Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.



Conversation Renewed, A Lenten Journey

8th Sunday or Ordinary Time ~ 27 February 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Sirach 27: 4-7; Responsorial: Psalm 92; II: I Corinthians 15: 54-58; Gospel: Luke 6: 39-45

Springs of Living Water (Photo source unknown)

In our world this week we are witnessing, in powerfully tragic ways, what can be called a failure to communicate. The people and the land of Ukraine are being invaded by forces under the direction and control of Vladimir Putin. In spite of fervent efforts to talk, to listen, to converse the Russian leadership has refused to communicate except on its terms of surrender to the will of the Kremlin oligarchy. What could have been powerful examples of conversation leading to wellsprings of mutual understanding and reconciliation have turned, instead into fetid pools of brackish water spoiled by the blood and waste of war and greed. This dynamic is, sadly far too common in our world, in the church, in our homes, and hearts in varying degrees.

The pollution and destruction of our communications are not new. The wisdom of many ancient faiths teaches the need for the watchful care and renewal of our conversations. The holy Word of God to which we are called to listen this Sunday would speak of this call to awareness and renewal of our conversations.

Our reading from the precious Old Testament book of Sirach speaks of how afflictions are like a sieve of life that shakes and separates that which is good from the husks of the world. It proceeds to remind us how “one’s speech discloses the bent of one’s mind.”

Our beautiful responsorial psalm acclaims how good, how powerful, how needed is our giving thanks to God. Yet, like many who have gone on before we often sing more disharmonic noise of complaint than we would of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Our second reading, from the epistle of I Corinthians, might seem out of place. Yet as the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, tells us this is our work, to proclaim, to witness to the life-giving waters of the resurrection of Christ. And it brings us to the message of Jesus we hear in the Gospel as we continue to hear from the Sermon on the Plain.

Jesus challenges his followers to pay careful heed to what is flowing from our lives and our mouths. He uses the analogy of a plant and the fruit it bears. We would not look for figs from the star thistle. We would not plant redwood trees if we were looking to harvest grapes. Yet in life, so often, we are tempted to expect beautiful roses from noisome mindless chatter. Our world has become addicted to talk, and increasingly it is not real but virtual. There are now so many ways to share what we are thinking, often in response to some political, social, or religious issue that has pushed our buttons. We are well focused on screens and keyboards but to truly focus, to converse, person-to-person, looking to each other in genuine active listening is becoming the exception. This brings us, as Jesus teaches to share from our hearts, our souls, our minds, from whatever is filling our world or our being. We need to allow Christ to renew within our lives the truth that we all are infinitely more than a brief sentence or a sound bite. We need to allow God to renew the grace and gift of conversation, the grace of active listening, and care-filled speaking.

Ash Wednesday ~ Lent Begins (photo source unknown)

This coming Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday. We are (I hope) praying, seeking God’s guidance of what to “give up” for Lent. More fully I hope we are seeking what “to do” for Lent, for God. The renewed consecration of our conversations (real, virtual, imagined) offer a powerful opportunity for us to grow closer to God, and each other as we consecrate our listening and our speaking to the Holy Spirit. Lent, this year, also shares the opportunity given us in the Synod of the Church, a call to listen and hear, to speak from our hearts the concerns, wounds, hopes, and faith we are called to share. What may seem an impossible task can really become a simple way of living and sharing our lives, our faith.

God calls us to Listen… to Him and each other. The old saying that we have two ears and one mouth has vital merit. We are created with a need to listen. We have witnessed that when someone is hearing impaired their ability to speak clearly, freely is usually impaired as well. Let’s be honest. We are all hearing impaired. We may be deaf to those with whom we consider different or less than what we might judge them to be. How hard is it for us to listen to an homeless individual who perhaps has not had a shower or fresh clothes to wear for weeks or months? How actively, openly do we listen to a soul whose faith, or religion does not meet our criteria of orthodoxy? How gently do we listen to a loved one who perhaps finds people of their gender attractive? These human examples can be indications of our hearing problems with God. Is our prayer life a litany of prayers and petitions (with some thanksgiving of course) done as quickly as possible? Does the Biblical command to “be still and know I AM God” sound ok but it’s hard to actually do? Do we fear listening to God may cause us to hear stuff about us that needs repentance? Encouragement? Do we avoid listening to God as a teenage child avoids listening to their parents? But it is in listening we grow, we learn, we come to places where God (and others) can help us become that person God has created us to be. We also become empowered to speak with insight, empathy, and wisdom from God and each other.

God calls us to talk… with Him and each other. God calls us to talk…WITH not AT Him or each other. We all have experienced those talks, those conversations where we realize something has happened. In prayer, some Christians would call this “praying through”, where our prayer is a rich dialogue between God and our soul. There is an infusion and awareness of God’s grace and love that liberates us to want to be in the Presence of He who carried the cross for us. We are brought a place of the soul where we want to share what is going on in our lives and to…listen to God.

The same occurs with each other when we are willing to un-stop our hearts, our minds, our ears, and listen to what is really going on in the life of another person. We can’t hide behind a screen or keyboard. We can’t hide behind our ignorance, fears, or prejudices. We start to see and hear the person for who they are, who WE are, with God. We are then empowered, step-by-step, to start conversing, talking, sharing the things that matter, or simply the peaceful silence with God. We a freed to share the journey of faith with God.

Together…Listening, speaking with God and each other. (Photo source unknown)

As we begin this season of Lent on Ash Wednesday may we, together, share in the work of the Synod of the Catholic Church ( walking together Listening to and speaking our witness of God.

As a special Lenten devotion we will be sharing a weekly devotion of Holy Listening and Speaking.

For Ash Wednesday, beginning of Lent:

  1. LISTEN: Be Still and Know I AM God (Psalm 46:10): Listen, silently, to God, before the Blessed Sacrament or a crucifix.

2). SPEAK: Share, with one person, a Lenten hope God has given you and listen to their hope.

The Story of a Soul ~ Nicodemus


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.”


With You, Jesus


“Go forth and I will bless you.” God called to Abram. Abram would go with God to find the promised land, to discover his real identity…Abraham, father of the the faithful.
“Jesus led them up a high mountain…” Peter, James and John would go with Jesus to experience the Mount of Transfiguration; a mountain top experience that would help them journey to another mount of even greater promise and power.
“He saves us and calls us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to His design.” We hear St. Paul’s words affirming we each, too, called to be with our Lord. But…

Where are we going? As individuals? As family? As a parish?

With You, Jesus… Called to His Promise “The Lord is true to His sacred promise; He led His people to freedom and joy.” As God called and led Abram and his family, so Jesus calls to each of us to be with Him, to follow, to know, His promises… of mercy, healing freedom. To experience and share the Kingdom of Heaven now and for all eternity, with You, Jesus.

With You, Jesus… Called to His Presence. The Mount of Transfiguration teaches we must never be content with our understanding, relationship, vision of Christ. There is such infinite power and grandeur, beauty and mercy, truth and justice in, with God. And God calls name to be..His. He call us to experience the power of the Almighty in the paradox of His, as John the Beloved, listen to the very heartbeat of God and be led to the Eucharistic, the Real Presence of our Lord. And are brought To be..With You, Jesus.

With You, Jesus…Called to the Cross. It was from the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus would lead the disciples to learn of the other mount they would be called to climb. Well might our plans and works be interrupted by Jesus’s call to us to take up our cross. And beside our own it may be, like Simon to help carry the cross of another in their trials or sorrows. But it is in each step, each station of our cross we discover we are not alone. We find..Jesus with us.

Where are we going?
With You, Jesus… called to Your promise!
With You, Jesus, called to Your Presence!
With You Jesus, called to the cross
and the joy and freedom of Your resurrection Presence!

Homily 2nd Sunday of Lent ~ 12 March 2017

Lent ~ Discoveries of Prayer

Second Sunday of Lent
16 March 2014
Homily ~ Cyber Version

Lent ~ Discoveries of Prayer

How many of us, during the day or before coming into the church checked to see if there was any emails or text messages that perhaps we were expecting?   We are a people who have come to expect others to be messaging us, in some shape or form.

Now, how many of us, during the week, or perhaps coming to Mass, walking into the church expect to hear from God?  Maybe we think God is too busy.   Maybe we think God has no need or great desire to speak to me.  Or perhaps we are afraid of what God may ask or speak about.  Are we afraid of those discoveries to be made in prayer.

God does long to speak to our hearts and lives.   Christ, present in the readings of Scripture this day clearly expresses accounts and examples of how, this powerful season of Lent, we can grow in discoveries of prayer, of God, of ourselves.

Prayer ~ Talking to God: 
For many we understand prayer as “saying our prayers”, i.e., talking to God.  With faith and blessing we say the rosary, the Our Father, or the Stations of the Cross.  We tell God of our needs and hopefully our thanksgivings.  In our    Gospel reading we see Peter, James and John taken by our Lord, to the Mount of Transfiguration.  There Peter seems to understand this is a time and place for prayer.  And he starts talking, a lot.  Our Heavenly Father, hearing Peter’s chatter, interrupts.   This brings us to ask..does God need to interrupt our prayers to get a word in edgewise?  It shows us what we miss by failing to listen, by not watching…Him.  How often do we come to a moment, time or place of prayer, rattle off what our intentions are and then rush on without really looking to God or hearing a reply?

Prayer ~ Watching & Listening:  We are, as disciples of Christ are called to follow Him.  To watch and listen, to His way, His Will,  His purposes.  We see this relationship illustrated in the roles acted out in such dramas as Downtown Abbey.  The footmen, the butler, ladies maids are all and always attentive to their masters.  They tend to their tasks often with no verbal direction from their lord and his household.   They watch and they listen.   Sadly in our prayer life we miss this grace, profoundly and often tragically.
In our Old Testament reading we witness God speaking to Abram, telling him to follow His guidance to the promised land.  In that era of primitive faith Abram knew how, knew and listen for God.  Times have changed. God has not.  As it was in Abram’s day, as it was that day on the Mount of Transfiguration, God yearns for our attention.  And it is in that faith, the listening in the silence that we learn to hear God speaking, in the Scriptures, in creation, in and through the fullness of His Eucharistic Body and His Body of we we are.

Prayer ~ Responding to God: 
It is as we seek to watch and listen, as we share our hearts  of hope or wounds that Jesus calls us to respond to Him.   God the Father, speaking in the cloud clearly spoke to the disciples, “Listen To Him”. The first words Jesus spoke after that command were simple and clear:  “Rise and do not be afraid”.  As God called the early disciples to rise from their fears, as God called Abram to rise from his earthly securities so God calls each of us, to rise, from our fears and follow Him to discover the promises of His Kingdom,  this season of Lent and for all eternity.
It is in our watching and listening that the response of our lives becomes the real Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Ashes placed upon the forehead,
mark the time of Lent begun.
Ashes placed upon the forehead,
Are the sign of penances sung.

From deep within our heart.
may we heed the call,
from our sins to turn away.
and in His Love find our all.

May we hear and heed
God’s Gospel to believe.
May His truth in mercy
sow redemption’s seed.

May we grow beyond,
these forty days of counting,
of things given up,
for our Lenten accounting.

May we grow to know,
freedom real and lasting
in the Crucified Lord’s
embrace of love unsurpassing.

And in His Wounds of love,
Our wounds of life to bare.
May His Cross point the way,
To His Easter Light to share.

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