Search

Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.

Category

Uncategorized

Where Do We Belong?

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 3 July 2022 – Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 66:10-14; Responsorial: Psalm 66; II: Galations 6: 14-18; Gospel: Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

Declaration of Independence ~ Artist Evie Cook

It is Independence Day weekend. Monday, July 4th we will celebrate 246 years as the United States of America. Although in the annals of history the United States is very young the brief centuries have brought an intense history integrated within eras of change that have transformed the world in ways never imagined. For some the United States is thought to have been a Christian nation. While distinct Christian beliefs were a part of some of our founders it is necessary to note the popular forces of humanism were also very much embraced by some of our early leaders. Yet this is one of the significant gifts of this nation, our diverse and ever-changing personality. Now in our present time we see an America were there is upheaval and stress as people struggle to make their perceptions of America the norm. Yet we also see many seeking, struggling to simply know… where do we belong? The birth of this nation followed the course of all births. It was conflicted, intense, painful and at times seemed without end. The issues, the discussions about our national challenges is for another place and time. But they remind us that for each of us the question has even greater significance. And as always the light of God’s Word helps us see this quest of belonging is not only about nationalities, lands and peoples. The quest of belonging is a quest to which we are called by God that we each may know to where, to whom we belong.

The reading from the Old Testament comes from the concluding chapter of the book of Isaiah. The prophet of God had shared a mission and message calling the people of Israel and especially Jerusalem to turn away from the powers of this world, of darkness and be faithful in their journey with God. The message to and for Jerusalem then and the new Jerusalem now was a call to trust God and experience the truth of who they were and where they belong.This last chapter is a glorious affirmation that the power and graces of God would prevail.

The New Jerusalem ~ The Church ~ The People of God (Artist unknown)

The quest of seeking where and to whom we belong is further explored in our second reading from Galatians and the Gospel. It is in the Gospel we read of Jesus sending forth the 72 disciples, in pairs to proclaim the Kingdom of God is at hand. This lesson of holy love shares the power of the peace of God they proclaimed to those to whom they were sent. People were healed, delivered from demonic darkness and brought into a relationship with God. The Messiah shares the vision He has of Satan falling from the sky as he instills in the disciples the power to prevail against the evil forces they would encounter. This again illustrates how this quest of belonging is not easy but may be fraught with battles and difficulties beyond our human resources. St. Paul would later write of this spiritual warfare in the letter to the Ephesians. And as he writes we are reminded that in the Holy Spirit we have every weapon and grace needed to prevail. Paul approaches this Christian reality in our reading from the letter to the Galatians.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” This rule of Paul provides us with both our way and promise in our quest to know where we belong. The way of the cross is the way of greatest power over the forces of darkness that would seek to rob us of our holy destiny. For it is in the cross we share with our Lord we best experience His redeeming peace. It is in His cross we find His Body, broken to make us whole and His holy blood shed to cleanse and us and bring us life. It is at the cross we immerse ourselves in the waters of baptism where we join Jesus in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. It is in and with the cross that together, in the Holy Spirit the lies of darkness are quenched and the truth that makes us free is proclaimed. This all happens at the cross, daily as we seek to follow Christ. And it is in our liturgy, our shared worship as the community of faith we best find and learn of this holy place, our home. And it is especially at Mass, called together by Christ to His holy table that we learn, share and help each other in our shared journey. And it is at the cross, with our Savior we discover where we belong. We discover and rejoice our names are written in heaven.

About Life – The Path to Which We are Called

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 26 June 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: I Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Responsorial: Psalm 16; II: Galatians 5: 1, 13-18; Gospel: Luke 9: 51-62

“You will show me the path of life…” Psalm 16:11. [ Getty Image]

It is the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time. But our times are anything but ordinary. The decision by the United States Supreme Court this week that overturns the earlier decision of Roe v. Wade is a major blessed step in the struggle to protect the life of the unborn child. But it is only one step in the struggle to protect life, of the unborn but also the frail, disabled, and elderly. The battle against gun violence, poverty and greed that robs millions of lives continues on many fronts and in many lands.

But it is especially here in the United States this battle for life has intensified. The pro-choice/pro-abortion people are aghast at this decision and are sure to be passionately vocal and active in their protests.

Those who support this decision, those of us who see abortion as a killing of an unborn child and harmful of women, families and society are jubilant. It has been an arduous struggle. And the cause of jubilation is in many ways well-earned. By the mercy and grace of God. But as followers of Christ, the Lord of Life we need to respond in humility. We need to recognize that there are tragic contradictions and failures by pro-life forces that dismiss or minimize gun violence, poverty, health care and destruction of life in creation. This has damaged our witness for our Savior and Lord of Life.

These developments bring us to our Bible readings for Mass this Sunday. There is a beautiful and strong chorus of holy love that proclaims the message of following our Lord. The Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, calls us to know and respond to God leading us in the path of LIFE which He promises to show us. We could easily jump on this message to unreservedly follow our Lord and work for pro-life causes with renewed fervor. And that would be good. IF we realize this call by Christ is about so much more than specific social ills.

We are, as Christians, called to seek and follow Jesus in the paths of life for Him, for His Kingdom of Life. In our Gospel reading Jesus challenges His disciples (and each of us) to follow Him. He challenged them (and us) to lose the baggage we carry that hinders us from following God faithfully. Jesus hears the excuses we share and, in His holy redeeming love He calls us to let go and simply follow Him.

This applies in our personal discipleship. Daily in many profound ways the Spirit of God calls us to be free from our excuses and embrace the Truth that sets us free., to embrace and follow Jesus.

This week has brought us to a experience a new and more powerful YES! to Jesus. We are called to follow Him freely. But we must realize that as St. Paul shared with the Church in Galatia, in our Epistle, that this means we are to live, BY THE SPIRIT in a redeeming love of our neighbor and our fellow disciples. This would bring us to to realize this applies to all our neighbors, not just with those who happen to agree with us.

In the example of Christ in our Gospel we must understand this means loving even those who we may think we should be able to call down fire from heaven to consume. Instead of calling down fire from heaven we must call down the fire of God’s Holy Spirit to empower us to:

LISTEN in the wisdom and mercy of God. Great are the wounds, the fears, the angst many are filled with in our world as the enemy of our soul spews forth the lies that enflame hate and division. Our task is to be alert to these cries, these wounds and listen and respond in the compassion of God. Just as God listens to us.

To SPEAK the WORDS of LIFE Christ would have us proclaim. So many words are pouring forth both in horror and in jubilation of the events in our country this week. Now, more than ever, as we LISTEN we need to heed, prayerfully as to whether our words are filled with… humility, compassion, with LIFE. Many fear that their control of life is lost. That their ability to choose what they may believe is best is destroyed. Great is the false gospel of being in charge. Great is the twisting of the God-given freedom of our free will by the enemy of our soul. God indeed, and in truth created us, calls us to..choose Life. May our words, immersed in the Comforter, bring the Truth of the Life to which we each are called.

To LIVE in the HOLY SPIRIT ~ THE COMFORTER. To daily listen and speak the Word of life, who is Christ is impossible. I repeat it is impossible for any of us to live, to speak, as we are redeemed and called to live… without the power and Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Immense are the perils and challenges Christians face today. But greater, infinitely greater, is the God of Life we are called to follow. May these times in which we live bring us to discover, anew the path of life of which the Psalmist sang and which the Holy Spirit bids us seek. May we grow and share the abundant life of Jesus with each other, with all our neighbors.

Set Free to Live

EUCHARISTIC REVIVAL ~ What? Who ? is in your Tabernacle?

The Most Sacred Body and Blood of Christ ~ Solemnity, 19 June 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Genesis14: 18-20; Responsorial: Psalm 110; II: I Corinthians 11: 23-26; Gospel: Luke 9: 1 – 17

Empty ~ abandoned Tabernacle

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Today also brings the start of the National Eucharistic Revival. This will be a year-plus long celebration and mission to nurture a deep revival within the Church of the faith and realization of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This mission will culminate in a Eucharistic Congress to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 17 – 21, 2024. The need for this renewal is evidenced by the weariness and wounds so deeply present among the faithful and among those seeing their faith weaken or becoming dormant. We all need to pray and devote ourselves to this opportunity and need of God’s holy grace found, truly in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Present in the consecrated Host and Sacred Blood.

True, deep, heartfelt reverence and faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is urgently needed in Catholics. This same faith and awareness is also longed for, by God, for all Christians. The lack of devotion, prayer and reverence for Jesus, for God, is a wound many parishes face. It is a reality that even the most faithful must confess and seek the mercy of God to heal. The moment in the Liturgy of the Eucharist when the Holy Spirit is invoked to change the simple bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ, known as the epiclesis, is a moment of profound holy grace in our worship of God.

The Epiclesis

This holy moment culminates in the Eucharistic Prayer, after the elevation of Jesus’s Sacred Body and the Chalice with His Blood at the great doxology the brings us to the Rite of Holy Communion. Those few words so clearly express the purpose and power of Jesus as he calls us each, and together, to receive Him and:

Through him, and with him and in him,

O God, almighty Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

all glory and honor is yours,

for ever and ever. Amen.

These Words, rooted in the prayer of Jesus from the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John challenge us each to ask what, or more accurately WHO dwells in our Tabernacle, in our parish? And in our heart?

There is much being said in the Church about the Eucharist. Many lament (with legitimacy) the lack of true faith and reverence for Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Many are concerned with the reverent and faithful receiving of the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. The referring to the words of St. Paul from our epistle today calls us to know we need to receive Jesus worthily! And to do so with great, mortal sin, is wrong in the deepest of ways. This has caused ,some to form what would essentially be the Communion police. Looking for and deciding who among us should not be given Communion at Mass. This has developed into a great debate that has caused much bitter fruit of division and strife. This sorrow would be resolved if, when, we heed the Holy Spirit inspired words of St. Paul to the church struggling with many problems. The context of our epistle today teaches, clearly that each of us is indeed called to examine…ourself! The judging and policing of others is a matter of great importance. It is something to which we would do well to follow the example and words of Christ Himself on the night He gave us His Holy Body and Blood, when the Lord’s Supper was given. That first Eucharist was a gathering of the disciples of our Lord who were, spiritually, in their faith mostly confused, doubting and afraid. None present are shown as having a full and perfect acceptance of the teachings and Truth about Jesus. Of the Apostles of Christ one would soon betray Him to death. All the other, except one would flee and deny Him in His Passion. But Jesus gave them each Holy Communion. Jesus knew the strength they would need. Jesus alone knew their hearts. And His love for them.

The First Eucharist ~ Artist: J. Tissot

This brings us back to the Eucharistic Revival so needed in the Church. Our faith, our realization of the Real Presence of Jesus, of God is so needed. Great is the call of God, of the holy angels and saints to awaken to WHO is in the Tabernacle, WHO it is we are called to receive in Communion. But this revival of our faith must include a full and growing awakening. To simply affirm or deepen an old catechism or some devout practices or pious prayers, to plunge into liturgies of the past without accepting God is the great “I AM” of the Present would be to deny a growing faith in Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. We must allow that God brings us to grow beyond our perceptions of language, dress and liturgical practices. He calls us each, together to grow with Him, in Him and through Him.

This brings us to a necessity that some may ignore or defer in our needed Eucharistic Revival. To believe and realize God’s Real Presence, not only in the consecrated Host but also in His people. We are called by God to revere and celebrate His Body and Blood, in the Eucharistic Meal and holy Tabernacle. And, in His living tabernacles and temples, His Body, the entire people of God. It is as we receive and grow in Christ, through the Eucharist we grow in the Truth of who it is God created and redeemed us to be. This shared journey is a common-union the disciples of Jesus are called to share. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his epistle, Sacrament of Charity [Sacramentum Caritatis]:

“In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God’s image
and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way. In this
sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and
freedom. Since only the truth can make us free (cf. John 8:32), Christ becomes for us the
food of truth.”

-Pope Benedict XVI (Sacrament of Charity, 2007)

God meets us, at His holy altar, to Him, to where we need to be. It is there we truly discover the eternal passion of God’s love, where we discover and experience true and full Eucharistic Revival.

The Real Presence of Jesus in a Monstrance

The Holy Trinity’s Call

The Most Holy Trinity ~ Solemnity ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Proverbs 8: 22-31; Responsorial: Psalm 8; I: Romans 5: 1-5; Gospel: John 16: 12-15

“The Holy TrinityEngraving by Adrian Ludwig Richter (September 28, 1803 aa June 19, 1884), a German painter and etcher. Photographed and edited by J. C. Rosemann.”

The Most Holy Trinity is deeply holy and mystical solemnity that we are called to share in the church this Sunday. One God, three persons, distinct, equal and One. Great minds and holy souls have sought to understand and explain God whom we worship and love.

The simple mind and little faith of this writer will not even attempt to teach or explain this great mystery. I can only share what I have experienced from my over fifty years of seeking to follow God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As a young man with no real religious education on matters of faith I was extraordinarily ignorant of things pertaining to soul and spirit. Yet God’s mercy sought, as God seeks us all, me. What began in the Redwood forests of northern California continues to this day.

In our short Gospel reading we can hear Jesus teaching us of the coming of the Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father to teach and guide us into all truth. And, in holy joyous deed the Spirit of God quietly yet dynamically works to bring us each closer, deeper into the eternal embrace of our Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus.

I was introduced to God, to my Savior through the faithful, gentle and, stubbornly persistent witness of a co-worker in the state park where I lived and worked. As my faith journey began I realized many would be the questions and very few would be the answers I had. As I learned to pray and ponder this exciting mystery I struggled to understand. And the mystery of the Holy Trinity was an early source of great wonderings. But one Spring day as I worked and hiked the trails of my responsibilities I saw something.

Forest trilliums in spring bloom. [photo source unknown]

Trilliums were a familiar plant friend among the cool moist floor of the Redwoods. I knew them well and appreciated their beauty. But as I saw them that day they witnessed to me of our common Creator. As their name implies their three fold leaves with the beautiful three-petal flower would become an early lesson from the gospel of Creation. One flower, one plant, three part…but…One. From the soil of the forest floor my heart was introduced to God, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. As promised in our reading from the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit was leading me into Him who is Truth.

The lessons continued and continue to this day. I would meet the Blessed Holy Three in One in the storms and challenges of work and life again. Water, in which I would be baptized, In the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was another holy lesson in which I would be immersed. Water, H2O, is easy to understand. Or is it? What is the seeming magical power of this simple formula that can quench our thirst like nothing else? How does the sound of a flowing stream or crashing waves move our souls, to rest or to grow? Water, one, yet found in three forms. Frozen, liquid or vapor, yet all and each…water. It is also water that reveals to us the hidden beauty of light as it refracts light beams into the rainbow of promise found only in God.

California Coastal Rainbow [From: johnwise.com]

Depending where we are in life our understanding of these things will vary. Some can explain water, or lecture on the trillium in botanical detail. Many of us may have but limited knowledge. But every human soul, regardless of our intellect, education, faith or place in life can and will relate to each of these gifts of creation given by God. And each one of us is created and called by God, not to just try to understand but relate to God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That relationship to God is AWOKEN through the Holy Spirit who brings us to be immersed in the waters of baptism. We then are called to grow in REALIZING God in and through or lives. This will bear the fruit of our WITNESS for the fullness of who is God.

AWAKEN ~ Life at times can be very wearisome, if not exhausting. Our need for rest and renewal is designed within our body, soul, and spirit. The Trilliums of Spring need a long season of dormancy in the dry and warmer days of summer and early Fall. Sometimes we may feel stuck in our places or times of being dormant. But in God’s season His angels call us: Awaken! Be! Become! That person whom God created and calls you to be be! We must allow the seasons of holy darkness and even perhaps the sense of being buried or forgotten. There are times when we must renew, in spirit our drenching in baptism’s holy waters. It is to awake from our sleep to new and holy graces of God the Father, the forgiveness in His Son and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

REALIZE ~ God! Most of us are not called to be great academics or leaders of intellectual spirituality. But each of us is called, by Him who walks with us, to realize God in and through our lives. When I encountered my simple lesson of the Trilliums I did so while trudging a trail I walked numerous times a day. My day-to-day work required those steps. But God was leading. And when, where the time was best God allowed me to realize His holy Presence anew. So it is with each of us. Every day of our life, as we awaken to being with God we should anticipate the Father’s love, Jesus’s merciful call and the Holy Spirit’s whisper of hope and Truth.

WITNESS of God ~. One cannot encounter the cold waters of a swim or the warm flow of a cleansing shower without witness to the experience. And our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the same. When anything in life is experienced we will respond and we will witness, good, bad or indifferent to what we have encountered. This brings us to ask ourselves, what is our witness of God? If we experience a restaurant where the service is poor and the food is lacking in quality and the prices are high will our witness to the eatery likely bring others in? if our relationship with God is lacking in service, if the meal offered by our Lord is not what we might want, if the cost seems too high what will our witness to God be?

If our witness is lacking for God it is not because of God. The Father gives us His best, His Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit the Holy Trinity seeks us to come and be, come and become who we are created and redeemed to be. What holy surprises await? What untold graces of God’s love seek to awaken us, to be realized in ways far greater than our hopes and need to be witnessed to, in the Name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit?

Celtic Abbey [photo source unknown]

“O Father who sought me, O Son who who bought me, O Holy Spirit who taught me.” ~ Douglas Hyde, Songs of Connacht, Volume II

Pentecost – Immersed in God

Pentecost Sunday ~ 5 June 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass of the Day: I: Acts 2:1-11; Responsorial: Psalm 104; II: I Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Romans 8: 8-17; Gospel: John 14: 15-16, 23b-26. or John 20:19-23

St. Peter’s Basillica

Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus is a feast of the great promises and power of God indwelling the faithful. The word soon to be used by the Church is “baptized”, or immersed in to promises and power, the Presence of God.

It is a Catholic tradition to focus on images of Pentecost wherein Mary, the mother of our Lord, with the Apostles are the recipients of the outpouring of God that first Pentecost. It comes from the Book of Acts that shares: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” [Acts 1: 14] This last direct New Testament reference to Mary is a beautiful image of she who brings the Gospel story, filled with the Holy Spirit. And who now brings the story of the birth of her Son’s Church… seeking the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of Mary in the actual account of the day of Pentecost. It is presumed she was present, with the other women as the Apostles and the other disciples waited for God’s promise. The Apostles and Mary were undoubtedly seekers of and special recipients of the immersion in the Spirit of God that holy day. But it is also very evident that the promise and power of Pentecost was and is fully intended by God to immerse all the faithful in the work and holy love of the Kingdom of Christ.

The symbolic images of fire and wind on that first Pentecost would remind us of the passion and force of Christ in His redemptive mercy and passion, death and conquest of sin, death, and evil. This liberating Truth is our own immersion personally but also to be shared in and through our lives. It is no coincidence that the other major image of the power and Presence of the Spirit of God is the gift of tongues. While that phrase can both bless or intimidate hearers it is a message of the necessity of the Paraclete to immerse our message and words in the holy healing grace of God.

Our world, the people of God (the Church) are in urgent of a fresh outpouring and immersion into the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Great is the need for the faithful to focus in our call to seek and glorify God and not the distracting tangents of this world. Great is the longing of Jesus for us all to know the consecrating fire of His holy love in, and through our lives.

The Feast of Pentecost has a gem within the liturgy that may, or may not be shared during Mass, (it comes just prior to the Gospel). Known as The Sequence, Veni Sancte Spriitus, Come O Holy Spirit has been a part of the Church for centuries. It is a prayer for our hearts, our families and for God’s Church. Let us all carefully listen, reflect and prayer: “Veni Sancte Spiritus, Come, O Holy Spirit, Come!”

The Ascension of Jesus and Worldly Realities

Solemnity of the Ascension ~ Sunday 29 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 7: 55-60; Responsorial: Psalm 97; II: Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20; Gospel: John 17: 20-26

The Ascension

Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Celebrated forty days after Easter it culminates the Easter season and anticipates the Feast of Pentecost. It may seem like a bridge of sorts between these two other great springtime events of our Christian faith. But it is so much more.

The Ascension is the earthly conclusion of the incarnational Presence and ministry of Jesus, Son of God, and Son of Man. It thus gives us a profound lesson and illustration of surmounting the often harsh realities of this world and our heavenly hope and home.

That we live in a world wounded and scarred by the realities of sin and evil we need no reminder. Our faith and families daily face challenges of health, economic distress, and news of violence and wars. We cannot afford to be so delusional as to pretend these realities do not exist. We humbly need to confront them and see these struggles with the faith, courage and hope deeply rooted in God and His mercy and forgiveness. It is precisely for this witness of our Christian hope and the redemptive love of God that the Holy Spirit has placed us in our days to live and proclaim.

It was on the day Jesus ascended that the struggling, fearful disciples were gathered by Christ. He reminded them that they (and us), were to be His witnesses throughout this troubled world. They did not realize or understand, as they watched in awe as He rose into the clouds returning to His heavenly home. They knew, intimately the sorrows and wounds of the world. The promise, power, and purpose of His ascension were just starting to be revealed. For them and for us. But the angels reminded the disciples that while they looked heavenward they were called to follow and serve God on their earthly journey.

Ascension Promise: With the physical ascension of the resurrected Jesus the promises of eternal mercy and our heavenly destination were affirmed. From and through the harsh storms of this world God promises to bring home all who will trust and seek to follow Jesus, crucified, risen, and ascended. The reading from the Book of Acts illustrates this point with poignant clarity. As Stephen is facing martyrdom for his faithful courage in sharing Christ his pained eyes were opened to see the reality beyond his being stoned. He saw the heavens opened and his Lord waiting for him. In that eternal truth, Stephen was able to see God’s promise and seek that those who were killing him would be forgiven. The Ascension experience of the promises and mercies of God was instrumental in the conversion of Stephen’s persecutor, Saul, and his subsequently becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Ascension Power: The account of the martyrdom of Stephen illustrated the profound transformation of the disciples from a fearful band of confused souls trying so hard to figure out the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It was the homecoming of Jesus into the full reunion and fullness of the Holy Trinity that enables the faithful followers of Christ to receive the promised Presence and gift of the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit in whom we are given the transubstantiation power of simple bread and wine into the real Body and Blood of Jesus in our liturgy is the Holy Spirit that will empower each disciple in their walk with God to our eternal home. Our witness, our mission may not be as dramatic or world-changing as some but in the designs of God, it is as vital and precious. Yet it is vital to remember that this promised power is not for our own egos, understandings, or designs. The Ascended Lord empowers us to glorify His Father as he did. The promise and power of God for our good and the work and glory of God’s Kingdom. The power of the Paraclete is for the purposes of God.

Ascension Purposes: It is especially in our Gospel reading from the seventeenth chapter of John that this intent of our Lord is made so clear. Jesus prays “…that they may be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us, THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU SENT ME.” Jesus prayed these words shortly before His betrayal and passion were to begin. Knowing fully in His heart what was going to be happening Christ was still resolute in trusting that His followers would … still follow Him. He knew full well their struggles and those of His Church since. But Jesus still prayed and trusts that we can be one and show the world His love and power.

As we conclude this Easter season, as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, and prepare for Pentecost we need to let God’s Word and Spirit show us the deep wounds in the Body of Christ. Wounds that are showing the world not God and the redemptive mercy that is offered but instead egos, agendas, politics, and obsessions with religious displays instead of Christ Lord of our lives. Much lament and soul-wringing are being shared about the sin and unbelief of so many. We wonder and cry “why won’t believe trust and follow Christ?” This question must recognize the battle for the human soul between God and the powers of darkness. But we also must recognize that we, as Christians are created and redeemed by God to proclaim that eternal love and mercy are found in Christ. We are called to proclaim in our words and our actions the Promises, Purposes, and Power provided by God. Christ is risen! Alleluia! Christ is ascended! Alleluia! Let us live simply and faithfully in God’s truth as we grow beyond the limited realities of this world.

Called to Rise

6th Sunday of Easter ~ 22 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 15: 1-2, 22 -29. Responsorial: Psalm 67. II: Revelation 21: 10 -14, 22-23. Gospel: John 14: 23-29

Gravity is a force of nature that will not be ignored. Water flows… downhill. Trees fall … down. We fall … down. Gravity is a reality and force of this world that we all deal with every day. And the older one gets the more the force of gravity would appear to prevail. We are so caught up in this natural force that we can be unaware of another dimension of gravity. The gravity of soul and spirit is a worldly force that continually battles against who we are called to be. This force was evidently unleashed with the first fall of humanity into sin. Since then the struggle to realize and be the people God created and redeemed us to be has challenged us. This struggle, however severe does not in any way lessen or deny the eternal Truth. We are called by Him who conquered sin, death… our fallen state to rise.

The spiritual forces of gravity continually seek to press and oppress us away from God and heavenly truths. These dark forces would seek to bring our spiritual seeing to focus on the conflicts, fears, and turmoil of this world. If we seek to focus on God and the Kingdom of Heaven we are often distracted by others who focus upon the sins and failings they judge in others. Or we seek to build our faith and vision of God in frameworks of political causes, no matter that they may well clash, and conflict with others in the Body of Christ. Or we may dwell upon very real and painful illnesses or needs that would seek to cloud our ability to see the Truth of God. And these very real forces cannot be ignored. The path of life is fraught with many dangers. To travel naively along thinking nothing can hurt me is foolishness with profound risk. I am reminded of hiking the trails here in California. The views can be beautiful. But to ignore the hazards can be very painful, or worse. We must pay attention to what is in our path!

Rattlesnake on a trail (photo source unknown)

But, in spite of very real hazards, we cannot forget that we are called to rise. The light from Scripture for this 6th Sunday of Easter shows us how God empowers us to do just that.

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles shares how the church was struggling. The Gentile believers were being burdened by those who sought to impose many complex requirements from the Mosaic Law. In our present time liturgical excesses and strife, scrupulosity of worship, or focus on complex issues can weigh the soul and bring peril to our walk with God. The needs and issues in our world and church are very real and legitimate. But we need to learn from the early church and seek the Holy Spirit to form our decisions in the simplicity of the Gospel and not the complexities of our understandings.

We also are encouraged from our second reading in the Book of Revelation. “The angel took me in the spirit…” so we read of the Apostle John’s celestial experiences. Now clearly we are not in the same place as John. But in much humbler but just as blessed ways God’s angels will lead us to those high mountains to which God would call us to climb, again, in the power of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus in our Gospel.

It is especially in the Gospel that we see Jesus. As He speaks to His disciples in that Upper Room He would speak to us, today. As the disciples lived in a world of powerful intense spiritual oppression and gravity so do we. Sins of greed, political deceptions and agendas, violence, prejudice, sexual promiscuity, abortion, and much more pressed upon the souls of the faithful then. And as they do now. Great were the forces that sought to turn the eyes of the faithful away from Christ and from the simplicity of His command. The call to rise above the morass and muck of the world and to love one another was how God countered the lies of the spiritual gravity that sought to work like spiritual quicksand. Jesus called His followers to not burden each other with the mire of this world but to walk with and support each other in this journey of faith. It is in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, it is in the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist we grow out of our failings into His fullness. As we contemplate those who gathered with Christ at the first Eucharist we see a group of disciples oppressed with fear, burdened with ignorance of His Truth. Yet…Jesus washed their feet, gave them His Body and Blood, as unworthy as they might be. He still called them to rise.

Called to Rise With and In Him (Image source unknown)

Eight Words

5th Sunday of Easter ~ 15 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 14:21-27; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: Revelation: 21: 1-5a; Gospel: John 13: 31-35

Love One Another as I Have Loved You ~ Source: Toperfect.com

Within these fifty holy, joyful, and glorious days of Easter we come to this Lord’s Day where our Gospel shares the words Jesus, spoke very shortly before His passion. In the Upper Room where He has shared the Passover transformed into the Eucharistic Feast, He also proclaims His final message just before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane. It is around this altar where the faithful have gathered ever since Jesus distills the call, the command of the Gospel into eight words: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”

God, who is infinite, eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent has inspired millions upon millions of words and endless discussion and debate. Humanity has diligently sought to understand and explain God and the commands and practices of worship worthy of the All-Holy One. This quest has often, and very tragically resulted in great divisions and strife. Judgment and hatred have prevailed in hearts where God’s peace, love, and holy beauty are designed to dwell. This darkness and oppression of life and holiness are especially evident in our own day. Wars, destruction of our shared home in greed, and bondage of lust and selfishness seem ever triumphant. But now as on God’s holy cross, the holy conquest of sin and darkness will occur. Many are the bitter sermons of hate and fear gushing forth from the false gospels of greed, self, choice, or sensual pleasures. The stormy tides of pride and fear that pushed Jesus to Calvery intimidate many even today. It is easy to see Christians developing a bunker mentality where fear of the perceived enemy brings some to preach judgment and a running deep into trenches of safe and ancient practices and words.

But …Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you”! Well yes, Jesus did say that and it means that in His love we must condemn all that is contrary to His will. We must “hate the sin but love the sinner!” And those words were spoken only to His disciples… Jesus surely did not mean …everyone !?!? Did He?

If we take the words of Christ faithfully and seriously we need to take them in the context they are shared. Jesus spoke of this new command in many ways, places, and examples. Specifically, in the context of John’s Gospel, it is spoken moments before Christ goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He will be betrayed by Judas Iscariot whose feet he washed and with whom His Eucharist was shared. Love one another as I have loved you. In a matter of hours, He will stand beaten before Pilate, He will carry His cross, and on the cross, before He dies He will pray: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” “Love one another as I have loved you!

If we are serious about being Christians, being an Easter people, we must learn we are not about a single cause or a political or social label. We are not about our own perceptions of God, the commandments. We humbly are thankful for the grace of Truth and Tradition the Holy Spirit has shared in God’s Church. But we also humbly realize we do not own or control the Truth who is Jesus Christ. Instead, we learn we are on a resurrection journey to grow in the fullness of God, who is Truth.

A profound example of this journey, this voyage into the promises and fullness of God is the Irish St. Brendan whose Feast Day is 16 May.

St. Brendan, 486-578 A.D.

Brendan is one of perhaps the three best-known of the Irish saints, St. Patrick and St. Brigid being the other two. His life, buried in antiquity and shrouded in myth and legend nonetheless shares powerful lessons and hope for anyone seeking to know and follow Christ. Brendon was a cleric who is best known for his seven-year voyage in search of the Land of Promise. As is often the case in the study of the saints much of their story is shared in the stories and legends that cloak them. Yet regardless of whether one looks to factual, mythical, or deeper spiritual truth the life of St. Brendan is a witness for God of loving and seeking God. Brendan teaches us how those eight words of Jesus will launch us on voyages of faith, courage and …love.

We may not voyage as St. Brendan did. Our paths in this life are probably much less dramatic. Yet as it was for the early disciples, as it was for St. Brendan, so it is for us today. Jesus commands us to love as He loves us. He also says this will be the witness that we are true disciples of Our Lord and God, by the love we have for each other.

St. Brendan lived this command faithfully and with a passion that carried him immense distances for God. This early Celtic saint lived the faith and values of his church and his relationship with God in practical and deeply spiritual love. This holy love lived the ancient Celtic faith of the worth and dignity of all. Brendan, before his journeys would seek the wisdom and counsel of other believers, women and men, bishops, priests and lay. His faith in God embraced and infused the relationships he had with others so that he trusted and held in deep respect their perceptions and wisdom. It was not expected to always agree but always to Listen and Learn. The conversion of Ireland, Scotland, and England were unique in that although the lands were deeply pagan the path of witness and conversion was shared with respect of the other soul and their beliefs. This resulted in conversions most often peaceful. Evil was recognized for what it was. But there was an ability to love another however much they may differ or disagree. (With the current intense rancor about abortion it may be well to learn from the example of the early Celtic Christians that the practices and popular beliefs of others do not diminish their worth or our call… to love as Jesus did).

The love St. Brendan had for others was rooted in an even deeper love for God. It was his quest to see, to follow where God would lead with those who would, in holy love desire to share that journey. Brendan had a deep conviction that God would lead him to that holy island, The Land of Promise. The literal fulfillment or meaning of this journey is known only To God, Brendan, and those with whom he sailed. Just as our travels for God are known best by God. But that these quests were fueled by Brendan’s love for God and his fellow seekers cannot be denied. This bark of love is what carried them through seas of calm and chaotic storms. They like us sail into a future shrouded in the uncertainty of what and where life will lead. But they sailed together in acts of deep and resilient courage. We too are called to journey in obedience to those eight words, in Biblical power and promise, that will conquer our fears as we launch forth in the Holy Spirit, in the power of His love. This holy season of Easter let us each, let us together seek to press on in courageous obedience to those eight words Jesus shared: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

PRAYER OF ST. BRENDAN

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar

and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You

to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know

that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,

and somehow, make my obedience count for You.”

AMEN.

Love One Another as I Have Loved You

The Shepherd’s Voice – The Language of God

4th Sunday of Easter ~ 8 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Responsorial: Psalm 100; II: Revelation7:9, 14b-17; Gospel: John 10: 27-30

Sheep Following Their Shepherd ~ Photo Credit: Ineke Kamps

Alleluia Christ the Good Shepherd is Risen! The eternal joy of Easter continues to be proclaimed in the Church as we begin this 4t week of Easter. The Word of God shares the message of Christ, conquerer of sin and death as our Good Shepherd. Many are the titles and revelations of God throughout Scripture and time. But the lesson of our Lord God as the Good Shepherd is both ancient and more needed and relevant than ever.

All our readings share either the direct message of Jesus our Shepherd or clear examples of God’s grace calling and leading the faithful in the ways of God, or, as the Collect for Mass prays: “…God, lead us to share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave shepherd has gone before.” The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how the early church delighted and glorified the Word of God and how the Word of God spread through the whole region.

As the Psalm shares “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”. As His sheep we see that we are “a great multitude…from every nation, race, people and tongue.”, (emphasis mine). This exquisite holy diversity is proclaimed without compromise in our second reading from the Book of Revelation. The apocalyptic reading we share concludes with the message “…the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.”

It is in the Gospel for this Lord’s Day we are reminded by Jesus that: ” My sheep hear my voice: I know them and they follow me.” This holy Easter we may well relate to the early disciples as they struggled to realize what they could not understand. Jesus is Risen! Especially in a world of conflict and deep turmoil affecting so many we may have difficulty in seeing the reality of Christ risen. We may also struggle with doubts, fears that would lock us away as the apostles prayed. But we, also like the early faithful are called to be listening to Jesus our Shepherd as He calls and leads us. But this leads us to wonder, if we are to know the Shepherd’s voice what is the language of God?

Years ago, while living in Seattle, in the Scandinavian district of Ballard I sometimes encountered fervent discussions among the Christians as to what language God spoke. The Danes said Danish, the Swedish were adamant it was Swedish, the people of Norway of course knew it was Norwegian, and the Finns were cold certain it would be Finnish. While all this was in jest…usually, it reflected a common reality of our appreciation of the Language of God. We think, want, expect God to speak..as we do or as we would prefer.

This are very much more heated arguments today about the language of God in our liturgy and worship. Latin is the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. And there are those who fervently believe our liturgies should be in this beautiful, holy and traditional language, even as the church has restored the even more ancient tradition of worship in the vernacular of the people.

This focus on language is a challenge for other Christians as well. I have known many deeply faithful Protestants who intensely believe their preferred version of the Bible is God’s choice. For centuries the beautiful English of the King James version of Scripture was THE only standard to be accepted. But as always how we speak evolves and the “Thees & Thous” of ancient English are not well received by some in this post-modern world. And there are many more examples of how we sheep from many flocks struggle with how we think God’s language should be.

It is perhaps why, the Shepherd of our souls brought this Sunday for His people. God has no problem with this great multitude of many tongues. As we draw closer to the exciting joy of Pentecost we are reminded that God’s Holy Spirit was manifested in several ways, including the disciples speaking in diverse tongues! But we still wonder…What is God’s language? How do we recognize the voice of our Shepherd?

As we follow Christ we learn He ever seeks to lead us beyond ourselves. He calls us, finds us, saves us, where ver we come from and are in our journey of life. This process of conversion can begin with being baptized as an infant. Or it may be when one learns of and seeks Christ as a teenager or adult. But God’s voices is calling us, by name, to follow and grow in God’s Kingdom, not ours. So we must remember that while God hears and perfectly understands us whether we seek Him in Spanish, English, Latin or in the language of any land God’s language, to us, will share some universal expressions.

God Speaks Peace. It is important to realize all through His earthly ministry Jesus sought to bring the Peace of His Kingdom to the souls he was with. The disciples, the woman at the well, the Jewish leader whose child was dying, the Gentiles..Jesus sought to cut through their conflicted lives and souls with His peace. This was even more evident after His resurrection. Every encounter, even when they could not see past their disbelief Jesus spoke to His followers in…Peace.

God Speaks Mercy. Consistent and often loud is the language of guilt and condemnation our sin and Satan can bring. Anger and unforgiveness is also one of the most popular dialects in this world. But God would speak mercy, and forgiveness to all who will listen. Jesus knew, fully the sins of the world and of each of us when He came as our Savior. But He still calls us each by name that we may know and proclaim: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Hearing God’s Mercy

God Speaks Hope. One of the most common struggles in life today is depression and and anxiety. In recent years the most common medications prescribed were not for cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The most common medications were anti-depressives and anti-anxiety drugs. This, of course does not include the massive quantities of socially and self-prescribed doses of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. We would do well, especially as a genuine Easter People, to quell the voices of the world and listen to God who would speak Hope not founded in futile or temporal relief but in His Living Word, His promises that cannot fail.

God Speaks Love. We prayerfully hope that the worst of the Covid pandemic has passed. But there is a pandemic of even greater peril and destruction. It is the pandemic of hate. In Europe we witness a brutal war instigated by a man’s hatred for his neighbors and the sacredness of their land and lives. With the changes that (prayerfully) look to come about for abortion law in our country we are seeing storms of anger and hatred between people on this heart breaking issue. This is also seen in the civil life of our time were the false gospel of choice and politics with God has resulted in idols of hate and anger to breed deep strife and rancor. But! Jesus calls us each by name to follow Him out of the morass and deadly fields of this world into His peace, hope, mercy fused together in His love that conquered all that is deadly in this life. Christ calls us, as His Easter sheep to..Love, as He loves us. Together let us Listen for God, His Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love and then let us be His voice of Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑