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Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.

The Stations of the Cross for Peace and Healing

Gathering in the Presence of God, his angels and saints, let us share with Christ, in the Way of the Cross for peace and healing, in the Ukraine, and all lands, homes and hearts in conflict.  May the Holy Spirit also bring God’s peace and healing in our churches.

“…for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Col. 1: 16a – 20b)

 Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, you calls us to follow your Son in the Way of the Cross.  Help us to learn and share that it is as we follow him that we will find the peace, healing, and holiness that is promised in your Word.  In our journey together may the peace and healing mercy of your Son prevail and reach through us in our ways and in our words.  These prayers we make through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jesus Condemned by Pilate

  I. FIRST STATION:  JESUS IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ With Jesus,  many in this world are condemned to suffer from wars and conflicts flowing from pride, lust for their neighbors lands, their lives and, from evil desires to control.

♰ Holy Lord you shared, from your heart words and deeds of peace,  hope, and healing.  May your love conquer fear, and your tranquility overcome war and strife.  And as we follow you bring your peace and healing to places and people in conflict.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus takes up the cross

II SECOND STATION:  JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Scourged and beaten Jesus is led to take his cross.  His heart is beating from the mockery of a trial and the wounds of scourging.  He looks at his cross. His hands that drew sinners to peace, the same hands that shared forgiveness and healing now take the heavy, coarse wood.  And as it weighs upon him he brings his peace, that is greater than any place of war, sorrow or need.

♰ Jesus you touched and drew so many to yourself.  Little children and holy apostles knew the embrace of your arms.  Drawn close to your side they knew and learned of your love and mercy.  Help us Lord to know that as we take up our cross our hearts are healed and made strong in your Presence and peace that we may know and share that same love.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of Your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son He sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and healing will prevail.

Jesus falls the first time

III THIRD STATION JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ The evils of conflict and violence have exhausted the Christ.  He falls the first time.  So the same evils of those denying the peace, life and well-being of others now wearies our God.   May anyone involved in these conflicts of life allow God to heal their hearts that they me see Christ in those they oppress.  May we all learn to see God in all, especially in those who may differ from us.

♰ Savior when we fall into conflicts and strife we may not realize the sorrow and suffering we cause to others, and to you.  Lord forgive us.  Help us to rise again and follow you as servants and soldiers of peace and healing.  Cause us to learn that the closer to your side we walk, that there the stumbles and falls we experience in life will be into your arms of peace and healing for ourselves and for the world.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus & Mary meet

IV FOURTH STATION JESUS MEETS HIS MOTHER

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Climbing the way of sorrows Christ meets his mother.  Seeing her Son struggle and gasp with the burden of the cross she feels her heart breaking for the sorrows He carries.  The mother of Jesus, our mother, our Queen of Peace, with the piercing of her own soul and heart is able to reach out for him and all her children to lead us to the healing and peace only her son can bring.

♰ Immaculate Heart of Mary pray for us.  Help us to know the peace and healing found in the Sacred Heart of your Son.  We especially pray for your children suffering in times and places of war and sorrow.  Bring them through the places and times of death and loss to the healing, peace and hope of your son.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Simon helps Jesus carry the cross

V FIFTH STATION SIMON HELPS JESUS CARRY THE CROSS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Simon’s heart is gripped with fear as he is made to help carry the cross of Jesus.  The humiliation and dread of facing the crucifixion looms in his mind as he is compelled to carry the splintery wood.  Thrust to Christ by the cross Simon finds his body pressed to the wounded side of Jesus.  So today many are forced to carry crosses of great loss and suffering as innocent souls in places of conflict, as young souls made to fight against their neighbors.  May they each realize God is with them and experience God’s peace, healing and, courage.

♰ Lord, sometimes immense are the fears your people face.  The crosses of our life can bring us shame and dread until we realize those crosses bring us to your wounded side.  Help us learn that it is at your holy, wounded side we discover your love that conquers our fears. And there we find peace,  healing, and courageous love to press on with You.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

VI SIXTH STATION    VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Veronica went with all the loving courage her heart possessed to push through the taunting mob to comfort and wipe the face of Jesus.  Saddened that she could not do any more for Him she stumbled back to the side to the road with the soiled cloth.  Soon she would learn that his image was forever upon that which she carried in her hands and heart.  May all those who seek to alleviate the wounds and suffering of those in places of war, sorrow and loss realize they minister to and bear the image of Jesus in their hearts.

♰ Holy Jesus consecrate with your holy image and love all that our hands and hearts seek to do.  Help us to realize that it is your love, Your Presence, we carry in our lives.  May your Presence and image we bear bring peace and healing to all we would meet.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus falls a second time

VII SEVENTH STATION JESUS FALLS A SECOND TIME

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ The wounded heart Jesus was nearing complete exhaustion.  Physical shock brought from his wounds was weakening our Lord with each step.  Stumbling up the road Jesus falls a second time. The wounds of conflict cause untold suffering in lands, homes and hearts at war.  Many would be those who might fall with Jesus in their journey..

♰ Lord God as you shared our journey of flesh your holy Body suffered.  Help us, in our physical afflictions, to allow our simple sufferings to be united through Your Body for the good of Your Kingdom.  Especially for all those exhausted by the battles of life,  even if they fear their falls, may they realize they are falling  into the peace and strength of he who will rise again.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus and the women of Jerusalem

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

VIII  EIGHTH STATION:  JESUS AND THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM

The women of Jerusalem cried out with their hearts for the suffering Savior.  Jesus calls to them, from his heart, to pray for the sins of their land and people that God’s peace and healing would prevail. Calling to all hearts with the cross he bears   Jesus seeks to show us His Kingdom of life, peace and restoration will prevail.

♰ Savior help us just not to lament your suffering and the sins of others.  Help us to truly seek to bring your holy peace and healing love for our wounded world today.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With His love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to You I come, with the grace of Your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son He sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit Whose power will raise us again.

Jesus falls the third time

IX NINTH STATION JESUS FALLS THE THIRD TIME

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Jesus approaches the summit of Calvary.  Climbing the final steps Jesus stumbles and falls a third time.  Yet in conquering the mountain of the world’s sin Jesus will not fail.  From the rocky ground he had created to be the soil of life and peace Jesus gets up in the quest of His heart…to find and free our lives from sin and strife.

♰ Jesus, Savior,  You allowed no obstacle to hinder your heart’s quest to seek and to save each of us.  Remove from our hearts anything that hinders us from knowing you and the peace and freedom only you can bring.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus is stripped of his garments

X TENTH STATION JESUS IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Christ, the King of Kings arrived at Calvary.  The soldiers stripped His wounded Body of all his bloodied garments.  Clothed now, only in the naked dignity of holiness, peace and love Jesus was not afraid.  May all those experiencing the cruel assault upon the worth and dignity of their lives in places of war and loss discover the help and care from God’s people today.

♰ Jesus sometimes our hearts and lives feel totally vulnerable and afraid.  We seek to hide behind our work, efforts, words and semblances of control  Help us, Lord, to allow Your peace, hope and holy love to clothe our lives with the dignity of Your Presence.  And Jesus help us especially care for those suffering amidst conflicts great or small to be clothed with strength and help that will bring them your peace.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus is nailed to the cross

XI ELEVENTH STATION JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ The nails are pounded into the hands and  feet of Emmanuel, God with us.  With each new wound the trauma and pain deeply damage his aching heart.  The soldiers watch as Christ’s Body struggles with the  wounds of crucifixion.  They have seen it many times.  But this one is different.  They did not know their nails pierced the hands and feet of God.  So it is today.  The battles and conquests wrought upon others bring, anew wounds to the Body of Christ and to all created by God.

♰ Jesus, Emmanuel, so often we say, do, or witness things that hurt and destroy.  So often we may not even be aware of the wounding or the wounded.  Lord helps us not to just witness or to wound.  Help us to heal.  In places or conflict grant us courage us wage your peace and hope.  Reach out through our hands, feet and words to bring the healing Presence to your wounded Body and,  to your wounded world.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus dies on the cross

XII TWELFTH STATION JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ Jesus dies on the cross.  He does so much sooner than is normal.  The shaken soldiers must be sure that this man is truly dead so one pierces His side, His heart, with a spear.  Blood and water flow from the wound, from the broken heart of Jesus, from the heart of God.  Today, in a world afflicted by war and destruction of life in so many ways and places the heart of God is pierced.  But the wounded heart of God will bring us to know that our hearts and lives are created to have the peace of God prevail and rule.  The death, the broken heart of God is not defeat.  It is the place and way of the conquest of the sins, the wars and strife of this world.

♰ Heavenly Father as your Son died on the Cross his heart was broken.  With the piercing of his side the water and blood flowed out.  May the holy water of his Word and his sacred Blood we share in the cup cleanse, forgive and heal our sin and conflicts that his peace and eternal love would will fill our hearts and lands and churches.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus is taken down from the cross

XIII THIRTEENTH STATION  JESUS IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ The disciples take the broken Body of Christ down from the cross.  Touching his pierced side their own aching hearts are calmed.  Sensing, they knew not what, they found that in his wounds theirs were not the same.  Many are those being buried in the places of war.  Many are the hopes and dreams in hearts at conflict also buried.  May we, with the saints and angels commit those who have died and the dreams and hopes of life to God who conquers sin, war and despair.

♰ Holy Spirit so often we resist your guiding hand that brings us to the tomb , to see the wounds of the Savior.  Yet as you help us to remember his words in our hearts and to touch his holy body we find patience, help and strength for the journeys we share, for our crosses we bear.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Jesus is placed in the tomb

XIV FOURTEENTH STATION JESUS IS PLACED IN THE TOMB

We adore you O Christ and we praise You.

Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

♰ They have wrapped Jesus in his burial shroud and placed him in the tomb.  With their understanding buried as well they leave with sorrow-filled hearts.  For many facing the cold graves and losses brought by wars and conflicts there is deep and real sorrow as their lives are wrapped in the shrouds of death and destruction.  But regardless if the loss and sorrow is great or seemingly small may we remember they belong in the hands of the crucified and that, with him we are called to rise from the sorrows of this world.

♰ Holy Spirit pray for us when our hearts are overwhelmed with this world.  Bring us to rest in the healing wounds of our Savior who rose from his tomb to conquer any conflict, sin and death.  Heal and renew our hearts in his faith, courage and love.  May the peace and promise of his resurrection fill our lives.

And we pray… Holy Spirit, Power of God, Strengthen me, for this path I trod.  This cross, with Christ I take.  With his love, this way I’ll make.  Heavenly Father, to you I come, in the grace of your Son.  Amen.

Our Father… Hail Mary…

Glory to God the Father, Whose love the Son he sent.  Glory to God the Son, Whose Passion, our ways will mend.  Glory to God the Spirit whose power for peace and mercy will prevail.

Ash Wednesday

Ashes placed upon the forehead,

mark the time of Lent begun.

Ashes placed upon the forehead,

Are the sign of penances sung.

From deep within our heart.

may we heed the call,

from our sins to turn away.

and in His Love find our all.

May we hear and heed

God’s Gospel to believe.

May His truth in mercy

sow redemption’s seed.

May we grow beyond,

these forty days of counting,

of just things given up,

for our Lenten accounting.

May we grow to know,

freedom real and lasting

in the Crucified Lord’s

embrace of love unsurpassing.

And in His Wounds of love,

Our wounds of life to bare.

May His Cross point the way,

To His Easter Light to share.

~ Harry Martin, 2010

Conversation Renewed, A Lenten Journey

8th Sunday or Ordinary Time ~ 27 February 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Sirach 27: 4-7; Responsorial: Psalm 92; II: I Corinthians 15: 54-58; Gospel: Luke 6: 39-45

Springs of Living Water (Photo source unknown)

In our world this week we are witnessing, in powerfully tragic ways, what can be called a failure to communicate. The people and the land of Ukraine are being invaded by forces under the direction and control of Vladimir Putin. In spite of fervent efforts to talk, to listen, to converse the Russian leadership has refused to communicate except on its terms of surrender to the will of the Kremlin oligarchy. What could have been powerful examples of conversation leading to wellsprings of mutual understanding and reconciliation have turned, instead into fetid pools of brackish water spoiled by the blood and waste of war and greed. This dynamic is, sadly far too common in our world, in the church, in our homes, and hearts in varying degrees.

The pollution and destruction of our communications are not new. The wisdom of many ancient faiths teaches the need for the watchful care and renewal of our conversations. The holy Word of God to which we are called to listen this Sunday would speak of this call to awareness and renewal of our conversations.

Our reading from the precious Old Testament book of Sirach speaks of how afflictions are like a sieve of life that shakes and separates that which is good from the husks of the world. It proceeds to remind us how “one’s speech discloses the bent of one’s mind.”

Our beautiful responsorial psalm acclaims how good, how powerful, how needed is our giving thanks to God. Yet, like many who have gone on before we often sing more disharmonic noise of complaint than we would of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Our second reading, from the epistle of I Corinthians, might seem out of place. Yet as the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, tells us this is our work, to proclaim, to witness to the life-giving waters of the resurrection of Christ. And it brings us to the message of Jesus we hear in the Gospel as we continue to hear from the Sermon on the Plain.

Jesus challenges his followers to pay careful heed to what is flowing from our lives and our mouths. He uses the analogy of a plant and the fruit it bears. We would not look for figs from the star thistle. We would not plant redwood trees if we were looking to harvest grapes. Yet in life, so often, we are tempted to expect beautiful roses from noisome mindless chatter. Our world has become addicted to talk, and increasingly it is not real but virtual. There are now so many ways to share what we are thinking, often in response to some political, social, or religious issue that has pushed our buttons. We are well focused on screens and keyboards but to truly focus, to converse, person-to-person, looking to each other in genuine active listening is becoming the exception. This brings us, as Jesus teaches to share from our hearts, our souls, our minds, from whatever is filling our world or our being. We need to allow Christ to renew within our lives the truth that we all are infinitely more than a brief sentence or a sound bite. We need to allow God to renew the grace and gift of conversation, the grace of active listening, and care-filled speaking.

Ash Wednesday ~ Lent Begins (photo source unknown)

This coming Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday. We are (I hope) praying, seeking God’s guidance of what to “give up” for Lent. More fully I hope we are seeking what “to do” for Lent, for God. The renewed consecration of our conversations (real, virtual, imagined) offer a powerful opportunity for us to grow closer to God, and each other as we consecrate our listening and our speaking to the Holy Spirit. Lent, this year, also shares the opportunity given us in the Synod of the Church, a call to listen and hear, to speak from our hearts the concerns, wounds, hopes, and faith we are called to share. What may seem an impossible task can really become a simple way of living and sharing our lives, our faith.

God calls us to Listen… to Him and each other. The old saying that we have two ears and one mouth has vital merit. We are created with a need to listen. We have witnessed that when someone is hearing impaired their ability to speak clearly, freely is usually impaired as well. Let’s be honest. We are all hearing impaired. We may be deaf to those with whom we consider different or less than what we might judge them to be. How hard is it for us to listen to an homeless individual who perhaps has not had a shower or fresh clothes to wear for weeks or months? How actively, openly do we listen to a soul whose faith, or religion does not meet our criteria of orthodoxy? How gently do we listen to a loved one who perhaps finds people of their gender attractive? These human examples can be indications of our hearing problems with God. Is our prayer life a litany of prayers and petitions (with some thanksgiving of course) done as quickly as possible? Does the Biblical command to “be still and know I AM God” sound ok but it’s hard to actually do? Do we fear listening to God may cause us to hear stuff about us that needs repentance? Encouragement? Do we avoid listening to God as a teenage child avoids listening to their parents? But it is in listening we grow, we learn, we come to places where God (and others) can help us become that person God has created us to be. We also become empowered to speak with insight, empathy, and wisdom from God and each other.

God calls us to talk… with Him and each other. God calls us to talk…WITH not AT Him or each other. We all have experienced those talks, those conversations where we realize something has happened. In prayer, some Christians would call this “praying through”, where our prayer is a rich dialogue between God and our soul. There is an infusion and awareness of God’s grace and love that liberates us to want to be in the Presence of He who carried the cross for us. We are brought a place of the soul where we want to share what is going on in our lives and to…listen to God.

The same occurs with each other when we are willing to un-stop our hearts, our minds, our ears, and listen to what is really going on in the life of another person. We can’t hide behind a screen or keyboard. We can’t hide behind our ignorance, fears, or prejudices. We start to see and hear the person for who they are, who WE are, with God. We are then empowered, step-by-step, to start conversing, talking, sharing the things that matter, or simply the peaceful silence with God. We a freed to share the journey of faith with God.

Together…Listening, speaking with God and each other. (Photo source unknown)

As we begin this season of Lent on Ash Wednesday may we, together, share in the work of the Synod of the Catholic Church (https://www.synod.va/en.html) walking together Listening to and speaking our witness of God.

As a special Lenten devotion we will be sharing a weekly devotion of Holy Listening and Speaking.

For Ash Wednesday, beginning of Lent:

  1. LISTEN: Be Still and Know I AM God (Psalm 46:10): Listen, silently, to God, before the Blessed Sacrament or a crucifix.

2). SPEAK: Share, with one person, a Lenten hope God has given you and listen to their hope.

Pray for the Ukraine, Pray with the Ukrainians

The prayers of all people of faith and goodwill are urgently needed. Praying the Our Father is a prayer known and prayed by many. Here is the Our Father prayed in Ukrainian:

Amen.

To Judge… or… To Love

7th Sunday of Ordinary time ~ 20 February 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: I Samuel 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Responsorial: Psalm 103; II: I Corinthians 15: 27-38; Gospel: Luke 6: 27- 38

The Body of Christ, commanded to judge or love? (Source, location unknown)

It might be said by some that our Scripture readings this Sunday are incredible. While faith and trust in God’s Word may be professed the acceptance and obedience or the following of the examples shared would be deemed by many as… incredible, that is lacking credibility.

Our first reading from the book of I Samuel describes an event in the life of young David as he is being pursued by King Saul who has clear intent to kill David as a threat to his throne. Providence has intervened and David with one of his faithful advisors and soldiers, Abishai are standing next to a sleeping King Saul with Saul’s spear at hand. The opportunity is strong to end the ruthless pursuit by the insanely jealous Saul. David, although anointed king refuses to commit regicide as he recognizes the anointing upon Saul as sacred.

The responsorial psalm, Psalm 103, is perhaps the most beautiful and powerful proclamations of the mercy, forgiveness, and love God has for His children, a love that separates our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west. This holy glimpse into the spiritual geography of the Kingdom of God would conquer our fallen humanity, our guilt, and our propensity to judge.

The second Bible reading, from the epistle of I Corinthians, teaches us that the cosmic collapse of Adam and Eve into the cruel realities of sin and guilt is a timeless reality. The letter then proceeds to teach us of an even greater reality that in Christ we are able to bear the heavenly image of Christ our Savior.

And in our Gospel reading from Luke, we continue to receive, from Jesus, and his the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus shares some of the most seemingly incredible statements, principles, holy standards that are given to His disciples, then and now. Jesus commands: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” And as if these words were not clear or plain enough our Lord commands us: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Christ continues to teach, and speak with eternal clarity of this command to love. But then he intensifies the message even more. After stating we must show the same mercy as God the Father shows us we are then to: “Stop judging…stop condemning, forgive…“. Many in the time of Jesus were incredulous of Christ and these words that were deemed absurd.

Time has not changed for many souls. In a world infused and drenched with greed, violence, and hate, in a world where Jesus said that His disciples are to be known by the love they have for God, one another, and by their love for their neighbors we see something else. The world sees Christians squabbling over their faith, their worship, their liturgy. The world sees and hears regular judgment of those outside of the faith and among those within the church. But if we were to see our Lord we would see Jesus weep.

The Bible indeed has much to say about judging others. There are clear circumstances, taught in the New Testament, and by our Lord where judgment, or discernment is a necessity. But those circumstances and the principles in which they are to be shared are specific and limited in scope and authority. But the command to not judge is far broader and embracing. Yet many would say that IF we really love someone then we must “judge their sin” and not the person. Indeed we may well need to share that certain pathways, or actions are destructive and contrary to the designs and will of God. But to condemn or judge another as unworthy of Christ or unworthy of His mercy and love is to take actions and exercise faculties for which we do not have. For if we are honest before God and each other we do not understand or know what is in the heart of another (or even ourselves). I think of the example of St. Teresa of Calcutta. She shared the compassion and mercy, the love of God with anyone in need in places and times and with souls who were not apparently faithful Christians (as judged by some. During the early years of the AIDS epidemic, St. Teresa’s order opened some of the very first residences in San Francisco and elsewhere to provide care for those dying of AIDs. Those needing care, needing love in their last days and hours had often been judged and rejected by family and churches. Solace, care, comfort were given and souls found the timeless message of God’s mercy.

Jesus would not be instructing us to ignore the cruel realities of sin and evil. He simply calls us to the holy love that looks past the wounds and dirt of this world to see each other as He sees us. He calls us to love with the healing hope and mercy of God and care for the soul left by the side of life’s road.

We may see someone whom we know is struggling with sin, with life and we may see them at church. Great may be the temptation to judge them as failed, lesser Christians, unworthy of true reverence for God and especially holy communion. Their sin, their struggles may be grossly real. But before we judge we would do well to pray for them, to ask God to heal them of whatever lack of love would lead them to seek something else to fill their void, to deaden the pain of their wounds. This could lead the Body of Christ to truly be a place of redeeming holiness and love that sets souls free. These graces would apply no matter the depth of sin, scandal, or despair. But we must be ready to be that friend that will show them that love God would share with them and for which we should be praying. The Scriptures for this Sunday challenge us in our faith communities, our families, and in our hearts. The light of the Word who is Jesus might well be asking us, as we encounter these decisions, how qualified, how wise am I, are any of us, to judge… love? Perhaps if we chose to love as Christ loves us, instead of judging, then the world would start to truly know we are Christians by the love we have one for another. Our faith, our love then would be much more credible.

“In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” ~ St. John of the Cross
(Image source unknown)

Blessings and Woes

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ Sunday 13 February 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 17: 5 – 8; Responsorial: Psalm 1; II: I Corinthians 15: 12, 16 – 20; Gospel: Luke 6: 17, 20 – 26

Photo source unknown

Blessing or Woe? The readings we share from the Bible this Sunday clearly proclaim that God places before us and, before all humanity a question of very basic yet eternal magnitude. Will we bother to discern and decide whether a course of action we make will bring God’s blessing or the woes that befall those who choose to turn away from following God? The image above is from an ancient castle and shows a classic opening from which defending archers would shoot their arrows at attacking enemies. It brutally shows a place of blessing or a place of woe, depending on the perspective of the individual. It also shows another paradox. The cross was a place for the accursed, a place of ultimate woe and despair. But it also illustrates that the cross is for the follower of Christ the place of life, light, and hope. It helps us realize our call, daily, to choose the blessings of God or the woes of unbelief.

Sermon on the Plain by Karely Ferenczy

In our Gospel for today, we read Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain. It has many points of similarity with the more prominent Sermon of the Mount found in Matthew’s gospel (Chapters 5-7). But it also proclaims some clear differences. Those realities point to how Jesus sought and taught to share the Gospel in places and ways relevant and fresh for the times and hearts of the listeners. The illustration above also bears this out rather well. We see Jesus teaching on a gentle plain to a crowd of listeners dressed in the fashions of the day of the artist, Karaly Ferenczy. It reminds us that God’s Word, whether heard for the first time millennia ago or read and shared today is meant, by the Holy Spirit to be fresh, relevant, empowered for now. Or, said more directly, God’s intends and desires that His blessings be fresh and alive in our lives now. And it affirms that unbelief and choices made against God will result in unavoidable sorrows and woes unless repentance and conversion are graces presently alive in our life. The grammatical present tense of the Gospel today is clear. God would speak to our hearts… today if we will listen.

There is for some folks a tendency or even a temptation to make God into their image, their understanding of who God should be and what God should be like. This is indicated by the tendency to focus only on the blessings believed God wants us to have, or those blessings according to whom and how we may think God should distribute them. We also may be inclined to avoid or dismiss any real realization of the woes that God would pronounce. Or, again certain woes would be recognized and affirmed mainly against those who may differ from our understanding and place in our faith.

But God’s Word is quite clear. The blessings of God are predicated by our faith and seeking to live in the ways of God proclaimed in Scripture. They are not dependent on our circumstances, or our feelings. They are from God and exceed, infinitely the lesser matters of worldy attitudes and status. Likewise, the sorrows and woes coming from choices against God will come, unless repentance is embraced, and human wisdom, power and ability will not enable us to escape from the results of rebellion. The options God would share are clear. But as the refrain from the Psalm proclaims, “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.”

It is worthwhile to note the crowd to whom Jesus spoke that day on the plain. There were people from: “Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.” (Lu. 6:17). Jesus was addressing Jews and Gentiles, devout Hebrews, and undoubtedly souls of weaker or even other faiths if the demographics are understood. He was making it clear our social or spiritual status, no matter how important or prominent was not important. What was important was the heart for God and each other.

Every day we are called by the Holy Spirit to choose between blessing and woe. This is often most understood regarding ourselves and that is valid. We are called to discern between actions and words, places and even people that influence our lives. Are our choices empowering and bringing God’s blessings of His peace, hope, mercy, forgiveness and love. Are we growing richer in the blessings of heaven even if our worldly struggles exist or grow? In the most basic and clear way, are we choosing Christ, to grow in His will and closer in His Presence?

As we grow in blessing, as we grow in Christ we will learn that these blessings and woes will be shared with others. Do my words, actions and focus bring God and God’s blessings more intimately into the lives of others? Or do they result in wounds, doubts, fear, and cause others to distance themselves from God’s people and God? Again, as always the context of Scripture is essential to see. Jesus was facing the doubt-filled ignorance and hate of the Pharisees and scribes growing in their challenges against Christ. Yes, they were very religious. They knew the Scriptures, rules, and traditions of their religion but they knew not God when He stood before them. Instead of using their faith to grow closer and bring others closer to God, they focused instead on using their spiritual knowledge as hammers and wedges dividing, wounding, and assaulting the faith of others. The premise of might makes right fueled the abuses of persecution, spiritual hunger, hate, and sorrow. While their ultimate woes may not be recognized their inevitability was made clear by Jesus.

Blessing or Woe? These are choices we must make in our daily and ongoing journey for God and His Kingdom. We realize we each have made woe-filled choices. What is our Hope? We see it in the first image, the cross of Christ where we leave our failings, woes, and sinful decisions to God’s mercy and forgiveness. What of our sorrows, wounds, and hopes for God’s blessings? We find the, again, at His cross, in His Presence. And we especially grow in God’s Real Presence in the Holy Spirit, The Word of God, and the Eucharist. May the place of greatest blessing, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ help us to grow as a people sharing those blessings and freeing this world from the many woes which we may face.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Jesus on the cross by Simon Bisley

God is…

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 30 January 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Responsorial: Psalm 71; II: I Corinthians 12: 31- 13:13; Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

The Attempt to hurl Jesus off the cliff in Nazareth [Source unknown]

Our reading from the Gospel of Luke today shares the account of Jesus reading in the synagogue in Nazareth and after explaining the reading from Isaiah prophecy is pushed out of the place he worshipped as a boy and the townspeople seek to cast him off the cliff of the town. It is an early and sad account of the rejection Jesus would face as he sought to proclaim and bring God’s Kingdom to the world. This early, violent rejection was but a bitter taste of what was to come. But why? What did Christ say that so infuriated the people of his hometown?

Jesus in the synagogue that Sabbath said but a few words. But what he did say powerfully confronted the little faith and equally little scope of the listener’s relationship with God. As their smallness was confronted they responded as many of us may do with protest and bitter anger. It would have been much better received if the Christ would have confronted the sins and failures of others outside the synagogue, the Romans, the lapsed Jews, anyone but those in attendance. This dramatic break in the relationship of those of Nazareth and their hometown boy is a sad lesson in how our relationship with and awareness of God, if weak or restricted, can cause us to reject and wound God who we would worship. It brings us to prayerfully consider a vital question. In my heart, my mind, and my soul, my life, who, what is God, to me?

Over the ages, many souls, great and perhaps self-presumed as great, have sought to answer that question. In our own age, there is an incredible array of expertise ready to answer that question, “God is??? for us. And as we apply ourselves to many of these sources we may find our minds and hearts with confusion and doubt. But it is helpful and important to remember that God is beyond our human understanding. God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is so infinite in awe and beauty that to attempt to explain or reduce God to the paradigms we construct would be futile at best. But if we remember God is one in three persons and that while we cannot understand that truth we can relate, and that we are called to love to our Creator, Savior, God.

Our relationship with, our growing in our realization of who God is, can be brought into a clarity that can grow for us for all eternity as we faithfully look to and embrace our second reading from I Corinthians. The “Love Chapter” is often relegated to the marriage ceremony where it is read, or maybe sung and then often forgotten. But it is Holy Spirit infused Truth for our walk with God, daily.

To help better immerse our lives, our relationship with Jesus into this power let us take some literary license that is very solid in Biblical Truth. In I John 4:16 we read:

“So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

As we take this holy grace and apply it to I Corinthians 13 we can realize something profound. We may faithfully read:

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have God, I am a resounding gong or clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have God, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have God, I gain nothing.

God is patient, God is kind. God is not jealous, is not pompous, is not inflated. God is not rude, does not seek selfish interests, God is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury, God does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child; think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is…God.

The people in the synagogue of Nazareth that day were faced with Jesus, they were faced with Love beyond their imaginations and understanding. And they were offended and scared so that they sought to cast him away from the cliff. So Jesus calls us to Himself, and to turn away from our failed understandings. He calls us to follow Him to another hill. He call us to follow Love. May we each, together, grow in our realization and relationships of this holy truth. God is Love.

Source of this place: God, Source of this picture, unknown.

Words of Spirit and Life

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 23 January 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Responsorial: Psalm 19; II: I Corinthians 12: 12-30; Gospel: Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21

Did you make any resolutions for the new year? What are your hopes for the year ahead? What are the worries, fears, or disappointments you find weighing upon your soul? These are good, valid questions we can consider as another year begins. But do our answers indicate our personal desires and feelings or do they seek and pursue those answers we would find with God?

Each of the Scriptures we can listen to today proclaim a very distinct, exciting, and encouraging message. But they also share truths that many unbelievers and, sadly many Christians find hard to believe. But in spite of these difficulties, God seeks for us to experience the promise, power, and realities of God’s Words of Spirit and Life.

For many people, if we were to ask, they would consider the invitation to read and study the Bible as rather underwhelming. The attraction of the television, internet activities, or using and exploring the latest techno tool as being far more enticing. And, being honest the study, of Scripture can be hard work, even tedious at times. Yet our responsorial psalm is clear: “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”! So where is the problem?

The frequent difficult response of people to God’s Word is encountered in our first reading from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The story shared is that while working to restore Jerusalem copies of the Hebrew Scriptures had been found. This occurred while the efforts were struggling and discouragement was growing, similar to the restoring work of God’s Spirit in the Church today. Nehemiah and the High Priest Ezra set aside a day to read and preach, explain the found Scriptures. The entire day was spent while the men, women, and children, old enough to understand, listened. The initial reaction was a sense of failure and realization at their neglect and sins before God. But Nehemiah shared a fuller truth from God’s Spirit. He called the people to celebrate God’s Word with thanksgiving, feasting, and joy. And he stated, “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10).

And our Psalm affirms this truth. True holiness and obedience bring the joy of God in our lives. Even when or if our circumstances are not happy. God’s Word is described in Psalm 19 as refreshing, perfect, as rejoicing the heart, and enduring forever.

But why is there so much sourness, judgment, strife, and disharmony among people professing to be believers of God and members of God’s Church? The answer is found in the second reading and the Gospel. When our study of God’s Word, when our worship and liturgies are not allowed to be infused with the Holy Spirit we soon find the dust and detritus of the world shrouding our treasures and joys.

Source: Lucas Mackin, Cater News

It is important to understand and recognize the peril illustrated above. And it is essential to allow the Holy Spirit, with the Light of God’s Word, to bring us to God and what God would bring in our lives. The cleansing mercies and forgiveness of God will cleanse and remove the clutter and mess that may bury the living treasure of God’s Word. This work of the Holy Spirit did just that for the people of Nehemiah’s day. But God doesn’t just leave us cleansed and sitting, empty by the side of the road. God brings His joy, purpose, and power into our lives as we plunge into the Words of Spirit and Life we will find in Scripture and prayer.

The great Sacrament of the Eucharist is shared in the prayerful sharing and exploration of God’s Word united with the Spirit-drenched celebration of the Eucharist. This holy joy must be shared in the fullness of God’s Spirit united in and uniting the faithful in holy communion. Our failure to experience this fullness is a warning of our allowing the clutter and debris of worldly worries and divisions to crowd in our souls and our communities. Great are the joys and holy surprises God will bring for those who seek His kingdom in Word and Spirit. Our seeking and our Yes! to God are thresholds to blessings untold.

Discovering God’s Word of Spirit and Life.

An Epiphany People, The Miracle at Cana of Galilee

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 16 January 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 62: 1-5; Responsorial: Psalm 96; II: I Corinthians 12: 4-11; Gospel: John 2: 1-11

The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana of Galilee

The miracle at the wedding at Cana of Galilee is the first recorded miracle at the hands and words of Jesus. This exciting intervention by God to affect and change natural events is often used as a lesson establishing the sacrament of marriage as Jesus blesses the event and thus establishes it as a sacred act. But this miracle, only recorded in the gospel of John, is about far more than a wedding or the vocation of marriage. This miracle culminates the holy glories of the celebration of the Epiphany.

Epiphany, began with the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus. This was followed by the Lord’s Baptism. The first two events focus upon the revelation of God in, through, and with the Son of God, Jesus. This miracle at the wedding is a manifestation of God’s grace and power through Jesus Himself as His earthly ministry begins. And it is distinct as it embraces more than the Holy Family or Jesus alone. It reveals, through Jesus the Christ, the embrace of humanity into God’s mercy and glory. This miracle in Cana of Galilee reveals the intent and power of God that calls us to be an Epiphany people.

The holy beauty and joy of marriage as a sacred act is truly evident in this event. It is seen that the desires of God to bless this young couple, and hence other marriages are displayed in the union of a man and a woman in the sacrament in holy matrimony. This vocation is very much an holy estate. Sacramental marriage as shared by the Church is about a distinct relationship and the graces associated with that vocation. But this miracle is about far more than marriage. It is about all who would seek God and the shared vocation to be an Epiphany people in our hearts and in our relationships.

Our Gospel account of this miracle concludes with the words: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” This experience occurred at a wedding. But it involved far more people than a bride and groom. This brings us to wonder, Who are the people of this epiphany? The story tells us that at this wedding party, with the celebration well underway they were running out of wine. What would be an humiliation for the groom and bride is about to quench all joy. It is in this setting we first meet the Epiphany people.

Mary the mother of Jesus has become aware of the problem. As a good Jewish woman she cannot allow this travesty of hospitality to occur and as a good Jewish mother she takes charge. She tells Jesus of the problem with an unquestioned expectation that he will do something. We then are shown a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus. He tells her: “My time has not yet come.” Jesus knows that with this public manifestation of his power the course of his life is revealed and set. Mary simply tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” With this simple, holy dialogue we are brought into the realm of an Epiphany people.

The actual miracle at Cana, while at a wedding does not directly involve the married couple. They might well have been unaware of the celestial drama that was unfolding in their midst. This first miracle of Christ does not involve the well-placed or mighty. It involves the servants. As our first reading proclaims the Presence and glory of God will be revealed to the poor, the outcasts, those on the fringes. It is an important lesson for us that to be a people of God’s glory revealed we need to be a people of humility. The Magi, seeking a newborn King found him in an humble house in a little Judean village. The revelation at Christ’s baptism came, not in some holy pristine fountain or spring but in the humble waters of the Jordan river. And the lesson continues. This miracle is shared with humble servants who would not have dared to assume to experience such a manifestation of God’s grace.

Perhaps we should listen to God’s Holy Spirit and realize we have neither the faculties nor the power to decide how or where God will bless and manifest the graces of mercy He alone can bring to a soul or to relationships. It is important to note no mention is made in this miracle of the bridal couple asking, or praying to God for help. They, often like us, were probably unaware of the needs they faced. But God, in His kindness allowed the saintly Mother of Jesus to be aware of their dilemma. May we learn to thank God, His angels, and saints for their unseen or unheard help for us in our lives. May we also grow in that same role of praying for the needs that others may not realize or that simply cannot bear alone. It is a very real grace of an Epiphany soul to seek God’s blessing for the needs of others.

To grow in our relationship in God’s Kingdom as a people sharing His witness of the power and holy glory, to be an Epiphany people we must allow ourselves the humble, holy gift of growing in our relationship with God. We must, like Mary and Jesus, dialogue, talk, we must pray, and listen to God. It is not a luxury but a necessity that we be a people who know and listen to His Word. We must, as Mary instructed, ” Do whatever He tells you.”

But there is another part of this miracle we must experience. The water and the wine of this very first miracle of the earthly ministry of Jesus foretell of the water and wine that will be shared at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry. During the Mass at the preparation of the cup, there is a private prayer said by the priest (or deacon). The words are said: “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” In this holy and joyful miracle, we are given the hope and promise of the Body and Blood which will be given for all who believe. In the Eucharistic prayer, we see the Holy Spirit change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus at the words of Jesus. In this first miracle, we see the Words of Jesus change the water to wine for the feast to be celebrated. And in both holy events, it is in the humble place of faithful obedience we witness the very best of God provided.

May we be and better become an epiphany people as we anticipate and participate in God’s grace and glory!

An Epiphany People ~ For the greater glory of God.

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