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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin

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douloscross

douloscross, a servant of the Cross, a servant of Christ. I am married, a father, a Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. I am also a retired firefighter and fire chaplain.

Advent ~ To See God, To see Love

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The Second Reading from the Office of Readings, Thursday, 2nd Week of Advent, speaks powerfully of the hunger of the human soul to see God, to see the Beloved.

From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop. [Sermo. 147:PL 52, 594-595]

Love desires to see God

When God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear, he immediately acted to call it back to himself with love. He invited it by his grace, preserved it by his love, and embraced it with compassion. When the earth had become hardened in evil, God sent the flood both to punish and to release it. He called Noah to be the father of a new era, urged him with kind words, and showed that he trusted him; he gave him fatherly instruction about the present calamity, and through his grace consoled him with hope for the future. But God did not merely issue commands; rather with Noah sharing the work, he filled the ark with the future seed of the whole world. The sense of loving fellowship thus engendered removed servile fear, and a mutual love could continue to preserve what shared labor had effected.

God called Abraham out of the heathen world, symbolically lengthened his name, and made him the father of all believers. God walked with him on his journeys, protected him in foreign lands, enriched him with earthly possessions, and honored him with victories. He made a covenant with him, saved him from harm, accepted his hospitality, and astonished him by giving him the offspring he had despaired of. Favored with so many graces and drawn by such great sweetness of divine love, Abraham was to learn to love God rather that fear him, and love rather than fear was to inspire his worship.

God comforted Jacob by a dream during his flight, roused him to combat upon his return, and encircled him with a wrestler’s embrace to teach him not to be afraid of the author of the conflict, but to love him. God called Moses as a father would, and with fatherly affection invited him to become the liberator of his people.

In all the events we have recalled, the flame of divine love enkindled human hearts and its intoxication overflowed into men’s senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes. Yet how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain? But the law of love is not concerned with what will be, what ought to be, what can be. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to be consoled when its goal proves impossible, despises all hindrances to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think of right and wrong. Love inflames desire which impels it toward things that are forbidden. But why continue?

It is intolerable for love not to see the object of its longing. That is why whatever reward they merited was nothing to the saints if they could not see the Lord. A love that desires to see God may not have reasonableness on its side, but it is the evidence of filial love. It gave Moses the temerity to say: If I have found favor in your eyes, show me your face. It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: Show me your face. Even the pagans made their images for this purpose: they wanted actually to see what they mistakenly revered.

New Steps ~ Reflections Following a Stroke ~ Part 1

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(Photo Source: Internet, specifics unknown)

On Wednesday, November 21, 2018 I had started my day as usual.  After an early breakfast with my wife I had gone to my study to finish preparing for the morning Bible Study at our neighboring parish while she finished getting ready to go to her job as Librarian at a Catholic High School.   Bible Study would follow Morning Mass at which I was sacristan and served as deacon.  I felt fine.

Until I stood up to take care of an outside chore.  I felt weak and dizzy.  But as I had been having spells of vertigo I thought this would pass.  However after walking, weakly, to the outside steps leading up to the upper terrace I realized I could not make those steps.  My companion Golden Retriever, Murray was with me and knew things weren’t right.  I went back in the house, sat in the study for a few moments and thought I would try again, this time taking an old wood cane that was a family heirloom.  I wasn’t improving.

I went back inside and sat, resting,  while my wife had taken Murray and his older Golden Retreiver brother for a short walk.  Denial is a difficult part of the journey.  Upon her return I said I was feeling unwell and thought I would call the doctor.  I was told to come to the Emergency Room.  The half-hour ride was one of dizziness, uncertainty and a growing sense all was not well.  Upon entering the ER I quickly found myself on a gurney while I heard being announced, “Stroke Alert in the ER”.  The hours in the ER as doctors and nurses did their needed tasks I found myself flashing back fourteen years earlier to my previous visit as a vehicle accident victim with a crushed left arm.  The sense of deja vue was not pleasant.  However it brought with it the memory of knowing God’s Presence at a very painful time and His call to “Offer it up.

I had learned over the years since that the offerings that God was seeking were more than just the crushed arm.  So while the medical journey progressed my journey of faith sought too as well.  I learned that my stroke, while serious, could have been much worse.  But I also learned that due to the delay in my realizing what was happening and reaching care I had possibly hindered my recovery. (Quick Stroke Treatment)  While I had not lost speech or cognitive function I was weak and impaired on my left side.  The medical team was unsure of prognosis early on.  For the next 24 hours I would encounter numerous, tests, CT Scans, an MRI, and many visits by nurses and doctors.

I was feeling very overwhelmed.  I was deeply troubled for what this was doing to my wife and famly.  I was worried for the parishoners of which I care deeply.  I was realizing this could be the end of my service as a permanent deacon and in the work of caregiver for other family members.

But I sensed, too, a profound opportunity to grow in prayer, grow closer to Jesus my Beloved.  So I sought to “offer it up” anew.  Long ago I had begun learning the holy poignant beauty of our Lord’s sacred wounds and of my vocation to bring my own small wounds of soul, spirit and body to those He received in Love.  So amidst the crush of care in the ER those hours I withdrew to Him.  It was in those moments I was reminded of another time and place of prayer.

As a young man I had encountered and been converted to the Christian faith while living and working at a Redwood state park.  After my shift I would go, every day to my place of prayer in the Rewdoods and listen to His Word and talk with Him in His garden.  It was their one quiet evening I sensed His question to me:  “Will you trust me?”  I thought, well of course, why not?  Little did I realize what an adventure of faith that question would bring.  An adventure of mercy, forgiveness and God’s love that would always lead His simple servant far beyond his little abilities.   So, once again, 48 years later, I will trust Him.  I will offer this up.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

THE KING IS COMING!

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THE KING IS COMING!

We gather this 33rd, Sunday, the last Sunday of Ordinary Time.   As we prepare for the Feast of Christ the King next Sunday and the rapid approach of Advent we are reminded of the end of times, of  seasons and the end of all time that heralds the return of Christ the King.  These reminders we hear from the Word of God.  The signs of seasons ending we see in the leaves falling and chilly nights.  The signs of  approaching eternity we see in events all around when seen in the Light of God’s Word.  We are reminded that THE KING IS COMING and that He has created and redeemed us for eternity.

This truth usually presents our souls with many questions and even  perhaps fears.  Yet if we heed God’s Word, especially as proclaimed in our Entrance antiphon today, we can be encouraged.  :  “The Lord said: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction.  You will call upon me, and I will answer you, and I will lead back your captives from every place.” (Jer. 29:11-14). To better understand and prepare for the Coming King let us explore 3 questions.

WHEN? – The challenges of  time…Our diverse understanding (calendars, hours) all  teach us time is a very finite grace to prepare for eternity.  Our Infinite and Eternal God and King cannot, will not, be confined to the very finite capacity of our intellect and our efforts to organize and manage His schedule.  This great mystery is confirmed in our Gospel as Jesus reminds us that the generation to which He was speaking over 2000 years ago would see all fulfilled yet that only His Father knows when these things will occur.  Whether we look at our own crossing of eternity’s threshold or the second great coming and return of Christ for all eternity, those times are in God’s heart.  It is not ours to know “WHEN”.  It is ours to be growing evermore ready for our King to come….at… ANY  TIME.

WHERE? – What is the geography of the return of Jesus?  It is all around us.  For as we heed the world we see God’s working in the testings of fires, wars, politics and disasters.  God, in His holy love, allows us to encounter consequences of rebellion and to repent and return to Him.  Even the Godly are allowed to share in these suffering to proclaim the eternal mercy, hope and love that transcends all earthly sorrow or cares.  But the most holy place God would seek to reign, first and always is in the human heart, our human heart through His mercy and grace.

WHAT? Are we to do to be preparing for our coming King?  To follow the way of life and joy proclaimed in our Psalm today, the follow to, walk in His Faith, Hope and Love with Courage, realizing that as St. Claude de Columbaire said: “What have you to fear from a hand that was pierced  and nailed to the Cross for you?”  It is as we follow, taking His hand we then will, with Thanksgiving“ that… We proclaim your death O Lord and profess your resurrection until you come again.”  May our lives and words share our hope and joy that the King is Coming!

FEAST of the ASCENSION

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{Mass Readings:  I:  Acts1:1-11; Psalm:  Ps.47;  II: Ephesians1:17-23; Gospel: Mk. 15-20}

The Feast of the Ascension was celebrated Thursday last, or as in many Dioceses , this past Sunday.  This powerful and glorious celebration marks the closing of the Easter season and the anticpation of the Feast of Pentecost.  It also marks an event of profound, poignant grace and power in Heaven and on earth.

Jesus ascends to Heaven, to take His place at His Father’s side, mounting His throne amidst  heavenly shouts of joy as the refrain from the Psalm proclaims.  Jesus, completing His earthly ministry returns home to His Father and the Holy Spirit.  The earthly ministry of Jesus is complete.  From the miraculous conception in the virgin’s womb, His birth, life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection Jesus has fulfilled the will of the Father in these thirty-some odd year moments of eternity.  And He is home.  This holy event marks the conclusion of what is a segment of eternity never before seen and never again to be repeated.  Jesus, the Son of God, lays aside dimensions of His Divinity to take in redeeming love upon Himself our humanity.  Truly God, truly man Jesus isseparated from the fullness of Heaven in His incarnation.  Jesus is separated for the only moments of eternity from His Father, His Spirit.  But with His ascension The Godhead, the fullness of God who is love is reunitedas One.

This majestic. holy power and grace of our Lord’s Ascension defires our limited humanity to understand, to realize.  We, like the early disciples, gaze into Heaven, seeking to understand what has occured.

It is the promised Presence of the Holy Spirit that brings us prayerful insight and promise through the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians (and to us).  Paul is praying, inspired by the Spirit of God.  [and we remember that Scripture is clear if we ask anything of God, according to His will, that it shall be done, I John 5:14-15].  In this prayer Paul asks of God what can enable us all to grow in realizing the graces provided in the Ascension of Jesus.

Paul prays that the “eyes of our heart be enlightened”  that we may know…

The hope of our calling.  Jesus came to share our earthly journey, to seek, save, to call us all to grow to be the men and women He created and calls us, each by name, to be.  He calls us to know the immense, eternal HOPE of knowing the passionate long in the Heart of God that we would follow, know and be His.  The Scriptures are clear, as our the history and Traditions of His Church..God has a plan for all creation, for every soul.  The question is…will we allow oursleves to follow His plan?  Will we allow God to bring us to the Hope of our calling?   It is as we say YES to God, growing in His hopes and plans for each of us we then grow in the next promise of this prayer of St. Paul, that we may know…

The riches of His glory, of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Most all of us would know, some to the penny, some to a general amount what our earthly assets, riches are worth.  Yet we are so often ignorant and unaware of the riches of HEaven we have, even this side of eternity, in Christ Jesus.  St. Paul was given profound insight into this heavenly wealth we share.  This letter to the Ephesians is, in many ways like an account statement for all who seek to be a disciple of Christ, seated in heavenly places with Chirst Jesus and with the angels and saints who  have gone before, (Epshesians 1& 2).  So often we place the graces of God in Heaven alone.  Yet the Holy Spirit, writing through Paul makes clear in thense and wording, we are called to be citizens, memebers of God’s Kingdom, here on earth.  It is as we grow in the holy realities of our place and resources as co-heirs wit Chriat that we also prayerfully experience…

The greatness of His power.  The promised Holy Spirit that immerses the Church in the power of God on the day of Pentecost brings to the believer, united together in God, the power of Heaven.  There is no power, arsenal, person or spirit  as powerful as the Presence and Power of God in His Body, the fullness of all in all.  This power of Holy Love as never been conquered or overcome in spite of millenia of trails, tests and spiritual warfare.  As St. Pope John Paul once said:  “Love is never defeated.”

It is this heavenly hope and calling, the realization of our riches in Christ and the power of God that Paul prays for our enlightened eyes to see.  This Scriptural prayer proclaims the promise, he will of God for each and all.  The fullfillment, the answers to this prayer are ours…to chose daily to seek and receive.

Ascended Jesus,enlighten the eyes of our hearts to see..You.

[Artwork image source unknown, found on the internet]

Listening to St. Patrick

On this St. Patrick’s Day many will be enjoying corn beef and cabbage [A distinctly un-Irish meal / and perhaps heading to the bars for further celebration or taking part in a parade.

While Patrick, a man who knew the Prish well, would not have opposed a bit of refreshment or a celebration he would have been troubled by all the worldly ways.

The images show the gravestone of Patrick at Down Cathedral in Belfast Ireland.  If we would take the time what would this saint say tous?  here are some thoughts from the Confessions of St. Patrick.  The offer  profound insight into the tru heart of the man:

1.) “So I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance. He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.” (Confessio, 2)

2.) “This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.” (Confessio, 3)

3.) “Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God.” (Confessio, 4)

4.) “This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a Trinity of the sacred name.” (Confessio, 4)

5.) “That is why I must shout aloud in return to the Lord for such great good deeds of his, here and now and forever, which the human mind cannot measure.” (Confessio, 12)

6.) “In the knowledge of this faith in the Trinity, and without letting the dangers prevent it, it is right to make known the gift of God and his eternal consolation. It is right to spread abroad the name of God faithfully and without fear, so that even after my death I may leave something of value to the many thousands of my brothers and sisters – the children whom I baptized in the Lord.” (Confessio, 14)

7.) “I didn’t deserve at all that the Lord would grant such great grace, after hardships and troubles, after captivity, and after so many years among that people. It was something which, when I was young, I never hoped for or even thought of.” (Confessio, 15)

8.) “More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God.” (Confessio, 16)

9.) “It was in the strength of God that I went – God who turned the direction of my life to good.” (Confessio, 17)

10.) “For that reason, I give thanks to the one who strengthened me in all things, so that he would not impede me in the course I had undertaken and from the works also which I had learned from Christ my Lord.” (Confessio, 30)

The Story of a Soul ~ Nicodemus

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Our Lenten journey of growing closer to God brings us to the 4th Sunday of Lent.  And for our Lenten path God has provided bright and beautiful light from His Word.  It is in His light we see the story of a soul and we see lessons for the story our soul can experience.

Our first reading sets the scene of the people of Israel over the ages.   A people of faith and a people who also, sadly, fell away from their faith when they did not allow the graces of God to grow and change, convert,  their lives.  These are the people, much loved by God, to whom Jesus came and proclaimed His Kingdom.  They are the same beloved souls to which the Psalm testifies that they mourned for their spiritual home in their exile because of sin.

The epistle for today moves the scene of our story to see a people being redeemed by God and growing in His graces learning the call of God to reign with Him, to know and experience that our souls   “…are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in them.”

The scene is now set for us to now meet the two main individuals of our Gospel for this day:  Jesus and a man name Nicodemus.  To better appreciate and learn from this encounter between a human soul and God  Let us better acquaint ourselves with this Nicodemus.

Nicodemus is a man whose story is only shared in the Gospel of John.  The fact that he is not mentioned in the three synoptic Gospels is not that he was unknown to Matthew, Mark or Luke.  It is very possible that this silence, from these much earlier Gospel writers, may have been  in recognition of his faith and the perils of faith in the Jewish world at that time.  John’s gospel, written decades latter may have been able to share these insights  into Nicodemus as he may have gone on to his eternal reward.  The Gospel does show Nicodemus was a man of significant stature among the Hebrew people of Jesus’s time.  He was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin and a man well taught in the laws and courts of his day, reminding the enemies of Christ that anyone accused is entitled to be heard and fairly tried, (John 7)    Nicodemus was also a man of wealth.  As seen when Joseph of Arimathea sought to bury the Body of Jesus in his tomb it was Nicodemus who brought 100 Roman pounds of herbs and spices for His burial, an amount as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, fit for a royal burial. (John 19). But it is in the Gospel for today we learn the most about the story of Nicodemus.   Although well educated, socially, very successful and wealthy he hungered for more. 

It was to Jesus he came, secretly, in the dark of night to LISTEN, TO BE BORN AGAIN, CONVERTED and grow on to SERVE God.  Nicodemus comes to with Jesus, humble, courageous in his questions, thirsting to hear the Truth of God.  And, Nicodemus LISTENED.  As he listened his faith grew and he was converted.   But Nicodemus had only begun his faith journey with God.  Allowing God to conquer his fears of his peers he would find those fears converted to courage in facing those who sought condemn Jesus.  And it was God’s grace that would bring this powerful man to serve His Savior in love and faith as he brought the herbs and spices for His burial.

Nicodemus, the story of a soul encountering God, repeatedly.  And allowing God to change, convert him from a fearful servant of sin to a humble servant courageous in the love of God.

And so God sent His Son for each of us, to meet, to truly listen to, with hearts hungering for His Truth and celebrate the faith journey of ongoing conversion.  An for each of us to learn, as St. Paul reminded us earlier:  we “…are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in them.”

 

“The Stones Cry Out”

The Stones of Notre Dame Cathedral

Luke 19: [40] He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” [41] And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, [42] saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”

The words of our Lord speak of His return and the stones of the very ruin wrought through the pollution of the environment, the pollution of sin in the world.

Lord, in your mercy help us hear your call to care for your home and our hearts for your glory.

 

“Praise the Lord the Creator”

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From Morning Prayer, Third Sunday of Lent, Psalm 148, Psalm-Prayer:

“Lord, extolled in the heights by angelic powers, you are also praised by all earth’s creatures, each in its own way.  With all the splendor of heavenly worship, you still delight in such tokens of love as earth can offer.  May heaven and earth together acclaim you as King; may the praise that is sung in heaven resound in the heart of every creature.”

In the Redwood

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As a young man of the 1960’s it was an intense privilege of grace to first hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This occured while I worked and lived among the Redwoods of Northern California.  It was during that time I first bought and read the Bible.  Although profoundly ignorant I heard the Word of God with a hunger of faith.  It was while working, walking and living among the Redwood I came to know in my heart Him whose love stained another wood red for the salvation of His creation and even His simple creature working in His garden.

Thank you Lord Jesus.

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