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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.

God Whispers

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 9 August 2020

Mass Readings: I Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Responsorial: Psalm: 85; II: Romans 9:1-5; Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33

St. Kevin’s Church ~ Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland

Sometime, probably in the early 6th century, a young Irish monk of reputable faith and holiness sought to find a place where he could seek and attend to God in prayer, penance and listening. St Kevin of Glendalough would establish strong monastic communities as well as minister to the souls living in the region. His preeminent purpose was always to seek God, to pray, to listen, to follow his Savior and Lord.

This was a time of extraordinary and bold faith in Ireland. Great monastic communities of prayer, study and formation were being established. The expectation and longing of so many of the Irish faithful was that in their hard lives God was with them and would lead them ever closer to His Presence.

Today our world of science and technology is engineered together with devout trust in reason, intellect and humanistic capabilities. The concept of someone listening for and hearing God is met with often mocking skepticism. Even among Catholics and other Christians there is a subtle fear of expecting or claiming to hear God speak. If not for concerns of seeming mentally unstable, then sins of pride and fear of ridicule all mix to make the stories of the early saints and the readings from our Scriptures today seem unreal, if not unreliable.

Was St. Kevin a crazy monk hearing voices as he built his hermitage and church in Glendalough? Was St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta walking a path of faith or of some vision of her imagination as she built her works of mercy? And in our Gospel with the account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, is that a fanciful story of purely spiritual metaphor or a practical lesson in…listening to God?

There can be no question that the human soul is indeed able to suffer from afflictions of the mind that can cause one to seemingly “hear voices”. There are also very real perils of ego presuming to speak for God and uniting with the subtle temptations of pride that can lead to experiences of ungodly suffering and sorrow. To recognize and dread those afflictions and temptations is part of the God given grace to fear that which can be so destructive. But as is so often the case in life, such afflictions and temptations resulting from our fallen nature or the tempter, are but sad counterfeits of the designs and plans of God.

A greatest of realities is that God is indeed Love. [I John 4:8 & 16]. And our loving God, Creator, Savior and King longs to share a dynamic and very real relationship with each human soul. Scripture and sacred history clearly teach the longing of God to walk closely with us, to hear our cares, love, trust and needs and to speak to our hearts. God will do so if we but trust and grow in the gifts of listening to God. Listening especially to God’s whispers.

In our first reading from I Kings we read of the fascinating account of Elijah seeking God’s help and direction. The back story here is very important. Elijah has been faithfully and with courage, proclaiming the message of God to the people of Israel. At this sad time they were mostly a people immersed in idolatry and whims of popular politics and causes. Their relationships with God had weakened into intense and deadly practices and strife. YET God still loved and sought them, especially through His prophet Elijah. But then as now, living for God was not usually easy or popular. Elijah had been faithful. But he was now very weary and discouraged and had run off to the wilderness to hide but also seek his Lord. Elijah’s experience is a lesson for all of us. So often we long for God to come and in great power make clear His will but also His power to deal with the afflictions and our afflicters in life. Elijah needed to hear from God. But God spoke not in a great wind. God spoke not through the fire or even a great earthquake. Elijah wanted….. a clear message and sign from God that would tell him and show others God was on his side. But God was closer than an earthquake, fire or mighty wind. God whispered. In a tiny sound Elijah heard God’s voice. He hid his face in humility and went to the entrance of the cave where he was.

Just as with Elijah, with Peter in the boat, and with us in this post modern era, God uses His creation to get our attention. Often we simply need the life-shaking events to bring us to…pay attention to God. Sadly we often need reminding that it isn’t about our stuff, our work or our status. It isn’t about us. It is about us with God and with each other. Returning to our Gospel for today we see a clear message from God that if we but trust we will hear and know God’s whispers.

Matthew’s account of Peter walking on the water, however imperfectly, is rich in the whispers of God that would teach and guide us to Him. First we see that after Jesus has fed the multitudes He sends the disciples ahead of Him by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He did so that He could have time alone to pray. Jesus, God come in the flesh, so needed the quiet time alone with His Father in the Presence of the Holy Spirit to renew His own soul. How much more have we this same need?

The disciples hear the simple Word of God, the words of Jesus, and in obedience get into the boat that evening and head across the waters of Galilee. God’s whispers often come through the simple needs and works of the day. We must go there. We must do that. We need not go over there. It is in our everyday journey God is often leading us closer to Him. But it is also in our life experiences we may be prepared by God. Several of the disciples were fisherman. They knew the Sea of Galilee. They also knew, very intently, to pay attention to the weather to what was on the horizon. The disciples, as they got in the boat that evening, took notice of the skies, the winds, and sensed this may not be the best time to set out.

God often prepares us for storms we may need to face. In our hearts, our instincts, in “our gut” God may well whisper that we need to prepare for some rough sailing. It may be that God is leading us into a storm. Truly there are storms of life that must be encountered. While we will not know what can or will happen, God does. The storms of a pandemic in the world, the economic suffering, the political chaos in our country or of racial strife that is occurring, none catches God by surprise. Some may ask, “IF God is Love why does HE allow such suffering?” It is because God is Love that he allows us to encounter these storms because of our free will. God does not approve or smile at the immense suffering caused by ego bound politicians (of all parties) or greedy medical, economic practices that neglect and abuse vast groups of people. God may allow such suffering in allowing us the freedom to love…(or not love) as we are created and commanded to do. His allowing such freedom neither separates Him from those who seek Him, nor does it eliminate the ultimate consequences of the selfish, sinful choices that are made that hinder His love and cause so many to suffer. God will use the storms of life to bring all who will closer to Him.

The disciples got into the boat in faith and obedience, and love for Jesus. Yet all too soon, as darkness had set upon them the winds arose and the waves beat upon their boat. As they labored against the forces of the world they were terrified to see…Jesus. For walking on the stormy waters they saw Jesus in a way they never planned or anticipated. So it is with us. When Jesus leads to a time and place where we encounter Him in ways not meeting our expectations, experience or understanding, we can become very upset. If the encounter is intense enough we may, like the disciples get..scared. Jesus can’t walk on the water!!!! That isn’t natural!! God can’t be encountered in that place, with that type of music!! With those people!!! It isn’t the way I believe or with which I am comfortable!!! But we all will be much better able to better hear the whispers of God if we accept that God rather enjoys leading us out of our comfort zones. While Jesus has brought them to this difficult place He reassures them: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” God leads us to face our fears and conquer them with courage rooted in His love.

As the disciples see Jesus, and listen, Peter is moved, beyond his fears, to be closer to Jesus. Peter says..Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” One of the most important ways to discern God’s whisper is to, like Peter, ask: God, if this is you call me closer to You.” What do the many voices we hear bring to our relationship with God? Closer? Or distance? We must remember this whole experience is while the winds and waves were roaring. When God whispers, to the seeking heart, His voice will be heard, even amidst the storms of life.

Jesus says to Peter one word. “Come.” Spoken in the quiet of God’s peace, even with the winds howling, God’s whisper is heard and Peter steps out onto the water. So often we expect God to give us a full detailed itinerary of life. We want all the rules of life, family, church, liturgy, vocations, everything spelled out. IF, God forbid, something occurs outside the expectations we have we cry out: Where is God? Indeed God gives a great treasure of His commandments, His Word, of Holy Tradition that provide us an eternally powerful framework for life. But one of the unchanging graces God gives is the Truth that His followers must actively trust and follow the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us to walk through our own storms, dark nights and overcast to hear His whisper and draw ever closer to Him.

Peter did step out from the boat onto the stormy waves. But very soon common sense and experience got the better of him. He knew..this can’t work. This can’t be right. FEELING the sinking reality of his failure he starts to plunge ever deeper into the deadly waters. But he calls out to Jesus three words: “Lord, save me!” So often we, in our struggle would think I must save myself. I have to come up with my lifeboat, my floatation vest. This applies to us as individuals but also as families, as community. The “committee to design the lifeboat” will have to bring to the task force to build the boat approved plans for review after careful examination of costs, risks factors, and God knows what else, before we may start to build our life boats. So often what is simply needed is first, and foremost, individually or as a group a simple praying from our hearts: “Lord, save us”! Then as we reach out to God, or perhaps for God, we will find ourselves back in the boat and…the waters and winds calmed. And we will also hear Jesus whisper in our ear: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt.”

The Whisper of God is calling us as He called St. Kevin of Glendalough, Elijah the prophet, St. Peter and each of us. God calls us to His place of love, peace and power. He beckons us to the place beautiful in holiness. The whisper of God is calling us to Him.

“They all were satisfied…”

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2 ~ August 2020

Mass Readings: I: Is.55: 1-3; Responsorial: Ps. 145; II: Rom. 8:35, 37-39; Gospel: Mt. 14: 13-21

Today the Gospel of Matthew shares the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes. This story contains so many lessons, challenges and encouragements for anyone seeking to grow stronger in their faith. Lessons of simple faith-filled obedience, of God calling us beyond our resources and abilities to lessons of sharing even if it would seem precarious to our well being and of course the profound lesson of Jesus loving, caring for the soul that hungers are all in this holy meal rich in nutrition for eternal peace and life.

But in these many lessons it is easy, at times to overlook the magnitude of this miracle. The size of the crowds was extraordinary for the location and resources at hand. 5000 men PLUS women and children were reported to be at hand and hungry. To help picture this crowd it may help if you have ever been to or seen Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. In a normal, non-Covid afflicted year this baseball venue can easily seat at least 50,000 people.

While the crowd Jesus fed that day was only a fraction of what the ball park would hold it was still immense, especially in light of the location and resources that were available. For sake of our thoughts the crowd Jesus fed was probably at least a tenth of a full crowd watching the Giants play baseball.

And Jesus said: “…give them some food yourselves.” For many to have one extra person show up, unexpected, for supper may be a challenge. But for the disciples that day they had no plans to feed a multitude. Indeed God loves to surprise us beyond our abilities! All the disciples could find was a young boy willing to share his five loaves and two fish.

What is clearly an impossible situation has all the ingredients of a disaster. A huge hungry crowd plus far inadequate resources is more a recipe for a riot than a miracle…except for God. And it is in the light of God’s Word, His truth, the power and grace of this day is realized.

The prophet Isaiah spoke to the multitudes of his time that God was calling each one to come. The thirsty were called to come and drink. The hungry were invited to come and eat. Those who were broke were to come and know they were welcome and would be satisfied. God through this prophet was calling a multitude, hungry for bread and water but even more for the food of the soul God alone could provide. The Israel Isaiah was speaking to were a people stuffed and filled with the hedonistic idolatry and violent strife rampant in their lives. Their world offered so much…that was false and empty…deadly. But God called them to be filled and satisfied in Him.

The epistle of the Romans in our second reading shares the passionate promise of the Holy Spirit that nothing can or will separate us from the love of God. Famine, peril, sickness or war, things present or things not seen, things past or future NOTHING can come between us and the Love who is God. These extraordinary promises from God, who cannot lie, are affirmed in the Psalm for today. Psalm 145 states in holy simplicity: “The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works…”.

These exquisite affirmations from God are so deeply healing and encouraging to our own souls. But they are also very difficult to believe. For the soul, starving for mercy, as was St. Peter after our Lord’s resurrection the voice of Jesus calling him and the others to come from the boat and “come and eat” were almost too good to be true. Peter knew his horrid failure and denial of God, his friend, Jesus. But Jesus still called…”come and eat.”

We can see, in hind sight, Peter’s difficult journey and say how great was God’s love and mercy. But let us go back to the hungry multitudes gathered that day with Jesus. They had listened, with vast, varying degrees of maturity, faith and comprehension. They had heard. And their stomachs growled with hunger. Their faith… some would believe and follow Him. Some would turn away on paths of further wanderings.

But the Gospels are very clear: “ALL were satisfied.” Jesus did not evaluate and judge those who were worthy to eat. ALL were welcome. ALL were fed. All were satisfied. There were, in all realistic likelihood, a full array of the sins of humanity gathered in the Presence of Christ. And He fed them all.

Now some might think of other places in the Gospel where Jesus spoke of those invited to the feast and who would be rejected upon arrival. Indeed those Gospel truths could seem to contradict the lessons of today. But if we listen carefully we realize ..clarity and confirmation.

Jesus calls, invites, as we are, with our hungers and thirsts to be fed and satisfied. He calls us to be filled with the life and assurances of God. And as we understand the multitudes in our story today…ALL were satisfied.” But not all grew on in the fullness of God. Some would allow God to continue to nourish and fill their lives. Some would, after their satisfying fullness wander off to forget and neglect He who called them and cared for them as no other. They would once again search the world to satisfy their hunger that had returned. And some would wander off but when their hunger would return they would return to He who is the Bread of Life.

There was one other miracle that occurred that day that would help all who continued with Christ to know His fullness. As the hungering souls were brought the bread and fish by the disciples they were each called to receive their meal but also to pass on, to share that which they had received with others in their midst. The deeply filling food of sharing allowed those who were willing to grow on in the fullness of God.

Today, as we do miss our Lord’s Eucharistic meal in these unique times, may we still feast and share on the fullness of His Presence in His Word and in that richness share with those we meet who hunger. May we too share in the miracle of allowing: ALL to be satisfied.

All Things Work for Good…

Mass Readings ~ 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 26 July 2020

I: I Kings 3:5, 7-12; Responsorial: Psalm 119; II: Romans 8:28-30; Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52

The familiar, powerful and reassuring words of the Holy Spirit, shared through St. Paul in his letter to the Romans are so deeply needed in our lives at this time. “All things work for good.…” . Yet as we look at our world today, perhaps at our own lives or the suffering and struggles of loved ones we wonder, perhaps doubt, and we ask: All Things work for good??

The treasure of God’s Word this Sunday indeed will reassure and provide practical insight into the truth and power of this promise from God.

In Arizona are the Superstition Mountains home to one of the most famous stories of lost treasure. The Lost Dutchman Mine has called people to seek this alleged lost and hidden treasure since at least 1892. Some have died in their quest. Many have failed. None have been known to find this elusive lost, hidden treasure of great wealth despite that search being the driving purpose of many a life. Encountering many trials, discouragements and profound failures the assurance of all things working for good would have been futile at best. The wealth of God’s Word today reminds and reassures us the quest for the hidden treasure of God’s Kingdom will not lead to failure but the eternal favor of God’s purposes.

Jesus in our Gospel today shares more parables focusing on the promise of the hidden treasures of God and God’s Kingdom. And it is within this context we learn the how, the why, the power of All Things working for Good! Our Lord, in His parables affirms that in life the great treasures of God are often..hidden. In life we realize that the great treasures of God are often buried, covered in dusty mystery and faith, shrouded in clouds of suffering and pain or buried in deep mines of loss or grief. Or, sometimes these great treasures are easily evident but missed by meadows of ease or worldly allure or the disguises of being all too familiar. But the map to these great heavenly treasures is given by God to all who will listen and seek…Him.

It is often a reality of our human ego that our opening verse from the book of Romans focuses only upon the first part: “…all things work for good…”. Our humanity rushes to assume “it’s all good”, “I have this all planned!!!” “I am entitled!!!. Yet if we simplify our hearts and quietly Listen to the Holy Spirit we soon learn there is so much more to the verse. Indeed, ALL things work for good!!! ” FOR THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.” It is in the purposes and provisions of the Holy Spirit we experience in soul, spirit and in life that indeed ALL things work for good, WITH GOD.

The context of this great promise cannot be ignored, if we wish to experience the truth and power it would share. The eighth chapter of Romans speaks eloquently of living in the Holy Spirit of God as followers of Jesus, as adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. This life in the Spirit is a life of eternal simplicity and practicality. It is prayerful listening and following after God as His plans, His purposes are realized, day by day. For in light of our specific readings for today it is a life of Seeking, Sacrifice and Sharing in the quest of God.

Seeking... the lesson of Solomon in our Old Testament reading expresses how, as a young king Solomon was given by God an opportunity in prayer. Solomon chose to use that opportunity to indeed pray and SEEK God and the Wisdom only God could bring. So it is with each of us. Many are our opportunities in life. Some are great and exciting thresholds of hope and possibility. Others are seeming dead ends of failure or sorrow. But through out life they are all opportunities to SEEK GOD and the Wisdom of the Heavens.

Sacrifice... Our present culture tends to despise concepts of sacrifice and duty. Yet for those who seek God these graces of faith are absolute necessities. Going back to the Superstition Mountains of the Lost Dutchman Mine anyone who would seek that lost treasure would be mortally foolish to go on their quest without water. So it is for the man or woman, the child of God. If we have not the waters of sacrifice found in the sacrifices of Baptism and cleansing our quest will be a failure. As God’s children it is NOT about entitlement but the sacrifices of love that clear away all the detritus of life that we may see that which truly matters, that we may see HE who matters. It is then we realize that all the baggage we may think we must cling to is purely hindrances to our following the purposes and plans of God in our Heavenly quest.

Sharing… Finally in our quest for Jesus and His Kingdom one of the greatest of paradoxes God would bring us to…share this treasure we seek. To find the infinite treasure that is God that is the eternal Kingdom of God we must be on a quest to share all, any wealth we find. In the world if one discovered a great treasure there would probably be a great effort to hide or protect that treasure from those deemed less deserving. In God’s Kingdom the treasures of mercy, forgiveness, hope, the indescribable gems of holiness are given by God to be..shared. For it is as Jesus said..it is in giving..we receive. It is as Jesus did..in giving sharing the riches of Heaven, through the Cross, we find His love.

As we persevere on our quest to know that ALL things work for good..WITH God, in our quest to discover His treasures in our lives of struggle or ease of sorrow or joy we learn that it is God who calls us to His purpose, His designs. May we each learn the greatest treasure of knowing in our hearts the voice of the crucified King calling us each by name.

Parables ~ In Scripture and Life

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 19 June 2020

Mass Readings: I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Responsorial: Psalm 86; II: Romans 8: 26-27; Gospel: Matthew 13: 24-43

Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy France was established as a monastic community around 708 A.D., according to the story, from a vision of St. Michael the Archangel to a local bishop. For centuries it has been a place of pilgrimage, faith and prayer (besides more worldly uses as a prison and fortress). Now connected to the mainland by a causeway it is easy and safe to access. But for thousands of pilgrims the journey was fraught with changing tides, quicksand and a path often obscure in the tidal waters. While it is easy to visit now, often more from tourists than true pilgrims of faith, it still illustrates the difficult and at times perilous journey that people of faith undertake in seeking the fullness of God’s kingdom.

It also illustrates an important lesson from our readings of God’s Word this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. This Sunday of July, here in California we once again are facing the closure of our churches and the inability to share in the graces of Mass due to the Covid 19 struggles. We are called, again, to grow and share in a deep spiritual communion with God and each other as alone and together in our homes and families we miss the fuller communion of gathering with each other.

These strange tides of change and uncertainty from this virus are tossed and blown by the ongoing storms of politics and civil unrest sweeping the lands. For many we continue with a sense of feeling unsure of what God is doing, where is God leading, or perhaps even…Where is God? The media and most secular experts cry out to “follow the science”, to listen and heed the words of medical, clinical and political experts as we go through this extraordinary time. And indeed heeding the wisdom of science is a matter of life and death. It is vital to be able to separate our fears and feelings from the morass of politics and hype. But it is also important that while the work of the God-given disciplines of science and medicine are essential they are not God or the Gospel. It is good to realize doctors and scientists are seeking, working hard to learn all that is needed in this struggle. And to pray God’s mercy and grace and wisdom to prevail .

This brings us back to our journey to Mont St. Michael, or more accurately, our journey with and to God. Our Gospel during these weeks of summer share many parables. Some are long and rather complex. Others are short and fairly clear. We can realize that these parables of Scripture are also given to us as we encounter the parables of our life. It has been said a parable is an earthly story with an heavenly meaning. So whether in Scripture or in the experiences of the day we encounter lessons of the world with heavenly importance. But, like the earlier pilgrims to Mt. St. Michael, we encounter paths, lessons that are not always clear or easy to understand. We know the peril of the quicksands of human weakness and our limited wisdom. We face the changing tides of popular values and fashionable energies that can sweep us off the causeway of God into waters churning with strife and angry currents. So as we look to our destination (the full presence of God and God’s Kingdom) we would heed the sound ways of God to helps us trust and understand as we take these steps. Much like the first disciples we need to come aside with Jesus and say: ” I don’t understand! …This doesn’t make sense! Jesus… what do you mean? what do you want?”

Whether our pathway is clear and calm, facing tides clearly rising or battered by the often intense storms of life we can experience and know essential, solid rocks of safety and grace that will help us on the path God calls us to share with Him.

First we must remember that it isn’t about our wisdom, our understanding or feelings. The shifting gravel of stress or fear or the perilous quicksands of anger or hate are not where God would lead. The primary place God would lead is into the holy, healing arms of His Son. It is in our relationship with Christ planted deep in the Truth that He is able to forgive, heal, cleanse us of the wounds, muck and mire that we find in this world.

If you have ever had the privilege of digging for clams you know you can experience the reality of sinking ankle, knee or deeper into the sandy mud. It can feel impossible to escape…at least with your boots. And if the tide is coming in it can be a powerful opportunity for…. courage. It is so often an opportunity of needing the help of others.

On our journey to God’s Holy presence we may be stuck in such muck. But the presence of Christ can lift us out of the mire to know His cleansing and healing. Even if we are stuck in uncertainty or in a place well beyond our abilities we can, abiding in God, know the power and help of the Holy Spirit. It is immersed (baptized, confirmed) in the Spirit of God we encounter the grace of the Holy Spirit praying for, with us, perhaps beyond our understanding and vision but always in the purpose and wisdom of God. This year, 2020, has caused many to wonder what God is doing…if anything! Yet it is in the Spirit infused prayers of the Paraclete we learn Jesus is in control. He is on the throne and that whatever happens God will show us the way. And it will be the Holy Spirit who will prayerfully remind us that the path we are on is shared by the angels and saints and who may well lead us to pray to St Michael the Archangel.

As we walk with Christ, in the prayer fullness power of His Holy Spirit we grow in understand as we face the parables of our life, as we learn those lessons and truths God knows what we need. And it it is this holy wisdom brought into our hearts and minds we grow stronger in God’s peace. The parables of Scripture and the parables of our life are lessons given us by God. But as Scripture promises these lessons, this wisdom of God is gentle, powerful encouraging and shared in peace. Indeed these lessons may bring us to or through difficult even painful times. They may call for deep conversion and change. But even with those hard tests and lessons we grow in the peace of heart that this is right. This is bringing me closer to God and the person God created me to be. Jesus never promised a life of peaceful circumstances. He promised us..His cross and His peace that is always greater than what the world may offer.

Finally we encounter, walking with Christ, in the prayer Presence of the Holy Spirit, filled with the peace of God in heart and soul that we are growing in the love of God. The Apostle John, in his first epistle wrote the three words perhaps most oft quoted (and oft in ignorance of the Biblical roots)…“God is Love”. In our pilgrimage to God, to God’s holy mount we are traveling to a place of countless graces, intense, indescribable holiness and majesty. But we are pilgrims always to and in the holy Love who is God. This love saw our fallen sinful failings. And saw us redeemed and made whole. This God who is love sees us on our struggling path through tides and seas of worry and sorrow, fear or doubt and sees us with Him entering the gates of our eternal home. Words will fail to describe all God would share with us in the beauty of His holiness. But the fears that would assail on our path will shrivel and fall away in the Presence of Jesus who will call us to face our fears and allow Him to cast them out as He brings us into our heavenly home.

The parables of Scripture are many and mysterious. As are the parables of life. But these earthly stories with deep heavenly truths will, in Christ’s Presence, the Holy Spirit’s power, the Peace of Jesus and the Love of our Creator will bring us to the joyful gates of God’s holy mount.

The Seed of God’s Word

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 12 July 2020 ~ The Parable of the Sower

Mass Readings: I: Is. 55:10-11; Responsorial: Ps. 65; II: Rom. 8:18-23; Gospel: Mt. 13: 1-23

This 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Year of Our Lord, 2020 is, in many ways far from ordinary. There are frequent discussions on what is the “new normal”, the new ordinary. As we share this gift to gather and celebrate the Mass we realize that with the challenges of the Covid pandemic this gift may again be curtailed for a season. As we navigate the vicious storms of politics and social violence we experience the many powerful and often toxic seeds of discord, strife, hate, fear and doubt. So we read God’s Word today and wonder…

What is the Seed of God’s Word about?

What does Jesus want to plant and grow in the soil of my soul?

The reading from the Gospel of Matthew shares the well known parable of the Sower. In this lesson Jesus speaks to hearts explaining the types of soil in which His Word is sown. He makes clear our free will to chose how the soil of our soul will be for His Word. If we better realize the gift of His Word in our lives we may better allow for our hearts, our souls, our soil to be ready for His Word.

But before we examine this holy seed of Scripture it is important to realize the peril we face with the invasive weeds of the world. Discerning listening to the messages, and especially the fruits, of the words of the world soon reveal their worth. Many varieties of worldly words abound but they all share common traits. Words of anger, hate, judging, fear, doubt and discord are flying through the air in abundance. As another parable of Jesus taught, the powers of hell seek to sow the invasive thistles weeds that would, if allowed , crowd out God’s intent. And we must realize these seeds of destruction are much in the world but they also can be found in our families, our church and in our hearts. May we seek the gardeners of heaven to help us to be ready for God’s Seed!

The Seed of God’s Word is eternally distinctive in many traits. As we look to the beauty of creation we start to realize that God plants an unending array of beauty in the diverse places of life. From fertile meadows to towering forests, to desert drylands or sea side dunes God has the seeds of life suited for each holy place. And so it is for our souls. God has seeds of His promise and purpose for the place we are in life. Yet for each place there are common graces.

The Seed of God’s Word contains infinite blessings. But there are four that are always so needed.

First the Living Word, Jesus, the LOGOS, is The Truth. In heeding the voice of O our Lord in Scripture we allow His Presence, His Truth to be sown and planted in our hearts. And like all good seed, in His time and will, the power, the beautiful veracity who is God will grow. The Scriptures are essential if, as His followers, we are to grow in the Truth that sets us free. Jesus in holy love will plant within us, perhaps in what seems impossible places or ways those seeds in which we can become free to be who He calls us to be.

Secondly this holy voice of God, whispered in the verses of Scripture will cleanse. It is in the light of God’s Word we realize our need for cleansing… for conversion. As a seed, buried deep in the soil sprouts it, by God designed grace, seeks the light essential to cleanse away the hard darkness that would prevent life from growing. And in the nail-scarred hands of the Gardener we too will know the cleansing power of His Word that brings us to seek His light. In the beauty of holiness we see the both the deadly sludge of sin and doubt and turn our hearts to seek, to see who is life itself.

Next we experience, from the seed of God’s Word that as we grow in His Truth, as we take root in His cleansing graces, we come to grow eternally alive. No matter the size the seeds of grace they will accomplish the purposes of God as we allow His work in our soul. Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah affirms that the Word of God that goes forth will not return to Him empty but accomplish His plan, His purpose. Regardless of length of time, drought, fire, storm wounds it will grow to be what God intends. And it will be seen that it is those battles that the real strength and beauty Jesus planned will develop.

This brings us to a fourth and concluding grace as we look at the seed of God’s Word. When God’s promises are planted and sprout, as they grow, taking root we experience a gift God never wants us to be without, the gift of Hope. God knows the places we may encounter in life may not always be easy. But with His Word, in which we are called to abide, we grow in hope. The gnarled beauty of the Bristle Cone Pine grows, slowly, persistently in some of the harshest environments on earth. Void of much water, with little rich soil. These seeds grow through the harsh temperatures, the ceaseless winds to now be recognized as the longest living things on earth. They teach us the power of hope from the Seeds of God’s Word.

As we reflect on the Words of Jesus in the Parable of the Sower may we take to heart the infinite power and worth of those holy seeds He longs to plant in our lives. May we grow, deeply rooted and abundant in He who brings us Truth, Cleansing, Life and Hope.

Parable

Most Holy Trinity Sunday ~ 2020

Readings for Mass: I: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; Responsorial: Daniel 3:52-56; II: II Corinthians 13:11-13; Gospel: John 3:16-18

Today we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity. Minds and hearts much better than mine have sought to help us understand this immense mystery of our faith. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit…One God in three persons is one of the most profound challenges of our faith and for our understanding. Yet in Scripture from the ancient Hebrew of the Old Testament to the Greek of the New it is a Truth, at times veiled, but also one boldly proclaimed. Although the word “Trinity” is not to be found anywhere in Scripture this living Truth powerfully abides in an holy majesty and infinite love.

This abiding Truth is challenging our understanding to great degrees of frustration. As we wrestle with the Holy Spirit to try to get this essential reality of our faith into our minds we can sense one of those holy whispers of God. We will never understand the Holy Trinity. But we are called to simply relate to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

This blessed realization can be countered at the coast. As we, smell, feel, hear the beauty and power of the Pacific Ocean we simply can embrace our relationship with the ocean we are witnessing. We can recognize that our respective “visions” of the ocean in no way encompass the immense scope of these waters. We indeed can truthfully say we know about the ocean. We can swim, surf, scuba the warm Pacific waters of Southern California. We may visit, work or live along the coast of Northern California on calm warm days and stormy times of intense waves and currents. But our understanding is so…small. We never have explored the deepest depths, the immense miles of coastline, the coral reefs, the creatures of the deep. We realize our understanding is so much like our faith. We are so confident and comfortable with what is familiar. But have no real realization of all that lies beyond our mental grasp..the sister oceans, the diverse waters all provide a living portrait of our Triune God.

This beautiful time to focus on the Most Holy Trinity may we allow what is a very finite example, the majesty of the oceans, to invite us to plunge into our relationship with God.

May we immerse ourselves in the majestic power and love of our Heavenly Father. May the eternal currents of God’s mercy draw us ever closer into His holy embrace, drawing us away from the tiny brackish pools of fear or doubt we may have encountered in our lives.

May we each dive deeply into the eternal love that is God the Son, Jesus. As He pours upon us waves of cleansing and buoyant power, waves that would not drown us in sorrow or brokenness as does the world but waves of hope and life. Waves that even in the storms of life can bring us to peaceful waters of rest and assurance.

And may we each swim freely in the waters of life of the Holy Spirit. Growing in the Truth and our relationship with the fullness of God and each other we then grow in the fullness of God’s people we are created and redeemed to be.

Immersed in this infinite power and holy beauty that is God we realize that there is no way to separate or understand all that is God. But we also realize that we have the tragic power to damage and destroy this relationship of holy love and life.

Rebellion and humans mindful only of self and not of God pollute their relationship with God and each other. This intense sadness is seen in the way we pollute and destroy the creation given us by our Creator to care for and use for His glory and the good of all.

In our pilgrimage of faith my we trust our Lord to lead us to grow in our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

PENTECOST ~ 2020 ~

Scripture Readings for Mass of the Day: I: Acts2: 1-11; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: I Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel: John 20:19-23 & Sequence

Traditional sacred art commonly portrays the out pouring of the promised Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and our Blessed Mother with, perhaps at times, other disciples in the room as amazed and awestruck… spectators.

This holy day of Pentecost, 2020, brings us to realize that these traditional images, however beautiful, are not as Scripture described the event, not as God intended and especially not as is so urgently needed in the lives of the faithful and the world this year of 2020!

As we continue our shared wilderness journey through the Covid pandemic we have been faced with many uncertainties and challenges. The loss of the ability to gather together for Mass has compounded the difficulty of these days. Recently there had been the hope, and in some areas, the start to allow the gathering for our liturgies and sacraments. In our parish of St. Peters we still seek and await that day in faith and prayer.

All of this has been drenched this past week in the news of a tragic murder of a man under arrest in Minnesota and now another seeming pandemic of civil unrest, riots and anarchy throughout the country. The intensity of anger and hate is combined with great fear and weakness in the broad leadership of the country. This brings many to again ask on what is meant to be a day of great celebration in the Church, Where is God? Where is the power of the Holy Spirit so needed in the world and in our homes and hearts at this time?

The answers to those questions are not in the news or the images and stories on social media. The answers are not in the words or actions of the priests or bishops. The answer to where is God, where is the promised Presence and power of the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of all the faithful. The answers are found when we allow the Spirit of God to search our hearts in the light of God’s Word to see where, in what or who is the faith of the faithful? We are brought to urgently understand, we as the Body of Christ, the people of God, are NOT called to be spectators and observers of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are ALL called to be baptized, IMMERSED with and in the Presence and Power of God the Holy Spirit.

This past year, thus far, has given to everyone intense , ongoing and powerful invitations to…FEAR, to WORRY and DOUBT. We all are given, a regular abundant feast of the gospel of human understanding and opinion. We are instilled with many and frequent sermons of the “truths” and gospel of science, professed medical evidence (even if inconclusive , subjective and contradictory) and the promises of politicians (of left and right) of health, wealth and peace. [Note: This does not imply we are to reject sound scientific and medical direction and care. But it must be seen, not as Gospel but as tools given by God to be used in God’s wisdom]. And now added to this morass of humanistic wisdom we are facing civil violence and unrest of profound dimensions as people, especially the poor and oppressed, respond in their anger, fear and powerlessness. Indeed this Feast of Pentecost, 2020, could well be experienced as a very dark and dismal time of …despair. IF!

IF the human soul chooses to become immersed in all this news and wisdom of the world we will be truly immersed, filled, drenched in..despair.

IF!! However we chose to remember and BELIEVE God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind we will grow to be immersed in the power and Spirit of God for these days in which we are called to live and follow Him. And we will, celebrate the Truth, as He promised that as our day is, so shall our strength be!

This great and holy Feast of Pentecost, 2020, we are called to realize and be a faith-filled people of God sharing in the times and places of our daily lives the Real Presence of God. We are called to be the living tabernacles carrying about our places of life, our hopes and wounds The promise and Presence of Jesus, in His Holy Spirit being, becoming vessels of God’s power, peace and courageous love… the power of true holiness.

A key and recurring promise of God, in both Old and New Testament readings is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be with POWER!. Looking to the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost they were gathered, behind closed doors in fear and uncertainty. But also in obedient prayer. as they chose to let go their doubts and uncertainties and rather seek God and His promised they prayed. And at the time chosen by God they ALL received the outpouring promised from Jesus. It has become a great temptation to, as the sacred art illustrates to be very pious… observors. Many the Christian as become very comfortable sitting, observing the bishops and priests, the pastors and and liturgies and worship services so beautifully produced. We attend to be…”fed” and then go home comfortably “filled” with the Comforter to lives of Christian knowledge.

God never intended the Promise of the Paraclete to be only for the ordained or religious but for ALL the people of God. And that truth is being realized, now more than ever that this Presence of God is so necessary to combat the evil blot of worldly wisdom and fear we face.

God also calls all the faithful to be a people of His peace that surpasses all understanding. We are called to be living in the Peace of God not found in medicine, political diatribes or police tear gas. This world is a place of great conflict between good and evil, between God and the prince of lies and darkness. True, eternal peace, even in the very midst of suffering and strife is and can be found in the Spirit of Jesus poured into our hearts on Pentecost. And we are called to be warriors of….PEACE and healing, of mercy and hope to those wounded and bound in the ways of the world. What would happen in our world and lives if we trained and sought to wage peace as intensely as we do war and force? To be such warriors of the Holy Spirit we must understand we are called to be courageous in God’s holy love!

To understand this aspect of the Spirit-filled life we need only prayerfully look at the lives of the disciples, from Peter and the apostles to the others, some soon to be called as deacons, many to be called to be..martyrs. From the prayerfully, timid hiding place of the upper room the Church, the People of God, were blown out into their world. In their holy love they could not contain the precious seeds of the Gospel but scattered them with contagious joy into the hearts of those struggling with the lies of the evil one. Today, Pentecost Sunday, 2020 in a world locked in battle with the Covid virus, in cities smoldering and trashed, in hearts crippled by fear and hurts we must respond in God’s courage and holy love….in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

We would do very well to think of the many saints of God, St. Francis of Assisi, daring to care for, even kiss the leper, St. Roche, in the wisdom of God’s love caring for those suffering in the plagues of his day, of the many women and men of God, disdaining the possible costs, discarding their fears who went out to dare to touch and care for the poor, the sick, the hated, all for the healing mercy and love of God.

This time in which we live we battle the great Covid pandemic. But we also battle even greater pandemics of fear and hate, prejudice and greed. Even in the church there is a fervor to exclude and judge those whose understanding of liturgy doe snot match those esteemed by some. There is an almost inquisitional enthusiasm to battle those not considered suitable to share in the Body of Christ as judged baby some self-perceived experts.

This holy and solemn, beautiful and powerful celebration of Pentecost, 2020, may we earnestly seek God’s holy fire to enflame our passions for..Him and His Kingdom. May we burn with the same redeeming love for others as God does..for us. And may we grow forward as holy, gentle, fearless warriors empowered in the Holy Spirit to be and become people and places of God’s healing Power, world quenching Peace, and alive in God’s Courageous love and hope.

His Eyes Raised to Heaven ~ 7th Sunday of Easter 2020

[Mass Readings: I; Acts 1:12-14; Responsorial: Psalm 27; II: I Peter 4:13-16; Gospel: John 17:1-11a]

This 7th Sunday of Easter we come to the last week of Easter season, 2020. Last Thursday was the glorious celebration of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the celebration of His celestial homecoming back to the Love of the Father and the embrace of the Holy Spirit. With that momentous event the souls and spirits of the followers of Jesus were lifted heavenward.

And so it needs be for us this Sunday of 2020. We have spent most of this year thus far navigating the Covid virus, social-economic chaos and leadership often at odds with each other as many uncertainties and threats are confronted. It is sadly and especially evident in the swamps of politics that all these threats to assumed places of power and control have brought about claims, assertions and professed worldly expertise in abundance. Again it shows us how much we need to lift our lives heavenward as we navigate these uncertainties but especially as we seek a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In deed we are followers of Jesus in an earthly journey amongst many problems, perils and blessings of this world. We must heed, respect and navigate all these worldly realities. Yet we must, as our crucified and risen Lord did, always keep our focus heavenward.

Our Gospel this Sunday comes from the intimate conversation Jesus shared with His disciples in the upper room just before His Passion. This 17th chapter of John is the closing prayer of Jesus with, and for, ALL of His followers. This includes the Apostles, what would eventually be called the clergy but and especially ALL those who would believe in Him, His Body, the Church. Jesus has prayed that His followers may be one, as He and the Father are one, again embracing the entirety of His people, His Body, the people of God. Christ, in this portion prays that His faithful may always realize the gift of eternal life. He asks that His Father, His name be glorified as we follow in His way of redemptive love. He affirms we are in this world, but we are not of this world we belong to God. We are to live for God, eternally.

This message is vital as we anticipate the Feast of Pentecost next Sunday. We are to seek… to be filled, baptized, immersed in the Comforter come from Heaven. We are to be a people empowered and following first and foremost the wisdom and will of the Father in our lives and in His Church.

This message is also very much needed as we continue to journey through the challenges of the Covid sagas. I have read with joy that sooner than earlier expected churches may soon be unlocked. Masses may soon be allowed. But, wisely and of course, this is to be done within the dictates of the medical community. But as those dictates, that guidance is received and applied there seems the ongoing diversity of how, to what extent, in what ways all this is to be applied. In the many winds and squalls of this worldly storm of expertise we need to pay close heed to Whom we are following.

We must use all prudence, care and concern for the care, the well-being of each other, our families and ourselves. This means we must heed, with common sense and God’s wisdom, the guidance of the “experts”. But it is wise to remember that worldly expertise on these matters, on all matters is very subjective and transitory. Medicine, science, while true and great gifts and graces from God are disciplines of…change and growth. They are not and never have been meant as…gods. Yet it is sadly evident as we listen to the news, politicians, even some in the church, that the gospel of human reason and alleged scientific evidence is the gospel to be heeded. Our health, our well being can never be found in medical expertise or scientific reason alone. We are, if we believe the message of Jesus in the Gospel today, are created and redeemed for God, for eternity.

As we approach the Feast of Pentecost may we each, and together, seek the Promise of God the Father, given through His Son Jesus, the immersing into the Presence, Wisdom and Power of God for our lives, our Church for these times and eternity. May we allow the Spirit of God to walk in an holy balance of powerful faith and respect for those things of the Caesers of this world. May we remember and practice the promise: “God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love and of disciplined minds.” [II Tim. 1:7]

The Ascension of our Lord Jesus ~ His Last Earthly Words

God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord!

Today, Thursday, 21 May, is the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. For us Catholics it is a Holy Day of Obligation. But, of course, in these unusual times we are unable to gather for Mass. What for some would be seen just as a day of obligation is, for many a day of holy love and opportunity. Perhaps, more so, in these times to gather, celebrate and worship our Lord is indeed a gift and grace we cherish, and miss.

Although we are unable to gather for Mass and receive the sacred Body and Blood of our Lord it is also a very special time to realize the holy opportunities we have and are called to share. It is a very unique and powerful season to grow in our listening to Jesus, the Logos, the Word of God. And on this holy day we are able to hear the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples just before He ascended into the clouds to take His throne next to His Father.

On this extraordinaryAscension day it is important and beautiful to realize what occurred as Jesus rejoined His Father. In the incarnation Jesus laid aside His celestial place with His Father to take upon Himself our humanity. Clothed in the realities of our flesh, blood and human struggles Jesus, for thirty plus years, would endure a separation of sorts from His Father. It is on this joyous day God, who Is Love, is fully reunited for all of eternity. The celebration of God and His holy angels would be beyond our earthly imaginings!

Yet as we recognize the holy, heavenly event we are brought back to earth to remember what was on the Sacred Heart of Jesus before He went home. Gathered with His followers they sensed something was going to be happening. Their hearts were still seeking to understand and relate to the brutal passion and resurrection of their Lord. They would still be wrestling with their own fears of persecution and these changes in their faith. So it is on the mountain top Jesus gathers His disciples. They are still holding on to their shallow understanding of the dimensions and power of the Kingdom of Jesus. They ask Jesus when that Kingdom will be restored. Jesus in patient love reminds them the times, seasons, the schedule of God is not for them to know. They only need to know…Him.

Jesus then goes on to once again affirm for the disciples of the promise, power and Presence of the coming Holy Spirit. Then He utters His last words:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The first chapter of the Book of Acts goes on to proclaim: “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” With those final words Jesus establishes the marching orders of holy love that will carry forth His work and Kingdom. The followers of Jesus, so awed by this extraordinary event are staring up into the clouds. It is then that two angels come and gently but powerfully shake the disciples back to their place and work at hand…to live for and witness the mercy, love and holy joy of the Kingdom of God. They then emphasize that as they saw Jesus ascend into the clouds, so He will return.

As we reflect and refocus on the words and will of Jesus this holy day of opportunity may we grow in our witness to the love and mercy of God in and through our lives. And may our prayer be:

MARANATHA! ~ “Come our Lord!”

As Jesus ascended so will He return! May we witness, in the power of the Holy Spirit, His grace and love.

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