Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.


Covid 19

A People of Mercy & Faith

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 13 September 2020

Mass Readings: I: Sirach 27:30-28-28:7; Responsorial: Psalm 103; II: Romans 14:7-9; Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

Oregon Wildfires ~ Week of 6 September 2020

The year of 2020 is clearly a year of intense trials and challenges. The Covid 19 pandemic continues unabated. The political strife also increases as election day draws closer. And the past few weeks has seen the entire west coast besieged with wildfires of which even some secular reporters and politicians are referring to now as “Apocalyptic”. Even at midday the skies have been orange and yellow and so dark that lights have needed to be turned on as we seek to navigate these times.

Golden Gate Bridge ~ Week of September 6 at Midday

The longing of many is for the fires, the smoke, the ash to end. Most everyone is deeply weary of these…tribulations. And while we are weary most everyone finds the need to talk of all that is happening. As the discussions flourish many seek to point blame in our need to understand WHY? Depending on the beliefs and the political correctness of the person the blame may go towards poor forest management, climate change or political ineptness. Some are even starting to say this is a judgement for as one Washington politician stated “Mother Earth is Mad”! That statement, in many ways, is an affirmation of Romans 8:22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now…“.

How serious is all this? To the thousands evacuated, often with no home to which to return, it is deadly serious. For those who have fallen sick or lost loved ones the Covid 19 plague is unspeakably painful. To the first responders struggling to save lives and property or the medical workers battling to bring healing to the sick it is, again deadly serious. To the thousands who have lost jobs or are trying to simply learn it is exhausting in the stress that has resulted. Yet, amazingly there are many who seek to either ignore, downplay or deny any of this is occurring.

There are those who believe climate change is a hoax foisted by liberals. Or perhaps it may have some truth but it is simply an end-time reality and nothing can or should be done. Speaking as a retired firefighter who has responded to a few fires I have to say wildfires now are far more intense and destructive on a consistently larger scale than what once was the norm. And they carry a clear message from “Mother Nature”. Or, more accurately, creation and our Creator. The environment is suffering on a global scale from greed and waste. The cult of SELF has resulted in the massive destruction and poverty as individuals have focused ever increasingly on themselves rather than on the common good or the even more rare value of one’s duty to God and others.

The pandemic is still doubted by many of both liberal and conservative values. Open-minded college students robed in the fine and very expensive fabrics of denial continue to gather for parties flaunting any health protocols. Conservative stalwarts who refuse to allow their selective choices in government tell them what to do or rob them of “their rights” imperil many in their mirror-focused love affairs. And, sadly politicians are embracing their respective chosen to ever build upon their empty empires of..self.

All this could be as oppressive and polluting as the smoke filled skies. It could be easy to say..What is the point? If it is so dismal why should we even try to hope?

But as intense, fierce or widespread as the fires and smoke may be or as prolonged and tragic as this plague may be there is even greater hope. Through all this God would make crystal clear His call, His plan for His Creation and all who will listen. We are to be A People of mercy and Faith.

The Place of Hope ~ The place of Mercy and Faith

The Bible readings this 24th Sunday of Extra-Ordinary times bring us the message of our Redeemer that will lead us through any trials. But it is in the opening prayer, The Collect, we find prayerful help:

“Look upon us, O God, Creator and ruler of all things, and, that we may feel the working of your mercy, grant that we may serve you with all our heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen”.

We must trust and remember that even through the thick clouds of smoke and fire, God is looking upon us. God may allow these tragedies. But God does not smile upon them. God recognizes that if love is to be real people must be able to choose. Right from wrong. Good from evil. Love from hate. Others before self. God also seeks to help us understand that these great sorrows are not necessarily caused just by the sins of those suffering. God would rather help us to admit our sins can cause great suffering for others. It is a very sad illustration of this truth that one of the most destructive and deadly of the California wildfires was caused by a group of people having a “gender reveal” party. with fireworks…. in the dry brush.

God indeed is looking upon us and calling to everyone through the smoke and flames, to be a people, not of selfishness and ego, but of mercy and faith. The first reading from the Wisdom book of Sirach reminds of this ancient call. It acknowledges the false pleasure we find in clinging to wrath and anger. It clearly proclaims the better way, the way of God…to forgive. To be a person both realizing their need of God’s mercy and a person freely sharing mercy.

St. Paul in the second Bible reading from Romans begins with: “None of lives for oneself and no one dies for oneself…”. The distance our world has traveled from this truth is immense. But it is only in one simple step, to God, that distance is conquered. The distance our self and sins bring between us and God is immense. But as the Responsorial Psalm proclaims the dimensions of God’s mercy are infinitely greater! “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.”

These great and imperative lessons from God are so beautiful and simple to…hear. But they are far more difficult to embrace and live through our lives. St. Peter understands this battle when, in the Gospel he asks Jesus “…how often must I forgive…”? And to this day we continue to seek to quantify and confine the mercy and forgiveness of God. As it applies especially to others. We seem to want a line in the sand that if someone crosses we are free to..deny mercy…to deny forgiveness. This is sought for how often someone sins. It is sought for types of sin (usually that afflict others….not us). If someone sins this many times! I am done! If someone commits THAT sin! THEY are DONE! But this quantifying of God’s mercy denies The Spirit and power, the purpose of God, Who is Mercy, of God who is Forgiveness.

Divine Mercy ~ Needed at ALL times

It was very soon after this conversation with Jesus that Peter told Jesus “help my unbelief!. To truly receive and share this mercy, this forgiveness Who is God takes faith. Faith from a heart, perhaps not wholly and holy perfect but wholly yielded to God. Jesus calls us to mercy, as we are, to become whom we are called to be.

The fires, the pandemic, the political and racial strife are brutally real. But the promises and call of God are an even greater reality. All people, men and women, young and old are fully equipped and able to live the lives of joy-filled faith and mercy, of selfLESSness as opposed to selfishness. Look to the examples of first responders, medical professionals and so many others to see the TRUTH of who we are called to be. Look to the Church, the faithful religious, clergy and especially the individuals and families who daily strive to live for Jesus and others as our example.

Sometimes God allows great flames of affliction to free us from what holds us back from being all He has created and called us to be. Let us listen and follow Him, together in the peace and life found in His mercy.

Know God! Know Hope! Know & Share God’s Mercy!

2nd Sunday of Easter ~ Divine Mercy Sunday ~ 2020


Thomas placing his finger into the wounds of Jesus

[Scripture Readings for Mass:  I:  Acts 2:42-47;  Psalm: Ps 118:2-4,,13-15,22-24;  II: I Peter 1:3-9;  Gospel: John 20:19-31]

” Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” ~ John 20:26-28

These words from the Gospel of John give us one of the most profound illustrations and lesson of Jesus, the doubting of humanity and the Divine Mercy of God that resolves our doubts, if we will share the journey of the lesson.

The designs of the Holy Spirit are majestically clear on this Sunday following the joy of Easter.  As we continue, in the Church, to celebrate Christ’s conquest of sin and death we come, these seven days later to this celebration of His resurrection mercy.  It is the mercy-drenched wisdom of God’s Spirit that recognizes how difficult our Easter celebrations are as we daily live and confront our realities of human nature.  That first Easter the disciples were crippled in uncertainty and doubt.  They could not see the eternal reality of the Risen Christ in the fog of the reality of their human reason and weakness.  They all also struggled with their guilt, not trusting, not understanding the One they had called Lord.  Peter in particular, was bound by chains of doubt and remorse with his three-fold denial of Jesus the night of His arrest.  And as it was with the followers of Jesus then, so it is with His followers today.

This holy season of Easter, 2020, is especially bizarre.  Never has the entire world been battling a pandemic of such scope.  Never has the world been faced with economic upheaval of such depth as it battles this illness that destroys the basic ability to simply breath.  The scope of these tribulations are, for the faithful, intensified as the ancient practices of worship, community and support are under lockdown.  And it is vital to understand that even with those who may not share faith as we would, that their lives are just as difficult,  yet without the hope and assurance of faith, however perplexed it may be.

But again the fore-wisdom of the Holy Spirit in majestic compassion brings us the lesson for this time.  God recognizes our struggles, our perils.  God knows that many struggle for life itself.  God knows that many face hunger that have never known such need before in their life.  God does know and God is grieved.  And God also knows that for so many, even many who profess to follow Christ, that their faith has been strong.  But not in Christ.  For the faith of many has been placed in the gifts of God, instead of God the Provider.  Tragically, for many their faith is deeply rooted in…THINGS so they stockpile whatever they think they may need.  Or invested, alone, in science, technology and medicine as the savior for these troubled times, failing to recognize those gifts and disciplines are given by God for the good of all, not for the good of profit and power of the few.  Or their faith is in politics, in politicians, blindly trusting those who spew key words that will resolve their discernment without the help of God’s Holy Spirit.  And even for many who take great pride in their religion or their spirituality but disallowing any faith, any liturgy, different from their own.  Indeed God does know and is grieved this season of Easter, 2020.  And God sends the message, promise, power and hope of His divine, resurrection mercy rooted in the blood stained soil of the the Cross.  For as God knows God also sees beyond our sin to souls redeemed, set free…healed.

It is in the poignant story of doubting Thomas and Jesus we are given the way of God’s mercy that calls each of us, by name.  The risen Christ had appeared to the women who came to the grave.  Jesus appeared as well to the disciples always assuring and sharing His peace, His mercy.  Yet at the meeting with the disciples Thomas was unable to attend. So when he hears of Jesus coming to them he responds.  Thomas, ever pragmatic, honest, guileless, states that unless he sees the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus, unless he sees and can place his fingers into the wound in the side of Jesus he would not believe.  [It is profoundly important that we, like Thomas, share our doubts, needs with God.  But we, like Thomas, must be prepared and willing to allow God to answer!]. A week later Jesus again appears to His followers.  This time Thomas is present.  Jesus calls him, by name, to come to Him, doubts, fears, human reason..wounds and all, “Thomas, Come”!  Jesus calls  and as Thomas comes engulfed in longing, doubt, fear, hope he sees Jesus opening His robe.  Thomas sees the wound in the side of Jesus…an open scar of love that will never quit. Jesus gently tells his friend, I sense smiling deep in His heart, to place his fingers in His side…..and Believe.  The response of Thomas shares so much…”My Lord and my God”!

We all would do well to quietly read and listen to God’s voice proclaimed in the Scriptures this day.  But especially in the story of Thomas we are given holy seeds of mercy and hope that will not fail.

We must allow ourselves to enter into the wounds of mercy of Jesus.  As Thomas, wounded, struggling, came to Jesus he placed his fingers into God’s wounds.  So it is with us when, in the Spirit, we hear Jesus calling us each by name.  We come to Him.  Let us each place our fearful, wounded lives deep into the wounds of our Savior.  Has our journey been one of painful wandering and woundedness?  Let us place our wounds of our  journey into His feet who came seeking for us.  Is our work, our life crippled by the circumstances of all that is happening?  Let us, in faith come, and place in the hands of him who embraced, yes hammer and wood, but even more, the lost and rejected and in those scars made by the nails find our peace and healing…find God’s mercy.  Is our heart a mess of uncertainty, exhaustion, loneliness or doubt?  Like Thomas let us listen as Jesus call us, by name, knowing all that is in our heart and come to Him whose heart was pierced by hate’s cruel spear.  And in whose heart we find our home of holy, majestic eternal love.

This Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, we gather, in spirit, to allow the many past feasts of Christ’s Eucharistic Presence to sustain us and nourish the hope of mercy that will gather us at His table once again.  And we gather to allow Christ to call us  each, individually, together, to Him and in His mercy be made whole.   And to share in the ways God will bring, the mercy and peace of Christ that is greater than any need, disease or sin.




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