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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Dcn.

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

Courage to Stand

1st Sunday of Advent ~ 28 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Responsorial: Psalm 25; II: I Thessalonians 3: 12-4:2; Gospel: Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

The Triumph Of Christianity Over Paganism by Gustave Doré (1868?). Public Domain

“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day.” Thus would the Holy Spirit lead us to pray as we begin this season of Advent. This first verse from our responsorial psalm can bring us to understand that as we begin the new year of our faith that this is much more than a season of special candles and holiday preparations. It is a time to awaken within our lives and the church the promise of Christ’s return and our shared call to stand in courageous love and the grace of His holiness.

Scripture teaches that as Christ’s return draws near great will be the chastisements, the testings, and tribulations in the world. The heavens and the earth, all of creation will cry out in suffering anticipation for the return of the Christ, and the vanquishment of sin, death, and evil. The Word of God shrouds the time and details of our Lord’s return in mystery to better enable His faithful to grow in faith and hope. While the details may be veiled the will and the desire of Christ for all who seek Him is clear.

And we are reminded that whether we speak of Christ’s return in the fullness of time or whether we cross eternity’s threshold at our death we are called to be ready for Hime.

Jesus in our Gospel reading tells us that as we see the signs of His coming we are to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” He makes clear that times of great testing will be at hand. He also warns that we are not to become drowsy and unaware with the cares, celebrations, and bothers of this world. He reminds us that the worries and fears of worldly life will assault. But He also gives His hope for those who are seeking Him.

It is in our reading from St. Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica we are given powerful help to be ready for our Lord. This church on the Greek peninsula was a growing young community of faith. They longed for their Lord’s return. And they, like Christians for millennia struggled to understand the when, and the how of the promise of our Savior’s return. The Holy Spirit in gentle, holy power admonishes them and us it isn’t about when or how. It is about simply seeking God and being ready. Speaking through the apostle He proclaims: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”.

Is our love increasing and abounding for one another… AND FOR ALL? In our hearts, our homes, our church is the Love of God in abundance? For our neighbors, regardless of their faith or lives…is our love increasing… abounding? Or do we embrace the divisive strife, politics, and judgments the powers of darkness seek to inflame? But wait, does not this call to love bring about the weakness of faith, sin, and worldly ways of sin? Again, the Spirit of God gives us clear direction.

When Christ returns it will be in the clouds with indescribable glory and majesty as His exquisite holiness is made manifest. It is to that same holiness we are called along with His infinite love to be growing strong and courageous for His coming. The holiness of God can never be confined or regulated as types of clothing, religious habits, and actions, or pious practices. Each of these finite dimensions might well express a temporal vision of some holiness. But no earthly example or practice will ever express the infinite beauty and power of Him before the angels and saints bow in joyful adoration and love. It is like saying a drop of water from some tidepool expresses the power and majesty of the ocean.

All who seek the return of Christ our Lord, our savior share this call from the Holy Spirit. It is in the power of His redeeming love we find the courage to stand, to lift our heads, and in holy, joyful anticipation to seek His coming.

Our opening collect prays…“Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet Christ”. It is in the liberty of His holiness we are freed to love, seek, and run forward to our Savior. In the power of His love we grow in the freedom to be and become the men and women Christ has created and redeemed. It is in that same love we grow in the courage to allow His true holiness to grow in the distinct graces of His mercy. We grow in the freedom to be, to become who God made us to be, for Him and His love.

To Seek Christ, the freedom of His love and the beauty of His holiness, now and for all eternity.

The King’s Witness

Feast of Christ the King ~ 21 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Daniel 7: 13-14; Responsorial: Psalm 93; II: Revelation 1: 5-8; Gospel: John 18: 33b-37

Christ Jesus, The King

The church year draws to a close. We have one week of Ordinary Time left and then Advent, a new year of grace with God, begins. This last Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is a joyful yet solemn reminder that our Creator, our Savior, our King holds all eternity in His care. He who transcends all time reigns over eternity.

Yet, as we witness all that is happening in this world and even in God’s Church or in our lives we may wonder does Jesus truly reign? Is Jesus still on His throne? It is helpful to remember the words of Christ from our Gospel today. “My kingdom does not belong to this world”. Yet our Lord reigns over the heavens and the earth.

To understand this seeming contradiction of the reality we see and the Word of God we need to look and listen to what has been occurring for countless ages. From the earliest time, there have been conflicts and wars over who should reign over a land and over peoples. These wars reflect the heavenly war between Satan and our Lord. There is one rightful King. And there are intended usurpers. The destruction from the powers of darkness is very real. Many would think of Adolf Hitler as the most deadly example with the estimated 17 million victims of the Nazis. Yet history estimates another enemy of God, Mao Zedong of China, is estimated to have killed from 40 to 80 million souls in his reign of terror.

These cruel examples cause us to recognize that while our God reigns the final manifestation of His eternal victory accomplished on the cross and in the tomb is still being revealed. In the horrors of the nazis or communists, there were extraordinary souls who witnessed their faith and love for God. They chose, at great sacrifice to deny the lies and evils of their world and to live as Witnesses for their King. They showed to all the faithful the holy call and joy to witness for our King, our Savior, Jesus.

Whether we look to those who shared their faith under nazi, communist, or any age we see many jeweled lessons of grace in their lives. But today we are reminded that on this earth, amidst the beauty of creation so oppressed, we see real evil and injustice. Many take great pride in their assumed rights and ability to arm their agendas with deadly force. We recognize that we, as God’s Church may be embassies and places of hope, peace, and grace among souls at war with themselves. We, with those who have followed our King before us, are called to be witnesses for our King. But what does that mean? How are we to proclaim Jesus when His Kingdom is still denied by many?

Our King and His Crown

We see and learn what our witness as we behold our King in His holy passion. Many are the jewels that His earthly, thorny crown bore. Humility. Trust. Obedience. Meekness. Peace… and many more eternal graces shine from the crown He wore to conquer our sin and death. But today let us look to just three so needed in our witness for God.

We are called to witness to God’s mercy, by the mercy we share in our lives. We can never truly realize all the mercies God brings to us day by day. Yet, sadly when we sometimes encounter someone who has perhaps wronged us we clench any mercy away in our life in defiance of our King, our Savior. Or perhaps we are seeing souls whose lives are not being lived as we see God would instruct. So we qualify and ration any mercy we might share. Or perhaps we refuse to allow God’s mercy to that soul we know best, ourselves. We feel it is necessary to allow the reign of guilt in place of the forgiveness that our King would grant. In all these examples the witness of the mercy of our King is a light so needed in a world with great darkness.

We are also called to witness for our King of love, by our courage. St. John of the Cross shared “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love”. Many are the souls struggling, often in lives shipwrecked by wounds of great loneliness. These souls may find their lives overwhelmed by waves of self-abuse with substances hoped to quell their pain. Others may invest their longing souls in practices and things the world offers with deceptive beauty and false hope. Our King would call us to, with Him, seek and save that which is lost. St. Francis of Assisi began his conversion reaching out and embracing with genuine help and affection the dreaded lepers. During the 1980’s and 90’s as the AIDS epidemic ravaged many lives a few courageous Catholic nuns, priests and faithful defied the fear, the stigma and often the hate with medical care, empathy and compassion. It is recognized that early on Catholic hospitals and clinics often offered care in the face of many unknowns. One of the great privileges we share as servants of our King is to be witnesses of His love in the face of fear, uncertainty, and even hate.

And we are called to witness of our King of Kings by our surrender. One of the immense lessons the martyrs of Christ have taught us is that they may be called to submit to some earthly prince or popular agenda. The demand of allegiance to someone or something other than our God and Savior is nothing new. In our present era there is the immense idol of Choice. The demand to submit to preferred choice is sadly sacred with some. The same applies on a broader scale on matters of perceived rights. While there are certainly some basic rights of humanity the list has been amplified and arranged for the benefit of some at the detriment of others. It is a worthwhile question to allow our King to ask of us: “What rights does my Word give you?” There is, for many an assumption that to surrender to Jesus is to forfeit our happiness, our free will, our lives for God. In truth the greater our surrender to God the greater our freedom to live.

Today, every day we need to recognize: JESUS is LORD. Christ is the King of Kings. Christ is my King. And we need to hear His call to be Witnesses for The King whose first crown was made of thorns. As His servants and His witnesses, we need to see those to whom He brings us are seeking to see His reign of mercy, love, and redeeming power in our surrender to Him.

Witness for Christ our King

The Times of God

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 14 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Daniel 12:1-3; Responsorial: Psalm 16; II: Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Gospel: Mark 13:14-32

Dawn of God’s Day

“At that time there shall arise, Michael, the great prince… a time unsurpassed in distress… at that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.” so proclaims God’s Word to Daniel the prophet and to us today in our first reading. “You will show me the path of life…delights at your right hand forever…” sings the last verse from our responsorial psalm. “He has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated”, shares the final verse of our epistle reading from the Book of Hebrews. Each of these readings is an essential reminder that our times are in God’s hands. Each is a reminder that we are created by and for God and that it is God’s desire for us to live for which we are created in the seasons of our life and for all eternity.

Our Gospel from the thirteenth chapter of Mark further affirms our earlier readings with Jesus also focusing our hearts and attention on the promise of His return, and the end of time as we now know it. Next week we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and then we enter the season of Advent. We are sharing a season when the Holy Spirit seeks to wake us up to the realities of the reign of Christ, the King of kings. The reign of Christ the King is infinite and eternal. Upon His return, Jesus will manifest the full and final conquest of Satan, sin, and death. His Word also teaches us that for all things, for us there are the seasons of God.

A Fig Tree

Jesus uses the example of the fig tree to help us understand that we need to tend to, care for the seasons God brings so that we may be ready at His coming. Scripture abounds in many messages of the days and seasons of God. There will be times of great distress and testing. There will be times of renewal and healing. Whatever the season or day of our life we can rest in two facts. First, we will never fully know or understand all that God is doing among us, with us, and through us. The plans and purposes of God are simply mysteries beyond our ability to organize or fully understand. We are called to grow in knowledge, in wisdom, and in life. But our minds, our souls can never contain the fullness of God, or of the designs of our Savior and King.

Over the millennia humanity has indeed grown in faith, in knowledge, and in the abundance of information we have available. This has brought about countless efforts of people to interpret, explain, apply the works and days of God according to the preferred ideas of the time. Most Jews understood and assumed the Messiah would be the leader who would conquer and vanquish the forces of evil (especially the Gentile Romans). Then through the ages Christians would go on to apply the same mentality to their understanding of church and nation, or faith and nationality of an ethnic group. This short-sighted dynamic is especially at work in our own day and age where the faith is, by many, equated to their political party or ideology. The same peril is at work within the church itself where devout souls chose to see the work of God only through the lenses of their denominational or liturgical bias. But God is far greater than any of these.

The second fact is that God is with us. Scripture helps us understand and believe that we are called to live in the Times of God. Our heavenly Father has the schedule. God knows, fully the plan for all of creation, and for each of us. So whether we look at the matter of the return of our King or our own life we can rest assured we are in the Times of God. We can rejoice in that whatever the season or opportunity God is with us, in the Eucharist, In God’s Word, in the promise of the Holy Spirit.

And this is why the Holy Spirit seeks to awaken us to…God and God’s Kingdom. The Spirit of Jesus seeks to make us realize, yes our times are OF God. And that we also would be wise to remember our times are FOR God. The verses of Hebrews speaks that we are made perfect forever…(as we are) being consecrated”. We are created and redeemed to be growing as those set apart, as God’s saints. Jesus, in the Gospel, shows us that while the heavens and earth will be shaken He still reigns, He comes for His people. Our Gospel reading concludes with Mark 13:32. Yet the context (as always) brings even more light and power. Mark 13:33 states: “Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time will come.” We are called to be watching, to be alert, aware of what is going on in our life, in our world, in God’s Kingdom. We must grow in being observant of the events and spirits of the time in which we walk. We will recognize evil, sin, and that it may tempt us to fear. But we are not called to be fearful, but faithful, at peace knowing, in our hearts…Jesus has not left His throne, and that we know, Jesus reigns! This peace, this guiding hope grows, regardless of our circumstances, as we grow in our prayer life. But He also has promised that He would never leave us. And as we journey through our days we journey with God. It is only natural, then, that we converse, we speak with and listen to God. And as we make this journey we come to meet fellow believers, saints who share the faith, the path, the seeking of His Kingdom. Our relationship with the saints, those in the pew with us, and those reigning with God in heaven bring us a greater vision, faith, and relationship with God whom we all love and serve.

So it is that we watch and pray growing in the Scriptures, growing in balanced discernment focused, not on politics or news but on God. It is as we celebrate His true and Real Presence in the Eucharist we grow in the graces of being a part of the Body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. With this watching, with this growing prayer life in His Body, we grow in our communion of the saints so whether it be St. Michael the archangel of which Daniel spoke, or our Blessed Mother Mary or our companions in the pews we grow, alert together for God and His Kingdom.

The Times of God ~ Our Time For God

We must recognize we have a great responsibility to live, fully, in, and for God’s times at hand and the times of God to come. We would be foolish to ignore that there are many signs that the figs are almost ripe, that the time of Christ’s return may well be at hand. But even if our Lord’s coming is delayed we would be just as foolish to forget that at any moment God’s time for us, individually, maybe at hand. These truths remind us we live in and for the Times of God.

Freedom to Give and Forgive

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 7 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: I Kings 17:10-16; Responsorial: Psalm 146; II: Hebrews 9: 24-28; Gospel: Mark 12: 38-44

The Christian year is drawing to a close. As we approach the Feast of Christ the king in two weeks and then the joyful hope of Advent we see the Spirit of God helping us to focus our hearts on that which will enable us to better know and experience the power and Presence of our Lord and Savior. The readings from holy Scripture this week share lessons on the freedom God longs for us all to know to trust and love our God, regardless of our circumstances or what we may feel is our worth. We have rich lessons on the freedom to give and forgive.

The Old Testament shares the beautiful story of the Widow of Zarepheth. The prophet Elijah has proclaimed God’s chastisements upon the people of Israel for their rebellion and idolatry. They had become a people obsessed with themselves and their presumed abilities and worth. Most had grown distant or dead in their love and faith in God. God, in His mercy, had allowed drought to afflict the land for three years and the accompanying famine was being felt with suffering and pain. Our story finds the prophet on the coastland, in what is now Syria, in the town of Zarepheth. Elijah is hungry and sees a widow-woman of the town gathering sticks. He asks her to fix him a meal. She explains that she has just enough flour and oil to fix one last meal for her son and herself before they die of hunger. The prophet tells her to fix his portion and promises she will never run out of food. The widow trusts gives from her poverty, and never lacks again. It is indeed a powerful lesson of someone who knew the freedom to give. But as we look to the back story we find this account even more amazing. The woman is not Jewish but a Gentile. She wasn’t even the intended target of god’s chastisement. But she suffered anyway in a tragic example of the impact of sin on our environment of souls and creation. In what is essentially a miracle this widow was not only free to give of her meager sustenance but she also was free to give her forgiveness to God and to God’s prophet for the suffering that she had to endure. She chose, not to play the victim but to simply live as faithfully and generously as life allowed.

Our Gospel shares the story of another poor widow. Jesus has gone to the Temple in Jerusalem. He has been observing the wealthy religious leaders giving of their offerings into the Temple treasury. Jesus makes note of their wealthy attire, their honors and greetings, and their rich, lengthy liturgical practices. Then Jesus observes a widow, clearly poor, as she drops her two small coins into the offering. Christ goes on to proclaim how she has been the one truly generous as she gave all she had, from her poverty. Once again we see the lesson from the Old Testament replicated. This poor widow chose, not to play the victim nor to blame God or others for her circumstances. She, instead chose the freedom to give, all she had, in the simplicity of faith and love for her God.

The first reading and the gospel are shared with the words from the Book of Hebrews that express the holy gift of our High Priest, Jesus. It explains His sacrifice on the cross, His death and resurrection, brings to humanity the redemption, the freedom of forgiveness from our sins. This one sacrifice forever perpetuated in the Eucharist is the power by which grace of forgiveness is shared, in and through His followers.

We are reminded from these lessons of God’s design and longing for our lives to be channels through which flow His life-giving, living waters.

Creation gives us powerful illustrations of the truths we share today from Scripture. But the illustrations lack one key element. Creation is at the whim and care (or lack thereof) of humanity. We, humans, are free to choose. We may choose the cleansing flow of mercy and forgiveness or we may choose to become wealthy in the stagnant poisons of bitterness and blame. We are free to give of our wealth and our poverty for the good of others and the glory of God. Or we are free to choose to hoard and withhold from others the things of life, love, and the hope that they may need.

Let us remember and live, with growing freedom and generosity, as God’s people who know Jesus reigns.

Jesus Reigns

The Maze of God’s Love

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 31 October 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Deuteronomy 6: 2-6; Responsorial: Psalm 18; II: Hebrews 7: 23-28; Gospel: Mark 12: 28b-34

” You are not far from the Kingdom of God” so Jesus concludes the Gospel reading for Mass. He has replied to the scribe who asked which is the greatest of the commandments? Jesus had replied: ” Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This message is perilously dangerous for the faithful. We have heard these Scriptures and lessons so very many times. As a good friend expressed once after a homily…” we have heard it all before. ” And thus the peril. The familiarity makes it difficult for our heart to really listen, to hear what Jesus would be saying, today. And, if we look honestly at our churches we would have to admit the evidence of this love is often lacking.

Why is this so difficult? Why is this love so veiled, so hindered? Why is it so complicated? The command to love God has been argued and debated, often with violence for centuries as religions, denominations and groups within churches fight for THEIR understanding of what that means. Even today we see this proud rivalry exercised by those who feel their preferred liturgy or criteria for participation in worship is the only true expression of the command to love God. The same complex strife is also found in the command to love our neighbor. Like another Gospel story we ask: “Who is my neighbor?” as we seek to organize and choose who is worthy of our love and God’s love and who is not. These two simple commands have also been fettered with the comfortable rationale that IF we truly love our neighbor then we must hate the sin and love the sinner in our assumed efforts to manage and direct the holy energies of God. Indeed the command, the shared vocation to love God and our neighbor has become such a maze.

A Maize Maze

The popular Autumn outing of going to a corn maze illustrates this challenge. While many people enjoy finding their way through a maze it is also common to hear people say the sense of being lost, trapped, or even followed is frightening. We are not wandering an Autumn maze but for many, it is only honest to acknowledge that their seeking to love God and neighbor is also, at times like struggling through a maze.

Jesus, in speaking to the scribe gives us insight into the faithful obedience of this holy verb. “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” He said. The fulfillment of this vocation is a journey, a quest, a pilgrimage. Our understanding, our abilities, our heart for love is not the same as when we began or as it would be now. Love is about relationships. It is meant to grow. The blessings and struggles of life are simply a part of the journey. We have the choices to make, to grow on in love, or to grow hardened and fearful. But we must remember God designed and longs for us to grow in love.

The Word of God is clear, it is more than just an emotion to love. It is more than an understanding. To love, as created and designed by God is to allow His grace, His Presence in all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and with all our strength. Again, we simply are called to love God with ALL our being. But we must remember who we are today is not the same person we were a year ago or as a child. Nor is it the same person we will be a year from now. It is, always, about growing in love.

The same graces apply to the second command. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. If our neighbor is a part of our faith community. We are to love them. If our neighbor is of another religion, or an atheist, we are to love them. If our neighbor is homeless, gay, straight or beautiful, or ugly…we are to love them. Now some would say this is where we must love the person but not the sin. True, very true. But that means we recognize sin, or our understanding of sin is not the person. But for some, the greatest problem in following Jesus in this quest, following His commands is the judgments we exercise, yes upon others, but especially ourselves. If we are unable to love ourselves, as designed and created by God we will have intense difficulty in loving others, including God. We must grow, as some would say to be comfortable in our own skin. But how, where does that occur?

The place of healing of our relationship, with God, with others, and with ourselves is in the place, the person of Love, it is in God. St. Paul would write He has made our peace, in His cross. It is in the forgiveness, the mercy of God we experience the embrace of His love and, as St. John would write, “we love because He first loved us”.

So often in our journey of faith and life we focus upon our destination. We long to get through the maze that seems it will never end and to reach the kingdom of God. We fret and worry and at times fear that we are never going to be as loving as we should be. But let us remember, it isn’t about the destination. It is with whom we are journeying. As we sojourn with Christ we will grow in love.

The Quest with God

Healing the Blind Man and the Church Synod

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 24 October 2021, Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 31: 7-9; Responsorial: Psalm 126; II: Hebrews 5: 1-6; Gospel: Mark 10: 46-52

“Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied, “Rabbi, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the road. (Mark, Chapter 10, 51-52). Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 – 1872), published in 1877.”

The Gospel for this Sunday shares the account of a blind man, Bartimaeus, encountering Jesus and being healed of his blindness. This powerful account of God’s mercy and grace is framed within the other Scripture readings that emphasize the recognition God has for those who suffer, who are in need, who are unable to live as they, and their Creator, their Savior would long for them to live. These readings also share the often challenging reality that we are called to share this journeying together in our seeking for, in our need for knowing God in our hearts and in our midst.

The account of Bartimeaus and Jesus teaches, with clarity and power of how God would reach us in these holy, healing encounters. Bartimeaus was blind and as a result, he lived, barely, on the fringes of life in the Hebrew/Roman world of his time. He sustained his meager existence begging for whatever would be given that he may try to live. The world view at the time (Hebrew and Gentile) was that anyone so disabled was an outcast, a failure, and an example of how one should never experience their life. As a result, Bartimeaus and his kind were avoided and shunned, except for the small tokens of generosity that might be given. So it was as another day dawned for Bartimaeus.

There was a large crowd accompanying Jesus as He came down the road. Bartimaeus has clearly heard about Jesus. As Jesus approached he calls out to Him. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimeaus did not know Jesus. He did not meet the growing criteria of being a true disciple of Christ. But he called out to Jesus from where he was, in heart, in life, and with limited knowledge. But, he called out to Jesus. Jesus’s disciples did not approve. There was no place for a man, from the fringes, in their group. They told him to be silent. But Bartimeaus persisted in faith, desperation, and need. And Jesus listened. He told His disciples to “Call him”! Bartimeaus came to Christ and God continued to…listen. Bartimeaus was healed of his blindness and commended for his faith, a faith that saw far beyond his circumstances and fears.

We are also called, today and in the times ahead to ALL be participants in the Synod of the Church. The subject of the Synod is met with great hope and excitement for many. But for some, it is met with deep fears and doubts. What is the SYNOD of the Church? As St. John Chrysostom said, “Synod and Church are synonymous”. It is, in simplest terms about the faithful journeying together in our growing and seeking to better know God, to share in our ongoing conversions and shared mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in words and deeds.

Much is being said and shared about the Synod. The flood of information in media (especially Catholic) and in social media forums is intense and diverse. Some is very positive and good. Some is rooted well in not just pundits but actual reference to the real teachings and documents the Church should be sharing. And, sadly some is intensely opposed seeing it as a peril to be rebuked. This brings us to remember and realize we owe our Pope and our Church the respect and courtesy to read, to listen with faithful hearts, to the actual message and mission being shared. To help accomplish this here is a link to the Vatican website where full documents and accurate information can be accessed.: https://www.synod.va/en.html

aThe Liturgy of God’s Word this Sunday shares the three key parts of this “journeying together” in Synodality. The shared call to Communion, Participation, and Mission is lived out between Jesus, His disciples, and blind Bartimeaus. Jesus could have, possibly in a far easier direct approach, healed Bartimeaus. Instead, He recognized the Communion, the common-union that is shared by us all of the need and opportunity to know God and His healing mercies. So He chose to include the disciples, He chooses to include us, in the journey together. And He brought them and us to better know and experience the needed graces of this journey that transcends time. There are numerous graces we are called to experience in which to grow for this holy quest. But our Gospel today shares one of special vitality: Listening. And Listening beyond our fears.

In the earthly times of Jesus, as in our times now people found it very hard to listen. Convictions were very strong. And often fears were even stronger. For good and faithful Jews to listen to or include those who were different was considered unwise, if not sinful in itself. Humanity on the fringes, the disabled, the outcasts, the unworthy were to be shunned and excluded. The encounter with Bartimeaus shows us this cruel reality. Sadly in the Church today that same dynamic is alive. Those on the fringes, those who do not worship or believe, precisely as we do, are to be avoided, at the very least. To actually listen and dialogue with those with whom we do not agree is considered simply… wrong. So the exclusion of Bartimeaus would have done. But, Jesus listened.

And so must we. Many issues divide, cripple, and blind us to the fullness of graces and mercies we ALL need. Like the disciples in our Gospel today we may choose to focus on the ugly blindess of the beggar by the road. Or we can choose to see with the eyes of our Savior and listen with the Holy Spirit to..each other and God working in our midst.

The Church in this 21st century faces many perils and problems of worldwide dimensions. The Covid pandemic, Climate Change, as well as intense issues within the Church such as liturgical practices and sexual sorrows tempt us to focus on the issues, begging alongside our shared road, instead of our Lord and His call to a shared Communion, Participation, and Mission. Perhaps we all would do well to share the cry of Bartimeaus, “Master I want to see! And we would do well to realize that the first person he would see was…Jesus.

Jesus and the Outcasts ~ Carl Bloch

The Call to Journey Together – A Prayer for the Synodal Church

This month the Church begins, prayerfully, hopefully, to awaken to the ancient call of Christ to the synodal quest” to Journey Together”. There is a profound wealth of opportunity to grow together in the graces of God as we would seek and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, each, and together. Much is being said and written in the media and in social media about the Synod. Regardless of your current perceptions, I would encourage us all to go to the source. Visit the Vatican website and download at least two documents: Synod 2021-2023 For A Synodal Church – Communion, Participation , Mission – A Preparatory Document. and Vademecum For the Synod on Stnodality, Offical Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches. I believe as we study, listen and participate, together we will not be disappointed.

For now, let us take to heart and practice the following:

Prayer for the Synod: Adsumus Sancte Spiritus
Every session of the Second Vatican Council began with the prayer Adsumus Sancte Spiritus, the first word of the original Latin, meaning, “We stand before You, Holy Spirit,” which has been historically used at Councils, Synods and other Church gatherings for hundreds of years, and is attributed to Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560 – 4 April 636). As we embrace this Synodal Process, this prayer invites the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so that we may be a community and a people of grace. For the Synodal journey from 2021 to 2023, we propose to the following simplified version,1 so that any group or liturgical assembly can pray it more easily.

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,

as we gather together in Your name.

With You alone to guide us,

make Yourself at home in our hearts;

Teach us the way we must go

and how we are to pursue it.

We are weak and sinful;

do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path

nor partiality influence our actions.

Let us find in You our unity

so that we may journey together to eternal life

and not stray from the way of truth

and what is right.

All this we ask of You,

who are at work in every place and time,

in the communion of the Father and the Son,

forever and ever.

Amen.

Fifty-nine years ago this month Vatican II was convened. The Council was gathered, to the surprise of most everyone, by St. Pope John XXIII. This Council would bring changes and challenges. The courage and faith of all those who participated would as sought, “open the windows of the Church to the Holy Spirit”. Let us seek and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to grow on in the Kingdom of God!

The Convening of Vatican II ~ 11 October 1962

When Jesus Calls

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 17 October 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 53:10-11; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: Hebrews 4:14-16; Gospel: Mark10: 35-45

Calling of James and John to follow Jesus ~ by James Tissot

Picture a large room with many people of all ages, economic and educational status, and all with common ambitions and desires. Then, offered to all, would be two different sign-up sheets with two diverse lifelong opportunities. One would be to sit adjacent to the king, queen, president, the leader. It would be an opportunity to reign with that sovereign. The other sign-up would be to be… a servant, of the sovereign and everyone else. Which sign-up sheet would likely fill up first?

Our readings from Scripture this Sunday essentially share that story, that choice. The Old Testament reading shares Isaiah, the prophet’s insight into the coming Messiah who would be, a suffering servant. The Epistle reading from Hebrews speaks of our Great High Priest, Jesus, who would encounter every type of test and temptation that humanity would ever face. Yet, without sin.

But it is in the Gospel we come to the story of two early disciples and men to be apostles, James and his brother, John. It is these two brothers who enflesh the opportunities shared in our survey of whether to reign or to serve. As we examine these tow we find two younger, ambitious men. They had been working with their father, Zebedee, as fishermen. It is at that task Jesus calls them to, “Come, follow me”. They had no idea to what or where this call would bring them. But they sensed the call was to be heeded. We know from the Gospels that these two were rather intense, passionate about their faith and their Rabbi, their Lord. When sent out to proclaim the coming kingdom they encountered scoffers and were rebuffed. Their question for Christ, upon returning to His Presence was to ask if they could, should, call down fire from heaven to deal with these people deemed unworthy. The “Sons of Thunder” as they were known, were gently corrected by Jesus. So they learned and continued to follow Him.

It was as Christ was preparing His followers for the upcoming passion they were to sense that all this was sensed that it was all part of the ultimate conquest and victorious reign of Jesus. That they were restricted in their vision by their understanding that the coming Messiah was to be a political figure never occurred to them. So, perhaps, it was only natural that we would come to read of their encounter with Christ shared in the Gospel today. They wanted to sit, one on Christ’s right hand, and one on the left. They wanted places of vital power and pride to share with Christ.

And, Jesus listened. That they trusted Him who had called them and that they sought to be close to their Lord pleased Christ as it does when we seek Him with our petitions. He listened and carefully answered them. They would share His Cup, they would share His baptism. But Jesus was very vague about the seating request. He would only say it was for those for who it was prepared. So, they had to follow and see what would happen. They had to follow Christ and trust.

The other ten apostles were indignant with jealousy and anger. The struggle of church politics has been present from the beginning. The struggle to be or become what WE THINK we should be or where we should be is a strong, divisive torment. The temptations to judge where others belong and deserve often contend with the same energy for…self. Christ shared His healing antidote for the poisons of ego and pride infecting His followers. He shared His example and the call to follow in His steps. He called them to be, as He was, a servant.

Jesus called them, He calls us each to the life of being a servant for God, His Kingdom, His Creation. It is vital to remember that to be a faithful servants we must develop our servant senses. We must be skilled watchers and listeners. One of the great blessings of being a deacon [Diakonia, servant] of the Mass is to ever learn to watch. It is essential to be alert to the liturgy being shared. One must watch that all the pieces are in place and especially to watch the priest or bishop. The response of the servant is simple, subtle, and alert to serve the alter Christus presiding in that liturgy. As it is in a home or palace the servants are ever alert, watching for the needs of all.

And each servant must be alert to listen. A servant who is shouted at or loudly directed senses, quickly, that they had probably missed something. When God must shout at us it is perhaps because we were not watching and listening as we should. As His servants, we need to watch face, the eyes, and listen for His quiet but powerful whispers. We are called by God to follow and serve Him today, as were James and John.

It is a beautiful testimony of love and faith the John and James both continued to grow as they followed Jesus. Even though they did not get the answers to their prayers, as they hoped for they still followed their Lord. Neither of the brothers would have known or expected how God would lead. James would be the first apostle to be martyred being beheaded. John, who would embody the listening servant in the Upper Room, would grow on to care for Mary, our Blessed Mother and to face exile and receive the great Revelation of the return of His Savior and Lord.

Only their Master, Jesus, knew what the journey of these two brothers and servants would bring. And only our Master, Jesus, knows to what and where we will be called by Him. As it was for James and John as they left their boats so may it be for us. May our servant-steps grow ever closer to Christ as we watch and listen in faith-filled love.

Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day?

12 October 2021

Columbus Day, October 12th, an holiday very familiar to all of us who went to school in the United States in the 20th century. Now the day is a focal point of conflicting histories and political correctness. For some it is seen as a day the exults tyranny, slavery and evil conquest of peaceful and beautiful indigenous peoples. While others may see it as a day of honor for a brave explorer and man of faith and vision.

To pretend that Columbus and the European wave of exploration and exploitation he introduced was a heroic and glorious time ignores crucial and cruel realities. The political interests of the European countries were intense and focused primarily on greed and power. Evils of slavery, violent conquest, and at times, forced conversions were a sad part of the legacy that came to the Americas. But it was not all evil. It was a time of exploration and discovery of lands, peoples and places. It was a time of great missionary outreach and while some would see this as evil it was very usually done in great sacrifice of life and love to bring a new faith to a new people. It is that faith effort that was, very often, the only protection or antidote of the greed and violence otherwise being introduced.

Likewise to paint the indigenous peoples as nations of pure peace and harmony without the vile diseases of the white man or the evils of slavery and conquest is also to ignore harsh realities. While there was great sophistication and beauty to the diverse cultures of these peoples there were also very common cruelties of tribal warfare and conquest. The impressive architecture of the ancient peoples who built their homes on plateaus and caves are but one example of peoples who struggled to survive in an harsh and often violent world. It is also important to recognize that slavery was not introduced by the Europeans but was rather common among the peoples of the Americas long before Columbus.

It seems that the Europeans, led by Columbus and the indigenous peoples shared a very common and deep…humanity. They lived lives of great spirituality and courage. They were explorers and discoverers who sought to both use, exploit and share their discoveries. Perhaps the strongest pieces of evidence of this common humanity are the maps of exploration and growth.

A Map of Indigenous Peoples Exploration, Discovery and Conquest
A Map of Exploration, Discovery and Conquest Begun by Columbus

Perhaps instead of using this time as a time of finger-pointing and exercises in political correctness, we could instead focus on our shared humanities and voyages. Voyages that have seen and shared great evils and good. Perhaps we could celebrate the courage and faith of each other and seeks ways to both honor and nurture the ongoing journey to better places and being better peoples as designed by our one Creator and God.

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