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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.

Welcome to Redwood Journal

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

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

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Featured post

Dividing the Clump

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 14 August 2011 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10; Responsorial: Psalm 40; II: Hebrews 12: 1-4; Gospel: Luke 12: 49 – 53

Iris clumps that will need dividing by late summer. (Photo source unknown)

The Liturgy of the Word for Mass this Sunday brings us Scriptures that could be seen as difficult. It is especially in our Gospel reading these difficulties are most evident. “Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire…how I wish it were already blazing! … Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.’ ” Christ then continues to say how this will divide families and relationships in terms that are very clear.

The first reading tells us of how the prophet Jeremiah was cast into an empty, muddy cistern to die. This was because he had dared to obey God and proclaim the truth of the harsh realities facing Jerusalem resulting from their sin and rebellion against the Lord.

The second reading from the book of Hebrews is both encouraging and challenging as we are reminded that our lives are being witnessed by the faithful, the communion of saints who have crossed the threshold of eternity and seek to help and encourage our life for God.

As we read these powerful Scriptures we may struggle with a seeming conflict. Jesus calls us to abide in Him, His love, and His peace. Scripture shares many promises that if we just pray and believe God will bless and care for all our needs. Even the refrain from our responsorial psalm echoes this grace as it speaks: “Lord, come to my aid!” What is going on? The prophet Jeremiah was faithful and obedient to the call of God for his life and he was dumped into a muddy cistern. Jesus is saying He wants to bring fire into our lives and split homes and hearts. What is going on?

To best understand these Bible truths we need, as always heed the context. The Gospel of Luke has been sharing the life, ministry, and message of Jesus. And the tone of the Good News (Gospel) has been intensifying. Read the chapters of Luke leading to this segment. The holy and loving passion of God, the promised fire, and the power of the Holy Spirit is increasing in the words and actions of Jesus. He knows what is coming and shares this truth with his disciples. And in this short segment, Jesus speaks, especially of the fire He will send on the Day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But our Lord also speaks of the fire of God’s mercy that burned in the life of the prophet Jeremiah and in the lives of the clouds of witnesses the writer of the Hebrews calls to our attention. God is teaching us that to be growing and healthy in this heavenly kingdom the fire of God is essential as it brings us to our hearts God’s holy passions, it brings us to know divisions may be needed and that decisions must be made. For the love of God.

Photo source unknown

It is about dividing the clump. As a gardener, I have long loved the bearded iris that bloom in the Spring. Their distinctive scent, vibrant colors, and robust blooms are beautiful reminders of the promise, life, and hope of Spring. But anyone who has grown these gifts of Spring knows that when doing well iris grow and develop into thick clumps of matted bulbs or rhizomes. These clumps will bring the many blooms that make them so beautiful. But only for a while. The clumps will, with time, grow into overgrown, thick mats that bring smaller and fewer blooms. They simply stop growing as they should.

Our faith is much the same. We grow, we bloom. We develop strong thick roots of comfort and familiarity. We are at home with similar bulbs settling into the gospel of “this is the way it was always done”. Then the Holy Spirit comes and divides the clump!

The Day of Pentecost was such a time. Jesus, God incarnate had come. The Messiah was crucified and then arose from the dead. He then ascended into heaven, returning to the Father. The disciples, still struggling with all that had happened gathered in their spiritual home, Jerusalem. They did what their faith taught them to do. They prayed as Jesus had told them. Then with a crash, the Holy Spirit came and divided the clump! Blessings and persecutions quickly followed. The disciples and their faith family were torn. Painfully, gradually but irrevocably the apron strings were being cut. God was bringing the faithful to realize they had to choose between the comforts of the old and the fire and power of the new. They were learning that while their past, how things had been taught and dome was all good. Very good in fact. But it was also meant to prepare them and the world for what, or more accurately Who was to come. It wasn’t about practices it IS about a Person, Jesus Christ, “the leader and perfector of our faith”.

The writer of Hebrews realized this. With great love and devotion, the Hebrew liturgies and beliefs were shared. This powerful book starts to culminate with the eleventh chapter, the roll call of faith. In that chapter, many of the great FAITH-FILLED Hebrew saints are shared. And as each of the is studied we learn they all encountered that fire of God that caused them to face the flames, the divisions, and the decisions as they realized God was calling them to something more. God was calling them to be closer to Him.

This is the cloud of witnesses the writer refers to in our second reading. This holy cloud of witnesses has grown. Many are the saints, many are the faithful who have completed their earthly course and gone on to God. It is from their heavenly home they witness and work, with God’s holy angels to help us in our quest, our pilgrimage for Christ. And they all, with their distinct witness and graces, share in one vital mission, to help us focus on and see Jesus. They help bring the fire of God in our lives to burn in our hearts and to see how God would bring us to grow in His Presence. It is as we look to our God we learn that when His hands, pierced by love seek to divide our clumps yhat He is doing so to bring even closer to Him.

The Fire of God’s love (Image source unknown)

Fear Not, Let Go, Follow!

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 7 August 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Wisdom 18: 6-9; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19; Gospel: Luke 12: 32-48

Steps of Faith [Image location & source unknown]

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock!” So begins the Gospel reading this Sunday. Jesus powerfully affirms the message of all our readings that for the Christian we are called to be a people of faith that is seen in our lives, in our obedience to God.

God is always honest with us. Our Lord recognizes that there are times in life that are fearful. There are times in life when we encounter the need for courage IF we are to say yes to God.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us how in the Exodus Moses, with the Hebrew people needed true faith and courage to take the steps of freedom as they left Egypt and journeyed to the promised Land. What steps would God be asking of us to fuller freedom from this world, from sin as He leads us to the promised Kingdom of God?

The refrain from our psalms confirms: ” Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.” The promise of God’s blessing awaits us as we learn we are not about our possessions. We are about belonging to God.

The powerful roll call of faith in our reading from the Book of Hebrews brings our focus specifically upon Abraham who traveled many miles, physically, and even so many more spiritually to inherit the land and people of promise from God.

None of these examples, these pilgrimages to God were done in a few short, easy steps. They were difficult quests that involved many steps where the choices had to be made: Fear Not, Let God, and Follow the path that the Shepherd of Souls was leading upon.

And it is in the Gospel Jesus makes very clear this simple yet eternally powerful path with Him. Christ is sending his disciples out to proclaim the Gospel. He sends them out with extraordinary instructions. They are to themselves with money bags that never wear out and that can never be robbed or worn out. Yet from these bags, they are to share, abundantly with those they meet. They are to be as servants always ready to greet their master upon his return after a long absence. He states that their hearts will always be wherever their treasure is. And it is with these seemingly impossible criteria Jesus begins with the words: ” Do not be afraid…” And so it is our Savior calls to each of us. “Fear Not, Let Go, Follow”… with these five words God sums up what it is to be a disciple of Christ.

Fear Not: To follow Jesus is to grow in freedom from sin, the false promises, and the riches of the world. But this takes courage rooted in true faith. Countless would be the promises of false securities and assurances the prince of this world would send us throughout our day. Popularity, success, financial abundance, health, and freedom from aging are just a few examples of the many ways men, women, and children are trained to THINK certain products or practices will give them all they would want. Next time you watch TV or go online carefully consider how many products and how much news and “information” is shared that appeals to our fears. And we need to be honest this applies in politics and faith matters as well. And so Jesus calls us to Fear Not and to Let Go!

Let Go: What (or who) is holding us back from God? We are a people of many excuses. “I am… too old, too young, too ignorant, too educated, too busy, too bored…and the litany of doubt can go on and on. The thought of change, of growing, of letting go is very hard for many people. Even if someone has deep wounds and fears to let go of those and allow the Lord to heal is…scary. To launch out on a new path when you feel old or unworthy, unable is … scary. To take steps that many in your family and friends may think foolish is… scary. But it is as we Let Go of those excuses and false treasures that our hands and hearts are freed to know His nail-pierced hand holding ours. It is as we let go of our false securities God brings into our lives the eternal riches of His Kingdom. This pilgrimage, this quest is accomplished as we, in faith, choose to fear not, and let go so that we simply:

Follow: Where? To whom? To what eternal happiness is God preparing for you, for the little flock of your family, your parish? Many would believe the great and exciting ages of exploration and discovery are over. And in a sense, in this world, they are not as they once were. But with God, with the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, we have barely begun. The indescribable beauties of this world are nothing to the beauties and awesome majesty of the holy places, riches, and treasures of God. Earthly words will not be able to express the love and beauty we witness when we see the angels and other heavenly creatures. And especially words will fail to express the love we encounter when we see our Lord as we choose to Fear Not, Let Go, and Follow Him.

St Francis Basilica, Assisi [Image source unknown]

Our Wealth, Our Witness

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Sunday 31 July 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 2: 21-23; Responsorial: Psalm 90; II: Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Gospel: Luke: 12:13-21

Photo source unknown

Creation is often a best commentary on Scripture. The readings from Scripture this Sunday speak clearly and eloquently of God’s design and call for us to be stewards of the things of life but never to be possessed by them. The simple tree on a hill helps us understand what this means. The healthy tree has many leaves. Each is important as a part of the wealth of health and fruitfulness for which the tree is created. But the tree never possesses the leaf. In the Autumn, if decidous the leaves all will fall. But even in the summer, or if evergreen the leaves will be falling, regularly. The tree is created to know that it must let go of each leaf it has, if new life is to come. Although we humans have difficulty allowing that freedom the same truth does apply. This can bring us to seek God’s grace to see and grow in the truth that our wealth fuels our witness.

In this post modern world much of humanity has come to equate their worth and power in life by what they possess. This quest for value and strength has brought about immense pressures on not just humanity in general but creation and those seeking to live for God. For many centuries now the vocation of stewardship of the environment, and each other has been sacrificed upon altars of self-centeredness and greed. We need not look far to realize and see these abuses in our culture, politics and even our faith. It is time to allow God to bring us back to God’s values and to allow our witness to share our eternal wealth and worth… to share God. These mercies will cause us to take inventory of our possessions, practices and positions.

Our Possessions: Jesus taught that our life is not made up in what we possess. The Gospel for this Sunday speaks of the farmer who, after an abundant harvest built better barns in which to store his wealth. Little did the man know God would call his soul to cross into eternity that very night, without a single one of his possessions, his treasures. Let us be very clear, in this life, on this earth we need some things. Food, shelter, clothing, family, friends. God blesses us with many things that enhance and bring pleasure to this life. God may also bring the ability of travel and the graces to enjoy beautiful places and things. And that is all very good. UNLESS those things of life we think we possess in truth possess us. Does what we have, where we can go, or how we may travel become our identity? Does it become who the world sees? Or how we see ourself? In other words does our material wealth become our testimony? This discernment is needed not just about clothing, vehicles, places or things but also our faith. Is our witness of God, of Christ focused upon a material image of how we see our worship, our prayers, or devotion? Sometimes it happens where our faith becomes obscured by so much ornamentation, however beautiful it might be. This can apply to the very ornate altar in a great cathedral or in the proud austerity in some styles of worship. Our relationshup with God is about so much more than things and appearances.

Our Practices: False treasure can also be hoarded in our practices. We are creatures of habit. Some habits are good and help us grow in faith, holiness and love, real eternal treasures. Some habits are basically neutral. It may not be bad to always eat as you were taught. But it may be a good thing for health and even imagination to try other foods. Such practices may not harm us or others but they also may not enable us to grow. And some practices are sinful, destructive and cause harm to spirit soul and body, either personally or may include others.

Our practices are often valued treasures. For many of us we treasure the ability to go to Mass, to receive Christ truly Present in Word and Eucharist. During the early days of Covid we learned how much a treasure our faith and worship are in our lives.

But not all our practices, our habits are good. Eating disorders, substance abuse, addictive practices can both possess and destroy health and life. Great may be the struggle to be free from unhealthy practices. But the graces of God usually begin with first steps of taking responsibility for those wrongs and then developing the holy, liberating steps of conversion and penance. But, like the tree we must let go of the dead leaf before a new one will come.

Our treasured practices will be evident, perhaps not to others but always before God and as it is with our possessions so it is with our practices we must allow God to be our greatest treasure. This is often rooted in our positions.

Our Positions: Treasured positions is not about where we sit or rest. It is about the focus and perspectives of our heart and soul. To understand how a person’s position impacts their wealth, their life we need to just look around us. Look at the big issues in our world and church. There are those who hold, dearly, the position that they must have the freedom to have as many and whatever guns they choose. This brings to these precious souls a sense of power and control in a world that is not all that stable. In our faith we encounter issues where our witness for Christ is held hostage by rigourous positions that will not allow us to listen, learn and perhaps share the Gospel in ways and with souls we may think unworthy. Fear often brings us to the false security of a position behind a wall instead of the effort to build a bridge. Yet throughout the history of faith we see the greatest treasure, God, calling to and leading men, women and children to step out of the comfort zones of their positions, their attitudes or focus and to see God is leading.

Our Gospel closes today with Jesus challenging us to let Him show us if we are rich in what matters to God. AIs the wealth of our life the wealth of God and His kingdom? To answer that question is to examine our examine our witness. What, or Whom does our life proclaim, not just for an hour or two a week but throughout our days and for eternity?

Just Pray

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 24 July 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis 11:1-13; Responsorial: Psalm 138; II: Colossiona 2:12-14; Gospel: Luke 11:-13

Just Pray. [Photo source, location unknown]

Prayer. Countless homilies and reflections have been spoken. Even more words have been written. For the Catholic many are the graces given through the many types and prayers learned. Scripture, as shared in our readings for this day, abound in lessons, examples, calls and promises given by God to JUST PRAY.

This reflection could easily add to these many words and lessons. Instead I sense the Holy Spirit would seek something else. To JUST PRAY. Just talk with God. Simply. Honestly. Let your heart and soul truly listen and respond to the One who longs to hear your voice and speak with you. If that is too difficult then allow this small reflection from St. Bonaventure to bring you into the Presence of Jesus and JUST PRAY.

Christ on the cross

bows His head waiting for you, that He may kiss you;

He stretched out His arms, that He may embrace you;

His hands are open that He may enrich you;

His Body is spread out, that He may give Himself totally;

His feet are nailed, that He may stay there;

His side is open for you that He may let you enter there.

~ St. Bonaventure

St. Francis of Assisi with Jesus on the Holy Cross [Artist unknown]

Learning to Listen

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 17 July 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I; Genesis 18: 1-10; Responsorial: Psalm 15; II: Colossians 1: 24-28; Gospel: Luke 10: 10: 38-42

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Henryk Siemiradzki

This summer Sunday of Ordinary Time we are blessed to hear, in God’s Word a lesson of perhaps one of the greatest calls and gifts God has shared with His creation, that of listening. Listening is, in many ways a lost treasure of the gifts we have to share. It is profoundly ironic that with all the technology, tools, ways and means of relating to each other, to creation, and especially to God His voice is so obscure. By way of example the oft referred to need for more vocations is familiar. But is it the lack of vocations, i.e., the call, the voice of God, calling for men and women to respond to the priesthood, religious life or whatever life for which God has created them? Or is it the lack of souls who are listening? Our readings from the Scriptures share two examples of men and women who were learning to listen, for and with God.

In our reading from Genesis we have the story of Abraham minding his own business on a hot afternoon when he saw three men standing nearby. Abraham, following the ever sacred work of hospitality, greets the men and seeks to bring water for the washing of their feet and food for their refreshment. Abraham saw these strangers and sought to serve them, humbly in the customs of his day. Little did Abraham realize that this seeming chance encounter would bring him opportunity to Listen and Hear from the angels of God of the promises and plans God for his life. Abraham is a university-worth of lessons and examples a man who chose to learn to listen. As are the lessons shared by the two women in our Gospel reading.

The stories of Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus are an holy treatise on the graces of listening. We may want, in our haste and familiarity to rush to remember it was Mary who chose the better part (and assumed favor from Jesus) that day Christ was in their home to visit and eat. And, indeed Jesus does gently call Martha to better learn to listen as she struggled with preparing the meal and very likely wanting to sit, peacefully, at the feet of Jesus. But we may fail to see the irony that it was busy, troubled Martha to whom Jesus shared that holy lesson that the Gospels would record. But for these two sisters and their brother they each would grow, in ways very often painful and difficult to listen to Christ. They embrace, in prophetic type, the work of the Body of Christ spoken of in our epistle of sharing and filling up the sufferings of Christ. The sickness of Lazarus, his death, their mourning and despair all illustrate the vocations of suffering that many faithful disciples realize in their lives. And it was distinctly Lazarus who would experience the realities of crossing the threshold of eternity, of dying and being in the tomb for four days but then to hear the call of God to come forth and to listen to the cries of amazement as he was freed from his burial shrouds. The lessons of listening they would share with us would bring us to better listen and hear God and each other. Abraham, Martha and Mary have much for our heart to hear.

But, just for this day let us focus upon: Distractions, Devotion and Dynamic listening for, and with God.

Distractions – They are a persistent part of life for us all. In family life the needs and demands of spouse, children, work, house and our world all can easily crowd out the voice of God calling us to Him. Even for the cloistered religious distractions can intrude. Temptations, annoyances with other sisters or brothers, disappointments all can crudely intrude into what should be a sacred time of listening. But it is often in our distractions God may be seeking to be heard. Jesus, in the wilderness, after His baptism encountered demonic distractions as our Lord sought to be the Beloved Son called by His Father. But Christ had listened and countered the lies from darkness with the Light of Truth. Abraham, seeking to rest in the heat of the day may have found the distractions of his uninvited guests a source of annoyance but he was learning..to Listen for God.

Devotion – The holy joy of deep devotion for God is evident in each our heroes and heroines. Abraham had early on began his lessons on devotion to listening to and following God. But he didn’t always get it right. More than once choices were made, usually with the intent of helping along the will of God. But through those detours God sought and the patriarch continued to learn to hear God’s call. He learned that the gift of repentance would bring him back to His Lord. Likewise with Martha and Mary through the business of preparing a meal or the fear and worry of tending Lazarus in his illness, or in the crushing grief they held in their hearts a devotion to seeking Jesus and His voice. Regardless. They learned to ignore and still the clamors of fear and doubt. And then, in holy stead to seek and listen for the whisper of hope and mercy God would bring.

Dynamic Listening grows in the souls yearning for the Words of God whispered in the power of the Holy Spirit. The necessity of active listening, to attentive, careful efforts of listening to another is so needed in our world today. To pay attention to words, the window of the soul, the eyes, the actions of the body and nuances of speaking all are vital among us as people. It is just as vital to actively heed what God be seeking to say. In His people, the Church the challenge of heeding the cries of pain, fear, doubt or anger cannot be ignored. The prophets spoke of God calling for our response as we hear and heed the cries of the poor. God would speak to us through the lonely acts of lifestyles to which we may not understand. To listen is not necessarily to condone or understand but it is essential if we are to see and hear God’s message of redemption He proclaimed from the Cross. We must learn to come into His Presence to hear the freedom and joy of the Mass or the direction we need in time spent with the Blessed Sacrament or in prayer with the saints. Dynamic Listening can bring us to literally journey, walk with God, into the garden or at the beach as God would whisper through the songs of creation.

For those seeking to hear and follow God we must remember it is about an ongrowing relationship with our Savior, our Lord. As the early Celtic Catholics would believe it was about learning to listen for the heartbeat of God as St. John the Beloved rest upon the chest of His Lord at the First Eucharist. For us each, for us together, may we grow through the distractions and with deep devotion learn to listen with the dynamic grace of the Holy Spirit.

“God like the sun, stands above souls ready to communicate Himself” ~ St. John of the Cross (Image public domain, source not listed.)

Samaritan Song

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 10 July 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Deuteronomy 30: 10-14; Responsorial: Psalm 69; II: Colossians 1:15-20; Gospel: Luke 10: 25-37

The Gospel for this Sunday brings our hearts to the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. The balance of our Scriptures would help us know the acts of that good man were an expression of faith and love to which God calls each of us to live.

Too common are the realities of violence, conflict and hate. So abundant are these messages that fear and despair might well prevail. Except for God. The world of Jesus, of the good Samaritan was a world also infused with violence and cruelty. perhaps that is what fueled the fearful indifference, the avoidance of those who passed by the man robbed and wounded. And, if we are honest so might fears, indifference and avoidance be in our lives. Except for God.

The Samaritan, in spite being on the fringes, outside the accepted realm of those were good and holy responded in a way that was different. His example is that of an human soul alive with much more than fear and avoidance. He responded with his Samaritan’s song. Because of God.

As a firefighter of many years it was my holy privilege to respond to care for those sick, damaged, injured from life. As a fire chaplain, as our Lord’s servant it has been my holy privilege to respond to many souls, sick, damaged, wounded by the robbers of our souls well being. It is a clear challenge to respond to the blood, gore and discharges that we have when wounded in body, soul and spirit. It is not pretty. I learned early on to recognize and care for the wounds, the illness but also to look past the ugliness to the soul, the person often hidden by the brutalities of life yet created and so loved by God. We are not our wounds, or our afflictions!

It is easy, in life today, to see a person in need and think that ok..they need an ambulance, or law enforcement or counseling, maybe prayer. And there are those trained just for those responsibilities. So we may make a phone call on our handy cell phones and leave it to the experts. It is, of course wise to let those trained for the needs at hand to provide the best of care. But that does not excuse or dismiss the need for us each to respond and care with our own Samaritan’s song.

The song of the Good Samaritan, of each of us who seek to care for our neighbor, for Christ in our neighbor is distinct yet is made up of notes and chords that are similar. Our Samaritans Song is composed of our: Witness, Courage, Compassion, and faith.

Our Witness: We do not know the backstory of the Samaritan walking the road the day he encountered the wounded, robbed man on the roadside. But something in whom he saw clicked with the traveler. So it is with us. When we encounter another person who has known illness, wounds, sorrows such as we have, and we know how the grace and mercy of Jesus brought us to a better place we are compelled to act. As St. Paul once wrote: “The love of Christ compels us.” Paul’s witness was changed from a rigid, judgmental expert who persecuted those with whom he did not agree with murderous fervor to the apostle who would travel the world to share the peace he found in the Blood of Christ at the cross. His witness of God’s healing peace and hope empowered his actions of care and mercy. And, like Paul as we allow our witness to be alive in our heart we will respond as did the Good Samaritan in witness and courage. It is in sharing our witness we can share a real and living hope and assurance that the wounded soul is not alone.

Courage: If we are to respond to those wounded, damaged or ill from this world we must have holy courage flowing from God’s love that conquers our fears. It is never easy when we see someone who is bloodied in body or soul to respond. We may well sense they need care beyond our abilities. But we share the the path of their life. We can turn away or hasten on. Except for God… who is with us. So we go to the needs at hand and trust God’s grace to help and hasten further aid. It is in that courage we learn to see beyond the disorders and wounds to the soul loved by Christ and respond in compassion.

Compassion: The struggles and despairs of life are very real. Great is the spiritual warfare that results in so much carnage of bodies and souls. Nobody can or should respond or encounter these assaults alone. Yet it is one of Satan’s greatest weapons to try to isolate and make the wounded soul feel they are all alone and well they might be. Except for God. And it is as we allow our hearts and arms to carry and embrace each other in holy compassion we bring the melody of God’s strength and healing even more deeply into the world. It is in the compassion of Christ we share with the needs at hand and with Christ …with-passion, with His Passion. The holy song of our witness, of God’s courage and compassion in us is found and shared n faith.

Faith: We never really know the outcome when we see and respond to someone who is wounded or ill from this world’s sorrows. The Good Samaritan certainly worked and hoped that the man he found would recover. But it was long before modern medicine and infections often resulted in further damage or loss. Except for God. The Good Samaritan had faith that God would help the soul in need. So must we. The outcome, especially in the physical realm may be difficult. But we are servants of God’s eternal kingdom. The body will ultimately fail. But we believe and know our soul and spirit are created and seek to be redeemed by God for life eternal. It is our faith responding in the love of Christ that brings us to cleanse the wounds, the soilings of this life to bring about the healing found in Christ.

The need for the Samaritan’s Song, of the chorus of our Samaritan’s Songs is great. The One who leads and brings that new song in our hearts, from His Body, the Church will grow as together we respond with our shared witness, God’s courage and compassion sung together in faith.

Where Do We Belong?

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 3 July 2022 – Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 66:10-14; Responsorial: Psalm 66; II: Galations 6: 14-18; Gospel: Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

Declaration of Independence ~ Artist Evie Cook

It is Independence Day weekend. Monday, July 4th we will celebrate 246 years as the United States of America. Although in the annals of history the United States is very young the brief centuries have brought an intense history integrated within eras of change that have transformed the world in ways never imagined. For some the United States is thought to have been a Christian nation. While distinct Christian beliefs were a part of some of our founders it is necessary to note the popular forces of humanism were also very much embraced by some of our early leaders. Yet this is one of the significant gifts of this nation, our diverse and ever-changing personality. Now in our present time we see an America were there is upheaval and stress as people struggle to make their perceptions of America the norm. Yet we also see many seeking, struggling to simply know… where do we belong? The birth of this nation followed the course of all births. It was conflicted, intense, painful and at times seemed without end. The issues, the discussions about our national challenges is for another place and time. But they remind us that for each of us the question has even greater significance. And as always the light of God’s Word helps us see this quest of belonging is not only about nationalities, lands and peoples. The quest of belonging is a quest to which we are called by God that we each may know to where, to whom we belong.

The reading from the Old Testament comes from the concluding chapter of the book of Isaiah. The prophet of God had shared a mission and message calling the people of Israel and especially Jerusalem to turn away from the powers of this world, of darkness and be faithful in their journey with God. The message to and for Jerusalem then and the new Jerusalem now was a call to trust God and experience the truth of who they were and where they belong.This last chapter is a glorious affirmation that the power and graces of God would prevail.

The New Jerusalem ~ The Church ~ The People of God (Artist unknown)

The quest of seeking where and to whom we belong is further explored in our second reading from Galatians and the Gospel. It is in the Gospel we read of Jesus sending forth the 72 disciples, in pairs to proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. This lesson of holy love shares the power of the peace of God they proclaimed to those to whom they were sent. People were healed, delivered from demonic darkness and brought into a relationship with God. The Messiah shares the vision He has of Satan falling from the sky as he instills in the disciples the power to prevail against the evil forces they would encounter. This again illustrates how this quest of belonging is not easy but may be fraught with battles and difficulties beyond our human resources. St. Paul would later write of this spiritual warfare in the letter to the Ephesians. And as he writes we are reminded that in the Holy Spirit we have every weapon and grace needed to prevail. Paul approaches this Christian reality in our reading from the letter to the Galatians.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” This rule of Paul provides us with both our way and promise in our quest to know where we belong. The way of the cross is the way of greatest power over the forces of darkness that would seek to rob us of our holy destiny. For it is in the cross we share with our Lord we best experience His redeeming peace. It is in His cross we find His Body, broken to make us whole and His holy blood shed to cleanse and us and bring us life. It is at the cross we immerse ourselves in the waters of baptism where we join Jesus in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. It is in and with the cross that together, in the Holy Spirit the lies of darkness are quenched and the truth that makes us free is proclaimed. This all happens at the cross, daily as we seek to follow Christ. And it is in our liturgy, our shared worship as the community of faith we best find and learn of this holy place, our home. And it is especially at Mass, called together by Christ to His holy table that we learn, share and help each other in our shared journey. And it is at the cross, with our Savior we discover where we belong. We discover and rejoice our names are written in heaven.

About Life – The Path to Which We are Called

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 26 June 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: I Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Responsorial: Psalm 16; II: Galatians 5: 1, 13-18; Gospel: Luke 9: 51-62

“You will show me the path of life…” Psalm 16:11. [ Getty Image]

It is the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time. But our times are anything but ordinary. The decision by the United States Supreme Court this week that overturns the earlier decision of Roe v. Wade is a major blessed step in the struggle to protect the life of the unborn child. But it is only one step in the struggle to protect life, of the unborn but also the frail, disabled, and elderly. The battle against gun violence, poverty and greed that robs millions of lives continues on many fronts and in many lands.

But it is especially here in the United States this battle for life has intensified. The pro-choice/pro-abortion people are aghast at this decision and are sure to be passionately vocal and active in their protests.

Those who support this decision, those of us who see abortion as a killing of an unborn child and harmful of women, families and society are jubilant. It has been an arduous struggle. And the cause of jubilation is in many ways well-earned. By the mercy and grace of God. But as followers of Christ, the Lord of Life we need to respond in humility. We need to recognize that there are tragic contradictions and failures by pro-life forces that dismiss or minimize gun violence, poverty, health care and destruction of life in creation. This has damaged our witness for our Savior and Lord of Life.

These developments bring us to our Bible readings for Mass this Sunday. There is a beautiful and strong chorus of holy love that proclaims the message of following our Lord. The Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, calls us to know and respond to God leading us in the path of LIFE which He promises to show us. We could easily jump on this message to unreservedly follow our Lord and work for pro-life causes with renewed fervor. And that would be good. IF we realize this call by Christ is about so much more than specific social ills.

We are, as Christians, called to seek and follow Jesus in the paths of life for Him, for His Kingdom of Life. In our Gospel reading Jesus challenges His disciples (and each of us) to follow Him. He challenged them (and us) to lose the baggage we carry that hinders us from following God faithfully. Jesus hears the excuses we share and, in His holy redeeming love He calls us to let go and simply follow Him.

This applies in our personal discipleship. Daily in many profound ways the Spirit of God calls us to be free from our excuses and embrace the Truth that sets us free., to embrace and follow Jesus.

This week has brought us to a experience a new and more powerful YES! to Jesus. We are called to follow Him freely. But we must realize that as St. Paul shared with the Church in Galatia, in our Epistle, that this means we are to live, BY THE SPIRIT in a redeeming love of our neighbor and our fellow disciples. This would bring us to to realize this applies to all our neighbors, not just with those who happen to agree with us.

In the example of Christ in our Gospel we must understand this means loving even those who we may think we should be able to call down fire from heaven to consume. Instead of calling down fire from heaven we must call down the fire of God’s Holy Spirit to empower us to:

LISTEN in the wisdom and mercy of God. Great are the wounds, the fears, the angst many are filled with in our world as the enemy of our soul spews forth the lies that enflame hate and division. Our task is to be alert to these cries, these wounds and listen and respond in the compassion of God. Just as God listens to us.

To SPEAK the WORDS of LIFE Christ would have us proclaim. So many words are pouring forth both in horror and in jubilation of the events in our country this week. Now, more than ever, as we LISTEN we need to heed, prayerfully as to whether our words are filled with… humility, compassion, with LIFE. Many fear that their control of life is lost. That their ability to choose what they may believe is best is destroyed. Great is the false gospel of being in charge. Great is the twisting of the God-given freedom of our free will by the enemy of our soul. God indeed, and in truth created us, calls us to..choose Life. May our words, immersed in the Comforter, bring the Truth of the Life to which we each are called.

To LIVE in the HOLY SPIRIT ~ THE COMFORTER. To daily listen and speak the Word of life, who is Christ is impossible. I repeat it is impossible for any of us to live, to speak, as we are redeemed and called to live… without the power and Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Immense are the perils and challenges Christians face today. But greater, infinitely greater, is the God of Life we are called to follow. May these times in which we live bring us to discover, anew the path of life of which the Psalmist sang and which the Holy Spirit bids us seek. May we grow and share the abundant life of Jesus with each other, with all our neighbors.

Set Free to Live

EUCHARISTIC REVIVAL ~ What? Who ? is in your Tabernacle?

The Most Sacred Body and Blood of Christ ~ Solemnity, 19 June 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis14: 18-20; Responsorial: Psalm 110; II: I Corinthians 11: 23-26; Gospel: Luke 9: 1 – 17

Empty ~ abandoned Tabernacle

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today also brings the start of the National Eucharistic Revival. This will be a year-plus long celebration and mission to nurture a deep revival within the Church of the faith and realization of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This mission will culminate in a Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 17 – 21, 2024. The need for this renewal is evidenced by the weariness and wounds so deeply present among the faithful and among those seeing their faith weaken or becoming dormant. We all need to pray and devote ourselves to this opportunity and need of God’s holy grace found, truly in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Present in the consecrated Host and Sacred Blood.

True, deep, heartfelt reverence and faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is urgently needed in Catholics. This same faith and awareness is also longed for, by God, for all Christians. The lack of devotion, prayer and reverence for Jesus, for God, is a wound many parishes face. It is a reality that even the most faithful must confess and seek the mercy of God to heal. The moment in the Liturgy of the Eucharist when the Holy Spirit is invoked to change the simple bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ, known as the epiclesis, is a moment of profound holy grace in our worship of God.

The Epiclesis

This holy moment culminates in the Eucharistic Prayer, after the elevation of Jesus’s Sacred Body and the Chalice with His Blood at the great doxology the brings us to the Rite of Holy Communion. Those few words so clearly express the purpose and power of Jesus as he calls us each, and together, to receive Him and:

Through him, and with him and in him,

O God, almighty Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

all glory and honor is yours,

for ever and ever. Amen.

These Words, rooted in the prayer of Jesus from the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John challenge us each to ask what, or more accurately WHO dwells in our Tabernacle, in our parish? And in our heart?

There is much being said in the Church about the Eucharist. Many lament (with legitimacy) the lack of true faith and reverence for Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Many are concerned with the reverent and faithful receiving of the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. The referring to the words of St. Paul from our epistle today calls us to know we need to receive Jesus worthily! And to do so with great, mortal sin, is wrong in the deepest of ways. This has caused ,some to form what would essentially be the Communion police. Looking for and deciding who among us should not be given Communion at Mass. This has developed into a great debate that has caused much bitter fruit of division and strife. This sorrow would be resolved if, when, we heed the Holy Spirit inspired words of St. Paul to the church struggling with many problems. The context of our epistle today teaches, clearly that each of us is indeed called to examine…ourself! The judging and policing of others is a matter of great importance. It is something to which we would do well to follow the example and words of Christ Himself on the night He gave us His Holy Body and Blood, when the Lord’s Supper was given. That first Eucharist was a gathering of the disciples of our Lord who were, spiritually, in their faith mostly confused, doubting and afraid. None present are shown as having a full and perfect acceptance of the teachings and Truth about Jesus. Of the Apostles of Christ one would soon betray Him to death. All the other, except one would flee and deny Him in His Passion. But Jesus gave them each Holy Communion. Jesus knew the strength they would need. Jesus alone knew their hearts. And His love for them.

The First Eucharist ~ Artist: J. Tissot

This brings us back to the Eucharistic Revival so needed in the Church. Our faith, our realization of the Real Presence of Jesus, of God is so needed. Great is the call of God, of the holy angels and saints to awaken to WHO is in the Tabernacle, WHO it is we are called to receive in Communion. But this revival of our faith must include a full and growing awakening. To simply affirm or deepen an old catechism or some devout practices or pious prayers, to plunge into liturgies of the past without accepting God is the great “I AM” of the Present would be to deny a growing faith in Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. We must allow that God brings us to grow beyond our perceptions of language, dress and liturgical practices. He calls us each, together to grow with Him, in Him and through Him.

This brings us to a necessity that some may ignore or defer in our needed Eucharistic Revival. To believe and realize God’s Real Presence, not only in the consecrated Host but also in His people. We are called by God to revere and celebrate His Body and Blood, in the Eucharistic Meal and holy Tabernacle. And, in His living tabernacles and temples, His Body, the entire people of God. It is as we receive and grow in Christ, through the Eucharist we grow in the Truth of who it is God created and redeemed us to be. This shared journey is a common-union the disciples of Jesus are called to share. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his epistle, Sacrament of Charity [Sacramentum Caritatis]:

“In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image
and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way. In this
sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and
freedom. Since only the truth can make us free (cf. John 8:32), Christ becomes for us the
food of truth.”

-Pope Benedict XVI (Sacrament of Charity, 2007)

God meets us, at His holy altar, to Him, to where we need to be. It is there we truly discover the eternal passion of God’s love, where we discover and experience true and full Eucharistic Revival.

The Real Presence of Jesus in a Monstrance

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