Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.

Welcome to Redwood Journal

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

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

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


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Trials and Tombs

5th Sunday of Lent ~ 26 March 2023 ~ Bible Readings for the Liturgy of the Word: I. Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Responsorial: Psalm 130; II: Romans 8: 8-11; Gospel: John 11: 1-45

Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead

We are in the last week of Lent. As the time of the Passion of our Lord Jesus approaches the Holy Spirit brings us deeper into the solemn Presence and hope that is our Lord. Today our Gospel shares the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This last pre-Passion recorded miracle of Jesus is profound and powerful for many reasons. As it occurs just days prior to Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem it, in many ways sets the stage for what will happen with Jesus. It is a message of Trials and Tombs about Lazarus and the hope of Jesus in our lives today.

The miracle of Lazarus’s raising from the dead is only shared in John’s Gospel. Some consider such an event not being mentioned in the other Gospels a problem. Why did not the other evangelists record such a profound experience? Why is there no further mention of Lazarus in the Book of Acts or early epistles? Who was and what happened to this man?

Remembering that the Gospel of John was written well after the three Synoptic Gospels is helpful. It is very likely that the resurrected Lazarus was alive and well and still a target of the Jews who wanted him and his story gone. The earlier writers could well have sought to protect their friend as best they could from this threat and thus kept his story to be shared later. But still, we may wonder, who was Lazarus?

The Gospel of John explains he was the brother of Martha and Mary whose relationships with Jesus are recorded in the Gospels. The hearts and home of Lazarus and his sisters were clearly well-known, and loved, by Jesus. Christ felt at home in their house and their hearts. When Lazarus is taken ill, his sisters quickly seek Jesus’s help, indicating this was a serious sickness. Jesus does hear their prayers. And Jesus delays responding. The angst and frustration of Martha and Mary are clear. But what of Lazarus? Tradition states he was around thirty years old when he dies, the first time. As he lay sick and his life ebbed away he too must have longed for the Presence and help of Jesus. Deep must have been his sorrow and disappointment as the shrouds of fear and uncertainty wrapped around his soul. Lazarus would not see Jesus before he dies.

Jesus Wept

The name Lazarus means: “whom God helps”. Yet Lazarus must have felt, deeply, that God had abandoned him. But the delay of Jesus was not denial. The help of Emmanuel, God with us, was not late but would surpass any of the hopes that seemingly had been dashed. Jesus came. He saw and felt the real grief and loss of Martha, Mary, and their friends. He saw and felt the heartbreaking disappointment of Lazarus as well. And Jesus wept. Some have said that Jesus wept because he was frustrated with the sorrow and doubts of the mourners. Perhaps. But such frustration would more likely be expressed in words of irritation or at least firm correction. This shortest sentence in all Scripture, I sense, expresses the immense compassion and love of God for us where we may be in life. God knew Martha, Mary, the others, and especially Lazarus did not know and understand why he delayed responding. And God knows neither do we understand when our prayers are met with delay, heartbreak, or sorrow. But God was, is, and always will be… helping. Tradition states that Lazarus would escape the murderous attempts of the Jews leaders and move to the Isle of Cyprus. It is said that Barnabas and Saul met with him there and ordained him bishop of Kition. It is said he lived and served Christ for another thirty years before finally dying once again but with experience and hopes that he carried across the threshold of eternity.

This miracle is a beautiful witness of the friendship of Jesus with Lazarus and his two sisters. It teaches us how Jesus values each of us, our hearts, and our homes. Like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus we will never be sorry for welcoming our Lord into our lives. The Presence of Jesus along with his companions and friends, the saints and angels, can only bring blessings and graces as together we follow Him whose way of the cross we are called to share. It is no coincidence that this very real friendship of God evidenced in this family will be discussed by Jesus at the soon-to-be shared Passover meal and institution of the Eucharist. Jesus speaks in his Upper Room discourse that he no longer calls his disciples servants, but friends. But this friendship with Jesus is not about this world. Nor is it realized in the times and ways we expect in our limited perceptions of God. Jesus knew full well he was not abandoning Lazarus and his sisters, his friends. He would come, and he would answer their prayers. But as their friend, Emmanuel, God with them. Yet, being God and man Jesus also knew, deeply, their fear, sorrow, grief, and loss. So, Jesus wept.

The story of Lazarus is an holy and powerful message of real hope in our world of trials and tombs. Like Lazarus, Mary, and Martha we face in this life trials that surpass our abilities and resources with which to contend. It is very real to send our prayers to Jesus seeking his urgent help and Presence before it is too late. Life can bring real sickness, death, violence, conflict, and more. And we must always seek the help of Jesus in our hearts and homes. But, like Lazarus and his sisters, there may well be times when it seems God is too late. It is, sadly a normal course of life to come to the tombs of life. The way of the cross to our tombs might mean the actual death of our mortal body. But the way of the cross might also bring us to the tombs of our plans, hopes, or dreams. And the death, the change, or loss of those special parts of our lives and families can be as deeply grievous. Regardless of the tombs of life, we might face we can be assured that Jesus will meet us there. The same compassion he shared with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus he will bring to us as we but trust him. With our Psalmist today well may we pray: ” I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in the Lord.”

It is the season of Lent. The way of the cross, the story of Lazarus is very much a part of this season. But this way of the cross, the reality of trials and tombs is what life is about, no matter the season. And even more so, the eternal friendship of Jesus, Savior, Lord…Friend is needed at every step of our journey.

Healing of The Man Born Blind

Redwood Journal

Healing of the Man Born Blind
(Reflections from the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent ~ 2008)

From birth his eyes had never
seen his Mama’s face
as she held him
in her arms
with tears
for the blind mistake.

Or his Papa’s
worried love
as he came through the door,
those sights his eyes
never did behold.

He had never seen
the sun
shining gold
through the trees.

Never saw the birds
In Spring’s
green joy
to wing.

He never saw the grapes
at violet harvest crush.
Nor see the red of wine,
to cheeks bring a blush.

He never
but felt,
those who at him
long would stare.

He heard,
but never saw
those who at his faults,
would glare.

He never saw a smile,
for a job
that he had done.
He never saw a dog
that with a child did run.

No color he…

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Prayer at the Well

3rd Sunday of Lent ~ 12 March 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 17: 3 -7; Responsorial: Psalm 95; II: Romans 5: 1-2, 5-8; Gospel: John 4: 5 -42

Jesus & the Samaritan Woman

We are in the midst of our Lenten pilgrimage. As we seek to follow and draw closer to Christ we are called to grow as a people of faith in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Many are the ways of fasting and giving of ourselves in alms that the Spirit of God can lead us to do. But it is in prayer we encounter God who will show us the ways of His Kingdom.

This 3rd Sunday of Lent brings us the Gospel account of Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. This encounter of redeeming love is unusual in numerous ways. It is only found in the Gospel of John. It is the longest shared conversation between Jesus and any person. It shares an encounter that would have been contrary to many of the beliefs and prejudices of the Hebrew people in that it was with a woman, a woman of the shunned people of Samaria, and a woman, an individual of a clearly inappropriate, fallen moral life. The significance and lessons from these realities are all essential to recognize and accept as lessons of God’s intentions and graces. But in focusing on these specific elements, we can lose sight of another message that God may want us to hear.

This encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is a powerful lesson and an invitation to prayer. In spite of, and because of the many problems of this meeting we can see and follow the footprints of Jesus coming to a beloved soul. We can see the footprints of Jesus seeking us to pray with him. We can learn the Desires, Designs, Drawing graces, and Developing course of the Living Waters of Jesus.

God’s Desires at the Well: The travels of Jesus with his disciples are well recorded in the Gospels. The Messiah journeyed the length and breadth of the land of the beloved Hebrew people. So it was unusual, and for some very inappropriate when Jesus led his followers on the detour into Samaria. Good, faithful, observant Jews did all they could to avoid those people, that place of so much bitter division. But the desires of Jesus were clear, through Samaria they would go. As Christ chose to rest at the well in the midday heat his disciples went to find some lunch. It was the desire of God, of Jesus to come to Samaria and it is the desire of our Lord to come to where we are in life. Even if we might be in a place of need, failure, or inadequate faith. Jesus knew whom he would meet at the well that day. And Jesus knows whom he will meet as he seeks us where we are in life’s journey. It is this desire of God that brings us to meet the Designs of God in the place of prayer.

God’s Designs are encountered in the place of prayer. When the Samaritan woman came to the well that day she did not likely expect to meet with anyone. The village women would normally come in the morning or evening hours to draw the water and carry the heavy jugs back to their homes. To do such tasks in the heat of the day would many the chore all the more oppressive. It is likely this woman came midday to avoid her neighbors and their scorn and disgust at her fallen nature. So when she came that noon and encountered this Jewish Rabbi, Jesus she met with him and the surprise by God’s designs. This woman needed the water. from the well. It was a necessity for life. And this woman needed love. It was necessary for life. Her Creator used both of these basic needs as part of the designs of God to call her to this place of prayer. She came for water. She came at this odd time because of her failures in love. God calls us through our needs and will bring us to prayer through our broken, fallen struggles of life. It is as we respond that we, like the Samaritan woman, will then experience the amazing drawing power of God’s mercy.

God’s DRAWING graces into healing freedom. This woman of struggle came to the well expecting to draw water from the deep recess of the ancient cistern. Little did she expect that as she gave water to Jesus he would then start drawing, from the depths of her sin-wounded soul both the truth of who she was and the liberating Truth of whom God would redeem her to be. One of the reasons we may sometimes fear coming to Jesus in prayer is we may sense his desires and designs to draw from us that what would soil and destroy the person we are created to be. It is very difficult in true prayer with our Lord to hide sin, weakness, and illicit desires. It is also foolish as God knows our hearts to their deepest depths. And like the Samaritan woman Christ would confront us, for who we are. But Jesus did not detour to Sychar to condemn, reject and hate this woman. Indeed he was forthright in bringing her to see her sin. But the drawing graces of God call forth not just what is wrong but draws us to what are God’s desires and designs. It is as we allow the Holy Spirit to draw us to Christ in prayer we find our sins and failures exposed and cleansed. It is then we find the Truth, Jesus, of who we are, in Him to be revealed. And we experience that when the Son makes us free we are free. Indeed! But Jesus did not stop with just this holy conversion by God’s grace and love. Jesus, then, in prayer led this, now holy woman, to share her witness, her personal kerygma, the proclamation of JGod in her life.

God’s DEVELOPING of our witness. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman of the springs of living water which he would bring her to drink and share. It is to this holiest of wells that God had brought this woman in this encounter, in prayer. And she quickly realized that this purest most delicious water was meant to be shared. Off she went into Sychar to the very neighbors and people she had long avoided. And her longings had grown from the false appetites of the flesh to that holy love to share Jesus and all God was doing in her life. And from this time of prayer at the well the living waters of Christ would flow, cleanse and fill the lives of many for countless ages. We never suspect what our times with Jesus at the well of prayer may bring in our own lives and in the lives of those he then leads us to meet. It is well beyond all we can imagine what our sips of God’s grace, wherever we may be in life can bring in and through us as we but listen to and heed our Savior.

This Lenten season of meeting Christ in holy love at the wells of prayer in our lives may we each, and together, grow in the desires, designs drawing mercies, and developing graces of God.

Prayer at the Well

Listen, Rise, Courage! God is Calling!

2nd Sunday of Lent, 5 March 2022, Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis 12: 1-4; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: II Timothy 1: 8-10; Gospel: Matthew 17: 1-9

The second Sunday of Lent shares the powerful message of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is a message overflowing with so many powerful truths of the Gospel and our faith. It is a lesson on the prayer communion of the saints practiced by Jesus. Lessons of trust and the following of Jesus bring us also lessons of the mountain tops of Jesus. It is a profound lesson on the power and Presence of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the list would go on as long as we allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide.

But this Lent perhaps we can realize that God would be calling us, yes to the mountain top but also, to the valleys of life, the places of everyday duty and grace. God calls us to the place of hope and excitement as well as the darker places of despair, worry, and fear. God calls us this Lent and every day of our life listen and heed the call of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

So often we find ourselves distracted by the endless cacophony of the noise of this world, of our lives. The endless chatter is found in the silence of text messages, social media posts, news, and alleged news posted online from sources more plentiful than the snowflakes in the mountains this extraordinary winter. The noise and chatter are intensified and amplified much like the sounds of a rock concert. It is easy to feel, at times we are surrounded by waves of words, messages, and sounds that fuel and inspire a turmoil of feelings that can batter and swamp our hearts and faith. As we begin our second week of Lent let us simply heed three key verbs of God as we listen to the call of God. Let us each and let us together Listen, Rise and exercise Courage as we follow the footprints of Jesus.

LISTEN: Peter, James, and John were overwhelmed by everything they had seen and experienced on Mount Transfiguration. Their senses, souls, and minds. were overloaded with their moment. God the Father cut through everything and simply affirmed the Presence of His Son, Jesus. He then instructed them simply to LISTEN to him. How often do we allow the distractions of excitement, worry, anger, guilt, greed, or lust to squelch and silence the Word of God, the voice of Jesus? Lent is an awesome time to renew, and maybe refresh our quiet places where we can best LISTEN to the call of God in our life. Take time for needed silence. During Mass, we use moments and places of silence to… Listen for, listen to God. During everyday life, we need places and moments of quiet and silence. Again to remember and listen to God’s Word but also to the gospel of creation in the wind in the trees, the choirs of birds, or the chorus of raindrops on the car. But we also must quiet our lives to listen to God in and through each other. Many times the Holy Spirit will speak to our hearts in the words, the smile, or the sorrow of a family member, neighbor, or member of the parish. And it is as we better learn to LISTEN that God will then call us to RISE!

RISE: This single verb contains so much power and purpose. It was after the concise message of God the Father, it was after Peter’s impetuous noise about building three tents for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, and it was only as the apostles focused on Jesus that they heard His word: “RISE”. It is from our places of listening, of quiet before God that we are then able to faithfully hear God’s call, in our lives. These two words express a most simple yet powerful formula for prayer and discipleship. It is from our listening we then are called to rise and follow on to whatever places and tasks Jesus would lead. So often we Christians decide we know what Jesus wants and we rise to the assumed will of God. We see this in our relationships, our liturgy, and our words. Then when we find ourselves entangled in consequences of our own making we stop and call out to God to untangle our lives. But as we learn to rise when and where God calls we find our ways blessed by God. Even if those ways prove difficult. Even when those ways bring us to the cross. But we cannot honestly experience a holy Lent unless we allow Jesus to bring us to His holy Cross. But it is then we also hear our Lord calling us to fear not but exercise courage.

COURAGE: God is calling us each and together as His holy people to LISTEN! RISE! and be COURAGEOUS! God leads and calls all who will heed and follow those glorious mountain-top experiences of faith and blessing. God had brought Peter, James, and John to the holy mount and transfigured, not only His Son before them but also their very lives. Our first reading from Genesis shares how God called Abram to Listen, Rise and follow Him to the promised land. Ever and always God calls!. And God calls us out of ourselves into God’s Kingdom, out of our finite faith and understanding, our tiny knowledge and devotions to grow in the fullness of… God. And many may be the times’ God’s call will bring us to face very deep and real fears. And then to be COURAGEOUS! With the healing hand of the Holy Spirit, we may be called by God to confront fearful wounds of fear and guilt. We will be called to the freedom of true penance for guilt and sins. We may also be called to the freedom of discerning the many traps of false guilt with which we may find our lives crippled. God calls us to confront our fears of following Christ more faithfully. Our fears of the future, of failure, ill health, or needs beyond which we can respond. God always calls us to courage and trust anchored, not in the waves and storms of this life but in His Presence and Love through all. our fears are conquered. It is as we follow the holy footprints of Jesus we take the steps of growing discipleship as we learn to walk with God, Listen to Jesus, Rising with Him from our crosses and seeing our fears conquered in His holy love.

Examens for Lent and beyond:

EXAMINATIONS of CONSCIENCE ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ask God for light ~ I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.

Give thanks ~ The day I have just lived is a gift from God. Be grateful for it.

Review the day ~ I carefully look back on the day just completed being guided by the Holy Spirit.

Face your shortcomings ~ I face up to what is wrong – in my life and in me.

Look forward to the day to come ~ I ask God to be with me in the day to come.

An Examen in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi

If I have rejected your love Lord and got lost through evil ways; Lord forgive me.

If I have lived in lies and turned from you, Lord, and turned from whom you created me to be; Lord forgive me.

If I forgot my neighbor and did not love them nor opened my heart to them; Lord forgive me.

If I have failed my part in rebuilding your church and the faith of my brothers and sisters through words and actions in conflict with your Gospel; Lord forgive me.

If I have neglected your creation and did not care for it according to your plan; Lord forgive me

LENT, Following the Footprints of Jesus

1st Sunday of Lent ~ 26 February 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis 2: 7-9; 3:1-7; Responsorial: Psalm 51; II: Romans 5: 12, 17-19; Gospel: Matthew 4: 1 -11

LENT has begun. Ash Wednesday gave us the opportunity to receive the sacramental of ashes upon our foreheads with the words “Repent and believe the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Both of these statements affirm our humble reality, that we are sinners in need of ongrowing repentance and that we are very mortal creatures with the gift of life from God.

Our ashes have been washed away in the simple need of washing up. Yet their message and sacramental power should only grow through these forty days.

These days of Lent, these six weeks will bring us to hear, see and follow our Lord and Savior from the time of temptation in the wilderness, up to the Mount of Transfiguration with the apostles, on then to heal the man born blind. Our pilgrimage then intensifies as we see the raising of Lazarus from the dead and realize our call to life in the Holy Spirit. Then we triumphantly follow Jesus into Jerusalem strewn with palm and olive branches. But this sacred triumph quickly changes into the Holy Week of our Lord’s Passion.

Our Lenten journey concludes with the Feast of Our Lord’s Supper, Good Friday, and then the gathering at the tomb for the triumph of Easter Vigil.

Our Lenten observances may, hopefully, bring us to share in the Way of the Cross. This devotion is an ancient and powerful way that brings us to better walk in the path or the steps of Jesus. But in all these graces we are being called to follow, walk ever closer with, and to Jesus our Lord. It is holy and very good to seek the pathway of Christ. But it can be even more holy and blessed to seek to follow in the footprints of Jesus now, and always.

Again to seek and follow the path of Christ is profoundly blessed. And certainly, there is no way to literally see or follow the actual footprints of Christ. But as we remember that our Lenten, our Christian journey is to walk in the Spirit we can then see beyond the limitations of the literal, physical limitations of this world. Allowing God to heal our blindness (Lent, 4th Sunday) we will start to see the ways of Christ and the spiritual realities of His holy footprints. It is no accident that the Lenten pilgrimage concludes at the Feast of our Lord’s Supper with an extraordinary act… the washing of the disciple’s feet. As we draw ever closer to Christ, and His sacred Passion, Jesus brings our path to the times and places of cleansing. The hands that would soon be pierced by the nails must cleanse our feet, our ways of wandering from His holy Presence.

The painting that concludes this message, “Compassion” by W.A. Bouvereau in many ways illustrates this quest to see and follow in the footprints of Jesus. For to do so is a quest of true and holy “compassion”. It is this quest to share in the real passion of our Lord that brings us to walk in His steps and be brought into the cross and the embrace of the Crucified. These steps involve many challenges, needs, blessings, and trials. But it is in this season of Lent we focus especially on the footprints of faith, Penance, and love to which Jesus will bring us.

Footprints of Faith: The footprints of Jesus in his incarnation left clear footprints of faith. From his youth in the temple, his journey to Galilee and the healing, preaching, and obedience to the plan of the Father were all infused with unwavering faith. Even the final steps before his betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane were steps of a deep trust in the plans of his heavenly Father. Often the footprints of Jesus, walking upon the stormy sea or among the needy multitudes were steps that defied all-natural abilities and provisions. Jesus walked the steps of faith. And these holy footprints of Him without sin also always will lead us to the healing mercy of penance.

Footprints of Penance: Jesus, of course, being without sin had no need to repent or to be penitent as we may commonly think of this grace. Yet it is especially in looking closely at his penitential footprints we learn something very important. Jesus was indeed always free from sin. Yet, created in our image he always knew fully the challenges of human free will. It is in the Gospel for this first Sunday of Lent we see our Savior being confronted by Satan and tempted to follow in ways, not of Heaven. Jesus in the wilderness, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, in the Garden of Gethsemane always had the opportunity to say no to the will of his heavenly Father. Jesus always had the freedom to do his own thing. But looking carefully and honestly at His holy footprints, we see our Lord knew well the freedom and peace of saying Yes! to the will of the Father. Jesus knew what it meant to turn away from lesser things and false ways to the fullness, however difficult the way of His Father would be. Jesus shows us how and where our penance, our seeking to turn away from the lies of satan to the Truths of God will always lead us, ever closer to Him and his love.

Footprints of Love: Our sharing the passion, the compassion, and the footprints of Jesus will faithfully and penitently always lead us to grow in love. This love of God we see especially in the journey to Golgotha. The actual footprints of Jesus must have been, by this time, stained with the blood from the scourgings and beatings he had endured. The healing, the forgiveness found in the Blood of Christ we consume from the chalice was first shared in the stumbling steps Jesus took in the dust and gravel of the path to Calvary. His last steps, before being nailed to the cross lead us to the pinnacle of love, to the wood of the cross. And it would be from his cross Jesus would show us the simple fullness of God’s love. God’s love proclaimed in His Word “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” and his deeds as in his dying he leads us to the tomb and soon to the amazing power of the footprints of love seen in the resurrected Christ.

As we begin our Lenten journey, as we renew our Christian journey let us each and together seek the footprints of Jesus and follow Him in faith, penance, and love.

Compassion by William-Adolphe Bouvereau 1897

Lessons from Two Mountains, Renewal and Rebuilding

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 12 February 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Sirach 15: 15-20; Responsorial: Psalm119; II: I Corinthians 2: 6-10; Gospel: Matthew 5: 17-37

Mount Sinai & Beatitude Mount.

It was Mt. Sinai from which the great prophet Moses received the 10 Commandments and the full Mosaic Law as God led the Hebrew people from the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land. It established the dispensation of God’s Law and the obedience to which God called the Israelites to live. The location is generally recognized as being in the southern Sinai peninsula towering above the harsh dry desert as a harsh flinty monolith overseeing the wilderness.

Beatitude Mount is the location believed to be where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount as he began his earthly ministry. The actual location has been open for debate since early times. A traditional spot is atop Beatitude Mount overlooking the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum. It is in some ways significant that the true location from where Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount is not known. As it signifies the leading of God from temporal perspectives to life in the Spirit.

The two mounts, Sinai and Beatitude are essential for our relationship with God and our faith. Sinai with the hard, clear certainty of the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament Covenant of the Law is in many ways the bedrock of faith and morals. While Beatitude Mount proclaims the heart of the New Testament Covenant of grace and Spirit brought through Jesus Christ.

And the Holy Spirit would bring us to explore and grow in God’s grace and Spirit as we prepare for the blessed season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is just a week and a half away. Let us follow our Lord to these two mountains and prepare for a Lent of Renewal and Rebuilding, a Renewal of the Eucharistic Presence in our faith and church, and the Rebuilding of our church.

Recent years have brought many trials and challenges for everyone, especially for the church. The wounds of scandal, the pandemic pierced both attendance and participation of the faithful and the ongoing strife of worldly politics entangled with religious strife all have brought the church to need rebuilding repair and maintenance. Numerous moral issues bring the faithful to struggle through difficult moral discernments in the quest for true discipleship. And the massive changes in our culture, communications, and society have brought immense impact upon what we have known as…the church. All this applies to every level of the church, the people of God. From the highest levels of clergy, our parishes, families, and our individual places in the living Body of Christ share this need for Renewal and Rebuilding. So whether it be major repairs and rebuilding, ongoing maintenance, or the rebuilding and remodeling of our faith to grow with God we need to allow our Lord to bring us to these two mountains so that His holy work may grow.

Our Bible readings for this Sunday are powerfully focused on the spiritual reality of these two mountains. The first reading from the book of Sirach with the power and promise shared in the Responsorial of Psalm 119 makes clear that God calls us to keep the Commandments of God’s kingdom. This very basic purpose and design of God, our obedience, is essential if we are to grow as God’s dwelling and experience the indescribable blessings God prepares for the faithful.

All this comes into sharp focus in our Gospel reading from the heart of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus reviews and affirms that unshakeable place of the Law and the Prophets in the lives of those who seek to know and follow God. But Jesus makes an extraordinary statement in this segment. He states without any uncertainty that he did not come to abolish the Law. Then He states he has come to fulfill all the Law and teachings of the prophets. That fulfillment, that realization of the Old Testament Law of Mt. Sinai brings us to the New Testament Mount of the Beatitudes, of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Gospel reading shares many distinctive points that Jesus makes about the old and the new. Jesus addresses the unchanging expectation of God of our faithful obedience. He then proceeds to speak of very specific issues and seems to expand the law into ever more impossible realms. We are told killing is wrong. Then Jesus expands that into basic anger. The common reality of calling someone “A fool” is shown to be perilous. And the passionate expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation are stated with no real room for argument. And matters of adultery, divorce and marriage are addressed, again with deep clarity. It is clear the standards of Christ’s Kingdom shared on Beaittude Mount are more intense than all of the teachings of Moses.

This could well lead us to despair. If we are honest we recognize that our weaknesses and sins are seemingly insurmountable. But it as as we allow the Holy Spirit to calm our fears and lead us to the true heights of this Mount of Blessing we see our hope and our calling.

Mt Sinai was indeed focused upon what would be known as the Law of Moses. But that revelation given to Moses was about much more. It was about God’s Presence and the Rebuilding of the worship of the Hebrew people. It would be the Shekinah glory that would accompany and lead them through the wilderness. And God would lead them to build both the place and the designs of their worship that would culminate in the great Temple in Jeruslaem.

Beatitude Mount fulfills that same design for this new covenant. From the 10 Commandments Jesus brings us to the Ten Beatitudes. He provides the map of soul and spirit that will lead Him and His followers to Passion Week. In the culmination of the Passover on Holy Thursday we see Jesus give His Eucharistic Presence in the Body and Blood of Christ, His Real Presence to whom we are being called to Renewal. And in this same message Christ also affirms our calling to Rebuild His Church, the people of God. It is sadly, no mistake that the message of the Gospel today focuses on the brokeness of relationships, with each other, with God, in hearts and in homes. Great is the need, the call to rebuild. Even greater are the designs and the resources and provisions of God for this holy task. One of the great blessings this two-fold quest is the discovery and realiztion of God’s surprises of promise and provision.

Today, these days prior, and especially during Lent let us each, and together, seek Jesus, in the Eucharist, His Word and each other and begin our renewal in Christ. May we then grow in our commitment to share in the Rebuilding of the Church, our hearts, our homes and our parish as a dwelling vibrant for God.

This would remind us of another time and place where the people of God had been led by the Holy Spirit. It was after the great dispersion faithful Jes had been brought back to Jerusalem. God city that lay in ruiins. With immense needs and assaults by the enemies of God that struggled with what seemed and impossible calling. But it was in that time of seeming defeat they were given a time of thanksgiving and praise. And they were given a cricial promise that applies to this very day. “The joy of the Lord will be our strength, ” (Neh 8:10). It would our Lord who would later teach us all that this is His commandment, that we love one another, that our joy would be full’ ( John 15:12).

An altar server lifts up a broken crucifix as he and others clear debris from the altar area of the partially destroyed Metropolitan Cathedral in Palo, Phillippines, Nov. 15 in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. The cathedral is one of many Catholic churches, schools and convents damaged or destroyed in the powerful storm. (CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters)

God is Calling

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 22 January 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 8: 23-9:3; Responsorial: Psalm 27; II: I Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17; Gospel: Matthew 4: 12-23

We have returned to Ordinary Time. Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany celebrations are passed for another year. We are back to…the ordinary. Whatever that may be or might bring. And the Word of God, Jesus Christ the Living Word, calls us to follow him. Jesus calls us individually and together to God’s Kingdom.

PLEASE. Let’s STOP whatever we are doing or are concerned about and let the Truth penetrate our lives deeply, eternally. Jesus is calling you. Jesus calls us, together to follow him. Our gospel shares how Jesus, as his earthly ministry begins walks along the Sea of Galilee and calls Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John to stop what they were doing and follow him.

He proclaims the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and God calls us to repentance. It is liberating to observe that while we tend to think of repentance as the turning away from sin, (which is very correct) it is also much more. Peter and the others were not apparently sinning. They were only trying to work at their fishing and sustain their lives and the lives of their families. But then, Christ calls them to leave behind their tasks, and their livelihoods and follow him in simple faith. Jesus called them as he calls all of us, from where we are in their lives to follow him into the service and riches of God’s Kingdom. There is a passionate simplicity in this call we share. We must remove the meaningless and return to the meaningful. In the weeks ahead the Gospel of Matthew will be sharing how Jesus would go on to lead his followers in the dynamic quest of holy love.

God is calling. Scripture and the lives of the faithful clearly affirm that God calls us each, by name. The plans and designs of our Creator are known by God while we are just forming in our mother’s womb. There is no lack of the vocation or call to follow God. Again God is calling. The very evident lack is not from God. Is it not, instead the lack on our part to listen? Is it not also often like the sheep in the photo above? We hear, and we believe Jesus may be calling us to follow him. But we come to the gates, the barriers that would block our path. We then focus upon many good things that nevertheless take our eyes away from Jesus. We are told we must learn so many things and teachings. Doctrine, theology, philosophy, natural law, liturgical practices, family practices, ethics, and more. Each of these is an important and needed tool in the work of God. But they should never replace the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As St. Paul warned in our second reading from first Corinthians the disciples then, and now were becoming distracted by their penchant for certain apostles, teachings, and agendas. Division and strife follow whenever that occurs, again then and now.

God IS calling. Now in this twenty-first century, the Holy Spirit is seeking men and women willing to leave the darkness and violence of the world and to seek and serve Christ and his kingdom. We are called to follow Jesus in Penance, in God’s purpose and plans, and to proclaim God’s Kingdom of healing and holy love.

God is calling us to Penance. We hear of penance, we hear of repentance, and immediately think of sin, the evil of which we must repent. And indeed this is one part of this beautiful living mosaic of faith. But true penance is a lifelong part of our Christian discipleship. The Holy Spirit, brightening the living Word of God will always show us our next steps. And often those steps may bring us to adjust or even radically change our path. We should always be learning, from God of what in our lives that hinders us from knowing, listening to, and following Christ. Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls. We are his sheep. We may see what is a closed gate when God is simply calling us to shift our eyes from the gate back to him.

Jesus is calling us to grow in the purposes and plans of his kingdom. St. Anthony of Padua was a man who knew the power of penance that would lead him more powerfully in the plans of God. Early on in his life, Anthony heard a call to follow Jesus into holy orders. He entered the Canons Regular of the Augustinian order. But God called elsewhere through some visiting itinerant Franciscan monks. Anthony became a Franciscan and purposed to go to Africa and preach to the Muslims. He had a longing to die a martyr for his Lord. He set out on his quest and was shipwrecked. There then followed a serious illness that would weaken him for the rest of his short life. He returned to Italy and grew in a deeper realization of the simplicity of the Gospel call, purpose, and plans of God for his life. St. Anthony would journey on to become a powerful preacher and sharer of many miracles as he worked to proclaim Christ and his healing power.

The Holy Spirit strives to proclaim through our actions and words the healing graces of the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father. Countless are the many plans and purposes of God working through God’s people and creation. God has for each one of us plans and purposes that mold together lives using our talents, experiences, learning, or simply our lives. God knows us each, our needs desires, attributes, and wounds or weaknesses. And God will use the entire person we are for his kingdom and our good. We can only learn these plans as we daily follow Jesus. However every day we are each called to proclaim the healing, holy love of His Kingdom. We must heed, carefully, prayerfully our words. Are we telling of Jesus? Is His mercy, hope, healing, and grace our message? Or are we prophets of anger, doubt, fear, or hate? Are we focusing on a gate that is closed or the way of Christ leading us to his green pastures and the table he has set for us? It is very easy to lock into our agendas, our preferences in liturgy, theology, politics, or even family matters. Are well willing to allow the growing graces of penance, of seeking, together the will of God, and then to share the joy-filled sound of proclaiming the hope of Christ?

In so many ways and places, now more than ever great is the need for our lives to proclaim, in holy mercy, the simple Gospel of Jesus. To offer the real promises of learning and growing in the plans of God for our lives. and to show, in our deeds and words honest vibrant lives of faith living the path of peace as we seek, always to draw closer to God.

Immersed in God

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 15 January 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6; Responsorial: Psalm 40; II: I Corinthians 1:1-3; Gospel: John 1: 29-34

Jesus Christ by Raul Berzosa Fernandez

What are your plans for the year ahead? What are your hopes, worries, dreams, or fears? Some of us perhaps have made (and maybe already broken) resolutions by this second Sunday of Ordinary Time. It has been wisely said that to fail to plan is to plan to fail. We are rational, thinking creatures and it is part of the gift of who we are to plan, purpose, prepare and seek that which is good. Our post-modern culture is particularly obsessed with the assumed freedom to choose. The access to information (however accurate or inaccurate it may be) has so infected our mindsets that hearts, minds, and eyes are focused on devices and screens many believe will show them the way, the truth, and the life they seek.

But is there anyone among us fully in charge of their life? Whether a child, a young adult, or a collector of many years can any of us honestly say that “I am in control!”? The liberating truth is that while we may have degrees of choice and control in our life we never know what may lie ahead. Nor can we choose the influences of people and events in years past. We can plan, prepare, and hope for what we deem best. But we simply cannot dictate all life may bring. But our creator does give us complete freedom to choose how we will respond to whatever or whomever life may bring us to experience. With circumstances, or people we cannot always choose or control how we may live or in which we may see our lives immersed. Yet, our God gives freedom in Whom our lives may abide, or be immersed.

This Monday past we celebrated the Baptism of our Lord. This holy feast helps us to enter the second of the great Epiphanies in which the earthly ministry of Jesus began. And it is as Jesus was baptized, immersed, in the waters of the Jordan river that the three-fold witness of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was made manifest. This great Epiphany truth gives us an exciting, realistic, and holy perspective in which to live this year of our Lord, 2023. This perspective is gracefully given to us in the ancient prayer from the twelfth century, the Anima Christi. [This prayer is also attributed to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola].

This Holy Spirit-infused prayer can powerfully bring us to grow to abide in and to be immersed in God. We may live in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Regardless of what the days, weeks, and months ahead may bring in circumstances we can freely choose to be immersed in God.

We can choose to allow the Soul of Christ to sanctify us, to set us apart for God and the Kingdom of Christ.

We can grow in the graces of knowing the Body of Christ saving us. As we seek and share in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, growing in that Holy Communion with God and God’s people we can grow in our salvation.

It will be at the pierced side of Christ that we can be immersed in His holy Blood that will inebriate, or as St. John Cardinal Newman translated, will fill all my veins.

And at God’s Son’s same pierced side we will be washed by the holy waters that flowed from his pierced heart. The cleansing water from His side will wash us of the sin, sorrows, and wounds that the world brings.

There at the side of God, we discover the passion of Christ which can infuse our being with holy strength to match whatever challenge our days may bring. It will be with this holy passion the Holy Spirit will guide and lead us in the same fearless love that is God. And as we walk with God that Jesus will hear us as we pray, as we listen to the Living Word, the Logos of the Father.

And when the inevitable wounds of this world occur, as we wonder and ask where we are to go or where we may belong that the kind hands of the Holy Spirit will bring us to hide in the sacred wounds of our Savior. It is within His holy wounds of love we are taught and brought to allow Him to enter within and heal our wounds.

It is there we grow free from the fear of being separated from God. It is within the wounds of God we find protection from the cruel evil one. For it is by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our witness that the evil one is vanquished.

Then, at the threshold of eternity, at the time of our death, we hear God calling our name to come, to Him and to fully dwell with Him and His saints forever.

As we enter into eternity we discover welling from our souls the praises and worship of God forever and ever. Amen.

The words for this reflection are not many. But please take the time to quietly listen, reflect and respond to this call to be immersed in God.

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