Sun, 24 May 2015
O humble soul
whom the Lord blessed
with mystical elevations
to His heavenly presence,
you who remained so faithful
through all trials
and encouraged others
to seek such perfection as well –
pray that this proud age
which leans so distinctly
from the truth,
from the love of God,
will be consumed as you were
by the Holy Spirit,
by desire for the Lord’s overtaking
of our lives,
that all souls will turn
from the false gods at their hands,
idols that overshadow their spirits,
and toward the humility
known only in our Savior’s blood.
Only in Him is life eternal;
pray all souls will come to His love.
Sun, 24 May 2015
O Shepherd and Father,
defender of the faith
and of holy MotherChurch
against those who would rob her
of her freedom,
those who would rape her,
stealing away her purity,
those who would deny
her singleness in the sight of God
as the House which He has founded –
those who would destroy the faith
and bring to naught
the Church, our Mother,
and Peter, our Holy Father,
do not relent in their efforts…
and so we need still
your prayers and your courage
to aid us in standing strong
against the tide
the evil one stirs up in this world.
Pray indeed, O Father,
that all our shepherds and all God’s people
will tirelessly defend the truth in love.
Sun, 24 May 2015
O learned master
whose life itself was as a monastery,
consumed as you were
by study and teaching and writing
who till the very end
spoke the name of the Lord
in all your words
and deeds –
pray that the incense of your life
will rise unto the throne of God
and intercede for us here below
who are so far from His presence,
from knowledge of His providence
and remembrance of His sacrifice.
How will we find ourselves
one with the Lord of Creation
and ascend to His glory
if you do not pray for us,
O blessed soul
so united to His will,
so held within His Hand
and breathing forth His name?
Sun, 24 May 2015
(Sir.17:19-27; Ps.32:1-2,5-7,11; Mk.10:17-27)
“Jesus fixed His gaze on them and said,
‘For man it is impossible but not for God.’”
With these incisive words and particularly with this intent look, Jesus “encourages those who are losing hope.” His disciples are “completely overwhelmed” at His statement: “It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” and to keep them from falling into despair at the impossibility of such a proposition, He seeks to teach them that “with God all things are possible.” For truly none can be saved but by the grace of God.
“As Jesus was setting out on a journey a man came running up, knelt down before Him and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to share in everlasting life?’” How like “the penitent [for whom] He provides a way back” is this man on his knees before the Lord today. And even after the Lord seems to rebuff his advance, how he persists, begging further word from the Master with the reply to Jesus’ listing of certain commandments, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my childhood.” Please tell me more, he seems to cry out. And so “Jesus looked at him with love,” a love that is beyond the bounds of this world and beyond the bounds of the law – a love that makes all things possible, even the attainment of the kingdom of God, even for us wretched sinners. “How great the mercy of the Lord, His forgiveness of those who return to Him!” “Happy is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered”; for among the dead we would be if not for His divine mercy.
But oh “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” Though wrought with the Lord’s grace, how difficult it is to accompany Christ on His journey. For our hearts are not on His love but on the things we must give up, and so, how readily we turn away in sadness. It is indeed out of love Jesus calls the rich man from his possessions to His side; this is indeed an immeasurable grace pouring forth from the heart of God… but who among us can accept it? Who among us truly seeks everlasting life?
“God watches over the host of highest heaven, while all men are dust and ashes.” While “the thoughts of flesh and blood” are obscure, as the wise man tells us, and his possessions of even less consequence; while the sun itself “can be eclipsed” and all things of the earth are passing… yet the kingdom of the Lord endures and holds promise of shelter for the contrite spirit of a humble man. For dust may pass easily through the eye of any needle, and we can be united with the vision of God; for us too all things are made possible, if we humble ourselves in the ashes – if we fall sincerely at the feet of the Lord, and accept His word.
O LORD, help us freely renounce all of this world.
YHWH, please help us to inherit eternal life; though we must die first, though we must give up all things of this world, let us not look at what is lost but what is gained, being forever with you in Heaven.
Why should we prefer the riches of this life to life everlasting; why should we not want to be at Jesus’ side even here where we stand? It is a fool who desires passing things to those that last; LORD, give us the wisdom and courage to do what is right.
You would let nothing stand in our way to you, LORD; all blindness and sin you would drown in the sea. You would not remember our transgressions against you or our failure to heed your call… let us turn again and kneel before your Son. Then we shall praise you with all the living on high.
It is not death we should fear or the renunciation of our goods. Let us rather fear disobedience toward you and the loss of the kingdom. O LORD, truly let us be cleansed of the guilt of our sin, that with clear eyes and open hearts we might follow you.
Sat, 23 May 2015
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; Gal.5:16-25; Jn.15:26-27,16:12-15)
“The time for Pentecost was fulfilled.”
A driving wind comes from the sky. It fills the house. Tongues of fire come to rest on the disciples, and they speak in tongues of every nation. The gathered crowd of “Jews from every nation under heaven” ask in wonder, “How does each of us hear them in his native language?” How is such perfect communication possible? How could such light fall upon mankind? How can we be made one?
“The Advocate comes.” “The Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,” sent by the Son to “guide [us] to all truth,” declares the glory of God in our midst, fulfills the Word among us, making us brothers and sisters in the light of the Lord.
“O Lord, my God, you are great indeed!” What wonders you work before the eyes of man! What glorious speech you bring to our ears! So far are your ways above our ways; so little of the truth can we weak human beings bear. But you strengthen us. You give us your Word. You anoint us with your Spirit to destroy this sinful flesh and prepare our hearts to receive the grace that comes only by your power. We praise you, Lord, for the glory you impart to our souls.
“May the glory of the Lord endure forever,” and we endure forever in Him. Let us never be separated from the blessing which comes from the One who never dies, the One who brings life to every creature upon the face of the earth, and in the heavens above. “Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit” now. Hold closely to the gifts He offers freely and powerfully forth this holy day and every day of your lives. In no other way will you be fulfilled; by no other means will you come to heaven. The Spirit is the source of all truth and only by His guidance you will hear of the glory of God. And only by His power will you keep it.
In the Church now the Spirit dwells, teaching all her children. From the four corners they come to receive the bread of life. Let us be fed well for the time is at hand when all the Lord’s words will be fulfilled, when the Son shall return again. Our refuge now is the Spirit. In Him let us place our trust.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (final part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us be baptized in your Spirit,
renewed for the proclamation of your love.
YHWH, comes the driving wind from Heaven, the Spirit Jesus breathes upon His apostles, and so we are made your sons, dear Father, and declare your glory unto all. May your Church with one voice offer you due praise and teach the nations of your eternal call.
We must leave our sins behind and accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living as one with the Son of God. If we keep His commandments, we shall dwell with you forever, O Father God. For He is with you and through Him you send the Spirit; all who desire to be your children you bless with purging fire this holy day.
Now the promised gift of the Spirit falls upon our immortal souls and we are refreshed and made new creatures, formed in the image of Jesus, your Son. One you make us in Spirit and Body, free from all the works of the flesh. Your Son stands in our midst and offers us His peace; the Advocate now testifies to all Truth… Come and make your dwelling in us, O glorious LORD and God.
Fri, 22 May 2015
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.
Thu, 21 May 2015
O saint of the impossible
whose union with Christ
in His Passion and His glory
serves to grant favors
to those in great need,
you whose great thirst
to be one with our Bridegroom
brought the help of the saints yourself –
pray we poor souls
shall fulfill our vocation,
that through the din of this world
we shall hear and answer
the call of the Lord
and give ourselves in His service
in the manner He desires.
Pray our hearts be so set
on union with Him
that no obstacle shall stand in our way,
that all help we need
to find our path to Him
will be provided through your prayers.
How shall we come to dwell in Heaven?
Invoke God’s blessing upon us.
Thu, 21 May 2015
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.
Wed, 20 May 2015
O sacrificial sheep,
priests of the Lord
who offered your lives
even as you offered Mass,
in union with Christ and His Church
for the sake of your homeland:
you prayed for its peace
even as violence was done to you;
you celebrated the Mass
and baptized your flock
even when it became a crime,
even when it cost your lives –
such union with Christ
pray all souls,
and especially our priests,
shall know to the depths of their heart;
let none be afraid
to shed their blood
as one with His redemptive sacrifice.
The Cross pray we follow where it leads,
despite the world’s persecution.
Wed, 20 May 2015
(Acts 22:30,23:6-11; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Jn.17:20-26)
“I set the Lord ever before me;
with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
Yes, “the Lord appeared at Paul’s side” at night, in prison, after his testimony and the near riot it caused in Jerusalem. He comes to encourage him, to strengthen him for further trials; and through all Paul shall remain strong.
“Keep me, O God, for in you, I take refuge,” David prays, and sings of the confidence his heart and soul find in the Lord, his “allotted portion and cup… who hold[s] fast [his] lot.” He knows deep in his spirit that the Lord “will not abandon [his] soul to the netherworld, nor will [He] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption.” And certainly, the same faith Paul exhibits; the same trust in the Lord, Paul holds in his own spirit. He, too, is not disturbed, though he finds himself “on trial now because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
And whence comes such confidence? How can a man so attacked, a man so beaten and cursed, be so without fear? Does not Jesus answer this question in His prayer to the Father, which we are all blessed to hear? Here He prays that we be one in Him even as He is one with the Father. Here He asks that our “unity may be complete.” And if our unity is complete with the Father and with the Son, as well as with one another, what, brothers and sisters, have we to fear? If the love of God which the Father “bore [the Son] before the world began” is in our hearts now, what can disturb them? “That your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them” is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for us all – and do you think the Father does not listen, does not answer His Son? He would have us in His company where He is, gazing upon His glory – and this is where Paul dwells. And so he cannot be moved.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The Spirit brings us now that of which David sings, that which Paul knows, that all might know the glory of God, that all might be one in Him, and so, safe from all harm. As Jesus is resurrected from the dead, so shall we all be. What have we to fear? We must but set Him before us always.
O Lord, let your love live in us
that we might make your Name known
with faith and courage.
YHWH, in you we take our refuge, and so we pray that you keep us ever close by – with you at our right hand we shall not be disturbed. Please answer your Son’s prayer that we be in His company where He is, with you in eternal glory. You will not abandon our souls to the nether world, and so, encourage us as you have Paul, with your presence at our side. In your Spirit may we find confidence to bear witness before all.
Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and with Himself He would bring us to your glorious presence. What need we fear with His power upon us? Why should we be afraid when His Spirit is with us, showering on us your love? In you we should but rejoice for the eternal protection you give us in your holy NAME. To life we shall come even this day, O LORD, for we have believed in your Son and so share in the glory of His resurrection.
Tue, 19 May 2015
O apostle of the holy name of Jesus
who proclaimed God’s loving mercy
to those in darkness
that the light of faith
might save souls
and make them children
of the light of Christ,
radiating His splendor,
the splendor of truth,
to the ends of the earth –
where is such zeal today,
with the preaching of Paul;
and so, how shall souls be saved,
how shall false beliefs flee,
infidelity be consumed
and the truth appear as a great candle
lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame,
if you do not intercede?
Pray that we may not lack
knowledge of and devotion to Jesus,
that His name shall not be suppressed
but preached without cease to waiting hearts.
Tue, 19 May 2015
(Acts 20:28-38; Ps.68:29-30,33-36; Jn.17:11-19)
“O Father most holy,
protect them with the name you have given me.”
In our gospel today Jesus prays to the Father, “who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens,” to “guard [His disciples] from the evil one.” And the parallels continue between His and Paul’s parting words, as the Apostle warns his own disciples, “When I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock,” and therefore exhorts them to “be on guard.”
It is the Lord’s earnest desire of the Father that we His disciples “be consecrated in truth.” If truth be with us, if the Holy Spirit He promises to send be ours, the “careful watch” Jesus has kept “as long as [He] was with [us]” will continue. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the elders of Ephesus to “shepherd the Church of God, which He has acquired at the price of His own blood” – blood the Lord is about to shed in our gospel – will be realized, and His apostles will become themselves those who care for the safety of the people of God. “I consecrate myself for their sakes now,” Jesus says, offering Himself, His blood, as sacrifice for the Church; and Paul commends his disciples to this same Lord, “to that gracious word of His which can enlarge [them], and give [them] a share among all who are consecrated to Him.” In His name all are saved.
“Awesome in His sanctuary is God, the God of Israel; He gives power and strength to His people.” David sings mightily of the majesty of God, whose “voice resounds, the voice of power,” and calling all to “confess the power of God!” indicates how we share in that great power. In declaring of the Father, with Jesus and with Scripture, “Your word is truth,” that truth in essence becomes our own; we are thereby consecrated to it. And so Paul can exhort those he has placed in positions of power: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard,” for he knows as long as (like Paul) they do not “set [their] hearts on anyone’s silver or gold,” as long as they work tirelessly to “help the weak,” to serve the Church, they shall indeed be sharing in the power and authority of God.
Brothers and sisters, we “do not belong to the world” but to God and to His truth. His Spirit is with us to guide us and protect us here on our journey through death to life. As we humble ourselves in prayer before Him, He hears and answers all our needs. Remain in Him this day.
O LORD, shepherd your flock in the truth;
keep all falsehood from us.
YHWH, let us be consecrated in your Word, in your Word of truth, that we might share in your might and power, that we might be protected by your Name. As your Son sends His apostles forth, so these apostles send others forth, all sharing in the power that comes from you by the Spirit upon your Church. May we all be one with your Son as He is one with you, and so may we all do your will despite the persecutions of this world.
We do not belong to the world, O LORD, but to the One who has left this world to come to you in your kingdom. Help us to follow where He leads by your power from on high. Your Spirit fall upon us this day to give us strength to accomplish the work you set before us. From your sanctuary come to us and with us here remain, that we shall never turn from you along this narrow way. From generation to generation let your Word go forth till all your children are consecrated in your truth.
Mon, 18 May 2015
(Acts 20:17-27; Ps.68:10-11,20-21,33; Jn.17:1-11)
“Father, the hour has come!
Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you.”
A day of departures. A day of final words and commendations. Paul bids farewell to the leaders of Ephesus, declaring his faithfulness to them; and Jesus prays to the Father in the hearing of the disciples, calling the Lord’s blessing upon them.
“The Holy Spirit has been warning me from city to city that chains and hardships await me,” Paul confesses as he makes his way to Jerusalem; Jesus now has the cross directly before His eyes, having supped for the last time with His disciples. “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private,” Paul reminds his disciples; while Jesus states to His Father: “I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world.” “I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety,” Paul declares; “I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” Jesus says to the Father. And as Paul hopes, “If only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace” – not caring for his own life or any suffering ahead – Jesus’ only concern as He moves toward His own death and His return to the “glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world began” is that the Father will bless His disciples, for, as He says, “It is in them that I have been glorified.” These who remain in the world, as has Paul, are those who bring His glory forth, even as Jesus has revealed the glory of the Father.
The hour of death has come but “God, who is our salvation… controls the passageways of death” because He “bears our burdens.” The Lord Jesus Christ has borne, and will bear, all the temptations the devil can mount – the greatest of these illusions being death – and has conquered them all. And now His disciples follow in His footsteps, like Paul, who has “served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that came [his] way.” By this sacrifice the Lord “restored the land when it languished,” and now all are called to “repentance before God and… faith in our Lord Jesus” to know that redemption. This life that comes from His death is the glory of the Lord that goes now forth.
O LORD, we must leave this world to come to you,
but you control the passageways of death –
let all be done in your Name.
YHWH, what do you desire of us but sincere repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus? We glorify you by glorifying Him, by keeping faith in Him and witnessing His Gospel to all. May we ever preach the kingdom as has the Apostle Paul and so complete our mission here in union with your Son.
O may we come to eternal life! May we truly know you and your Son. May we share in your glory as He has prayed. O LORD our God, may we make your Name known to all, never shrinking from your call upon our souls, and leave this place blessed by you. Keep us ever in your truth and love until the day we join you in Heaven.
The hour has come, O LORD. Your Son has been glorified by you, returning to the glory He had from before time began. And now in us He seeks to be glorified, to continue the work of eternal life here on this earth. Death is not far from any of us; may we die in you and so be freed from all the chains of this world.
Sun, 17 May 2015
O faithful Shepherd
who laid down your life
for the sake of true teaching,
who was killed by one
set against God’s Word…
though deprived of food
and so of this life,
you were given instead
the life of Heaven
and serve as a holy example
of what should be sacrificed
for love of truth and right –
pray that the flock
shepherded this day by the apostles
will be led by the same loyalty,
led by genuine pastors
whose love for the sheep
would lead them to lay down their lives
that the Church might be blessed
by a radiant faith
which shines the light of Christ
even to the ends
of this dying earth.
Sun, 17 May 2015
(Acts 19:1-8; Ps.68:2-7,33; Jn.16:29-33)
“You will suffer in the world.
But take courage! I have overcome the world.”
“An hour is coming – has indeed already come – when you will be scattered and each will go his way, leaving me quite alone.” Yet the Father is always with Jesus, even as He faces His imminent execution, and Jesus is with us by the power of the Spirit through all the trials we face.
“In me you may find peace,” the Lord assures us, bearing out the words of David’s psalm: “The father of orphans and defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; He leads forth prisoners to prosperity.” Such the Father does for the Son, who is brought from being utterly forsaken and alone upon the cross to the absolute fruitfulness and glory of heaven; and so the Son does for His sons, as from His place in the kingdom He delivers us the same grace of salvation and prosperity in His name.
In the Lord Jesus, Paul finds his peace and his inspiration, fearlessly defending the Gospel in all synagogues “with persuasive arguments”; and this same fire of the Holy Spirit he imparts to the disciples by Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and by laying his hands on them. In these, as in us all to this day, God’s grace and power go forth: “The Holy Spirit came down on them and they began to speak in tongues and utter prophecies.” More than just repentance for sins, this Baptism in the Spirit prepares all to do the work of the Lord despite any difficulties in the world. It convinces us of the divinity of Christ and causes us to declare in truth to our Lord, “There is no need for anyone to ask you questions. We do indeed believe you came from God.” And it enables us to prove such complete faith and trust in the One the Father has sent.
When the Baptism of the Lord comes upon us, God’s “enemies are scattered”; all doubt and fear are driven from us “as smoke is driven away… as wax melts before the fire.” And though we need be refined in the crucible that is our earthly life, yet at every moment God is near to preserve the grace and peace He has planted in our souls, to see that our faith does grow.
Lord, be with us always. Send your Spirit forth.
Let the ends of the earth be convinced of your loving presence
and the salvation it brings to all hearts.
O LORD, let us be baptized in the Name of Jesus
and receive the Holy Spirit
that even in this world we shall live in your peace.
YHWH, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, our enemies are scattered, driven away like smoke, and we conquer the world. His fire burns up every evil and we can but rejoice in your presence, singing praise to your Name. O let that holy fire be upon us even this day!
In the world there are indeed many troubles, many temptations which would cause us to be scattered, separated from you. But Jesus has indeed overcome the world, O LORD; by His death He has put to death all the wiles of the devil, and so in Him we may take great strength. Through belief in Him the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us.
Dearest LORD, let us not be scattered but indeed by your Word upon us scatter all those who hate you. Help us fearlessly defend your kingdom that all poor souls might make their home with you.
Sat, 16 May 2015
(Acts1:15-17,20a,20c-26; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; 1Jn.4:11-16; Jn.17:11b-19)
“As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.”
Jesus sent the apostles forth, and “none of them was lost except the son of destruction”; and Judas was lost only “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” that the betrayal of the Christ might be accomplished. Otherwise, those whom He sent He also protected, He also guarded well from the evil one, that what must be accomplished in them should likewise be brought to fulfillment – that they be one with Jesus in the Father and bring His holy Name to the world, that all might be gathered together as one in God’s truth and His love.
To begin the accomplishment of this mission after the departure of the Christ, the principal soul whom Jesus sends stands up in the midst of all his brothers and calls for the replacement of Judas, that Scripture – “may another take his office” – continue to be fulfilled. Matthias is chosen by the Lord to become the twelfth “witness to His resurrection,” and so “the apostolic ministry” is now in place; and so the army of God can now go forth to reveal that “His kingdom rules over all.”
And what is His kingdom, brothers and sisters, but a kingdom of love? Our beloved John ever makes this clear, ever emphasizes this essential word of truth, and we must declare in truth his essential word of God’s love: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” His proclamation must be our own. We must see and know how the Lord guards us, how He protects us from the snares of the world and preserves us in His love by putting “our transgressions [far] from us,” that we might praise His name in faith even unto heaven. We must say with John, “We have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son as savior of the world.” In genuine recognition of this basic truth we shall find the love of God living in us.
And “if God so loved us” by sending His only Son to us, “we must love one another” by heeding His call to be sent to others. Like Matthias and the apostles, we too have a blessed vocation in Christ to bring His love and His truth to this dying world. To this let us consecrate ourselves as freely as has our Jesus, as freely as the Twelve… “that we might share [the Lord’s] joy completely.” We “do not belong to the world any more than [He] belong[s] to the world”: let us find our place in His kingdom.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Can You Love?" (part B of "Liars Don't Love, Lovers Don't Lie") from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, keep us in your Name
from the evils of the world
that we might remain in your love.
YHWH, send us forth in your Name and that of your Son; you are God and Father of all and Jesus shares in your glory. May we come to share in that same glory by the love you have shown us in sending your Son, and may we share that love with all.
Your Word of truth take not from our souls, dear LORD, but let it be spoken in our every breath. Your love dwell ever in us that we might dwell ever in you and do your will in all things. O let us be consecrated to you with your Son! Let us be made sacred in your sight, that indeed we might be your children, your apostles of love and truth.
Count us among your disciples, LORD, you who are mighty and rule over all, that freed from our sins your love might be perfected in us and we become one with you in Heaven. For us has Jesus laid down His life in perfect love – may we acknowledge His Sonship and so share in your love.
Fri, 15 May 2015
(Acts 18:23-28; Ps.47:2-3,8-10; Jn.16:23-28)
“He went about establishing from the Scriptures
that Jesus is the Messiah.”
In our gospel today, Jesus again assures the disciples, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name,” He tells them of the time when He will no longer speak to them “in veiled language,” but “shall tell [them] about the Father in plain speech.” A most fascinating quote is His statement, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” So great is our oneness with Jesus because we “have believed that [He] came from God,” that now as He returns to the Father, we go there with Him; and since we are thus with the Father through Him, He need not ask for us of the Father, but we ask ourselves. When Jesus declares, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me,” He is telling us that we are indeed one with Him in the Father’s love, and so, of course, the Father hears all our prayers.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Apollos, who was “a man full of spiritual fervor. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus.” His love for the Lord is most evident in His “express[ing] himself fearlessly in the synagogue,” in his “vigorous” preaching of Jesus as the Messiah. He also shows himself to be a humble man, very acquiescent to Priscilla and Aquila, who “took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” As strong as he was, and as much as “he greatly strengthened those who through God’s favor had become believers,” he was very willing to learn of his weakness. And so he becomes a model of faith and of the oneness with God we find in the Spirit through the love of Christ. And so his words are like prayers which never fall short of the glory of God. And so the Father answers all he has in his heart.
“He is supreme,” brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus now sits on the throne of God in the highest heavens. And we who believe in Him become one with Him, and so, one with the Father of all. And thus do we find all our prayers answered; thus do we find all our work blessed. Thus do we find ourselves moving as one with the will of God by the love the Father shares with all of us through our faith in His Son. As great as Apollos and Paul and all the apostles are, we can be, if we but believe that Jesus is God and so share in the Father’s love, and so hear the Holy Spirit speaking plainly to our hearts.
O LORD, Jesus is your Christ;
He reigns with you over all the nations –
thank you for sending Him to us
that we might be united to you.
YHWH, you are King of all the earth, reigning in highest Heaven, and Jesus is the Messiah you send, one with you and born for us that we might be one with both of you through the power of the Holy Spirit. As your Son returns to you, He brings us with Himself; insofar as we love Him and believe in Him, you love us and so unite us with yourself. What can we say of so great a gift but, Alleluia! Praise you, LORD!
May the Name of your Son be preached with zeal to all towns, to every soul that longs for salvation, that none shall be left without instruction but all realize the glory to which we are called in you. With you, O Most High God, may we be joined by the grace found in your Son.
All we desire may we ask for this day in the Name of your Son. And so, O LORD, all shall be as you desire – all will be gathered together as your children.
Thu, 14 May 2015
O farmer of God’s green earth
who cultivated the faith
even as you cultivated the ground,
whose simple and humble life
should serve as inspiration
to all toiling on this plane –
pray that we shall follow your example,
sharing our food with the hungry
as we work for the salvation of souls.
Pray that all the work we do
will bear fruit in God’s kingdom,
that with you and your wife
we may be found worthy
of those blessed words
come from our Savior’s mouth:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.
Enter into your Master’s joy.”
Pray according to your own blessing
from the Lord
that this earth He has given us
to care for
may be saved from the greedy hands of corrupted man
and serve as source of nourishment for all.
Thu, 14 May 2015
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps.47:2-8; Jn.16:20-23)
“Go on speaking and do not be silenced,
for I am with you.”
As Paul continues his missionary journey, his fears are calmed by the Lord, who assures him: “No one will attack you or harm you,” though he be in Corinth, whose infamous immorality is illustrated in the riotous behavior of the Jews in its court, and to which the court “paid no attention at all.” And the Lord is true to His word, protecting Paul throughout his year-and-a-half stay, and keeping him even from having to defend himself from charges in today’s first reading.
In our gospel Jesus reassures the disciples at the Last Supper, as He is about to leave them and their hearts begin to be troubled: “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.” And though there remains ever a measure of grief in our hearts as we labor in this world, our bodies apart from the fullness of the grace of heaven, yet we know that Jesus’ promise has indeed been kept in His sending His Spirit upon the apostles from His heavenly kingdom. It is, of course, this Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and protects Paul, making his missionary work fruitful, for he does all having been baptized by the fire of Christ. And, of course, the disciples to whom Jesus speaks today will soon have no more fear, for Pentecost is not far from them.
Pentecost is not far from any of us, brothers and sisters. The promised Spirit is come into the world to answer all questions, to calm all our anxieties. As we wait these nine days to celebrate this great feast of the Church, as we prepare again to enter into its birth in the Spirit of God, let us be assured that the Lord’s promise remains: “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.”
No one can take from us the promised joy we now hold in our hearts and which is renewed in this season. As Paul is emboldened even through his most difficult trials, as the apostles rejoice at their persecutions for Jesus’ sake, so we should know that the Lord “brings people under us, nations under our feet”; and so, as powerful as the world may seem in all its brazen immorality, yet we are assured that “He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob, whom He loves.” “There are many of [His] people in this city,” here where we dwell on earth, and we must speak to them of the Lord’s glory, His love strengthening us for every task. It is He who accomplishes all in us, and so He will guide and guard our way.
O LORD, give us reassurance of your presence with us,
now and until the end of time.
YHWH, soon our hearts shall rejoice at the return of your Son and our union with you in Heaven forever. But now your Spirit is with us reassuring us of the fulfillment of this promise and guiding and protecting us along the way. We can accomplish all the tasks you set before us because of the glory that is among us even this day in our Advocate from on high.
O LORD, though there is cause for us to weep and mourn in these days we remain apart from complete unity with you, we are strengthened as we wait by the knowledge that Jesus is yet present with us in the Spirit He sends. Let us take refuge in this gift and, as we wait now again for its outpouring in a few days, let us remember your faithfulness to us and our destiny to praise you forever in your eternal kingdom. O you who sit upon the throne, shine your light upon us this day.
Wed, 13 May 2015
O chosen apostle,
destined to serve the Church
as witness to the resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you who walked with Him
from the beginning
even until He was taken
from our sight
yet were not appointed by the Spirit
as one of the Twelve
until a place was made desolate
by the traitorous one –
pray that the call upon the soul
of all God’s children
will be fulfilled
according to His will
and we all shall come to be
witnesses to Jesus
and His eternal glory
wrought in our midst
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let none shy away from the Lord
but assume their rightful place in His presence.
Wed, 13 May 2015
(Acts 1:1-11; Ps.47:1-3,6-9; Eph.1:17-23 or Eph.4:1-13 or Heb.9:24-28,10:19-23;
Mt.28:16-20 or Mk.16:15-20 or Lk.24:46-53)
“God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.”
Three events are the subject of today’s readings. The key of these is certainly the Lord’s ascending into heaven and taking His place at the right hand of the Father. Without this the other two could not follow. And so we celebrate the Lord’s Ascension in particular; but we also hear of the coming Pentecost and the apostles’ call to go forth to the ends of the world.
“As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.” Now He goes to heaven, returning to the Father, as He has said, to enter into glory. And as He has asked, we should be joyful, we should “shout to God with cries of gladness. For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great King over all the earth,” and now Jesus, our Savior and our brother, is with Him, and so brings us to Him. His glory becomes our own, and so His now assuming His throne in heaven should cause us to “sing hymns of praise” to Him who now “reigns over the nations.”
And from His place seated “at the right hand of God” “upon His holy throne,” the Lord keeps “the promise of the Father about which [we] have heard [Him] speak.” For “in a few days [we] will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”; Pentecost will be here, and Jesus’ words to His disciples as He prepares to ascend will be our own: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” It is from this Holy Spirit that the Church takes its strength, through whom we are all made one in “faith and knowledge of the Son of God,” and by whom we attain to “the full stature of Christ.” He it is who inspires all, and He could not come except that our high priest has entered the sanctuary of heaven – opening for us the way to enter there – and from there delivered unto us the grace which through Him comes.
And what does this inspiration, this absolute strength we take in the Spirit call us to do but to heed the Lord’s words and “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” knowing as He has said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age”? And so, apostles and prophets and evangelists and all His children go forth empowered by His Spirit that “hearts [may] be enlightened,” that all might know “the hope that belongs to His call… the riches of glory in His inheritance… and what is the surpassing greatness of His power” – that all might believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus is now seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven, “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” All things are “beneath His feet,” for “King of all the earth is God,” and Jesus is God. But though the Son has joined the Father, remember He is with us always, suffering with us still and bringing us to His side by the power of His Spirit. Wait now on His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (1st half) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the cloud
which took Jesus from our sight
soon bring Him back to us
and keep Him with us forever.
YHWH, your Son mounts His throne of glory, He ascends to you in Heaven, drawing us up into your presence and giving us the power to proclaim your glory and baptize all in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – with you, O God, let us be made one!
And let us go, O LORD, even to the ends of the earth, your Son working through us by the power of the Spirit upon us. As we wait now for your promise to fall upon us and be fulfilled in us, let us with faith set our hearts on your surpassing presence. From the bonds of this earth let us be freed, that by the power of the Spirit we might indeed join Jesus at your right hand. O let thy kingdom come!
Soon your Son shall return to us and we will sing in unending joy. But even now we are the Body of Christ, united with Him in Heaven. O LORD, send your Spirit forth that we might find the strength to call all souls unto your glory.
Tue, 12 May 2015
O marvelous Wonder,
O Lady who shines
like the sun,
who brings the Light
into our midst
and calls us to repentance
that we might be saved,
that the whole world
might turn to the Lord
and be preserved
you come at the end of the age
to lead us back to your Son
before He comes again
and finally –
pray we shall hear and heed
your warning to our souls
and, with the faith of the children
whose eyes beheld you,
in union with the Cross of Jesus
for the salvation of all
and the renewal of the Church and the world.
Tue, 12 May 2015
(Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps.148:1-2,11-14,Is.6:3; Jn.16:12-15)
“It is He ‘who gives’ to all life and ‘breath’ and everything else.”
“His majesty is above earth and heaven,” brothers and sisters. And so our psalmist today encourages all in the heavens and all on earth to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” “From one stock He made every nation of mankind to dwell on the face of the earth,” and it is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And so should we, “His faithful ones,” not offer Him praise?
Brothers, be not ignorant as the men of Athens who thought “the God who made the world and ‘all that is in it,’ the Lord of heaven and earth,” as “something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of man’s genius and his art.” Could man with all his intelligence make the sun or wind? Then how can it be that he might contrive the Creator of these? Such groping in darkness for the God who is “not really far from any of us” shall not be tolerated forever. For the time has come to turn on the lamp which lights the room and let all shadows flee. He who is going to “judge the world with justice” is among us now; it is He whom God “has endorsed in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead.” And it is faith in Him to which we must come.
Jesus promises the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide [them] to all truth.” It is He who “will not speak on His own, but will speak only what He hears.” He receives from Jesus, who possesses “all that the Father has,” all that He announces to us. And Paul is His mouthpiece today, speaking not what he has invented by his erudite learning and fanciful imagining, but rather proclaiming the truth he hears the Spirit inspiring in his soul and burning in his heart.
We shall not get to heaven on stairs we make with our soiled hands; they cannot but crumble under the pressure of time and the weight of truth. Only by obedience to the Spirit who inspires all, shall all find the presence of the “God Unknown” to hearts of stone and minds as fleeting as a wisp of smoke. “He calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives,” for their scoffing at truth shall bring them alone to a dark room, where there shall be no breath of the Spirit. But we who know all wisdom comes from God, living in its light are made His children.
O LORD, may we know your glory in the Word
announced to us by the Spirit Jesus sends.
YHWH, the light of wisdom you alone shine by the Spirit of Truth come through your Son. You are exalted above earth and Heaven, and we cannot approach you by our minds or the work of our hands – only by faith will we come to know your surpassing glory.
O LORD, let your glory be announced to all that all might praise you in whom we live and move and have our being, that all might thus come to know themselves by realizing we are your offspring. If we do not see you, how blind we remain to everything, hopelessly groping in the dark for truth and light. We cannot make truth, we cannot make you, for it is you who have made us.
May we heed your call to reform our lives, dear LORD, that we might come to understanding, that guided by the Spirit we might come to faith in you and praise your Name forever with all your children in the heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 11 May 2015
O child of courage,
though but a boy
you gave your life
as the strongest of men,
proving thus your love for Christ,
a love that steels souls
even in the face of death,
even in the youthful breast –
if but a young child like yourself
could die so freely for the faith
and show the face of Jesus
to the whole world,
how much more should we,
so graced by the Lord
with years of devotion,
be ready to give
for the name of God?
Pray your innocence
may renew our hearts
and your strength
fortify our commitment
to give our lives for Christ
and His Church.
Mon, 11 May 2015
O brave soldiers,
the world could not take
Christ from your hearts;
though it tried to expunge Him
from the army in which you served,
your allegiance to the holy One of Israel,
our Lord and God,
and so death you preferred
to life without Jesus –
pray for us who are so weak in faith,
that our stale complacency
might be invigorated
by the blood of our Savior,
the blood you yourselves shed
as you filled up what was lacking
in the sufferings of Christ.
Pray we shall not turn
from the sacrifice to which the Lord calls us
but embrace with joy the cross we must bear,
and which bears us unto Heaven.
Mon, 11 May 2015
(Acts 16:22-34; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Jn.16:5-11)
“Immediately all the doors flew open
and everyone’s chains were pulled loose.”
“Your right hand saves me,” David sings unto the Lord this day in our psalm. Mighty indeed is His power, and so we should “worship at [His] holy temple, and give thanks to [His] name,” for He has “built up strength within [us]”; by the power of the Holy Spirit He has set us free from our prisons, from the chains of sin.
“When I called you, you answered me,” David sings. And how the Lord answers Paul and Silas as they call unto Him in song of their own. “After receiving many lashes they were thrown into prison, and the jailer… put them in maximum security, going so far as to chain their feet to a stake.” Yet what do we find these apostles doing in the deep of the night? – “praying and singing hymns to God as their fellow prisoners listened.” And God hears their prayers; they bring “a severe earthquake [which] suddenly shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations” and setting all those inside free of their chains.
Can we have a clearer sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power than this? Well, yes, because as wondrous as earthquakes are, the truest sign of the Spirit came this night when the jailer “and his whole household were baptized.” The earthquake and the flying open of prison doors may have opened his heart to hearing the word of God, but his wholehearted acceptance of “his newfound faith in God” is the Spirit’s great work. For what is of greater importance, the stone and steel of a prison cell shaken and cast to the ground, or the salvation of the eternal soul of man?
The Lord Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as Advocate to plead our cause and prove us right about our faith in the One who saves from sin. In justice and in truth He goes to the Father, and from His exalted throne He sends forth the Paraclete to prove His presence with us still; and by the grace and power of the Holy Trinity at work in our midst, “the prince of this world has been condemned” and the prison he built to contain us destroyed.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.” Let us sing to Him, brothers and sisters. Let us join with David and Silas and Paul, and all the redeemed of the Lord, and “joyfully celebrate with [our] whole family,” with all the children of our God, our everlasting faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit. From prison we have been released; with the Savior we are risen. His Spirit is upon us now.
O LORD, may we believe in your Son
and so be saved from our sin,
entering your House with songs of praise.
YHWH, you have saved us from certain death, death at our own hands because of our sins. To our very foundation you have shaken us and served to make us new men. May all be baptized in your Name!
Send your Spirit forth, O LORD, to shake this place in which we dwell, that we might be released from our prisons, from dwelling in our self-made hell. The chains of this world are easily broken by your power come from above; let us turn quickly from our sin and acknowledge your power and might, and we shall be saved – we and all our household.
No fear let us have of the world’s efforts to chain your Word, O God. Despite all, let us sing your praise, knowing the devil has been condemned, and the Spirit will never die in us. And whatever darkness may surround us this day shall soon pass, and with your angels we shall sing your praise in your eternal kingdom.
Sun, 10 May 2015
(Acts 16:11-15; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.15:26-16:4)
“You must bear witness.”
The Spirit will come and call to your hearts to speak of the name of Jesus and His salvation. As He prompts you, you must speak the truth in love, you must go as He calls – you must bear witness. And sometimes the word you speak, and you yourself, will be accepted with the faith and great hospitality as known in Lydia (who is said to be “one who listened,” for “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying,” and who generously invited Paul and his companions, foreigners traveling to distant lands, to “come and stay at [her] house”); and other times those who “know neither the Father nor [the Son]” will “expel you from synagogues,” will cast you violently from their midst, and “anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” It does not matter. The Word must go forth, in season and out.
How few true witnesses there seem to be today, for in the time and place in which I stand certainly the Word of God is out of season. False witnesses with strange gospels abound, but the tongue of the apostles is tied, and what is spoken seems to land upon deaf ears. Those who have no conception of the Holy Spirit and so know neither Father nor Son are emboldened to speak as messengers of Jesus, though the Jesus they know is not the Christ and what they speak but serves to lead the sheep astray. And where is His Church? Will no one stand to speak of His love?
Today instead of “sing[ing] for joy upon [our] couches… the high praises of God… in our throats,” the houses in which we dwell seem to swallow our souls, and we are left mute in the face of destruction. And it is hard to say that our faith is shaken, for who can find any faith at all? Neither persecution nor glad acceptance do we find, for we speak no word to challenge the world.
Let us pray to the Lord, brothers and sisters, that He will send laborers forth, that even in this time of lethargy upon His Church, new life is beginning to grow. For until the end of time the Word must go forth; before then it shall not have reached its goal. However well the devil may fool us into complacency, we must know that it is always time to preach the Word, for ever will hearts be seeking Him – and ever hands seek to destroy Him. “The Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” This call to the humble must be heard by all.
O LORD, let us stand strong in doing your will,
praising your Name, come what may.
YHWH, help us to go forth in the Name of your Son, to speak His Word to the world, to bear witness to truth as He has. For though we be persecuted and even killed for serving you, there will be those who will listen and be saved.
Ready our hearts for what may come, O LORD, that we shall not fear in the hour of darkness, on the day the power of the evil one asserts itself. Help us to realize his power is as nothing and those who do his bidding shall pass like the fading grass. Only those who hear and heed your voice will stand on the last Day.
The faithful will rejoice in you, LORD, and sing a new song to your glory come into our midst by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We shall praise you forever in your eternal House. Even now in prayer we come to dwell with you.
Sat, 9 May 2015
“This I command you: love one another.”
And so we hear the Lord’s essential instruction: love. If we keep His commandments we will love, and if we love we will keep His commandments. His commandment is to love.
But what is love? John gives us the simple answer, of course: “God is love,” but also indicates further the nature of love, corroborated by the Lord Himself. It is “not that we have loved God, but that He loved us.” Love comes not from us but from God, because, as we have said, God is love; we are not love. It is God the Father who has sent His Son to reveal His love by dying for our sins; without this sacrifice we would not know love, could not comprehend the love that is God, that is willing to lay down His very life for the sake of His children. Apart from this love we remain in the dark about love – any love separated from this offering is not love at all.
And as it is not we who love but He who gives love, who is love, so it is not we who choose Him but He us. We did not contrive the sacrifice of the Son: we could never have imagined it. We have, in fact, great difficulty in simply accepting it, so beyond our concept of love it is. But there it is. There He is, calling us to His love, to this love, to the sacrifice of our own selves for one another, that we might thoroughly share in the gift of love. We need but respond to know love.
And who may share in this love? Let us come to Peter’s realization: “In every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.” There is none from whom the Spirit can be withheld, for, as John confirms, “Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” So we need but love. We need but put our hope in Him and in His love. We need but keep His command, and His love shall be our own, and we shall find ourselves “speaking in tongues and glorifying God”; whomever we are and wherever we come from, we know “the salvation by our God” by living in the love of the Spirit and being “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Alleluia! There is not much else to say. Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Let us forever live in His love. Let us forever die for one another.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Love, the Meaning of: Can You Love?" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, thank you for sending us your Son,
for sharing with us your love –
may we also share Him with others.
YHWH, help us to love one another, to die for one another, that we might find the love you offer us in the sacrifice of your Son, that we might live ever in your love.
What more could we want than to be begotten by you and know you by living in your love? What greater call can there be for our lives than to be united with you who are love? O LORD, all who fear you and act uprightly, all who love you and love their neighbor, all who desire you and your love you come to in your Son – may all be baptized in His Name!
Pour out your Spirit upon all souls, dear LORD, that all might be conformed to your will and made in the image of your Son. As Jesus let us all be, laying down our lives for one another in the Spirit of love. We are all but men, LORD, but your Son calls us His friends as He draws us into union with you and your love. Alleluia!
Fri, 8 May 2015
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps.100:1-3,5; Jn.15:18-21)
“I chose you out of the world.”
What is the world but heartache and sin; from this the Lord would release us.
Jesus tells His disciples: “You do not belong to the world,” and yet, as is most evident in the journeys of Paul, to all the world do the apostles go. The Master tells them, “You [will] find that the world hates you”; even so, they preach to a world which has no respect for the name they proclaim, who “know nothing of Him who sent” them. The inevitable persecution they do not fear, the death their work brings they do not flee, but face all in complete readiness.
Indeed, Paul is our example of the commitment we all must have to doing the Lord’s will in this world. With great fervor he travels from land to land and, praise God, “through all this, the congregations grew stronger in faith and daily increased in numbers.” He transmits the Lord’s Gospel message to all waiting ears and perseveres through all trials. For there are those throughout this earth who will listen to the Word that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are,” and that Jesus is His Son – and Paul cannot help but strain forward to find these hearts which long to “come before Him with joyful song.” So great is Paul’s desire to bring the word of the Lord to those who have never heard it before that he must be restrained by the Holy Spirit. Twice today in our first reading he is prevented from entering and preaching to lands for which it is not time, finally being called in a vision to those who awaited him. Paul and the apostles’ readiness to do the Lord’s will is related clearly in Luke’s statement, “After the vision, we immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the Good News there.”
We must go where we are called and move as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus the Christ. Into the world He leads us all to bring His light forth. Though never of the world, we must encourage all the world to “sing joyfully to the Lord,” to “serve the Lord with gladness.” By our words and by our lives we must show that we are “His people, the flock He tends,” and others will be drawn from the clutches of a world that hates the truth and into the protecting arms of God.
O LORD, let your Word go forth to all the world
that all might be saved from the world
and come to you.
YHWH, should we not rejoice that the world hates us, that it persecutes us and the Word we speak, for does this not show that we are of Jesus, that we are one with Him in following in His way? And is this not the path by which fruit is born, fruit that will last unto Heaven? Is this not the way souls are saved and come to rejoice in your kingdom?
Help us to remember this, LORD, to remember and desire only to do your will, to follow in the way Jesus leads and bring His Word, His Spirit, to the ends of the earth. Make your apostles as zealous as Paul to bring the Gospel to all who are open to receive salvation, to know the blessing of being your children.
May all souls be grafted onto the tree of your Chosen people. Let your Church increase in faith and numbers, LORD, until the return of your Son.
Thu, 7 May 2015
(Acts 15:22-31; Ps.57:8-12; Jn.15:12-17)
“There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Do not Judas and Silas fulfill the Lord’s command to “love one another”; do not they lay down their lives for the Lord when they bring word “to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” of the apostles’ decision regarding those who have “upset [them] with their discussions and disturbed [their] peace of mind”? Do they not carry the love of the Lord in their persons as well as in the letter in their hands?
And are these not made friends of the Lord even as the apostles and elders, even as those who come to them? Jesus says to His disciples in our gospel, “I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” And now in the same way these disciples “go forth and bear fruit” as the Lord has commanded by making known to the children of the nations “the decision of the Holy Spirit,” the whole Truth of God’s love, thus drawing them into the friendship of Christ.
The apostles and elders, who call themselves “brothers” of those of Gentile origin, “have unanimously resolved to choose representatives and send them” to witness of the Lord’s love for them; Paul and Barnabas are called by the apostles, those “who have dedicated themselves to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ” – there is left no doubt of the strength of the decision that is made and the authority by which it comes. And so “there was great delight at the encouragement [the letter] gave,” for it and those who read it hold indeed the love of God, the absolute truth of the Holy Spirit, by whose power they have been freed from the burdens being imposed upon them and brought into the fold and friendship, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
“I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, I will chant your praises among the nations.” With David, the Gentile disciples “sing and chant praise” to the living God who is “exalted above the heavens” and “above all the earth.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon them now by the love that has been laid down before them, and now they too are called to lay down their lives in the Lord’s love, as are we all, that friends of Jesus, sons of the Father, may ever be drawn into His holy fold.
O LORD, your love is all we need –
help us to worship you with our very lives.
YHWH, let us all live in your love and rejoice in the blessing of the Holy Spirit; let us dwell with you in the glory that is above all the earth. Obedient to your Word, to the rightful authority of your Church, we follow in the way of the Spirit and find ourselves as friends of your Son.
You do not make the way difficult for us, but quite simple. You simply call us all to love. To lay down our lives for one another, even as Jesus has done, may seem impossible to our corrupted hearts – but in you all is made very easy, for your yourself are love. O LORD, help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son and so bear the fruit of eternal love.
It is clear, dear God, that you desire all to share in your great blessings. You long to give us all we ask for. You wish for us peace of mind and heart, and you know this is found only in doing your will, for your will is only love. Let us heed your command to love, and so chant your praises in the kingdom.
Wed, 6 May 2015
(Acts 15:7-21; Ps.96:1-3,10; Jn.15:9-11)
“We are saved by the favor of the Lord Jesus.”
We are told of the Council of Jerusalem, convened to determine if the Gentiles need be subject to circumcision and the Mosaic Law, “After much discussion, Peter took the floor,” and that after he had finished speaking, “the whole assembly fell silent.” What is there to say after the Rock of the Church has spoken? And how marvelously his declaration mirrors Jesus’ own simple command to His disciples, “Live on in my love.”
I am certain that before he stood to speak in the midst of the din of argument that pervaded this first assembly of God’s people, Peter heard the words of Jesus speaking to his heart: “Simon, son of John, feed my sheep.” He remembers his call and the Spirit the Lord has placed upon him as keeper of the keys of heaven. He remembers, too, the vision the Savior of mankind brought to his mind, instructing him not to discriminate in his sharing of the Word of God. He therefore reminds his brothers that God “reads the hearts of men,” and particularly of how “He showed His approval [of the Gentiles] by granting the Holy Spirit to them,” just as He had done to those gathered in this assembly. God “made no distinction… but purified their hearts by means of faith also.” And would they then place undue burden upon what God has wrought by His own hand?
Yes, Peter in his pronouncement sings of the “new song” of the Lord and by doing so encourages all to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” He hereby “announce[s] His salvation,” that His glory might be told “among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” Here he demonstrates how the Lord “governs the peoples with equity.” The righteous judgment that James makes, now shared in harmony by all assembled, is none other than the judgment Peter has proclaimed – which is none other than Jesus’ own word for all to keep the commandment to live in the Father’s love that all our “joy may be complete,” that all may be gathered into the Father’s kingdom.
Scripture says of the House the Father builds here on earth, of Jerusalem, His Church: “From its ruins I will rebuild it and set it up again, so that all the rest of mankind and all the nations that bear my name may seek out the Lord.” What was the house of David now shelters all the nations – the old Jerusalem has become the new City of Peace held in God’s own hand, His Holy Spirit breathing upon its members and giving them life. By the favor of Christ has this been accomplished; let no man shorten the arm of the Lord.
O LORD, may all peoples be saved
by the love your Son bears to us.
YHWH, it is by faith you have purified our hearts, and it is to love you call us. It is by the Spirit we are saved and drawn into your holy kingdom.
O let the favors of your Son be upon us, dear God! His love beat in our hearts and course through our veins. Yes, let us live in His love and so remain in your joy forever.
Your commandments are not burdensome, O LORD, but lead only to freedom, absolute freedom in the light of your presence. Help us not to take unnecessary burdens upon our shoulders, burdens that would keep us from you and your love. Let us never quench your Spirit at work in our lives.
Work your wonders in our midst, dear LORD, and may we cooperate fully with them, that forever we might sing your praise and bless your holy Name with all our brothers and sisters. In faith may all souls seek your face, and so find it by your grace.
Tue, 5 May 2015
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.
Mon, 4 May 2015
(Acts 14:19-28; Ps.145:10-13,21; Jn.14:27-31)
“We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.”
“With this instruction” Paul and Barnabas “gave their disciples reassurances, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith.” Their apostolic journey has been a witness that the road to the Lord is wrought with difficulties, but that it bears great fruit. These apostles are pursued from towns in which they have preached by those who would destroy them and their word. Paul is stoned, seemingly unto death. But their trials do not dissuade these apostles from retracing their steps through the very towns from which they have been ejected and installing elders, priests, in each one, “commend[ing] them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” And so they arrived again at the place “where they had first been commended to the favor of God for the task they had now completed.” Now they are able to relate in joy “all that God had helped them accomplish, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles,” perhaps the greatest feat of the growing Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Of course, Jesus’ words to His disciples are the same as Paul’s: “‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you,” Jesus says, and adds, “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” For the peace Jesus gives is deeper and abides eternally; it remains through any trial of the world for it is not dependent on the consolations that come from earthly things. And so He can assure them, “Do not be distressed or fearful.” He can freely invite them into the peace He possesses and to which He returns, as He retraces His steps back to the Father from whom He has come, whence He had first been commended to the favor of God for His mission. He knows they will suffer, even as He is about to suffer death at the hands of “the Prince of this world.” But He knows the devil’s power “has no hold” on Him, and would have us know Satan has no power over us either. For we are with Jesus; we are with the Father in heaven. And though we be as Paul in his persecutions, though we be stoned and “dragged… out of town” and left for dead, the Lord’s angels will surround us as Paul’s disciples surrounded him – as they come to Jesus in the tomb – and like Paul, and like our Lord, “before long” we shall get up and return to our call; and ultimately we shall rise from the dead to eternal life with Jesus, coming to the home He now prepares.
“I go away for a while and I come back to you,” Jesus assures His disciples, and asks them to be joyful that He returns to the greatness of the Father, whose “dominion endures through all generations.” And so, brothers and sisters, may our “mouth[s] speak the praise of the Lord” all our days; “may all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” Let us do as He commands and “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom and speak of [His] might,” and that power will enable us to endure all things, and we shall be brought at last into His reign.
O Lord, though it mean we must die,
let us be obedient to your command,
that we might enter your reign.
YHWH, let us discourse of the glory of your kingdom; let us carry your Word to the ends of the earth. Let us not fear the trials that must come to all who enter your reign but hold the peace Jesus offers ever in our hearts. Let us, too, come to you in Heaven.
Though we be stoned and left for dead, we shall rise up again, for you, O LORD, are with your disciples, surrounding them with your grace and protection. As Paul returned even to the towns from which he had been cast out, so let us be ready to enter every battle this world presents, knowing the power you give us is greater than any of this earth, for it overcomes even the Prince of darkness.
Let us give you thanks, O LORD, in all the works we do and so make known to all men your glory.
Sun, 3 May 2015
(Acts 14:5-18; Ps.115:1-4,15-16; Jn.14:21-26)
“May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
“Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” Thus are we blessed, by keeping the word of the Lord. Thus we know His love, for thus we accept the love He offers by His instruction and by His presence.
It is this blessing of “the living God, ‘the one who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them’” that Paul and Barnabas would bring to the hearts of the Gentiles to whom they preach. It is in the name of Jesus, Paul brings healing to the lame man who “used to sit crippled, never having walked in his life.” Indeed, the same healing he would bring to all the pagans before him who also have been crippled all their lives by the folly of worshiping “idols [that] are silver and gold, the handiwork of men” and the products of human imagination. Never have they walked in the true light of the Lord. In fact, their limitations are most evident in their desire to sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul themselves, as Zeus and Hermes; “even the priest of the temple of Zeus… wished to offer sacrifice to them,” and Barnabas and Paul must shout at them “frantically”: “We are bringing you the Good News that will convert you from just such follies as these”!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory” is our psalmist’s refrain today, and the same is exclaimed by Barnabas and Paul: “We are only men, human like you.” Worship the living God! is their exhortation. And Jesus Himself speaks in the same humility and with the same deference to the Father: “The word you hear is not mine, it comes from the Father who sent me.” All comes from the Father and must return to Him; and so we are all encouraged to make our home with Him alone.
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.” He wills to love all, to bless all, to make His home with all. To find our homes with Him, to know the blessed love the living God has for all His creatures, we must listen to the instruction of His Son, to the Holy Spirit the Father now sends in His name, and to the ones who are sent to preach the truth of the living God. May the light of His face shine upon you.
O LORD, let us keep your commands
and so live in your surpassing love.
YHWH, you come to all who love your Son and keep the Word He imparts to us. It is this Word that brings us love, and all who cherish love, cherish it, and so find your presence. May you be revealed to all souls in your only Son.
Help all wayward people to turn from vain worship to know you, O living and true God. May all your creatures give you due praise, turning resolutely from the work of their hands. Glory abides with you alone; may we find that glory by obedience to your call to love.
Let us dwell with you, O LORD; come, we pray, to dwell in us. Help us indeed to keep your commands, which are but life for our souls. Your Spirit be with us this day to lead us to all truth in your Son’s Name, that we might do your will in strength, proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all men. O let us rise from the dust to live in your Heaven!
Sat, 2 May 2015
O holy apostles of the Lord
upon whom the Church is established,
your words go out to the ends of the earth,
bringing the Gospel to all nations.
You who were near to Jesus Himself,
who were with Him all the time
He walked among us…
there is no greater witness
to the way and the truth and the life
of our God, our Savior –
please pray for the Church in the world
that it shall be led by the Spirit of Truth
and we shall all be as brothers of the Lord,
living in His love
and revealing the Father.
As you have performed the works of the Son,
so let us join in the work of redemption,
that all the earth will come to see
that Jesus is in the Father
and we are made one in Him.
Sat, 2 May 2015
(Acts 9:26-31; Ps.22:26-28,30-32; 1Jn.3:18-24; Jn.15:1-8)
“Let the coming generation be told of the Lord...”
Let the vine that is Christ continue to grow; let its branches extend to the ends of the world. Anointed by the Spirit, let all His children proclaim the name of Jesus, that “all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,” that in our midst the call upon the Church of God shall be fulfilled.
Brothers and sisters, we should all be like Paul, who “spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.” Though it brought him the threat of death, he did not mind; his sole concern was for greater growth of the people of God – that all might become branches of the vine of Jesus. And so, by apostles like Paul, “with the consolation of the Holy Spirit [the Church] grew in numbers” and spread to the four corners of the world, and “a people yet to be born,” including ourselves, have heard of the salvation that comes only by the Lord.
And so this growth must continue. Those who are still yet to be born, whether because they are still in their mother’s womb or because their hearts have not been touched by the Spirit of God, must also come to be grafted upon the holy vine. And so, can we fail to speak of Jesus our God? Can we fail to perform the deeds to which our Father calls us? Would you see any deprived of the blessing of “the true vine”? “By this is [the] Father glorified, that [we] bear much fruit and become [His Son’s] disciples,” bringing others to that same discipleship, that the house of the Lord might be filled to overflowing. “The lowly shall eat their fill,” hearts hungry for the word of God shall find their joy, only if we “fulfill [our] vows before those who fear the Lord,” only if we do the will of Him who sends us forth.
Brothers and sisters, let us “remain in Him, and He in [us]”; let “the Spirit He gave us” preserve us in His love… Let it be His blood which courses through our veins as we drink His cup. And let us call all souls to share in this cup, that we might be assured all our “descendants shall serve Him.” Lord, let your Church be built up in your truth and your love. May all believe in your name.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Branch of the Vine" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let your Spirit be with us to strengthen us
to speak out in the Name of your Son.
YHWH, let us go out to the ends of the earth preaching your Name fearlessly among the nations. Let us be true branches of the holy vine that is your Son Jesus. If in truth we live before you, then we shall be blessed with doing your will.
Help us, O LORD, to love one another, to believe in your Son and be as He was. If we live in Him, He shall live in us and we shall bear fruit in His Name. Let us never be separated from Him, becoming branches fit for the fire, but ever have His blood coursing through our veins.
Yes, let your Church be built up now, LORD, in the power of the Holy Spirit; let all be well fed on your Word, that every soul might bow humbly before you. We ask in the Name of your Son that your glory become known in us all.
Fri, 1 May 2015
O defender of the faith
in the divinity of Christ,
bulwark of the Church
of the One
who is true God and true Man,
upholder of the way
in the face of all persecutions –
pray that the shepherds of the Church
will today be so staunch in the faith,
never afraid to defend the truth
from attacks from within
and outside her walls.
So many souls
are led so astray
by the teaching of false prophets;
pray indeed that the Lord
will raise up leaders,
prophets of His true teaching,
of His narrow way,
which leads through the body He assumed,
the death He took upon Himself
for our sins,
to His divine presence in Heaven.
Fri, 1 May 2015
(Acts 13:44-52; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.14:7-14)
“I have made you a light to the nations,
a means of salvation to the ends of the earth.”
In the preaching of Paul today is fulfilled the words of our psalm, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” Rejected by the Jews to whom he comes, he “now turn[s] to the Gentiles,” and – fulfilling the words of our psalm which read, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, break into song; sing praise” – our first reading tells us “the Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and responded to the word of the Lord with praise.” Thus does the light of the Lord’s salvation go out to the ends of the earth.
And our gospel makes clear just how salvation comes to all. First Jesus declares with wonderful clarity the oneness of the Son and the Father. When asked by Philip, “Show us the Father,” Jesus responds, “After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?” Notice that Philip’s request refers to the Father but Jesus’ response refers to the Son, as if to ask of one is to ask of the other. The Lord then states the truth of His oneness with the living God in plain terms: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” There is no separation here, and all that Jesus does is done by the Father, so the living Lord of the universe is at work in absolute fashion through the Son’s words and works. In Him the Father’s will of love, His desire to save His children from sin and death, is accomplished.
But more than this is made evident of the working of salvation, for the Word must reach to the ends of the earth. How is this accomplished? The Lord again declares with absolute clarity the oneness now of Himself and His disciples. In order “to glorify the Father in the Son,” He makes them the solemn promise, “The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.” And the oneness of Jesus and His disciples is made more poignant in His definitive statement: “Anything you ask me in my name I will do.” Who does these works of the Lord? Who brings His salvation forth? We do the works, do we not? We are those still on this earth with flesh and bone and voices. Yet He says “I will do” them to show how He works through us in all we do, to reveal our oneness with Him and the Father.
Our first reading tells us, “Almost the entire city gathered to hear the word of God” when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch in Pisidia. In this simple line is shown both that the salvation of the Lord is going forth to all, and that it is occurring through His disciples. For it is indeed “the word of God” that Paul the apostle speaks and not his own, and this Word is irresistible in its truth and love to all hearts open to hear the voice of Him who speaks, for this Word brings only joy.
O LORD, looking upon your Son we see you;
when others look at us may they see Jesus.
YHWH, you live in your Son, accomplishing your works, and He in His turn works through us. What grace and blessing you grant all your disciples, that we might share in your very life and work! Alleluia!
And this grace and blessing extends to all throughout the earth; all may know the salvation wrought in men by the only Son. And so, what can we do but sing to you in joy, for your light is with us even in the persecution your Word brings.
O let us be one with you, dear God, even as Jesus is one with you. To your side let us, too, come; this is your will now that you have revealed yourself to us in your Son. May we say in truth, He is in us and so we in you. No separation let us know from your surpassing glory.
I pray, O LORD, even the words on this page be spoken not of myself but by you, that your work be accomplished in this poor servant.
Thu, 30 April 2015
O humble laborer in God’s House
who served to build up His Temple
by the sweat of your brow
and your careful concern
to follow His will –
pray that we shall embody
the same obedience
to the Word of God
and His call to our souls,
that we too will consecrate ourselves
and our daily labor
to service of the Lord
and the upbuilding of His Church,
and that we, too,
might be built into the House
wherein He makes
His eternal dwelling.
We are but poor creatures,
simple and weak;
pray the Lord our God
and His Son for whom you cared
will bless us with your dignity,
O righteous man of God.
Thu, 30 April 2015
(Acts 13:26-33; Ps.2:6-11; Jn.14:1-6)
“You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.”
This same verse appearing in both our first reading and our psalm is spoken also by Jesus in our gospel when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” for such is the Son begotten of the Father.
How comforting are Jesus’ words in our gospel, and how enlightening Paul’s speech. The disciples’ hearts are troubled at the Lord’s speaking of His imminent departure; that He must die begins to sink in to them. But the only Son tells them, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” and, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you.” Not only this, He also promises, “I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” The words come like a river of peace, like a wind of love breathing upon them, and upon us. And the same message is spoken by Paul to “the children of the family of Abraham and [all] others who reverence our God.” His is “this message of salvation,” that though the rulers condemned Him to death and “laid Him in a tomb,” “yet God raised [Jesus] from the dead.” And now His witnesses, those to whom He appeared thereafter, declare the Good News of His resurrection, and our own. “The words of the prophets which we read sabbath after sabbath” and “what God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, in raising up Jesus.” This is the word Paul brings to the waiting ears of his Jewish brothers, and which should be heard by us all.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” brothers and sisters. The Lord is near and is calling us to His home. Even as we speak He is preparing a place for us. The death that you experience day to day is passing away, and all that will be known is the truth, the life of God the Father. The Lord declares, “I myself have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain,” and Jesus is that King for all ages and all peoples. With His truth He shatters kings, and so death itself, “like an earthen dish”; He takes “the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for [His] possession.” He has died, but He is risen, and now all must “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before Him.” There is no breaking in to the place He prepares for us to dwell.
The devil has been defeated by the Son begotten of the Father; his house has come crumbling down. We need but follow the way Jesus is to find our home in the New Jerusalem. Death no longer holds dominion, for the Son is now come.
O LORD, you have begotten Jesus
and raised Him from the grave we have made
that we might be saved,
that we might dwell with you forever – Alleluia!
YHWH, may we come to you through Jesus your Son; may we follow in His way, for His way is truth and leads to life, and leads to you. O may we be resurrected from the dead with Him that we might come to new life with you who are Life itself.
Let us not be troubled, LORD, by the death Jesus had to die, and the death we too must know. What is this world and the things of this world in comparison with you? What can this world do to us if we have Jesus as our guide? For He shatters the powers of evil like an earthen dish and raises all the faithful from the tomb. Let us come to the dwelling He prepares for us in your heavenly kingdom.
Though He has died, He has been raised, and we shall be raised with Him, all according to your will, Father God. And on Zion we shall find our home with your eternal King.
Wed, 29 April 2015
O Shepherd of the Church
who led her through
a difficult time,
seeing to her reform
in faith and morals,
in teaching and prayer,
that the foundation once established
by the Lord Jesus Christ
might be confirmed
kept from decay –
pray this day, too,
MotherChurch will be blessed
by the nourishing food
of the Spirit,
that she might be fed
at the Lord’s table
and all might be encouraged to enter
the gates of Heaven
she guards and opens
to all souls in communion
with the Savior and His way…
May Peter lead us unto His Day.
Wed, 29 April 2015
(Acts 13:13-35; Ps.89:2-3,21-22,25,27; Jn.13:16-20)
“He who accepts anyone I send accepts me,
and in accepting me accepts Him who sent me.”
And who is this Jesus who sends apostles like Paul forth traveling from Syria to Cyprus to Asia Minor? Who is He of whom Paul rises to speak in this distant synagogue? Two quotes I offer for your consideration. First is the Baptist’s declaration, “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals”(Lk.3:16). The second is the mere statement of fact that He “washed the feet of the disciples.” And so with two questions I will tell you who He is: Tell me, who is worthy to unfasten His sandals? Then tell me, whose feet does He not wash? Mary washed His feet with her tears and her hair and knew herself nothing but unworthy to touch Him (Lk.7:38). Jesus stoops to cleanse the feet of even Judas, His betraying apostle, who will kiss Him on the cheek, but to whom He shall turn the other one. He heals lepers; children come to Him – none is beyond His humble reach. Yet this man with the towel around His waist is none other than the Son of God.
The Israelites awaited His coming. Hundreds of years they expected Him. Paul tells us that “God testified, ‘I have found David son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart who will fulfill my every wish,” and in this Son of David the Father’s every wish is indeed fulfilled. Here is the “Savior for Israel.” It is of this Christ the Lord speaks when He says, “With my holy oil I have anointed Him, that my hand may be always with Him, and that my arm may make Him strong.” And He in turn says of the Lord, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior.” So obedient is Jesus to the Father that there is none for whom He will not die; for all He shall drink the cup the Father offers, that the whole world might know the Father’s love. Here is the great “I AM”, “the fulfillment of Scripture,” the WORD made flesh, the image of the living God: Jesus, Son of David, Son of God – God Himself dwelling among us. And as He was Chosen, so He now chooses, instructing men to go forth.
Do “you know all these things”? Do you see who He is and hear the words He speaks? Then “blest will you be if you put them into practice.” For in humble service of the Name of God, with Him you shall “be exalted.” Bring forth His message of love.
O LORD, obedience to the Church
is obedience to your Son,
and obedience to your Son is obedience to you –
may we all be as faithful as Jesus.
YHWH, may we be men after your own heart, men formed in the image of Jesus and so reflecting your glory – may we be worthy to be called your sons. O let us never raise our heel against you but ever put into practice your humble love.
O LORD, you call us to serve as you called David; you anoint us with oil even as your only Son. Let us, too, be sons of David, calling you our God, our Rock, our Father – in the image of Jesus let us indeed be formed.
None is worthy to unfasten the sandals of our Savior. None of your poor creatures could even touch your Son. Yet He comes to wash our feet, to touch us with your merciful love. Help us, O LORD, to imitate Him; help us to reveal your glory in the service we show one another. Help us ever to declare your faithfulness, made known in your only Son.
Tue, 28 April 2015
O wise and holy virgin
whose love for God
was matched by a great love
for the Church
and a great desire
to see her pure and holy
peace you brought to peoples
and to MotherChurch,
for peace you held
within your blessed soul,
held as you were
in the hand of God –
pray the light of the Lord
will be shed upon the Church
and all souls
and that reconciliation shall come
and we stand as one
in that surpassing light
and peace of the Trinity.
May holiness be all men’s desire,
to live in accord with the will of God.
Tue, 28 April 2015
(Acts 12:24-13:5; Ps.67:2-6,8; Jn.12:44-50)
“Set apart Barnabas and Saul for me,
to do the work for which I have called them.”
These words came to the Church at Antioch “while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and fasting”; spoken by the Holy Spirit, they show how intimately the Church and her apostles are connected to the Lord Jesus and His Father.
In John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims, “The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to speak.” Jesus is sent by the Father. He is the image of the Father: “Whoever looks on me is seeing Him who sent me.” In the same way, Barnabas and Saul are “sent forth by the Holy Spirit” through the ministry of the Church, who “imposed hands on them and sent them off” to proclaim the word of God. Jesus is sent by the Father. Jesus speaks in the Holy Spirit the words of everlasting life. Hearing these words His children, His Church, go forth to the ends of the earth. There is absolute unity in the Church and all its members, as long as we are as obedient as Jesus, our Head, who declares, “Whatever I say is spoken just as He instructed”; as long as we are as faithful to the Spirit’s prompting as Jesus is to the Father’s will, we shall reflect His glory as He reflects the Father.
And what is the glory of the Son of God but to bring light to this dark world: “I have come to the world as its light, to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the dark.” The words He speaks, the instruction He offers and the sacrifice He makes, indeed bring spirit and life to those who listen and obey. He is true when He says He has not come to condemn but to save, for the world is already condemned by its sin and His words would bring it to life. And so, if we reject His words, we reject the lifeline He provides, and what hope can there be for us? If instead of asking that “He let His face shine upon us” and celebrating in joy the salvation that comes “among all nations” – if we do not seek the holy light of God, where else shall we find eternal life? “His commandment means eternal life”; all other words lead to destruction. We must follow the Lord and His way.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious to us that we are called even as Barnabas and Saul and the first Christians in the city of Antioch. The Spirit of God remains upon the Church, and He would send us forth in Jesus’ name to do the work and will of the Father. Do not reject His call upon your soul; put faith in Jesus and in Him who sent Him, and the Spirit will lead you forth.
O LORD, you speak through your Son
and call His apostles to proclaim your Word
to the ends of the earth – Alleluia!
YHWH, send us forth in the Holy Spirit; in the Name of your Son let us preach to the nations. Let us be a reflection of Him as He is the pure reflection of you. He brings your light to us by His presence among us – may we be His presence in this world that your light might shine unto all.
In your Son we see you, O LORD. Though you are hidden from all human eyes, Jesus gives us new vision. He indeed is Light itself and looking upon Him we see anew: our minds are illumined to look upon you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia!
For this great gift let us praise you, LORD. By this great blessing to us you are made known. Help us to declare to all what you reveal to us, to make you known even to the ends of the world. Your salvation come to all nations.
By faith in your Son we are saved and brought into your presence. Your Spirit be with us even this day to accomplish your mission.
Mon, 27 April 2015
O apostle of Mary
and so of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to the Lord you drew souls
through devotion to His Mother.
How perfectly you have spoken
of this grace upon the Virgin
and the role she plays
in the salvation of the world –
pray this day
that her sweet protection
and most blessed intercession
will be with all the children
who turn in faith to the one
chosen by the Father
to be Mother of His Son.
May this Spouse of the Spirit
lead us into God’s presence
where with you
and all the heavenly saints
we shall find ourselves one
with the Most Holy Trinity
and sing forever the praises
of our Lord and God.
Mon, 27 April 2015
O great missionary,
you served to convert
a land and a people
that had never heard
of our blessed Savior,
and though killed for your work,
you loved those to whom you were sent
and toiled tirelessly
for their salvation –
pray the same kind heart you showed
we shall also know
in serving souls
placed into our care;
and pray the name of our Lord
shall go forth in freedom
to the very ends of the earth
What are our lives
compared with the service of Christ
and the salvation of souls
in faith in His name?
Let us live with your same zeal
the love that is Jesus and His Cross.
Mon, 27 April 2015
(Acts 11:19-26; Ps.87:1-7,117:1; Jn.10:22-30)
“Of Zion they shall say:
‘One and all were born in her.’”
“I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those that know the Lord; of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia,” sings our psalmist today. Yes, “when the peoples are enrolled” in the kingdom of heaven, when it is noted: “This man was born there,” it shall not be to the soil of Jerusalem to which the angels refer, but to birth in the spirit of the place, in the Holy Spirit Himself, who leads all into the New Jerusalem. For all nations are called, and it matters no more the land of your origin.
This impotence of place and importance of the Spirit is made clear in Jesus’ words to “the Jews gathered around Him” “in the temple area, in Solomon’s portico.” To those here in the heart of the city of Jerusalem He says, “You are not my sheep.” They “refuse to believe” that He is the Messiah and so they prove that they are no sons of Abraham, that they have no faith. Only those of faith hear the voice of the Shepherd, and only these are admitted into the kingdom. This He tells them plainly. For what is He saying when He declares, “The Father and I are one” but that He dwells with the Father in heaven, and not upon this earth. The earth to which they cling shall pass away, but the kingdom shall last forever.
“My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says, and how that voice does work among all souls. (For this let us praise the Lord!) We are told in our first reading that at first “the community who had been dispersed by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, making the message known to none but Jews.” Here, even though the Word is spread far, it is kept for those born of the land of Zion. But then the change occurs, and the truth of the Word, which goes beyond all borders, becomes known, for “some men of Cyprus and Cyrene among them who had come to Antioch began to talk even to the Greeks, announcing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them.” The church in Jerusalem, the protector of the faith – whose seat is now in Rome – sends Barnabas to investigate. He finds “the evidence of God’s favor” and rejoices to realize the Lord’s sheep come from near and far. Here “in Antioch the disciples were called Christians for the first time.” Here it becomes clear that there is a new Church being formed, one that finds “eternal life” in following Jesus.
“The gates of Zion” “the Lord loves,” and to this holy mountain He brings all, through the Gate that is Jesus. And “no one shall snatch them out of [His] hand,” for this mountain cannot be shaken, this Temple cannot be torn down. It is of the life of heaven “all shall sing, in their festive dance” when they proclaim: “My home is within you.” And this land shall endure forever.
O LORD, let us be found in your Hand,
filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith,
living as your Son.
YHWH, into your House all faithful souls are called; in your Church all find a home. We are born into the New Jerusalem by virtue of our Baptism, and so become assimilated to Christ. And as He dwells with you as your Son, so we become as your holy children, wherever we may come from.
Jesus is one with you, dear Father, and we are called to be one with Him. Though from the Jews He comes, He goes out to all the earth, bringing the light of salvation. And when by the Spirit we are reborn in Him, when His sacrifice bears fruit in us and we come to eternal life, we become as your City, O God, our names written in Heaven.
You establish your Church, O LORD; the New Jerusalem is built up in your Name. And all who long for truth and love hear the Good News of your risen Son and fly with Him unto your kingdom, where they rejoice all the day.
Sun, 26 April 2015
(Acts 11:1-18; Ps.41:3,42:2-3,43:3-4; Jn.10:1-10 or Jn.10:11-18)
“God has granted life-giving repentance even to the Gentiles.”
In his vision Peter sees “an object like a big canvas… lowered down to [him] from the sky by its four corners.” Upon it he discerns “four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.” Like Noah’s ark it seems to contain all the animals upon it. But these animals he sees are not for the good Jew to eat: they are unclean. And so Peter protests when instructed to “slaughter, then eat.” But he is assured (and three times), “What God has purified you are not to call unclean,” even as “the canvas with everything in it was drawn up again into the sky.”
What is this shepherd to do – he who has been told by the Lord, “Feed my sheep”? When the uncircumcised come to him seeking salvation, how can he turn away? And so, as the canvas which came from the sky and returned to the sky, we learn that everything comes from God and returns to Him, and He calls whom He will. And so the Gentile man whose home Peter enters by the Spirit’s direction is “saved, and all [his] household.” “As [Peter] began to address them the Holy Spirit came upon them,” for they, too, “believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, even these thirst for God “as the hind [who] longs for the running waters,” and so are led to the Lord’s “holy mountain, to His dwelling place”; even these “go in to the altar of God.” For these unclean creatures are made as the pure and obedient sheep of Israel, heeding the Good Shepherd’s voice. Here are “the other sheep that do not belong to this fold” of which Jesus speaks, whom He leads, too, by His loving word.
All that He calls shall come to Him who lays down His life for the sake of the fold, by whom all “have life and have it to the full.” All living creatures are His own, for it is He who is the living God; and all who live, live for Him and through Him alone. The Son has come from the Father that we might know Him as He knows Him, and so that we might indeed have life. As good sheep let us follow in His way, and lead those behind us also to salvation. Let us all “go and behold the face of God” as we turn from anything that makes us unclean in His sight and listen for His voice leading our pure hearts.
O LORD, open the gate that we might enter in
and dwell in your presence.
YHWH, let all hear and heed the voice of your Son, who is the true Shepherd leading repentant souls to salvation. Send your apostles into every house that all might hear the call of Jesus, be purged in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and come to dwell in your House, beholding your holy face.
Let us be led forth by the Christ to your mountain, O God. Make us one flock in Him, all as your blessed children. O let us be as sheep slaughtered for your table, joining your Son on the altar of sacrifice; by His voice let us be cut to the heart and in our repentance become a holy offering to you.
False prophets keep far from us, dear LORD, those who work but for pay, who care nothing for your flock. In the Spirit send forth disciples to lead to running water those who thirst for you, O living God.
Sat, 25 April 2015
(Acts 4:8-12; Ps.118:1,8-9,21-23,26,28-29; 1Jn.3:1-2; Jn.10:11-18)
“There is no salvation through anyone else.”
Do not “trust in princes” or in any man; it is by Jesus alone “we are to be saved.” Though “the builders rejected” Him, though the princes of this age saw fit to crucify the Lord – yet “God raised [Him] from the dead” and exalted Him above every power on earth and in heaven. And so He is indeed now the foundation of our salvation, the only shepherd who will lead us to the Father… the one who “lays down His life for the sheep.”
Many wolves there are who fat themselves, scattering the sheep to desolate places. Their care is for the “pay” they receive and not the welfare of the flock they fail to tend. Only Jesus cares for the human race; only the Christ serves His sheep in love – only He dies that we might live, that we might indeed become members of His flock.
And so, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”; “what love the Father has bestowed on us” in Jesus, His only Son, for now we can be like Him – now we are God’s holy children. Taking “refuge in the Lord” by His Son, we come at once to our salvation. Oh what glory is ours following in our Savior’s wake! Listen to what our Good Shepherd states: “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” Realize to what union with the Father of all you are called by the Child He has borne to us for our redemption. Oh how “wonderful in our eyes” this should be! And consider if you will that one day we His children “shall see Him as He is.” How shall our souls bear such blessing?
Brothers and sisters, like the cripple seemingly doomed to a life of incapacity are we all. But what Peter has effected by a word in Jesus’ name is now ours by that same name and through the ministry of His apostles. How? you say. How shall I discover such salvation? How shall this lame man leap like a stag? Faith. Faith in the Son draws the Father's mercy from above. And if I must tell you further, I shall, you wayward soul. Confess your sins! Kneel before the priest the Lord has ordained as His instrument of salvation and bare your heart to God on high. What graces are yours if only you have faith in the Lord and the Church He alone has founded. Turn from the wolves that besiege you, and come to Him who “is good.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Souls at a Carnival" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your Son has died that we might be saved;
let us listen to His voice and follow Him.
YHWH, your Son lays down His life for us that we might be as He is, that we might be your children. In His Name all are healed from their sins, raised from the dust to be seated with Him. Help us to take refuge in Him and so in you; let us trust in this stone the builders have rejected.
Jesus dies for us; for the sake of your sheep He is crucified, O LORD. Yet He takes up His life again, and thus we are raised with Him. He does not run from the sacrifice you call Him to make, but knowing well it is the only way we shall be saved, fully embraces your command. O let us be as He is! willing to lay down our lives. Then truly we shall be your children.
There is no other name by which we are to be saved; there is no other way. In the Cross let us find our life this day, dear God. May your Son shepherd us to your kingdom.
Fri, 24 April 2015
O proclaimer of the Word of God,
we know of our Lord
who suffered and died
that we might rise with Him
on the third day
because the Spirit inspired you
to tell us of this Good News.
Faithful you were to the Lord
and to His blessed apostles,
and so became an apostle yourself,
carrying the Gospel
to men of every nation –
pray that the Word
which you have served
to impart to us
may be remembered
and cherished in the hearts
of all believers,
and that we, too, shall work,
inspired by the Spirit,
to build up the Body of Christ,
making it ready for His return
to dwell with us forever.
Fri, 24 April 2015
(1Pt.5:5-14; Ps.89:2-3,6-7,16-17; Mk.16:15-20)
“Go into the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.”
Such is the call and accomplishment of our evangelist Mark, whose gospel reflects the song of our psalmist today, “The favors of the Lord I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.” For his inspired Word lives forever to declare the faithfulness of God. And “happy the people who know the joyful shout,” who exclaim like Peter in our first reading, “Dominion be His throughout the ages!” For they “walk in the light of [the Lord’s] countenance,” and so “they rejoice all the day.”
“The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere,” and those who believed in the Good News they proclaimed indeed were saved, as are we today. The promise Peter makes in our first reading is true: “The God of all grace, who called you to His everlasting glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who have suffered a little while.” Though answering the call of the Lord bring suffering in this world, it is but little to endure for the surpassing glory which is ours in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And so to “bow humbly under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may lift [us] high” is a joy in itself; the suffering we experience for the sake of the Word is itself laced with great joy, for we know in our souls and have seen that it but leads to exaltation at the right hand of God. “Through your justice they are exalted” – so our psalmist praises God for His mercy and His truth. And all souls converted to the Lord will know the Lord’s justice in full flower.
And oh the signs that “will accompany those who have professed their faith,” the strength in the Name and the Spirit of God and the healing graces that are known in them. Every day and in every situation such power is invoked and implemented by those who believe. Be not so forgetful of the wonders Jesus works through those who walk with Him. “The heavens proclaim your wonders, O Lord, and your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones.” The verse is true, my friends. And as “the Lord continued to work with [the apostles] throughout and confirm the message [they proclaimed] through the signs which accompanied them,” so He will not leave alone this day anyone who takes up His cross and even in the humblest fashion proclaims His holy Name. The news is good and the Lord wishes all to hear. Make His message known to the ends of the world: salvation has come to all.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Annette Meyer; used by permission.
O LORD, though we suffer for His Name,
your Son is with us all the day,
and we walk in the light of His countenance.
YHWH, you call your apostles to go out to the whole world and preach the Good News of the coming of Christ. May they be faithful in their mission and may all believe and be baptized, and so be saved. Humbly let all souls come to you, that we might be exalted at your right hand.
There is suffering in your call, O LORD; there is even the shedding of blood. But though we might die for the sake of your Name and that of your Son, your peace rests upon us. For it is you who fulfill your work in us, you who go out with all your apostles… and you who are with them till the end of time. May they lay their hands on the sick that they might recover, and not be afraid to lose their lives in the process.
To every corner of the earth let your Word now come, LORD, to every soul that sits in darkness. Awaken hearts to sing of your glory, you who raise all who bow humbly before you.
Thu, 23 April 2015
O charitable and zealous soul
who gave your life
that others might know
the true and abiding Catholic faith,
you who cared for the sick and the dying,
those who were ailing in body
and diseased in spirit –
how shall we learn
to sacrifice all as you have done,
to stand in the face of opposition
and speak the truth
though those we would help
would devour us instead
of listening to the words
come from the Savior’s mouth?
Penance and prayer
are so far from us this day,
and who really cares
to show others Christ’s way?
Pray this ship shall be strengthened
by holy souls
eager for the salvation of all
and confirmed in the truth and love of the Spirit.
Thu, 23 April 2015
(Acts 9:1-20; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Jn.6:52-59)
“My flesh is real food and my blood real drink.”
And “the man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.”
The truth is simply stated to those who wonder at His words today in our gospel. As the Israelites in the desert asked, “What is this?” when presented with manna as their food, so now the Jews say, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” For those who do not believe, it is impossible; but for those who believe, it is the gift of God.
Here is the Bread of Life in our midst, as real as the Light which shone around Saul and knocked him off his horse; as real as the voice which spoke aloud to his soul. This bread and wine on the table of the Lord, this great grace upon His altar of sacrifice, is indeed that which feeds us, that which sustains us – that which makes Him most present to us. Our first reading says of Saul that “his strength returned to him after he had taken food.” For three days he had fasted in darkness, experiencing the absolute blindness of his life as persecutor of the Church. Then Ananias laid his hands on him and he recovered his sight. Then he was baptized. Then he could come to the table of the Lord our God and gain the strength “to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.” Yes, the Scripture refers in fact but to ordinary food, but indeed it indicates the “real food” Saul shall soon come to know and find his spirit through.
“The man who feeds on me will have life because of me.” He will become one with the Son as He is with the Father. And he, too, the Lord will be speaking of when He asks, “Why are you persecuting me?” By this Bread we become so one with our God, and with Him we suffer for His Name. “I myself shall indicate to him how much he will have to suffer for my name,” Jesus says to Ananias. And so the disciple is convinced that this man who has done nothing but harm to God’s holy people is truly being called to come to the Lord of all. It is through such suffering that discipleship comes, as it is through His sacrifice we have this food upon our table.
Eat His Body, dear brothers and sisters. Drink His Blood. Let us share together this day this gift of oneness with our God. And let us be strong; and let us bleed with Him upon the cross, to bring His Name to all. “The fidelity of the Lord endures forever,” and He shall never leave us orphaned. He shall feed us forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread that is your Son,
that we might have strength to do your will.
YHWH, how shall we come to see that your Son is the Bread of Life and we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in us, to be united with Him as He is to you? We have scales upon our eyes and upon our hearts – how shall they fall away and our souls open to receive your Word? Send your disciples forth to lay their hands on all blinded men.
There are those still who persecute your Church, thinking they are acting in your Name, O LORD. There are many who cannot but harden their hearts to your gracious gift to them. Help all souls to accept your Son and see that it is His Body that acts in your Name. Help all come to the table of sacrifice and eat His flesh and drink His blood, that they too might proclaim Jesus as your Son.
From our horses we all need to fall; your light we need to shine about us. Let us hear your voice, O LORD, and be obedient to its commands, and so live in your presence forever.
Wed, 22 April 2015
O persecuted shepherd
whose flock repeatedly drove you
from their midst
but who accomplished
great work of conversion
to these indignant souls
you repeatedly returned,
ever spreading Christ’s net further –
pray for us, apostle to nations,
that in God’s Church today
His Word may go boldly forth
to convert hearts
so hardened by sin,
that the acquired ignorance
of peoples returning to paganism
will be thoroughly dispelled
Forth let all souls journey,
humbly proclaiming the Gospel
till all have heard and understood
the glory to which they are called
by our Savior.
Wed, 22 April 2015
O courageous soldier
in the army of our Lord,
you gave up the ranks
of this passing world
for the kingdom
wrought by Jesus Christ,
for such a just cause
and showing us the path
we must tread
to be found worthy
to stand with our God –
pray that we may be strengthened
in the battle of earthly life,
that our weak limbs
may not be disjointed,
that we might not tremble in fear
at the threats of the mighty
but take our refuge
in the Almighty
and fight for Him who fights for us
until we are wrapped in His arms,
until we cling to His breast.
Wed, 22 April 2015
(Acts 8:26-40; Ps.66:1,8-9,16-17,20; Jn.6:44-51)
“No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
How evident it is in our first reading that the Father draws all believers unto Himself. For though it is clear that the Ethiopian eunuch is in search of God, has a desire for God, and welcomes God – He is coming from pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is reading Holy Scripture, and “invite[s] Philip to get in and sit down beside him” – which is necessary for belief as well, it is most certain that the Lord is leading him to Himself. The angel of the Lord directs Philip to the Ethiopian. The Spirit specifically instructs him to approach his carriage, and then inspires His disciple to speak to the eunuch of the Word of God and lead him into the waters of baptism (snatching him away immediately upon the completion of his task).
Also evident in our first reading is Jesus’ quotation of the prophets: “They shall all be taught by God.” For indeed it is God that, through Philip, enlightens the Ethiopian eunuch regarding the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah, and all of Scripture, “telling him the good news of Jesus.” It is “not that anyone has seen the Father,” for the Father is not visible to our human vision. But the Father has sent the Son, “the one who is from God,” and “He has seen the Father,” and He knows Him. And now through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son sends His disciples forth as His own flesh and blood, with the same Spirit that inspires Him, to reveal the Father’s love to a waiting world.
“The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” We are those who have heard His Word, who have been instructed in His way, and who have received His Body and His Blood. And so, having eaten “the bread that comes down from heaven,” we indeed become flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone. Wed we are to the Son of Man by the power of His Word and the blessing of His Sacrament. We have responded to the Lord’s call; He who draws all to Himself and to the Father has become our “living bread,” our life-giving water. And now at His command we must draw all men to the Son, who brings all to the Father.
The Light of the world shines in our midst, and we are drawn as moths to this flame, to Him who “is deprived of His life on earth.” And though we die in our turn as this Sheep who “was led to the slaughter,” yet “of His posterity,” and so our own, all the world will speak… and be drawn to Him who has been lifted up from the earth upon a cross, to Him who dwells with the Father in heaven.
O LORD, your Son is the living Bread
come down from Heaven;
let us seek Him and listen to Him,
and rejoice in Him.
YHWH, let us be taught by you; let us be drawn to you and receive the Bread that is your Son. Let us be baptized in His Name, with you and the Holy Spirit, and so let us come to eternal life in your kingdom. May all souls praise you for your goodness toward us!
What can we do but rejoice when we hear your voice speaking to us in the depths of our souls, when your Word is revealed to our ears and our hearts – when Jesus stands before us in the flesh and offers Himself to us for our salvation? And so, let all indeed come to Him, and so to you, LORD, and loudly sound your praise.
You stand before us in the flesh of your Son, O LORD our God, and this Good News goes forward by the power of the Holy Spirit upon His Church. We who eat the Bread He offers become His Body; let your Word now extend from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Tue, 21 April 2015
(Acts 8:1-8; Ps.66:1-7; Jn.6:35-40)
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
And why should there be such exultant joy among all the peoples of the earth? What should cause all men to “shout joyfully to God”? It is Jesus’ profession that “everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.” Nothing but life everlasting can bring such absolute joy, and we have the assurance from the Lord’s own lips that He “shall lose nothing of what [the Father] has given” Him, that all who come to Him He “will raise up on the last day.” Alleluia! Let us come to Him.
How evident the universal call of the Lord is in our first reading. Upon the persecution which follows the death of Stephen, Philip, a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian “goes down to the town of Samaria” – where the Jews intermarried with the pagans of the land – “and there proclaimed the Messiah.” And we are told that “without exception, the crowds that heard Philip and saw the miracles he performed attended closely to what he had to say” and that “the rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch.” Here we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to the woman at the well, that all who worship Him will worship in spirit and in truth and not in any particular place; here we see the realization of the Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan, that all men truly are our neighbors. For now all are called into His holy fold. All now come to know the glory of the Lord. And, of course, he who leads the persecution against the growing Christian community, he who “entered house after house, dragged men and women out, and threw them into jail”… this same Saul we hear of today will soon become the great Apostle Paul, who travels to all the nations of the world converting waiting souls.
Yes, brothers and sisters, “He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot.” As the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, so now all God’s children pass through holy Baptism and have the way made straight before them. “The glory of His name” is upon us all, upon all who believe in His Son, and now we who were “paralytics or cripples” – who were unable to move for not having heard of His Name or who had had our limbs disjointed for having forgotten His Law – all, Gentile or Jew, are now welcomed into the Father’s eternal home. For “no one who comes will [the Son] reject.” In Him all find their dwelling, and so what should we do but “rejoice in Him” and “proclaim His glorious praise”?
O LORD, let us be raised with your Son
on the last Day – Alleluia!
YHWH, O how persecution brings great joy! For even as the disciples are hunted down and thrown into prison, many go out to new lands to proclaim the kingdom of God to waiting souls, souls who welcome the Word with shouts of joy. And, of course, it is looking upon Jesus on the Cross and believing in Him that brings us to eternal life. Alleluia! May the Word of God go out to the ends of the earth and all souls sing for joy at their salvation.
Jesus has assured us that He will lose nothing of what you, Father, have given Him; no one who comes to Him will He reject, but He will gather all your faithful children into your eternal presence. Let us but long to look upon Him whom you have sent. Let us but set our hearts on the love that passes not away. Let us but come to Him to find your surpassing glory, and all our sickness will be taken away, and we shall never thirst again.
Mon, 20 April 2015
O sublime teacher
and defender of the Church
and her freedom,
the joy of Heaven
in your spiritual life,
and for the autonomy of MotherChurch
in your call as shepherd –
pray that we
who remain so blind
to the presence of God
will have our eyes opened
and draw closer
to Him who is our life,
in whose light
we alone find peace;
and pray, too,
that we shall fulfill our call
as disciples of truth
and defend with your same strength
the life of our Mother,
despite the persecutions that come.
Mon, 20 April 2015
(Acts 7:51-8:1; Ps.31:3-4,6-8,17,21; Jn.6:30-35)
“No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry,
no one who believes in me shall thirst again.”
“I myself am the bread of life,” Jesus declares, and it is in this Bread we take refuge. It is by this Bread we are fed.
Do you think that Stephen is at all hungry as he lives again the trial, way of the cross, and crucifixion of the Lord in our first reading today? No, even in this time, and perhaps especially in this sacrifice, the Lord feeds him with Bread from heaven. Even as he is stoned to death, the Lord God hides him “in the shelter of [His] presence from the plottings of men.”
Yes, in our first reading we have Jesus again chastising the elders and indeed all the people for their betrayal and murder of the Word of God. Here we have again Jesus being dragged “out of the city” and killed at the hands of those “who received the law through the ministry of angels [but] have not observed it.” And here again we have forgiveness offered with His last breath. Here is the persecuted Church found in the person of Stephen; here is Jesus. Recall Jesus’ words to Saul upon his conversion: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”(Acts 22:7)? And here is that same Saul overseeing this first “act of killing,” this first martyrdom of the Body of Christ.
But all the while Jesus is there, not only in the persecution, but quite evidently in His glory. “I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand,” Stephen exclaims. And notice that it is not until this moment, not until they hear this declaration – despite their “shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears” – that the people are moved “as one man” to destroy that voice. Stephen’s chastisement “stung [them] to the heart” and made them “ground their teeth in anger,” but it is this Truth of the presence of the Lord which they simply cannot stand. And what is the significance of Stephen’s vision being the impetus for his own death? It does bring his stoning, but simultaneously it prepares him for such martyrdom, for now truly the Lord is with him. Before this he would not have been able to bear so completely this cross. And without this Bread he would not have been killed.
“God’s bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” That bread of life is in Stephen’s trust in the Lord and in his echoing the words of David’s psalm, which are Jesus’ own: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” For even as he dies, he is most alive. It is this same faith we need, brothers and sisters, and we shall never be hungry, and we shall never be without the Lord, but shall declare His love and His truth to all, happy to be called His own. The Lord’s “face shine[s] upon [His] servant[s],” and they always have the Bread they need.
O LORD, give us the Bread from Heaven, your Son,
to be with us even unto death,
and help us to proclaim His Name.
YHWH, into your hands let us commend our spirit, and we will be protected. Though stones rain down upon our heads, vision of you will light our way, and we shall come into your presence. At your right hand with Jesus let us stand.
In your Son let us take our refuge, O LORD, in Him and in His Cross. Let us be as He was, revealing His image to this fallen world. Let us proclaim the truth in His Name, let us accept the persecution it brings… and let us forgive those who kill us, those who would destroy your Word this day.
Jesus is our Bread from Heaven; it is in His flesh we find our home. Let us be His Body in this world, crucified and rising on high. O LORD, O faithful God, out trust is in you alone, and in your Son – in our lives let your will be done.
Sun, 19 April 2015
(Acts 6:8-15; Ps.119:1,23-24,26-27,29-30; Jn.6:22-29)
“This is the work of God:
have faith in the One whom He sent.”
It is this faith that moves Stephen; it is this work upon which he sets his heart. And so he was unmoved when “the people, the elders, and the scribes… confronted him, seized him, and led him off to the Sanhedrin” and “brought in false witnesses” against him. Surely the words of our psalm are fulfilled in him as they had been in the Lord: “Though princes meet and talk against me, your servant meditates on your statutes.” Thus it is that throughout his persecution, “Stephen’s face seemed like that of an angel” – through it all it is the voice of the Lord to which he listens. And one wonders if the members of the Sanhedrin had not “stared at him [so] intently” because they had seen that face of an angel not long before in the One whom they had crucified, the One who stood before them like a sheep before its shearers. And this one, too, they would sacrifice.
“You should not be working for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you.” It is this food, which those who persecute him cannot see, that Stephen eats. If he were seeking to get his “fill of the loaves” which satisfy the stomach, he would not suffer the trial upon him, and not in such peace. Only Jesus gives this food, brothers and sisters. It is nourishment the world cannot touch, and to it there is no end. We need eat nothing else to sustain ourselves.
“Yes, your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.” O Lord, what voice can compare with thine own? What word can stand where yours is spoken? For yours is “the way of truth,” and the truth cannot be shaken, cannot be changed over time. It is not subject to the corrupting forces present in our flesh; it is of the spirit. And so, in the Spirit let us be, called before your throne. Though we stand accused before the tribunals of this barren land, may your food be ever within us to sustain us – in your presence ever let us rest.
On this unshakable foundation we shall remain, even as the world passes away.
O LORD, let us have faith in your Son
and your work shall be done in us.
YHWH, let us meditate always on you and your wondrous deeds; let us eat of the food of the Spirit that passes not away, that we might come to dwell with you forever. We should not be concerned with the things of the body, with filling our bellies or even with whether we live or die. Like Stephen we should face all persecution with the patience of an angel, knowing you are at our side. And then we shall never die.
O LORD, if only it were eternal life upon which our hearts were set, then we would be truly blessed. Then we would have all we need, for then we would have you dwelling in our souls. You are Life itself, dear LORD, and this is what Jesus would give to us. This is what all His disciples preach, for they, too, would share what has been given them.
Teach us your ways, dear God; let us walk in your truth. And all wisdom will be ours, and we too will witness to your Holy One.
Sat, 18 April 2015
(Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Ps.4:2,4,7-9; 1Jn.2:1-5a; Lk.24:35-48)
“He is expiation for our sins.”
Brothers and sisters, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” For us this Savior has come; for our sins He has died on the cross. Even as it is written of Him in Scripture, so all has been accomplished in His Name.
And so we need fear no more. We need not be “startled and terrified” at the sight of Him in our midst. He has come to us and has taken His place among us, even as He sits at the right hand of God. And His place among us is the cross, even as God announced – “that His Christ would suffer” – and by His sacrifice He has been greatly blessed, and we greatly blessed with Him. Now His blood, once shed by our own hands, pours upon us for “the forgiveness of [our] sins.”
David once cried, “When I call, answer me, O my just God, you who relieve me when I am in distress,” and so in Christ his prayer is answered; for in this Jesus, our greatest distress – that inflicted by our transgressions – has been washed clean from our murderous souls. He lives. He lives now, brothers and sisters, to make intercession for our sins “and for those of the whole world.” Let us all come to Him in truth and find “the light of [His] countenance shin[ing] upon us!”
The light the Lord is, the salvation He affords to each of our souls, must “be preached in His name to all the nations”; all must come to know the blessing embodied in the risen Christ: all must see Him, that in His redemptive wounds all might take refuge. It is the will of God that all sins “be wiped away,” that all hearts be converted to truth and light, that all might live before Him in eternal peace.
Do not delay your repentance in His sight; freely forgiveness pours from His side. For this alone He has died, but to receive His mercy you must reform your lives.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Wish I'd Never Done It" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the blood of your Son cleanse us of sin,
and may our own death glorify you.
YHWH, Jesus was killed by being hung on a tree, but you preserved Him from among those going down into the pit, you brought Him up from the netherworld, and with Him all those obedient to His Word. Now in glory He sits with you upon the throne, and the angels and all creatures in Heaven and on earth and under the earth praise His holy Name. And, yes, those who follow Him here unto death shall come to such glory with Him in Heaven.
To the Lamb who was slain belong all honor and glory and blessing; and to His disciples, to those who lay down their lives that His sheep might be fed, comes the blessing that rests upon Him. O LORD, make us fruitful in your sight! May we help turn the mourning of mankind into dancing and singing before your throne. Forever let us give you thanks for having been found worthy to suffer dishonor here for the sake of your Name.
Fri, 17 April 2015
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; Jn.6:16-21)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him,
upon those who hope for His kindness.”
As the apostles set out to cross the lake, “it was dark, and Jesus had still not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.” As they struggled to row and keep afloat, “they sighted Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.” They had not expected their prayers for assistance and their wishes that Jesus was with them to be answered so remarkably, and so they must have wondered if He was a ghost. But He assures them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (And these eternal words of comfort and peace come to rest upon His Church.) The disciples of the Lord now were ready “to take Him into the boat, but suddenly it came aground on the shore they had been approaching.” He is with you, brothers and sisters, be assured, and will bring you to the home you seek, despite the storms you may face.
In our first reading, the eyes of the widows must have been looking to the Lord, wishing that He were with them to provide for them. In this case, “the Twelve assembled the community of disciples,” and though they do not enter the boat themselves, do not “wait on the tables” to address the tumult that had arisen between the factions, they provide what is needed to calm the winds and see this boat ashore by laying hands on “deeply spiritual and prudent” men chosen from their own. And so, “the word of God continued to spread” through the apostles’ concentration “on prayer and [their] ministry,” “while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.” So the widows are fed as the Word is spread; so the boat comes aground on the land it approaches.
Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters. In all things He is there, working. He ministers to us always as the head of His Church through the hands and hearts and voices of all His disciples. And each to his own call, and this ship shall find its port assured. And all shall sing His praises as they see in us and we know in Him that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” His eyes are upon us. Do not be afraid.
O LORD, give us our bread this day,
that we might come with your Son
to the farther shore.
YHWH, from death you deliver us; you preserve us in spite of famine. By your own hand you feed us, through your apostles; and them you watch over always as they guide your boat. And so we need not fear – we should but praise your faithful care for our souls, and bodies.
Your Son comes to us across the waters, O LORD, walking steadily though the sea be rough. He is unafraid of the trials and tribulations of this world, caring only that our lives are preserved, seeking always to bring us to our home in you.
O let your Word go forth, dear God, bless those who serve as the ministers of your Church. Our hope in your kindness shall not be disappointed… All shall hear of the blessings upon those who put their trust in you. May all answer that call.
Thu, 16 April 2015
(Acts 5:34-42; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Jn.6:1-15)
“I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living.”
Seeing the vast crowd following Him up the mountain as He seeks to sit with His disciples, Jesus asks the one without guile, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat.” In honesty Philip answers, essentially, “It is impossible.” Ah, but nothing is impossible with God.
Brothers, is it not their seeing “the bounty of the Lord” that causes the apostles to leave the Sanhedrin and the whipping they received at their hands “full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name”? And is not this bounty revealed most clearly here “in the land of the living” in the Bread of Life Jesus provides for us at His Eucharistic table? And so should we not rejoice every day in this miracle?
“Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Are not David’s words the ones Jesus speaks to His children in the feeding of the five thousand? Should the apostles not but sing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” as they stand each with one of the “twelve baskets full of pieces left over” from the miracle brought about at the Lord’s hands? Does He not here convey their mission of feeding His sheep?
And filled by the food at their hands, should not our own reaction be in accord with the joy expressed by the people in that green field, “This is undoubtedly the Prophet who is to come into the world”? For does He not come into us each time we receive Him?
But king He shall not be made, not in this world. No, this world cannot contain His Kingship, for we have a greater than David here. The land of the living will ultimately be not upon this grass beneath our feet, but upon the clouds of Heaven. Thus the persecution comes, you see. Thus those who go about “fighting God Himself” scourge and crucify the Word they cannot bear and the messengers who bring it to their ears. But the ill-treatment that comes by their jealous hands brings no fear but only encouragement to the hearts of His apostles.
Brothers and sisters, let us be as they who “day after day, both in the temple and at home… never stopped teaching and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus the Messiah,” making always this world as one with the kingdom of God.
O LORD, it is by faith we are fed,
and so let us seek you with all our hearts,
with our very lives.
YHWH, let us come to the Eucharistic banquet, that your Son may enter into us and we ever dwell as your temple in this world. Your bounty is revealed now, wrought by the hands of Jesus and brought to us by His disciples – let us partake of the Bread you provide and rejoice in all your blessings.
None can fight you, O LORD our God; none can destroy what you bring to life. And so, though whipped and ill-treated for the sake of the Name of our Savior, we can but rejoice indeed. For you cannot be overcome, nor those upon whom your Spirit rests. As we follow in the footsteps of your Son, we shall ever live with you.
In your House let us indeed make our home; you are our refuge, O LORD, and with you we are never afraid. For the destroying angel shall pass over all who eat of the flesh of the Lamb, all who are anointed by His blood.
Wed, 15 April 2015
(Acts 5:27-33; Ps.34:2,7,9,17-20; Jn.3:31-36)
“The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God;
He does not ration His gift of the Spirit.”
And thus it is that Peter and the apostles, sent by the Lord to speak His words, can boldly proclaim to the Sanhedrin’s chastisement for continuing “to teach about that name”: “Better for us to obey God than men!” In no way do they ration the Spirit as they testify that God “has raised up Jesus whom [they] put to death,” that it is “He whom God has exalted at His right hand as ruler and savior,” that He is “to bring repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” The praise of God and of His Son is “ever in [their] mouth,” for indeed they know the happiness of “the man who takes refuge in Him.”
And they know, too, the folly of those who deny the Truth of God’s presence in Jesus the Christ. For as He Himself says to Nicodemus in our gospel, “Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God,” and as David states in his psalm, “The Lord confronts evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth,” so the blessed Rock and his fellow apostles convey to the high priest and the Sanhedrin as they are persecuted by their hands. Their declaration that not only do they testify to Jesus as the Messiah but “so too does the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those that obey Him,” is a clear indictment of those to whom they speak, those who are deaf to the Spirit’s words. And it is for this implication that they lack the truth that the Sanhedrin “were stung to fury and wanted to kill them.”
But it is they who shall be killed. It is their rule which shall not last, which shall be overcome by the Just One and the Spirit of Truth upon Him and His own. It is Peter, who speaks for all the apostles, who shall lead the New Jerusalem, the holy Church of God. Such chastisement the leaders cannot bear, save perhaps for Nicodemus; the testimony of “the One who comes from heaven” they cannot accept, and so they fail to “certif[y] that God is truthful.” What then shall be left to them?
Brothers and sisters, though the just man find himself “brokenhearted,” “crushed in spirit,” and with many “troubles,” know that “out of them all the Lord delivers him.” And He shall deliver you, if you but speak His truth. Find strength in the witness of the apostles, in the saints and martyrs of all the ages, and in the Lord Himself. He is with the one He sends and so will bless him as he speaks the truth without fear. “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to Him,” and He, in turn, gives to those whom the Spirit inspires. Trust in Him with all your lives.
O LORD, by your risen Son
the evil are confronted and the just lifted up –
let your Spirit be upon us.
YHWH, your Spirit is upon the one who believes in your only Son, for He is from Heaven and so the Spirit is upon Him. Let us be as He is; let us live and speak the truth, despite all threats of persecution, knowing well that you will save us as we cry out to you and for you.
O LORD, let us never disobey you or your Son. For what life can he have who turns from your will? How can the Spirit rest upon him? Let us not be afraid to admit our guilt, that we have put to death our Savior and are responsible for His blood, and so let that blood pour over us for the forgiveness of sins as we repent of what we have done.
Let our hearts not be hardened, LORD, by the chastisement of your Son and those who follow Him. Let us accept their testimony, let us thirst for such truth. For only this will bring us from our earthly bonds to new life in your kingdom – let your Spirit be upon the brokenhearted to carry them to your presence.
Tue, 14 April 2015
(Acts 5:17-26; Ps.34:2-9; Jn.3:16-21)
“He who acts in truth comes into the light,
to make clear that his deeds are done in God.”
Jesus is “the light [that] came into the world,” and “happy the man who takes refuge in Him.” None shall fear anymore who love the Lord, for He shall answer all his cries. And newness of life shall be ours.
The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, “arrested the apostles and threw them into public jail.” They attempt to hide the truth in darkness, to kill the light of the Spirit. “During the night, however, an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the jail [and] led them forth,” telling them to preach again in the temple “about this new life.” And so, “they went into the temple at dawn and resumed their teaching.” Do you see the resurrection at work here, brothers and sisters? Do you see how the Word is rescued from the darkness of night, from the prison into which the world would cast it, and brought into the clear light of dawn? The Truth cannot be chained and death shall never overcome life.
And what do the apostles preach but the words Jesus whispers into the waiting ears of Nicodemus in the middle of the night – bringing him, too, out of the darkness into the Lord’s marvelous light: “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” Eternal life! This is the Word come from God through His only Son begotten in love for us all. The high priest and the Sadducees would hide this; but here one of the leaders listens. He does not question anymore how this can be. And so the seed of eternal life is planted in his heart.
That seed must be planted in all hearts, and so the apostles repeatedly return to preaching, unafraid of the consequences. For how clearly it has been shown them that “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” How well they believe their own words, that in Jesus is found eternal life. In their hearts burns the faith, and so, openly they speak. And though they shall see just how much “men loved darkness rather than light,” yet they shall seek the salvation of all: unto death they shall stand in the light of truth, confident in the resurrection to follow.
May all believe “in the name of God’s only Son” and thus avoid condemnation. May all stand confidently in the Light of the new day, for the darkness of sin and death is banished when we call upon His Name.
O LORD, by faith in your Son and His resurrection,
may we be freed from all condemnation
and come into your light.
YHWH, in the morning light the apostles preach in the temple of the new life found in Jesus, your Son. From the prison of darkness they would rescue all souls, as they themselves have been rescued. Your angel delivers all who love you from death and fear; may our souls glory in the salvation found in your only Son.
That we might not die you sent Jesus into the world as the Light that conquers all darkness, and those who believe in Him come into the light and so find eternal life. There is no power that can chain or imprison your Word, O LORD, for it is your will that it go out to the ends of the earth.
May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed to all men that all who seek the salvation of their souls, all who would be released from their afflictions, might find the freedom of your sons and daughters and do all in you and in your light, O LORD our God.
Mon, 13 April 2015
(Acts 4:32-37; Ps.93:1-2,5; Jn.3:7-15)
“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind.”
This oneness is itself of heaven, is itself the sign that they are “begotten of the Spirit.” And this oneness is reflected in a very real manner in the fact that “none of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common.” This sharing of goods, of “lay[ing] them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to his need,” is but an earthly thing. It is easy to see; it is easy to know, for it deals indeed with the things of the earth. But if like Nicodemus this earthly matter is beyond our comprehension, if we say such living as one on this plane is impossible, how far short we will fall of understanding the oneness that exists on the heavenly plane. For do you not see that one not only reflects the other, but in fact leads to the other? How can one be as the wind which “blows where it will,” how can one’s origin and destination be said to be unknown if one is unduly placed, indeed rooted, in the houses, in the property of this earth? And so Barnabas is indeed a “son of encouragement,” because by selling his entire farm and laying the money derived therewith at the apostles’ feet he is saying: I no longer live here on earth. My home is in heaven.
How tied we can be to earthly things. How blinded by them. And yet they can be a means to heaven, if one gives them to the Lord. For then already here in this world we will begin to see and know the life of heaven. Even now the Spirit shall move within us and our eyes will be opened to see “that all who believe may have eternal life” in Jesus. Yes, by the giving up of our goods, by dying to self in this real way, we may transcend this earthly plane.
“Holiness befits your house, O Lord, for length of days.” Do you not understand this matter, brothers and sisters? Do you not see that you are called here on earth during your limited length of days to live as though in heaven? Do you not know that it is but this which will lead to the unlimited number of days lived in holiness in heaven? Do not think that one is somehow separated from the other, as if heaven can be kept apart, as if its power is not all-encompassing. Here you must begin; even here you must find yourself on that eternal road. For such has Jesus been lifted up, to show you the emptiness of your earthly self. To such oneness with Him and His disciples does He call you – to be a child of heaven. Let us walk together in the Spirit of the Lord and love one another with the love that comes only from God.
O LORD, let us be as the wind,
moved by your holy will alone.
YHWH, in Heaven with you we find our home, not in the things of this earth. And so as we give the things of this earth over to you and your apostles, we draw closer to you and your kingdom. Help us to be born of you, to have life in you and in your Spirit, and not put trust in any possession.
You are King, O LORD, in splendor robed, and holiness alone befits your House. Thus, if we would dwell with you, we must indeed be holy. And to be holy we must be purified of any attachment to this world. As Jesus is lifted up on the Cross, we must be lifted up with Him; as He stands empty of all things, so must we be, if we are to be ready for Heaven – if we are to be raised in glory with Him.
It is in the resurrection of Jesus we take our life, dear God, but to find His resurrection we must first die; to dwell with you in Heaven we must lay down our lives. O may we live here as His disciples!
Sun, 12 April 2015
O martyred Father
of the Church,
you laid down your life
to save her from the enemy,
to preserve her in the truth
of orthodox faith;
unmindful of the humiliation
and exile you bore
at the hands of the king
of this world,
you died that all might know
in His divinity and humanity –
pray we shall indeed be saved
from all temptation
to turn from the faith,
and so find our way
to the kingdom
where now you dwell
with the Lord and all His holy angels.
May our leaders be as strong as you
and we follow them loyally
in the name of our Redeemer.
Sun, 12 April 2015
(Acts 4:23-31; Ps.2:1-9; Jn.3:1-8)
“No one can see the rule of God
unless he is begotten from above.”
“Princes conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed,” we are told in our psalm as well as our first reading. But their rule shall be shattered “like an earthen dish” by the power of the Spirit and God’s anointed One, to whom He gives “the nations as an inheritance.” And in the Book of Acts we see the apostles begin to collect such inheritance “in the name of Jesus,” the “holy Servant” of the Sovereign Lord, the King He has set up “on Zion, [His] holy mountain.” All stream to Him upon seeing the “cures and signs and wonders” worked through them by the Holy Spirit.
In our gospel, it is these undeniable signs of God’s presence which lead a member of the princes who will crucify the Christ to seek understanding from Jesus. And how sad is the question Nicodemus whispers in the night to our Lord: “How can a man be born again once he is old?” It is sad not only because of the futility of his interpretation to “return to his mother’s womb,” but mainly because this is all he can see. He is so of the flesh he cannot understand anything but the flesh; and this sense extends even to the Pharisees’ grasp of the law, which has become as an empty shell void of meaning – bereft of the Spirit as they are. There is hope Nicodemus will hear the words of Jesus; there is possibility other leaders of the people will come to life. But first they will have to leave their vain pursuits behind.
“The wind blows where it will… but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.” So it is with the disciples as by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit “the place where they were gathered shook as they prayed”; and so, filled within with the Holy Spirit they “continued to speak God’s word with confidence.” They are born from above. They have new life in the name of Jesus. All their lives are sacrificed with Him to the will of God. And so the princes have no power over them, but to make them rejoice at the persecution they find at their empty hands.
“You must all be begotten from above,” brothers and sisters. None is to be left behind with the carcasses that gather beneath the eagles’ circling flight. Take refuge in the Lord of Life; be born now in His Spirit.
O LORD, may the house we are in
be shaken by the Holy Spirit, that in Jesus’ Name
we might proclaim the truth before kings.
YHWH, let us be born of the Spirit, let us take life in the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit come through your only Son. In His hands is the inheritance of the nations; in Him all take refuge. Through Him and through His blood we find the strength to proclaim your praise in the face of persecution. Be with us in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Though the Gentiles rage and the kings of this earth conspire against your anointed One and all His children, their violence is in vain because you, O LORD, protect your chosen and give them power over every evil. By a word they are saved; by speaking your Name and declaring your glory, great signs and wonders are worked at their hands, for they are new creatures who take life in you.
O let us be born from above, begotten by your Spirit, O God!
Sat, 11 April 2015
(Acts 4:32-35; Ps.118:1-4,16-18,22-24; 1Jn.5:1-6; Jn.20:19-31)
“His mercy endures forever.”
Our psalmist “was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped” him. The disciples were locked in their rooms for fear, but “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” Thomas was hardened in unbelief, but His God appeared to him and said, “Bring your hand and put it into my side.” We are all sinners, but to us each, Christ offers mercy.
From that side into which Thomas placed his hand “blood and water” poured forth for the cleansing of souls and the realization of new life. The institution of Baptism and the Eucharist had come, and so the Church is born from the side of its Savior. And so all souls are justified; and so all souls find new life. And so all of the “community of believers” become “of one heart and mind.”
This is Divine Mercy Sunday, so proclaimed by the Spirit who testifies through Holy Church, and that to which the Spirit testifies is truth. God’s encompassing mercy our Mother and our Lord would have us celebrate this day – of that which Jesus thirsts to share with us, she and He would have us drink. Let none be unbelieving. Let none despair. Let all be blessed to own that faith which “conquers the world,” that makes us “children of God.” The Lord is ready to forgive men’s sins; He is desirous of this above all things. He has given power to His disciples to forgive in His name… Let all come and share in His mercy.
Let us love God and one another, my brothers and sisters. Let us love the Father by accepting the grace that comes from His Son, and let us love one another by sharing that grace and mercy with everyone. We keep His Word when we share in His mercy, when we swim in the ocean of love the water and blood from His side create. And new life will be our own as it was for the first disciples; there is nothing lacking for “those who have not seen but believed.” In fact, more blessed may we be now, for we must have the greater faith.
Forever the Lord’s mercy endures. Every day it is poured forth. And today we declare in truth its great graces, that all might be one in the Lord.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Cleansing" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your risen Son stands before us
and calls us to touch His hands
and enter into the wounds in His side
that we might believe in Him and be cleansed of sin.
YHWH, Jesus is the Christ, your only Son: let us believe in the preaching of the apostles and become one in His Name. May all have their sins forgiven, their doubt washed away in His blood, that all might declare with Thomas, “My LORD and my God!”
Jesus is God as you are God, O LORD, and we desire to be one with you by the grace and mercy that come to us through His death and resurrection. If we had but faith in Him, we would conquer the world; all sin falls by the wayside when His Spirit is upon us, and we can but shout in victory at the glory in our midst.
O may His peace indeed be with us, the peace which passes not away, the peace that comes to us in the Breath of the Holy Spirit. O LORD, let His nail marks be in our hands and His wound in our side that your love we might know to the depths of our souls.
Fri, 10 April 2015
O soldier of Christ
who stood with courage
against the powers of this world,
leading the troops in your charge
even unto death –
pray that we may remain
loyal to our call,
faithful to the Lord
even unto our own death,
standing strong and tall
against the assaults of the world
and the devil
and forming those entrusted to us
in the ways of God
as you, dear shepherd,
have bravely done.
Let us not be afraid
to shed our blood for the truth,
to suffer persecution
in order to light the way
that leads to life,
the life that is Christ,
who strengthens us with the armor of God.
Fri, 10 April 2015
(Acts 4:13-21; Ps.118:1,14-21; Mk.16:9-15)
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the good news to all creation.”
How faithfully Peter and John accomplish the Lord’s command, and with what strength, so much so that our first reading tells us, “The priests and elders were amazed as they observed [their] self-assurance” – for these “were uneducated men of no standing.” “How can this be?” they must have queried inside. “Then they recognized these men as having been with Jesus.” And so the answer had come: it is from Him all power derives. In His Spirit all God’s disciples “declare the works of the Lord.”
And how wonderfully silenced the leaders of the people are: “When they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them, they could think of nothing to say.” For the works of the Lord speak for themselves, and the power of the Spirit cannot be denied. And though these priests of the Old Covenant attempt to silence the glory of God, telling Peter and John “that under no circumstances were they to speak the name of Jesus or teach about Him,” these first of apostles declare confidently, “We cannot help speaking of what we have heard and seen.” Indeed, “a remarkable show of power [takes] place in them.”
And what have they heard and seen? Our gospel tells us: “Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week.” From Mary Magdalene, to whom He first appeared, “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her.” And the same “good news” is announced to them by the two disciples who had sojourned to Emmaus. And though “they refused to believe it,” and though when “Jesus was revealed to the Eleven,” when they saw His risen presence for themselves, He chastised them “for their disbelief and their stubbornness” – though the doubt from human corruption still clings to them, it shall no longer be so (as evidenced by Peter and John) when Pentecost has come. In the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the Word shall be preached and believed in strength and power.
“The right hand of the Lord has struck with power.” “The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just” has come now in fullness to all His children who hear and see and declare that the Lord is risen. “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior,” sing all the redeemed. As the psalmist “give[s] thanks to the Lord” and the people who had witnessed the great work wrought through the apostles “were praising God for what had happened,” so joy is unbounded for all who enter the “gates of justice” and know in their bones the power of the Spirit at work through the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Brothers and sisters, let your joy be known by all; declare the good news to all the earth, that light may come to a world in darkness.
O LORD, let the Good News of your Son’s resurrection
be proclaimed to all believing souls.
YHWH, your right hand has struck with power, and what can we do but declare the glory of your risen Son by the Spirit that is now upon us? Though we be uneducated men of no standing in this world, yet you make us instruments of your salvation as we proclaim what we have heard and seen and believed – Jesus is indeed raised from the dead and in His Name all souls are raised with Him.
And so, let us enter your House and praise your glory, O LORD our God. Let us not stand outside the gates doubting the Word that comes to us or even persecuting the bearers of such Good News. Let us believe! Let us believe because it is Truth, undeniable, standing before us in the light of day and burning in our hearts.
May all who seek your kingdom be delivered from death and come to you in joy, LORD, by the power of the Spirit Jesus imparts to us.
Thu, 9 April 2015
(Acts 4:1-12; Ps.118:1-2,4,22-27; Jn.21:1-14)
“Jesus is ‘the stone rejected by you the builders
which has become the cornerstone.’”
What Peter has proclaimed to the people, he now proclaims even more boldly to their leaders: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.” Jesus, whom they crucified, is the Messiah. And the same quote Jesus offered the Pharisees after making it clear to them they would lose dominion over God’s vineyard – over His people, over His Church – Peter invokes before the high-priestly class today… for here standing before them is the new authority on earth.
And so, here the Church is gathered, under Peter and the apostles. This day of preaching in Jesus’ name by the power of the Holy Spirit has brought about five thousand children to God, and there shall be no stopping the power of the Word which goes forth to draw in all believers. On the Church goes “proclaiming the resurrection of the dead in the person of Jesus.”
Our gospel today is the perfect parallel to our first reading, and reveals just from where the power of the apostles’ preaching comes. First, it shows Peter as the clear leader. He says among the seven – the number of fullness – disciples assembled: “I am going out to fish.” And they reply: “We will join you.” All night they toil in vain. Why? Because they lack the cornerstone who comes to them in the morning. (Notice in our first reading Peter and John are put in jail for the night to await their trial in the morning. But, ironically, this night is less of a prison than the one spent toiling in vain on the sea… for this day they have been most fruitful; for by this time they have been anointed by the Spirit.)
In the morning Jesus stands upon the shore and instructs them where to cast their net, much as He did when first He called His fishermen apostles. And like that morning, their catch is overwhelming. John cries, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumps into the water to swim to His Jesus as the others tow the net and fish behind him. Once all have come to land, it is Peter who goes “aboard and haul[s] ashore the net loaded with sizable fish” and drops it at the Lord’s feet. But it is the single fish Jesus has prepared which is most important, with which they must begin their feast. For Jesus is that fish Himself, the cornerstone upon whom the tallest of buildings stands. And see how He feeds them as at the Eucharistic table: “Jesus came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” Here the Bread of Life is distributed to those who shall impart it to all others.
One hundred and fifty-three (the number of Hail Marys in a full Rosary, pre-Mysteries of Light) fish are gathered by the disciples in a net beyond the point of breaking. Five thousand men are drawn into the fold by Peter and John’s fearless speaking. God’s Church is here built up on the cornerstone that is Jesus; and so we exclaim with our psalmist today: “O Lord, grant salvation! O Lord, grant prosperity! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light.” Amen.
O LORD, by the resurrection of your Son
and the power of the Holy Spirit upon His apostles
may your Church be filled to overflowing
with believing souls.
YHWH, the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone of your Church, and we are built upon Him and upon the Rock He has set in place as the first of His apostles. From the hands of the leaders of the Jews divine power has been wrested, for now Peter is your high priest and John your scribe. Now only in the Name of Jesus is salvation to be won, and all who come to Him and eat at His table enter into your House.
This is the day you, LORD, have made. Let us rejoice in the blessings now upon us in your Son. For now we are raised from the dead; now we share in His glory… now we know your merciful love and are given strength to do your work in this world.
On the flesh of your Son let us feed, O LORD; His Body let us be. Led by Peter may we come to Him who waits for us upon the shore – in the morning light let us praise your glory!
Wed, 8 April 2015
(Acts 3:11-26; Ps.8:2,5-9; Lk.24:35-48)
“In His name, penance for the remission of sins
is to be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
And so Peter begins the preaching at the temple: “When God raised up His servant, He sent Him to you first to bless you by turning you from your evil ways,” he announces clearly to the Jews, those first to hear of the Savior, Jesus. And again he speaks boldly and repeatedly of their sin: “You disowned the Holy and Just One… You put to death the Author of life,” for it is absolutely essential that they recognize their guilt if they are to find their salvation. How can they repent of what they do not see? How can “a season of refreshment be granted” through Jesus if they do not know that they are despoiled? And brothers and sisters, it is certainly no different for us. We must recognize our own complicity in the Lord’s death or we shall have no place with Him in life. Hear the message of His apostle: “Reform your lives! Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!” If you have nothing to reform, how are you a hearer of the Good News? And if your repentance falls short of knowing the blood of Christ upon your hands, how ineffective it will be.
“All the prophets… have announced the events of these days.” “God has brought to fulfillment by this means what He announced long ago: that His Messiah would suffer.” What Peter proclaims, Jesus confirms in His own teaching to the disciples, “It is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,” as “He opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures.” What must be has been, and now is – Jesus has died and risen. “Look at my hands and my feet; it is really I,” He says to His incredulous apostles. And so in “flesh and bones” the Truth has become known, and this same flesh we eat each day.
The disciples same “sheer joy and wonder” we should share, brothers and sisters. For what is theirs is ours, too. Though “out of ignorance” we crucified Him, in grace we now know Him. And so should we not cry out, “O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth!” Should His blessed care for this sinful man not make us incredulous with joy? For though man is guilty of the Lord’s own death, yet He has “made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.” How little we deserve the Messiah, now glorified in heaven, to be with us; but oh how generous He is. No “power or holiness of our own” has brought us to life – it is His forgiveness that has made us whole.
O LORD, let us proclaim the Name of your risen Son
to all men.
YHWH, how wonderful is the Name of your Son throughout all the earth, for by it all men are healed – all are raised up from their sin and made whole again. With what wonder we should look upon Him risen from the dead; and with what faith we should believe in Him.
O LORD, in the Name of Jesus let penance for the remission of sins be preached to all nations. Beginning at Jerusalem and going forth to the ends of the earth, let it be known that the Messiah has suffered and died and been raised on the third day. May all souls be taught by the apostles you send forth – may we come to understanding of the Scriptures and turn from our sin.
O let us all rejoice in the newness of life He brings! the season of refreshment upon us in His Name. O LORD, let us reform our lives and turn to you that with Him whom you have glorified we might be one.
Tue, 7 April 2015
(Acts 3:1-10; Ps.105:1-9; Lk.24:13-35)
“The Lord is risen! It is true!”
And how it is proven this day! The two disciples find their “hearts burning inside” as He “explain[s] the Scriptures” to them on the road to Emmaus, and then they come “to know Him in the breaking of bread.” “The Eleven and the rest of the company” of disciples rejoice in Jerusalem because “He has appeared to Simon.” And the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate is pulled up by Peter “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean,” and he goes “into the temple with [Peter and John] – walking, jumping about, and praising God.” “Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!”
Brothers and sisters, the Church is as this crippled beggar at the temple gate; it is as these confused disciples sojourning for answers to their deepest questions and fears – it is the whole company assembled and astounded and declaring with joy the truth of God’s presence among us. To the beggar the Lord says with Peter, “Look at us!” To those on the road to Emmaus He says, “How slow you are to believe!” And to all He appears in the breaking of the bread. The beggar He heals; in the seeker He instills faith; and to us all He leaves His Blessed Sacrament, the greatest proof of His presence.
“Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.” And as great as His healing may be, as wonderful as His teaching is, the greatest of these is the table He sets before us and the Body and Blood with which He nourishes us. Here is His love most known, here where we “give thanks to the Lord” and “invoke His name.” For in this we are healed, in this His teaching is made real – until the end of time this shall stand as proof of His presence… in this is ever declared, “The Lord is risen!”
“He remembers His covenant which He made binding for a thousand generations.” Never shall this blessing leave us, brothers and sisters. Always we have His Word at work within us, and always we share His Body and His Blood. Here He remains “powerful in word and deed in the eyes of God and all the people.” Let us not fail to declare all He has done for us; let us never be afraid to proclaim His truth. For then all shall be “struck with astonishment”; then all shall know the Risen Lord.
O LORD, in our astonishment let us rejoice
at Jesus’ risen presence among us.
YHWH, your Son has been raised and for this we praise you, for it means our salvation – we who were once crippled by sin, by His death and resurrection are made whole again, and so the words of your prophets are fulfilled. May we recognize Him each day in the breaking of the Bread, and may we live with Him now and forever.
O LORD, let us invoke the Name of your only Son and we shall know His salvation, we shall know the grace and mercy that pour forth from His sacrifice. He had to suffer and die at the hands of His own people that His people and all who would come to Him might be saved from their sin. For this blessing He has imparted to us let us dance and sing on this holy day.
Jesus is the One who sets all men free; dear LORD, let us know His risen presence in our midst this very hour and always.
Mon, 6 April 2015
O good teacher
of the poor boys in your care,
minister of the Lord
to those most in need,
with what humble affection
you carried out your work
in educating souls
in the Gospel of Christ
and guiding others to do the same –
pray that we, too,
shall give ourselves in sacrificial silence
to the call the Lord has placed
upon our souls,
and especially that teachers
of the young and disadvantaged
will find grace and strength
from our Lord
to carry out in truth and love
their work for Christ and His Church.
May the Temple of God
be built up on this earth
in all poor souls
washed in Christ’s blood.
Mon, 6 April 2015
(Acts 2:36-41; Ps.33:4-5,18-20,22; Jn.20:11-18)
“Let the whole house of Israel know beyond any doubt
that God has made both Lord and Messiah
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Brothers and sisters, we are all as Mary Magdalene who “stood weeping beside the tomb,” and like the Jews who were “deeply shaken” by the words of Peter. Though it is to the Chosen people “that the promise was made,” it extends “to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls.” To all sinners, to all who ask His apostles, “What are we to do, brothers?” the Lord responds: “Reform and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven”; indeed, then we “shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – then our eyes shall be opened to His presence among us as we turn to Him in tears.
“She turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there,” this greatest of sinners become most faithful disciple. And as He speaks the name of her who cares only for Him – “Mary!” – so He calls “each one” of us who come to Him in our desperation by name; so He cares for all sinners who love Him and seek Him with all their heart. And the same joy that she has known shall also be ours; we shall declare, “I have seen the Lord!” to all who wait to hear of Him.
“Save yourselves from this generation which has gone astray,” Peter urges his fellow Jews on Pentecost day, and “some three thousand” accepted his message and were baptized. Here is where the Church begins to grow, here among those who crucified the Lord – here among His own brothers in the flesh. And though the message is primarily to them this day, indeed it is for all who would be grafted to this tree of life, to this race of whom Jesus is come. For, indeed, it is so that all are sinners, that all bear the guilt of His crucifixion; and so to all who hear His call for repentance, forgiveness may come, and the Spirit follow.
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him… to deliver them from death.” What was sung of under the Old Covenant is even more true today; and so let what was true of those faithful under the Old be so with us now. Let it be that “our soul waits for the Lord.” Let us declare, “Upright is the word of the Lord,” and the Word in its fullness shall be ours, and the tears we cry shall be answered quickly by our Lord and Savior who calls us each by name.
O LORD, let us ascend to where your Son is,
far from this world of sin,
even to your side.
YHWH, baptized in tears we cry out to you that we might see your only Son, that we might know He is risen from the dead and sits now at your right hand. Leave us not alone in this world with our sins and weakness, but let your Word please strengthen us; in your mercy deliver us from death.
We have crucified the Holy One; we have killed our Lord. The Messiah has come to save us from our sins, to reunite us with you, O God, and we have turned away from Him and laid Him in a tomb. And what are we to do now? What can save us now that our very life we have murdered?
O LORD, let us be truly repentant of our sins and baptized in the Name of the One you have raised from the dead. To Him let us cling this day, to Him who has ascended on high. In Jesus may we be blessed to make our home, freed from the darkness of the tomb.
Sun, 5 April 2015
(Acts 2:14,22-33; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Mt.28:8-15)
“You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.”
“It was impossible that death should keep its hold on Him.” And so “the paths of life” we now walk; “joy in [His] presence” is ours – “in confidence” we abide forever. For God has “raised Him up again,” this Jesus, our Lord. Let us be witnesses of His truth to the ends of the earth. Like Peter, our Holy Father, let us be faithful to the Word at work within us.
As the women “ran to carry the good news to [Jesus’] disciples” that He, the Lord, was no longer in the tomb, in the belly of this earth, the guards ran to the chief priests, who concocted a lie. See how the ways diverge between truth and lie. And see today the power with which Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, stands up even amongst those who had Jesus crucified, and proclaims the truth of the risen Lord. And God is with Him. He has heard the Lord’s words: “Peace!” and “Do not be afraid!” He knows full well that his soul will never be abandoned to the netherworld; he has life at work in him, the life that comes from “the resurrection of the Messiah.” And so he witnesses in strength, as do our popes to this day.
Let us “live on in hope,” brothers and sisters, “half-overjoyed and half-fearful,” though only with the fear of God which overwhelms our souls, and He will be before us always, speaking words of peace; and we will see Him walking in the places He was wont to walk on earth… and we will see Him walking everywhere we walk. For by our side will He be constantly in the power of the Spirit to lead and guide us always unto Life, the life that is already with us and will never leave us.
The Lord is risen, alleluia! The powers of death and hell shall never touch us, for in Him alone do we “take refuge,” He alone is our “allotted portion and cup” – in Him alone do we believe, and so we “shall not be disturbed” even by the darkness of night. The Light has dawned; in Him let our souls rejoice.
O LORD, let us take refuge in your Son,
who was not abandoned to the nether world
but lives and goes before us this day.
YHWH, in your Son we find the path to life, the path upon which the Spirit guides us. In His resurrection we are preserved from death and take eternal refuge. Nothing shall disturb us now that Jesus has been raised from the dead, for death no longer has power over us. Let us have but faith in Him and in His reassuring presence among us.
O LORD our God, our hope is in you and in the One who sits upon your throne. He is the Son of David who has conquered death and in whom there is no corruption. And if we believe that He is the One, to the grave we shall not come. For in Him we enter life.
The lies of this world let us leave far behind, O LORD. In truth alone let us make our home and the Spirit of Truth will be upon us to free us from death’s bitter pangs. He has died that we might live; let us find our peace in Him.
Sat, 4 April 2015
O great preacher
who taught so well
the love of God
and the precepts of the Church,
who worked with such zeal
to repair the breach
within the Church
in a time of corruption –
pray that now the Word
may again go forth
to the ends of the earth,
that all might hear
the voice of the Spirit
speaking in their hearts
and turn resolutely
from their sins
to the grace of the Lord;
and pray, too,
there will be priests
to preach God’s Word
with that same loving zeal
you had for the Church
and every soul.
Sat, 4 April 2015
(Acts 10:34a,37-43; Ps.118:1-2,16-17,22-24; Col.3:1-4 or 1Cor.5:6b-8;
Jn.20:1-9 or Lk.24:13-35)
“Everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins
through His name.”
“His mercy endures forever,” brothers and sisters, and it is for us to “declare the works of the Lord”: that Jesus was “raised on the third day,” that He lives, that He still is “healing all those oppressed by the devil.” With Peter and the apostles we must “preach to the people and testify” that “the right hand of the Lord is exalted.” Yes, “they put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree,” but “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Yes, we all bear guilt for the death of the Son, but in His rising He brings about the death of our sin.
Brothers and sisters, “you were raised with Christ” and should have nothing more to do with sin. “Christ is seated at the right hand of God,” and we must be seated there with Him. To Him should we raise our eyes for our “life is hidden with Christ in God.” “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” No more should sin find place in us or grow within us unto death, but now that new life has come, we should find our place with Him.
Peter and John ran to the tomb upon hearing the news that Jesus was not there. Upon entering, they “saw and believed,” they “understood the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead.” Upon believing, death no longer held dominion over them; and soon they would proclaim to all the world the Gospel of life and peace. Soon the cornerstone of truth would take hold of all who heard their words, and grow in time unto heaven. And His kingdom shall not be removed.
Brothers and sisters, each day the Lord opens the Scriptures to us as we gather as His children. Each day we recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. Each day we are called to make known the glory of the resurrection we hold in “our hearts burning within as He [speaks] to us on the way.” Here at His table we receive Him each day in Word and in Sacrament. May all men know the gift of life that is ours through the forgiveness of sins He offers. Let us pray that all will believe.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Every Day Is Christmas" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, He whom we crucified has been raised;
the tomb is empty
and His Word now burns in our souls – Alleluia!
YHWH, your Son has truly been raised. Alleluia! And this stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone of your Church. Let us be built up in Him and come to His glory. Alleluia!
Help us, O LORD, to keep our eyes fixed on Him and on the glory to which He leads us. In Him we find the forgiveness of our sins and so become new men. Let us not turn back as we walk on the road with Him; may His Word always burn in our hearts along our way to you, and may we partake always of His precious Body and Blood until we are present with Him in your eternal kingdom.
O LORD, we praise you for your glory, for your grace that has come into our lives and leads us to union with you. O let us die and be raised with Christ! Let us humbly run to the empty tomb and declare with His disciples that He has been raised. Let all hear His Word and believe in Him, and so enter into His glory. Alleluia!
Fri, 3 April 2015
O learned man
whose wisdom remained
not only in the mind
but found practice
in the Church of God,
you who read and studied Scripture
not just for its own sake
but that the Word might be implemented
amongst your flock –
pray we too might live
with the Word of God,
that we too might share
the light He would impart
to every soul.
Pray God’s grace
touch our innermost minds,
that the understanding our ear receives
will penetrate to our heart;
and pray, dear shepherd,
that God’s Word permeate
His Church as a whole,
led by servants as learned as you
in the way of love and truth.
Fri, 3 April 2015
(Gn.1:1-2:2; Ps.104:1-2,5-6,10,12-14,24,35 or Ps.33:4-7,12-13,20-22; Gn.22:1-18; Ps.16:5,8-11; Ex.14:15-15:1; Ex.15:1-6,17-18; Is.54:5-14; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; Is.55:1-11; Is.12:2-6; Bar.3:9-15,32-4:4; Ps.19:8-11; Ez.36:16-17a,18-28; Ps.42:3,5,43:3,4;
Rom.6:3-11; Ps.118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Mt.28:1-10 or Mk.16:1-7 or Lk.24:1-12)
“He is not here.”
The women come faithfully to the tomb early Easter morning. What do they find but that the stone is rolled back from its gaping mouth; and angel(s) in white deliver unto them the message of the ages: “He has been raised.”
This night, this early morning, we are led through salvation history, through our own history as human beings made in the image of God here upon the face of the earth, souls coming unto heaven. “Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield,” is the song of the Old Testament. From the beginning of Creation our hearts are set on Him. Along the way “Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,” prefiguring the Father’s own sacrifice of His Son for our sins and our salvation. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, out of the land of sin, through the Red Sea, “with the water like a wall to their right and to their left,” prefiguring our Baptism as Christians; and they “sing to the Lord for He is gloriously triumphant,” prefiguring our own joy.
Always we are reminded by the prophets of old: “The Lord calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit.” And he who heard the call even then sang, “O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from those going down into the pit.” Yes, repeatedly the Lord calls out through His prophets: “Come to the water!… Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” He promises, “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.” We who “have forsaken the fountain of wisdom” by the sin that plagues our inheritance are called back to “the One who established the earth for all time… before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice”; we are called to cling to the Word of God, to Wisdom: “Turn, O Jacob, and receive her: walk by her light toward splendor.” For the sake of His Name, the Lord who “scattered them among the nations” now beckons His children home. And those of faith sing with David, “Send forth your light and your fidelity; they shall lead me on and bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place.”
Brothers and sisters, we know that “we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death,” the death to sin. And having been “buried with Him,” we are also raised with Him this night, this morning, that “we too might live in newness of life.” Now His holy dwelling place is here among us with the purest of light that rises this day. Let us be children of this holy Light. No longer in the tomb let us dwell.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from My Eye" (third part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, from the tomb your Son has been raised,
and we shall be raised with Him.
YHWH, your Son is no longer in the tomb, and we have escaped with Him. It is the third day and He has been raised, just as He said. The stone is rolled away and so now all souls may leave the darkness of this world behind and come with Jesus to the light of Heaven.
You have led us to this day, O LORD, throughout all our history, it has always been your intention to save our souls and raise us to you, even from the time of Creation. And so you called Abraham to sacrifice his son; and so you led the Israelites out of Egypt. Your Wisdom has been upon your people every step of our way that we might be wed to you in your eternal kingdom.
And now in the death and resurrection of your Son you fulfill your will among us. And now we who are baptized into His death are raised to glory with Him. Let it be declared to all, LORD, that the Christ is no longer in the tomb, but awaits us all in new life.
Thu, 2 April 2015
(Is.52:13-53:12; Ps.31:2,6,12-13,15-17,25,Lk.23:46; Heb.4:14-16,5:7-9; Jn.18:1-19:42)
“He shall be raised high and greatly exalted.”
Here is your king: “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews,” Pilate has written upon His cross. Here He is lifted up, where “many were amazed at Him – so marred was His look beyond human semblance and His appearance beyond the sons of man.” Yet “shall He startle many nations; because of Him kings shall stand speechless.” The Scripture passage is fulfilled: “They will look upon Him whom they have pierced.” And there they shall see that He who “was spurned and avoided by people… one of those from whom people hide their faces,” held in “no esteem” as He was… this same “lamb led to the slaughter” “shall divide the spoils with the mighty”; for as He has been lifted up on the cross, debased beyond all others, so He shall be raised on high in His kingdom, one with the Father in heaven. Here they “wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on His head.” Here they “clothed Him in a purple cloak, and they came to Him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews.’ And they struck Him repeatedly.” But there no mockery shall He know; there all shall see that He is the Son of God.
Brothers and sisters, “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.” Our weaknesses He has known in full, and now He brings us “light in fullness of days.” Though on earth “He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears,” now has He become “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” For all the tears He shed, all the scourging He underwent, all the humiliation He experienced and the death He knew, were all for our sake. “It was our infirmities that He bore, our sufferings that He endured.” And having suffered in our stead for the sins of those by whom He is condemned, now He has come unto what is His own, and invites us there as well.
“He shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.” The guilt of the nations is removed by Him who had “no guilt in Him,” and is known by all who “take refuge” in His wounds. And so, “take courage and be stouthearted, all you who hope in the Lord”; though we, too, may be “an object of reproach” in this world of sin, He awaits us all in His heavenly kingdom. And for this we call this Friday “good.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?" (second half) from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, on this day we killed your only Son –
may we look upon Him whom we have pierced
that our sins might be forgiven.
YHWH, your Son suffers a violent death at the hands of wicked men that our sins might be taken away. All our offenses you lay upon His shoulders, and this innocent Lamb becomes expiation for our transgression. Only by His bearing the Cross will we be freed; only by His shedding of blood will we be washed clean – only by looking upon Him lifted high on the Tree will we come to realize how we have separated ourselves from you who are Life, how we have wrought our own death.
And so Jesus takes upon Himself the guilt of us all; and so by His stripes we are healed. This broken, beaten Man whose divinity none can see startles all souls as He enters into His glory. O LORD, may we take our refuge in Him!
There is no salvation apart from the Christ; there is no sacrifice that could atone for our sins except that made by this High Priest. LORD our God, let us know that He is One with you, and let us worship Him as our only King.
Wed, 1 April 2015
O little one,
holy and true,
who wanted no more
than to leave the world
that you might draw closer
but who was followed by the world
and called to teach the world
of the way of holiness
in our blessed Lord –
pray we shall follow His path
of Passion and death,
death to self
and all animosity, all hatred,
finding thereby His peace,
peace in His Spirit
O that we might be sanctified!
our hearts converted to God,
following your example,
which leads to the Cross
and so the resurrection
of our humble Jesus.
Wed, 1 April 2015
(Ex.12:1-8,11-14; Ps.116:12-13,15-18,1Cor.10:6; 1Cor.11:23-26; Jn.13:1-15)
“This cup is the New Covenant in my blood.”
For this cup holds the Blood of our Lord. And, “Seeing the blood, I will pass over you,” says the Lord. “When I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.” As the Israelites mark each of their houses with the blood of a lamb, so our bodies are marked by the Blood of the Lamb; and so we are saved by the Lord our God and become temples of His Spirit.
“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” the psalmist cries in joy. Each day we “offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,” taking up “the cup of salvation” and “call[ing] upon the name of the Lord”: each day we partake of His blessed Body and Blood. And sharing in this celebration of the Eucharist we “proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes”; and so, into our midst He comes.
“He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist” as “a model to follow”: “as I have done for you, you should also do.” He says to His brothers in the upper room the night “His hour had come to pass from this world to the Father”: “You ought to wash one another’s feet.” And so by this teaching, and so by His masterful lead, He multiplies His presence in the world through His twelve apostles. And so shall these souls by whom the Bread of Life is multiplied, by whom we have inheritance with the Lord, wash the feet of all His followers by their witness and the ministry they shall bring to the ends of the earth. And so shall all who have bathed in His Blood be made clean for the Holy Day.
And we, as they, as the Lord, find the strength to lay down our lives in service of one another by being as our Jesus, who was “fully aware that the Father had put everything in His power and that He had come from God and was returning to Him.” Any power that any have comes only from the Father, and comes only through the Son, and is known only in His Blood – which all must share, by which all must be anointed, if we are to be preserved until the coming of the Christ again into this world of darkness.
Writen, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us be washed clean
in the blood of your Son,
and so protected from all harm;
let us live in His New Covenant,
eating His Body and drinking His Blood.
YHWH, as your Son has laid down His life, the innocent Lamb sacrificed for our sins; as He has bowed down to wash our feet that we might be made clean and have inheritance with Him; so let us be humble and serve one another in His Name. Let His blood be upon us to save us from condemnation – let us die with Him that we might live again.
In His feast let us partake, of His very Body and Blood. At His table let us sit, His disciples ready to follow Him. Indeed, even as we eat let us be prepared to go out and serve, to step from the table where we have been nourished and into the way of the Cross. Far from Egypt we would be taken, LORD, far from all our sin; and others we would see follow Him in the path to the kingdom.
He has died that we might live – O LORD, let us be His children!
Tue, 31 March 2015
(Is.50:4-9; Ps.69:8-10,21-22,31,33-34; Mt.26:14-25)
“The Son of Man is departing, as Scripture says of Him.”
Of Him in Scripture we read, “Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” Even as death approaches, even as His betrayer goes forth (perhaps especially at this dark time), He sets His face “like flint” to confront those who oppose Him, those who would destroy Him. In His own voice He speaks to us in the first reading and the psalm of His trial and His resolve: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard,” though “they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” And He stands alone before such blasphemy – “I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none.”
Though only one of the Twelve betrays Him, all abandon Him in His brokenness; none stands by His side as He “bear[s] insult” in the Name of God. But the Father does not desert Him: “See, the Lord God is my help.” “For the Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” And when He cries from the cross, it is not His fate He bemoans, but our own, whose dark separation from God He takes upon Himself as our guilt He bears.
Yes, He must depart in this way; He must suffer at our hands. But that it is written so, and that by this our souls are made whole, in no way nullifies that we have sinned – sin remains the evil it is. As for Judas, yet it would have been “better for him if he had never been born,” for the fires of hell are real; and as for the souls who abandon Him, as for all His disciples, it is only through similar darkness that we shall come back to His light.
Tears will fill our eyes as we look upon Him whom we have pierced. Yet, fear not, for the Lord hears the cry of the “lowly ones… who seek God”; and Scripture speaks just as faithfully of the third day.
O LORD, zeal for your House consumes your Son,
and so He is betrayed by one of His own
for thirty pieces of silver.
YHWH, your Son is betrayed by one who sits at table with Him, and by all He will be abandoned, left alone to die upon a cross. Yet He goes as you call Him; freely He accomplishes your will, with complete faith in your protection, with the strength found only in your love. O help us to be as He is! to bear all with patience, to so freely offer our backs for beating and our faces for spitting upon.
O how shall we go from putting gall in His food to being fed at His table in the kingdom if you do not help us, O LORD our God? We have no hope if you have no mercy on our poor souls. Let us find the strength He takes in you.
Only one of the Twelve betrays Him, only one hands Him over for crucifixion, but we all line the path He must tread – we are all cause for His shame. Dear LORD, in His sacrifice may we find freedom from such sin.
Mon, 30 March 2015
(Is.49:1-6; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; Jn.13:21-33,36-38)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
The Lord is with His servant, with Israel, with Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God: “From my mother’s womb you are my strength… O God, you have taught me from my youth.” And to this “sharp-edged sword” the Lord had concealed “in the shadow of His arm,” to this “polished arrow” He has hidden in His quiver, God says: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” He who was called from birth, given His name in His mother’s womb, prepared before all the ages, now comes to reveal the glory of God.
And how is it “the Son of Man [is] glorified and God is glorified in Him”? We see in our gospel the moment the glorification begins; we see in our gospel the path by which it comes. At table at the Last Supper Jesus grows “deeply troubled,” for the time of His betrayal has come. Judas eats the morsel of food dipped in the dish and “immediately after, Satan entered his heart.” Then, “no sooner had Judas eaten the morsel than he went out,” and, we are told, “It was night.” And immediately upon Judas’ leaving, the Lord proclaims His glorification has begun.
Here begins the Passion. Here begins the first of the three days Jesus will spend in the belly of the earth. How unlike the days the Servant spent in His mother’s womb these days shall be! And yet it is precisely these days and in this way that what God has prepared for Him and for all creation shall come to its fulfillment. Now shall the arrow be sharpened fully and shot forth to pierce all men’s hearts with truth – even as the nails pierce His hands and the sword His side. Through the depths of such absolute darkness, light shall shine forth, and this light shall in time reach to the ends of the world.
Now the time has come. Now all shall abandon Him. Now by the Suffering Servant shall all be saved.
O LORD, make us glorious in your sight,
even as your Son has been glorified by His sacrifice.
YHWH, now the darkness falls upon your Son and He is prepared to be glorified. In the death He must endure He will be revealed as the light of the world. Though we cannot follow Him now, let us soon follow where He leads. Help us, dear God, to lay down our lives with Him that we might come to Heaven.
He has been hidden for all ages, concealed in the shadow of your arm, LORD; but now this arrow is shot forth, this sword unveiled for all eyes to see. Now is the time for all to be justified by His holy sacrifice. O let us join with Him! Let us not fear the darkness which sets upon this corrupted earth but suffer its betrayal with the patience of the Son of Man.
In Him let us take our refuge, LORD; let us be one with your Servant. To this world help us bring His light, you who have been our trust from our Mother’s womb.
Sun, 29 March 2015
(Is.42:1-7; Ps.27:1-3,13-14; Jn.12:1-11)
“I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations.”
He has come “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who dwell in darkness.” “He establishes justice on the earth,” and this justice is His bringing light to our darkness. But He could not release us from the dungeon unless He Himself had entered the dungeon. How else could light penetrate the darkness? And so He not only enters the veil of flesh, humbling Himself to be born as a man, but also gives Himself up to the death we all must die – in our own form He pays the wages of our sin, that we might be released from its prison.
How could we “be stouthearted” “when evildoers come at [us] to devour [our] flesh,” we who are so weakened by the scourges of sin, if He had not strengthened us by standing in our stead? How could we truly say with David, “Though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust,” if He had not defeated the enemy which comes against us? We can say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” only because Jesus has brought God’s justice into our very midst, to our flesh and to our bone, by entering into the world of darkness we have created and taking upon Himself the death we deserved.
Lazarus, who sits at table with Jesus a week before His own death, is a sign of our release from the dungeon, from the tomb of our sin. As “Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in Him on account of Lazarus,” so should all be drawn to the promise of new life which the Lord shall fulfill now in His death and resurrection. And as we enter Holy Week, as we prepare ourselves for the great mysteries of our faith, how appropriate for Jesus to sit at table “in the land of the living” with this dead man. See that He will sit with us all just so in the kingdom of heaven.
Now the light comes; now justice is done. The aromatic fragrance of His holy sacrifice fills this house, and darkness shall be banished forever.
O LORD, your Son is the light
which saves us even from death;
let us die and rise with Him.
YHWH, as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so all who believe will be raised with Him and sit at His table in Heaven. As He defended Mary from Judas’ attack, so He will advocate for us all against the accusations of the evil one, so we will be protected from all condemnation and come into the light of your presence. Though we dwell as if in a dungeon here, release we shall soon find in the offering of your Son. From all our enemies we shall be saved; let us stand fast with Jesus.
The fragrance of the Spirit fills our souls even as darkness closes in. O LORD, your promise to us is sweet indeed and gives us courage in this world. For what victory has our Savior not won, what power has withstood His justice? And so, even death He tramples underfoot as in a tomb He is laid.
Sat, 28 March 2015
(Is.50:4-7; Ps.22:2,8-9,17-20,23-24; Phil.2:6-11;
Mt.26:14-27:66 or Mk.14:1-15:47 or Lk.22:14-23:56)
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
“The whole people” cry out for the death of Jesus. “Let Him be crucified,” they shout ever more loudly. The sins of us all demand the death of the Son. And though He would have us not bear such guilt – “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me” – and though even after we have succeeded in our lust for innocent blood, He forgives… yet bear such a burden we must, to find release from its punishment under the shadow of His cross, where, upon the opening of our eyes in the fear of our crimes and the power of Him whom we have crucified, we shall proclaim, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
Yes, it is an irony that the blood of this “King of the Jews,” the Chosen of the chosen, the Messiah, the Son of God, is upon our souls both for condemnation for the great crime all commit in crucifying the Lord always by our sins; and, of course, for our salvation by its cleansing the same sin from our souls through our belief in Him Who Is. And so He accepts our mockery. And so He remains silent before our accusations against Him. And so He “set [His] face like flint,” enduring “buffets and spitting”; as “many dogs surround” Him and “a pack of evildoers closes in,” He endures all for our sakes, knowing only this will bring us to open our eyes and see the light that is the love of God. “They have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.” Could more of a sacrifice be made for sinful man? Could greater than this be accomplished in the name of God? What more need you to believe? O let His blood pour upon you!
Brothers and sisters, Christ Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness… becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” God has come among us and suffered all for our sake, that we might be washed clean of all the evil within us by His gentle acceptance of all our hatred, of all our doubt and fear, of all the violence we could mount, saying to our heart: “I love you still, and my Father, too,” that we might return to the grace that is ours in Him. Let us not be ashamed to bend the knee “at the name of Jesus.” Let “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to Him; revere Him all you descendants of Israel.” Let His blood pour upon your soul.
Written, read & chanted, and published by James Kurt.
Music: "My God. My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?" (first half) from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your Son humbles Himself
to die on a cross for us,
and we can but lay Him in a tomb –
how shall we be saved?
YHWH, your Son is led to death, even to crucifixion, but He turns not His face away from the buffets and the spitting, from the mockery of sinful men. He sets Himself to undergo all the suffering that is rightly ours to bear – and all the while we sleep, we take our rest.
All abandon your Son, O LORD; He is left quite alone. None is able to defend Him, to stand with Him in His place upon the Cross. No, we betray Him by our faithlessness, and so now must endure the sight of His bloodied corpse splayed upon the Cross.
O LORD our God, let us not fail to repent of our sin, of our crucifying the Son of Man. Let us not fail to recognize who He is and what He has done for us in His Person and death. This day let us partake of His Body and Blood that we might be taken with Him from the Skull place to your right hand in Heaven.
Fri, 27 March 2015
(Ez.37:21-28; Jer.31:10-13; Jn.11:45-57)
“My sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.”
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to “gather [His people] from all sides to bring them back to their land”; He is the “one prince for [us] all” by whom God makes complete the “everlasting covenant” with us: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” It is He “who make[s] Israel holy,” who makes us all one in Himself. And so, “no longer shall [we] defile [our]selves,” but we “shall live by [His] statutes and carefully observe [His] decrees” now written upon our hearts by the power of the Spirit upon His flesh and blood.
In our gospel the Sanhedrin fear the loss of the Jewish nation on earth when they say, “The Romans will come and sweep away our sanctuary and our nation” because of the wonders Jesus performs and the power He has over all people. So when Caiaphas asks, “Can you not see that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed?” it is of the protection of the temple and its worship he speaks and which is his concern. But, of course, he unwittingly prophesies the salvation of all in the eternal, heavenly Temple of the New Jerusalem, where Jesus “gather[s] into one all the dispersed children of God.”
Yes, “Jesus would die for the nation”; He would give Himself that all might live. The plan “to kill Him” He shall allow to bear fruit; though all are on the lookout to apprehend Him, yet He shall come to the feast to offer Himself as the spotless Lamb of Passover, to purge the nation of its sins and protect it from final damnation. And so, “He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, He guards them as a shepherd His flock.” And so we should “come streaming to the Lord’s blessings: the grain, the wine, and the oil” – so we should come now and consume His Body and His Blood. For the New Covenant is now set in place; His sanctuary is here among us. And forever He is seated in the heavenly kingdom to make intercession for us and for the purging of our sins, to draw into the presence of the Father all His holy children.
He is “likely to come to the feast,” brothers and sisters, for the feast would be nothing without Him. It is His sacrifice alone which “turn[s] our mourning into joy,” which “shall make [all] merry and dance” in the sanctuary of God’s love.
O LORD, by the blood of your Son
gather into one all your dispersed children.
YHWH, your feast is prepared and we are called now to enter in to the dancing and joy of your kingdom. Your sanctuary is set up in our midst, your Son has come into our presence, and so we become one holy nation in Him. Though He must die to save us and unite us, He shall face such a fate openly, and so lead us to the heights of Zion.
Up to Jerusalem Jesus comes with all the people for the Passover feast. The Temple you have set up comes now to the temple made by human hands; and though the latter shall soon be destroyed, the former shall never pass away but be set up forever as our dwelling place. O let us worship you, LORD, in your holy Temple!
Jesus is indeed our salvation and the New Covenant founded in His Body and Blood is now among us. O LORD, let your sacrificial Lamb be prince over us that we may come streaming to His blessings.
Thu, 26 March 2015
(Jer.20:10-13; Ps.18:2-7; Jn.10:31-42)
“He has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked.”
As Jeremiah’s persecutors surround him on every side but are “put to utter shame” when he calls out to the Lord, so as the Jews “again tried to arrest Him,” Jesus again “eluded their grasp.” And so when “the breakers of death surged around [us], the destroying floods overwhelmed [us]...” so when our sins seemed to have conquered our souls, the Lord came to save us.
Evil is all around. Always there is “terror on every side!” and those who would shout, “Denounce! Let us denounce him!” because of our missteps, because of our stumbling into sin. Ever the devil is on the watch to trap us with his wiles and cast our souls into “the netherworld.” But always, too, the Lord is present, and when to Him we entrust our cause, saying with David, “O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,” whenever we call upon His name, He hears and saves us from “the snares of death.” “Praised be the Lord, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies,” David sings. “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord,” Jeremiah echoes, and he, too, is safe. All who call upon Him He hears, and affords them His salvation.
“The Jews reached for rocks to stone Him,” but still He called to their hearts: “Many good deeds have I shown you from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” Still He invites them to look upon the good works He has done in His Father’s name to see that He is indeed the Son; still He desires their salvation. The signs He performs are recognized by many people who thus “come to believe in Him,” but the hardness of heart of these the leaders continues to blind their eyes to the truth of what John the Baptist said and what He is. This ignorance shall find its ultimate expression soon in the crucifixion of the Son of God; but even from this the Lord shall deliver Him – and by this sacrifice we shall all be saved. And many more will come to know thereby that He is God.
The Lord rescues all our souls when we cry out to Him. Let us put all trust in His saving grace.
O LORD, thank you for hearing our cries;
from death you have delivered us
by the grace of your Son
YHWH, let us come to believe that Jesus is your Son, one with you and the source of our salvation. You rescue from the power of the wicked all who put their trust in Him; even from death we are preserved by taking our refuge in Him. And so, why should we doubt His divinity?
In our distress you looked upon us, dear LORD, and heard us as we called out to you; and so you sent your only Son to answer our deepest prayers. We were enmeshed in the snares of death but from the netherworld you saved our souls, giving us safety in the blood of Jesus, the Christ. We thank you and we praise you, O God, for your grace upon us.
O let us ever praise your Name, our LORD and God, and we shall be ever safe from our enemies. Let us take our refuge in the flesh of your Son and nothing shall ever harm us. May our cry always come to your ears.
Wed, 25 March 2015
(Gn.17:3-9; Ps.105:4-9; Jn.8:51-59)
“Before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
Abraham is a great man, the blessed patriarch, to whom God made the promise: “I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” So Abraham becomes “the father of a host of nations,” not just by lineage, but by faith in the promise God has given him and the keeping of the covenant with Him. Abraham is father to all who believe in the one God: the sons of Israel, the Jews; the sons of Ishmael, the Muslims; and all who worship the living Lord and “seek to serve Him constantly.”
Yet as great as Abraham is, as fertile as he has become, Jesus is the greater and the more prosperous, for He Himself is the Lord our God, from whom Abraham receives his promise and so his greatness. “Abraham rejoiced that he might see [Jesus’] day. He saw it and was glad.” For here come to us is the only Son of the God before whom he “prostrated himself”; here is the Lord of all the nations of whom Abraham is father.
Jesus is equal with the Father, coeternal and all-powerful. He does not make Himself so but receives such glory from the Father, with whom He is always. How hard it is for the Jews to hear this. Though according to their faith they have been waiting for just such arrival of the Holy One, of the Messiah, yet their hearts are unable to accept such divine wonder. And so “they picked up rocks to throw at Jesus” upon His solemn declaration of His divinity.
Is it not just so hard for all of us who call ourselves believers to come to terms with the awesome majesty of Jesus our God? It seems something so far beyond our belief, that God could walk in our midst. And yet HE IS; and so we must see how much greater than any man He is. For though fully a man born in time and murdered upon a cross, yet He is God, living forever as Lord of all. So great a gift, so wonderful a presence, is all that assures us that we “shall never see death” but be as He is, alive in the kingdom as He has promised. Keep His word, and the Word of Life will be with you.
O LORD, a greater than Abraham we have in your Son,
for He is God with you –
let us live forever in Him.
YHWH, your Son is God with you, dear Father, the great I AM; and He would bring us where you are, to a life that passes not away. How could we die if we were with you? For you are Life itself, and your Son with you.
Abraham is the father of many nations; many lives came to be through him and all of faith find a father in him who was of the greatest faith. But you are the Father of Abraham, dear LORD, and Jesus is your Son – and so Jesus Himself is as Abraham’s Father, coming before him and giving life to him as He does.
O may He give us life, too, Father on high. In your Name let Him speak to us of your surpassing glory, a glory He shares with you and which He would share with us (as He has shared it with Abraham) if we would but listen and believe. Be our God forever, LORD, as you promised Abraham.
Tue, 24 March 2015
O chosen one of the Lord,
how well you answered His call,
giving yourself entirely
to the angel’s word
and so conceiving in your womb
the salvation of the world –
pray, O Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
that His voice might inspire in us
your same commitment to the Word of God
and its working in our lives;
pray the Son be conceived in us as well
that we too might serve
to bring His salvation forth
into the light of this day.
How shall we give ourselves
completely to the Lord
without your prayers, dear Mother,
without your blessed intercession…?
O pray we shall follow in your wake
and add our ‘yes’ to your own,
that the Lord may indeed work in us,
that He might make His home in us
and we come to our home in Heaven.
Tue, 24 March 2015
(Is.7:10-14,8:10; Ps.40:7-11; Heb.10:4-10; Lk.1:26-38)
“Behold, I come to do your will.”
Today we celebrate the fact that the Word became flesh, that God became man through Mary and dwells among us to take away our sins. In this is fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name Him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us!’” She is the Virgin; He is the Son – we are they with whom He dwells. Praise God for His grace!
Obediently Jesus takes on the body prepared for Him by the Father for all ages; humbly He bows under the Hand of God. To come among us is His delight. For He shall fulfill the prescriptions of the old law – as is written, so shall it come to be. And in His blood poured out for our sakes, in the love He shares with us men, indeed shall be fulfilled the will of God. No longer need we wait or search in vain, for all that is written is accomplished in Him.
And Mary is, of course, the perfect reflection of the Lord’s obedience; it is she in whom He is formed. As He says, “Behold, I come,” she says, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord.” As the Lord says, “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me. To do your will, O God, is my delight,” His Lady says, “May it be done to me according to your word.” And so by the obedience won from her by the angel, this Blessed Virgin “will conceive in [her] womb and bear a son, and [she] shall name Him Jesus”; and “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” She in her innocence and by the fullness of grace at work in her believes the reply to her question, “How can this be?” She is assured by the miracle spoken of Elizabeth – for which this holy woman must certainly have prayed – and so the words of the angel: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you,” are realized; and she who believes becomes the instrument of our salvation.
Brothers and sisters, “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all.” His coming among us is more than the greatest miracle; it means life for our very souls. For by His incarnation and by the sacrifice of His flesh for our sakes is effected the cleansing of our sins and the drawing up of our lives unto heaven where He eternally dwells. As He has dwelt with us, so may we now dwell with Him who has come for this purpose. Let no fear grip your heart. Consecrate yourself to Him and to His holy sacrifice. And give yourself to His Mother, that she may form you in His image, and you may know the blessed obedience which both hold, and which is itself the means of our salvation.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, make us all as your handmaid,
ready to do your will.
YHWH, make us as selfless as Mary, as selfless as your Son, offering our bodies to your service, caring only for the salvation of others’ souls. Freely let us give ourselves to your will, that your Son may work through us.
A Virgin conceives and bears a Son, LORD, and so your Word is fulfilled; your Word now walks among us. This Virgin you prepared from all eternity to accomplish your will of saving souls. Your own heart you placed within her, one of selfless sacrifice, and now as the angel comes to her, she is ready to accept your Word.
Upon hearing of her cousin Elizabeth, she is convinced that the angel is from your side, LORD; hearing answer to her sincerest of prayers, she knows you are in this Word. Did she not perhaps offer her virginity for her cousin’s fertility? Certainly her purity is blessed with the greatest fruitfulness, even as she who was thought barren prepares to give birth to a son.
Make us so fruitful, dear God. Let us too lay down our lives, as has your Son, as has His Mother, that we might be of your generation, we pray.
Mon, 23 March 2015
(Nm.21:4-9; Ps.102:2-3,16-21; Jn.8:21-30)
“From heaven He beheld the earth,
to hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
As the Lord has said to the Pharisees: “You belong to what is below; I belong to what is above.” And truly, how could we come to where He is unless He reached down to lead us there?
The Israelites show just how much they are of this world below when they reject the food of the heavens in utter bitterness: “We are disgusted with this wretched food!” they say of the manna the Lord has provided. And punishment comes to them in the form of a serpent for their cursing the hand of God.
And the Pharisees are the same. They have the living bread from heaven standing before them, teaching them, yet they cannot grasp what He says and with mockery ask, “Who are you, then?” when He tells them, “I AM.” And so they too “will surely die in their sins” for their rejection of the great I AM.
But yet there is hope. For the Israelites, Moses “make[s] a serpent and mount[s] it on a pole,” and those who gaze upon it are healed from the serpent’s deadly bite. And, of course, Jesus Himself will mount the wood of the cross and be fixed there – and the Pharisees and we who gaze upon our sins (which, as with the serpents, have caused this punishment), we who see what we have done and repent thereof, shall be healed, restored, forgiven.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, you will come to realize that I AM,” says the Lord. And now we look up at Him who has died for us and pray He will take us where He has gone, that our cry will come to Him, that He will regard “the prayer of the destitute” and lift us up to heaven with Him as we share in His cross.
O LORD, you have answered our prayers;
let us be released from death
by looking upon your crucified Son.
YHWH, we are doomed to die; apart from you there is no life, and we have separated ourselves from you by our sin, by our complaining against your goodness toward us. How can one come to your presence on high if he desires but the world below, where is but dust and death? May we hear the call of your Son, who by His Cross would lead us to your kingdom.
Jesus will die. On the Cross He will be lifted up, crucified by sinful hearts. But His death means only life for us, for He is Life itself, O LORD, He is one with you; and that life is more powerful than the imposter death, which fades to nothing before His glory.
Your Son cannot but be raised on high, dear LORD, for He is one with you and dwells ever in surpassing light, to which He would draw all souls. May we indeed recognize He is the great I AM and come to life with Him, separated far from our sin and the poison it brings. Hear our prayer and save us.
Sun, 22 March 2015
O missionary shepherd
whose love for the truth
was a love for Christ
and a desire for your flock
to know Him
and the way to glorify God,
you who gave yourself
for the Truth that is Christ
and for His Church on earth,
through whom He teaches all men
and brings them into His fold –
may we, too, lay down our lives
and work as hard as you have done
in the name of Jesus,
that all our lives
and the lives of all His flock
might be in accord
with the will of the Lord
and faithful to the Mother
He has left for our care;
let all that is not of God
be cast from our midst
by the Spirit of Truth this day.
Sun, 22 March 2015
(Dn.13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62; Ps.23:1-6; Jn.8:1-11)
“Let the man among you who has no sin
be the first to cast a stone at her.”
“Then the audience drifted away one by one, beginning with the elders.” And no one was left to accuse her.
In both our gospel and our first reading a woman is accused of adultery, one justly, the other unjustly. Yet both are freed. For under the old law the innocent were to be set free, but under the new, even the guilty. In the blood of Christ sinners are saved from the fate they deserve; the Lord does not condemn us, and only He has power to do so – for it is always against Him that we sin.
It is curious to note that in both reading and gospel the accused woman is brought before the man against whom she is principally accused of sinning. In the case of Susanna, it is her husband Joakim to whom the people come with their difficult questions, “because he was the most respected of them all”; and the woman in the gospel is brought before Jesus, the Lord and the bridegroom of us all. It is only wed to Him that we find salvation, and He does not disappoint the repentant adulteress today. Nor shall He condemn any of us who stand before Him weeping for our sins against His pure love.
There is a “dark valley” through which we all must walk. One day we shall all stand before the Judge. Some will be persecuted only for righteousness’ sake, accused of that which they have not committed; others will stand in the full light of their sin. But all before Christ might find forgiveness, if they but realize their faults and who it is stands before them. For the love of God is unimaginable; it is not something we humans can put our fingers upon. The love of God and the grace and mercy He holds forth will never be deserved by our race. Yet they are there. Yet are we washed clean. Yet the Truth will set us free.
Let no man condemn another; “the angel of God waits” “to receive the sentence from Him” – none of us is able to move His hand. And so, always we must forgive to find His grace alive in our souls.
O LORD, open the gate that we might enter in
and dwell in your presence.
YHWH, let all hear and heed the voice of your Son, who is the true Shepherd leading repentant souls to salvation. Send your apostles into every house that all might hear the call of Jesus, be purged in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and come to dwell in your House, beholding your holy face.
Let us be led forth by the Christ to your mountain, O God. Make us one flock in Him, all as your blessed children. O let us be as sheep slaughtered for your table, joining your Son on the altar of sacrifice; by His voice let us be cut to the heart and in our repentance become a holy offering to you.
False prophets keep far from us, dear LORD, those who work but for pay, who care nothing for your flock. In the Spirit send forth disciples to lead to running water those who thirst for you, O living God.
Sat, 21 March 2015
(Jer.31:31-34; Ps.51:3-4,12-15; Heb.5:7-9; Jn.12:20-33)
“Father, glorify your name.”
Jesus cries out in supplication to Him who is “able to save Him from death,” but He prays not to be saved from death, not to be saved from the sacrifice He must make, but only that in His death the Father might glorify His name. His “hour has come,” He knows. He hears from His apostles of the Greeks who seek Him, and He knows it is now time for Him to return to the Father and for His apostles to take over the work He has begun – to carry His salvation to the nations. And though He is “troubled,” knowing “the kind of death He would die,” knowing that it is the only path to the Father, yet He does not ask to be saved “from this hour.” His only desire is to fulfill the Father’s will by being “lifted up from the earth” in crucifixion and resurrection that He might “draw everyone to [Him]self” and to the glory in the Father He knows.
And of course “He was heard because of His reverence.” Because His cry is sincere, is a laying down of His life in perfect humility and perfect love, the Father readily answers His prayer. Even in “a voice c[o]me from heaven” He responds, speaking not for the sake of His Son – who needs no such assurance, who is dead to Himself and serves the Father perfectly – but for those whom the Son would save by His “fall[ing] to the ground” in death. For them, for us, the Father answers, for this is the Son’s wish.
And if we are holy as He, we “all, from least to greatest, shall know” the Lord our God just as He knows Him – we shall have our prayers answered as readily as the cries of supplication of our Savior. And so we shall be saved; and so we shall be preserved from death… and so we, too, shall glorify the Father’s name. As the Lord listens to David when he cries out in his penitent psalm, so shall God come and make our hearts clean: so shall He come and write His name upon them as we cry out to Him. And we shall be blessed as Jesus, and we shall stand just as steadfast. Renewed in spirit, our offenses wiped out, we shall stand in the Son’s stead upon the cross and in the kingdom.
“Your Holy Spirit take not from me,” O Lord, for it is the proof of your presence within me; it is the seal of your Son and His blood upon my soul. By your Spirit I know I shall be protected from death; by His touch I am led to my salvation. Father in heaven, glorify thy name in me as in thy Son.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Sunset Bleeds Me Clean" (1st half) from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we be made perfect as your Son
as we join Him in His sacrifice.
YHWH, the Cross of your Son is the source of our eternal salvation. In His blood is written the New Covenant you promised your people. For by His sacrifice our sins are removed and our hearts made new, that your Name might be written upon them. Our sins are forgotten by you that we might remember your glory forever.
And we are called to lay down our lives with Him: where He is, so shall His disciples be. And so, upon a cross we must find ourselves, a grain of wheat fallen to the ground. If we hold to our lives in this world, what shall we do but die, LORD? But if we hate the world and even our own lives, we shall find eternal life in you through your Son.
Jesus is our Savior. In Him your Name is glorified, O LORD. May your Name be glorified in us as well, as in His blood we are cleansed of our sin and joined to Him in your kingdom.
Fri, 20 March 2015
(Jer.11:18-20; Ps.7:2-3,9-12; Jn.7:40-53)
“Let us destroy the tree in its vigor;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will be spoken no more.”
With these words “they were hatching plots against” Jeremiah, and in the same way against Jesus. And so, “like a trusting Lamb led to slaughter,” “like the lion’s prey, to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue” are they. But “the malice of the wicked [shall] come to an end.”
“The upright of heart” are ever persecuted. Even Nicodemus, “one of their own number,” a member of the Pharisees who are seeking the life of the Lord, was “taunted” when he “spoke up to say, ‘Since when does our law condemn any man without first hearing him and knowing the facts.’” But the Lord “sustain[s] the just” “because of the innocence that is” theirs. In Him do they “take refuge,” and He will not leave them a prey to their teeth.
Even the temple guards recognize the power of the word that comes from Christ. “No man ever spoke like that before,” they state as the reason that “no one laid hands on Him.” “He is the Messiah,” it is sure, and only the hardest of heart are able to blind themselves to the authority that issues forth from His lips. But the Lord is the “searcher of mind and heart,” of “heart and soul”; He is the just Judge, the just God, and so even as He rescues the innocent from trial, so He “punishes day by day” the evil man.
Their plots shall come to naught; in vain do they pursue Him. For though He shall allow them “to apprehend Him,” yet He will be eternally free from their clutches. Indeed, He will be fixed to a cross. Indeed, like an innocent lamb He shall not open His mouth to protest or to call upon the angels for assistance. And they shall think that He is theirs. But rise from the dead He will, and His Name will be spoken to the ends of the earth. For nothing can destroy the power of the Word of God.
O LORD, though the innocent man be condemned,
you are there to save him.
YHWH, you save us from every snare of the devil, every plot of the wicked; you do not leave us prey to the lion’s teeth. Though we be ringed about by our accusers, though with your Son we be crucified, yet we shall not be destroyed – with Him we shall be raised on high.
For you, O LORD, are a just Judge; you look into the hearts of all. You know who is set upon the doing of your will and who would oppose you and your blessed One. Let us never be a curse unto you. Though we be condemned by men, in your sight let us ever be holy.
No man ever spoke like your Son, dear LORD, for no man else is the Word Himself. He comes from your very heart, and becomes our daily Bread. In your House with Him let us make our home, though it mean persecution and certain death. For in Him we shall be protected always, and brought quickly to your side.
Thu, 19 March 2015
(Ws.2:1,12-22; Ps.34:17-21,23; Jn.7:1-2,10,25-30)
“He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is His Father.”
And for such He shall be persecuted; for such He shall be killed. For to the wicked “He is the censure of [their] thoughts; merely to see Him is a hardship” for those who stray from the Lord’s commands. And so, in vain attempt to spare themselves the just judgment of the Lord, in their jealousy they say to one another: “With revilement and torture let us put Him to the test”; and so they “condemn Him to a shameful death,” tempting the Lord God to watch over Him.
Evil are their thoughts and wicked are their ways. But the one “they want to kill,” the one “they tried to seize,” escapes their grasp, for indeed the Lord “watches over all His bones; not one of them shall be broken.” And they cannot take hold of Him unless He so wills it; so, frustrated are their efforts “because His hour had not yet come.”
Even when His hour comes and He is delivered into the hands of the prince of darkness, still their violence will not touch Him; yet will He be protected by the Lord, as are all who follow Him. Yes, David sings of what he knows: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.” And so, even in distress, even in death, the Lord is near to His chosen ones. The Lord shall ever be delivered from the grasp of those whose “wickedness blinded them.”
Jesus stands up in the temple and cries out: “I was sent by One who has the right to send… it is from Him I come.” He declares openly that He is the Son of God, and for bringing such light the wicked who would hide their sins seek to destroy Him. But it shall indeed be proven that He is the Son of the Most High, that God is His Father. The “recompense of holiness” shall be witnessed by all eyes. In subjection to their evil plots, in dying upon the wood of the cross, and in His subsequent resurrection, Jesus shall utterly destroy all the power of wicked men and reveal the one true light that shines, that cannot be overcome by darkness.
“We know where this man is from,” they say, and so they are blind. For God the Father is not of this dark earth, and neither is His just Son.
O LORD, you care for those reviled by the world;
make us as the Just One sent by you.
YHWH, the wicked cannot know the origin of your Son for they are blind to you and your holy will. He is sent by you to suffer and die, but the plots of evil hearts shall not succeed, for His life is ever in your hand. From the dead He shall be raised and draw all just souls to you.
Though the Just One suffer torture and humiliation for His purity, for the truth upon His soul; though those whom He reproaches for their sin seek to put Him to a shameful death; it is so, that none of His bones shall be broken, for you, O LORD, are close to the brokenhearted – those who are crushed in spirit you indeed save.
But those who are proud and envious, those who cannot bear the censure of their thoughts, the chastisement of their evil ways… these, O LORD, shall be destroyed even as you draw your just ones whence your Son has come.
Wed, 18 March 2015
O righteous man called by God
to be foster-father of His only Son
and protector of His Mother,
you who were obedient to the Spirit,
who took Jesus by the hand
and led Him from the temple
to the home in Nazareth
where Mary made a place for Him –
pray that we shall be built
into the house of Abraham,
the man of faith,
into the house of David, your father,
into the House the Holy Spirit builds
for the faithful even this day,
where our Mother waits for us
with you and all the saints;
pray that we too shall hear the words
spoken over you by the Lord:
“Well done, good and faithful servant;
enter into the joy of your Master.”
Pray we shall be righteous
Wed, 18 March 2015
(2Sm.7:4-5,12-14a,16; Ps.89:2-5,27,29,37; Rom.4:13,16-18,22;
Mt.1:16,18-21,24a or Lk.2:41-51a)
“I will be a father to him,
and he shall be my son.”
It is through Joseph that Jesus is a son of David and so fulfills the promise to the king made by God: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever,” for He is the heir “raise[d] up” after David “who shall build a house for [His] name.” “In heaven [the Lord has] confirmed [His] faithfulness,” and on earth He has made it known. And so Jesus says of God, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior!” and we of faith join His refrain.
As with Abraham, Joseph is made foster father of Jesus not merely by physical descent from David but “through the righteousness that comes from faith.” For as Abraham believed and so became “the father of many nations,” so Joseph believed that it was “through the Holy Spirit that [Jesus] ha[d] been conceived” and “did as the angel commanded him and took Mary into his home,” thus becoming a father to Him who would “save His people from their sins.” Like Abraham “he believed, hoping against hope,” and like Abraham he is blessed.
But, of course, Jesus is more than the Son of Joseph; in fact, this is the great sacrifice Joseph makes. For truly he cares for Him who is more Son to the Father in heaven and Son of Man, born for all the human race. Evident this is when He is found by Joseph and Mary in the temple after three days and He asks them (a question much like those He might have been putting to the teachers of the faith): “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” and in the curious fact that His parents waited a day before journeying back to Jerusalem to look for Him, for they were “thinking that He was in the caravan” – so much a part of His people had He become.
Jesus is Son of God and Son of Man, yet “obedient to them” – Joseph and Mary – He ever was. And they were ever obedient to the dictates of the Father, that they should care for His only Son. And so Joseph, husband of Mary, a simple carpenter, fulfills in simple fashion all the Lord had set out for him. May we, too, by faith fulfill all the care we must take for Jesus, His mother, and His people.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music composed and performed by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us dwell in your House forever.
YHWH, your Son is known as the Son of David, the Son of Joseph the carpenter. And truly He is the fulfillment of your promise to the king that his son shall ever sit upon the throne. But He is conceived by the Holy Spirit: He is the Son of God. Give us the faith of Joseph that we might believe this and take Him into our home.
In our houses He would dwell, in our very souls. Thus would He make them your House, dear Father, as is the soul of His Mother, and the soul of the righteous man we celebrate today. Your Church let us be, dear God; in faith let us ever remain.
Your kindness to us is indeed great, O LORD; your very life you would share with us this day. In your kingdom let us make our home – your sons and daughters let us be. Jesus sits upon the throne now, for He is the Christ. And so, your Covenant stands firm forever: all who believe in Him will be blessed.
O LORD, make us righteous in your sight, even as the humble Joseph. In our lives let your will be done… In your Son let us make our home.
Tue, 17 March 2015
O steadfast teacher of the faith
whom exile could not keep
from proclaiming the truths
of Scripture and the Church,
whose pastoral zeal
to the blessed chamber
of our divine Lord Jesus Christ
that we might unite with Him
who united Himself with us
to draw us unto Heaven –
pray that the shepherds of the Church
shall be just so diligent
as you have consistently been
in imparting the Word of God
to waiting ears and hearts,
that all might be nourished well
and so prepared
to meet our King and Bridegroom,
grace upon grace
overflowing in souls
led by the Spirit of Truth.
Tue, 17 March 2015
(Is. 49:8-15; Ps.145:8-9,13-14,17-18; Jn.5:17-30)
“Just as the Father possesses life in Himself,
so He has granted it to the Son to have life in Himself.”
Here the great mystery of the unity of Father and Son is revealed, and so also our salvation.
God is life. The Father is the great I AM, He who will be what He will be and do what He will do – He who holds the world and all its wonders in His creating Hand. And Jesus is as He is. He shares absolutely in the Life that is the Father. “Speaking of God as His own Father, [He is] thereby making Himself God’s equal.” And this perfect union is most clearly evident in the fact that “the Father has given over to Him power to pass judgment.” For who can judge the soul of man but God, and so, who is Jesus but God Himself?
And this union of Father and Son in the absolute love that gives proof of the Spirit’s presence, and thus completes the Holy Trinity, is the key to our readings today. Thus, though the thrust of the Word is our own salvation from sin and death, this is only effected in the love of the Father for the Son – for it is in our own union with Jesus and in His washing us clean from sin by standing in our place upon the cross that we find union with the Father, that we find the Life to which we all are called… in whom we find our home of love.
The Lord says, “I will cut a road through all my mountains and make my highways level.” Jesus the Son is that road by which the Father “comforts His people and shows mercy to His afflicted” by leading them back to Him, guiding them “beside springs of water” that “they shall not hunger or thirst” but “find pasture” in His arms. For “can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” Greater than any mother’s love is the Lord’s love for us, and this He makes known through His only Son.
Brothers and sisters, “the dead shall hear the voice of God’s Son, and those who have heeded it shall live.” Even now the Lord is “saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves!” Out from the tombs He calls us, for He is “compassionate toward all His works” and desires in His perfect will that all share in His holiness, in His Life. Let us do right in Him, and as His Son we, too, shall live.
O LORD, from the tombs let us come forth
at the sound of your Son’s voice.
YHWH, you are kind and merciful and so you send your only Son to reveal your loving will, to draw all unto you and so to eternal life. Let us heed His voice and so your own; let us thus come to your kingdom.
On your holy mountain let us make our home, dear LORD. Though desolate we may be, seemingly abandoned by you, far from your grace… yet you call us back to you and assure us of your loving kindness in the word and the Person of your Son. You do not forget us; let us not forget the wonders of your love you show us in Jesus.
Your Son shall judge all men’s souls. To Him you have given this power, O LORD. For He is One with you and does only your will, and so His judgment is your own. May we be so united with your will and your judgment in Jesus your Son that we shall ever know your surpassing love and come to dwell with you in Heaven.
Mon, 16 March 2015
O great apostle to the nations
who gave up your birthright of freedom
for the benefit of others,
who went forth in faith,
Christ ever above you and before you
and all around to protect you
who were brought through trial
to do His will
in bringing God to unbelievers,
you who never doubted –
pray that we, too, shall spend ourselves
for the sake of the Gospel
and all souls
yet to be gathered to the Lord,
that indeed from east and west
men shall come
and sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
in the kingdom of our God,
that from the ends of the earth
one people shall be drawn to Him…
and let us do all
without concern for persecution,
with the heart of a shepherd you had.
Mon, 16 March 2015
(Ez.47:1-9,12; Ps.46:2-3,5-6,8-9; Jn.5:1-3,5-16)
“There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.”
Brothers and sisters, Jesus is our living water.
In our first reading, Ezekial speaks of his heavenly vision of the river of God which runs from His holy temple. The water, which increases as it flows further from its source, eventually “empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.” Along both banks of the river are trees whose “leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail… for they [are] watered by the flow from the sanctuary.” Their fruit nourishes and their leaves heal.
What is this river and this temple? What is this sea and who are these fruit trees revealed to the eyes of the prophet? Brothers and sisters, that Jesus is the river, the healing water, is made poignantly clear in our gospel. The sick man struggles daily to plunge himself into the healing pool at Bethesda but is never able to find the assistance he needs. When Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed and the man explains his plight, the Lord immediately states: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk!” The healing waters have come to him, and he is cured.
Yes, Jesus is the living water, and the cross is as the temple from which His healing blood flows. Upon us all who have prepared the cross and set it in place by our sins – which have made our water undrinkable – His grace pours to make us whole… and so we are the salt sea made fresh. And so the trees on the river’s banks, bearing fresh fruit each of the months, do we become, as we walk in the paths of the twelve apostles… who are first to know His redemptive power, and with whom God becomes “our refuge and our strength.”
“Come! behold the deeds of the Lord, the astounding things He has wrought on earth.” For by the river that flows from His side He has prepared a people and a kingdom. And all shall see what Ezekial sees; all shall know what the prophet is shown – the water of the Lord flows out now to the ends of the world, making all whole and fruitful by His prese
O LORD, let us be watered
by the flow from your sanctuary,
healed by your only Son
that we might bear fruit as your holy Church.
YHWH, your Son is the healing water that cleanses us of our sins and makes us whole in your sight. The blood flowing from His side is the source of our salvation. May we wash in this river and have our hearts made new that we might bear fruit unto Heaven.
O LORD, may Ezekial’s vision be our own; may we sit with you on the banks of the River in your holy Paradise, where all shall be fed by the fruit of the trees there and healed by the medicine of their leaves. In your Church, founded on the twelve apostles, let us make our home, for there we shall rest in you, there we shall be as the Body of your Son, His blood flowing through our veins.
To newness of life let us come, dear LORD, raised from our sickness by a word from your mouth. Your Temple is with us in your Son who walks among us… May the healing graces He brings forth increase even to the ends of the earth.
Sun, 15 March 2015
(Is.65:17-21; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; Jn.4:43-54)
“You changed my mourning into dancing.”
Here in the midst of Lent we find the purpose of all our suffering, the hope to which we all are called. “At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.” And thus does this time of penance and fasting lead to the abundance found in Easter joy. For what is darkness but the world in which we dwell, and what is the dawn but the coming of Jesus to our hearts, the kingdom of heaven within us? And even in the midst of this darkness, the light begins to shine. “Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth,” the Lord says. And today we hear that reassuring voice speaking to our waiting souls.
In our gospel today we find a marvelous sign of the light that follows the darkness, of the joy that follows sorrow. A Gentile royal official, a man in darkness for his being apart from the chosen race – and whose darkness is compounded by his position of authority there – comes to the King of the Jews, the Light of God. In sorrow he mourns the imminent death of his son, and so the darkness is quite complete. But the man’s son shall not die, and neither shall the Gentile race. For it is great faith he shows. Enlightened by the One he seeks, he believes, and so his son is saved by the Son of the Most High, and so he enters the fold of Heaven. What greater joy could he have hoped to find, for not only is his son “brought… up from the netherworld,” but indeed he (and the race he represents) is “preserved… from among those going down into the pit.” No greater words of joy could we read than these: “He and his whole household thereupon became believers.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord has made us to be a people of “rejoicing and happiness.” He tells us so today through the prophet Isaiah: “I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people a delight.” This is our destiny; this is our call. If we must suffer for a time in this land of darkness, in this time of penance, let us be assured of the fullness of joy that comes Easter morning: “No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying.” Yes, how particularly marvelous it is to hear of this light before us even as we stand in the midst of the darkness; what even greater joy do we feel!
The Lord conquers all. He wishes only life for our soul. And that life is upon us even this day. At the wedding feast we shall dance: “sing praise to the Lord, you His faithful ones, and give thanks to His holy name.”
O LORD, no sign should we need of your love for us;
only give us new life in you.
YHWH, what sign need we that you love us and desire to save us from the darkness and death that envelop this fallen world? For your Son has come and walked among us, and so your mercy is now near. Create your new heavens and your new earth, we pray; remake us in His image.
O LORD, we wish to weep and cry no more; no more would we see our children die or our own lives cut short – let us never be separated from you, never come to the nether world, but let your dawn be upon us and our mourning be driven away.
Let the fever depart from us, Lord GOD, that we might not burn in unholy fire but be redeemed from all our iniquity and enter your presence with rejoicing and happiness, living as you created us, to be a delight in your sight.
Rejoice in Jerusalem, dear LORD, and let all the nations round about find the salvation that is upon your House; let all come to believe in you and praise your Name forever.
Sat, 14 March 2015
(2Chr.36:14-16,19-23; Ps.137:1-6; Eph.2:4-10; Jn.3:14-21)
“By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept.”
For “practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple,” the people of God “were carried captive to Babylon.” For all their “infidelity” they were forced to watch as “their enemies burnt the house of God [and] tore down the walls of Jerusalem.” And so did their “tongue[s] cleave to [their] palate[s]” in a foreign land; so they “hung up [their] harps”; so their “right hand[s] [were] forgotten”… They could not sing the praises of the Lord; they could not strum to His glory – all the works of their hands were stilled. They could but weep in desolation.
So are we like them in our sins. So do our transgressions silence our tongues and make us lame and ineffective. So were we dead as these before Christ Jesus came to save us. And as the Israelites were called back to the city of peace and entreated to build the Lord’s house there once again, as they found their release from exile by the king of Persia speaking in the name of God… just as these could enter in once more to the “song of the Lord,” so we now find our freedom from the chains which bound us, and to the Lord’s temple come proclaiming His gracious salvation.
No more should we cry, brothers and sisters. No more should we sit idly as the streams of this world pass us mockingly by. No, now we must come resolutely to the Christ of God, for the word has gone forth to the ends of the earth that all who love Him should come into His light. “By grace [we] have been saved”; by the Lord’s immeasurable kindness we have been redeemed – in His love we must now sing our song. “For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance,” and so our work must now be accomplished in Him.
“Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” And so “saved through faith” we must now bring before Him the offering of our lives. There is no longer cause to hide. There is no longer need to weep for our sin, to find the oppression of the world and the devil too much to bear. No, the gates of Jerusalem are opened once again, and the Lord God has “seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.” Here in this light let us now find our home. Here in His presence let us begin to live the Lord’s eternal salvation. Our tears of weeping, with our condemnation, have passed.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "A Guitar" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us leave behind our sinful past
and come into the light of your presence.
YHWH, we were dead in our sins till you sent your only Son to save us, to bring us life by the grace upon Him. Light has indeed come into the world, the light of Christ shining now in our midst. Let us come to that light that we might escape the darkness into which we’ve fallen and be raised up to be seated with Him.
Jesus has been lifted up for our sakes, that all who believe in Him might have eternal life with you, Father, in Heaven. Though our transgressions have been severe, you have mercy upon us still, and call us to faith in your only Son. Though we have failed to listen to the prophets you sent to speak in your Name, let us not fail to heed the One in whom your love has come to perfection, the One who shares your own place on high.
No more can you love us than by sending us Jesus, and so, no further opportunity will we have to repent and return to you. Let us live now in your truth and your light, that our works might be done in you.
Fri, 13 March 2015
(Hos.6:1-6; Ps.51:3-4,18-21,Hos.6:6; Lk.18:9-14)
“As certain as the dawn is His coming,
and His judgment shines forth like the light of day!”
It is night. There is darkness. In this world of sin we are afflicted on account of our guilt, for our failures to love God. And so David cries out in our psalm, “Have mercy, O God, in your goodness”; and so the tax collector in our gospel “beat[s] his breast and say[s], ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner’”; and so with all the afflicted, in the words of Hosea, we should “return to the Lord, for it is He who has rent, but He will heal us.”
Brothers and sisters, we must “strive to know the Lord,” for “He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth” to cleanse us of our sin and make us fruitful again. To us the Lord will “be bountiful… by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.” He will grant us a place for worship and again “be pleased with due sacrifices, burnt offerings, and holocausts.” Our prayers shall again come before Him. But if our piety is not to be “like a morning cloud, like the dew that passes early away,” we must come to know and love God. And the first step to knowing God and showing our desire for His love is the recognition of our own sinfulness before Him, for “he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Yes, brothers and sisters, “in the greatness of [His] compassion [He will] wipe out [our] offense.” “He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up.” But first we must die. We must die to the sinful pride that afflicts our souls and leads us from the light that shines, that awaits all our coming to Him in blessed humility. For He desires to show us mercy, but mercy we must have. He longs to bring us light, but light we must seek to find. His judgment, which is just, must be our desire, and it will come to us and wash us free of all our sin. And we shall know Him. And His love shall be our own. And only light will shine in our souls.
It is night, brothers and sisters. There is darkness. Our sins are with us still. But the Lord is coming: the light is upon us. Turn to it now, and live.
O LORD, show us your grace
that you might rejoice in our return to you.
YHWH, your kindness and compassion are without end, your forgiveness deeper than the ocean and higher than the sky, for you are beyond our ability to understand – your love is ever abiding. But we, O LORD, are so limited, in our comprehension and in our love. We think only of ourselves, whereas you reach out to us.
Help us, dear LORD, to be more like you; help us to share in your kindness and mercy. Your goodness please make our own, that in your presence we might always remain.
So dark is our sin, dear God, so far have we run from your face, so foolishly removed ourselves from your embrace, from your loving arms and secure protection…. Bring us back into your House, welcoming us as sons again; our guilt remove forever. And let us rejoice as others enter, for then we will be like you, who care more for our redemption than that honor be shown to you.
Thu, 12 March 2015
(Hos.14:2-10; Ps.81:6-11,14,17; Mk.12:28-34)
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!”
“There is no other than He,” and so what should we do but “love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, with all [our] soul, with all [our] mind, and with all [our] strength”? What promise the Lord makes to us if only we would return to Him and love Him: “If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, I would feed them with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them.” Indeed, then we would be “not far from the reign of God,” even here on earth.
Brothers and sisters, we “have collapsed through [our] guilt.” We have had “strange god[s]” among us and said, “‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands.” Why should we continue so blind? Why should we continue stumbling as sinners – why do we find the straight paths of the Lord so difficult to walk? He will “forgive all iniquity” and strengthen us in justice; if we turn to Him, He will “heal [our] defection” and “love [us] freely.” “In distress you called, and I rescued you,” He says in the words of our psalmist, and His words are true. Turning away His wrath, He shall become “like the dew for Israel.” And with His living water to nourish us, we “shall blossom like the lily… blossom like the olive tree.” We “shall dwell in His shade and raise grain,” our “fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.” We must but love God and our neighbor, and we shall “bear fruit.”
“Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.” There is no God in all the world but the Lord, and it is He in whom “the orphan finds compassion.” Why should you continue in your vain pursuits when love awaits your turning to Him? What refuge can you find in your false gods? In them and in your pride you indeed will find yourself orphaned, cut off from the love that only the Father holds. But He loves the orphan, brother, and so He calls to your soul to return to Him with all your heart. In this is true wisdom; in Him you will find strength.
There is no further question when the love of God is known. When His presence is revealed we fall silent, for nothing can be said in the face of Truth. Listen, brothers and sisters; but listen – and then do.
O LORD, you are rejected, you are killed,
that your inheritance you might share with us.
YHWH, though we reject your Beloved Son, dragging Him out of the vineyard to kill Him, yet His blood becomes salvation for us, release from slavery to sin. As Joseph who was sold to the Ishmaelites became ruler in the land of Egypt, so has the One who has died on a cross become the cornerstone of your kingdom. And all who come to Him this day, under Him become a holy nation.
There is a great famine upon this land, O LORD, and we would quickly die for lack of nourishment if to us you did not send your only Son to provide for all our needs. Let us show our gratefulness to you for such rich blessing by giving due honor to the One you have sent and producing abundant fruit in His Name.
O LORD, let all jealous souls be gathered into your harvest, redeemed from the blood upon their hands by our Savior’s sacrifice. Such marvels you would perform for us at no cost but the abandonment of our greed and envy.
Wed, 11 March 2015
(Jer.7:23-28; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; Lk.11:14-23)
“They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.”
The Lord calls His people to “listen to [His] voice,” to “walk in all [His] ways,” that they “may prosper.” But with whom is there obedience? How many harden their hearts against Him!
Of the people of Jeremiah’s time the Lord says, “Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.” They, as all, should “bow down in worship” and “kneel before the Lord who made us,” but they, as we, do not recognize that “He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides.” They pay no heed to the voice of the prophet.
And this hardness of heart is fulfilled in the opposition of the faithless to Jesus. In our gospel He casts out a devil that a dumb man may speak and some say, “It is by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that He casts out devils.” Indeed, the hardness of heart does not get any greater than this. (And so for this sin against the Holy Spirit and His ways there can be no forgiveness.) They call good “evil” and presume that the evil they speak is a good – but they are utterly lost in darkness. “The reign of God is upon” them, and they desire to dwell in the realm of the devil who is being cast from their midst. What can save such a soul? For all prayers the Lord answers.
Brothers and sisters, it is a dark world and a difficult age in which we dwell. But the response of our hearers is not our concern; we must speak as called regardless of the reaction – we must live our vocation despite any opposition. Note the Lord’s words to Jeremiah: “When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either; when you call to them, they will not answer you.” For as with all the prophets, and as with ourselves, he speaks to “the nation which does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction.” To these it is our duty to call; to darkness we must bring light. And realize, too, the fate of Jesus, who will die on the cross for His work to bring salvation to the world. It is this same cross to which we are all called, for it is by this same cross we have been called; and those who are yet to be gathered in must hear our voice. Let us stand with the Lord and gather in His grain, despite the stiffened necks we might find. There shall be others like us who hear the cry of Jeremiah and cling to the saving power of Jesus. Test Him not with your own hardness of heart.
O LORD, let us be saved from torment
by walking in the way of your risen Son.
YHWH, let us not be wayward souls, separating ourselves from you and the nourishment you offer; for we shall but wilt and fade if we put our trust in the passing things of this earth – we shall but die if we fat our bellies and become bereft of your Spirit.
Jesus let us follow, LORD, for upon your will alone He set Himself. Your Word let us meditate upon both night and day that we shall remain in your presence always and walk ever in your ways. You reward the faithful soul with the blessings of your House but can only cast the wicked man far from your table of grace.
Let us not be rich in the things of this world nor turn our sights to what is evil. Upon your love let us set our sights, that our hearts might be purged of all insolence, of all sin against your goodness. And let us reach out a helping hand to those in need of your water, that all might have life this day in the Holy Spirit.
Tue, 10 March 2015
(Dt.4:1,5-9; Ps.147:12-13,15-16,19-20; Mt.5:17-19)
“What great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law?”
“He has proclaimed His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel.” The Lord in His grace “sends forth His command to the earth; swiftly runs His word!” And as the snow and the rain come down to nourish the land, to bring life to the earth, so His Word is food and life to all who listen to it. By His Word He “strengthen[s] the bars of [our] gates,” giving us protection against the tribulations of this world, and by it He “bless[es] [our] children within” us, making fruitful all our endeavors. By fulfilling and teaching His commands, we find life eternal in the kingdom of God; by breaking them and leading others to do so, we court death.
And so why should the Word be withheld from the ears of the flock? By his silence does not a priest give credence to the breaking of the law? And then are not the results upon his soul? Has the devil so blinded his eyes to the truth that he cannot see the life-giving water the Word of God is, that His commands are not burdensome but bring release from labor under the weight of sin? By withholding such nourishment does he hope to increase his flock? Oh but it is so hard to open my mouth, you say, so difficult to speak the truth. Better you die to self now than to find your soul dead to the kingdom of heaven.
Brothers and sisters, it is fulfilling “the smallest letter of the law… the smallest part of the letter,” that brings us to perfection, that brings us to the life that is our God. Ignorance shall not bring you there. As Moses instructs of the commands of the Lord, “Observe them carefully, for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations.” For they are a great gift made known to souls; they are the fountain of life, fulfilled in the flesh of Jesus. So neither practice them in vain “nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,” for they hold life, and should you lose them, you shall lose the Christ.
Do you desire holiness? Do you wish to be whole? Do you long for the presence of God, thirsting for His truth? Then follow the Word He speaks in your presence today and teach others to do so: Abortion is wrong. Contraception is wrong. Euthanasia is wrong. Premarital sex is wrong. Love of money and goods is deadly. We have the word in our Church – our mouths must speak it, or we shall die. By our Baptism we are all made priests in the sight of God and are called to live and to preach the Word of God. “What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon Him” or whenever we come to His table of sacrifice to receive Him? In love make His Word and presence known.
O LORD, though good be repaid with evil,
we shall rise on the third day
if we remain united to the sacrifice of your Son.
YHWH, though persecutions come, as they must, we trust ourselves into your hands knowing that your protection is with us, knowing that as your Son was raised on the third day, our suffering shall soon come to an end and we stand with you in your kingdom. Give us faith and strength in your abiding presence, despite the whisperings of the crowd.
The people plotted to take the life of your prophets and your Son. A pit is dug for all your faithful, LORD. But that pit is shallow as this passing world; only your eternity remains. And so, let us not fear as we drink the cup Jesus offers us, the cup He Himself drank upon the Cross; for as we lay down our lives in this world, sharing in the sacrifice of Christ, so we shall be blessed to know the glory to which you call all your faithful servants.
Our trust is in you, O LORD, for you are our God. Save us from the snares of the devil.
Mon, 9 March 2015
(Dn.3:25,34-43; Ps.25:4-9; Mt.18:21-35)
“With contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received.”
The Lord “guides the humble to justice, He teaches the humble His way,” and so it is the prayer of these He receives; upon them He showers His mercy. For His mercy is His justice and it is known by those who humbly share the same.
Azariah makes his prayer for mercy for his people Israel who suffer the purgatorial fires of their exile from the Promised Land, even as he himself stands in the quite literal fire of the furnace of the King of Babylon for his faithfulness to the living God. He begs the Lord: “Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy,” and as he comes humbly and with great faith interceding for others and not himself, and thus exhibiting the mercy he desires of the Lord, he is well protected from the flames by the angel of God. The Lord’s justice is known to him who “follow[s] [Him] with [his] whole heart.”
And Jesus makes quite clear the great mercy God holds for all who humble themselves before Him – “seventy times seven times,” eternally, He forgives. His reign is like the king who “wrote off the debt,” though it was “a huge amount,” of his servant who begged His mercy. For the Lord is “moved with pity” at our contrition for our sins. But the same forgiveness we must offer to others if we are to prove that His blood runs in our veins. The master tells his wicked servant: “I canceled your entire debt when you pleaded with me. Should you not have dealt mercifully with your fellow servant, as I dealt with you?” And indeed the fires of hell and purgatory await those who break their bond of justice and mercy with the Lord by failing to manifest the same grace that has been revealed to their souls. We are sinners and must see ourselves so. The Lord forgives and we must accept His grace. Others seek our mercy and we must grant it to them. This is how the kingdom works. Those who do not follow the Lord’s way of compassion do not enter there.
Brothers and sisters, we must be as Azariah, who “stood up in the fire and prayed aloud.” For all, we must humbly intercede before our merciful God even in this dark world. And for the contrition we show for our sins and those of others, the Lord holds an eternal reward. As our priests, as Peter, as God Himself, let us forgive one another; if we receive one another humbly and mercifully, the Lord will receive us in His grace, in His justice.
O LORD, let us be humble and just in your sight
that we might be saved from our sin
and enter your kingdom.
YHWH, our sins are red as crimson, but you would make them white as wool if we but listened to your Word and put it into practice. If our worship of you were genuine, then we would be truly blessed. But as it is we speak in vain when we call upon your Name. For who among us lives the way Jesus teaches, the way He walked? His chastisement let us treasure, that we might be saved from empty sacrifice.
There is so much pride within our hearts, O LORD, and in our words and actions. We desire to be exalted in the sight of others. Oh if it were but our desire to serve you! If we but sought to be humble and true, then you would raise us to be with you, in the heavenly kingdom.
O let us listen to you, LORD? Let us heed your command, your word of instruction. Let us do what is right and just in your sight and with our neighbor, and your cleansing grace we shall find.
Sun, 8 March 2015
O patient and loving soul
who cared for both
the physical and spiritual needs
of the poor and the sick,
who with a gentle word
would rebuke sins
and heal division
and with a gentle touch
bind the wounds
and smooth the beds
of the ill
in your home and in hospital,
who saw that remedies for the soul,
the Bread of life and holy Confession,
were available, too,
through the hands of a priest –
who cares as deeply and fully
for the needs of souls
Increase their number;
pray the Lord touch all souls
with your same patient affection,
with the love only He knows.
Sun, 8 March 2015
(2Kgs.5:1-15; Ps.42:2-3,43:3-4; Lk.4:24-30)
“There is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”
“There is a prophet in Israel,” brothers and sisters, and this prophet is God. Jesus Christ has come, salvation from the Jews. Do you recognize Him? Will you accept Him?
It is only in “the waters of Israel” that we are made clean. As wonderful as may be the waters of our native land, it matters not, for it is these alone that are blessed; these alone will make our flesh again “like the flesh of a little child.” For a little child has come through these waters, has been baptized in this River, and it is His blood which baptizes us all and makes us clean as the flesh of God.
“Bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling-place,” our souls should sing with our psalmist as they seek “the running waters” of “the living God” that alone will satisfy all our needs. Oh to “behold the face of God,” to “go in to the altar of God” in “gladness and joy”! How we should search for His grace and His presence! Like Naaman who came from a distant land upon the word of a servant girl, so should we obediently seek the grace that comes only from God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. He is our dwelling place, the Temple of God.
“No prophet gains acceptance in his native place,” Jesus proclaims to those of His hometown. And His prophecy is true. For though salvation is from the Jews and they are Jews who serve as its foundation stones, yet the Church shall be constituted greatly by those of other lands. The Jews who follow Him shall be greatly persecuted by their own, and the Word shall bear fruit to the ends of the world before the eyes of the Chosen shall be opened to the living water, the healing grace, in their midst.
Come in faith, brothers and sisters, to this holy mountain where the Lord does dwell, to find the cleansing of your sins. Through none else does salvation come; in no one else is the Word made known. The flesh of God is Jesus alone.
O LORD, let us not turn away
from your Word to our souls
but be compassionate as you.
YHWH, you are a compassionate God calling us to your mercy and love. Forgive us all our transgressions against you that we might know your favor. Though we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, though we have rebelled against you and your command, refusing to listen to the Word of truth you utter in our midst, hear our cry for deliverance from the prison into which our sins have cast us. Save us in your love!
O LORD, if we do not judge we shall not be judged. If we do not condemn we shall not be condemned. If we but forgive others their transgressions against us, you will forgive our transgressions against you. And we shall return to your pasture.
Help us to give, O LORD, to give as you give, to give as your Son gives… to lay down our lives for the sake of others – to seek pardon for their sins. Jesus stands in the breach to reconcile us to you and one another; may we join Him in His mission of love.
Sat, 7 March 2015
O servant of love
whom the angels knew
to be of God
for your blessed care
of the poor and the sick
and all the needy pilgrims
who came to you in abundance
that you might be the greater blest
by what you did for the least
of Christ’s brothers,
you who turned from the world
to absolute service of the Lord
and complete trust in His providence –
please pray that our hearts
may be enlarged
and we find the grace
to lay down our lives so freely
for the needs of others,
for their well-being,
that as we welcome all who come to us
we might ourselves be welcomed