Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.


Easter story

Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil Mass ~ Saturday 8 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis 1: 1-2:2; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: Genesis 22: 1-18; Responsorial: Psalm 16; III: Exodus 14: 15-15:1; Responsorial: Exodues 15:1-6, 17&18; IV: Isaiah 54: 5-14; Responsorial: Psalm 30; V: Isaiah 55: 1-11; Responsorial: Isaiah 12: 2-6; VI: Baruch 3: 9-15, 32-4:4; Responsorial: Psalm 19; VII: Ezekiel 36: 16-28; Responsorial: Psalm 42; GLORIA; Epistle: Romans 6: 3-11; Responsorial: Psalm 118; Gospel: Matthew: 28:1-10

Do not be afraid. He has risen!

Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. it is about the conquest of sin and death through the grace, mercy, and love of God. It is about Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the tomb for all and for each of us, individually. To truly celebrate Easter, the risen Christ it is essential to know and be growing in His Risen Presence. But how do we come to the tomb? How do we find Jesus among the sorrows and disappointments of this life? How do we KNOW, how do we truly EXPERIENCE, that Jesus Christ is risen, today, in my heart, in my life in our world? We can follow, without fear or disappointment, the way of the cross and the path to the empty tomb with the saints, the faithful who have gone before us.

The Catholic Church, for millennia, has begun the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus with the Easter Vigil Mass. In accordance with the Hebrew observance of time, it was recognized the third day began on Saturday night. The joy of Easter would dawn after Christ had departed the tomb on that holy night.

It should be understood that this is the longest of liturgies in the Catholic Church. Even if a shortened list of readings is used this Mass can easily last two or more hours. It is also common for the Sacraments of Initiation to be celebrated (Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation). It is deeply rooted, as is all liturgy in Scripture. From Genesis to the Gospel with affirmation from the responsorial Psalms it shares the story of our shared salvation history. I would encourage you for an incomparable Easter to prayerfully read the Scriptures for this Mass. Allow God’s Word to lead His way to the tomb, emptied by the power of God’s holiness and love.

There is another powerful, unique segment to this Mass. After the procession into the dark church, with everyone assembled there is proclaimed the Exsultet. This ancient proclamation has a history obscured in time. It is generally dated to probably the fifth century. Once proclaimed in Latin it is now shared in the vernacular of the people. It is a long piece and the rich lesson it shares may be lost to some because of its length. But since it is so powerful and beautiful I ask you to prayerfully read and listen to the psalm of the resurrection. Read, listen, and share this psalm of praise to our Risen Lord and let the Holy Spirit draw you into the embrace of He who conquered sin and death.

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises.)

(V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.)
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.  
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.

Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.

May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Excerpt from the English translation of the Roman Missal© 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved

2nd Sunday of Easter ~ Divine Mercy Sunday ~ 2020


Thomas placing his finger into the wounds of Jesus

[Scripture Readings for Mass:  I:  Acts 2:42-47;  Psalm: Ps 118:2-4,,13-15,22-24;  II: I Peter 1:3-9;  Gospel: John 20:19-31]

” Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” ~ John 20:26-28

These words from the Gospel of John give us one of the most profound illustrations and lesson of Jesus, the doubting of humanity and the Divine Mercy of God that resolves our doubts, if we will share the journey of the lesson.

The designs of the Holy Spirit are majestically clear on this Sunday following the joy of Easter.  As we continue, in the Church, to celebrate Christ’s conquest of sin and death we come, these seven days later to this celebration of His resurrection mercy.  It is the mercy-drenched wisdom of God’s Spirit that recognizes how difficult our Easter celebrations are as we daily live and confront our realities of human nature.  That first Easter the disciples were crippled in uncertainty and doubt.  They could not see the eternal reality of the Risen Christ in the fog of the reality of their human reason and weakness.  They all also struggled with their guilt, not trusting, not understanding the One they had called Lord.  Peter in particular, was bound by chains of doubt and remorse with his three-fold denial of Jesus the night of His arrest.  And as it was with the followers of Jesus then, so it is with His followers today.

This holy season of Easter, 2020, is especially bizarre.  Never has the entire world been battling a pandemic of such scope.  Never has the world been faced with economic upheaval of such depth as it battles this illness that destroys the basic ability to simply breath.  The scope of these tribulations are, for the faithful, intensified as the ancient practices of worship, community and support are under lockdown.  And it is vital to understand that even with those who may not share faith as we would, that their lives are just as difficult,  yet without the hope and assurance of faith, however perplexed it may be.

But again the fore-wisdom of the Holy Spirit in majestic compassion brings us the lesson for this time.  God recognizes our struggles, our perils.  God knows that many struggle for life itself.  God knows that many face hunger that have never known such need before in their life.  God does know and God is grieved.  And God also knows that for so many, even many who profess to follow Christ, that their faith has been strong.  But not in Christ.  For the faith of many has been placed in the gifts of God, instead of God the Provider.  Tragically, for many their faith is deeply rooted in…THINGS so they stockpile whatever they think they may need.  Or invested, alone, in science, technology and medicine as the savior for these troubled times, failing to recognize those gifts and disciplines are given by God for the good of all, not for the good of profit and power of the few.  Or their faith is in politics, in politicians, blindly trusting those who spew key words that will resolve their discernment without the help of God’s Holy Spirit.  And even for many who take great pride in their religion or their spirituality but disallowing any faith, any liturgy, different from their own.  Indeed God does know and is grieved this season of Easter, 2020.  And God sends the message, promise, power and hope of His divine, resurrection mercy rooted in the blood stained soil of the the Cross.  For as God knows God also sees beyond our sin to souls redeemed, set free…healed.

It is in the poignant story of doubting Thomas and Jesus we are given the way of God’s mercy that calls each of us, by name.  The risen Christ had appeared to the women who came to the grave.  Jesus appeared as well to the disciples always assuring and sharing His peace, His mercy.  Yet at the meeting with the disciples Thomas was unable to attend. So when he hears of Jesus coming to them he responds.  Thomas, ever pragmatic, honest, guileless, states that unless he sees the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus, unless he sees and can place his fingers into the wound in the side of Jesus he would not believe.  [It is profoundly important that we, like Thomas, share our doubts, needs with God.  But we, like Thomas, must be prepared and willing to allow God to answer!]. A week later Jesus again appears to His followers.  This time Thomas is present.  Jesus calls him, by name, to come to Him, doubts, fears, human reason..wounds and all, “Thomas, Come”!  Jesus calls  and as Thomas comes engulfed in longing, doubt, fear, hope he sees Jesus opening His robe.  Thomas sees the wound in the side of Jesus…an open scar of love that will never quit. Jesus gently tells his friend, I sense smiling deep in His heart, to place his fingers in His side…..and Believe.  The response of Thomas shares so much…”My Lord and my God”!

We all would do well to quietly read and listen to God’s voice proclaimed in the Scriptures this day.  But especially in the story of Thomas we are given holy seeds of mercy and hope that will not fail.

We must allow ourselves to enter into the wounds of mercy of Jesus.  As Thomas, wounded, struggling, came to Jesus he placed his fingers into God’s wounds.  So it is with us when, in the Spirit, we hear Jesus calling us each by name.  We come to Him.  Let us each place our fearful, wounded lives deep into the wounds of our Savior.  Has our journey been one of painful wandering and woundedness?  Let us place our wounds of our  journey into His feet who came seeking for us.  Is our work, our life crippled by the circumstances of all that is happening?  Let us, in faith come, and place in the hands of him who embraced, yes hammer and wood, but even more, the lost and rejected and in those scars made by the nails find our peace and healing…find God’s mercy.  Is our heart a mess of uncertainty, exhaustion, loneliness or doubt?  Like Thomas let us listen as Jesus call us, by name, knowing all that is in our heart and come to Him whose heart was pierced by hate’s cruel spear.  And in whose heart we find our home of holy, majestic eternal love.

This Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, we gather, in spirit, to allow the many past feasts of Christ’s Eucharistic Presence to sustain us and nourish the hope of mercy that will gather us at His table once again.  And we gather to allow Christ to call us  each, individually, together, to Him and in His mercy be made whole.   And to share in the ways God will bring, the mercy and peace of Christ that is greater than any need, disease or sin.




EASTER ~ 2020 ~ Christ IS Risen!


Easter 2020 ~ Christ IS Risen!

For most of the world this year there are no Easter gatherings to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  For Roman Catholic’s what is generally the longest and richest Mass of the liturgical year, the Easter Vigil of Saturday night,  will not be shared when, and how it normally would be.  There will be no lighting of the Easter fire, the new Paschal Candle, the proclaiming of the Exultet and the rich banquet of readings from Scripture.  Baptisms, Confirmations will all be postponed.  There will be no celebration of the Eucharistic Presence of our Risen Lord.  And likewise the Easter Sunday Masses in beautiful decorated churches will not be.  In many way it would seem Lent, 2020 is  extended in a peculiar way, for how long, God alone knows.

If our faith is in the ritual, the sacraments even, or in the traditions of church and family we will be deeply disappointed and for many, troubled.  For all of us it is a time of questioning, uncertainty and, prayerfully, growth.    We share, in many ways an Easter very much like the first Easter, in spirit and opportunity.

The first Easter saw the early Christian followers of Jesus overwhelmed by events they would never have imagined.  Their faith, their relationship with Jesus had seemingly been destroyed by the dark virus of sin and death. An infection of hate, doubt and fear was rampant and He who had promised so much was…buried in a tomb.  The disciples, in the isolation of their souls struggled to make sense of all that was happening, of what they were supposed to do.  And it is in the simple lives and faith of those first Christians we are given the ways to celebrate Easter, celebrate Jesus, perhaps in ways we never have before.  For He IS risen!

Walking with the early disciples that first Easter we observe lessons they were unaware of in that troubled time.  Much like we are as we press on through our storms and challenges.

We join Mary Magdalene, with other women of loving faith, coming to the sealed tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus properly for his death.  They come in deep sorrow, fear, and even an even deeper resolve of love for He who had accepted each of them for who they were and freed them to become the women He had created and redeemed them to be.  Mary, the others, had no idea how they would open the tomb. They only knew, Jesus had died. He must be tended as He deserved.  They come to the tomb.  It is open!    Then they hear a voice.  And the majestic angel of God tells them:  “Do not be afraid!  I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for He has been raised from the dead…”  The angel then calls them to look in the empty tomb and go tell Peter and the other disciples.

The women run and tell Peter and the others what they have witnessed.  Their joy tangled in cords of fear and uncertainty shrouds their souls where before they had only the dark garments of mourning and despair.  Peter with John, the Beloved, run to the tomb!  Confused!  Frightened!  Hopeful!  John, the Beloved outruns Peter and gets to the tomb first.  In hesitant hope he peeks into the obscure Truth of God.  Peter arrives and in his bold uncertainty steps into the tomb and sees…Jesus is gone!  Neither men understand.

We know of course the rest of the powerful Gospel accounts of our Risen Lord.  The disciples would be on great tides of hope and faith …of fear and doubt.  None of this would make sense.  But as they continued with their Risen Lord they would come to grow into the Truth of Christ, crucified and Risen from the dead.  Their love and faith, with their Risen Lord would be resurrected and they would grow to love Him as never before.

That first Easter season saw the disciples journey a very difficult path.  From the early stumbling steps of soul-crushing disappointment, doubt and fear they would persist in seeking their Love, their Lord, their Savior.  From the empty tomb they would continue in stumbling steps of faith, obedience, renewal and resurrection joy as their relationship with God was re-born beyond their greatest dreams.  Each of them ran at different speeds.  They took steps of faith in diverse ways and times.  They witnessed the resurrection power of Jesus and His holy angels in different ways and places. Their journeys, while leading to God, were not always the same.   But, individually, they, together, sought their Love, their God…Jesus.

Easter 2020, an Easter unlike any other for most people.  But not for He who has conquered sin, death, doubt and fear.  Jesus IS Risen.  May we each come to the empty tomb.  May we allow our angels to guide and lead us in the way of hope and Truth that is God.  And may we allow the Risen Jesus to lead us through any challenges we may face to press on in faith and love to behold His face, His smile as to His healing embrace our wounded world can come.



Resurrection Heart

The Cyber-version of my homily for Easter Sunday
Readings for Easter Sunday Mass: I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps: 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23; II: Col. 3:1-4; Gospel: John 20:1-9

“They did not yet understand the Scriptures that He had to rise from the dead…”

The closing words of John’s Gospel account of the resurrection told how the disciples who came that Easter morning did not yet get that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead. Would those words apply to us today? Over 2000 years we still not get it?
For we share the same peril that the Jews, Romans and even the disciples faced in those intense days in Jerusalem. But while facing the same perils we also have the same hope and promise of knowing Jesus is indeed risen from the dead.

Understanding and reason had failed.
The Jewish hierarchy could not let go their pride and fear that held them enslaved to their education, their status and their sense of control. They could only see Jesus as the poor son of a carpenter, born of very unclear circumstances. This self-centered vision crippled their ability to see Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, their Messiah.
The Romans, slaves to their assumptions of power, pride and might could not find the strength of heart to reach out to the true King of Kings and Savior of the world.
The disciples, who had followed Jesus in growing faith and unsure understanding had found their hopes dashed, overcome by the cruelty this world would bring.

So, on that first Easter morning they came, Mary Magdalene, in mourning came to attend the body of Jesus more properly for burial. Thinking to come to the tomb sealed by her understanding, she came instead to enter into God’s Resurrection Heart.

Following the words of her Lord she went to Peter and John telling them, not what she understood, but what she had experienced in God. Peter and John ran to the tomb. Peter with his heart torn by his threefold denial, gasping for breath as he sought his Lord. John, the Beloved could not run fast enough..dare he hope that his beloved Jesus could be alive? Coming to the tomb, John looks in, Peter catching up brushes aside and enters, John follows. As they enter the tomb where understanding and reason fail us..they entered into the God’s resurrection heart.

Today, we come. Perhaps like Mary Magdalene we come seeking closure on seeming losses and failure. Maybe we are like Peter, struggling with the a soul burdened with known denial and fear of following in His steps. Or perhaps like John with hearts broken yet racing with a hope that refuses to die..not understanding but knowing the call of His love.

200o years later we are now the people of the Easter story. Do we hide in our fears, pride, sense of control and status? We hear of this Jesus, this resurrection but our understanding is bound, locked in the our self. Or are we going to follow in the steps of the courageous women and men who dared to come, with all their human frailties and dare enter into the heart of the resurrection, the very sacred heart of God’s love.

The hope, the promise has not changed. We can know as did Mary, as did John and Peter the love of Christ calling us beyond our selves into His holy, healing love that will raise us up to believe and then to understand…..He is risen, Alleluia.

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