeed this Feast of Pentecost, 2020, could well be experienced as a very dark and dismal time of …despair. IF!
IF the human soul chooses to become immersed in all this news and wisdom of the world we will be truly immersed, filled, drenched in..despair.
IF!!However we chose to remember and BELIEVE God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind we will grow to be immersed in the power and Spirit of God for these days in which we are called to live and follow Him. And we will, celebrate the Truth, as He promised that as our day is, so shall our strength be!
This great and holy Feast of Pentecost, 2020, we are called to realize and be a faith-filled people of God sharing in the times and places of our daily lives the Real Presence of God. We are called to be the living tabernacles carrying about our places of life, our hopes and wounds The promise and Presence of Jesus, in His Holy Spirit being, becoming vessels of God’s power, peace and courageous love… the power of true holiness.
A key and recurring promise of God, in both Old and New Testament readings is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be with POWER!. Looking to the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost they were gathered, behind closed doors in fear and uncertainty. But also in obedient prayer. as they chose to let go their doubts and uncertainties and rather seek God and His promised they prayed. And at the time chosen by God they ALL received the outpouring promised from Jesus. It has become a great temptation to, as the sacred art illustrates to be very pious… observors. Many the Christian as become very comfortable sitting, observing the bishops and priests, the pastors and and liturgies and worship services so beautifully produced. We attend to be…”fed” and then go home comfortably “filled” with the Comforter to lives of Christian knowledge.
God never intended the Promise of the Paraclete to be only for the ordained or religious but for ALL the people of God. And that truth is being realized, now more than ever that this Presence of God is so necessary to combat the evil blot of worldly wisdom and fear we face.
God also calls all the faithful to be a people of His peace that surpasses all understanding. We are called to be living in the Peace of God not found in medicine, political diatribes or police tear gas. This world is a place of great conflict between good and evil, between God and the prince of lies and darkness. True, eternal peace, even in the very midst of suffering and strife is and can be found in the Spirit of Jesus poured into our hearts on Pentecost. And we are called to be warriors of….PEACE and healing, of mercy and hope to those wounded and bound in the ways of the world. What would happen in our world and lives if we trained and sought to wage peace as intensely as we do war and force? To be such warriors of the Holy Spirit we must understand we are called to be courageous in God’s holy love!
To understand this aspect of the Spirit-filled life we need only prayerfully look at the lives of the disciples, from Peter and the apostles to the others, some soon to be called as deacons, many to be called to be..martyrs. From the prayerfully, timid hiding place of the upper room the Church, the People of God, were blown out into their world. In their holy love they could not contain the precious seeds of the Gospel but scattered them with contagious joy into the hearts of those struggling with the lies of the evil one. Today, Pentecost Sunday, 2020 in a world locked in battle with the Covid virus, in cities smoldering and trashed, in hearts crippled by fear and hurts we must respond in God’s courage and holy love….in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
We would do very well to think of the many saints of God, St. Francis of Assisi, daring to care for, even kiss the leper, St. Roche, in the wisdom of God’s love caring for those suffering in the plagues of his day, of the many women and men of God, disdaining the possible costs, discarding their fears who went out to dare to touch and care for the poor, the sick, the hated, all for the healing mercy and love of God.
This time in which we live we battle the great Covid pandemic. But we also battle even greater pandemics of fear and hate, prejudice and greed. Even in the church there is a fervor to exclude and judge those whose understanding of liturgy doe snot match those esteemed by some. There is an almost inquisitional enthusiasm to battle those not considered suitable to share in the Body of Christ as judged baby some self-perceived experts.
This holy and solemn, beautiful and powerful celebration of Pentecost, 2020, may we earnestly seek God’s holy fire to enflame our passions for..Him and His Kingdom. May we burn with the same redeeming love for others as God does..for us. And may we grow forward as holy, gentle, fearless warriors empowered in the Holy Spirit to be and become people and places of God’s healing Power, world quenching Peace, and alive in God’s Courageous love and hope.
[Mass Readings: I; Acts 1:12-14; Responsorial: Psalm 27; II: I Peter 4:13-16; Gospel: John 17:1-11a]
This 7th Sunday of Easter we come to the last week of Easter season, 2020. Last Thursday was the glorious celebration of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the celebration of His celestial homecoming back to the Love of the Father and the embrace of the Holy Spirit. With that momentous event the souls and spirits of the followers of Jesus were lifted heavenward.
And so it needs be for us this Sunday of 2020. We have spent most of this year thus far navigating the Covid virus, social-economic chaos and leadership often at odds with each other as many uncertainties and threats are confronted. It is sadly and especially evident in the swamps of politics that all these threats to assumed places of power and control have brought about claims, assertions and professed worldly expertise in abundance. Again it shows us how much we need to lift our lives heavenward as we navigate these uncertainties but especially as we seek a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In deed we are followers of Jesus in an earthly journey amongst many problems, perils and blessings of this world. We must heed, respect and navigate all these worldly realities. Yet we must, as our crucified and risen Lord did, always keep our focus heavenward.
Our Gospel this Sunday comes from the intimate conversation Jesus shared with His disciples in the upper room just before His Passion. This 17th chapter of John is the closing prayer of Jesus with, and for, ALL of His followers. This includes the Apostles, what would eventually be called the clergy but and especially ALL those who would believe in Him, His Body, the Church. Jesus has prayed that His followers may be one, as He and the Father are one, again embracing the entirety of His people, His Body, the people of God. Christ, in this portion prays that His faithful may always realize the gift of eternal life. He asks that His Father, His name be glorified as we follow in His way of redemptive love. He affirms we are in this world, but we are not of this world we belong to God. We are to live for God, eternally.
This message is vital as we anticipate the Feast of Pentecost next Sunday. We are to seek… to be filled, baptized, immersed in the Comforter come from Heaven. We are to be a people empowered and following first and foremost the wisdom and will of the Father in our lives and in His Church.
This message is also very much needed as we continue to journey through the challenges of the Covid sagas. I have read with joy that sooner than earlier expected churches may soon be unlocked. Masses may soon be allowed. But, wisely and of course, this is to be done within the dictates of the medical community. But as those dictates, that guidance is received and applied there seems the ongoing diversity of how, to what extent, in what ways all this is to be applied. In the many winds and squalls of this worldly storm of expertise we need to pay close heed to Whom we are following.
We must use all prudence, care and concern for the care, the well-being of each other, our families and ourselves. This means we must heed, with common sense and God’s wisdom, the guidance of the “experts”. But it is wise to remember that worldly expertise on these matters, on all matters is very subjective and transitory. Medicine, science, while true and great gifts and graces from God are disciplines of…change and growth. They are not and never have been meant as…gods. Yet it is sadly evident as we listen to the news, politicians, even some in the church, that the gospel of human reason and alleged scientific evidence is the gospel to be heeded. Our health, our well being can never be found in medical expertise or scientific reason alone. We are, if we believe the message of Jesus in the Gospel today, are created and redeemed for God, for eternity.
As we approach the Feast of Pentecost may we each, and together, seek the Promise of God the Father, given through His Son Jesus, the immersing into the Presence, Wisdom and Power of God for our lives, our Church for these times and eternity. May we allow the Spirit of God to walk in an holy balance of powerful faith and respect for those things of the Caesers of this world. May we remember and practice the promise: “God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love and of disciplined minds.” [II Tim. 1:7]
Today, Thursday, 21 May, is the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. For us Catholics it is a Holy Day of Obligation. But, of course, in these unusual times we are unable to gather for Mass. What for some would be seen just as a day of obligation is, for many a day of holy love and opportunity. Perhaps, more so, in these times to gather, celebrate and worship our Lord is indeed a gift and grace we cherish, and miss.
Although we are unable to gather for Mass and receive the sacred Body and Blood of our Lord it is also a very special time to realize the holy opportunities we have and are called to share. It is a very unique and powerful season to grow in our listening to Jesus, the Logos, the Word of God. And on this holy day we are able to hear the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples just before He ascended into the clouds to take His throne next to His Father.
On this extraordinaryAscension day it is important and beautiful to realize what occurred as Jesus rejoined His Father. In the incarnation Jesus laid aside His celestial place with His Father to take upon Himself our humanity. Clothed in the realities of our flesh, blood and human struggles Jesus, for thirty plus years, would endure a separation of sorts from His Father. It is on this joyous day God, who Is Love, is fully reunited for all of eternity. The celebration of God and His holy angels would be beyond our earthly imaginings!
Yet as we recognize the holy, heavenly event we are brought back to earth to remember what was on the Sacred Heart of Jesus before He went home. Gathered with His followers they sensed something was going to be happening. Their hearts were still seeking to understand and relate to the brutal passion and resurrection of their Lord. They would still be wrestling with their own fears of persecution and these changes in their faith. So it is on the mountain top Jesus gathers His disciples. They are still holding on to their shallow understanding of the dimensions and power of the Kingdom of Jesus. They ask Jesus when that Kingdom will be restored. Jesus in patient love reminds them the times, seasons, the schedule of God is not for them to know. They only need to know…Him.
Jesus then goes on to once again affirm for the disciples of the promise, power and Presence of the coming Holy Spirit. Then He utters His last words:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The first chapter of the Book of Acts goes on to proclaim: “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” With those final words Jesus establishes the marching orders of holy love that will carry forth His work and Kingdom. The followers of Jesus, so awed by this extraordinary event are staring up into the clouds. It is then that two angels come and gently but powerfully shake the disciples back to their place and work at hand…to live for and witness the mercy, love and holy joy of the Kingdom of God. They then emphasize that as they saw Jesus ascend into the clouds, so He will return.
As we reflect and refocus on the words and will of Jesus this holy day of opportunity may we grow in our witness to the love and mercy of God in and through our lives. And may our prayer be:
As the Covid Virus continues to assault the health and vitality of vast numbers of people and the economies of nations around the world it is very easy to lose sight that it is people, individuals that are afflicted by this disease. For some groups the apparent perception that if you are young and healthy the risks, even if the virus is contracted, is rather minimal. This seems to be part of the disregard many seem to be taking for sheltering in place, wearing face masks and simply CARING about the health and welfare of others. This is especially evident with the population most at risk, the elderly and those with underlying health problems. While in the United States care appears to be given to all in need. Yet even here in the States there are those who question whether or not the elderly, the unwell really should be given the degree of care to which the younger people are entitled.
While those opinions are guarded in many places there are countries where the actual practice of triage by age is a model or medical practice. Sweden illustrates a growing popularity and acceptance of the dangerous practice of others choosing who is worthy, entitled of care..of living. The world has seen the cruel reality when those in charge take the power to choose who receives care, who lives or dies, who is entitled and worthy of life or who is disposable.
Read the attached article from the BBC on the practices in Sweden. Pay attention to attitudes, even practices in other places.
It seems the once common value of respect and care for the elderly and the unwell is a vale rejected by some. Let’s remember, Life is the natural choice.
I have already posted a reflection for this Sunday in 2020. But as it is also the Feast Day of one of my favorite Saint-Friends I share this re-post from 2009 of St. Pascal Baylon.
Here is the cyber-version of my homily for this 6th Sunday of Easter, The Feast Day of St. Paschal Baylon: (From 2009)
The Redwoods of these north coast mountains of California have awed many for generations with their stature, beauty and strength. Yet if you have lived or walked amidst these fragrant giants you have hopefully realized that they are but the largest members of a much fuller community. One of the most beautiful members of this verdant environment is the Redwood Orchid. Small, often hidden by the larger, more well known companions, it can be found in hidden glades in the moist Spring time bringing a violet beauty under the emerald canopy overhead. The little Redwood Orchid is a humble yet excellent introduction to the lesson from the Scriptures in our Mass readings today. It is also an appropriate introduction to a hidden, simple saint who’s life was a profound lesson of the call of our Risen Lord.
May 17th is the Feast day of St. Paschal Baylon (1540-1592). This simple Franciscan lay brother never advanced further than being the porter at his Loreto monastery. Born to a poor Spanish family he was a shepherd without formal education. Yet he taught himself to read and write with the special purpose of being able to pray the Little Office of Our Lady. Paschal Baylon was appointed the Patron Saint of Eucharistic Congresses and Associations by Pope Leo XIII. If remembered, he is often thought of for his deep devotion and love for Christ expressed in the Blessed Sacrament. His deep longing and prayer for this communion with Christ was a part of his life even as a young shepherd. It grew to become a life of fervent prayer with our Eucharistic Lord. But St. Paschal’s life was far more than a life of prayer. He lived a life of faithful service, especially for the poor and needy. He, although uneducated by worldly standards, also came to be known for his courageous and boldly gentle defense of his faith in the face of real persecution. This balance of loving devotion and service, for the love of God, is the heart of the message we see in our readings.
Chosen to Love: “God is Love.” Our Epistle today shares these three most powerful Words of Scripture. Often quoted, less often lived, the depth of meaning starts to dawn as we accept the context…”and God sent His Son to pay for our sins”. Knowing our condition, yet seeing the worth of the soul God had created the Father calls us to His Son.
People, of all nations, as Peter affirmed in our first reading, are chosen, are called to Love, to God. It is into the infinite embrace of the Crucified Savior we start to grow in the freedom of being..chosen…the freedom of being chosen by and to… Love. Paschal Baylon realized he was called, that he was chosen, out of his sin and this world..to the Loving Presence found in the Body and Blood of Christ. Paschal also realized this call was for all humanity and lead to his life living the Commandment.
Commanded to Love: Often when we think of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament we think of it as a distinct practice of piety. We may relegate it to a contemplative effort best suited to religious or those who…like to pray. Sometimes those who practice Eucharistic devotion may be tempted to see this as a hallmark of their love for God. Sadly, it may lead to a condition of being so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. St. Paschal, who spent hours in rapt prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, would fervently disagree. It was but the furnace from which he carried forth the fire of God’s love for the poor, his brothers or even those who opposed his faith. This love for God of which Christ commands us this day, and always, is but a summation and source of the love we are to abide in and share with each other. The command of God’s holy, fearless love fulfills all the lesser commandments or issues with which we may become distracted. St. Paschal lived out his love for the Eucharist Christ in his service and love of others. This included his fellow Franciscans, the poor and needy as well as those perhaps his enemies. Once, in holy obedience, he ventured on a trip into a part of France that was, at the time under strong anti-Catholic control. Hugeonots, opposed to the Church more than once confronted Paschal on his journey with assaults and threats. Confronted by a learned Protestant scholar he was challenged about belief in the Blessed Sacrament. The learned scholar was confounded and silenced when this simple monk defended and explained this Biblical truth with a bold yet gentle courage. Paschal did not compromise his convictions or his love for those who did not agree with him. He simply sought to live as His Risen Lord had called him to do.
Abiding in Love: With St. Paschal, our Blessed Mother, St. Peter and all the saints we are chosen to abide..to LIVE in this love that is….Christ. As we live, listening to the voice of Christ in the Scriptures we hear His mercy, guidance, correction and peace. As we learn to hear God’s voice in each other, our family and the poor or wounded we hear His call to.. love. As we receive His Sacred Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist we are fed.. with Christ.. with Love. As we come to pray before His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament we discover, with St, Paschal the quiet peace, joy and strength abiding in His Presence. (We are chosen to be filled with His joy and the joy of the Lord is our strength).
St. Pascal Baylon died at the age of 52. Numerous accounts describe the moment of his death as the bells were being rung for the Consecration during the High Mass in his monastery. This little orchid of the saints calls to us today to abide and live in the Love that is Christ.
Christmas Sanctuary of St. Peter Church, Cloverdale, California
Readings for Mass: I: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Responsorial: Psalm 66; II:I Peter 3:15-18; Gospel: 14:15-21
The Extraordinary Easter season of 2020 is drawing to a close. Next Sunday we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of our Lord followed by Pentecost Sunday a week later. This may cause some to wonder why I begin this reflection with a picture of the sanctuary of my parish church, St. Peter’s. at Christmas. Has the deacon messed up his calendar …again?
I share the image purposefully. While it may seem ages ago our last holiday Masses were for Christmas. Together we sang, celebrated and probably took for granted the holy joy and privilege of gathering to worship our Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us. It would also seem quite long since we last gathered in our churches as the season of Lent was starting. Little did we realize what we all would be called to give up for Lent, and longer. Our ability to gather, to worship, to celebrate our Liturgies. our “public celebrations of prayer and worship”, our celebration of the Sacraments, of the humble communities of faith we were, and are having all been locked away. To gather, worship, pray with our eyes, ears, hearts focused to the Sanctuary to enter into the fullness of graces, the Real Presence of Christ, our God, in that holy place, all has been denied us.
Or has it?
It is very clear that the norm of gathering for our worship and celebration of the Sacraments has been curtailed for a season. We share with all people this need of sacrifice for the healing of our land from the afflictions of the Covid virus. We take encouragement that some of the many restrictions are being lifted. But we also share the great unknown as to what may occur with the virus and our lives as the changes are realized. Within all this uncertainty we may struggle trying to understand and practice our faith so rooted in our holy places of worship and prayer.
We long for the beauty and peace of God’s sanctuary. We long to gather in prayer literally entering into the Church, beholding His sanctuary, knowing the Real Presence of Jesus is in His Tabernacle. It is difficult as it could seem Jesus is..locked away.
Or is He?
This 6th Sunday of Easter we start to see the holy wind of the Spirit of God shift from the glories of Easter to the promise and power of the coming of the Comforter, the Paraclete, The Holy Spirit of God on Pentecost. As we let God’s Spirit whisper to our hearts this Sunday we hear, in our Bible readings, that God is not locked away, God would be with us. We would hear that while our great gift of the liturgy and sacraments is locked away, for a season, God is not. God has chosen and powerfully chosen to manifest his graces, His Presence in those holy works of God’s people gathered together. But God has also chosen to be with us in other ways as well.
God would indeed dwell within the sanctuary…of our hearts, as we but seek, allow, trust Jesus at His holy Word.
The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Acts. It shares a story of almost scandalous magnitude. It is but a very short time after the passion and resurrection of Jesus. Up to this point in the history and culture of the holy land the Jews and the Samaritans shared only three things of significance. They shared a mixed heritage to Abraham, they shared the land of Palestine, and they shared an intense and ancient animosity and distrust of each other. But the events shared form the Book of Acts proclaim events that defied all understanding and expectations of the Jews and of the early Church. God was welcoming those Samaritans!!!! To the astonishment and joy of the Apostles not only had the Samaritans received the Gospel but upon their visit to that place long forbidden, they saw that God’s Holy Spirit was freely given to them. God was Present and working well outside the sanctuary in Jerusalem and well outside the hearts and minds of the early faithful.
It is in the Gospel, as Jesus shares prior to His passion, that we learn He has made all the arrangements needed for His people. ALL of HIS people. Christ affirms and explains the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit for His Church. The Paraclete would be given to guide, to empower, to enflame with fire of His Holy Love ALL the people God calls to follow Him. God has not been surprised by the events of the world in 2020. Just as our Heavenly Father was not deterred by the passion and death of His Son, the testings and persecutions of the Church throughout the ages. Sadly, many the times and places where God’s people were not free to gather, to worship as they would choose. Yet God’s Presence has never failed to be with the faithful of the past or with us now. It is in these peculiar times we are especially called by God to individually andtogether build the beauty of God’s sanctuary in our hearts.
St. Peter writes to all the faithful (in a time of tribulation): “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…” (I Pet. 3:15). It is during Mass at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, that the gifts of bread and wine are sanctified, consecrated, with the faithful, to God. This occurs at the altar, in the sanctuary of the church. Today, everyday, we are called and given the opportunity to consecrate and sanctify, to set apart, for God our hearts. Every day we live, whether we are at Mass, perhaps in the Holy Land, walking along the beach, or cloistered in our homes, with our families under the requirements of sheltering in place, or even in a hospital bed, we are called to give, make beautiful for Jesus, our hearts. We must allow the graces of His mercy to cleanse and forgive us, to guide and empower us…for His Holy Love and mercy. And it is essential to note that the Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Peter, speaks to “sanctify your hearts”, plural, our individual hearts, TOGETHER, for God!
This Sunday as the Easter dawn grows to fuller light we anticipate and remember the promise and power of the Holy Spirit. May we renew or efforts to have Christ dwell within each our hearts and help us know…He is with us always, even unto the end of the age. Jesus seeks to dwell in the sanctuary of our hearts.
Scripture Readings for Mass: I: Acts 6:1-7; Responsorial: Ps. 33; II: I Peter 2:4-9; Gospel: John 14:1-12
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: Faith in action is Love – and Love in action is Service.”
This 5th Sunday of Easter the Holy Spirit, in speaking through our Bible readings, would seek to lead us to grow in the tremendous gift and responsibility that is given each of us in the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. These Easter weeks where the power of God’s holy love is celebrated in our hearts are given to awaken in us this gift and responsibility. But the joy of our faith has been oppressed as never before.
We all share this extraordinary time in the history of the world responding to the Corona Virus assault. It is tangled with the economic chaos resulting from the shutdown of much of the work and services of…humanity. It is also causing true travail for all people of faith as worship communities have had their doors locked by the authorities. This aspect of this ongoing story has had very little mention in the media. Yet for so many (and speaking of Catholic communities especially), this forced absence of worship, of Liturgy that has been celebrated for thousands of years is of profound impact. In California it may well be late August, September or even later before churches will be allowed to unlock their doors.
What does this mean for the Christian of 2020?
What is the course for the individual believer prevented from meeting or worshipping as the Body of Christ?
Does God have anything to say, even this Sunday of the Easter season, to us as we make this journey of intense uncertainties… Of very insecure security?
Answers to these questions are, indeed, given us by God. And it is vital to remember that nothing ever occurs that takes God by surprise. It is also necessary to remember that God neither approves of or smiles upon the great sorrows and trials that humanity is facing. But it is also true God allows these conflicts. It is part of the grace of love where humanity has the freedom to choose. And sometimes choices made by others, even far away cause havoc of body and soul. These reminders lead us to recognize an even more pressing reality. The Corona virus is truly a clinical, medical challenge of deadly power. The associated economic chaos is of both political and financial scopes beyond any the world has seen. Yet both this tiny virus and the immense economies are but pawns of a far greater SPIRITUAL BATTLE.
We would embrace a deadly naiveté if we were to pretend all this is just about science and medicine. Or that it is just very complex politics and economics to resolve the financial crises. Scripture is very clear. GOD is not the author of confusion [I Cor. 14:33]. The extreme health crises and chaos, the economic tremors around the world are all signature examples of Satan, the enemies of our souls, our lives.
It is as we recognize the scope of the battles we face that the wisdom, the answers God gives the sense we need, for hearts and minds of faith.
In allowing God to answer the question we shared above let’s first look at the Gospel for today. Although we are in the midst of the Easter season it is no accident that the Gospel comes from events as our Lord faced His Passion and death. Jesus is speaking to His followers who will be very soon encountering the forces of evil as never before. His WORDS are a seeming paradox. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” We must remember, believe and act upon this eternal reality and promise. Our God, our Lord Jesus is our peace and security. Repeatedly He assured the disciples in the moments before Calvary. Repeatedly He would assure us today.. God is our peace, our security. The temporal (TEMPORARY) tribulations we may face lose their power as we realize and trust. we are created, redeemed and empowered for Eternity.
As we allow these very real, at times painful, affairs of life that occur to be brought into proper perspective (The Light of His Word) we understand the need for our faith to be present and growing. Even in the deepest uncertainties we can know, through God’s peace, embraced in faith the truth of our Easter acclamation: ALLELUIA!Our God reigns! It is with our faith, rooted deep in God’s Word and Presence that we are able to know it is not through science or medicine, it is not with political clout or money we will know security and health of soul. Those are but tools used for good or for evil. And it is in faith they can be freed to be used for good, used by God.
This brings the truth to dawn new each day that…Because I believe..I must Act! The evidence of true, growing faith is the actions of holy love directing the soul.
Those actions may be simply and powerfully to truly PRAY for healing from this virus, for justice to penetrate the wounded economies of the world, for politicians to learn it isn’t about them. We are called to active PRAYER!
Our Faith in Action will be seen as the Church, The faithful daily celebrates the eternal liturgy of loving God truly Present in those with which we share this enforced isolation. In families, for those who are sick, unemployed or just overwhelmed by the events of life, we are serving Christ Present in the simple sacraments of faith in loving action.
Our growing peace and security IN CHRIST WITH US will bring us to the realities of the early Church. Our first reading spoke of the young Church in Jerusalem choosing those men to be the first deacons, men of faith, filled with God’s Spirit and wisdom, able to share God’s word. They are but a small example of the entire Church whose faith and early history are summed up in an one word title: ACTS!
The Christian faithful, in every age, have shared this Resurrection responsibility and privilege. We are redeemed to BE a people of FAITH and ACTS needed for our time and place. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Martyrs of faith throughout history, St Bernadette of Lourds, the saints reading these words..called, empowered by God to see an impossible need and to have the faith and courage to build a bridge amidst great peril, but compelled by a love that recognizes a need to reach the other side, for the love of God.
If one is still unsure of God’s direction during these times of intense spiritual battle perhaps the answers, the guidance are more encountered at the Cross and Resurrection of…JESUS.