Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.


5th Sunday of Easter

The Odd Stone

The 5th Sunday of Easter ~ 7 May 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 6: 1-7; Responsorial: Psalm 33; II: I Peter 2: 4-9; Gospel: John 14: 1-12

St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork Ireland

St. Peter teaches us today in our Epistle that our risen Lord, Jesus is ever gathering and working to fit together living stones the faithful into his church. It is in the Gospel for today, as Jesus speaks to his disciples but a short while before his passion, when he becomes The Stone rejected by the builders that we are taught he goes to prepare a place, a home for us. This fifth Sunday Easter we are given a powerful insight into the reality God has designed us for a living place in Him, in God’s Kingdom. It is a blessing to see beautiful and holy places for God. Whether they be immense and glorious cathedrals or small chapels and hidden churches.

The love, and longing of Jesus are evident that He longs to bring us each and bring us together into holy, living, and powerful places for us to grow in the glory and mercy of the risen Christ. To hear this message is blessed and easy. To believe and grow in the infinite and eternal Truth God would share is much more challenging. God would call us each to be and grow as His living stones.

We are given an historic glimpse into this design of God by the first reading from the Book of Acts. The church is young and growing. As it grew then it continues to grow now. Receiving the Word of God and being nurtured by the Eucharistic Feast it grew in and through the blessings and struggles of the people of God. As they grew it was evident there were divisions between the Hebrew believers and Gentile widows. The latter was not receiving the help and nurture needed for body and soul. The Holy Spirit responded by bringing forth the order of deacons. This would be one of many diverse and living stones as the church grew.

Then as now, a difficult challenge was being realized. It was rather easy for the big, important, beautiful living stones of God’s love and grace to. be recognized. The need for them, their place, and their purposes were easy to see and fit in the growing faith of the people of God. The merciful hands of God were very evident in the Apostles. The denial of Peter was being transformed by the Paraclete as he lived his yes to Jesus. James, John, and the others each followed the Savior into their places designed by God the Father. The women of the church whose love and faith opened the path to the empty tomb and Risen Christ also grew into their roles as women of God.

But there can be no doubt that among the early disciples and as it is among the disciple of Jesus now there were those odd stones. The ones for whom it was very difficult to know where and how they could belong. And if we could listen to the heart of Peter, John, and the others even they knew deeply and painfully the question: how, and where could God use them? No matter how odd the stone is, or may feel it is, in the pierced hands of God it is brought and fit where it is needed and belongs. It is with the gospel of creation that we learn some of the graces by which the hands of God work to bring us, the odd stones we may feel we are, where we need to be.

We can sense the intricate beauty and design of the places of God. Each stone fits. Special stones may be carved, polished, and placed to share their luster, shine, or powerful beauty reflecting and refracting the exquisite allure God seeks to reveal to us. But we must heed the lesson of those strong granites, marbles, gems, and crystals. For each stone, each of us must allow the hands of God to uncover our hidden riches. We must allow ourselves to be broken, sculpted, and polished to become the living stones worthy of our Creator.

It is a trait of our human nature to often judge what we see from those initial glimpses. Or if we are given something for a long while we will still often decide that the outward appearance of feeling, even of ourselves is often correct and complete. Much like the stones we see above we may see or feel that someone or ourselves are just another rock among many. Perhaps drab, unassuming, perhaps worthy to be shoved aside with others. We may honestly realize we are far too small in life to matter much, especially compared to the great and glorious God with whom we love. But then one day some angel picks us up and brings us to Jesus. Placing us in his pierced hands the angel will ask. “What about this one?” Jesus smiles and says “Yes!, It is exquisite for me.”

All the while we still only see a drab, brown, rather seemingly useless stone. But God sees what is hidden. What is hidden to use beneath the dirt and grist of this world is seen by God. What is a flaw in God’s mercy is broken open. What seems so ugly is pressed. Hard. For as long as is needed until the crystals of God’s holy Truth are formed. The healing mercies of Christ may be hidden from others. Or even from the living stone itself. But God is at work. Our true colors, strengths, and brokenness are to be discovered. In God’s hands. In God’s time. In God’s way. The deep pressures of spirit soul and even body will not destroy the design or longing of God. He sees, even hears that which is alive and hungering to be. The stones indeed may cry out. But as the Prophet Ezekiel saw hearts hardened by the world and sin would become alive by the Holy Spirit.

And so is our shared resurrection quest. The angels of God, with his saints, help us to know we are called. We belong to and with him, and each other. And it is as Jesus gathers us together that we find ourselves placed in his holy rock polisher called the church. We may grow irritated and weary as we are tossed and burnished against each other. The work of any church will often have calls and cries, grumblings, and frustrations, as did the church of the first deacons. But God is at work. From the polisher of many graces, God will take these living stones and sculpt, cut, and polish us to be who we are called by God to be and woven to fit into the fabric of living stones becoming His new Zion.

It is in those loving, infinite works of God, as the living stones we are that we experience that Jesus is, in deed and in Word the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ alone takes these odd stones that we are, flawed, marred by sin, and makes the Way to help us reveal Him. Christ is the Truth. It is in Him we discover who we are. Truly. Really. Eternally. And it is in Jesus we learn day by day to grow in the Life He is. We cannot dare to become locked and cast into our false selves or the edifices of past understandings. We must ever allow God’s Spirit to make our actions, our worship, and our service for God alive, and growing in the splendor of Truth that He is.

“Graciously be present to your people, we pray, O Lord, and lead those you have imbued with heavenly mysteries to pass from former ways to newness of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” ~ Prayer after Communion

FAITH… ACTION… LOVE ~ The 5th Sunday of Easter ~ 2020


Scripture Readings for Mass:  I:  Acts 6:1-7;  Responsorial: Ps. 33;  II: I Peter 2:4-9;  Gospel: John 14:1-12


Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: Faith in action is Love – and Love in action is Service.”  

This 5th Sunday of Easter the Holy Spirit, in speaking through our Bible readings,  would seek to lead us to grow in the tremendous gift and responsibility that is given each of us in the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  These Easter weeks where the power of God’s holy love is celebrated in our hearts are given to awaken in us this gift and responsibility.  But the joy of our faith has been oppressed as never before.

We all share this extraordinary time in the history of the world responding to the Corona Virus assault.  It is tangled with the economic chaos resulting from the shutdown of much of the work and services of…humanity.  It is also causing true travail for all people of faith as worship communities have had their doors locked by the authorities.  This aspect of this ongoing story has had very little mention in the media.  Yet for so many (and speaking of Catholic communities especially), this forced absence of worship, of Liturgy that has been celebrated for thousands of years is of profound  impact.  In California it may well be late August, September or even later before churches will be allowed to unlock their doors.

What does this mean for the Christian of 2020?  

What is the course for the individual believer prevented from meeting or worshipping as the Body of Christ?

Does God have anything to say, even this Sunday of the Easter season, to us as we make this journey of intense uncertainties…  Of very insecure security?

Answers to these questions are, indeed, given us by God.  And it is vital to remember that nothing ever occurs that takes God by surprise.  It is also necessary to remember that God neither approves of or smiles upon the great sorrows and trials that humanity is facing.  But it is also true God allows these conflicts.  It is part of the grace of love where humanity has the freedom to choose.  And sometimes choices made by others, even far away cause havoc of body and soul.  These reminders lead us to recognize an even more pressing reality.  The Corona virus is truly a clinical, medical challenge of deadly power.  The associated economic chaos is of both political and financial scopes beyond any the world has seen.  Yet both this tiny virus and the immense economies are but pawns of a far greater SPIRITUAL BATTLE.

We would embrace a deadly naiveté if we were to pretend all this is just about science and medicine.  Or that it is  just very complex politics and economics to resolve the financial crises.  Scripture is very clear.  GOD is not the author of confusion [I Cor. 14:33].  The extreme health crises and chaos, the economic tremors around the world are all signature examples of Satan, the enemies of our souls, our lives.

It is as we recognize the scope of the battles we face that the wisdom, the answers God gives  the sense we need, for hearts and minds of faith.

In allowing God to answer the question we shared above let’s first look at the Gospel for today.  Although we are in the midst of the Easter season it is no accident that the Gospel comes from events as our Lord faced His Passion and death.  Jesus is speaking to His followers who will be very soon encountering the forces of evil as never before.  His WORDS are a seeming paradox.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”  We must remember, believe and act upon this eternal reality and promise.  Our God, our Lord Jesus is our peace and security.  Repeatedly He assured the disciples in the moments before Calvary.  Repeatedly He would assure us today.. God is our peace, our security.  The temporal (TEMPORARY) tribulations we may face lose their power as we realize and trust. we are created, redeemed and empowered for Eternity.

As we allow these very real, at times painful, affairs of life that occur to be brought into proper perspective (The Light of His Word) we understand the need for our faith to be present and growing.  Even in the deepest uncertainties we can know, through God’s peace, embraced in faith the truth of our Easter acclamation:   ALLELUIA!  Our God reigns!  It is with our faith, rooted deep in God’s Word and Presence that we are able to know it is not through science or medicine, it is not with political clout or money we will know security and health of soul.  Those are but tools used for good or for evil.  And it is in faith they can be freed to be used for good, used by God.

This brings the truth to dawn new each day that…Because I believe..I must Act!  The evidence of true, growing faith is the actions of holy love directing the soul.


Those actions may be simply and powerfully to truly PRAY for healing from this virus, for justice to penetrate the wounded economies of the world, for politicians to learn it isn’t about them.  We are called to active PRAYER!

Our Faith in Action will be seen as the Church, The faithful daily celebrates the eternal liturgy of loving God truly Present in those with which we share this enforced isolation.  In families, for those who are sick, unemployed or just overwhelmed by the events of life, we are serving Christ Present in the simple sacraments of faith in loving action.

Our growing peace and security IN CHRIST WITH US will bring us to the realities of the early Church.  Our first reading spoke of the young Church in Jerusalem choosing those men to be the first deacons, men of faith, filled with God’s Spirit and wisdom, able to share God’s word.  They are but a small example of the entire Church whose faith and early history are summed up in an one word title:  ACTS!

The Christian faithful, in every age, have shared this Resurrection responsibility  and privilege.  We are redeemed to BE a people of FAITH and ACTS needed for our time and place.  St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Martyrs of faith throughout history,  St Bernadette of Lourds, the saints reading these words..called, empowered by God to see an impossible need and to have the faith and courage to build a bridge amidst great peril, but compelled by a love that recognizes a need to reach the other side, for the love of God.

If one is still unsure of God’s direction during these times of intense spiritual battle perhaps the answers, the guidance are more encountered at the Cross and Resurrection of…JESUS.




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