Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.


4th Sunday of Easter

The Shepherd’s Call

4th Sunday of Easter ~ 30 April 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Responsorial: Psalm 23; II: I Peter 2: 20B – 25; Gospel: John 10: 1-10

This fourth Sunday of Easter we read again the message of The Lord, our shepherd. The importance of this is indicated by the frequency it is shared in both the Old Testament and New as well as in our liturgies. And framed within the season and context of our Easter celebrations it is given a very powerful and relevant emphasis. Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, and Shepherd calls for us, by name. In his incarnation, Jesus came seeking, calling for his lost sheep, for us. From the cross, when he cried, “Forgive them, they know not what they do”, he calls us to his mercy. In his death, he called to all who were awaiting his grace. And risen from the dead he calls us all to follow him to life, abundant and eternal.

But what does that mean? How do we learn to listen, hear and heed the call of Jesus, the Shepherd of our souls? The Gospel today again affirms the essential need for our relationship with God. Our experience and knowledge of the faith, Sacramental graces, and Scriptures are all excellent. But they have little meaning if that knowledge has not resulted in a personal and living relationship with God. This is at the heart of today’s Scripture. We need to know Jesus calls us by name. He calls us to life, abundant and eternal. Christ calls us to follow him.

Called by name: The Easter story tells of Mary coming to the tomb to tend to the body of Jesus. At first, she does not see him. After Peter and John’s arrival, she stays and sees a man she thinks is a gardener. She still knows not that it is Jesus. But when Christ calls her by name, she knows. It is as we trust and learn of Jesus we learn that he knows us as no other can. When Jesus calls us, he knows whom it is he is calling. Our Shepherd knows us intimately, deeply, good and bad. As the Psalmist reminds us before He knit us in the womb, He knew us. [Psalm 139: 13-18]. Christ can see beyond our sins, failures, and fears to become that person He created and redeemed. It is as we learn and heed the Shepherd’s call we also grow beyond who we think we are to that child of God. Cephas became Peter, and Saul of Tarsus became Paul. And whether we actually experience a change of name when Jesus calls, and we heed, we grow into our real identity. As we listen, we learn who we are and grow in the life to which our Shepherd leads us.

Called to life, abundant and eternal: Sheep learn. Not always quickly or easily but we learn. We learn the voice of Jesus. We learn that where he leads is good, blessed, and safe, even in the midst of trials. And there may be things our Good Shepherd brings us to unlearn. Sadly, sometimes we Christians have an attitude that God’s ways are dead ends, hopeless. We may get stuck in our faith.

We do well to remember Jesus calls us to Life! This includes God’s peace. As He repeated over and over to his disciples, Peace! As Christians, we must learn that when God is truly leading Jesus will lead us with his peace, regardless of outward conflicts or circumstances. St. Paul, who well learned to follow Christ knew what it was to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart”, [Col. 3: 15]. This life to which we are called is also infused with the love Who is and of God, by which our fears are conquered [I John 4:18]. And it is in the ways of our Shepherd, ways of God’s peace, infused with His love best realized at the Cross, we journey to and in the Truth that is Jesus. And it is as the sheep heed His voice, hear their name and follow his footprints we grow in the Truth that is Christ and in the freedom God alone can bring. Many more blessings and graces are experienced by those following the Good Shepherd. But these three, Peace, Love, and Truth especially bring us to realize the life, abundant and eternal to which we are called.

Called to follow: Jesus calls to lead us in and to abundant life. Jesus calls us. To follow. After his resurrection, our Lord challenged his disciples to continue to follow him. This would be a daily choice they (and we ) are called to make. They (and we) must determine who, or what will shepherd our lives. Many are the choices we face. Fear, doubt, unforgiveness, anger, and worry are powerful false shepherds. Lust, greed, and pride also offer many promises of gratification if only we heed their siren’s call. But as we choose Jesus and learn His voice’s power and beauty, we seek to follow our Good Shepherd. A very simple yet powerful way to grow in our knowledge and experience of Jesus, our Shepherd is to take a very familiar Psalm, the twenty-third, as our Sheep’s Creed. Prayerfully read, affirm, and say this, out loud. Let it become our Sheep’s Creed in our Good Shepherd.

The Shepherd’s Voice – The Language of God

4th Sunday of Easter ~ 8 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 13:14, 43-52; Responsorial: Psalm 100; II: Revelation7:9, 14b-17; Gospel: John 10: 27-30

Sheep Following Their Shepherd ~ Photo Credit: Ineke Kamps

Alleluia Christ the Good Shepherd is Risen! The eternal joy of Easter continues to be proclaimed in the Church as we begin this 4t week of Easter. The Word of God shares the message of Christ, conquerer of sin and death as our Good Shepherd. Many are the titles and revelations of God throughout Scripture and time. But the lesson of our Lord God as the Good Shepherd is both ancient and more needed and relevant than ever.

All our readings share either the direct message of Jesus our Shepherd or clear examples of God’s grace calling and leading the faithful in the ways of God, or, as the Collect for Mass prays: “…God, lead us to share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave shepherd has gone before.” The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how the early church delighted and glorified the Word of God and how the Word of God spread through the whole region.

As the Psalm shares “We are his people, the sheep of his flock.”. As His sheep we see that we are “a great multitude…from every nation, race, people and tongue.”, (emphasis mine). This exquisite holy diversity is proclaimed without compromise in our second reading from the Book of Revelation. The apocalyptic reading we share concludes with the message “…the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.”

It is in the Gospel for this Lord’s Day we are reminded by Jesus that: ” My sheep hear my voice: I know them and they follow me.” This holy Easter we may well relate to the early disciples as they struggled to realize what they could not understand. Jesus is Risen! Especially in a world of conflict and deep turmoil affecting so many we may have difficulty in seeing the reality of Christ risen. We may also struggle with doubts, fears that would lock us away as the apostles prayed. But we, also like the early faithful are called to be listening to Jesus our Shepherd as He calls and leads us. But this leads us to wonder, if we are to know the Shepherd’s voice what is the language of God?

Years ago, while living in Seattle, in the Scandinavian district of Ballard I sometimes encountered fervent discussions among the Christians as to what language God spoke. The Danes said Danish, the Swedish were adamant it was Swedish, the people of Norway of course knew it was Norwegian, and the Finns were cold certain it would be Finnish. While all this was in jest…usually, it reflected a common reality of our appreciation of the Language of God. We think, want, expect God to we do or as we would prefer.

This are very much more heated arguments today about the language of God in our liturgy and worship. Latin is the official language of the Roman Catholic Church. And there are those who fervently believe our liturgies should be in this beautiful, holy and traditional language, even as the church has restored the even more ancient tradition of worship in the vernacular of the people.

This focus on language is a challenge for other Christians as well. I have known many deeply faithful Protestants who intensely believe their preferred version of the Bible is God’s choice. For centuries the beautiful English of the King James version of Scripture was THE only standard to be accepted. But as always how we speak evolves and the “Thees & Thous” of ancient English are not well received by some in this post-modern world. And there are many more examples of how we sheep from many flocks struggle with how we think God’s language should be.

It is perhaps why, the Shepherd of our souls brought this Sunday for His people. God has no problem with this great multitude of many tongues. As we draw closer to the exciting joy of Pentecost we are reminded that God’s Holy Spirit was manifested in several ways, including the disciples speaking in diverse tongues! But we still wonder…What is God’s language? How do we recognize the voice of our Shepherd?

As we follow Christ we learn He ever seeks to lead us beyond ourselves. He calls us, finds us, saves us, where ver we come from and are in our journey of life. This process of conversion can begin with being baptized as an infant. Or it may be when one learns of and seeks Christ as a teenager or adult. But God’s voices is calling us, by name, to follow and grow in God’s Kingdom, not ours. So we must remember that while God hears and perfectly understands us whether we seek Him in Spanish, English, Latin or in the language of any land God’s language, to us, will share some universal expressions.

God Speaks Peace. It is important to realize all through His earthly ministry Jesus sought to bring the Peace of His Kingdom to the souls he was with. The disciples, the woman at the well, the Jewish leader whose child was dying, the Gentiles..Jesus sought to cut through their conflicted lives and souls with His peace. This was even more evident after His resurrection. Every encounter, even when they could not see past their disbelief Jesus spoke to His followers in…Peace.

God Speaks Mercy. Consistent and often loud is the language of guilt and condemnation our sin and Satan can bring. Anger and unforgiveness is also one of the most popular dialects in this world. But God would speak mercy, and forgiveness to all who will listen. Jesus knew, fully the sins of the world and of each of us when He came as our Savior. But He still calls us each by name that we may know and proclaim: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Hearing God’s Mercy

God Speaks Hope. One of the most common struggles in life today is depression and and anxiety. In recent years the most common medications prescribed were not for cancer, diabetes or heart disease. The most common medications were anti-depressives and anti-anxiety drugs. This, of course does not include the massive quantities of socially and self-prescribed doses of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs. We would do well, especially as a genuine Easter People, to quell the voices of the world and listen to God who would speak Hope not founded in futile or temporal relief but in His Living Word, His promises that cannot fail.

God Speaks Love. We prayerfully hope that the worst of the Covid pandemic has passed. But there is a pandemic of even greater peril and destruction. It is the pandemic of hate. In Europe we witness a brutal war instigated by a man’s hatred for his neighbors and the sacredness of their land and lives. With the changes that (prayerfully) look to come about for abortion law in our country we are seeing storms of anger and hatred between people on this heart breaking issue. This is also seen in the civil life of our time were the false gospel of choice and politics with God has resulted in idols of hate and anger to breed deep strife and rancor. But! Jesus calls us each by name to follow Him out of the morass and deadly fields of this world into His peace, hope, mercy fused together in His love that conquered all that is deadly in this life. Christ calls us, as His Easter sheep to..Love, as He loves us. Together let us Listen for God, His Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love and then let us be His voice of Peace, Hope, Mercy and Love.

Website Powered by

Up ↑