Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin, Permanent Deacon.



The Thanksgiving Path

Thanksgiving Mass ~ 24 November 2022 ~ Bible readings for Mass: I. Sirach 50: 22-24; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: I Corinthians 1: 3-9; Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19

Thanksgiving Day is here! We gather and share our gratitude to God and for each other. We remember and share for and with those who struggle with hunger, for shelter, and safety. We realize that thanksgiving, while common to think about is often not as easy to realize and express. Even our gatherings of family and friends may be seasoned with undesired tensions, worries, and anxieties. Yet when brought all together would teach us this feast of thanksgiving is a complex meal of many ingredients and parts. It takes a commitment to prepare and share this feast. It takes an even greater commitment to prepare and share the path of thanksgiving.

Our celebration coincides with the old harvest festivals. The Autumn colors and brisk weather help us to be mindful of the beauty of creation and the power and graces of our Creator. As we lift our eyes to the colors of fall we, with the help of the angels, lift our hearts in praise to God, our Creator, and Redeemer. And as we share our gratitude this day we are reminded this is a path we are called to share every day, regardless of season or time. It is as we walk this day in the light of God’s Word we are shown this path.

Each day, as we take our steps of life we are to remember the path of thanksgiving is a path of our free will. None of us is ever forced to be grateful. The refrain from the beautiful psalm of gratitude (145) proclaims; “I WILL praise your name for ever, O Lord.” The Bible, the saints, and life as well, all powerfully teach us life is not always painless or without struggle. This reality brings us to our Gospel for today. We hear the account of the ten lepers who sought healing from their leprosy from our Lord. God indeed gave them their healing. Yet only one, a Samaritan returned and knelt at the feet of Christ to give thanks. Life can easily cause our focus to become fixed upon our afflictions, upon ourselves. Why the other lepers did not return in gratitude we are not told. We are only told of the one who exercised his free will and resolved to give thanks to Jesus. We are shown that whatever the season or the day that to choose to be grateful is our choice to make. For the leper, the day that began in suffering with no end in sight ended before Christ in praise.

This choice, this exercise of free will leads us to take steps of thanksgiving. Gratitude brings us to God. Praise and thanksgiving lead into the very Presence of our Savior, our Lord. There is a very real power in the steps, the path of thanksgiving. Just as there is a very deadly power in steps of ingratitude, grumbling, and complaint. One path leads to God and to life. The other brings us to doubt and despair. These holy steps of thankfulness bring us to a place of genuine and holy action, to be grateful.

Our steps of praise bring us to God. As we come into and grow in the holy awe of His Presence we are humbled, we are brought, like the leper, to our knees. And we cannot but be thankful. And, as our Gospel affirms, in that holy place of humble gratitude (the cross) our love for God, and our faith in our Lord are brought to greater freedom. It is there we learn how much for which we have to be thankful. For life. For the beauty of creation. For God’s Church. And for each other. And always, most especially for God. We may not always understand or feel as well, as hopeful, or as peaceful as we might. Our paths will not always be easy or painless. Great may be the courage we need to take our steps in faith. But when those steps are taken with a will to be thankful we will realize, whatever the day or season, God is with us.

Christ the King

Sunday 22 November 2020

Mass Readings: I: Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17; Responsorial: Psalm 23; II: I Corinthians 15:20,26, 28: Gospel: Matthew 25: 31-46

This final Sunday of the Church year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. This year we also see this holy feast leading us to the celebration of Thanksgiving Day.

And, of course it culminates this profound year of our Lord, 2020. In a year of extraordinary stress and strife we have all shared the struggles of the Covid 19 pandemic and an economy in upheaval from a very sick world. Also a presidential election unlike no other in political rancor that although over is still being fought in a troubled mind unable to accept defeat. We also have faced another intense rounds of wildfires and great weather challenges stemming from our common home, the earth, struggling to respond to the effects of climate change. It is a year in which it has been a battle to resist the fears and worries of all these very real trials.

But this celebration of our Lord of Lords reminds us that for every day of worldly trials, for all of eternity JESUS WAS, IS, AND EVER WILL THE KING of KINGS.

Christ does not smile upon these very real sorrows. He does not send them. They are the tragic results of humanity failing to allow God to be…God. They are the consequences of people thinking and believing they are in charge or in control, that the efforts humans alone are the source of health, wealth and prosperity. These sorrows we encounter as humanity are fruits of egos intent on taking and holding all that in which they assume they are to wear the selfish odious robes of entitlement. But our King has another, better way.

First let us briefly look ahead to the Feast of Thanksgiving. While this is a national holiday it is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian faiths of our country. in The Old Testament Nehemiah, after a prolonged struggle of the Jews seeking to rebuild Jerusalem were brought together to celebrate… Thanksgiving (Nehemiah 10). In their time of trials and uncertainty they were called to remember God had never left the throne. Yes their conflicts were very real. But the Truth of God working in and through them, the Truth of the King of Kings was rediscovered as they simply were thankful. As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year may we, as we get the turkey, ham, tofu or whatever, gather all the many blessings in our heart for which we are to be thankful. And as we do may we renew our own realization that Jesus is the King of Kings.

As we celebrate, perhaps not in the numbers and ways of other years, remember that our Lord wants to come to our homes and hearts this week and always.

But how are we to better realize, prepare, LIVE in the Truth Jesus is the King of Kings?

The Bible readings for this holy Mass provide us an answer of great power. Actually the readings for the Masses of the past weeks help us better understand as well. We have shared parables from Matthew’s sharing message of Jesus as He spoke of His Second Coming (Matthew 22-25). Jesus uses examples of the virgins and their lamps, the servants and the master accounting for the talents they are given. Our Lord also contrasts these lessons with His words for the scribes and Pharisees in which they are rebuked for their empty traditions, pious practices, their proud knowledge of the rubrics of their faith and their profound spiritual self-assurance. Jesus leads us now to the lesson of the judgement of the goats and sheep.

While this may seem a harsh example of the treatment of animals it was a reality and context in which the people of Jesus’s day quickly could understand. A goat could not pretend to be a sheep nor a sheep belong with the goat herd. It isn’t about the animals. The message is about the actions Jesus is looking for in the hearts and lives of His faith-filled followers.

Our Lord Jesus is looking for His servants to be..serving. The essential qualities, the hallmarks of a true servant of Christ is a servant alive in the Corporal Works of Mercy. The King of Kings expects His servants to be servants of mercy-filled love.

Jesus Reigns! Even in a year as difficult as this year that is passing, JESUS REIGNS! The power and truth of the reign of Jesus in our lives is realized and discovered in the ACTS shared above. Now some would say: I helped with St. Vincent De Paul, until the pandemic. I visited the nursing home, attended funerals..and so many other real and merciful acts should be recognized as currently not allowed. And our King knows and understands all this. Jesus knows there are also retired nurses and doctors, there are grandparents, teachers and so many others who have served with their whole hearts and are now unable to respond, as once was done. Jesus knows and understands. And He allows these times for vital reasons. Our King seeks to teach and prepare us for even greater and deeper ways of tending the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked.

The sickness of souls, the hunger of the impoverished soul, the humble nakedness of those shamed by others (or themselves) is a pandemic far great than a physical virus. And it is something to which our King calls us all to respond. We are not called to be judges but servants who cleanse and bind wounds. We are not called to condemn the starving who eat whatever may be found in their effort to survive but to bring the nourishment of hope and peace and of souls and body, as God enables. We are not to turn away in disgust from those who may be naked in their sin but to cloth them with fabrics of mercy and love. These corporal and spiritual acts of mercy are needed now more than ever. They are done when and where the physical acts can be done. They are done in prayer and understanding of those so impoverished. Perhaps it is with a neighbor or family member wandering on the dark streets of the soul longing for help to find their way home, to the Savior, King and to family. These acts are done with the balm of forgiveness, wrappings of hope, and nourishing words of encouragement. We would recognize that the sick, wounded, starving may not always respond as we think they should. It will take time, prayer, patience, mercy. Just as on our own journey.

This Feast of the King of Kings, this Feast of Thanksgiving may we feast as servants that cause our Holy King to know and celebrate with us in feasts of mercy, healing and His loving hope. For Jesus is Lord! Alelluia!

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