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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin

Covid 19 & The Elderly ~

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As the Covid Virus continues to assault the health and vitality of vast numbers of people and the economies of nations around the world it is very easy to lose sight that it is people, individuals that are afflicted by this disease.  For some groups the apparent perception that if you are young and healthy the risks, even if the virus is contracted, is rather minimal.  This seems to be part of the disregard many seem to be taking for sheltering in place, wearing face masks and simply CARING about the health and welfare of others.  This is especially evident with the population most at risk, the elderly and those with underlying health problems.  While in the United States care appears to be given to all in need.  Yet even here in the States there are those who question whether or not the elderly, the unwell really should be given the degree of care to which the younger people are entitled.

While those opinions are guarded in many places there are countries where the actual practice of triage by age is a model or medical practice.  Sweden illustrates a growing popularity and acceptance of the dangerous practice of others choosing who is worthy, entitled of care..of living.   The world has seen the cruel reality when those in charge take the power to choose who receives care, who lives or dies, who is entitled and worthy of life or who is disposable.

Read the attached article from the BBC on the practices in Sweden.  Pay attention to attitudes, even practices in other places.

It seems the once common value of respect and care for the elderly and the unwell is a vale rejected by some.    Let’s remember, Life is the natural choice.

Sweden’s, Not Subtle Choice of Elder Disposal

6th Sunday of Easter ~ Feast of St. Pascal Baylon

I have already posted a reflection for this Sunday in 2020.  But as it is also the Feast Day of one of my favorite Saint-Friends I share this re-post from 2009 of St. Pascal Baylon.

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Here is the cyber-version of my homily for this 6th Sunday of Easter, The Feast Day of St. Paschal Baylon: (From 2009)

The Redwoods of these north coast mountains of California have awed many for generations with their stature, beauty and strength. Yet if you have lived or walked amidst these fragrant giants you have hopefully realized that they are but the largest members of a much fuller community. One of the most beautiful members of this verdant environment is the Redwood Orchid. Small, often hidden by the larger, more well known companions, it can be found in hidden glades in the moist Spring time bringing a violet beauty under the emerald canopy overhead. The little Redwood Orchid is a humble yet excellent introduction to the lesson from the Scriptures in our Mass readings today. It is also an appropriate introduction to a hidden, simple saint who’s life was a profound lesson of the call of our Risen Lord.
May 17th is the Feast day of St. Paschal Baylon (1540-1592). This simple Franciscan lay brother never advanced further than being the porter at his Loreto monastery. Born to a poor Spanish family he was a shepherd without formal education. Yet he taught himself to read and write with the special purpose of being able to pray the Little Office of Our Lady. Paschal Baylon was appointed the Patron Saint of Eucharistic Congresses and Associations by Pope Leo XIII. If remembered, he is often thought of for his deep devotion and love for Christ expressed in the Blessed Sacrament. His deep longing and prayer for this communion with Christ was a part of his life even as a young shepherd. It grew to become a life of fervent prayer with our Eucharistic Lord. But St. Paschal’s life was far more than a life of prayer. He lived a life of faithful service, especially for the poor and needy. He, although uneducated by worldly standards, also came to be known for his courageous and boldly gentle defense of his faith in the face of real persecution. This balance of loving devotion and service, for the love of God, is the heart of the message we see in our readings.

Chosen to Love: “God is Love.” Our Epistle today shares these three most powerful Words of Scripture. Often quoted, less often lived, the depth of meaning starts to dawn as we accept the context…”and God sent His Son to pay for our sins”. Knowing our condition, yet seeing the worth of the soul God had created the Father calls us to His Son.
People, of all nations, as Peter affirmed in our first reading, are chosen, are called to Love, to God. It is into the infinite embrace of the Crucified Savior we start to grow in the freedom of being..chosen…the freedom of being chosen by and to… Love. Paschal Baylon realized he was called, that he was chosen, out of his sin and this world..to the Loving Presence found in the Body and Blood of Christ. Paschal also realized this call was for all humanity and lead to his life living the Commandment.

Commanded to Love: Often when we think of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament we think of it as a distinct practice of piety. We may relegate it to a contemplative effort best suited to religious or those who…like to pray. Sometimes those who practice Eucharistic devotion may be tempted to see this as a hallmark of their love for God. Sadly, it may lead to a condition of being so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. St. Paschal, who spent hours in rapt prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, would fervently disagree. It was but the furnace from which he carried forth the fire of God’s love for the poor, his brothers or even those who opposed his faith. This love for God of which Christ commands us this day, and always, is but a summation and source of the love we are to abide in and share with each other. The command of God’s holy, fearless love fulfills all the lesser commandments or issues with which we may become distracted. St. Paschal lived out his love for the Eucharist Christ in his service and love of others. This included his fellow Franciscans, the poor and needy as well as those perhaps his enemies. Once, in holy obedience, he ventured on a trip into a part of France that was, at the time under strong anti-Catholic control. Hugeonots, opposed to the Church more than once confronted Paschal on his journey with assaults and threats. Confronted by a learned Protestant scholar he was challenged about belief in the Blessed Sacrament. The learned scholar was confounded and silenced when this simple monk defended and explained this Biblical truth with a bold yet gentle courage. Paschal did not compromise his convictions or his love for those who did not agree with him. He simply sought to live as His Risen Lord had called him to do.

Abiding in Love: With St. Paschal, our Blessed Mother, St. Peter and all the saints we are chosen to abide..to LIVE in this love that is….Christ. As we live, listening to the voice of Christ in the Scriptures we hear His mercy, guidance, correction and peace. As we learn to hear God’s voice in each other, our family and the poor or wounded we hear His call to.. love. As we receive His Sacred Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist we are fed.. with Christ.. with Love. As we come to pray before His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament we discover, with St, Paschal the quiet peace, joy and strength abiding in His Presence. (We are chosen to be filled with His joy and the joy of the Lord is our strength).

St. Pascal Baylon died at the age of 52. Numerous accounts describe the moment of his death as the bells were being rung for the Consecration during the High Mass in his monastery. This little orchid of the saints calls to us today to abide and live in the Love that is Christ.

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The Sanctuary of the Heart ~ 6th Sunday of Easter ~ 2020

1973C5EF-A6BB-4BDC-9FD9-0E2110B14433Christmas Sanctuary of St. Peter Church, Cloverdale, California

Readings for Mass: I: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Responsorial: Psalm  66; II:I Peter 3:15-18; Gospel: 14:15-21

The Extraordinary Easter season of 2020 is drawing to a close.  Next Sunday we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of our Lord followed by Pentecost Sunday a week later.   This may cause some to wonder why I begin this reflection with a picture of the sanctuary of my parish church,  St. Peter’s. at  Christmas.  Has the deacon messed up his calendar  …again?

I share the image purposefully.  While it may seem ages ago our last holiday Masses were for Christmas.    Together we sang, celebrated and probably took for granted the holy joy and privilege of gathering to worship our Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us.  It would also seem quite long since we last gathered in our churches as the season of Lent was starting.  Little did we realize what we all would be called to give up for Lent, and longer.  Our ability to gather, to worship, to celebrate our Liturgies. our “public celebrations of prayer and worship”, our celebration of the Sacraments, of the humble communities of faith we were, and are having all been locked away.  To gather, worship, pray with our eyes, ears, hearts focused to the Sanctuary to enter into the fullness of graces, the Real Presence of Christ, our God, in that holy place, all has been denied us.

Or has it?

It is very clear that the norm of gathering for our worship and celebration of the Sacraments has been curtailed for a season.  We share with all people this need of sacrifice for the healing of our land from the afflictions of the Covid virus.  We take encouragement that some of the many restrictions are being lifted.  But we also share the great unknown as to what may occur with the virus and our lives as the changes are realized.  Within all this uncertainty we may struggle trying to understand and practice our faith so rooted in our holy places of worship and prayer.

We long for the beauty and peace of God’s sanctuary. We long to gather in prayer literally entering into the Church, beholding His sanctuary, knowing the Real Presence of Jesus is in His Tabernacle.  It is difficult as it could  seem Jesus is..locked away.

Or is He?

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This 6th Sunday of Easter we start to see the holy wind of the Spirit of God shift from the glories of Easter to the promise and power of the coming of the Comforter, the Paraclete, The Holy Spirit of God on Pentecost.  As we let God’s Spirit whisper to our hearts this Sunday we hear, in our Bible readings, that God is not locked away, God would be with us.  We would hear that while our great gift of the liturgy and sacraments is locked away, for a season, God is not.  God has chosen and powerfully chosen to manifest his graces, His Presence in those holy works of God’s people gathered together.  But God has also chosen to be with us in other ways as well.

God would indeed dwell within the sanctuary…of our hearts, as we but seek, allow, trust Jesus at His holy Word.

The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Acts.  It shares a story of almost scandalous magnitude.  It is but a very short time after the passion and resurrection of Jesus.  Up to this point in the history and culture of the holy land the Jews and the Samaritans shared only three things of significance.  They shared a mixed heritage to Abraham, they shared the land of Palestine, and they shared an intense and ancient animosity and distrust of each other.  But the events shared form the Book of Acts proclaim events that defied all understanding and expectations of the Jews and of the early Church.  God was welcoming those Samaritans!!!!  To the astonishment and joy of the Apostles not only had the Samaritans received the Gospel but upon their visit to that place long forbidden, they saw that God’s Holy Spirit was freely given to them.  God was Present and working well outside the sanctuary in Jerusalem and well outside the hearts and minds of the early faithful.

It is in the Gospel, as Jesus shares prior to His passion, that we learn He has made all the arrangements needed for His people.  ALL of HIS people.  Christ affirms and explains the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit for His Church.  The Paraclete would be given to guide, to empower, to enflame with fire of His Holy Love ALL the people God calls to follow Him.  God has not been surprised by the events of the world in 2020.  Just as our Heavenly Father was not deterred by the passion and death of His Son, the testings and persecutions of the Church throughout the ages. Sadly, many the times and places where God’s people were not free to gather, to worship as they would choose.  Yet God’s Presence has never failed to be with the faithful of the past or with us now.  It is in these peculiar times we are especially called by God to individually and together build the beauty of God’s sanctuary in our hearts.

St. Peter writes to all the faithful (in a time of tribulation): “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…” (I Pet. 3:15).  It is during Mass at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, that the gifts of bread and wine are sanctified, consecrated, with the faithful, to God.  This occurs at the altar, in the sanctuary of the church.  Today, everyday, we are called and given the opportunity to consecrate and sanctify, to set apart, for God our hearts.  Every day we live, whether we are at Mass, perhaps in the Holy Land,  walking along the beach, or cloistered in our homes, with our families under the requirements of sheltering in place, or even in a hospital bed, we are called to give, make beautiful for Jesus, our hearts.  We must allow the graces of His mercy to cleanse and forgive us, to guide and empower us…for His Holy Love and mercy.  And it is essential to note that the Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Peter, speaks to “sanctify your hearts”, plural, our individual hearts, TOGETHER, for God!

This Sunday as the Easter dawn grows to fuller light we anticipate and remember the promise and power of the Holy Spirit.  May we renew or efforts to have Christ dwell within each our hearts and help us know…He is with us always, even unto the end of the age.  Jesus seeks to dwell in the sanctuary of our hearts.

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FAITH… ACTION… LOVE ~ The 5th Sunday of Easter ~ 2020

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Scripture Readings for Mass:  I:  Acts 6:1-7;  Responsorial: Ps. 33;  II: I Peter 2:4-9;  Gospel: John 14:1-12

 

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: Faith in action is Love – and Love in action is Service.”  

This 5th Sunday of Easter the Holy Spirit, in speaking through our Bible readings,  would seek to lead us to grow in the tremendous gift and responsibility that is given each of us in the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  These Easter weeks where the power of God’s holy love is celebrated in our hearts are given to awaken in us this gift and responsibility.  But the joy of our faith has been oppressed as never before.

We all share this extraordinary time in the history of the world responding to the Corona Virus assault.  It is tangled with the economic chaos resulting from the shutdown of much of the work and services of…humanity.  It is also causing true travail for all people of faith as worship communities have had their doors locked by the authorities.  This aspect of this ongoing story has had very little mention in the media.  Yet for so many (and speaking of Catholic communities especially), this forced absence of worship, of Liturgy that has been celebrated for thousands of years is of profound  impact.  In California it may well be late August, September or even later before churches will be allowed to unlock their doors.

What does this mean for the Christian of 2020?  

What is the course for the individual believer prevented from meeting or worshipping as the Body of Christ?

Does God have anything to say, even this Sunday of the Easter season, to us as we make this journey of intense uncertainties…  Of very insecure security?

Answers to these questions are, indeed, given us by God.  And it is vital to remember that nothing ever occurs that takes God by surprise.  It is also necessary to remember that God neither approves of or smiles upon the great sorrows and trials that humanity is facing.  But it is also true God allows these conflicts.  It is part of the grace of love where humanity has the freedom to choose.  And sometimes choices made by others, even far away cause havoc of body and soul.  These reminders lead us to recognize an even more pressing reality.  The Corona virus is truly a clinical, medical challenge of deadly power.  The associated economic chaos is of both political and financial scopes beyond any the world has seen.  Yet both this tiny virus and the immense economies are but pawns of a far greater SPIRITUAL BATTLE.

We would embrace a deadly naiveté if we were to pretend all this is just about science and medicine.  Or that it is  just very complex politics and economics to resolve the financial crises.  Scripture is very clear.  GOD is not the author of confusion [I Cor. 14:33].  The extreme health crises and chaos, the economic tremors around the world are all signature examples of Satan, the enemies of our souls, our lives.

It is as we recognize the scope of the battles we face that the wisdom, the answers God gives  the sense we need, for hearts and minds of faith.

In allowing God to answer the question we shared above let’s first look at the Gospel for today.  Although we are in the midst of the Easter season it is no accident that the Gospel comes from events as our Lord faced His Passion and death.  Jesus is speaking to His followers who will be very soon encountering the forces of evil as never before.  His WORDS are a seeming paradox.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”  We must remember, believe and act upon this eternal reality and promise.  Our God, our Lord Jesus is our peace and security.  Repeatedly He assured the disciples in the moments before Calvary.  Repeatedly He would assure us today.. God is our peace, our security.  The temporal (TEMPORARY) tribulations we may face lose their power as we realize and trust. we are created, redeemed and empowered for Eternity.

As we allow these very real, at times painful, affairs of life that occur to be brought into proper perspective (The Light of His Word) we understand the need for our faith to be present and growing.  Even in the deepest uncertainties we can know, through God’s peace, embraced in faith the truth of our Easter acclamation:   ALLELUIA!  Our God reigns!  It is with our faith, rooted deep in God’s Word and Presence that we are able to know it is not through science or medicine, it is not with political clout or money we will know security and health of soul.  Those are but tools used for good or for evil.  And it is in faith they can be freed to be used for good, used by God.

This brings the truth to dawn new each day that…Because I believe..I must Act!  The evidence of true, growing faith is the actions of holy love directing the soul.

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Those actions may be simply and powerfully to truly PRAY for healing from this virus, for justice to penetrate the wounded economies of the world, for politicians to learn it isn’t about them.  We are called to active PRAYER!

Our Faith in Action will be seen as the Church, The faithful daily celebrates the eternal liturgy of loving God truly Present in those with which we share this enforced isolation.  In families, for those who are sick, unemployed or just overwhelmed by the events of life, we are serving Christ Present in the simple sacraments of faith in loving action.

Our growing peace and security IN CHRIST WITH US will bring us to the realities of the early Church.  Our first reading spoke of the young Church in Jerusalem choosing those men to be the first deacons, men of faith, filled with God’s Spirit and wisdom, able to share God’s word.  They are but a small example of the entire Church whose faith and early history are summed up in an one word title:  ACTS!

The Christian faithful, in every age, have shared this Resurrection responsibility  and privilege.  We are redeemed to BE a people of FAITH and ACTS needed for our time and place.  St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Martyrs of faith throughout history,  St Bernadette of Lourds, the saints reading these words..called, empowered by God to see an impossible need and to have the faith and courage to build a bridge amidst great peril, but compelled by a love that recognizes a need to reach the other side, for the love of God.

If one is still unsure of God’s direction during these times of intense spiritual battle perhaps the answers, the guidance are more encountered at the Cross and Resurrection of…JESUS.

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Pope Francis video about Deacons

 

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Pope Video ~ The Diaconate

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The Good Shepherd ~ 4th Sunday of Easter~ 2020

0054230_the-good-shepherdThe Good Shepherd by Artist:  Yongsung Kim

Bible Readings for Mass:  I:  Acts 214a, 36-41; Psalm: Ps. 23;  II: I Peter 2:20b-25; Gospel: John 10:1-10

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Easter.  It is a distinct and powerful celebration of Jesus, The Good Shepherd, risen from the dead, victorious over the grave, sin and Satan.  The lessons and truths from the Shepherd of our souls are always relevant.  And this particular Spring of the year 2020 Christ the Living Word is profoundly relevant.

It is vital to remember God shares the Eternal Truths in Scripture in many diverse ways.  Some are literal.  Many are figurative, mystical.   Most are frankly mysterious.  All are true and valid Truths to be believed and experienced in the Spirit of God and in the time in which God has us hear them. Context, language, culture are also prisms through which the beauty of God’s light shine with better clarity and power.  One other expression of God’s Word would be the metaphor, a verbal expression shared to help illustrate a truth or lesson.  The Scriptures for this day embrace the graces of the metaphor, the symbol of deeper truths, in a very significant way.

JESUS, the GOOD SHEPHERD is the clear theme of God’s message this 4the Sunday of Easter.  It is a lesson with which most Christians are very familiar.  We all relate to our Good Shepherd leading, caring for us, His sheep.  Many the times we have been reminded that sheep are not the brightest of animals for which to care. [A lesson to which some of us may too easily relate.]   We also are warmly familiar with the profound mercy of our Shepherd searching and finding the lost wounded sheep.  Jesus spared no effort to find and bring us into His healing embrace.  Thanks be to God!   These and many other familiar lessons are important and very valid.  However they may cause us to forget that this holy, eternal Truth is, again a metaphor.  Yes Jesus is truly the Shepherd of our souls, our lives.   Yes we are His sheep.  But God uses this lesson to bring us, His sheep… His children to learn, realize and grow to live the fullness of Life for which we are created and redeemed.  We are like sheep.  In some ways.  But we are people, men, women, girls, boys.  We are created , not for mindless, blind following of a shepherd but to become, to be the people of God we are called, by name, to be.  As God’s sheep we are never to forfeit our God given gift and responsibility to Listen, Hear, BELIEVE, THINK, LOVE and follow.  History is tragically illustrated by too many horrid lessons where people either blindly forfeit this grace or are robbed with subtle deadly lies.  This metaphor is best understood as yes the Good Shepherd and His sheep.  But we must also allow the Truth that our Shepherd is also The victorious Lamb Of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd, The Lamb of God who leads us to face the enemies of His Kingdom as His warrior sheep.  Yes, the metaphors are mixed as are  the threads of the fabric of the mantle of which God provides and gives us.

“The Lord is my Shepherd…” so begins the ever familiar 23 Psalm.  But we need to allow the truths of God’s Word to be alive in our lives instead of on some dusty bookshelf of our soul.  So it is with this famous Psalm.  Many people hear and think of the 23 Psalm as THE funeral Psalm.  Indeed the comforting promises it shares are well suited for those times of mourning.  But this Psalm of David, the Shepherd King, is so much more.  Perhaps in the most basic, distilled way this Psalm is a Confession of Faith.  One could perhaps say it was a creed of King David, and the faithful Hebrew people over the ages.  And for the soul hungering, seeking God or the devout Christian it is a powerful confession or creed.  It is a clear creed, a confession of each of us as sheep following the Good Shepherd.

While this reflection is not the place for a verse by verse study it is clearly a time to allow our Shepherd to speak and invite each of our hearts to let Him speak.  In this time of “sheltering in place” we can more easily take some quiet time to prayerfully read and allow the whispers of the Holy Spirit to penetrate or soul and spirit.  To help open this invitation we can reflect on some key thoughts.

Our Good Shepherd promises to…Lead His sheep.  It is significant that of the farm animals sheep are the only ones that the word applies to the individual AND the flock.  While each, singular sheep is of eternal worth to God that worth is best realized within the care, protection and nurture of the flock.  Jesus will lead His sheep, individually and collectively.  God will lead us to the verdant green pastures of rest, nurture and healing.  And while God will lead us to those green pastures He will not bother telling us which blades of grass to eat.  Again we are people, the sheep of His flock [Psalm 100].  We have great responsibility for our growth and nurture.  And this brings us to learn our Shepherd leads to  and THROUGH these green pastures.  We, as His sheep, must never allow ourselves to think this particular pasture is it, to become too comfortable!

Jesus will lead every soul hungering for God in His paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Christ makes very plain many are the sheep of His many flocks.  We must remember just because some sheep may look or seem odd or different from our flock they are still His sheep. [And truth be told we probably may seem weird to them!]  As the shepherding graces of the Holy Spirit work in our lives we soon learn that the path is not always easy.

Even in the darkest valley we will fear no evil.  Please note the element of confession of faith once again.  We as people seeking God are called by our Shepherd to have courage.  It is for each of us to choose… “I will fear no evil”.  We are NOT called to trust our self, our religious understanding or even to have blind faith in science or medicine.  All those are but gifts given by God.  None of them are ever meant to be God.  Our very secular world has been expressing great trust and hope in science and medicine as the Covid virus saga unfolds.  Those blessed disciplines will indeed be essential in the healing the world needs from this pandemic.  But to exclude God’s mercy, grace and wisdom is to allow a peril of even deadlier power.  Christ our Lord and God is the Shepherd who must lead.  And we must follow!

As we choose to follow Him His rod and staff, His Word and Power gives us the courage flowing from His Love that conquers our fears [I John 4:18].  And in that courage we follow, at times into the presence of our enemies, to the tables God has set before us.  Of course we understand that this would mean the Altar of Sacrifice upon which the Lamb of God was slain.  It applies to our Lord’s most holy Body and Blood.  But in this time in which it has been decreed that we must not gather for worship for the Eucharist is the promise of the Shepherd also quarantined?  Only if we allow it to be with our doubts and fears.  For the nurture of the Eucharist is an eternal meal.  Many the times and places of humanity where evil has sought to restrict or rob the hungering soul from this holy meal.  But in those dark valleys the provision of God, even if a rarity, nurtures for all eternity.  It is also in these times and places we grow in the nurture and power of Christ’s Real Presence  also found in God’s Word and in His Body the true Church.

As we gather at this table we must take the time to feed upon and grow stronger in the fullness of the holy confession about our living relationship with Jesus our Good Shepherd.  And it is in our Gospel for this day we further grow in this confession.

Jesus in John’s Gospel affirms He is Truly the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd of our Souls.  He clearly express the practice and power of this relationship.  He proclaims this relationship will lead, always, to eternal life.   But He concludes the dialogue with an important truth.  Jesus warns of the thief, the one who would seek to instill fear, to rob God’s people of the Heavenly Kingdom.  It is here we realize from our victorious resurrection Shepherd we are indeed called to follow He,  who for the love of His sheep, took up His Cross and died and rose again on the third day.  We are called to be warrior sheep courageously following and serving our Lord in the same holy passionate love with which He sought us in our wounded ignorance.

We are called, in the confessions of our soul, in word and action, to proclaim,”Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

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The Path of Life ~ 3rd Sunday of Easter 2020

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Readings for Mass:  I:  Acts 2:14,22-33;  Responsorial:  Psalm 16; II:  I Peter1:17-21; Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

Skellig Michael is a remote, rather small rock of an island off of County Kerry on the west coast of Ireland.  Facing the Atlantic and Irish sea it is battered by storms, often shrouded in fog and flogged by fierce winds.  Now it is visited only by tourists, weather permitting and scholars of Celtic Christianity.  Although a long popular home for sea birds it has only known human habitation within extreme limitations.  The largest period of human presence on the island was from the 6th to perhaps the 12 century but only by a small group of men gathered in a monastic community of intense faith, courage and commitment to seek God’s Presence and will in their lives.  It provides people today encountering this time of “isolation” with an extreme contrast to examine.  Skellig Michael is known for the cold stone huts, fierce weather and especially the very steep and dangerous steps and paths that made for their daily pathway.  Those perilous steps provide us today a lesson on what it is to walk with our Risen Lord on the path of life.

“You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in your Presence, the delights at your right hand forever“,  so concludes our Psalm for this Sunday.  This Psalm of David proclaims a deep faith and peace of a man who sought to follow and walk in God’s path of life.  But this life was often entangled with circumstances of the world and human soul of great peril and uncertainty.

In our first reading the Apostle Peter, preaching to the crowd speaks of this King David and how he confessed, he proclaimed:  “I saw the Lord ever before me….You have made known to me the paths of life..”.  In remembering the life David lived we indeed recall he was the most faithful king of Israel.  His courage was incomparable.  But it is essential to remember that his life was also deeply conflicted.  David knew what it was to hide in isolated caves in the wilderness as Saul sought to kill him (and this after God had anointed David King).  The shepherd king knew well the perilous steps of temptation and subsequent sin in his failings with Bathsheba and the efforts to hide from those consequences.  Yet even with these great dangers and failings David always returned his heart and life to follow the steps God, the Great Shepherd, had for him.  David knew that only with God would the path of life be found.  Only with God’s Presence and will was their the places of peace and joy.   David also learned, early on, that this was truly a journey, a pilgrimage.  The path he knew as a young boy was not what, where he was to be as a young renegade king or as a warrior monarch fighting for his nation and his God.  David spoke of knowing the paths of life, realizing and confessing that he could not get settled into thinking or believing..”this is right..this is the way it is supposed to be.”  David would give to the early followers of Jesus, and to us today, not a detailed   map of faith and liturgy, of practices and places.  We would be given, instead, a light by which the soul would seek and learn to follow the ways of God, the way of the Cross.

It is in our Gospel for this 3rd Sunday of Easter we read of the attempted journey to Emmaus of the two disciples.  They had followed Jesus.  They had encountered the horrors of His passion and death.  And now they had heard He was risen from the dead.  To say their steps were shrouded in the bitter fogs of confusion and fear would be an understatement.  So they were doing the only sensible thing.  They were going home.  It was as they walked the road to Emmaus this guy meets them and starts walking with them.  They were incredulous at how uninformed he seemed to be as he presented mystery about all that had been happening in the holy city. and then presented powerful insights of Scripture and faith  In classic mid-eastern courtesy they invite him into their home to eat and rest the night.  And it was as He broke the bread their eyes were opened.  They knew Jesus was with them and had been walking with them even as they wrestled with their doubts and fears.  They left their home, that evening, returning to Jerusalem and the apostles and shared their witness, their experience of the Risen Christ.  They experienced the path of life.

Skelling Michael, a rocky tiny island in the stormy seas off of Ireland gives us the visual realization of what the path of life is as we follow Jesus.  While we are not in a severe monastic community with rocky paths of steep and scary steps we are on paths often shrouded with uncertainty, buffeted by winds and circumstances that seem to never end.  And we are on a journey of faith, with our Risen Christ that leads to life eternal.  Whether we think of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, or King David, or the island-cloistered monks of Skellig Michael or our own journeys we are all called by the Shepherd of our Souls and accompanied by Him who promises His Presence with us always.

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2nd Sunday of Easter ~ Divine Mercy Sunday ~ 2020

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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.

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Songs of Hope ~ Andrea Bocelli 2020


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Please click on the link and listen.

Songs of Hope ~ 2020 ~ Andrea Bocelli

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