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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin

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

EASTER ~ 2020 ~ Christ IS Risen!

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Easter 2020 ~ Christ IS Risen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

GOOD FRIDAY ~ 2020

crucified-horiz GOOD FRIDAY  ~  2020

Last night was Holy Thursday, The Feast of the Lord’s Supper. For thousands of years Christians have gathered for the washing of the feet and the indescribable gift of Jesus truly Present in His Body and Blood, The Eucharist. Afterwards the church, the sanctuary would be stripped of all decoration. Candles, linens, sacred vessels. Holy water hidden. Only in the Altar of Repose lies the consecrated Hosts. These holy, sacred steps remind us, help us see, the emptiness the disciples must have felt as Jesus was crucified and placed in the tomb. All was ….so empty. And this year, as rarely before, even the faithful have been removed from the church. Isolated, scattered, unsure what to expect in the days, weeks ahead. Where is Jesus?

Today, Good Friday, the tradition is to gather for the one day of the liturgical year in which Mass will not, cannot be celebrated. Instead would normally be a gathering of simple holy love. It would begin with the priest, the deacon prostrating themselves before the altar, renewing their own consecration, their love for God as was expressed at their ordinations. The opportunity shared with the hearts of the faithful as well.   Following would be readings from the Liturgy of the Word, focusing upon the long and powerful Gospel account of the Passion of our Lord. Then would come the intense general Solemn Prayer Intentions shared in every Catholic Church around the world. Next each would have opportunity to come, venerate the holy Cross. Our Good Friday gathering would then conclude with a simple sharing of Holy Communion with the consecrated, sacred Hosts from the night before. But this Holy Week, 2020, around the world this will rarely occur. Even in St. Peter’s, at the Vatican this solemn day will be celebrated without the many faithful. While our gatherings this holy season are not as we would choose we are blessed to worship, in our isolation, TOGETHER, in Spirit and Truth. And listening to the Gospel we hear, as always, God will speak to our hearts, as we seek His Real Presence in His Word. The timeless Word of God reveals God will show us the way.

We all would do well to gently read all the readings for this Good Friday. [First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 31; Second reading: Hebrews 4: 14-16, 5:7-9; Gospel: John 18: 1- 19:42]. For our reflection today we will focus on just a few gems from the Gospel.

The Passion account shared in John’s Gospel begins with a simple but important lesson. “Jesus went out with His disciples…to where there was a garden…Jesus had often met there with His disciples.” In these opening words we are given a lesson and invitation, this season of social isolation, to join Jesus in the garden of His passion. Whether it be a backyard, a park or even a virtual garden visited in a book or online we can, in spirit meet with our Lord. We join Him, yes with, our fears, needs, even our disappointments and anger. A few lines later in the Gospel we are reminded “Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to Him went out”. So our Lord gathered His followers, those who were unsure yet seeking Him. He even went to those coming to arrest and betray Him. As Christ knew all that would happen to Him, He also knows ALL of our lives, from our creation in our mother’s womb to when we cross the threshold of eternity. God is never surprised. So as we would join Him in the garden this Good Friday we come realizing a profound peace …God Knows and welcomes us. But as we gather with our troubled lives let us remember to also come FOR Him. May we not be among those who abandon Him this day of sorrow and pain. May we bring Him the broken vessels of our souls and share the holy fragrance of our love and faith as Mary Magdalene did.

Sitting quietly with Jesus may we reflect and share from the events of His passion. We remember His words before Pilate: “My Kingdom does not belong to this world.” It is for our benefit that we learn in this difficult time, that the Kingdom of God is not dependent on places, rituals, or our understanding. Indeed there are eternally real and vital Places, Practices, Rituals of our faith and worship. But each and everyone is but a threshold, a window through which God calls us to follow and grow in our relationship with Him with the Kingdom of God. In the Passion account we see Pilate struggle with this reality. It is especially as Jesus says to Pilate: “ Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”. Pilate’s response well proclaims the response of humanity through the millennia: “What is truth?”

The Gospel continues to the tragic conclusion as Jesus is crucified and dies. It is at this horrid moment the disciples wonder as never before. Where is God? Has God failed? Is God dead? Where Is God…? So it is for many this painful time in the year of our Lord 2020. Sickness covers the world. Fear, death, exhaustion and failed resources all fuel the sense of dark fear. And even for those not directly encountering the virus the social isolation, economic peril, the inability to gather as we normally would for work, worship, for life is deeply difficult.

But let us return to the garden, with Jesus. Let us allow Him to remind us of the rest of this story. John’s Gospel describes the piercing of the side of Jesus with the spear. The flow of water and blood coming from Christ is painful to see. And we are reminded it is all part of God’s plan. Forensic medical experts have said that the flow of water and blood is indicative of a ruptured heart. They are describing the broken heart of God, of Jesus. For it was in a love so intense, so real that Jesus came… To live, suffer, die, that we could be saved from our sins, our own brokenness. As we sit with Jesus in the garden touch the wound in His side. Take His hands pierced for you. Look into the eye of God who never stops looking for, seeking you. And may we each also allow the Holy Spirit to take our own wounds, failures and share them in the wounds of God. It is as we each share, this Good Friday 2020, that together we can grow, as never before into the very heart of Jesus broken in love for us. It is as we allow this to be we will share with the Gospel the closing words of our reading about this holy account: “An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may believe.” As we each follow Jesus we will come to experience Him who is the Truth and we will come to be free, in our hearts, to live the truth of who God has created and called us each to be. 

Holy Friday 2020, is unlike any other. Yet a time, much like that first Good Friday, of fear, profound uncertainty and opportunity to come and grow with God as never before.

WE ADORE YOU O CHRIST, AND WE BLESS YOU.

FOR BY YOUR HOLY CROSS YOU HAVE REDEEMED THE WORLD.

Holy Thursday ~ 2020 ~ Washing of the Disciple’s Feet

  ♱     ♱     ♱   

The holy meal,

In love blessed.

Interrupted.

By custom missed.

  ♱   

Robes laid aside, 

that He must serve.

The Master’s hands did take,

A basin and cloth,

Each disciple’s foot to face.

  ♱   

Every foot,

Soiled by life’s tread,

The Creator’s hand’s did take.

And each created foot embraced and washed,

 in holy love to place.

  ♱   

Each disciple,

Every step He knew.

Stumbling followers,

Seeking to be true.

  ♱   

John the Beloved,

And Peter the Rock.  

Who in denial soon would drop.

Even Judas, whose calloused heart and feet,

Soon His Lord, to betray, would run

for such a little sum.

  ♱   

Every foot He washed.

Each soul’s journey knew He well.

And each soul now,

He also seeks, with, to dwell.

  ♱   

So to His hands, 

now pierced in Love,

Our hearts may come,

To cleanse and heal.

  ♱   

May to his hands we fully trust.

Never more from Him to run.

May to His voice we listen, know.

His call to follow, 

His call to grow.

  ♱   

Onward in this quest of life.

To trust, to love, to serve,

Following He who’s feet,

To Calvary did go.

After that holy meal to show,

Us, the way of love to grow.

  ♱     ♱     ♱   

Palm Passion Sunday ~ 2020

Palm Passion Sunday, 5 April 2020… The churches are empty. Locked. Silence shrouds the pews, in silence, where normally songs of worship and praise are sung. Olive branches, fronds of palms are not to be found, not to be blessed.

Lent, this extraordinary year, comes to a close. Lenten Masses with the faithful were not to be shared. The traditional pilgrimages of the Way of the Cross were not together walked. And in anticipation of this holiest of weeks, remembering our Lord’s holy Passion, we realize this Triduum will not be as tradition would have.

Looking forward to the promise and joy of our Lord’s resurrection, once more, we know that to gather together in celebrations of faith will not be. Holy Sacraments, from God given, will be, in silence, for this time stilled.

WHY? WHERE is GOD? Many suffer sick, dying from the virus plaguing our world. Many faithful, dedicated servants of healing and care suffer in the assault against the body everywhere to be found. Many faith-filled followers of God sicken and die in the deadly embrace. WHY? WHERE is our triumphant Lord this Palm Passion Sunday as never before?

Indeed our world is sick and dying. The soul of this land, our world, cannot continue with the poisons of land, river and sea bringing about very climates of suffering and strife. These poisons spring from bitter wells of greed, human pride and arrogance that fight against the holy waters of life flowing from the Throne of God’s Presence. And as creation’s winds foretell the coming storm so these events foretell the plagues of humanity we now face. For too long faith has been in our economic prowess and gain. The idols of science, void of faith, of humanity centered in self, of reason rooted in senses alone, have deafened the God created call to look to and follow our Creator’s mercy.

So is despair now our creed? Is fear now the hymn of darkened hearts? Is hoarding now the practice of lives living only for self?

NO!

Jesus, Our Lord, Savior and Love has not given up His throne. OUR GOD REIGNS! None of these matters have caught God unawares. Nor does He take pleasure in these tribulations. But in the holiest of love our Heavenly Father allows our world, our lives, to be brought to cleansing, healing, to eternal hope.

That first triumphant Palm Sunday as Jesus entered His holy city is a lesson for these times. The people were jubilant as the Christ came through those gates. They were convinced the Messiah had come. The Romans were to be vanquished. Peace and prosperity, healing and joy were come! Little did they realize that in a matter of a few short days their joyful adoration would turn to hateful anger as they called for His crucifixion. The very religious leaders would lead this assault against God, come in the flesh.

Then, as often occurs, the people had allowed their faith, their love for God to be crippled, blinded to all that God would be, would bring. Now, this Palm ~ Passion Sunday of 2020 we are brought, as a world, as never before, to listen for and hear, to seek and see God’s call to follow Christ. As Christians, we are called to realize our worship, the holy sacraments are not the answer. They are but precious holy thresholds, portals to allow us to seek and enter into His Presence that is greater than an altar or an act. We are called to now awaken and open the multitude of these portals we have experienced and prepare for the King who comes! We are called to be and become the livings sacraments of Jesus our Savior and King.

And this call reaches to all souls of good will seeking God in the path they are on. It is time for us to realize we are all called to share, whatever the distance, faith, hope and love that flows from the Heart of God. It is time to help each each other, no matter the color of our skin, the way of our prayers or our loves, to grow strong and healed, holy in hope in these times for our King comes! Our bodies will fail, at some time or place. But we are not our bodies. May our souls, created by and for God be strong in the eternal hope that flows form God’s embrace.

Words from Pope Francis for our times

“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat are all of us…

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity…

…we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in “things”, and lured away by haste…we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick.” 

Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi blessing in an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, 27 March 2020

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