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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin

2nd Sunday of Easter ~ Divine Mercy Sunday ~ 2020

doubting-thom

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


video-andrea-bocelli-llena-la-desierta-catedral-de-milan-de-musica-para-la-esperanza

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

Sensing God ~ Knowing God

Redwood Journal

The cyber-version of my homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent

I shared this homily first during Lent of 2011.  It was at Mass for the 5th Sunday of Lent.  Our community was together in faith.   After the Liturgy of the Word we shared in the Body and Blood of Christ so Present in His Eucharist.  None of us would anticipate that just a few years later we would be called, together,  to grow, separately, in our senses, our knowing of God in ways that we would never imagine.  Yet GOD knew.  And today, during this very unique Lent, Jesus calls us to acknowledge the real sorrows and fears of the pandemic and economic crises.  Jesus calls us to grow, closer to Him in ways we never would have planned.  Today Jesus calls us to sit, share with Him, to LISTEN to His Words. He then calls us to grow…

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The Help of the Angels of God

Psalm 91. [RSV]
[1] He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
[2] will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
[3] For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
[4] he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
[5] You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
[6] nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
[7] A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
[8] You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
[9] Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
[10] no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
[11] For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.

[12] On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
[13] You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
[14] Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
[15] When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will rescue him and honor him.
[16] With long life I will satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.

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