Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin

CHRISTMAS -The Holy Manger

Christmas Vigil & Day – 24 & 25 December 2020

Bible Readings for Christmas Eve Mass at Night: I: Isaiah 9:1-6; Responsorial: Psalm 96; II: Titus 2:11-14; Gospel: Luke 2:1-14

We are all familiar with the beautiful story of the Nativity of our Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ. Sometimes when something, however meaningful, is so familiar it can be easy to become dull to the power and beauty of the story. This season of Christmas in this extraordinary year let us consider the Christmas story from a slightly different but very Scriptural perspective. Let us seek the Holy Spirit to help us join with the Holy Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the angels and the furry creatures around the stable that first Christmas. In this year when for so many Christmas Liturgies are not what we would hope perhaps this first story of the first Christmas may help us celebrate fully, if perhaps, in ways unexpected.

The Holy Manger

Harry Martin

The manger in Bethlehem,

with planks old and worn,

chew-scarred and stain borne,

by many creatures who came

to the stable, to eat and rest

after serving their masters beck.

The manger in David’s city had fed them all.

Proud stock of Romans bold and might. 

Confident animals of Jewish

leaders of faith and right.

Tradesmen, workers, slaves and more 

their beasts of burden 

 at those manger planks worn

 their need and hunger met.

Now it was to this old manger 

Joseph, the carpenter looked.

His heart was grieved as he saw,

The stained, chewed planks

of the manger, by the stable wall.

His mind went to their Nazareth home away,

where his faith and love had made,

a crib worthy for the Son to claim. 

Where Mary, holy Mother, too had made,

the bedding for her son to lay.

She had woven and sewn.

 the restful wrappings, 

For her Son from above.

But she had not known

 they were but practice,

 for the day that to come. 

When in the tomb, her Son

 she would lay to rest again.

So Joseph, by duties, of love bound,

found grace to make the manger sound.

Soon clean and filled with fresh straw sweet,

Joseph found the work of trusts’ peace.

Disappointment waned as he worked 

to make the manger for heavenly worth,

The holy crib to which the Son of God was bid.

The animals ate and watched

from places normally unsought.

Their manger had become 

A humble holy crib

For God’s own Son.

 So with the holy angels, 

with Mary and Joseph,

those humble creatures,

of God’s creation,

Would be the first 

for Emmanuel

To welcome.

Come, O Come Emmanuel!

Fourth Sunday of Advent – 20 December 2020 – Bible Readings for Mass: I: II Samuel7:1-5, 8b-12,14a, 16; Responsorial: Psalm 89; II: Romans 16:25-27; Gospel: 1:26-38

For the Catholic Christian(and all Christians) Christmas is a very special time of celebration. As the last week of Advent draws to a close the anticipation of the Christmas Vigil Mass and the Mass of Christmas Day brings a great peace and joy. With the dawn of the Christmas season we focus our hearts on the Incarnation, the coming of Jesus into our world. This holy season (again the Catholic Liturgical year) will culminate with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, as a part of Epiphany in January. From the expectations and hopes of Advent we enter into the celebration of Emmanuel ~ God with us! This joyous dawn of Jesus with us leads to the renewal of Epiphany ~ The Manifestation of God’s Presence and Grace!

But why, this 4th week of Advent, are we looking so far ahead? Again, Advent is a season of preparation and anticipation…of and for Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. And this year of 2020 we need God’s grace and Presence in ways we would never have expected. The uncertainties and challenges of this passing year are still part of our journey. For many the opportunity to gather and worship for Masses, throughout the world are uncertain at best. As the pandemic surges we hear of Italy and much of Europe being locked down. So whether we gather for outside Mass, perhaps inside in some places or in the spirit in our homes we gather in solidarity with those unable to go to Mass. And we gather to prepare, anticipate and celebrate perhaps in ways and more deeply than we ever have before.

The beloved decorations and music of our churches may be left unused this year. But the preparation and decorating of our hearts and homes can be more powerful and beautiful than ever. Even as, we in respect and love for the health and well-being of others, curtail our gatherings of faith and families we still can pray and prepare for Emmanuel, God with us.

The Creche was first shared by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. Francis used real people and animals in that first Nativity scene.

This last Sunday of Advent brings to us Scripture steeped with the eternal hopes and joys of the promise of the Messiah, the Christ…Jesus our Savior. It is especially in the Gospel as we read the familiar account of the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary we enter into the heart of both the hope and promise of Advent and the joy and power of Christmas. We also realize that this holy encounter was fraught with deep fear and uncertainty. Mary, our Blessed Mother is not simply a model of greatest holiness and faith. She was, and is a profoundly humble woman but grace-filled lesson of the eternal experience of Emmanuel, as she said her yes to the angel.

Mary, in her Advent journey, shows us the Emmanuel path that has not changed through the ages. Mary, her betrothed Joseph, all who would love God are called to meet those sent from God. Mary undoubtedly was busy about her day as a young maiden when Gabriel appeared. And her life was changed. Eternally. We often would think, well if God would send and angel and tell me what He wants it would be much simpler. God does send His messengers to us all. Scripture is very clear that we each have our Guardian Angels. We perhaps, in retrospect, think of people that had a powerful impact on our lives, for God. But God also sends us His messengers through circumstances, perhaps controlled by angels unseen. Great blessings, unexpected encouragements among struggles, disappointments and even illness, pandemics are messengers of grace. The story of Job, the life of David, the Apostle Paul all show us how both blessing and trial can be the Sent of God. Pope Francis in his book [Let Us Dream A Path to a Better Future] affirms this grace as we see the crises as an opportunity to grow with God: “To come out of this crises better , we have to see clearly, choose well, and act right. Let’s talk about how. Let us dare to dream.” I believe this especially applies to our experiencing Emmanuel, God with.

Mary’s encounter with Gabriel was a crises of extraordinary power. She was (very logically) afraid. But she shows us that by seeing and growing in the Truth, in hearing and humbly listening she would experience more than she could ever imagine, of God being with her. Mary did NOT understand all that Gabriel told her would be. Even at the Passion of her Son her grief was so intense she could not understand all that God was doing. But Mary believes. Even to this day as she prays for us and seeks to lead us closer to her Son, she believes.

The opportunity for us this profound year of 2020 is the same. God has not changed. The angels and saints would call each and all of us to listen to the Living Word, Jesus, Emmanuel. Through the people and events sent us we can hear God’s call to trust and give our Yes, with Mary and other faithful, to God. What do the worries and frustrations of the pandemic bring to us? They bring us a daily place to listen to the will of God, perhaps grow in our worship and love of Jesus in ways very different than what we may like. But we rest assured, God is with us as we, with Mary say :“be it done to me according to your Word.” [Luke 1:38]

This Yes to God is deeply rooted as a response to a statement shared by Gabriel. The angel said “Nothing will be impossible for God.” NAB version. The words are strong but they have lost much of their power. The older versions are worded as : “For WITH God nothing shall be impossible.” RSV version, (emphasis mine). This holy promise is sent from the very heart of God to all who will trust and say yes to His Son. It is an holy invitation of eternal, infinite love to join with Emmanuel in an adventure of grace for all eternity. What is God calling us to share? Our Advent YES will lead us to the joys of Christmas in ways we have never known.

Beethoven’s 6th Symphony

In honor of Beethoven’s 250th Birthday take the time to listen to his Symphony No. 6.

Seekers or Servants of Joy? – Gaudate Sunday

Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudate Sunday ~ 13 Sunday 2020

Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Responsorial: Luke 1:46-48, 49, 53-54, II I Thessalonians 5:16-24; Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28

Gaudate Sunday – The Advent Sunday of rejoicing. It is the Sunday when the pink Advent candle is lit and in the Church usually the clergy will wear vestments of rose color, expressing the joy of Christ’s coming. This extraordinary and difficult year of 2020 it is this eternally real joy found with God as being very relevant.

It is one of the most basic desires of humanity of all ages to be happy. The infant is happy when they are fed, clean and secure in love. The desire for happiness only grows, as we do, more complex and deep. To belong, to be sheltered, free from hunger and pain, to have relationships that bring fulfillment and security is felt as the key to happiness. And truly each of those basic human needs and desires, when found, can make one happy. For a season.

But this is Gaudate Sunday, a day of rejoicing. It is significant the the contemporary meaning of the word, rejoice, is to feel joyful, delighted. But the now archaic meaning is different it is: to fill with joy, to gladden. [Source: The Free Dictionary]. In our post modern age the focus is on the meaning focused on SELF. In times past the meaning was as a verb focused upon others. This distinction is important if we are to both hear and experience the purpose, power and light of Scripture this joyful, holy day.

The joy of Gaudate Sunday is not experienced in the lighting of a pink candle or the priest wearing rose (or pink) vestments. The joy of the Lord is realized when we take to heart and life the words of Isaiah, St Paul and the Gospel. We live in times when darkness and discord is very real and powerful. Many, even sadly among Catholics and Christians, are expressing deep fear and frankly faith in the darkness. But the sacred writers we read this day lived in times of intense darkness as well. And they realized the Light who is our Lord. And they trusted, with intense joy, the Light of Christ would never be extinguished. They also allowed their lives to not just be seekers but servants of this eternal joy who is Jesus. They realized the extraordinary joy and adventure God called them (and us) to share, to bring His joy to others. Whether it be the powerful and wealthy or the sick, imprisoned and broken hearted. In fact Isaiah proclaimed and Jesus fulfilled that it was especially to those deemed unworthy that they were sent. To bring the light, God’s joy to those in darkness as Servants of Joy.

We are all blessed this weekend to have an example of this grace-filled adventure of holy joy. Saturday, December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the celebration of the apparition of our Blessed Mother to St. Juan Diego in the year 1531 on the hill of Tepeyac in what is now a suburb of Mexico City. While celebrated with deep and fervant veneration among the Latino faithful it is important to understand that Our Lady is the Patron of the ALL America’s. And her visitation is an exquisite lesson of being a Servant of Joy and the Light of Christ.

St. Juan Diego was, by the standards of the world, a most unsuitable candidate to become such a powerful part in the Kingdom of Christ in the Americas. He was an unwealthy, uneducated yet faithful farmer in what what would become Mexico City. Sources indicate he was indigenous to the land perhaps of the Aztec people. He would become the first native American to be canonized as a saint by the Church.

His story, briefly, is that one day as he returned from the local Franciscan Mission where he received faith formation, our Blessed Mother appeared to him and said he was to request the local bishop to build a chapel in her honor. He did so faithfully and was turned away by the bishop. Mary again appeared and after hearing his concerns that he was unworthy and unqualified for the task she instructed him to return to the bishop who was more open but asked for a sign that this was the will of God. The faithful servant once again encountered Mary in spite of trying not to face her with disappointments and having to attend to a dear uncle who was dying. The Blessed Virgin gently remonstrated Juan Diego with words well known to many, : “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” Juan Diego’s uncle was healed. She then instructed him to go to a special place where he found an abundance of flowers blooming out of season. A place not suitable for the flowers to grow. He gathered them in his mantle and returned to Mary who rearranged them and told the faithful farmer to bring them to the bishop. Juan Diego did so as a servant of joy would do. Upon seeing the bishop he opened his mantle and the flowers cascaded to the floor. And upon his mantle (tilma) there was the blessed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tilma of St. Juan Diego’s with this holy image is on display, centuries later, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. And her image is found in Catholic Churches especially in the Americas.

It is in this joyful and beautiful account we see the elements of Gaudate Sunday being lived out in the followers of Christ. It is a lesson that being Servants of Joy is an holy privilege that is not confined to those on this side of eternity. The angels and saints, and most profoundly our Blessed Mother bring us ever closer to Christ, the source of eternal joy. They also help us to yield to the promised Holy Spirit in our daily walk and to not be just seekers of happiness but servants of joy.

We also can learn that it is very often those deemed unworthy that are called to be servants of God’s eternal joy, along side those more seemingly able and blessed. And perhaps most vividly it is a clear message of to whom this light, this joy of God is especially to be brought. The indigenous people of the Americas were seen by most Europeans as being very much on the margins of humanity. Especially the governing forces saw the native Americans as subjects to be managed and used, for the benefit of the crowns. The missionaries, while not always as they should did try to see and bring the indigenous into God’s Kingdom.

So it is in 2020. Many are on the edges of survival. Many are considered only acceptable IF certain criteria is met. And many are struggling in a world of dark confusion, sickness, strife and despair. We must take seriously the words shared by St. Paul to not quench the Holy Spirit in each other, in those longing for the light and joy found only in God. We must quench instead our hurtful words, attitudes, fears and doubts that would build barriers to joy, to Jesus instead of doors of hope that others may come in.

It is with the angels and saints God calls us to be , today, servants of His Joy. Perhaps we are unable to go to places of great need. But all of us are able to open our hearts to those in darkness. To learn and understand and realize that while the darkness of evil in this world can be very great the light who is Jesus is unquenchably greater. We bring Him in friendships, compassion, in prayer. As great are the sorrows of this strange year even greater is the hope and light who is Jesus. May we, with St. Juan Diego, our Blessed Mother and each other bring God’s joy and light into the darkness of the world.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

8 December 2020 Tueday

” To become the mother of the Savior. Mary was “enriched by God with gifts appropriate to the role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace.”…Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary “full of grace” through God was redeemed from the moment of her conception.” …Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of Almighty God and by the virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of sin.” Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraphs 490- 491.

So we remember and celebrate this holy day as we venerate and love Mary, Mother of God and the Church. This celebration is so powerful as we meditate upon Mary’s example and call to the faithful.

Mary shows us the grace and power of knowing, hearing and saying Yes! to the Word of God. “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Fearless, Faith-filled, humble her yes opened the way to the Savior, her Son.

As her yes resounds to and through us today Mary also shows us the focus of an humble follower of her Son. “My soul doth magnifies the Lord”. This short statement of focus gives us an essential key in the walk of faith, and discerning God’s will in our lives. What? Who? is being magnified by the words, the choices being made.

Mary, a disciple of Truth. Jesus would proclaim: ” I am the Way, the Truth the Life.” Mary exemplifies that this growing in the Truth who is Christ is a journey. From the Annunciation, the Finding in the Temple, The Miracle at Cana of Galilee, and painfully at the Passion of her Son and joyfully, at His resurrection Mary walked the path of growing with her Son in the Truth that brought her ever greater freedom. Even the journey of the Church with the teaching of the Immaculate Conception affirms we are still growing in Truth. We don’t know it all. Only God does.

Let us each take time to be with our Blessed Mother today, and every day. May she, who is full of grace help us grow ever closer to her Son, our Savior. Jesus.

Prepare the Way of the Lord – A Path to a Better Future.

2nd Sunday of Advent ~ 6 December 2020

Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Responsorial: Psalm 85; II: II Peter 3:8-14; Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

“Prepare the Way of the Lord…” These words from the Prophet Isaiah resound in the first reading and the Gospel this Second Sunday of Advent. For those of us who are fans of George Frederick Handel and especially The Messiah these words resonate in the beautiful opening Accompagnato. We can hear the Holy Spirit call to us to become and be the people of the Messiah proclaiming and living the comforting hope of His grace and preparing the ways for Christ to come into our hearts and lives and in the the lives of all creation.

This message resonates this year in ways unimagined last Advent. We are a people needing to follow the way that is Christ as we hunger for and seek His coming. This Second Sunday of Advent we face the probable reality that Advent liturgies, the celebration of the Christmas will be deeply restrained in our parishes and families. In the shared call to heed the health and welfare of ourselves and our neighbors the ability to gather will be a hope we seek, hopefully in the coming calendar year. But these challenges in no way hinder or compromise our ability as individuals, as faith communities, as families to fully and joyfully seek our coming Lord and to Prepare the Way of the Lord ~ A Path to a Better Future.

This past year has been a year of crises. In health, economies, in nations, especially our own, politically and worldwide in our shared home, the environment. This flood of crisis could well overwhelm us as we see this year draw to a close. But these shared challenges present to us incomparable opportunities of grace, opportunities to prepare for our coming King as never before. Prayerfully, to help us all awaken and heed these gifts I want to share a new book written by Pope Francis entitled: Let Us Dream – A Path to a Better Future. I would ask, urge, each of you to read this as a special grace this Advent to help us, together to Prepare the Way of the Lord. I just received my copy and am deeply moved. Although I have not finished reading this short book I want to use the chapters to help us this extraordinary Advent. It is beautifully written but it also calls us to face some deep, difficult challenges as people of the Messiah.

As we heed the Scriptures for today (and yes PLEASE prayerfully read the Word of God for Mass) we see this message so powerfully proclaimed: PREPARE the Way of the LORD, Make Straight His Path. In the Gospels of late Jesus has been calling us to Prepare, Be Ready, Listen, Watch! If the events alone of this past year do not awaken in us this call of God in our lives we are in a very dangerous place. Much is happening. We are called, not to be spectators, but participants in these events of grace. We are called to dream and prepare for a better future that of a future where God and His ways prevail. Not just in a aspect of liturgy or devotion but in and through all our lives and creation.

In the book of Pope Francis he helps us understand that indeed we are in times of intense crisis. They are as our Holy father expresses times of reckoning. The Covid 19 perils have forced the world to realize immense dangers and unprecedented demands for care and solutions. So many medical professionals have sacrificed, even their lives as they have sought to help the sick and dying. Tragically, sadly, so many have mocked the pandemic, refused to even wear a mask, sharing their convictions that it is all an hoax. Indeed it is a time of reckoning.

The crises realities are also seen in the political/social upheavals where the once simple conviction that we are all Americans working for a common good, even with our many differences is not what many proclaim or live. The divisions and strifes between diverse peoples is a deadly horror that we must, together respond to. And with the divisive strife between liberal and conservative, Democrat or Republican we face wounds needing healing mercy.

And the crises of our environment, of climate change, would cause those who will listen to hear Creation crying out, begging for mercy. The lack of rain in California, the unprecedented hurricanes in the gulf, wildfires in normally green and damp Scandinavia, huge tracks of rain forest destroyed in South America, vast miles of plastic floating and polluting our oceans all bear a harsh witness of the greed and neglect of humanity.

The disregard of life, yes for the unborn, but also for the living, the homeless, the refugees of climate change and political oppression, those dying of hunger for bread and water as as those hungering for love and belonging all call out to God for mercy and justice.

All these, and more are what Pope Francis would call us to see and to hear. IF we are to prepare the way of the Lord, if we are to dream we must awaken to the living nightmares so many are suffering. We cannot afford to be like the proud Pharisees who just crossed the road as they came upon the man robbed and injured. To free the dreams of God within us we must see, hear the suffering and sorrows of the world, of humanity and then allow His grace to free His mercy and grace to prepare His ways. We must see the sufferings of all creatures and realize the sufferings of the Creator calls us to choose.

Life is continually a time of choosing. Advent is a time of special holy grace to look at our choices and to improve them for God, others and ourself. It is a time to repent. ALL the faithful are called to prepare the way of the Lord. We can become very comfortable in how we think that is to be done, by others and ourself. We can become, frankly, very set in our ways of following Jesus, of our worship, of our discipleship. And we can fall asleep in our faith. Crisis awakens us. Whether we want to or not we have to face truth and our call to grow in The Truth, Jesus. So God allows pandemics, wildfires and evacuations, personal crises, community changes and crises. He does so that we will see and listen to what is happening and hear His voices calling us to respond and prepare His Way.

We can choose denial and indifference. We can choose judgement and dismissal of others we deem unworthy. We can choose to pretend this earth is fine and what happens elsewhere is really not my concern or responsibility. We can choose to do anything else but…pray and act. Or.

We can choose to prayerfully prepare His Way. We can choose to see our world, each other, ourselves in His mercy and plan. We can choose to act, to build bridges of mercy and life instead of walls denial, indifference and pride. We can choose to heed the Psalmist for today as we seek to prepare ways where:

Kindness and truth shall meet, Justice and peace shall kiss, Truth shall spring out of the earth and justice look down from heaven.” ~ Psalm 85

We can choose to understand and realize our coming King is Lord of Heaven AND EARTH and that when he calls us home He will want to see how we cared for, treated our earthly home and the creation , the fellow creatures with which we shared. Or not.

It is as we see, hear, as we make our choices we will know it is time to act. To prepare the Way of God. This is eternally more than just how we may worship or pray. It is how we ACT in the whole of life. This season of Advent is a time when God would shake us and say, WAKE UP! It is time to be ready. It is a time to make ready the Way of the King. Our Advent and Christmas liturgies will not be as we would want or choose this strange year. But they can, nevertheless, be grace-filled and joyful times, in ways we would never expect. Advent, and especially Christmas are times filled with dreams. So it would be for those willing to Prepare the Way of the Lord and to build a path to a better future, a path more fully into the Presence and love who is our God.

“This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. What I hear at this moment is similar to what Isaiah hears God saying through him: ‘Come let us talk this over. Let us dare to dream.” ~ Pope Francis in Let Us Dream – The Path to a Better Future.

Wait for the Lord

Advent – The King Comes!

First Sunday of Advent ~ 29 November 2020

Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; Responsorial: Psalm 80; II: I Corinthians 1:3-9; Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

Happy New Year! Today we begin a new year in the Church. And after the many challenges and trials of the year past we begin this new year of our faith with hope and the call of God in our hearts. Of course only God knows what lies ahead. Surely there will be trials and problems but they will bring to us more opportunities of grace as we seek and prepare to draw ever closer to the coming King of Kings, Jesus our Lord.

Today is the dawn of a new day, a new year and a year closer to the return of our Savior and King in the fullness of His holy grace. It is indeed a time of dawning hope, in God.

To enter more fully into this holy time of joy let us share, in our hearts, the opening words of the Collect, the opening prayer for the Mass of this day: “Grant your faithful, we pray almighty God the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.”

As we pray and allow these holy words to seep into our perhaps dry and weary souls let us consider for a moment an image of hope.

The essence of Advent is that of relentless hope, a hope that causes us to watch, to wait, to seek to know Jesus who is coming.

Think of Mary, our Blessed Mother, upon the fullness of her assumption as she saw her Son waiting to welcome His mother home.

Think of St. John of the Cross as he finished his earthly journey and entered into his heavenly home. Consider him bringing to Jesus the love from his heart and life with the righteous deeds graced through him by God after a long dark night of the soul.

Remember all those who sought, perhaps like us imperfectly, to love and serve God and neighbor with hearts, maybe strong and holy or broken but seeking the hope of their merciful home in the heart of God.

Our Bible readings this holy day affirm this longing of God for us to be seeking and ready for His coming, to take us home, with an hope the world and enemy of our souls cannot destroy.

The prophet Isaiah, in our first reading, speaks of the struggles and times of wandering many (most) souls encounter in their journey this side of eternity. The Holy Spirit, speaking through Isaiah, in loving, brutal honesty speaks of our lives, our SELF-righteousness, as filthy rags before God. The sad recognition is also made of our failure to seek, to hold fast to God’s embrace. Yet through these tragic realities of sin there is HOPE! The Holy Spirit reminds us that we are still clay in the hands of the Potter…we are ALL the work of His hands. And this work of God promise graces and blessings, with His coming that eye has never seen or ear never heard. Words that St. Paul would, centuries later, share with the faithful (I Corinthians 2:9).

And it is in our second reading St. Paul also assures us that God’s peace and grace are promised to those who allow their souls to hear God’s call to that joyful relationship, that fellowship with His Son, Jesus the Christ.

But it is in the Gospel an essential key to an Holy Spirit filled and blessed Advent is found. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert!” We begin a new year this Sunday. But we still have many challenges to face. The trials of the Covid 19 pandemic will be with us for some time to come. This includes the restriction, for many, of the sacramental facets of our treasured faith. God allows these restrictions not to deny but to help us grow in holy love and solidarity with those unable to worship in full sacramental freedom and to share a very holy love that calls us to seek the health and welfare of our neighbor. God would also use this time to enlarge our hearts to His Presence and promises that are never constrained by circumstance or human conditions. These temporal restraints also lead us to seek and prepare and to receive the very Real Presence in the Eucharist of our Savior. Also the political struggles of our nation are challenges that faith and mercy, compassion and love will be needed to resolve. The struggles of economic uncertainty will be with us as well. But these struggles, as well those of the inner heart or family are but opportunities to seek and discover Jesus in ways we may have never imagined. The trials, the sorrows, the worries they may be very real. For awhile. But even more real, for all eternity is our King who is coming. And each struggle, each chapter of our lives is meant to be an opportunity to seek, watch and run into His arms.

Watch, Be alert, Jesus comes!

About Politics and being Pro-Life

 In light of the fact that concerns have been expressed about my inclusion of comments related to political issues I feel it appropriate to reply.
First thank you to each of you for your insights and convictions.  They are deeply valued and important.  It is not my intent to devalue or offend anyone.  It is always my intent that we all are challenged to pray and consider what is shared…and GROW in the faith and our walk with Christ.  As those of you who have shared in the Bible studies at St. John’s and St. Peter’s know dealing with issues,  however controversial, with courteous, sincere and prayerful discussion in the light of Scripture and the Catechesis of our Church is something I believe to be essential.  My reflections hold those same convictions.  As for concerns that what I share my offend some and result in less ‘followers’ that is a dynamic I have been well aware of from the earliest days of my ministry.  But it has not and cannot be the basis of my sharing.  I freely recognize what I share is but simple insights and that I am no theologian or Bible scholar.  I recognize and respect the higher offices of the priests and bishops, the whole people of God.  I also recognize their humanity that is shared with us all.  To simplify,  I am only a very simple servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I seek to share that which I believe He asks me to share.  That I share imperfectly and fail to share all He would ask I also, sadly recognize and ask His and your forgiveness.  I seek only to be the simple faithful servant I am.
Now about including political issues:   As a teacher I strongly believe we must face the issues in our world in the full light of Truth, Who is Jesus Christ.  That means we need to recognize issues such as the pandemic, the fires and political issues.  In my reflections leading up to the election I sought to do so but especially to foster a mature discernment of the broad picture of what is occurring.  What I said in the reflection on Sunday was perhaps political but it was also my honest observation of what I see as a man who is sadly mentally unwell.  I meant no disrespect to anyone.  I shared only from my experiences of working with and for those who struggle with mental health problems.  That this sad dynamic is having an immense impact on the Constitutional well being of our country I would think is seen by most.  I see it as a preeminent reality as we are called to celebrate and honor Christ our King.
For everyone and especially for those troubled by those few words please read and reflect on the entire message I shared.  No it wasn’t about abortion, politics or the pandemic.  Those are but relevant points leading to what I believe is so urgent and needed.  Christ is our King.  And we need to serve Him with all our hearts as He enables and guides each of us through these intense trials.
But about abortion and the political battles in our country and world.  First I would hope all would know I am opposed, passionately, to abortion.  I see the sacredness of life of the unborn to be an indisputable truth.  However I believe in what some may call:  “Consistent Whole Life”.  I see each human soul, whether unborn, devoutly faithful to God and Church, poor ,homeless person , extraordinarily wealthy, Republican or Democrat, in prison or even on death row, an immigrant, legal or illegal, each man, woman, girl or boy to be as sacred as the unborn child.  I believe also that the majority of those who procure or support or even perform abortions do so without the full truth, compassion and support they need to realize there is a better way. So as a result I cannot agree that abortion is the preeminent matter. (Please understand the words of the USCCB were NOT ex cathedra and neither is their agreement among the Bishops on this). 
This leads me to a long held conviction of the battle for the unborn.  I feel it has become far too political. It is a matter of moral values, faith values, values of the heart. Values that politics and politicians are not known to excel in.  It saddens me that other matters of respect life are of lesser importance to so many pro-life causes.  Euthanasia is recognized as wrong but rarely addressed with matching concern.  Health care, providing care for the sacred life of these already BORN is often seen by some pro-life folks as a socialist cause.  Response to refugees and immigrants that sees no value to those struggling to escape oppression or of families with their children worthy only to be caged and sent away seems, to me cruel and brutal.  

I know this may strike many as naive and absurd but I believe that prayerfully we CAN listen, dialogue and work together on common values of LIFE.  For traditional pro-life voters to listen, learn and realize WITH those who may embrace pro-abortion, pro-choice stances that common ground can be discovered.  And from that common ground bridges built to overcome these evils.   In other words I do not have much faith in the political approaches in dealing with these matters.  I do have faith that Christ our King will, through His Holy Spirit lead all who are willing to grow in their realization of the sacredness of all life, unborn or aged, holy and pious or struggling and broken.  

This discussion is much like those shared in our Bible studies. Hopefully we may soon return to those blessings. But the sharing of our hearts and our seeking of our King for grace and guidance will only grow, regardless of the topic or times.

God be with you all as we seek to protect and cherish all life as a sacred gift.

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