Sat, 22 July 2017
O seer of the Passion
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
of the scourges and the nails,
of the blows and mockery
of the blood which covered
His face and all His skin…
O you who have witnessed
all His suffering
and sought so diligently
to share in it with Him –
pray that we who are so blind
to the pain and anguish
our Savior bore
under the weight of the Cross
we build by our sin
may by His grace
have our eyes opened,
and so turn from our own condemnation
to the blood of redemption
He has shed for our sakes
and take refuge in the penance
that leads all souls to the kingdom.
Sat, 22 July 2017
(Ws.12:13,16-19; Ps.86:5-6,9-10,15-16; Rom.8:26-27; Mt.13:24-43)
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Such are the Lord’s instructions to the harvesters, His angels that come “at the end of the age,” when “just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,” so will “all who cause others to sin and all evildoers” be thrown “into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Though the Lord is a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity”; though He is “good and forgiving… attend[ing] to the sound of [our] pleading” and “permit[ting] repentance for our sins” – though while the grass grows He is patient and waits for the weeds which have been sown to turn to Him, yet the time of harvest shall come: the time to judge the living and the dead. And so it is that the One who is “lenient toward all” shall reveal to all that indeed He does “show [His] might when the perfection of [His] power is disbelieved.” The obstinate of heart shall not remain forever; sin must be burnt with fire, and so those who cling to it and its sower, the evil one.
There is time. There is time and He who has “the cure of all” reveals indeed that “the just must be kind.” But the end presses on; it is upon us. And the time and lenience granted those who toil vainly for the evil one will but serve to prove their deserving of the Lord’s inevitable justice. They will but harden themselves further, to their own perfection of sin, meriting in the end the undeniable punishment of the loving and just One.
And the same is true of the just themselves. The time given by our gracious God, though it seem troublesome for the weeds of sin that prick our hearts, is but a means of proving, is but a refinement of the perfection of our God’s love within us. And so we must be patient as the tree does grow, acceptant of the pains it brings. And so we must but watch as the leaven rises, and we with it come to Christ. Yes, “the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit.” Take confidence in this. Just as the Lord knows the path to perdition the wicked sow within their souls, so He knows clearly the hope we have for heaven. And all shall reach their perfection in Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Salvation Army" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in your greatness have mercy on our souls
and let us grow unto your kingdom.
YHWH, you are all good and all powerful, holding all the world in your loving hand; yet though you are kind and desire the repentance of every soul, your justice and love call for the punishment of evil.
Your angels shall go out at the end of the age and they shall do your holy will, gathering your just ones into your kingdom but burning with fire those who cause others to sin. This is but right, LORD; this is but kindness itself – that like should go to like and so the desire of hearts be fulfilled. Indeed, let those who set their hearts on evil come to evil, and those who set their hearts on you come to good.
You are patient, LORD; you give us time that we might grow to the perfection set for our lives. No soul is plucked up before his time – none comes to his end without opportunity to change his life. For you are gracious, you are kind, and your power you use for mercy’s sake. Let us turn to you this day and find the fire of your Spirit at work in our hearts.
Fri, 21 July 2017
O woman of great love
whose heart burned
with desire for the Lord,
whose soul thirsted for the living God…
the tears you cried
became the source
of the greatest joy
as from your sins the Christ released you,
as your eyes beheld
your blessed Teacher –
pray for us this day, O Mary,
that our hearts shall be set aflame
with faith and love
as we hear the news you bring us:
that our Lord is no longer in the tomb,
that He lives
and so we with Him,
that He is ascending to the Father
and we shall join Him there.
O pray His love
dispel the coldness of our hearts
that we shall be like you,
remaining with Him forever.
Fri, 21 July 2017
(Sg.3:1-4 or 2Cor.5:14-17; Ps.63:2-6,8-9; Jn.20:1-2,11-18)
"Whom are you looking for?"
Let us stand with Mary Magdalene at the tomb of our risen Lord. Let us weep a little that our hearts might bleed with her same love, and so our eyes be opened to see Jesus standing before us. Let us hear Him call us by name.
O let us search night and day for our God, thirsting for Him “like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” Let us know that without Him we are lost in darkness, empty as the tomb. May it be “the love of Christ [that] impels us” further outside of ourselves and toward the Lord, allowing nothing to impede our progress as we pass every watchman, as we leave even our senses behind to become one with our lover, partaking of “the riches of [His] banquet.”
Let us “regard no one according to the flesh anymore,” not even the Christ, but release His body from our grasp that He might ascend to Heaven and we follow in His wake. A “new creation” let us be with a heart burning with love, a love that transcends all the world and discovers our Lord within.
In the shadow of [His] wings [we] shout for joy,” declaring His glory to all, for He looks upon our tears, upon every heart longing for His presence, and our desire He does not disappoint.
Written, read, and produced by James Kurt.
Music - "Cry Mercy," from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
Thu, 20 July 2017
O great preacher of the Word of God,
you who were entrusted
with this angelic office
to bring light to Christian minds
and dispel the darkness
of sin and error –
pray all souls this day
may be blessed with hearing
the Word of God you spoke so well,
that all hearts might turn in faith
to the Lord
purged by its cleansing fire.
O blessed teacher,
pray men of every tongue
be told of the truth,
that all might live
by the Spirit of God
that the renewal of the Church
and every soul
might be made complete
and the ranks of the New Jerusalem
be filled to overflowing.
Thu, 20 July 2017
(Ex.11:10-12:14; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Mt.12:1-8)
“The Son of Man is indeed the Lord of the sabbath.”
“There is something greater than the temple here,” greater than the Passover and all the feasts of the Lord, greater than the Law… for Jesus and His mercy subsume all these by His holy sacrifice, by His very presence amongst us. And now on the new sabbath day, the words of the psalmist are fulfilled: “The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as we offer now even daily the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – the Holy Eucharist – as each day becomes a “memorial feast” for us. Here we remember and partake of the Lamb “without blemish”; here the blood of the firstborn Son slaughtered for our sakes is applied to the temples our bodies become by its anointing, by our raising of the cup. And heeding Christ’s words to be on watch, we are made ever ready for flight from this world of sin and into the arms of our God.
It is an ominous night, that first Passover. The darkness upon the land, the cries of mothers for their firstborn sons foreshadows the horror of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and the piercing of our consciences which comes thereby. By His sacrifice we cry for our sins; but by this death are we released from bondage to that same sin. By it His mercy is poured upon us from age to age until the end of all time. For now the Passover is made complete; now the sacrifice is truly whole. And all of the old is made new as it is brought to fulfillment in the only Son.
“You have loosed my bonds,” O Lord. Each day you prepare my soul for flight from this world by the cup of thanksgiving, the sharing in your sacrifice, you offer to us each day at the hands of your priests. As it is raised and as we “call upon the name of the Lord,” you come to us with your merciful anointing, and all guilt we may have incurred is cleansed thereby. O Lord of the Sabbath, O Son of the Most High, O Temple of God and perfection of the Law, see the Lamb we eat at your Command; see the blood which marks our houses, and pass over us in the Day of Judgment – bring us freely into the celebration of your eternal feast in heaven.
As we come to the altar today, brothers and sisters, let us remember the merciful sacrifice the Lord has made for our blessed protection and fulfillment of the hunger we have for His presence. Freely let us partake now of His Body and Blood and so become one with Him who is Lord of all and master of our souls. And let us share His merciful love with the waiting world. Let us enter now the eternal Sabbath.
O LORD, feed us in our hunger;
your mercy be upon us this day –
free us from our slavery to sin and to our ways!
YHWH, your Son is the Temple where we are called to dwell, the Lamb of sacrifice of which we must partake. It is His blood that washes us clean of sin, that keeps us free from your executing judgment. With Him and in Him we shall not die, we shall not be condemned, but live forever to praise your NAME.
Our bonds you have loosed, O LORD; from all hunger and thirst you have saved us by the feast before us even this day, by the Body and Blood we receive at the hands of the priests you have ordained in Jesus’ Name. Perpetually we may now receive your graces. Forever we shall take up this Cup of salvation. Now that you have visited us with your mercy, what more could we need?
Thank you, LORD, for the sacrifice your Son has made for our sakes. By it may we leave this land of darkness and come to dwell with you.
Wed, 19 July 2017
O suffering shepherd
for your work of evangelization,
you ever continued to preach the faith
and convert multitudes
despite all the tortures
the ravenous beasts of this earth
a true apostle you proved to be,
martyred even as Christ’s Twelve –
how shall we find
a measure of your conviction,
of your persistence
in spreading the Gospel of the Lord?
Pray for us, blessed shepherd,
that we who are weak of will
and so fearful
of the slightest disturbance
to our comfort and ease
shall learn by God’s grace
to give our lives
as freely as you
in the service of man’s salvation.
Wed, 19 July 2017
(Ex.3:11-20; Ps.105:1,5,8-9,24-27; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
I AM has come and led His people “up out of the misery of Egypt,” up out of slavery. The heavy yoke of sin He breaks from our necks, and in its place we find His gentle presence.
How this world can make us weary! How the Israelites suffered under the iron hand of the Pharaoh. But the Lord says to them, “I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt.” And He says to us the same: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” To Moses as proof of His presence He even gives His NAME, the silent WORD – “YHWH” – which speaks volumes of His being here and everywhere always: “I AM WHO AM.” That gentle, all-present Spirit, that WORD that is Life, is made known to us now in Jesus, the WORD made flesh, He who is “gentle and humble of heart.” And so salvation is fulfilled: release from slavery ultimately comes in the gentle yoke of the Son of God. Let us place it upon our shoulders.
I repeat, this world can be burdensome. As it works its way into our hearts and souls, it brings terrible chains which bind us. As the culture of death which surrounds us in this land of exile finds inroads into our homes and penetrates our minds, it can bring a slavish weight to bear. But though the prince of this world and his subjects might harden their hearts against the emancipating Word of God, though they might refuse to allow us to worship our God freely and with all our beings and belongings… yet the Lord “remembers forever His covenant”; from age to age His word is true. And He shall not be lacking for “wondrous deeds,” “portents,” and “judgments” to assure His people’s freedom, to assure their coming gently and wholly into His sacred presence.
“I will stretch out my hand,” the Lord tells us. He will stretch forth His hand and break the yoke from our backs with a word from His mouth. And rest shall be ours. Eternal rest in His sacred presence, in the light of His holy face, is inevitably ours as we follow in His humble ways.
Come, brothers and sisters. Fear not Pharaoh. The evil upon us is passing away; only what is real, only what is of His Word – only I AM shall remain. Take His yoke upon you, and be led gently forth.
O LORD, by your NAME and by the Cross
we are unburdened of words,
unburdened of thoughts and fears –
let us walk with you!
YHWH, our burden you wish to remove, for our plight in this world you see, and take pity. And so, wondrous deeds you work in our midst, wondrous deeds in the sight of the nations, that all might know that you are God, in whom all find their rest.
Your NAME you gave to Moses, LORD, to reassure his heart and show yourself to Him. Knowing you, he could find faith in your goodness, in your eternal presence, and in your call upon his soul. And so, in peace he could face all the difficulties that lay before him; so he could face the king of Egypt without fear.
And your greatest gift you give to us, dear God, in the coming of your Son, in the complete revelation of your goodness He is to us. Does He not tell us that you are near, that you are always here to refresh our souls and make us whole? And so, the burden of His Cross is light upon our shoulders.
Tue, 18 July 2017
(Ex.3:1-6,9-12; Ps.103:1-4,6-8; Mt.11:25-27)
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him
in fire flaming out of a bush.”
The Lord appears to Moses. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,” reveals Himself on Horeb, the mountain of God. He comes to him who, as we are told elsewhere, is the humblest of men, calling him – much as He will later call Peter, James, and John from their nets to be fishers of men – from “leading the flock across the desert” to lead His people out of slavery, out of Egypt, through the desert and to the Promised Land.
In our gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father reveals Himself “to the merest children,” not to “the learned and the clever.” And so He has come here to Moses, a man whose speech is weak but whose heart is indeed humble as a child, to call him to be the greatest, most godly of men, and to this great task set before him. Like John the Baptist after him – who will be the greatest of men born of woman – he is entirely deferential to the Lord. Here he hides his face, “afraid to look at God,” and questions sincerely: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” Such as these the Lord calls; to such as these He reveals Himself. These are they “to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father.
“Merest children.” Only to these does the Lord reveal Himself. Only to those whose hearts are pure, who take no pride in themselves. In a word, “humble” must we be. “He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.” To them He will show that “the Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.” And as their lives are redeemed from destruction, they will “bless His holy name.” Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is filled, but only those who come as children before Him will know “all His benefits.” Only those who humble themselves before Him will be raised up to see His glory and live in the light of His presence.
O Jesus, we pray that you will reveal the Father to us. We pray that our hearts will be circumcised and that we will ever bow before the glory that is God. Bring the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to purge all our iniquity and prepare us to hear your voice, O Word of God. Call us forth to do your will and lead us ever to your holy mountain, that always we might be in your presence, that forever we might worship you in spirit and in truth, as merest children, as sons and daughters of your eternal light. May we never be consumed by sin or the vestiges of our pride, but be brought to life by the grace and power of God. Show us your face and let us indeed live in the light of its holy fire.
O LORD, you reveal yourself to us through your Son
that we might be saved from our sin.
YHWH, make us humble, humble as children; meek as Moses, innocent as your Son, we shall see your face. Reveal yourself to us, we pray, though we deserve not such kindness and mercy.
To your light let us come, to the fire burning in our midst, that fire ignited by Jesus, that we might see you, LORD, that indeed we might know you who look upon our misery, who desire so to save us from the slavery of sin. Lead us out of this desert to your holy mountain by the grace that comes to us only through your Son.
O dear Jesus, how can we stand in the presence of your Father, we who have become so corrupted by iniquity, we who are blinded by the evil upon our souls. Only you can make us as children again, pure and innocent in the sight of the LORD, pure and innocent as you are. Let us be united to you in all humility that we might come before the Father and praise His holy NAME.
Mon, 17 July 2017
O servant of the sick
whose compassionate heart
melted at the sight
of every suffering soul,
who constantly visited Christ
as He lay in hospital…
how deep was your charity,
how complete your love and dedication
to the poor –
pray that we too shall leave
the cares of the world behind
and have only concern
for serving Christ
and our fellow man;
pray the hard hearts of this age
will be saved by the Lord’s grace
even as they look upon Him
in the face of those in need.
How shall we match your stature,
which was so like Jesus’ own;
how shall we find perfect charity,
taking the Lord into our homes?
Pray our hearts be set on Him alone.
Mon, 17 July 2017
(Ex.2:1-15; Ps.69:3,14,30-31,33-34; Mt.11:20-24)
“I drew him out of the water.”
Moses was drawn from “the watery depths” by Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his own mother. Into the river all male Hebrew children were ordered cast, but by the providential hand of God, this “Moses” is saved. And it is through him his people shall be drawn out from amongst the Egyptians and the slavery put upon them; and it is by the Law spoken through him that those who believe are kept from “the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold,” that one finds release from the bonds of sin.
But now Moses’ zealous concern for his people has caused him to slay an Egyptian, so now he must flee from the face of Pharaoh who seeks to kill him for his sin. And what irony is there that having fought one day for a Hebrew oppressed by an Egyptian, the next day he finds two Hebrews fighting! And what apparent lack of appreciation for his concern for their plight – he who has no fear of being enslaved, living in Pharaoh’s palace as he does – do the Hebrews show. How similar is this lack of appreciation to the cities which Jesus reproaches for “their failure to reform” at His preaching and at the miracles He has worked among them. Here is an even greater than Moses, the very Son of God, coming to heal them of all their ills and bring them eternal salvation, but they refuse even to turn from their sins that they might find such blessing. What hope is there for them? If the power of God cannot convince them, then indeed the flood shall overwhelm them and they “shall go down to the realm of death,” for they refuse to be drawn up out of their sins.
Oh that this not be said of us, brothers and sisters! We indeed have been drawn out of the water. Baptized by the Spirit who moves upon the waters and nourished at the breast of holy Mother Church, eating the Lord’s own Body and Blood and ever finding forgiveness for our sins by his priests’ commission, we have been graced with all we need to be led from the darkness of this world, from the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold. We must be ever mindful not to slip back into the watery mire of sin to which this world would draw us and lose the blessing the Lord has provided us to maintain us for the day of judgment. Great miracles the Lord has worked in us; great miracles He works for us this day. Let us never fail to reform our lives and conform ourselves to His grace. Our own death sentence has been removed, washed from us by the blood of Christ; let us not fall again into the swamp of sin, but ever rise to the glory of God.
O LORD, we would all go down to the realm of death
if it were not for the grace of Christ –
let us hear and heed His words and reform our lives.
YHWH, you call us to repentance that we might be raised from the abysmal swamp of sin. Your Son works His miracles in our midst to bring us to sackcloth and ashes. But are our hearts not hardened, even to His sacrifice? Then how shall we be saved from the watery depths?
Moses was drawn from the water to which he had been condemned by the whim of Pharaoh. Though but a child, he cried to you, LORD, and Pharaoh’s own daughter you sent to rescue him. Her heart you softened to the forsaken.
And now that we are afflicted and in pain, in exile from your presence because of the darkness of sin, will you not answer us if we call out to you, O LORD? Is your help not with those who seek you, who seek to be saved from your impending judgment by the reformation of their lives?
O let us turn from our sin, LORD! that we might be exalted to the skies.
Sun, 16 July 2017
(Ex.1:8-14,22; Ps.124:1-8; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.”
The Israelites lived and worked side by side with the Egyptians for some four hundred years; they had virtually become members of the same household. But jealousy overcame a “new king” of Egypt, who determined “to oppress them with forced labor,” hoping to break their will as well as their backs. But they only grew stronger because, as our psalm tells us so vividly, the Lord was with them. “Had not the Lord been with us… when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive.” And, quite literally, “then would the waters have overwhelmed” them, for it was commanded that their newborn males be thrown into the river. But the Lord was with them, and through all this oppression they only grew stronger.
The Israelites stand as an example for our own faith and its struggle with the world today. Jesus tells us in our gospel that peace shall not be found with the earth, and even those of our own flesh, by following His call. Indeed, He has come, “in short, to make a man’s enemies those of His own household.” How true this was for the first Christians, all of whom were Jews, and all of whom would find resistance and even persecution for following this way in which Jesus calls us. Division among the family must have been common. But it is no less true today that a man who truly seeks to follow the way of the Lord will meet with the same resistance, even from those who profess to be Catholic and Christian (even from within himself), because the same jealousy the Egyptians had toward the Israelites exists now, and always will, and the same fears the Jews had of Christ also will not easily pass away. The world is ever in opposition to the cross, yet knowing this, Jesus emphasizes that “he who will not take up his cross and come after [Him] is not worthy of [Him].” We are eternally called to turn from the world, in all its forms, and lay down our lives and our wills.
But we are not alone in this mission to overcome the sins of the world. As the Lord was with the Israelites, He is certainly with us. Following Him so closely, it cannot but be that He is near at our sides. And not only He and His Spirit but His people as well are present to us in this struggle we undertake. We do have brothers and sisters in the struggle; there are many who give us “a cup of cold water” along the way. Still the Lord is ever here to help us; still when the world seems to overwhelm us, we are “rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.” Still we grow stronger through all the oppression we endure. Let us praise the Lord for His saving power upon us. Let us continually recommit our lives to His mission on earth, placing Him even before family and friends, and in the losing of our lives we shall come to life and ever grow in His eternal light.
Strengthen us, O Lord,
under the burden of work we endure for you;
help us to carry our cross.
And may we multiply and spread in your Name.
O LORD, let us bring ourselves to naught
for the sake of Christ
and He will redeem us from every persecution.
YHWH, what division there is in this world! What oppression your disciples bear! Even from neighbors, even from those in their own households, persecution comes. But this should not trouble our souls: the Cross is to be expected. For certainly jealousy exists among the sons of men, and so, will there not be those jealous of the greatest gift of all? But through it all you are with us.
O help us to lose ourselves for your sake, dear LORD! Help us not to be afraid of such total dispossession. Let us treasure being bereft of all things of this world that we might truly find our place in Heaven. For our reward will not be wanting – all we do for you is greatly blessed. And so, if we give our very lives, will we not find the greatest blessing?
You free our souls from every snare; however much the waters rage they will not overwhelm us. For you are with us in our labor, LORD, and save us from all danger.
Sat, 15 July 2017
O Mother of contemplation
who heard the Word of God
and kept it,
pondering its wonder
in your heart,
you who were so faithful
to His call
and remain ever in His presence –
how shall we know our Lord
if you do not pray for us,
if you do not intercede
for souls so blinded
by the distractions
of a fallen world?
Our prayers are with you, dear Mother,
who pray as one with our dear Lord,
who are so one with Him
in body and soul,
who stand at His side this day
in the kingdom of Heaven…
There on His holy mountain
help us to make our home.
Sat, 15 July 2017
(Is.55:10-11; Ps.65:10-14,Lk.8:8; Rom.8:18-23; Mt.13:1-23)
“The seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit.”
Comes the Word of God. To our eyes, to our ears. A seed sown within our hearts. May it find rich soil in which to grow, that we might know “the redemption of our bodies.”
“The rain and the snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth… so shall [God’s] word be that goes forth from [His] mouth.” For indeed it makes the earth “fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats”: it nourishes the expectant soul and provides seed for its increased growth. All is given life by the Word of God.
What Isaiah prophesies, David sings – “You prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.” And by this grace which falls from heaven, consuming the manna which is its fruit, His children know the “bounty” of the Lord; for His “paths overflow with a rich harvest.” Hardly can we contain the blessings of “the valleys blanketed with grain.”
Jesus has come. The Lord has “visited the land and watered it.” The grace of God is in our midst in heavenly flesh and blood. And we are left dumb; for the Word of God indeed silences our tongue. What can we say as we see His fields coming to life? How can we speak of the beauty of a land bathed in light? Deeply into our souls His words do fall, and we awaken, we arise as His children of light, beginning now to understand the blessing at our fingertips, the redemption we do find in the Body and Blood of Christ. And though we “groan within ourselves,” we know these are the “labor pains” of growth. For in this cleansing rain purging our hearts we come to be “set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
What a wonderful word we have from our Lord: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.” What a promise He makes to those who gaze upon that which the prophets longed to possess: “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.” And so, what confidence we who are granted “knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” should have in His grace-filled Spirit; and what fruit we should thus bear, even to life everlasting.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Listen through the Music" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let your rain fall upon us
that we might bear fruit in your Name;
let us hear your Word and answer your call.
YHWH, make us fertile and fruitful. Open our hearts to receive your Word; let it sink deep within us and grow by your grace. Your grace is as the rain which waters hearts set on your will. May we indeed receive your abundant gifts, O LORD, and yield a rich harvest in your Name.
So blind are our eyes, dear LORD, so dull our hearts. We are deaf to your Word as we set our sights on the things of this world. The devil easily enters in and steals from us that which we neither have nor desire. But you come to us in your compassion to teach us, to open our ears to your Word that we might be as the untilled meadows, the fields no human hand has touched, which produce fruit in abundance by your grace.
The first fruits of the Spirit we now have as a gift from you, LORD. Yet we await the fullness of your blessings; yet we groan in pain as still we need to grow in you. Set us free from all slavery to corruption that we might share in the glorious freedom of your children of light. May our fruit be worthy of your kingdom.
Fri, 14 July 2017
O good doctor
who taught the way to God
by death to things outside the Cross,
by resting with Christ
in the tomb
that we might pass
from this world to the Father –
pray our passions
indeed be silenced
that the fire of God
will carry our soul
to Him who is beyond
the operations of our mind;
pray our surrender to Him
may be complete
and the Holy Spirit lead us
in loving flame
to the kingdom.
Where is the longing of our soul
and who will assist us on the journey?
Speak to our hearts this day, good teacher,
from your place in His radiant presence.
Fri, 14 July 2017
(Gn.49:29-32,50:15-24; Ps.105:1-4,6-7,33; Mt.10:24-33)
“Whoever acknowledges me before men
I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Joseph does well in acknowledging God before his brothers, as, refusing to take revenge on them, he states of his suffering that “God meant it for good.” He thus proves himself a servant of the Lord; realizing that “no pupil outranks his teacher, no slave his master,” he asks, “Can I take the place of God?” and so simultaneously accepts the scourgings that come with being a servant of his “father’s God.” Indeed, further applying the Lord’s words to the apostles in our gospel to Joseph, we know that it has been his proclaiming before the world, before Pharaoh himself, the dreams the Lord has spoken to him in the secret of his room that has brought Joseph to this position of eminence wherein he can so dutifully and kindly provide for “the survival of many people.” And so, as he prepares to die, as this sparrow falls – even as his father before him “drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was taken to his kindred” – it is with confidence the Lord will acknowledge him before the Father of all that his life ends, as well as with the faith that his children shall be blessed and come into the land promised them by Him who holds both body and soul in His all-powerful hands.
And what of our own witness? Have we the forgiveness of Joseph, which is the forgiveness of God? Do we “seek to serve Him constantly” and “proclaim all His wondrous deeds,” as our psalmist encourages us today? Are we true pupils of this great teacher, faithful to our call to live and to die in His light? Or are we afraid for the body and judging by the dictates of this earthly life?
These are questions we must ask ourselves each day, for each day and at every moment our souls are required of us, lest we die for want of the Bread which comes to us by His holy hands. The Lord holds our life’s breath in His hand and “every hair of [our] head has been counted” by Him, so indeed we should fear Him. But that fear is born and finds recompense in love; the fear that comes from the world and its power brings only death to our bodies and souls. Let us simply recognize the truth of His presence and His power to all we meet, to all for whom we are responsible, and our salvation and the blessing of our progeny will be assured. And so with confidence, with faith of the Holy Spirit, we shall die and come to life, this day, and in eternity.
Lord, make us true servants of your love;
and gather us into the bosom of Abraham
and into your sacred heart.
O LORD, let us become like our Teacher
and die on the Cross;
may we make His presence known
by laying down our lives.
YHWH, let us seek to serve you constantly, that we may be your chosen ones. Let us proclaim your NAME from the rooftops; then we shall live in your light and be blessed – then we shall die in your arms and be gathered into Heaven.
Why should we fear for the life of the body when you are ready to hear our prayers, our pleading for mercy. You watch over our every step for your heart is set upon us to save us from every evil, to keep us from the persecution of a sinful world. And we shall take rest in your presence, LORD, when our days are over.
Let us be as your Son, our Teacher. Let us follow His instructions and walk ever in His way. Then indeed we shall be blessed and have nothing to do but praise your NAME. Then indeed all our sins will be gone, and we shall enter the land you promise.
Thu, 13 July 2017
(Gn.46:1-7,28-30; Ps.37:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40; Mt.10:16-23)
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.”
We are as exiles in this world. Indeed, the Lord sends us forth “like sheep among wolves.” In Egypt must we dwell for a time, until we are prepared for the coming of Christ.
But here He meets us. Here He weeps over us and so enables us to face the death which is upon us, which indeed surrounds us in this foreign land. Even in our trials, in all our persecutions, He is there: He suffers with us, and we with Him. And His Spirit is very present to lead us; it burns in our hearts to guide us, giving us the words we must speak, assuring us that Jesus is with us in all we do.
As Israel sets forth for Egypt, he is fearful. But he calls upon the Lord in his sacrifices, and in vision once again God comes to him, providing His assurance, His continued blessing. David’s psalm speaks so well of the protection and blessing which is ours in this land of exile: “The Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever. The salvation of the just is from the Lord; He is their refuge in time of distress.” Yes, He is our refuge in this land where we walk as exiles, in this world which would persecute the Word of God, pursuing it to kill it, to destroy it. But it is even in Egypt that a great nation shall be made of Israel; here, even under slavery, the people of God shall multiply and prosper. And so it is with us who follow Jesus: here in this world of persecution we are refined and made whole, as individuals and as a people; here under the threat of death we come to life, for His gentle yoke is upon us, and in Him we find refuge and even joy in all our sufferings. By undergoing persecution in His Name, we draw so very close to Him; and laying down our lives we find the great love which is without end.
Jesus speaks to us; the Spirit is here with us. There is no need to fear. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” Have faith in the word He speaks to your hearts and be assured that He watches over you here in this land of exile, not only protecting you from the wolves that surround you, but even increasing your blessings all the while. Your home in heaven is assured; see that Jesus is alive now and dwelling with you and you shall be able to close your eyes in peace, knowing all your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, you will see again when the Lord brings you to the land of promise.
O LORD, bring us to the place
we will find your presence,
the place we will find your love.
YHWH, you go with us into Egypt; through the persecutions of this world you are with us to speak for us and bless us and increase our yield. We need not be afraid of the way you call us, for you indeed love what is right and so are with the just who reflect your goodness. Though the wicked be destroyed, the inheritance of your faithful ones lasts forever.
Nothing can separate us from you, LORD; nothing can take us out of your hand or from the land you promise your chosen. Even death we escape by your grace and mercy, by your secure protection.
Give us the wisdom we need this day, O LORD, and the innocence to make our way through this world remaining on the path you set for us. Even the powerful of this world you send to save us, for we are your favored sons.
Wed, 12 July 2017
O you who were king and emperor
yet set your sights
on the reign of Heaven
and the reform and upbuilding
of the Church on earth,
who dedicated yourself
to the Lord of all
and service of His apostles –
pray our cares and responsibilities
will not distract us
of our God and His mercy
but that we shall indeed
and all our lives
into the hands of our Savior,
that He might dispose of them and us
as He sees fit.
Pray our kingdom not be of this earth
but of Heaven
and that we shall make our home
at the foot of the throne
of the Almighty.
Wed, 12 July 2017
(Gn.44:18-21,23-29,45:1-5; Ps.105:5,16-21; Mt.10:7-15)
“It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you.”
Remarkable words from the mouth of Joseph as the brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt stand dumbfounded before him, fearing indeed for their own lives. And indeed Joseph may have been justified to command the ending of their lives to avenge his treatment at their hands. But the Lord has looked with favor upon him who had been “bound with chains,” raising him up to be lord of Pharaoh’s house and “ruler of all his possessions,” and Joseph rightfully attributes such blessing to God and sees His hand at work in all this matter. Here is the great example of trust in God’s providential care. And Joseph has but a deep love for his brothers, and will now care for their lives and that of his father.
The same trust in God’s providence is asked of the disciples in our gospel. Jesus sends them forth with “no traveling bag, no change of shirt, no sandals, no walking staff,” telling them, “Provide yourselves with neither gold nor silver nor copper in your belts”: “the workman, after all, is worth his keep,” and God will always provide for those who serve Him.
Certainly a great lesson is in this for all of us. Do we have such trust in God? Joseph says that it is God who has, in effect, sold him into slavery that he might later be made a leader in Egypt and save his family from famine, this despite the fact that his own brothers have treated him with such disdain. Do we have such a blessed view of the trials which come our way? Can we see them as the hand of God working, and working for the good? Can we forgive so beautifully those by whom the trials come? Have we such vision that sees the hand of God at work in all things? “All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” Paul tells us elsewhere (Rm.8:28). Can we give all things which happen to us to God and trust that His will shall be done, is done, in them all?
Where is our trust? Is it in money and the things of this world? Do we think that these things will provide for us, will make us happy, will keep us satisfied – are these our gods? Or do we seek and accept the reign of God which the Lord tells us is at hand? Do we receive well His message of peace, His blessing of God’s love and care, or do we expel Him from our homes? And do we share His free gift with others?
There is great “famine on the land,” a famine of the hearing of God’s word and trusting in His hand. Let us come to the Son who has accepted scourging in the will of His Father and find all we need from Him who now sits on His throne. Believe that He does provide, and all will indeed be yours. And your trials will be turned to joy.
O LORD, you bring your peace to every house,
and so, too, do your disciples.
YHWH, it is you who provide for all we need, you and you alone. And if we but trust in you, all we need will be ours. If we but set our hearts on your holy will, your blessings will rest upon us – no trial will overcome us.
The blessing of peace your children bring to every house they enter, for you are with your disciples, O LORD and God, and work your will in all they say and do. May we freely give the blessing of peace you have so freely given to us. May every soul we meet be offered your peace and be encouraged to enter into your presence.
What need we more than this peace? What more than your presence can feed us? In all things you work toward good for those who trust in your providence. And in this we find our peace. In this we find release from every prison; every sin is forgiven. Let us but have faith that you are at our side at all times.
Tue, 11 July 2017
(Gn.41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24; Ps.33:2-3,10-11,18-19,22; Mt.10:1-7)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
In our gospel, Jesus commissions the twelve apostles to go forth after “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in order “to expel unclean spirits and cure sickness and disease of every kind” and bring His people into “the reign of God.” In our first reading, we see that “famine had gripped the whole world,” and the lost and hungry sheep of Israel, the sons of Jacob themselves come to Egypt and their forsaken brother Joseph to find food, to find healing for their ills. They have sinned terribly against Joseph, and against God, by selling their younger brother into slavery because of their jealousy of him. Now that God has favored him who was so forsaken, he stands above them with their very lives in his hands, holding not only their food as procurator of Egypt, but also with the power to cast them into prison, or to release them.
Do we see the similarity between Joseph and Jesus? Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Savior of the nation of Israel and, in the flesh, one of their own – their favored Son. And He who will be forsaken and sold to the Romans for crucifixion, He whose elder brothers will betray Him into the power of this world, is He who holds their, and our, very lives in His hands. It is when He opens His hands that they are fed; when He says the word, they, and we, are cast into prison – or released. By His word all demons are expelled and all infirmities healed. He indeed has every right to cast our souls into everlasting prison and torment; but, like Joseph, He takes pity on those who have wounded Him: like Joseph, we know that “He wept.”
But His weeping does not come automatically. Just as with Joseph, it is prompted by the repentance of His brothers, who have so despised him but now recognize their sin and bewail it to the Lord. His forgiveness and His healing – His salvation – come to those who in like manner “fear Him.” Upon these the Lord looks with pity. With these Jesus Himself cries. For these the Lord sends forth His apostles, to heal them and call them into the reign of God. As for the repentant, He will indeed “deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.” These lost sheep He will save.
And “the plan of the Lord stands forever”: it reaches to us this day. It is eternal, for all who fear Him, in whatever time or place. His word extends now to the ends of the earth, to the twelve tribes of Israel and beyond. Founded firmly in the Twelve (apostles), it now comes to the ears of all mankind. Let us repent even this day, brothers and sisters, be healed, and be fed by the hand of God.
O LORD, your reign is at hand,
at hand for all to touch…
for your holy will endures forever,
and calls us ever to enter in.
YHWH, your eyes are indeed on those who fear you; those who hope for your kindness, you do not disappoint. For you send Joseph to Egypt before his brothers to preserve the Nation from famine; and the apostles your Son sends forth to heal us of all our ills. Into your reign let us be gathered!
How lost we are, dear LORD, as we travel through this world. How much in need do we find ourselves, we who have strayed from your pasture, we who have separated ourselves from you by our sin. Because we are hard of heart and have condemned our brother, we find ourselves in desperate straits. And what hope do we have but to come to you? What can we do but turn to the Brother we have so harmed, begging for His mercy? And what can He do but look with pity upon us – what can He do but weep for our sakes? And so salvation comes to us. And so we bless you, LORD.
Mon, 10 July 2017
O monastic father
who led the way into the desert
where the Lord speaks to men’s hearts,
where He calls souls to perfect worship,
putting Christ before all else
and treating others as He Himself…
O you who prayed most perfectly,
you who knew God so intimately –
pray that our distracted minds
will somehow be conformed
to listening for His voice
and answering His call
to serve Him with all our lives.
Help us, dear brother,
dear father in the faith,
to find our dwelling place
in the kingdom,
to live so completely
according to God’s Word,
that with great fervor,
with overflowing love,
we may accomplish His will
and join you in His presence.
Mon, 10 July 2017
(Gn.32:23-33; Ps.17:1-3,6-8,15; Mt.9:32-38)
“You test my heart, searching it in the night.”
“You have contended with divine and human beings,” the angel says of Jacob; and so he receives his new name, Israel: “he strives with God”. Such striving with the Lord in this night which has set upon the earth is our lot in life. May we prevail upon Him as has Jacob.
As he is about to reenter the Promised Land after fourteen years away, fearful for what awaits – particularly in the face of the potential anger of his brother Esau, whose birthright and blessing he has assumed – Jacob sets himself apart from all things and alone prepares to confront the Lord. We are told he wrestles all the night with a “man,” for indeed as such does God appear to him through His messenger. In contending with the Lord, Jacob remains strong and earns the blessing of his new name. He is a worthy combatant in the struggle to know God in this life, and so, “on waking” the next morning, as he goes forth at dawn, he is “content” in God’s presence; he is prepared for any danger which lies before him. And reconciliation with Esau he shall find. And the father of the Israelites he has become.
How much easier it is for us to behold the face of God, to come to know Him whom our souls long to see, now that Christ has come. And yet the struggle goes on; it is not over, but rather finds a certain intensification through clarification in the shadow of the cross. We see in our gospel how Jesus Himself struggles. His children are “like sheep without a shepherd,” “lying prostrate from exhaustion,” and He must become exhausted as they, as He tours their towns, constantly teaching and preaching and healing all their infirmities – and all this while being accused of doing the work of “the prince of demons” by those in the role of leaders. The struggle Jesus undergoes is most evident in His entreaty to His disciples: “Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather His harvest.” Jesus desperately needs assistance.
The Lord shall find assistance in His apostles; they, too, shall carry the cross of Christ, laying down their lives for the building up of the Church. But all of us are indeed called under the cross; all of us are beckoned into the struggle for souls, the divine and human drama that is our lot in this world. But first we must be tested, as will be Peter and the apostles; for we must be tried in His holy fire to be purified of any “malice” and “deceit” which clings to us, and so be prepared to enter the struggle, to labor in the fields – to meet our destiny which lies in the heart of our Lord.
There we shall find comfort, but here the dark night is upon us as we strive with God to be made perfect in His sight. May the dawn break upon us and we go forth at His side.
O LORD, let us labor with your Son,
striving always for union with you.
YHWH, may we all be gathered into your arms, safe from all that could harm us. Help us to meet the test you set before us; enable us to meet with you, O mighty God. For how shall we come face to face with you if you do not bless us, if you do not give us the strength we need. Heal us this day of all infirmity, of all the disease that sin does bring, that waking from the dark night this world imposes, we shall be content in your presence.
You try us by fire, LORD, by holy fire that would purge us of all dross, of all sin that clings to our souls. Remove all doubt and fear from our hearts; hear us as we call to you. Do not leave us till we are blessed to bear your NAME.
Why should we question your goodness, LORD? Your goodness cannot but prevail. May we embrace the Son who walks among us, and be joined to you by His compassion.
Sun, 9 July 2017
(Gn.28:10-22; Ps.91:1-4,14-15; Mt.9:18-26)
“Know that I am with you;
I will protect you wherever you go.”
What the Lord says here to Jacob, He says indeed to all of us: He will protect us on our journey; let us but take refuge in Him. Our dearest Jesus is the abode of God, and in Him our souls are safe.
As Jacob sets forth alone from the land of Canaan, he fears that he shall not return to this place of His promised inheritance. But the Lord comes to him in a dream to stand “beside him” and assure him that the promise is firm: “I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” With these words of encouragement and the vision of heaven’s ladder still in his mind, Jacob cries out in “solemn wonder” of that place in which the Lord revealed Himself to His servant. He sets up a memorial stone, thereby to mark “God’s abode.”
Our psalm today sings of the Lord’s protection upon those who trust in Him. He answers our call in distress, rescues us from “the snare of the fowler,” and gives us refuge. Thus we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” abiding in His shadow, covered by His wings of blessed protection. “Because he clings to me, I will deliver him,” says our psalmist in the voice of the Lord; and indeed we know that trusting in Him is our salvation.
And in our gospel we discover where such refuge lies; we find Him who is the true house of God, and we are shown the faith which is necessary to make our home there. What Jesus says to the woman, He says to His whole Church: “Courage, daughter! Your faith has restored you to health.” Her great faith told her she needed but to “touch his cloak,” but to press up against the walls of the temple that is Christ to find healing. And the synagogue leader states simply and clearly his faith in the Lord: “My daughter has just died. Please come and lay your hand on her and she will come back to life.” Yes, indeed the protection of the Lord, the refuge and strength He is to us in our faith, reaches beyond the grave.
Our own journeys can be arduous, brothers and sisters. At times it can seem as if the Lord is leaving us, as if He is far away. Faith. Faith, brothers and sisters, will see us through all difficulties, even death. We are destined to rise with Him on the last day; we are blessed here now along the way. Jesus is the ladder which leads to heaven; He Himself is the House of God. With faith in Him and in His protection, let us climb with the angels to His abode.
Today in our hearts let us set up for Him a memorial stone, that we might remember His sacred presence. For now we do more than touch the tassel of His cloak; He enters us and we enter Him whole.
O LORD, we shall be raised up,
if we but trust in you.
YHWH, you are our refuge; help us to trust entirely in you. If we have but faith, we shall be saved from all disease and even death. We shall dwell with you forever. For you bless those who trust in you, who seek to do your holy will.
To Heaven let us come, dear LORD; send us your Son to carry us there. He is the ladder upon which we climb, aided by your angels. How shall we fly unto you if you do not reach down to us? If you do not call us, we cannot go forth. Without your protection we shall surely die. We have no hope but you.
You raise the daughter of the faithful man; you heal the hemorrhage of the poor woman. Into the Promised Land you guide your chosen child, Israel. You alone are awesome, O God. You alone save us from distress. Bring us into your House this day, for your House is a fortress where we take refuge and find our souls secure.
Sat, 8 July 2017
O righteous band of martyrs
united by faith in Christ and His Church
in a nation of religious oppression:
children and grandparents,
workers and teachers,
lay and ordained,
native and foreign-born…
all as one you gave your lives,
led by your convictions –
pray the Word of the Lord
come to a land so cold
to the love and worship
of Jesus, all men’s Savior.
Pray the Holy Spirit
fall like purging and redeeming fire
upon every soul in the country
where you so honorably died;
pray His power spread
and bring renewal
upon the face of all the earth.
Sat, 8 July 2017
(Zec.9:9-10; Ps.145:1-2,8-11,13-14; Rom.8:9,11-13; Mt.11:25-30)
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
A remarkable confluence of Scripture today, extolling the “great kindness” of our King, who comes to us “meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass,” and inviting us to take refuge in Him and in His blessed humility.
Yes, upon a beast of burden, upon the young offspring of a beast of burden comes He who bears the burden of all our sins. Not on horse or in chariot does He come, for horse and chariot He casts into the sea: by Him “the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and He shall proclaim peace to the nations.” It is not the rich and powerful of this world He dies for, it is not their stead in which He stands, for the Lord has “hidden these things from the wise and the learned” of this world and “revealed them to little ones.” This we see in the “little one” His Son has become. This we find when we imitate His sacrifice.
David’s psalm echoes the Lord’s own words – “The Lord lifts up all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down” – and Paul says the same when he declares, “The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you.” For what is it to “put to death the deeds of the body,” that by the Spirit we may live, but to humble ourselves in the sight of God, to bow down before God and men and bear His light burden? For though we be crushed by the weight of labor and persecution in Jesus’ name, yet we live eternally in “His dominion [which] shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
The Lord Jesus states clearly, “I am meek and humble of heart,” and like Him, and like His Father, we are called to be. And for the grace of Him who is “compassionate toward all His works” we should “rejoice heartily” with our Savior, who exclaims today, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth”; for all His works “give [Him] thanks” and “[His] faithful ones bless [Him]” for His faithfulness. “A just savior is He,” and “the glory of [His] kingdom” and His “might” are known in His mercy, are felt in the comforting hand He stretches forth to lift up the humblest of our kind. “Praise [His] name forever and ever.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Dust" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, blessed are you,
for your Son comes to us in humility
that we might come to you in glory.
YHWH, you speak of peace to your people, the peace that comes from your Son’s humble sacrifice. May we give praise to you, Father, that He has revealed to humble hearts your blessed way.
O LORD, help us put to death the deeds of the body, that we shall live in the flesh no more. Let your Spirit overtake our souls, that we might rise with your Son from this fallen earth. We bow down before you, our LORD and our God; raise our heads to praise your NAME forever.
Your burden place upon our shoulders, dearest LORD. Your Son’s Cross is indeed light for us to bear. For it is He who carries the Cross; it is He who bears the weight of our sin. It is He who takes from us the burden of the flesh and fills us with the Spirit of light and truth. O let us take His Cross upon ourselves and rest in the glory we thus find!
Make us your little ones, LORD, humble as the only Son.
Fri, 7 July 2017
(Gn.27:1-5,15-29; Ps.135:1-6; Mt.9:14-17)
“Pour new wine into new wineskins,
and in that way both are preserved.”
“Jacob.” The name means “the supplanter”. Here he supplants his twin brother, Esau, whose name means “red earth”. Though born second, Jacob receives the blessing of the firstborn. Of what significance is this supplanting, is this blessing of Jacob, who is to be “Israel”, and from whom the twelve tribes shall proceed? Far more than some sibling rivalry, it shows the coming of the New Covenant of the spirit which shall supplant the Old of the flesh.
It is not the will of Isaac to bless Jacob; his love is for Esau – who before this time has forfeited his birthright to Jacob in order to feed his hungry belly. But Isaac is blind. He is blind because he, too, is a natural man, a man of the flesh seeking to feed his belly. And so the Lord inspires Rebekah to intercede, to see that His will is accomplished. Notice please the words of Isaac when Jacob comes to him dressed in the hairy skin of a beast and the clothes of Esau: “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s.” Indeed, the voice is of the spirit; the skin he feels is of the flesh. And the Word must go to the word, the Spirit to the spirit; and so it is Jacob who must receive the blessing, despite the will of Isaac.
And how is Isaac brought to do the Father’s will? He is deceived by his own preoccupation with the flesh, with the old wineskin. Upon eating his fill, and drinking his fill of the old wine, he is blinded further. And smelling the clothes of Esau he is inspired to pronounce his blessing. But what Esau possesses in his clothes, Jacob holds in his spirit – this fragrance is that which rises to the nostrils of the Lord. And it is His will which must be done. He chooses the spiritual man.
And in our gospel, too, we see the blindness of the natural man in his preoccupation with the flesh. John’s disciples, like the Pharisees – whose stomachs growl from fasts in which they find no blessing – looked jealously upon the disciples of Jesus, who do not have to endure the penance which is so tedious to these men removed from the Spirit. But in Jesus is the blessing of the Spirit, reflected in God’s choosing of Jacob, here fulfilled in the sight of men whose eyes need yet to be opened to its grace.
The new wine is of the Spirit of God, brothers and sisters; we drink it each day in the blood of Christ. Let it not be poured into skins that yet look upon the world with eyes of flesh; rather, be made new as it calls you to be, and preserve your soul unto heaven. It is the Spirit which gives life; the flesh is of no avail.
O LORD, may the new wine of the Spirit be upon us
to bless us, always.
YHWH, you have chosen Jacob for yourself; you do what you will. All goes well with Israel, for you have blessed him. The man of the Spirit is your favored Son, while the man of the flesh finds his birthright gone.
Into new wineskins let your blessings be poured, O holy LORD. Make us new in your presence this day that the blood shed by your Son may be our own. Let us drink of this New Covenant, anointed by your Spirit, and we shall live forever in your sight, blessed as Jesus with whom we become one.
Praise you, LORD, mighty God! Praised be to your holy NAME! For all is done in your will, despite our many shortcomings. You are great in Heaven and on earth and lead your chosen ones by your mercy. Let us not take refuge in the things of the flesh but rejoice ever in the Holy Spirit, even on this day of fasting.
Thu, 6 July 2017
(Gn.23:1-4,19,24:1-8,62-67; Ps.106:1-5; Mt.9:9-13)
“In his love for [Rebekah] Isaac found solace
after the death of his mother Sarah.”
And of this love Jacob shall be born; and from him shall come the twelve tribes of Israel, who shall people the earth as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.
Sarah had died and “Abraham had now reached a ripe old age.” Now conscious of his mortality, Abraham sets his sights firmly on his son and his coming progeny. Now with great resolve he sets to seek a wife for Isaac, telling his servant as he sends him to his people: the Lord “will send His messenger before you, and you will obtain a wife for my son there.” And Abraham’s faith in God’s promise is rewarded, as the servant is led directly to Rebekah. And how inspired is the meeting of Isaac and Rebekah. We are told they are both looking about for one another, and seem to recognize each other immediately, even from a great distance. Indeed, they are brought together by God to fulfill His promise to Abraham.
Notice in our gospel that Jesus seems to be looking around as well: “As Jesus moved about, He saw a man named Matthew at his post where taxes are collected.” Like Abraham, Jesus, too, is concerned for His progeny, for those who will follow Him – those who will bring His promise of salvation forth when He has returned to the Father. And He chooses Matthew as an apostle to follow Him. And notice Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call: “Matthew got up and followed Him.” It seems here, too, the love is mutual, that Matthew, too, has been looking about for the Lord, and that the two are drawn together by the Father to ensure the fulfillment of the covenant with His Son. And Jesus, who has just come from public forgiveness of sin, seems not so much to be speaking to the Pharisees’ complaining of His eating with sinners, as to Matthew, whom He’s calling to carry out His mission of teaching and healing, when He says: “I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.”
The word goes forth. The promise is sure. It comes to us even this day. The Lord provides for its care and will see it through to its fulfillment. In each one of us His salvation is at work even now. Brothers and sisters, mourn not so much for the sin which troubles your heart as you accept the Lord’s solace and rejoice in His mercy. With the psalmist, say to the Lord: “Visit me with your saving help, that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones.” Amen.
O LORD, call our sinful souls into your loving arms,
that in death we may be comforted.
YHWH, how good you are to your inheritance; how you favor your people with your blessing. How you watch over us and lead us to the accomplishment of your will, to finding prosperity in your presence. We are but weak and sinful men, and yet you call us to sit at table with your Son in the kingdom, yet you call us to be your disciples and carry your Word forth. O let your mercy indeed go forth to the ends of the earth!
Help us, O LORD, to observe what is right, to do always what is just in your sight. Help us ever to follow in your way and be obedient to your command. For what is your command to us but love itself; where does it lead but to your side? We are sick, desolate and alone, but you would heal us by your grace. And so you send your only Son to serve your will, to make us as your holy Bride.
Wed, 5 July 2017
O perpetual virgin
who defended your purity
even with your life
and so earned the crown
at a tender age…
O bride of Christ
who prayed even for your murderer
and so served to inspire
his conversion –
pray for us, too, dear child;
pray the lust and violence
so prevalent in this world of sin,
and in our own hearts,
be purged from our midst
that we, too, might turn
and find the purity
O pray innocence and chastity
overtake this age
and all souls stand
in the light of Christ.
Wed, 5 July 2017
(Gn.22:1-19; Ps.115:1-6,8-9; Mt.9:1-8)
“God put Abraham to the test.”
And so is his faith in the living God made known. And so we see to what faith and obedience we are called. All that we hold back from the Lord, all that is due our God – and our neighbor – we must give without hesitation at the voice of His command.
In Leviticus 5, a ram is prescribed as the sacrifice for those who have withheld their tithe, who have shorted the Lord of His due offering. And the same is prescribed for those who cheat their neighbor of what is justly theirs. It is a ram Abraham finally offers “in place of his son,” to satisfy the sacrifice called for by the Lord. And what the Lord teaches us in this passage is that, really, what is due to Him is beyond our ability to pay. Not only are our children in His hands (and any other blessings), but our very lives as well are His – all comes to us only as a gift of His love. And His greatest gift shall be His only Son, whom He shall offer without reservation, not withholding Him from such sacrifice on the cross, that what is due Him may be fulfilled by Him, since it is beyond our ability to do so.
Isaac carried the wood of his own sacrifice to “the place of which God had told [Abraham]” to travel. He is as the unknowing sheep led to his own slaughter and is a sign of the Christ who will carry the wood of His own cross, without a word, to His own crucifixion. How can we understand all this? What a test it puts us to! Abraham prepares to slaughter the son of the promise; by the Father’s will Jesus is nailed to a cross like the worst of criminals… How can the mind of man fathom the workings and will of God? The question seems overwhelming but the answer is simple – and it is but that we trust in Him and in His love.
In our gospel, “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of the people in “His own town,” He was moved to forgive the sins of the paralytic; and in the same breath, by the same power, to heal him. The scribes were indignant at His presumption to forgive sins. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” Jesus asks, putting them to the test before revealing to them the authority given Him. And are not their thoughts like our own? Are not their doubts and questions and, indeed, presumptions not like our own hesitation and refusal to come to faith in God and trust in His will and His love? Are not their fears like our own in coming to the foot of the cross and partaking of His blood?
Our psalm makes clear that our God is a loving God, not one of wood or metal, and it is life He desires for His children. Jesus makes clear God’s desire for us to be healed, to be whole in His sight – and His beneficence in “giving such authority to men” to effect this desire (particularly in the Sacrament of Confession); we must not think He is otherwise, and we must be prepared to give Him our very lives. For how else shall we come to life but by giving all to Him who holds all in His loving hands? Have faith and trust in Him, brothers and sisters, and obey His command. It brings only life.
O LORD, your Son has authority to forgive men’s sins,
for it is by the blood of His sacrifice
we are redeemed.
YHWH, you put us to the test to see if our faith is strong, to see if we really love you above all things and truly trust in your providence. For your providence can be trusted; your love cannot be denied. You have given us your only Son in sacrifice, and so we are free from all cares, all sin, in this life. O let us stand up and walk with you in the steps of Jesus your Son!
We shall not die. This is what you wish to teach us, LORD. You hold our lives in your hand and you shall not let go. And so, we need not turn to idols of silver and gold, lifeless objects with no breath in them; we need but trust in your unending love and we shall be blessed through all generations.
Heal us, O LORD, of all the evil that is within us, all the fear and all the blindness to your will. Let us give you praise for your grace among us and, ready to sacrifice all to you, have faith in your abundant love.
Tue, 4 July 2017
O child of the Apostle Paul,
follower in his steps,
preacher of the Word
he proclaimed so completely
with his very life,
you who desired so
to bear the fruit of love in patience,
to share in the hardships of the apostles
as well as in their glory,
and led your fellow ordained
zealously to desire the same –
pray there shall be reform
in this day among our priests
and among the people of God,
that all will so zealously follow
the teaching and way of the Apostle,
which is, of course, the way of Christ:
to die, to lay down our lives,
to suffer indignation
and pray for our enemies,
all the while calling souls
to the Lord’s undying love,
to His saving blood.
Tue, 4 July 2017
(Gn.21:5,8-20; Ps.34:7-8,10-13; Mt.8:28-34)
“When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress He saved him.”
Ishmael is the model of the afflicted man calling out to the Lord and being heard in all his distress. His very name means “he whom God hears” and indeed we see clearly today how, though “it is through Isaac that descendants shall bear [Abraham’s] name,” nonetheless, the Lord has pity on Ishmael and his plight – his rejection by the mother of the promised child and his wandering in a trackless waste – and declares that of him a “great nation” shall come. Indeed he is left to die by his mother, so desperate had their situation become; but upon the child’s crying out, the Lord hears and sends His angel to assist them and assure them of the boy’s future greatness.
Ishmael is a son of Abraham; though born of a slave woman, yet “he too is [Abraham’s] offspring,” and so for this the Lord takes special care to watch over him. For God has chosen Abraham to be the father of many nations and does not wish to see His blessed patriarch distressed. We have already seen how God has heard the prayer of Abraham for Lot; now we see the same regarding Abraham’s concern for Ishmael.
We must, brothers and sisters, understand whence our own blessing comes. We are spiritual sons of Abraham, of Moses, of David… but most particularly we are children of Jesus and His apostles, the Church. A far greater intercessor have we in the Son of God Himself, so let us not be afraid to cry out to Him in our need. For if God heard the prayers of Abraham, how much more will He hear the prayers of His Son? And if God watched over the kin and offspring of the blessed patriarch, how much more concern does He have for the children of light born of the blood of Jesus Christ?
Our confidence must be sure in Him, for He cannot help but hear our prayer. Indeed, our gospel tells us that when “the demons kept appealing to Him,” even them He heard and granted their plea. If the Lord hears such as these, how can we even begin to doubt His presence to us? Now let us not be afraid to come to Him. Let us not be like the inhabitants of that Gadarene territory who found the Lord too much to bear and “begged Him to leave their neighborhood.” Let us not think in our hearts coming to Him we will die, that His light is simply too bright. No. He calls us as children to take refuge in Him.
It is His desire to bless our days. Turn not away from Him, for as David sings for us, “Those who seek the Lord want for no good thing”; He hears and answers all our cries.
O LORD, you have power to bless and to save;
you have pity on every poor man,
and so, let us not be afraid to cry out to you.
YHWH, you cannot help but answer our cries; your Son cannot turn his back on those in need, those who plead for His mercy. For you are love and mercy itself, and your compassion knows no bounds. And so, the son of the slave girl you bless, and even respond to the demons’ request.
And will you not hear us when we call to you, LORD? Should we doubt your concern for our well-being? Every afflicted soul you would save from distress, if he would but your mercy seek.
For this grace let us praise you, LORD; let us not turn away from you in fear. For our sins you would wipe away, remembering them no more. Be with us now and let us grow in you. Let us remain with you forever, your blessing upon us all our days. O let us prosper in your love, in your holy presence.
Mon, 3 July 2017
O reconciler of warring sons,
tranquility in the midst
of great disturbance,
though born of royal blood
and married to a king,
the Lord you preferred
to all the riches of this world,
and so His peace
became your own –
pray we, too, may keep our hearts
set upon that which passes not away
and the peace which passes understanding;
pray our prayers be deep as your own
and reflect the same tranquility,
that those in our own families
and those under our care,
all those whom we meet
and to whom we relate,
may find the Lord’s peace
dwelling in us
with His divine charity
and so be reconciled to Him
and to one another.
Mon, 3 July 2017
(Gn.19:15-29; Ps.26:2-3,9-12; Mt.8:23-27)
“Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”
“The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah,” and “without warning a violent storm came up on the lake, and the boat began to be swamped by the waves.” The Lord saved Lot from the destruction of Sodom, and Jesus calmed the winds and the sea, saving the disciples; but how little faith either showed in His power.
Lot seems oblivious to the annihilation about to be wrought by God, hesitating to flee even at the urging of angels. Indeed, he is brought from that place only by force and “by the Lord’s mercy,” by all appearances deserving to be swept away with the others in their sin. Then upon being carried the greater part of the way, he is too tired to complete the salvation the Lord has begun. And as for the apostles, they quickly dissemble at the threat of the elements, forgetting entirely in whose hands all these forces rest. Indeed, where Lot fails in proper fear for his own protection, the disciples are filled too greatly with concern for their mortal lives. Neither has the holiness or faith necessary for eternal glory.
“Gather not my soul with those of sinners,” we should all cry out to the Lord, for indeed we all fall short of the glory of God; and if it were not for His mercy and protection, all would die in their sins. But He has the power to save us, and the kindness besides. Only let us not presume upon His mercy, nor fail to stand strong in His grace and faith. We have one greater than Abraham watching over us and interceding for us with God; let us no longer question His will for us or wonder who it is that controls the wind and the sea, the earth and the fire. Now we should know clearly that these obey Him, and that we must do the same.
Brothers and sisters, can we say to the Lord with David: “Test my soul and try my heart”? Are we prepared to expose ourselves to His refining fire? Would we “walk in integrity” with this son of Jesse, crying out to the Lord, “Redeem me, and have pity on me.” If we come to Him and lay our lives before Him, He will certainly enter in and preserve us from all distress. His voice shall resound about us and within us, calming the wind and the waves contending in our hearts. Remember that He has the power. Remember that He, only He, is alive. And by His grace He will save our lives.
O LORD, if we have faith, you will save us –
however dark things may seem,
your Word and your light are near.
YHWH, how little faith we have. Even when your angel is with us, even with your Son in our boat, we doubt and fear. We cannot trust. We cannot be strong in the face of temptation, before the traps of the evil one. It is because we are concerned for our flesh that we fail to recognize the Spirit is all that matters, that we fail to realize you can do all things…. O help us to believe in you!
Though we are weak and sinful, you reach out your hand to save us; you do all you can to bring us to safe haven, LORD. Yet there are those among us who, even while fleeing the destruction of this world, turn back to what is being abandoned and are destroyed. Why? Why are we so foolish? Why have we such attachments to what can only harm us? Why should we care for the things of this life?
Your life awaits us, LORD. Let us come quickly to the kingdom, trusting in you.
Sun, 2 July 2017
O believing apostle
who declared the divinity of Jesus,
our Lord and our God,
all doubt disappears
in the light of your faith,
for we see with you
what is beyond all eyes –
pray for an increase
in our faltering faith,
that we shall indeed believe
though we do not see;
let it be as if we ourselves
have touched the nail marks
in His hands and feet
and placed our hands into His side.
So firmly let our faith be founded
that we shall reach out
to all mankind
and the truth of Christ
as the Son of God
will grow in all hearts
until that Day we see the Lord
with our own eyes.
Sun, 2 July 2017
(Eph.2:19-22; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Jn.20:24-29)
“Blest are they who have not seen and have believed.”
The faith of Thomas. By his faith we find faith. In his desire to know beyond all doubt that the Lord has risen, all our doubt is taken away, and we declare with him, “My Lord and my God!” If Thomas had not doubted so much, we would not believe so much his clear proclamation of the divinity of Jesus. As it is, we no longer have room for doubt. Indeed, Thomas’ ardent need to touch the nail marks in the Lord’s hands and sides is a cry to believe as firmly as bedrock, and indeed his declaration of faith is the strongest in all Scripture. “My Lord and my God!” In this we take refuge.
And how beautifully Paul speaks today of the faith, of the Church wherein we take refuge and dwell as one with “all the saints and members of the household of God… with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.” It is architectural fact that in the cornerstone “the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape”; first it is laid, and then the rest of the foundation extends from it, giving the foundation its direction, its form. And, of course, the entire building rests on and is supported by this cornerstone and foundation. And so is the Church. Christ is our cornerstone around which we are all formed, and the apostles, those who have seen Him and proclaimed His glory, are the foundation upon which our faith rests. And we are all one structure, all made one in faith by the apostles and, of course, by the Lord, who is present in every stone of the building.
Let us firm up our faith this day, brothers and sisters. Wherever we may be throughout the world and at whatever time, let us feel beneath our feet the solid foundation upon which we are built and the blessed cornerstone which is its very source and so the source of all the life and the faith within us. Let us indeed be “built into this temple” and so become temples ourselves, knowing the surpassing blessing of becoming “a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” “A dwelling place for God in the Spirit”: my brothers and sisters, can there be a more marvelous call? Let us have the faith of Thomas, crying out “My Lord and my God!” each day of our lives and in all we think, say, and do. Let this faith permeate our very beings and we shall find ourselves standing firmly in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His kingdom, which is beyond all that eye can see.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us be blessed to know you
with a deep faith,
and so be built into your Temple.
YHWH, how good, how kind, how faithful you are to us! For we are built into the Body of your only Son with the saints of Heaven and become as your holy Temple. What more could we ask for, what more could we desire, than to be one with your apostles, upon whose faith your Church is founded? Let us find our place in Jesus, the Christ.
You are God and your Son is God and we may become one with you, O God, if we but have faith in your surpassing glory, in your goodness and kindness toward us – in your Son who stands before us. Jesus is LORD as you are LORD and we become as you are when we praise your glory and declare your Lordship over us.
You are our LORD and our God. Jesus is our LORD and our God. May your Spirit be with us, O LORD, to fit us well into your Temple, into your Church, which rises this day on the foundation of your holy apostles. Alleluia!
Sat, 1 July 2017
(2Kgs.4:8-11,14-16a; Ps.89:2-3,16-19; Rom.6:3-4,8-11; Mt.10:37-42)
“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
The Lord encourages us today to “take up [our] cross and follow [Him],” to place Him first in our lives to find the reward He holds. And in our second reading Paul says the same, reminding us that “we were indeed buried with Christ through baptism into death,” that we have “died with Christ… to sin once and for all” – this is our cross – and that laying down our lives before the Lord we now find ourselves “living for God in Christ Jesus”; we now find ourselves “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father [that] we too might live in newness of life” with Him who is Life itself.
And Jesus sends us forth as His disciples, saying, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Thus, by our lives we call others to die with Christ that they too might live with Him in eternity, that they too might be blessed as we. Others should see in us the Lord and be prompted to give of themselves as we do, as He does – that in Him all might rejoice.
In our first reading we find a woman who has proven the truth of Christ’s statement, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.” Quite literally does she give her “cup of cold water” to the great prophet Elisha, feeding him “whenever he passed by” and even making a place for him to stay in her home. She has recognized “that he is a holy man of God” and is drawn to him, desiring to have his godliness near her life. And by sharing her food and her home, she is laying down her life; by serving this “righteous man” she is serving God, and so she will know the blessing of God.
“This time next year you will be fondling a baby son,” is the holy man’s promise to the woman; and no greater blessing could she hope for. Here is life to her. Here is that “newness of life” of which Jesus speaks so well exemplified in our sight. And we should know that the same will be our own. “In the light of [His] countenance” we shall “know the joyful shout.” “At [His] name [we] rejoice all the day.” “The praises of the Lord [we] will sing forever,” for His Son has been born in our midst; our life has come to us, has suffered and died, and now sits with the Father on high. And to Him do we come with all we are. Before Him do we lay down our lives… and all we give freely He blesses.
Written, read, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Coat of Warmth" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we lose our lives for your sake,
we shall never die.
YHWH, let us receive your Son into our homes, and all those He sends; thus we shall be receiving you and have your Word alive in us. Thus we shall come to newness of life in your eternal kingdom.
And how do we receive your Son, O LORD, but by laying down of our lives and taking up the Cross He bears? Only by giving what little we have to Him for your sake will we find ourselves so blessed as to rejoice forever in your presence.
We are blessed insofar as your Son dwells with us. We are blessed insofar as we die with Him. For having died with the Christ, we believe we shall also live with Him, and what should we desire but this eternal life? O let us live for you alone, dearest LORD and God!
This day, dear God, let us give all we own to those who come in your Name; let us put all our lives at the service of your kingdom. Leaving this world behind, we shall be exalted in Heaven.
Fri, 30 June 2017
(Gn.18:1-15; Lk.1:46-50,53-55; Mt.8:5-17)
“Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?”
Our theme again is faith. Do we believe as Abraham, as Mary, as the centurion? Only such trust will save us.
In our first reading the Lord appears to Abraham. We have here the marvelous scene of faith being born, being conceived. Abraham sits patiently, waiting, praying – expectant of the Lord’s return to confirm His word to him. Then, “looking up, he saw three men nearby.” There is the Lord before him. His reaction is one we all must learn to follow: he does not hesitate an instant. He runs to them, bows before them (even to the ground), and begs them to stay with him that he might serve them. With haste he has food prepared for them, “and he waited on them under the tree while they ate”; his eyes “like the eyes of a servant on the hand of his master” (Ps.123:2), he watches their every move to be certain they are well pleased. (In addition to this quote from Psalms, one cannot help but think of Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation (3:20): “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”)
As Abraham sits there gazing at the Lord, He speaks to His servant: “Where is your wife, Sarah?” Here comes that which Abraham has been longing to hear. His heart leaps up, and the Lord states His promise in no uncertain terms. Now Sarah laughs. But Abraham is no longer laughing. The Lord tests him with the question, “Why did Sarah laugh?” to show to Abraham that he no longer thinks the promise too marvelous for the Lord to fulfill. The Lord repeats the promise. Abraham believes to the depths of his soul; He knows the word spoken to him is of truth. And he shall take his wife in fruitful embrace.
How appropriate to hear Mary’s Magnificat in our daily bread, she who is the handmaiden of the Lord, who believed the words of the angel and so found the greatest blessing of the Lord and the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. How like Mary, the model of all the faithful, has her father Abraham come to be.
And, of course, our gospel finds Jesus marveling at the faith of the Roman centurion, greater than any He has found in Israel. It bodes well that all of faith shall be found at table in the kingdom of God, but we must heed Jesus’ warning that “the natural heirs will be driven out.” For we are the heirs of the Israelites. As Catholics we now hold the covenant. We have the apostolic succession, the sacraments, the teaching – all the gifts are ours. But have we the faith necessary to gain entrance into His kingdom; are we prepared to come to His table and dine with Him who feeds us with the food of everlasting life? Do we believe? This question the Lord puts on all our souls. How shall we answer?
O LORD, let us be quick to serve you
and you will make a place for us in your kingdom.
YHWH, instill faith in our very souls, the faith of Abraham and Mary, the faith the centurion shows even though he is not of your people. And we shall bear fruit in abundance; and your mercy shall be known to the ends of the earth.
Though our hearts be old and withered, O LORD, though we be beyond the age of giving birth, yet you come to us in your mercy and make us fruitful in your NAME. And so, what should we do but praise you? How ready we should be to obey your commands!
Look upon your servants in our lowliness. We are not worthy to have you come under our roof, yet your Son you give to us as our very food. We indeed should feed you, O God, but it is you who provide for our needs; by your hand we are fed each day at the table of sacrifice – we who have been so far from your face, you heal and bring near by a word from your mouth, and so we praise you in joy.
Thu, 29 June 2017
O first of souls to shed blood,
whose sacrifice began the great persecution,
you indeed handed your bodies over
to the mad king of this dark world,
but everlasting reward you have gained
for yourselves and for the Church;
your robes washed clean
in the blood of the Lamb,
you served to nourish the growth
of the people of God –
pray your holy offering
shall always be remembered,
that the Church in this day
and in all days
may be blessed by your witness
that you might light our path to Heaven
until our crucified Lord returns again
to gather all of faith and courage
into His redeeming arms.
Direct download: June_30_The_First_Martyrs_of_the_Holy_Roman_Church.mp3
Category:Saints -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT
Thu, 29 June 2017
(Gn.17:1,9-10,15-22; Ps.128:1-5; Mt.8:1-4)
“Can Sarah give birth at ninety?”
Abraham laughs to himself as he asks the question; and indeed many scoff at the idea today, or simply choose to reason the possibility away. And can a leper be made clean in an instant, just by a touch of Jesus’ hand and the words “Be cured”? Is the arm of God, who created the universe, somehow shortened to such miracles? Why do we think it so? Wherefore our lack of faith?
God appears to this ninety-nine-year-old man and tells him whose wife is barren, in the words of our psalm: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.” And Abraham laughs. (As will Sarah, too, upon hearing such news – thus the name of their child Isaac: “he laughs”.) It’s an understandable reaction. Who would not find the thought humorous? But Abraham does something more than laugh: he also “prostrates himself” before the Lord, face to the floor. How many of our modern scoffers would do such as this? It is human to question, to doubt; but it is godly to humble oneself in faith. There is a world of difference between a laugh of wonder and the scoffing of the skeptic. The latter shall remain barren, never finding the living water that would make him fertile and fruitful; the former by his fear of the Lord opens himself to His favor, to His blessing – and such life-giving breath of blessing will make him bear fruit abundantly.
This humble faith is perfectly evident in the leper as well, and is indeed the catalyst of his healing. We are told the leper “came forward and did Him homage” – falling on his face like Abraham – and said to the Lord, “If you will to do so, you can cure me.” First he shows humility, he shows fear of the Lord; then he expresses his faith. Simply put, he believes in the power of God. And so he is healed. He is made whole, more whole indeed than the Pharisees and priests who stand by calculating how this can be.
God does not come to the proud. He does not show Himself to the self-righteous. He cannot. They refuse Him at every turn. To the humble of heart, to the poor in spirit, the Lord is present – and His blessings they receive. And miraculous are they beyond what the eye can see. Amen.
O LORD, free us from all our disease
by a word from your mouth,
as we bow humbly before you.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth the barren womb bears fruit; by a word from your mouth we are healed. Our reproach, our leprosy, is taken from those who come to you in faith, who bow before you in humility. Only in this way are we saved – only in this way are our lives of any worth.
In wonder we look upon your works, O LORD, in wonder and thanksgiving. How can we not give you praise for your blessings upon us? If we fear you and the hand you stretch forth to redeem our souls, we shall indeed know your blessings upon us through all generations.
Laughter you put into our mouths, dear LORD, as we look upon your hand at work. What joy you bring to the tired soul by your grace living amongst us! Though we seemed at the point of death, though disease had taken hold – you have freed us to walk with you… in all our days your will is done.
Wed, 28 June 2017
O most blessed apostles of the Lord
upon whom the Church is founded
and the faith goes forth,
in you we cannot be shaken
and the Lord’s reign extends
to the ends of the earth –
pray we always take refuge
in His House
and in the teaching of His mouth.
It is you who preserve
the authenticity of the faith;
through you we may be assured
the Spirit of God is with us,
leading us out of the dark prison
of this world
along the narrow path to Heaven.
Pray the chains fall from our hands
and we heed the angel’s command,
remaining faithful to the end,
pouring out our lives like a libation.
Feed the poor sheep in your care.
Wed, 28 June 2017
Acts 12:1-11; Ps.34:2-9; 2Tm.4:6-8,17-18; Mt.16:13-19)
“On this rock I will build my Church,
and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.”
We go through death to life, for death has no power over us: the power of Jesus founded firmly on Peter, brought forward by Paul, and present in all the members of the Church and in its faith, has conquered death and leads us all to heaven.
Today we celebrate the solid foundation of the Church in Peter, the man of faith, first of the apostles and rock upon whom we are firmly set; and Paul, the great Apostle, through whom that faith went out to “all the nations.” Our readings today clearly manifest the faith we possess, which overcomes even death, in Jesus’ commissioning of Peter and in the example shown in the lives of both Peter and Paul.
Our first reading describes Peter’s mystical release from prison and reveals in this act our own coming to the heavenly kingdom: the chains of sin fall from us, we are clothed in righteousness, and led through the snares of this world to freedom. And it is he who holds “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” who is led out; and indeed by these keys, by this office and its grace, “the iron gate leading out to the city” opens before us “of itself.” And in our second reading we find Paul declaring the faithful life he has led even unto the end, which he now faces, and that his fighting of the good fight has merited the crown which awaits him on the Day of Lord. He is able to state with confidence, “The Lord will continue to rescue me from all attempts to do me harm and will bring me safe to His heavenly kingdom.” Finally, our psalm confirms the protection the Lord grants His faithful ones: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
We are sharers in this faith with Peter and Paul. This is evident in the Church who “prayed fervently to God” on behalf of Peter, and whose prayers were answered in this astounding fashion, and is made certain in Paul’s proclaiming that Jesus gives the reward of a heavenly crown not only to Paul himself “but to all who have looked for His appearing with eager longing.” The Church is one in all its members, and though the Lord has chosen certain of us to special places and granted them special blessings and powers, all are blessed by this same God.
So, today as we rejoice in this faith with which we have been gifted by the Lord, as we “together extol His name,” let us consider the place we have in His holy Church and the work to which He calls us. And let us resolve to fulfill that call, pouring ourselves out unto death, that we might be assured of our entering through the heavenly gate. Let us walk in faith the narrow path the Lord has set before us, for it leads beyond death to life.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by James Kurt.
Music by Carie Fortney; performed by Carie Fortney and Annette Meyer. Used by permission.
O LORD, may we be loosed
from the chains of this earth
that we might walk with you in Heaven.
YHWH, the gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against you and your Church. To Peter you have given the keys to the kingdom and these shall open every lock the devil can devise; the chains fall from our wrists by the angel you send to guide us.
You deliver us, LORD, from every evil and bring us into your heavenly kingdom. The lion’s mouth shall not close upon us, nor any prison door keep us from you. For we are redeemed by the sacrifice of your Son; in Him and in His blood your Church finds power and grace to facilitate release from all the wiles of the evil one.
Jesus sets your people on solid rock through His commissioning of His apostle Peter. And your Word goes forth to the ends of the earth through Paul and all your disciples. And so, on the day of your Son’s appearance, all shall enter freely through the eternal gates to dwell in your presence forever. You have heard our cries to you, O LORD, and bring us quickly to Heaven.
Tue, 27 June 2017
O great teacher of the Catholic faith
who served to set a foundation
upon which she could grow
in peace and in truth,
in the Spirit of God,
you who valiantly defended her
against attacks of heresy
and shed your blood
in the battle –
pray we shall find shepherds today
to explicate the faith of the apostles
as you have done,
that none shall be led astray
into false doctrine
by whim and fancy,
by pride and envy,
but drink rather the pure milk
of our Mother
and of the one true God.
To vision of the Father let us come
by revelation of His only-begotten Son.
Tue, 27 June 2017
(Gn.15:1-12,17-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mt.7:15-20)
“Abram put his faith in the Lord,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”
In our gospel today, Jesus teaches us, “You can tell a tree by its fruit.” And what can we tell of Abram but that he is a bountiful tree, faithful and strong. Indeed, in his faith is his goodness, and in his children, who reach down even unto this day, his blessed fruit is known.
What holy, gentle conversation the Lord has with Abram, coming to him in visions to speak to his soul, to thus nourish this tree which He has planted upon the earth. And how faithful Abram is, patiently awaiting the growth which comes from God. Here, my friends, is the Lord’s relationship with man exemplified. This is how we should be with our God… seeking the Lord, asking Him the questions which are upon our hearts, believing Him as He speaks to us – as He surely does. For such is our God to us: coming to us in our fears, reassuring our souls, remaining ever faithful to us as He brings to maturity the fruit He has planted in our spirit. No doubt we should have of His blessing. His promise is sure.
And so with our psalmist we should celebrate; we should “glory in His holy name.” For we are “descendants of Abraham,” partakers of the faith brought to fulfillment in Jesus, fruit of the tree of life. And the Lord “remembers forever His covenant.” This grace we have been given shall never leave us; the life within us shall remain. And in our days, through our time, as we partake of our daily bread, the Lord continually speaks to us and blesses us, bringing our fruit to maturity as we progress and grow in His Name. And we shall look upon our children’s children. Our own trees shall indeed bear fruit in His light. We must but remain faithful to Him; we must but keep diligent as Abram who, though “birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,” stayed by his holy sacrifice.
We shall see the false prophets of our age come to naught; we shall see these trees “cut down and thrown into the fire.” And we will see and know the rebirth of true doctrine: our Church we will witness in all its heavenly glory. “Fear not!” the Lord says to Abram, and so He speaks to us. Our descendants shall be numerous as the stars. With all the children of God we shall rejoice. Keep faith in your hearts.
O LORD, how fruitful indeed is Abraham,
whose spiritual children surpass
the many nations born of his loins.
YHWH, let us be fruitful in your sight. Come to us and reassure us of your presence with us, of your blessing upon our souls, that we might enter into the Covenant you made with Abraham and be fruitful in faith as he. O let our descendants be as the stars in the sky.
O LORD, make us as your chosen ones, serving you constantly on this earth, and we shall rejoice forever in the glory of your kingdom with all your saints in light. Steadfast let us be in doing your will, in keeping the wolves at bay. May the sacrifice we offer be holy, and we be acceptable in your sight.
Your voice make known to us, LORD; let us hear and answer your call. A faith so simple and profound provide your disciples – make us as children before you. And as we seek you so, let us find you.... May the blood of your Son course through our veins, and so we bear fruit all our days in your holy NAME.
Mon, 26 June 2017
O great defender of the Mother of God
and of the faith itself,
courageously you declared
that Jesus is God indeed,
become Man in Mary His Mother;
this you made plain for all to see,
O shepherd of the people of God,
that truth might reign
and the Virgin might find
her proper place among us –
pray, O brave teacher,
that we shall not be afraid
to proclaim the truths
inscribed by the Spirit
upon the heart of the Church
and in her inspired writings;
and may indeed our Mother,
the Mother of Jesus,
the Mother of God,
be recognized for her preeminence
amongst the saints,
that the Word of the Lord might be fulfilled
and all generations call her blessed.
Mon, 26 June 2017
(Gn.13:2,5-18; Ps.15:1-5; Mt.7:6,12-14;)
“How narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road,
and how few there are who find it!”
In our first reading today, the way Abram walks with God is contrasted with the path Lot chooses for himself. Though the road seems wide and clear, this gate leads to damnation, and indeed, as our gospel states, is one which is chosen by the traveler himself; whereas the narrow path is one which is found in God.
Lot and Abram could no longer dwell together; their possessions were too great and the tensions were too high among their servants. Taking “no reproach against his neighbor,” acting as the just soul spoken of in our psalm, “Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife between you and me,’” and put the whole land at his disposal, offering to take what remained. So “Lot looked about,” Scripture tells us, to see what pleased his eyes, and then “chose for himself,” again the words of Scripture, that broad expanse of land which he thought would be fruitful for his needs. And where does this decision he takes by the sight of his own eyes lead him? To the depraved, to the reprobate, to the dogs and swine – to the infamous land of Sodom, whose people “were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord.” To such we are led by our senses.
Once Lot is gone, how is Abram led to his destination – are his feet led by his own eyes as well? No, the Lord comes to Him as guide. It is He who tells him to “set forth and walk about in the land.” It is again God and his faith which serve as his light. And what promise there is by way of this path! But what difficulties one must face to attain it.
When Abram arrived at his destination, “he built an altar to the Lord.” (In what contrast is this altar to the unholy sacrifices offered at Sodom.) The altar of Abram signifies both the faith of this just man and the sacrifice necessary to walk with God and find the life to which He leads us. We know that Abram’s path will be particularly rough, as will be that of his descendants. There will be slavery and wandering in the desert, and once come into the land of promise, it shall not remain with them. Indeed, it is only we now in the Spirit following the coming of Christ for whom that promise is fulfilled. And yet do we struggle. And yet every day must we examine our conscience and reform our lives to prepare ourselves to enter that gate which is so narrow. No sin will it accept. No foolish pride can exist in our hearts if we hope to enter life.
The way is rough, but what blessed protection the Lord gives by His guidance; and we “shall never be disturbed” by the trials of this world but come thereby to the sure promise of heaven.
O LORD, the wide road of the world
leads to damnation;
the narrow gate of the Cross of Christ
takes us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us be just, as Abraham, and as faithful to your Word. Not by our own eyes let us set forth, but led by your command. Your narrow way let us follow, the way that leads to life.
The just man thinks only the truth in his heart, and does not slander his fellow man. He is a man of peace who takes up no reproach against his neighbor but gives him preference of place. This is what it means to treat others as we would be treated, for when we give others such deference (as Abraham does for Lot), you, O LORD, defer to us… and we are truly blessed. For no one is as just as you.
Let us come to know your justice, LORD, and we shall be kept from the dogs and swine. Through the narrow gate let us enter and not the gate that is clear and wide, and we shall be preserved from all evil – for you will be at our side. And though the Cross does enter into our lives, it only serves to bless us with passage into your Promised Land.
Sun, 25 June 2017
(Gn.12:1-9; Ps.33:12-13,18-20,22; Mt.7:1-5)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
There is a plank in our own eye; there is but a speck in our brother’s. This is what the Lord sees. And this is what we see if we fear the Lord. If we fear the Lord, we remain humble before Him. If we fear the Lord, we will be released from judgment. If we fear the Lord, we indeed will be as Abram, following His blessed commands.
“Abram went as the Lord directed him,” our first reading tells us so aptly today. He left his father’s house at a word from God and followed wherever God led, his path illumined only by faith. He walked not by his eyes but only by his faith in the Lord’s promise to him; the Lord became his eyes and he trusted himself and all his family and all his possessions to these eyes which watched over him. In darkness and in quiet he sets out, the Lord as his only light and His voice as his only guide. Such faith, such blessed faith and humility.
Such faith must we all have, brothers and sisters, for it cannot be otherwise but that the Lord calls each one of us to such faith, to such trust; He calls each of us from our “father’s house” to walk with Him alone and find our way in His presence. Do we fear Him? Do we love Him? Are we humble before Him? If so, we will know the path upon which the Lord leads us; we will hear His voice speaking quietly in our ears and in our hearts. And we will follow Him. And He will bless us and fulfill His own call for our lives. He will remove the plank from our eyes and grace us with the ability to remove the speck from others’. He will be our wisdom in teaching, our strength in serving. We will not go forth vainly in our own power, but will know His hand guiding us in all we do, for all will be done in His Name. Then great things will be accomplished in us. Then we become sharers in the promise of Abraham.
The Lord is our God. He watches over. He judges. He leads. All healing and all grace and blessing come from His hand and not our own. Our eyes see only what is before us; His illumine the universe. But we may share in His vision, we may partake of His presence, if we have faith, if we humble ourselves before Him and go as He directs.
And as He blesses us so with His guidance, as we find ourselves coming into His kingdom, let us not fail to build an altar to His Name, let us remember to praise Him for His grace. And we shall find our path sure; and in time we shall come “by stages” to eternal life.
O LORD, let us not judge, but love;
let us go as you direct us.
YHWH, who can see as you see, who has vision so pure? Only he who repents of his sin and obediently follows your way, walking in harmony with his brother. If we are not humble, we are blind, for your power is not known to us. We shall remain in darkness forever if we do not come to faith in you.
Let us be faithful as Abraham; let us reflect his obedience to your Word. Let us listen this day to your Son and turn from hardness of heart and judgment of others that your kindness may be upon us, O LORD. If we are not kind and forgiving, neither shall we be forgiven, but rather bring condemnation upon our own souls – O let us repent of such blindness!
Save us, O LORD, from the death of sin, from vain pride; preserve our souls in this land of famine, in this foreign place. Let us leave behind the idols of this age and build an altar in our hearts to you. You are our God, you alone. Help us to leave all behind to find your way, walking humbly with one another. Then our eyes shall be opened.
Sat, 24 June 2017
(Jer.20:10-13; Ps.69:8-10,14,17,33-35; Rom.5:12-15; Mt.10:26-33)
“For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.”
Jeremiah “hear[s] the whisperings of many” who seek to “denounce him”; those who “watch for any misstep” plot his destruction: “Perhaps he will be trapped, then we can prevail, and take our revenge on him.” Like David he has “become an outcast to [his] brothers, a stranger to [his] mother’s children.” And for what does he suffer such persecution but for speaking the truth of God’s word to his fellow Israelites? As David declares to the Lord, “The insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me”; both the prophet and the king endure persecution for righteousness’ sake.
But both prophet and king declare victory in their struggle: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” Through the power of God it is they who “will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” The Lord hears their pleas for help, their prayers come before Him, “for the Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” And so both king and prophet end in joy, in utter hope, as David proclaims, “Let the heavens and the earth praise Him, the seas and whatever moves in them”; and Jeremiah likewise calls all to honor our unfailing God: “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for He has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.”
And, brothers and sisters, in what greater way is this salvation from the grasp of evil better known, more fully realized, than in our Lord Jesus Christ? Paul tells us, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and this death came to all men.” What greater persecutor have we than death itself? But now “the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many” – now all are saved by Him who has died, and has risen. Its clutches no longer hold dominion.
So Jesus exhorts the Twelve, and all who would conquer death and all sin, to “fear no one”: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” What power has the prince of this world over our immortal souls now that Jesus has come? He can’t touch us by his persecutions; and so now we are called to “proclaim on the housetops” what we “hear whispered” by the Lord in our hearts. Now with Jeremiah and David we must fearlessly “speak in the light,” for the Lord has made us a promise, and His Word is true – “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” But if we deny Him, He will deny us. Therefore, let us be heedless of the shame and the pain we share with our Savior and never fear to declare His truth in love to all. Nothing is greater than the power of His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us declare your glory,
you who set us free from the bonds of sin and death –
you who are our Savior!
YHWH, you have raised us from the power of sin and death, from the strength of our persecutors which we could not match. In the bonds of Satan we have been, and under his threat we dwelt in fear. But your Son has come to set us free that we might walk in liberty with Him and proclaim your holy Name to all the earth. Praise you, LORD! Thank you for your goodness to us. Let us live in your light.
O LORD, how hopeless we were, trapped in the bonds of death and sin. How could we hope when so oppressed that everywhere we looked we saw but emptiness and fear. But when we called out to you, you heard our plea… and your Son you sent into our midst to save us from all evil. Let us now with great zeal declare your glory, LORD, though it mean we must die for you. For in this death, this dying in your Name, indeed life comes to us once again.
To you we entrust our cause, dear LORD, and you are ever faithful. Save all men from the evil one!
Fri, 23 June 2017
O Sanctuary of the Father,
Temple of the Holy Spirit,
Mother of the Son of God
who carried Him in your womb
and contemplated Him
in your heart –
how shall we find Jesus
how shall we become
the temples of the Spirit
the Lord calls us all to be
if you do not pray for us,
if we are not formed
in your womb,
in the love
with which you are blessed?
Hold us in your soul, dear Mother,
that our spirits might join with your own
and we might thus become one
with our Lord and brother.
In us also let Him make His home.
Fri, 23 June 2017
O greatest of men born of woman,
before you were formed in the womb
the Lord called you;
while still in this cave
you leapt for joy
at His presence come to you…
a sharp, two-edged sword He made you
to hail the coming Messiah,
the Light in our midst,
the New Covenant born of the Old –
how shall we humble ourselves
as you have done;
how shall our call be realized
in flesh and blood
as was your own?
Pray, dear brother,
that from darkness we be taken,
from blindness and inability to speak
we be rescued,
that the Word among us
we may know
and raise our voices
to proclaim His salvation to all.
Fri, 23 June 2017
(Is.49:1-6; Ps.139:1-3,13-15; Acts 13:22-26: Lk.1:57-66,80)
“I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, he who hails the coming of the Lord, is born today. This voice speaks of the Word among us. And from before his birth he is called, in the womb he is formed, to proclaim with the sword of truth God’s salvation for His people. “Surely the hand of the Lord was with him,” and surely we find the grace of God by walking the path he blazed for us in the desert; for surely that way leads to the glory who is the Son of David.
Yes, “to us this word of salvation has been sent.” To us this light has been brought forth. We “distant peoples” hear now the call of the voice which pierces our souls: Make straight the way of the Lord! The tongue now speaks; no longer silenced, no longer hidden, it has risen from “the depths of the earth” to plainly declare the coming of Christ. Yes, in the womb of the Old Testament the Lord wonderfully formed the salvation of Israel, probing and scrutinizing all its ways and preparing it for birth in the light of day. And now what He hid in His quiver He shoots forth to wound with amazement the hearts who have waited to hear the Word of life. “John heralded His coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel”; by his voice a place is made for the Savior, Jesus.
At the turning point of the history of salvation John stands. He has come to direct souls to the Promised Land. For this he was made. To this call he answers – to lead us to the Son of Man. The old is passed away; now all is made new. Fulfillment has come. The womb has brought forth. The time of salvation is here. For He through whom time and the earth and heavens were made is now come to wash even the dirt from our feet. Listen to the voice which hails the Word of God in our midst. His call is for all ears; the light shines for all “who are God-fearing.”
Your recompense is upon you now. You, too, make known His light to the world.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, your Word of salvation you speak
through the mouth of John,
whom you have blessed with your might and power.
YHWH, your Word of salvation goes forth to the ends of the earth, proclaimed through the mouth of John, the fulfillment of the prophets of Israel. In his birth what is old passes away, and what is new comes. Now the light of the nations enters this house.
Loose our tongues to declare your glory, dear LORD. You who have formed us in the depths of the earth, in the womb of the Church, now gather us into your arms that we might be raised unto the glory of your Son, brought into union with you who are our Father and our God. O may we share your Name as we are born into your kingdom!
Let your hand be upon us for good, O LORD; let your will be accomplished in us as it has been in John. Let all souls know that it is you who probe us and know us, you who understand all our thoughts and ways. May all our thoughts and actions be in accord with your own, and so in all things let us declare to all that your Son has come – O let us be His servants!
Thu, 22 June 2017
(Dt.7:6-11; Ps.103:1-4,8,10,17; 1Jn.4:7-16; Mt.11:25-30)
“He has loved us
and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.”
Who better to hear from on this blessed feast than John, the Lord’s beloved disciple, whose words indeed continually breathe the fact that “God is love” and who eternally exhorts us to “love one another.” John cannot but speak of the love God has for His children and the love we must offer in return; and all of our Scripture today echoes his understanding and calls us to be washed in the blood of Christ.
In our gospel Jesus calls unto the hearts of all: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” He invites His little ones: “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” O so gentle and humble of heart is the Lord our God… so loving, so kind! David sings of Him so well in his psalm of praise and thanksgiving: “Merciful is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” Why does God’s king “bless the Lord” with “all [his] being” today? Because “not according to our sins does He deal with us.” Because of His forgiving grace – this greatest sign of His love, embodied in His only Son. And so, as Moses says to all the people in our hearing on this holy feast, we should “love Him and keep His commandments,” for He is “the faithful God who keeps His merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation.” Yes, this covenant of love has been fulfilled in Jesus’ blood, in Jesus’ heart from which His blood does come, and “when anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God”; then we “come to know and believe in the love God has for us.”
And to whom does the love of God come so readily? Who finds such faith in the Lamb of God and knows that “He pardons all [our] iniquities” and “crowns [us] with kindness and compassion”? Jesus in His prayer to the Father states, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children,” and this is confirmed by Moses, who tells the Israelites, “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.” It is not the strong and the wise of the world the Lord showers His love upon, but the humble and the lowly. These know the love the mighty and humble, gentle Lord holds in His Sacred Heart. Alleluia!
Brothers and sisters, “it was because the Lord loved you… that He brought you out with a strong hand from the place of slavery.” Let your soul “find rest” in that merciful love this day, and let it share that love with all others.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, how you love us!
sending your only Son to die for our salvation –
let us come to Him this day and know your love.
YHWH, so loving you are that you share your very self with us in the Person of the Son of God, in Jesus the Christ. How is it love come to us so truly? How is it you, who are love, make yourself known to us in such a real way? It is because you are love and desire therefore to share love with us, your poor creatures.
O LORD, you forgive all our sins, you heal all our ills… all that is evil you take from us that we might be one with you who are love. O that we might have a heart so humble and lowly as your own! that we might truly come to know your love, that we might truly come to be your own children. Let us share your love with one another and we shall find ourselves living in your love.
In you let us take our rest, O LORD, in your Sacred Heart. Jesus is your very heart and His blood you would have course through our veins. O let His Heart beat in our own, that overwhelmed with His love we might become one with you in Heaven. Give us your Spirit of love this day to make us your own people, your own flesh and blood.
Wed, 21 June 2017
O kings of martyrdom
who indeed laid down your very lives
rather than heed the dictates
of an evil emperor,
whose loyalty to the Lord
and the Church He established
your defense of the faith
written in the blood you shed –
pray that the mediocrity,
the utter inability to stand for truth
in this relativist age,
will be defeated
by souls founded firmly
in the Spirit of Christ
and in the Cross
He offers forth
for our salvation.
Pray for leaders of Church and State
to embrace your singular devotion.
Wed, 21 June 2017
O lover of poverty
who gave up great wealth
to find her abiding
within the walls of your heart,
a heart which turned thus
to God’s people
and the shepherding of them
with great care –
pray that we too may hear
and come to realize in our lives
the call of our Lord
to give up all things
for the sake of the kingdom,
to be attached to nothing
but service of the poor,
service of God Himself
in the humble of this earth;
pray that like you
we may have the heart of a shepherd,
of a laborer in Jesus’ vineyard,
united in the Spirit
with all God’s children
with whom we share His Heaven.
Wed, 21 June 2017
(2Cor.11:1-11; Ps.111:1-4,7-8; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
And what we need is to be holy as He is holy. And it is this we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. We simply seek to be like Him, and that all obstacles to holiness be removed from us. And like a loving father He meets our needs.
And Paul is a father to the community at Corinth; he loves them “with the jealousy of God Himself.” He has given them in marriage to Christ and is solicitous that the wedding chamber not be corrupted by false doctrine. “Super apostles” have come among them who “win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words,” rattling on like empty wind and taking money from Paul’s children for the sound and the fury they bring. But they signify nothing by all their skill; they are but ravenous wolves amidst the flock.
Paul says of himself, “I may be unskilled in speech but I know that I am not lacking in knowledge”; and how his words echo Christ’s own, that we should not get lost in mere words. And how like a father knowing and caring for the needs of his children is Paul. In our psalm, too, is reflected the Father’s “gracious and merciful” nature which Paul shows to the Corinthians: “Sure are all His precepts… wrought in truth and equity.” This knowledge of God is what must be conveyed, and it is this Paul offers the people.
And like a caring father who provides sacrificially for his children, Paul refuses to take return from them for his work: his work among them is a labor of love for which he seeks no recompense. By this they must learn how freely God gives to those who seek Him and be purged of their notion that it is those whom they pay, and greatly, who care for them. Indeed, the Father knows always what we need, and gives it freely to those who simply come as repentant children. He exacts no cost and requires no dramatics to receive His presence and His love.
Forgive my folly here, but why do you turn to the icons and idols of this glamorous age to find the peace you seek, when in His Church the Father waits to answer all your needs? Do not be led astray by the powerful-seeming images which surround us in this day; come to the Lord of all, and before Him in silence kneel and pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.”
O LORD, you know what we need
and provide our food, the Bread He is,
through the apostles.
YHWH, let us not be seduced by our pride – it is not by our own words and our own will we shall come to Heaven. It is you who must inspire us; we must but be your humble servants. Then great deeds will be accomplished in us, for it will be your work alone that we do.
You, O LORD, are faithful and just to all who call upon you in truth, to all who have faith in your enduring love. Those who share your mercy with others are blessed with freedom from all cares, for in your mercy the evil one finds no place. Let all souls pray to you and know that you desire to give us all we need.
You are not blind, O LORD, to our plight; we know nothing of which you are unaware. And so let us not reach out our hands to the fruit of disobedience – let us not seek in ourselves or in those around us the glory that comes only from you. Then we shall remain in your Garden forever, doing the work for which you made us. Then we shall be wed to your Son.
Tue, 20 June 2017
O patron of youth
whose innocence was unsurpassed,
whose desire to give yourself
to the Lord
in poverty and purity
led you to relinquish
your wealth in this world
at a tender age
that you might embrace Jesus
pray for the youth of our day
and the child in each of our souls,
that all might turn away
from the temptations which surround
and threaten to enter and enslave;
let all turn toward
the love of the Lord
and His heavenly call,
a call to a kingdom
that surpasses everything of this earth
and brings the joy
known only in breathing and speaking
His holy Name.
Tue, 20 June 2017
(2Cor.9:6-11; Ps.112:1-4,9; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Keep your deeds of mercy secret,
and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
In the ground, hidden and secret, the seed is planted. From the womb of the earth it sprouts, and gives its yield. We plant the seed; God provides the seed. And it is through His power that anything which we plant grows and increases. So it is with our generous acts, as well as our prayer and fasting.
“Happy the man who fears the Lord… His generosity shall endure forever.” For “He who supplies seed for the sower and bread for the eater will provide in abundance; He will multiply the seed you sow and increase your generous yield.” Trusting in Him, we shall know His blessings; and greater blessings than these shall we know and shall others know, who praise God for the gifts He provides. Wonderful it is to behold God’s ever-increasing generosity; more wonderful yet to participate in it. It is a fountain welling up to eternal life, in which we are cleansed and made of light.
But let us take to heart the warning of the Lord this day: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for others to see.” The world does not see God, it cannot know God. Thus God is termed “hidden” and “secret.” And though we are to make God known to the world, we cannot do so unless we exist where He is. In the recesses of our heart, in the quiet, we shall find Him. In the center of our being we must place Him. Closing the doors of our rooms, entering the stillness of our souls… kneeling there we shall find Him. And He shall hear us, and He shall reward us with the blessing of answered prayer, of fruitful yield in His Name. If we do not remain with Him there in secret – even in the midst of the city, even among the distractions of this world – all our actions will be in vain. It does us no good to gain the whole world and lose our souls; and all our good deeds are empty show without Him who is goodness at their core.
“He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” Let us know the blessing of bearing fruit in God. Let us give generously, knowing that for all the good we do, the Lord will provide yet more seed for us to sow, and we shall reap in abundance His heavenly blessings. If we do all without fanfare, but quietly, humbly, secretly trusting all to His care – the blessing of His presence we shall keep with us, and we shall see our works and our prayers bear fruit in the kingdom of God.
May God bless all humble souls with His bounty.
May He reveal Himself to their hearts.
O LORD, let us give all we have,
and give always from the heart,
and we will be giving with you…
and you will increase our yield.
YHWH, let us cheerfully give to you all we have; all we have is from you and so it is but justice that we place all in your hands. You will multiply our offering if in sincerity we sacrifice it to you.
In secret let us keep our deeds of mercy; hidden in the depths of our soul, let them grow by your Spirit. In the stillness you reside, and so, there we shall find you. There you shall hear and bless our prayers. O LORD, let our prayers rise up to you!
Help us to trust in you, dear God, and in your generous love. You wish to bless us with all that is good but cannot do so unless we believe in your goodness, unless we reflect your grace and mercy in our lives. We are called to live with you and remain with you. Let the light of faith dawn upon us this day.
Then we shall fear nothing; then we shall live in awe of your presence, LORD. Your glory dwelling in us and shining through us, we shall be greatly blessed. Then we shall give freely to all!
Mon, 19 June 2017
(2Cor.8:1-9; Ps.146:2,5-9; Mt.5:43-48)
“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
Our psalm today begins with praise of God and the proclamation of the happiness of those “whose hope is in the Lord,” for it is He who “gives food to the hungry” and “raises up those that were bowed down.” Freeing captives, giving sight to the blind, protecting strangers… such is our God and Father. And in our gospel Jesus tells us, “You are sons of your heavenly Father,” and “you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be His image, doing the things He does.
Paul presents Jesus, the only Son of the Father, as our model in generosity. In his gentle reminder he states: “For your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty.” He also presents to us the Macedonians, whose “overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity.” And Jesus makes clear that our generosity, our “sharing in the service” of God, must extend beyond our friends. The Father makes no distinction – “His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust” – and so we are challenged “to know the grace of God” completely by giving our love to all, even as Christ’s arms are open to everyone as He hangs on the cross.
How is it that poverty produces such generosity? And how can we share in both with our God? The poverty of which the Apostle speaks and which Jesus exemplifies and calls us to follow is the emptying of self of all which is our own, and in the very act of emptying, of giving, is generosity itself. Whether it be a man of riches handing over his money or a man of great love performing acts of kindness, he who has is divesting himself of that which he has to enrich another. We remember that when the woman touched the hem of His garment, Jesus perceived power had gone forth from Him (Mk.5:30). Here is that emptying of love to heal the other. And on the cross, of course, Jesus emptied Himself completely… and so He died.
Should we be afraid, brothers and sisters, of sharing so completely in Jesus’ love? Do we think that if we give to others, we will have nothing remaining for ourselves? Is Jesus hanging on the cross the end of the story? No, brothers and sisters, we should not be afraid. We must see, indeed, that the more we give, whether of money or of love, the more we are bound to receive. Do you think that God does not see your generosity? Do you not realize that He rewards those who are His children? Do you think Christ still hangs on the cross?
Come to the holiness of God, brothers and sisters; there is no greater grace on earth. Give of yourselves entirely, love even your enemies, and you shall know in ineffable wonder the surpassing love of God for all. Such is our call and our joy.
O LORD, let us be perfect as you are perfect,
loving as Jesus on the Cross –
we will not know you otherwise.
YHWH, how shall we be made perfect as you are perfect; how shall we love as Jesus on the Cross? You alone are generous in giving. You are only of love. Help us to be unsparing as you who have given us your only Son.
It is you who provide seed, you who provide bread. We can produce no nourishment for our lives or the lives of others by our own hands. All is yours, but you will give abundantly to those who seek to love as you. All we need we will have, O LORD, and more, if we empty ourselves of all we own.
O make us ready to give all over to you, to love as you do! Let us not be afraid to share our very lives even with those who would kill us. To them let us give more freely, for they need your love all the more. You cannot but help love all those in need, LORD, to feed the hungry, to give sight to the blind, to set captives free… and we who hope in you, what else can we do but reflect your eternal glory?
Sun, 18 June 2017
O sign of perfect solitude
who heeded so well
the Lord’s command
to enter into your closet
in order to pray,
whose great measure of self-denial
led you to the peak of contemplation
in God’s holy presence,
whose only desire
was that souls might draw close
to Him –
pray all who seek the Lord
may approach Him with a whole heart,
a heart set on Him alone,
that in such perfect devotion
all might find Him present
in their souls, in their spirits,
and be elevated in their lowliness
to His indescribable divine love,
to His peace which passes
all our understanding
but draws us ever closer
to His wounded side.
Sun, 18 June 2017
(2Cor.6:1-10; Ps.98:1-4; Mt.5:38-42)
“When a person strikes you on the right cheek,
turn and offer him the other.”
“Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” Alleluia! And how do we know the salvation of the Lord except by the cross. This is our joy. These “difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots”; the “hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings” – these crosses bring us immeasurable joy, for through them we share in the suffering of Christ and so also in His resurrection glory. Thus the Lord can encourage us not to seek to avoid such suffering; thus He instructs us to be prepared to suffer over and above that which comes to us – for He knows that as we give of ourselves in this ready way, as we lay down our lives without hesitation, we shall find ourselves in the hand of God, we shall come quickly to join Him in heaven. With Paul, we must “present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials,” and His salvation will be made known in us. And we will rejoice with Paul in all our sorrows. And we will be able to exclaim with him, “We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!” For the fullness of Christ will reside with us.
Give. Give, and do not count the cost. How hard it is for us to freely give of our possessions, much less of our very lives. Are we ready to “give to the man who begs” from us? Are we prepared to care for others’ needs? Or do we hold tightly to our possessions, calling them our own? And what of the possession of our pride and the protection of ourselves from injury? What of our judgment of others? Are we ready to give these up so completely? Can we turn the other cheek to those who do us wrong, offering the pain to God and finding great comfort there, or do we need to strike back against the offending party, exacting the retribution due us according to the law? Do we indeed live by the law, or have we transcended the law: do we now live by the Law of love? Are we a new creation in Christ?
It is not easy to lay down our lives in such a way as Christ calls us. The world ever mocks the absurdity of this sacrifice. But we who are in Jesus should know the absolute truth of Paul’s words and Jesus’ instruction. If we are to be Christians, we must know the joy and freedom that come from suffering all with Him who is our salvation. He is all that matters. If we have Him, we have all things. Come to this truth, brothers and sisters; leave behind the fears wrought by attachment to the things of this world. This world is of sin, anyway. As we lose our possessions for Him, He gives us all the more. As the body dies, the spirit comes to life. What the devil would take from us, let us give him, for he cannot touch the life that is Christ: our souls are in the hand of God. And, as with Job, all will be restored to us, and more, in the day of the Lord. So, “wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left,” let us learn always to turn the other cheek to our persecutors.
O LORD, grant us the grace to endure all trials
in patience and with love,
that we may give witness to your salvation at work in us.
YHWH, your salvation has come to us, and it comes in the form of a Cross; in the suffering and death of your Son we are set free to rejoice in you. Though we seem to have nothing, though we be beaten and robbed, yet Jesus is with us, and with Him everything is ours. O let us accept the salvation that He brings this day! Let us be patient amid all trials and we will know your presence among us.
Help us, dear LORD, to walk with your Son on the way of the Cross. He is struck repeatedly; He is stripped and forced to carry the burden of our sin. We beg you not to turn your back on us, though we have turned our backs on Him. Help us to do what we are unable to do – to give witness to the truth and love of the Christ… to endure all as He has done.
O to be disciples of Him who saves us! O to know His holy innocence and unending life! O to sing with joy to you, dear God, in the unbreakable Spirit of your Son.
Sat, 17 June 2017
(Dt.8:2-3,14b-16a; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; 1Cor.10:16-17; Jn.6:51-58)
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
“Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” And here is the Word standing before our eyes. Here is the Bread that gives us life. Here is Jesus Christ, in this Blessed Sacrament, nourishing all our lives.
Yes, His “flesh is true food, and [His] blood is true drink,” for it feeds not only our bodies, but our souls as well, anointing us with His presence, joining us to His sacrifice. And so it becomes His flesh we carry in our bodies; so it becomes His blood running in our veins. For, as Paul asks so pointedly, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” And so, do we not become like our God, who comes to us so humbly in this food, who becomes one with our own flesh and blood? Is heaven not here with us and within us as we eat of His presence? Or does He lie about His gift?
Brothers and sisters, nothing more wonderful could the mind of man conceive than this blessed gift we receive at the hands of our own Savior. It is a wonder beyond our understanding and yet a wonder truly present with us, as real as our own flesh and blood. As the Lord “fed [the Israelites] in the desert with manna, a food unknown to [their] fathers,” so we feed now on this food unknown to all – this bread of the angels. And though our doubting hearts may question, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat,” when we partake of this Sacrament of the altar, we find no question remaining; for in faith we taste His glory.
Over and over Jesus repeats His refrain: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” knowing how slow we are to hear, so slow of heart to believe – how easily we “forget the Lord, [our] God, who brought [us] out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” And falling back to the “waterless ground,” we fall away from His table and fail to realize that “with the best of wheat He fills” us. But listen to Him. Come to Him. Eat. Drink. Do not have unbelieving hearts – but believe! Be as children, pure and lowly, and “glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion,” and what is beyond your understanding will become the light of your understanding, and lead you to eternal life. He has given His “flesh for the life of the world.” Live in Him, brothers and sisters. Live in Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Body of Christ" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, how you provide for us!
giving us even your Son’s Body and Blood
to nourish us on our journey to you.
YHWH, feed us with your Son’s Body and Blood, for He alone is the finest wheat and the drink that lasts unto eternity.
Apart from you we are dead in our sin, LORD, wandering aimlessly in this desert filled with snakes. But He came indeed to save us, to share with us the life that is you. As to an oasis we come to Him, and He does not fail to revive us at His table, at the altar of His sacrifice.
O LORD, may we ever find nourishment in Jesus; each day let us be fed by His Word and His Sacrament, which makes that Word so real… real as the blood coursing through our veins. He indeed took flesh for our sakes, and now by His sacrifice that flesh He leaves with us in this Bread of the angels.
Let us never turn from Him, LORD, but participate always in His Body and Blood. Make us your children, make us like Him, the Word made flesh to join us to you.
Fri, 16 June 2017
(2Cor.5:14-21; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mt.5:33-37)
“The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction
that since one died for all, all died.”
How strong is Paul’s “yes” for the Lord. With what ardor does he cry out: “The old order is passed away; now all is new!” How purely he is led in the Spirit to call to our very souls, “In Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” He has no need to swear by earth or heaven of his conviction that Jesus died for our salvation. He is indeed a new creation and can but speak of that which he knows to the depths of his soul; driven by the miracle of his own reconciliation to God, he desires naturally – by the supernatural grace at work within him – to draw others to “become the very holiness of God.”
Paul sings out with our psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being bless His holy name.” He cries out with David: “He pardons all your iniquities, He heals all your ills.” This is the truth which impels him, which he cannot but preach – that our sins are forgiven in Christ the Lord and we need but to come to Him to be raised up to new life. This is His ministry of reconciliation; this is the message entrusted to him… and he must appeal for God’s holy will to be accomplished in us.
Let me join in his shout, let me state so unequivocally – let us all be convicted with Paul of the love God has for us, of the death He has died for us… of the new life we have in Him. Yes, let us indeed shout it from the rooftops, let us cry it out for all to hear. Many are on the path to destruction, many are dying in their transgressions; all are inclined to the condemnation the devil has wrought in our lives, and all must be encouraged, all must hear the exhortation to turn from their sins. May we give our “yes” firmly to God and our “no” firmly to the devil, that others might know in our very lives of the holiness of God and the glory to which He calls us.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord”: this the world must know. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us”: this the sinful heart wallowing in the darkness of doubt must hear. The blood of Christ must be shown to all. Let us not hesitate to speak the great truth of God’s salvation through Christ the Son. Let us not fail to live His new life every day of our lives.
The Lord calls. The sound of His voice is unmistakable. All our sin is dead in Him; through Him we are raised to life. May this Word go forth to the ends of the earth, and may we help carry it there.
O LORD, by Jesus’ grace let us be reconciled to you –
let us say Yes to Him and No to the world.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you. Let us be a new creation through Christ your Son and give our ‘yes’ ever to your will. Sure of soul let us be, of the salvation you bring in Jesus and His messengers. He has died for our sakes that we might be raised with Him. O let our transgressions be far from us this day!
What kindness you show to your wayward sons, O LORD. None of us has been found worthy of your kingdom, but in Jesus all our sins you wash away that we might stand in your presence. May all hear the call of the Apostle to our souls and be reconciled to you in Jesus’ Name. May all know the grace and mercy you offer freely forth.
Make us simple and make us sure; let us in all things do your will, giving our ‘yes’ to you and our ‘no’ firmly to the evil one. Then to Heaven we will come, LORD, to dwell with you upon your throne – O let us enter the New Jerusalem as your sons and daughters impelled only by your love.
Thu, 15 June 2017
(2Cor.4:7-15; Ps.116:10-11,15-18; Mt.5:27-32)
“While we live we are constantly being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake,
so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh.”
In our gospel we continue to see how the grace of Jesus supersedes the Law of Moses. Yesterday we were told not only must we not murder, but that we must not even be angry with or speak ill of another. Today Jesus tells us the commandment against adultery applies even to our eyes, to our thoughts, and that God allows no divorce… And of what does Jesus speak but that which Paul tells us as well – that our bodies, our sinful flesh, must die in order for the glory of God contained therein to shine. Jesus makes this graphically apparent when He speaks of gouging out our eye and cutting off our hand: the body must provide no hindrance to entering the reign of God, and so it must die; sin must indeed be rooted out of us.
“In earthen vessels” we are, weak and mortal, subject to the afflictions of time. The trials of this world therefore do not escape us and indeed are necessary for us to overcome, to purify, our mortal flesh. We must be chastised. We must suffer. But we do not suffer in vain. “We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed.” The trials of this earth have no ultimate hold over us; in fact, they do not lead to death but to life. Why? Solely because it is “the dying of Jesus” we carry in our bodies; entirely because we unite our suffering to Christ’s, it becomes redemptive and not destructive. “We have that Spirit of faith,” and that Spirit of faith is life to us even in our greatest afflictions; and that Spirit of faith turns the deaths we undergo to new life. How? By our overcoming of these deaths and thereby giving death to sin.
A man is addicted to alcohol – this is a temptation and an affliction for him. By the power of Christ and faith in His Name, he puts down the bottle. Who can measure the grace at work in him? Who can capture the life he now knows? And we all have our addictions, be they anger or lust or greed or whatever, and they all must be overcome. And as we overcome them, what freedom do we find. For in this we thwart the devil’s plan to bring us to destruction by the weakness of the flesh. He does not like to see our faith in Jesus spawning such resurrections. And neither does the world like to see a man make progress in God. So the afflictions will be doubled; the world and the devil will attack our weak human vessels all the more. But “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones”; and the more we set aside the sins of the flesh, the more He will bless us – the greater He will preserve us from evil.
He that is in us is far greater than he that is in the world, brothers and sisters. And the more the devil tempts us, the stronger only do we become, because the God of life holds even this purveyor of death in His all-powerful hand. We must but have faith and we will find life; through all our afflictions we will rejoice.
O LORD, all must be sacrificed
for the sake of the kingdom,
and in the death of this mortal flesh we shall find life.
YHWH, how sweet is the death of your faithful ones who unite themselves to the dying of your Son! How blessed is the fruit of such sacrifice! For not only is life revealed in the flesh of those who die for the sake of Jesus, but also in those to whom such witness speaks. And so, indeed, let our bodies die, our earthen vessels be broken, that our spirits might live forever with you in Heaven.
O LORD, despite the afflictions that come, though we are indeed delivered to death, yet we shall pay our vows in the presence of all your people; yet we shall remain faithful to our call to serve you by laying down our lives. For we are not adulterers and we wish for no lover but you alone. May we be wed to your Son in His sacrifice that we might be wed to Him in glory!
All our bonds you loose, O LORD, when we are prepared to die, when we hold to nothing of this sinful life. And so we shall not despair nor be destroyed even as we bleed for you and the love of our neighbor.
Wed, 14 June 2017
(2Cor.3:15-4:1,3-6; Ps.85:9-14; Mt.5:20-26)
“See the splendor of the gospel showing forth the glory of Christ.”
Today the gospel is preached: Jesus, the image of God, has come among us, “glory dwelling in our land,” and removed the veil from our understanding so that now we “are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The words of life are spoken by the Lord; the Holy Spirit comes amongst us as light to illumine our minds and lead us beyond the bounds of the law to the kingdom of God itself. And we must live in that light, we must make it our own, becoming children of the light of the Spirit of God, “that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.” He has indeed come amongst us, salvation is at hand, and we must become perfect as the Father is perfect, as Jesus who is the pure reflection of the Father is perfect – we must allow the Spirit to remove any taint of darkness from our souls.
Jesus tells us, “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Here He means that the law may lead us out of Egypt, it may serve to release us from the bonds of this world of sin, but this guard we have while treading this earth is not enough to bring us into the promised land, into the heavenly kingdom to which we are called. And as long as we concern ourselves only with fulfilling the minimal requirements of the law (not to murder, not to commit adultery…), we will continue to suffer; we will remain unfulfilled. Jesus calls us to greater than that: He calls us into His very light of perfection in the presence of the Father. This call is implanted upon the soul of each one of us, and as long as we ignore it, as long as we veil our minds to the depth and the breadth of this call to perfection with Christ… as long as we say, “Well, I haven’t killed anyone,” and stop there… so long we will remain unsatisfied, so long will the fires burn – so long will we be in prison paying the last penny.
Jesus is calling you now, brothers and sisters; Paul and all the true preachers of Holy Church are calling you now to remove the veil from your eyes, to come into the Lord’s light – to cease to make excuses for your sins, however small they may seem – to seek perfection in Christ… to find the kingdom of God. The Spirit will aid you in your journey; He will be with you every step of your walk on the way of perfection, be assured of this. The Lord does not call us to Himself and then leave us alone to struggle vainly. He is with us through all our trials. But we must come to Him and live in His light of purity, and shine that light for others to see.
O LORD, your kingdom comes
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
who purges us of sin
and makes us shine with His radiance.
YHWH, your glory shines now in our midst in the face of Christ, and He calls us to that same glory by the Spirit that is within us. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world; let us make known your glory by our words and actions.
In the way of salvation we walk, insofar as we follow the commands of your Son and His love. He calls us to dwell with you, O LORD, to reconcile with one another and be perfect as you are perfect – to find our holiness fulfilled. We fall short as long as we limit ourselves to the principles of the law; your glory is far beyond the basics of the law, and it is to your glory and your love Jesus calls us.
What a gift is ours in Christ! Union with you, dear Father in Heaven! Let us not be blinded by the god of the present age, by unbelieving minds, but let the veil be lifted from our faces to gaze upon the glory of your Son and so be transformed into that glory by the Spirit upon us. Alleluia!
Tue, 13 June 2017
(2Cor.3:4-11; Ps.99:5-9; Mt.5:17-19)
“Not the smallest letter of the law,
not the smallest part of a letter,
shall be done away with until it all comes true.”
Jesus comes to fulfill the law and the prophets. The law watches over us while we are here in this world. It guards us and puts to death the sin that is inherent in our earthly nature. There is great glory in this blessed protection, as is witnessed in our psalm today – “Holy is the Lord, our God” – because it acquaints us with God’s justice and, as said, watches vigilantly over us to maintain our standing in the presence of God. But the law does not bring us to the fullness of God’s love; it does not bring us into the heavenly kingdom and “the glory that endures.” Moses brings the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan, but he does not cross over with them. He looks out over the Promised Land from his place on the mountaintop, but does not enter therein. It is Joshua who leads the people into the land promised through Moses (as even he does in today’s Office of Readings). And so it is Jesus who brings us to the heavenly kingdom by His law of love.
In speaking elsewhere of the glory of love (1Cor.13:8), Paul tells us that prophecy shall fail and tongues shall cease but love is eternal, favored well beyond any other gift. Prophecies speak of earthly matters and the law is for our earthly nature, but love speaks of God and heaven. We must be very careful to heed the words of Christ and realize that as long as we are in this world and subject to the sin that our flesh brings, the law has a prominent place in our lives and cannot be jettisoned prematurely – as many advocate by their lack of diligence to its precepts, presuming heaven before its time – yet we must always remember that it is the glory of heaven and not of earth to which Jesus calls us, and that there the law will be fulfilled; there we shall be made perfect in the light of God.
The law is “destined to pass away” only insofar as it is fulfilled, and therefore it never really passes away but is subsumed by a greater law. Let us continue to glory in the chastising hand of God and in the service of purification the law provides us. Let us come by its means to the flesh of Christ, and by the grace of God enter fully into Him.
Jesus is our Promised Land, brothers and sisters; with the law as our guide, but above all with faith in our hearts, let us come into His holy, eternal, loving presence. We have the manna of the Eucharist to share this day; tomorrow we shall feast in fullness on the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ.
O LORD, your commands must be fulfilled
or they shall remain, along with our sin.
YHWH, you are holy and your glory surpasses all that is of heaven and earth. Though we are your creation and you are present to us, though you are with us even in the law you gave to Moses, and though we need your law to purge us of all evil, to put to death the deeds of the flesh… yet in such death we are not fulfilled. We must come to join you in your glory; we must find life in you.
And so, O holy LORD, your Son walks among us, not to destroy the law or contradict the prophets who call us from our wayward path, but to fulfill their voice by the very presence of the Word. Now your holiness has taken flesh, and so at your mountain we can worship in Spirit and in truth. Now we may enter your kingdom.
It is in Jesus we are saved from the death the law brings; it is through Him we find the ministry of the Spirit and so the glory that passes not away. This glory is your very presence speaking to us and shining upon us, dear LORD. O let us call upon your NAME and dwell with you forever!
Mon, 12 June 2017
O gentle preacher of the Word,
the fire of the Holy Spirit
upon your soul
for the conversion of heretics
and the leading of all
to God –
hold us in your arms
even as the infant Jesus
who appeared to you
along the way,
and pray that the Word
may be instilled in our hearts
even as it was in your own,
that we shall never go astray
but always have the consolation
of the Spirit of God
and His love and innocence
to lead us through this life
till we find ourselves
at home in the Father’s arms,
where you dwell in peace
with all His blessed saints.
Pray for us, our teacher and brother, this day.
Mon, 12 June 2017
(2Cor.1:18-22; Ps.119:129-133,135; Mt.5:13-16)
“God is the one who firmly establishes us.”
“Light of the world” and “salt of the earth” – this is what we are by the power of God. It is by Him we are “set on a hill” to give “light to all in the house”; it is we who preserve the integrity of creation. It is a holy call and a demanding one, and we should not waver in our resolve to follow the Lord and fulfill His work and His will; for it is indeed His will that we show His goodness before the eyes of men, and so “He who anointed us and sealed us” will always strengthen us for our task – by Him who holds the entire world in His palm, our own work will be made light.
But heed the words of our readings: we must always give our “yes” to God. Having put our hand to the plow, we cannot turn back. In fact, we should say with the psalmist, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands”; so great should be our love for God and for His life-giving words that ever do we thirst more greatly for the love and the light He brings us through our walking in them. His discipline is redeeming and freeing; and as we drink in its light, as we find ourselves becoming one with Him and with His Son who has shown us clearly and completely the way of perfection, we become the light He is. And we cannot but shine that same light to others, directing them to Him who establishes all holy souls in His blessed kingdom.
What joy should be ours as we find ourselves becoming one with God as His children of light. What absolute exhilaration is evident in Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians, as well as in our psalm. The source of such excitement is his firmness in faith; the Spirit is speaking in his heart and he is not afraid. Indeed, he takes his very life, his daily bread, in proclaiming it.
Have we such faith in our hearts, or have we somehow gone flat? Can we proclaim our unwavering trust in the Lord, or is our light still shaded by doubts and fears? If our love for God is true and our love for one another is real, we shall be firmly established – our light shall go forth.
Let us pray to Him that from the light of His words we shall not be distracted. The light of His presence is all that matters. Shine forth His light to the world.
O LORD, may the Spirit of Truth be with us
to guide us by His holy light.
YHWH, your promises have been fulfilled in Jesus and in Him you firmly establish our place before you, the Holy Spirit in our hearts. You call us to be salt and light to this world, to be the disciples of your Son. Help us to be steadfast in that call, that the light of the Spirit might go out to the ends of the earth.
We are anointed with the Christ and have His life within us. He it is who walks before us, making our footsteps firm. We must follow in His way and give our ‘yes’ entirely to you. O LORD, let us not waver in our weakness but ever keep your commands and so radiate your goodness to all men. Make our witness sure and true; let us ever remain in the light of your presence.
O LORD, let all praise be given to you from hearts filled with your glory. With open mouth let us ever yearn for your Word. In wonder let us stand before you, worshiping ever in your kingdom as your holy children. Let your countenance shine on your servants; transform us into your light.
Sun, 11 June 2017
(2Cor.1:1-7; Ps.34:2-9; Mt.5:1-12)
“Blessed are those persecuted for holiness’ sake;
the reign of God is theirs.”
Here is the core teaching of our faith. Here are the beatitudes, the call to sweet humility which flows like blessed honey from the lips of our Savior. And that teaching is that the humbled shall be exalted, that those who mourn and sorrow for the lack of love we find in this tainted world and who strive to bring that love to the hard heart of man shall be blessed, are blessed, for they share in the sufferings of Christ, who wept for the sins of His people, who, looking out upon them from the cross cried: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why has this world made in the image of Christ turned so against Him, and when shall it return to the love of God? And we who cry with Christ, even for our enemies, even for the most despicable criminal, we shall know the joy He finds – like the repentant thief, we shall be this day with Him in paradise.
“Just as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the consolation,” St. Paul so concisely states. One can hear him brimming with joy as he speaks of the comfort we find in the Lord in all our afflictions, and the grace of sharing that consolation with others. This is our great possession. This is the kingdom of God within us: to see through all trouble and affliction, to conquer it in Jesus’ Name – to find such strength even while here on earth to overcome all evil and come to heaven. “Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you… Be glad and rejoice.” How marvelously the Lord exhorts us to come to the glory of heaven, to overcome the dark with light. For light it is where we dwell, and this light is unconquerable.
Let us make room for Him in our hearts, brothers and sisters; let us give place to Him in our lives. Let us even in the simplest ways show heaven’s glory here on earth. If we are lowly and we are true, our light cannot help but shine. And for those who seek it our lamps will shine, and we shall illumine one another. Let sweet humility be your treasure and the Lord’s peace your goal in life.
The angel of the Lord is around us to save us. Nothing of this earth shall touch us. Let us lay down our lives to destroy death’s bonds.
O LORD, it is the cross of suffering with Christ
that brings us great joy.
YHWH, blessed are we when persecuted because of our love for you, because of our desire to be as your Son, for enduring all the sufferings this world brings we find great joy in your presence. You console the afflicted who call out to you, for you are the refuge of all who suffer for your sake.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy; let us be made whole in your Son. If we must sorrow and mourn to be conformed to your Son, to be purged of all sin and join Him in your kingdom, let it be so. Let us take our strength in you; in you we find refuge. Reward in Heaven is all we desire – to you let us come by way of the Cross of your only Son.
Bless you, LORD, for the goodness you show to us, for the joy you bring us in our suffering for you. You deliver us from every danger, and so we stand firm in hope, consoled by the promise in the words of Jesus. Let us remain ever blessed as we set our hearts on serving you.
Sat, 10 June 2017
O son of encouragement
and of consolation in the Holy Spirit,
you who were filled with faith
and lived that faith for the Lord,
giving up all things to bring His Name forth
to the ends of the earth,
calling all souls
and confirming them in the truth
by the authority of the risen Son –
whose footsteps go forth today
as did yours
upon the birth of the Church;
what souls are so blessed
to be set apart by the Spirit
to perform His works
in this dying world,
to bring His light
to those who sit in darkness?
Pray the Lord shall indeed
send out laborers into His vineyard
and they shall with the same faith
be an encouragement to all,
a consolation to Christian souls.
Sat, 10 June 2017
(Ex.34:4b-6,8-9; Dn.3:52-56; 2Cor.13:11-13; Jn.3:16-18)
“The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is your holy and glorious name.” Brothers and sisters, let us praise God this holy day; let us rejoice in His love. Let us be as Moses, who upon hearing the NAME of the Lord spoken in his hearing, upon having the Lord’s presence revealed to him, “at once bowed down to the ground in worship.” He did not fail to bless God “in the temple of [His] holy glory,” but as the Lord “look[ed] into the depths from His throne upon the cherubim” – as He who transcends all made Himself known to His servant upon the earth – cried aloud to God for His protection, for the protection that the three holy men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) knew by the Hand of God, by His blessed angel, when saved from the flames in the fiery furnace. And though “exalted above all forever,” the Lord hears and answers His children.
God is three and God is love. The One God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is made known in His love. Both the unity of God and His gracious and merciful love are evident today in John’s famous quote: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” They are, of course, Jesus’ words whispered to Nicodemus in his night of doubt and question, and they should fall deeply into our own ears and speak clearly to our hearts of the intimacy of Father and Son and the love one holds and the other carries, a love which is in essence the working of the Spirit. It is this love and union with these to which we are all called, and which we all find by believing “in the name of the only Son of God.”
Brothers and sisters, the presence of God is among us always; the Son has come to save our race, and has thus made all things holy. What Moses knew on Mount Sinai with the “two stone tablets” in his hands, we should know simply by opening our eyes – for His NAME should be written on our hearts. And so always we should be in prayer and praise of the majesty of God. With the living creatures and the elders in heaven we should continually bow down before Him and stand to shout of His glory. Open your hearts to Him who is all in all.
On this Trinity Sunday I will leave you with Paul’s parting words to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" (first part) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we believe in the only Son
whom you have sent
that we might have eternal life in the Spirit.
YHWH, you indeed are merciful, and so you send your only Son to us to save us from the condemnation upon our souls because of our sin against you. From your throne in Heaven send your Spirit forth to carry the salvation wrought by your Son to the very ends of the earth, that all might be one in you and live in your eternal peace.
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to us you make yourself known, coming into our midst to dwell among us. And so we know your merciful love; and so we are drawn into your presence. Father in Heaven, speak your NAME into our hearts that in wonder we may stand before you, that with great love we might worship you, and come even to share your divine nature through the sacrifice of your Son and the power of the Spirit upon us this day. You alone are God, and we are your children – write your NAME upon our souls that we might dwell with you in the Temple of your holy glory.
Fri, 9 June 2017
(Tb.12:1,5-15,20; Tb.13:1-2,6; Mk.12:38-44)
“Almsgiving saves one from death.”
We must give alms, yes; and the greatest of alms is the gift of ourselves to God.
In our gospel we hear of perhaps the most famous example of almsgiving: the poor widow who gave her two copper coins to the temple treasury; and in our first reading we complete the Book of Tobit, he who is himself a great biblical model of almsgiving, and who is here instructed by the angel Raphael on the merit of giving alms. Yes, the widow gives generously all her money, without hesitation and without a thought. Unlike those who give from their surplus, “she gave from her want, all that she had to live on.” She holds back nothing. And at the prompting of Tobit, Tobiah offers half of all the many riches gained from his journey to his guide, Raphael (not realizing he is an angel with no need of these things).
As Raphael reveals himself to Tobit and his son, he extols the great merit of almsgiving, which he states is better even than prayer and fasting. He wishes to tell them of the value of almsgiving, it is true, but he wants Tobit to know that his generosity has been witnessed by God and that it has saved him from the death he had asked for. Raphael lets Tobit know, too, that he has been tested by God (in being stricken with blindness) to prove that his generosity is genuine. It must be shown that his virtue is not vain as the scribes’, who “recite long prayers for appearance’ sake” to cover the fact that they “devour the savings of widows.” Does he have the heart of the poor widow in his generosity, or does he just like to parade around in the robes of such virtue?
The key to the merit of all our almsgiving is found in Raphael’s initial response to Tobiah’s offer: “Thank God! Give Him the praise and the glory.” All our good works must be done for the praise of God as witnesses to His glory. “Before all men, honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising Him,” the angel exhorts us all. And it is this praise of God we must give first before any treasure of the world. This praise of God and telling of His Name is the greatest of almsgiving. Do you think it is the two coins which save the widow, or can you see the heart for God from which they are offered? Do you think the widow is giving her coins for show, or is it obvious to you that it is her love of God which drives her to this act? We can easily surmise that this woman’s life is one of prayer to God, a genuine prayer unlike the vanity of the scribes, and it is this which most pleases God and saves her very soul; for she is empty of all else but Him. And of all the many acts of kindness Tobit has performed, all the dead he has buried and offerings he has given, perhaps none is above his obedience to the angel’s final command: “Write down all these things that have happened to you.” For by his laying down of his life and the Lord’s marvelous grace working in it, more than two thousand years later, we still receive the spiritual gifts contained therein; his praise of God with “full voice” still comes to our ears and gives us hope that we too might be raised up from any vanity in our own generosity and see the face of God.
Let us praise the Lord with all our lives and give all our selves to Him.
Let us live to praise the Lord.
O LORD, let us praise you with full voice;
let us give all we have to you.
YHWH, you call us to give alms that our souls might be saved. By our generosity you shall know us, if it is in union with you. For all must be done in your NAME and for your praise, or all is quite worthless. Indeed, a little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness; and so, whatever we give without giving glory to you is given in vain, but if we give a penny (which is all our lives are worth) in praise of your goodness toward us, how blessed we shall be!
LORD, all you do is for our good, whether you scourge us or raise us up in your mercy, for all is done to bring us closer to you. Until all our lives are in your hands, your angel you send to test us and to heal us, to turn us back to you – all empty show be taken forever from our souls that we might dwell humbly with you in glory.
Let us not care for the riches of this world even should they increase, but set our hearts on praise of you alone… and the doing of your will with all we have and are.
Thu, 8 June 2017
O harp of the Holy Spirit
whose song rose up to Jesus
and in honor of the Virgin Mary,
whose heart was set on Heaven
and the eternal light therein,
and who served so well to defend the faith
when from contemplation you came –
pray we too shall have a song
dedicated wholly to the Lord
welling up in hearts
set on His presence,
on the kingdom that passes not away;
and pray, too, the teaching of the Church
shall always be true,
shall always be rooted
in the Spirit,
expressive of the love of God.
What is this world as it passes away,
and who are we apart from God
and His House?
O how we long for Heaven!
Pray, dear brother, with our Blessed Mother,
that we shall come to dwell where you are.
Thu, 8 June 2017
(Tb.11:5-15; Ps.146:2,7-10; Mk.12:35-37)
“The Lord gives sight to the blind.”
Now in His teaching Jesus truly begins to open the eyes of the people. We have witnessed this week His fielding their questions regarding theology and the law, but He now takes a step further, revealing to them and to us the Truth itself – that He Himself is the Son of God. “The majority of the crowd heard this with delight.” Many eyes begin to open, many hearts begin to see… but will they remain so joyful when Jesus reveals Himself to them completely (on the cross)?
And of course, our first reading speaks principally about the opening of Tobit’s eyes, as he who has been blind these four years is healed by the fish gall acquired through the intercession of the angel Raphael. But the reading is really about more than this: it shows the love of his parents in their longing for Tobiah’s return. Notice that as his eyes are opened, Tobit exclaims, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!” as he weeps with his arms around him. And at the very beginning of the reading we find Anna, his mother, “watching the road,” looking desperately – she has been there for weeks – for Tobiah to return from his journey. When she sees him, she, too, throws her arms around him, and says, “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” as she sobs aloud… It is not so much the fish gall that has cured Tobit’s blindness, for the light of his eyes, that which causes them to see, he himself ascribes to Tobiah his son. And it is not so much seeing Tobiah that brings such absolute joy to his mother, as it is being with him again, knowing that he is alive – for she had seriously feared him dead.
Brothers and sisters, are we like Anna and Tobit? Do we watch vigilantly for the return of the only Son of God? We proclaim that our eyes have been opened to know Him as our Savior, but is He truly the light of our eyes? Even today do we make seeing Him and knowing Him the life that brings breath to our souls and makes our hearts beat? Are we the “oppressed,” the “hungry,” the “captives” – those who are “bowed down” of whom our psalm speaks – who will thus know His “justice,” His “food,” His “freedom”… His “resurrection”?
We must love dearly our Holy Catholic Church, for it is essential here on this earth, where it is the keeper of the Father’s vineyard; but we must remember Jesus goes beyond religion, beyond theology and laws. For He is more than these. He is what sets us apart from any other religion, for He is a person, the second Person of the Trinity – God. Let us open our eyes and our hearts and follow Him with our lives, knowing He is our only Son, our hope, the light of our eyes. For He who is the Son of Man is also the Son of God.
O LORD, open my eyes
that I might praise you forever.
YHWH, it is you who give sight to the blind, you who set captives free. Your Son is indeed light to our eyes and salvation for our very souls. Give us new life that we might praise you all the day.
You keep faith with us, O LORD, for though we wait many days, though we must hope even in the darkness, you do not disappoint our expectations – you do not take back your Word. Your Son has come among us now and revealed your glory to our eyes. He who lived before us has been born into our midst and died for our sakes. Now His enemies become His footstool. Now His reign has begun. And those who have longed for His coming rejoice in praise of your holy NAME.
O may He return soon to us! For blindness besets us yet while we dwell upon this plane. Send your angels to bring Him back to us, O LORD, that forever we might look upon His face. Give us courage now; raise up the souls that are bowed down. Alleluia!
Wed, 7 June 2017
(Tb.6:11,7:1,9-14,8:4-7; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.12:28-34)
“Love the Lord your God”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On these two great commandments rest all the Law and the Prophets. By them we shall be “not far from the reign of God.” In them the Lord leads us into His bridal chamber, where we shall be made one with Him in glory forever.
Here on earth we dimly mirror the love of the Lord for His Church in our marriage of husband and wife; in this, love of neighbor is known in its most intimate and complete way. But always love of God must precede love of any creature, for it is “those who fear the Lord” who are happy, who “eat the fruit of [their] handiwork” and see their children prosper.
Tobiah has such love. Such strength of love does he have in his heart for Sarah that he hesitates not at all even in the face of death. Seven have died before him, but he gives fear of this not a thought. And it is not in his lust that he takes such great strength; he is not led foolishly by his eyes and his loins. It is indeed his fear of the Lord, the love for his God and his desire to keep His commands, in which he finds unwavering hope. Even from his marriage bed does he rise to invoke the name of God, demonstrating his “noble purpose.” He recognizes that God first must be praised, and that it is He who gave Adam his Eve.
Jesus loves us just so, brothers and sisters, and even greater than this is His love for His bride. He heeds fully the command of God regarding His Church: “Take her and bring her back safely to your father.” He comes to us, as it were, on a long journey, the angels of the Lord blessing His steps, and seeks without fear His rightful wife, who has languished so long surrounded by death. This death He takes upon Himself, facing it with faith and prayer alone to show us the love God has for us, and that we must have for one another. And wedding us unto Himself, He redeems us from the death we have known and makes us so fruitful in His Name. Yes, brothers and sisters, we must love the God who has loved us so, and love one another the same.
May God bless all marriages;
May they witness to the love the Lord has for His Church.
O LORD, if we but love you and our neighbor,
all will be well;
we will approach the kingdom of Heaven.
YHWH, you are love and love is stronger than death; so those who love you shall conquer death and live forever in your love. O let us but love!
The demons are ever round about, dear LORD, working to take the life from us, the life that is rooted in you and blessed by you – the life which you yourself are. Let us have your angels to guide us through the darkness of this earth to your unending light; teach us to love you with all our being, to keep nothing back from you. By our trust and in our prayer may we be saved from all evil. If we but praise you with all our heart, you will certainly hear our plea.
No lust let there be in any marriage bed, O LORD, but may every husband take his wife with you and your purpose in mind. Then shall all be blessed; then shall all creation praise you… then shall love be known to the ends of the earth. Then shall all the devils flee and your kingdom come to be present in all souls. Let us take our place in Heaven with you and your Son! To Him let us be wed.
Tue, 6 June 2017
(Tb.3:1-11,16-17; Ps.25:1-9; Mk.12:18-27)
“He is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
Rich readings. First of all, we see the striking similarity between the story woven by the Sadducees to thwart the wisdom of the Lord and the situation in which Sarah finds herself. In both cases, seven – the number representing fullness – husbands have died. In one the wife has also died; in the other, she wishes for death. And in both there have been no children, no fruit, no new life. Death in its fullness is throughout today’s readings, as even Tobit begs to die.
In addition to death, our readings are also clearly about prayer. In our first, Tobit and Sarah pour out their hearts in tears before the Lord whom they so love. Our psalm is the lifting up of the soul in prayer to God by the humble. And the Sadducees questioning of Jesus is also a kind of prayer, though one which comes from a hardness of heart, inauthentic and insincere.
And what has the Lord to say of death; what is the answer to these prayers? We often hear that God always answers our prayers, though often in ways we do not expect. Such is the case here. Neither Tobit nor Sarah will get the death they seem to seek; instead, Raphael – the angel whose name means “to heal” – “was sent to heal them both.” And the Sadducees, “who hold there is no resurrection,” will not find confirmation for their creed which clings to death as the end of all. Yet all will be answered according to the disposition of their hearts, and in this sense all receive exactly what they seek, for the Lord looks upon the heart. The prayer of Tobit and Sarah is not really to die but “to be delivered from such anguish” – it is healing they seek, and this they shall find. And the Sadducees, who do not really seek an answer of the Lord regarding resurrection, whose hearts are closed to the life-giving power of God, will likely not hear the words of Christ… and so by their ignorance come to adhere more firmly to their creed of death.
We do get what we ask for. As our psalm tells us, the Lord “teaches the humble His way.” The compassion and kindness which are synonymous with God are known to those who trust in Him; but “those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith,” for the compassion of our Lord finds no place in them. For them there is no hope, no life, no resurrection from the dead… and they shall not know how God answers prayer.
Brothers and sisters, let us pour out our hearts before our Lord and God, and know His healing grace, and find His everlasting life.
O LORD, though we wish to die
when amidst the persecutions of this race,
let us be resurrected with you.
YHWH, hear our prayer and save us from the insults of your enemies. Let us not be overcome by darkness or by sin. You are our God and you answer all our pleas; let us not be put to shame.
You look upon the heart, O LORD, and listen to our true desires. Every prayer you cannot help but answer according to the faith by which it is offered. You give us what we ask for, not in our words but by our intention. And so, you thwart the insincere prayer of the wicked, but are merciful to those who are humble before you.
And you protect us, LORD, from every attack of the devil. Those who break faith heedlessly shall not triumph over your righteous ones; they shall be turned back by the power of your Word. For in life alone you dwell – in you there is no death – and so those whose hearts desire life in your presence shall rejoice… even as those who do not believe fall helplessly into the earth.
Mon, 5 June 2017
O preacher of the Word of God
and model of the Gospel,
you embraced poverty and penance
in accord with the way of Christ
and His teaching
and called your brothers
to do the same,
that the Church might be renewed,
that she might be holy
even as the Father is holy –
pray all souls
might indeed find holiness of life
even as within
pray all might embrace
the poverty of Christ,
living the faith pronounced
in sacred Scripture.
And pray that they may be led
along this narrow path
to the kingdom of the Lord
by faithful priests and bishops,
shepherds like yourself.
Mon, 5 June 2017
(Tb.2:9-14; Ps.112:1-2,7-9; Mk.12:13-17)
“The heart of the just man is secure,
trusting in the Lord.”
Today in our reading and gospel we find just men put to trial and testing. Our Lord is steadfast before the devious inquiry of the Pharisees and Herodians, answering them with a wisdom greater than Solomon’s; for what can Jesus, who is Himself the Word made flesh, do but take refuge in the Father with whom He is one. And so wisdom is His to answer His foes, and He is unmoved, indeed moving with “amazement” those who would trap Him.
The heart of Tobit does not remain as secure. We see in his anger that his trust in the Lord has been shaken. He has always been just, generously giving to those in need, taking the plight of his people to heart. Indeed, it is after performing a good work – “fatigued from burying the dead [I] went to sleep next to the wall of my courtyard” – that his trial comes upon him. Here is a man who has done all he could to help his fellow Jewish exiles suffering persecution at the hands of the Ninevites, and now he is stricken with blindness.
But the Lord does not leave him alone; He does not cast him out. For two years his needs are cared for by Ahiqar, and then his wife is able to work to meet their expenses. And successful she is over and above expectations. Yet he is prodded into anger by her good reward. His response (in the words of St. Dorotheus, from today’s Office of Readings) “breaks the cover on the passionate anger within him,” an anger, an unease, he has likely been harboring for some time. It is an anger, we can surmise, that comes from the helplessness his blindness has brought upon him. He is no longer in control of his fate, but must depend on others for survival. And though the Lord provides, he finds it too difficult to trust in this provision. (He may indeed be particularly resentful that it is now his wife who provides for him, taking the role he believes in his heart he should play.)
We can certainly understand Tobit’s frustration over his condition. Few but Jesus would stand up well to such trial. But Jesus is our ideal. It is to be like Him that we are called. We shall always need to do battle against the sins that are ever with us, but as St. Dorotheus says of the Christian, “The more perfect he grows, the less these temptations will affect him. For the more the soul advances, the stronger and more powerful it becomes in bearing the difficulties that it meets.”
Let us set ourselves to trust in the Lord and so ever find security in Him. We must place all in His hands, even unto death, and then we shall be free.
Let not the things of Caesar weigh upon you;
you belong to God and not the world.
O LORD, only you can make us secure –
let us trust in you and not in money.
YHWH, with the things of this earth let us not be concerned; let us know that we are in your hands. To you let us trust our very lives, and we shall not be disturbed.
The forces of the world close in on us, enticing us to fear and anger. But if we stand strong in the faith, the Spirit will be with us to save us. In you, O LORD, let us remain.
The just man delights in your commands; the upright shall ever be blessed. Let us indeed remain steadfast, LORD, that we might look down upon our foes.
And though persecuted for righteousness’ sake, if afflicted for doing what is right let us not resent our fate, but continue to look to you to cure our blindness. Your Son, O LORD, has suffered the Cross though innocent – why should sinners like us complain?
It is hard, LORD, and we do often break, but help us to return to you this day and stand before our accusers with the same faith your Son so peacefully displayed. Let us give ourselves entirely to you.
Sun, 4 June 2017
O apostle of the faith
called out from monastery walls
to travel into the world,
laboring and suffering
even to the shedding of blood
as you steered Christ’s ship
pounded by waves
but kept on course,
spreading out upon the face of the earth
by the sacrifice of shepherds
like yourself –
pray the bishops of today
will unceasingly teach the faith,
defending the Church from all assaults,
never silent in the face of danger,
never turning from their call
but preaching the Gospel
in season and out of season
that in all seasons
Christ’s flock might increase
and be strengthened.
Let us rather die
than give in to the impending darkness.
Sun, 4 June 2017
(Tb.1:1-2,2:1-9; Ps.112:1-6; Mk.12:1-12)
“The stone rejected by the builders
has become the keystone of the structure.”
First, Tobit is not a parable; it is not a “story”. A parable begins, as does Jesus’ own in our gospel, with a statement such as, “A man planted a vineyard…” It is always “a man”, a generic man, never a particular man in a particular place at a particular time, as is the case with Tobit. For parables deal expressly with the universal. Though one may derive universal significance from the life of Tobit, it is his life itself which is related to us and not that of an “Everyman”. (How this simple fact is overlooked I can only attribute again to a lack of faith which blinds reason.)
This aside, today we see the persecution and mockery “a sincere worshiper of God” suffers before the face of the world. It is evident in Tobit’s being “hunted down for execution” for performing the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead, as well as in the wagging of his neighbors’ tongues; and it is, of course, fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ, which the Lord speaks of today to the elders of the people in a thinly-veiled parable of their persecution of all the prophets.
What a good man Tobit is, desiring to share his feast with the poor and rising even from table to do the work of God, always ready to serve Him. And how he weeps for the oppression of his people. Jesus is just the same, coming from the majesty of the Father’s table in heaven to call us to His wedding feast, and weeping over those who, like Jerusalem, fail to hear His voice.
Our lot in this world is one of suffering and persecution, but it is not without hope. For we know that as Job found greater wealth in his latter days and Tobit shall be rewarded for his patient endurance, so the Lord is resurrected from the grave. It is our psalm which reminds us of this promise despite any darkness around us: “The Lord dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright… the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.”
So let us not lose heart on the hard road we tread, but endure all patiently with Jesus, for we shall find our place in His joyful kingdom; we shall drink the wine of His vineyard.
O LORD, how shamefully your servants are treated! –
but Jesus rises from the dead,
and we with Him.
YHWH, you are a light in our darkness; you are with us in our tears and in our mourning, and so, from our graves we are raised. Has not your Son come among us and suffered at the hands of men? Has He not been beaten, dragged outside the walls of Jerusalem, and killed? And has He not been raised again – does He not sit at your right hand? The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. How marvelous are your works for your faithful to behold!
Though Tobit weeps in exile, LORD, mocked by neighbors and friends, though he must bear the murdered body of his kinsman to a shallow grave; yet wealth and riches are in his house, for it is in your House he dwells, and his name you shall remember forever.
Your Son bears His Cross before His accusers; though blessed at table in your House, He quickly comes to us at your Word… and we bear Him away. But the plans of men are thwarted by you, LORD, and all our evil you turn to good. Let us set our souls on the sacrifice of your kingdom.
Sat, 3 June 2017
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; 1Cor.12:3b-7,12-13; Jn.20:19-23)
“Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.”
What our first reading captures in all its dramatic moment, David’s psalm declares in clarity – “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” – and our gospel defines in Jesus’ word and action with His apostles: “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Spirit comes from heaven above, through the only Son, to redeem, renew, and strengthen all on the face of the earth.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” and they all spoke “of the mighty acts of God,” and each one of those gathered there “from every nation… heard them speaking in his own language.” For the language in which they spoke was the language of the Spirit, the language all understand. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and we are all given to drink of one Spirit,” and what does this Spirit say but, “Jesus is Lord,” the truth to which all are called, for which every heart yearns.
And though all find life in “the same Spirit,” though all declare as one that Jesus is Lord, for each of us “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts.” As David exclaims, “How manifold are your works, O Lord!” And is not this call to “different forms of service” revealed in the fact that “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them”? Each is thereby given his own “theme,” his own song to sing to please the Lord, and our prayer should therefore always be, “May the Lord be glad in His works!” (And for those who deny that man has been given the gift of forgiving sins, do they not read the Lord’s straightforward words to His disciples at this most decisive moment: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”?)
Praise God for the gifts He imparts to all His children. Praise Him for the peace He leaves us and the mission on which He sends us. But praise Him most especially for the breath of the Holy Spirit which animates our very beings, for “if [the Lord] take away [our] breath, [we] perish, and return to [our] dust,” but with this Spirit we share in the very power of God.
Fill this house, O Lord, with the power of your Spirit.
Let the Church always proclaim your praise.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.