Sun, 19 February 2017
(Sir.1:1-10; Ps.93:1-2,5; Mk.9:14-29)
“There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon His throne: It is the Lord.”
“The Lord is King, in splendor robed,” and He alone knows “wisdom’s root” and all “her subtleties”; for it is He who created her and “poured her forth upon all His works.” And so He alone, whose “throne stands firm from of old,” He alone understands all things, and can answer any question. And should we not be awestruck by His presence?
That the Lord is robed in splendor as King over all we have seen only recently. Even today He descends from the mountain on which He was transfigured; and though His face no longer shines more brightly than the sun, yet “immediately on catching sight of Jesus, the whole crowd was overcome with awe” and rushed up to Him, for still His glorious presence overwhelms. At the base of the mountain the crowd and the disciples are engaged with the scribes “in a lively discussion” about the condition and fate of a poor child horribly possessed by a demon. Their words are empty wind, but the one with all answers approaches. And with a measure of faith from the boy’s father and those surrounding, He casts out the devil which even the disciples could not command, and which the scribes could not comprehend.
“What an unbelieving lot [we] are! How long must [the Lord] remain with [us]? How long can [He] endure” our lack of wisdom and grace? Brothers and sisters, why do we so lack faith? Why do we say to the Lord, “If you can”? Do we not know that “everything is possible to a man who trusts”? Do we think the Lord’s power is somehow cut short? Yes, we are weak and pitiable creatures, blind to the glory which surrounds us, but He is not! He is that glory, and that glory He shines for us. We need but come to Him with the awe the crowd shows today, and He will do all things for us.
“All wisdom comes from the Lord and with Him it remains forever”; and for us “fear of the Lord is glory and splendor,” for by fear of the Lord are we graced with His wisdom. And then what shall we lack of His power? Indeed, we shall by holy fear come to know the “holiness [that] befits [His] house” and so dwell with Him who is “from everlasting.” Do you believe this, my brother, my sister? Come to the One who is seated far above us, and you shall do His work here on earth with the wisdom His Blessed Mother imparts to all her blessed children.
O LORD, in your wisdom and majesty
you save us from all evil;
let us stand with you in holiness.
YHWH, shine your wisdom upon us like holy light; let us grope in darkness no more, blind to your presence. Jesus your Son has come down from the mountain to remain with us – may we run to Him for healing.
If wisdom had not been revealed to us, how would we know your majesty, LORD? If the Christ had not come to us, what would we know of your glory? But as it is, He has come, and in Him all things are ours to know. As it is, the Spirit now breathes upon us.
May we be blessed with fear of you, O LORD our God, that all demons may be cast from our hearts and we might stand in strength with your only Son. O let us have faith in Him and the power at His command! Let us know that we are the work of your hands and to holiness in your House you call us. In awe let us come before you.
Sat, 18 February 2017
(Lv.19:1-2,17-18; Ps.103:1-4,8,10,12-13; 1Cor.3:16-23; Mt.5:38-48)
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
In the Book of Leviticus God says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and this is good. But in the gospel Jesus adds, “Love your enemies” – and this is better. In the old law we are commanded, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people”; but in the new we hear, “Offer no resistance to anyone who is evil,” and even, “Pray for those who persecute you.” For now it is revealed that all are God’s children, and so all must be loved as brothers.
“Is this wise?” you say, to love our enemies. “Is this not foolishness?” Indeed the wisdom of the world would call it so, but we are called to “become a fool, so as to become wise” in the eyes of God. For what the Lord calls us to in this is no less than to be like Him, to become the very “temple of God” where “the Spirit of God dwells.” “Merciful and gracious is the Lord,” and so are we called to be. “Not according to our sins does He deal with us,” and so we should not deal with others according to theirs. Our “Father has compassion on His children,” and we must have the same for all.
Has any of you put the words of the Lord into practice? Has anyone sought to discover such love? If you have then you know the glory it holds, the glory of a love which surpasses all. And though justice is not wanting for those who reject it, His love cannot but be poured upon all.
O the happiness of the soul that receives such grace! Oh the joy of him who knows the blessing of such utter sacrifice! What greater blessing can there be than to “be perfect, just as [our] heavenly Father is perfect”? With David the soul alight with God’s love sings: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name.” With Mary the Mother of God our soul proclaims His greatness as we come to know “all His benefits” in the service of His love. And our transgressions are put far from us; and the Lord’s grace abounds within us – and like His Son do we become, who upon the cross forgave even those who nailed Him to this tree.
Brothers and sisters, no greater love will we ever find. It is this gift of holiness our Lord calls us to this day. Let us love as He.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "True Love" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, how shall we be holy as you are holy
if we do not love as you love?
YHWH, you have redeemed our lives from destruction; you have not judged us according to our sins but looked upon us with compassion, offering forgiveness for our crimes, for you are love and mercy itself. And you call us to be like you.
If we are to be your Temple, O LORD, if we are to reflect your glory, then we must go beyond the desire to strike those who strike us, to answer evil with evil. We must learn to listen to the blessed words of your Son and love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us… for only then will we come to know you, to be like you, who love us as we strike you repeatedly on the cheek, who ever open your arms to all your prodigal sons. We must transcend our own minds to find the surpassing grace and wisdom only you know.
Blessed be your holy NAME, O LORD! Let us be holy as you are holy! Let us heed the wisdom of your Son, who calls us to eternal love.
Fri, 17 February 2017
(Heb.11:1-7; Ps.145:2-5,10-11; Mk.9:2-13)
“Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here.”
In yesterday’s gospel Jesus promised, “Among those standing here there are some who will not taste death until they see the reign of God established in power.” And today we witness the keeping of that promise, as upon “a high mountain” Jesus is transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James, and John. In all His glory does the Christ appear, with Elijah and Moses standing near and the voice of God the Father speaking of the blessing of His only Son. Indeed, how good it is for these apostles to be here!
But what these favored apostles see is not for their eyes alone; through them all shall come to believe and so find vision of our glorious Lord. Through them and their witness, faith is strengthened in all our hearts, faith which enables us to “perceive that the worlds were created by the word of God, and that what is visible came into being through the invisible.” Yes, the invisible is made known to all our eyes by the power of God, and all the Lord’s disciples join Peter, James, and John on Mount Tabor, basking in the vision of the glorified Son.
Know first though, brothers and sisters, that “anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Indeed, first one must have faith, or to one’s eyes nothing will be revealed. Have faith and know that God is a loving God, that He desires greatly to share His glory with all His children of faith; even as He has with Peter, James, and John; even as He has with Abel, Enoch, and Noah; even as He has with Moses and Elijah. But it is only “because of faith the men of old were approved by God,” only because of faith His apostles were able to see His Light shining – and only by your faith that you too will come into His presence. Have you their “confident assurance” burning in your souls? It is not far from you.
O Lord, “let all your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might.” Let all proclaim the favor with which you have deigned to grace their lives. Now that you have “risen from the dead,” now that our cause for faith is made complete, now that its firm foundation is set… open our mouths to declare your glory. We know that you had to “suffer much and be despised” and that with Elijah, with the Baptist, “they did entirely as they pleased,” but we do not fear the persecution which must come – only let us be where you are.
O LORD, make visible to us your invisible presence
and let us live in the light of your glory.
YHWH, if we had but faith in you, what might our eyes not see? What awe might we know in your presence if our hearts were but set on worship of your glorious majesty.
And why should we not have faith, LORD? Are there not signs of your glory everywhere, and most of all within our souls? Can we not hear you speaking to us if we but listen? Could we not see you if we but opened our eyes?
Why should we need the proof this world requires when the proof you give is so much greater? Are we not living in your Word, O LORD? Are you not hope itself? Then let us but live and we shall know you, and such knowledge will be undeniable.
Reveal to us your glory, LORD. Let us know what your apostles know; let us be witness to your majesty. Now that Jesus is risen let all the ends of the earth declare that your glory has come among us.
Thu, 16 February 2017
O seven men
who lived as one
in service of the Lord
under the mantle of Our Lady,
you who left everything of this world,
all you bought and sold,
that you might discover the riches
to the mountain you went
to find perfection –
to the mountain let us come
to live with God.
Led by the prompting of our Lord and Lady,
let us, too, be fruitful on this plane,
founded in humility and love and poverty,
living as one in the Body of Christ,
freely giving our lives
and so knowing the blessing
of the virtues upon which you fed.
Pray for us through our Mother
that we too follow the call of her Son.
Direct download: Feb._17_Seven_Founders_of_the_Order_of_Servites.mp3
Category:Saints -- posted at: 3:00pm EST
Thu, 16 February 2017
(Gn.11:1-9; Ps.33:10-15; Mk.8:34-9:1)
“What profit does a man show who gains the whole world
and destroys himself in the process?”
Listen to what the men of old said among themselves at a time when “the whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.” As they were migrating, they stopped in a valley and declared: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.” Hear how their desires reflect the Lord’s warning, “Whoever would save his life will lose it.” For the Lord will thwart their plans made in a vain pride quite apart from Him and see that what they fear shall indeed come to pass – from this point they shall be forced to continue their migration, being scattered to the four corners of the earth. Like David when he sought to number the people in his kingdom rather than allowing their increase in the sight of God, they do not put trust in the Lord but in the work of their own hands to make themselves a name. And such work, such plans, cannot but come to ruin.
“The Lord brings to naught the plans of nations; He foils the designs of peoples”; only “the plan of the Lord stands forever, the design of His heart, through all generations.” And we must thank God that this is so. For left to our own devices, we would go on “doing whatever [we] presume to do.” Thus does God save us from doing as we please because “He who fashioned the heart of each, He who knows all their works,” knows well how inclined the human heart is to evil; He has witnessed the destruction that ensues when we are left to ourselves, and from this fate He would rescue our souls. And so does He “confuse their language” at the Tower of Babel; so from there “He scattered them all over the earth” – to keep them from the sinful plots they would concoct.
Of course, our tongues are united again after Pentecost; we become one people under one God once more. And indeed, “happy [is] the nation whose God is the Lord.” But those who are set apart from Him, who do not lose their lives “for [His] sake and the Gospel’s,” do better in separation, where their sin is not as able to thrive. And so, until that day “when He comes with the holy angels in His Father’s glory,” until the time of fulfillment of the coming oneness of all the children of God, only those who dedicate themselves entirely to Jesus and His cross will “see the reign of God established in power” here on this earth – even as “this faithless and corrupt age” courts its inevitable destruction in its unyielding pride.
O LORD, let it be your reign we seek and not our own,
that our work might be blessed
and not cast to the ground.
YHWH, vision of you alone let us desire. Your reign established in power let us see coming even this day. This world shall soon pass away; upon it let us not set our hearts or we shall die in a vain pride.
If we seek to serve you, LORD, laying down our lives under the Cross with Jesus your Son, then alone will we be blessed and dwell in the City you prepare for us. But if we seek to make a name for ourselves, if by our own hands we would build our house – if we think we can raise bricks on this earth to attain to your heavenly kingdom, we shall be cast down to that earth in which we put our trust.
O LORD, it is you who fashioned and made us and we can do nothing of worth apart from you. If we turn our backs to the way you mark out for us, we shall be aimless wanderers on this earth. Let our words only praise you and your glory and we shall share in your reign.
Wed, 15 February 2017
(Gn.9:1-13; Ps.102:16-23,29; Mk.8:27-33)
“The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence.”
In our first reading from Genesis, God remakes the world. As once He sent forth Adam and Eve upon their creation, so now He blesses Noah and his sons with the same words: “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” Here we are reminded that “in the image of God has man been made,” and once again God calls man to “abound on the earth and subdue it,” giving him power over all its living creatures. And now a promise is added, a covenant is made “between [God] and the earth,” sealed with the sign of the rainbow – “never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth”… We shall endure on the land He has made for us.
And the Lord works to remake His people in our gospel as well, as “on the way He ask[s] His disciples… ‘Who do you say that I am?’” He is the new Creation, He is “the Messiah,” and in Him all children shall be remade in the image of God, shall become as His only Son. And these truly shall endure, their posterity shall continue forever in the presence of Him who never dies. Even after the final destruction of this earth and those who cling to it by the fire of God, even beyond the covenant made with Noah, which shall so soon pass with the dust from which we were made… eternally we shall remain in the new heavens and the new earth, the ones which themselves will never pass away. For God’s promise to Noah is only for as long as the earth endures, but the earth is indeed passing away: only the covenant Jesus is bringing to His disciples and their posterity is one which is lasting as Heaven.
But to achieve this covenant, to found it firmly in the soul of Peter and his brothers and all us children of these servants, death must come to the only Son, and so surely to us all. The paradox seems difficult to comprehend, but with the vision of God, who “look[s] down from His holy height,” it is easy to see: as long as the earth endures and we upon it, so long shall sin also endure. (This is what the Lord sees when “from heaven He [beholds] the earth.”) Thus the only way to “release those doomed to die” by their imprisonment to sin is for the corrupted vessel in which we dwell to pass from the Lord’s sight. Thus does Jesus Christ die. This must He do in the place of evil man and all his abominations that the world now in the hands of Satan might be destroyed, and the Spirit of God come to life. And so His sacrifice brings our salvation, brings us new life in the New Jerusalem, where the servants of the Lord increase and multiply. In the domain He has prepared by His blood, let us ever remain.
O LORD, look down and save us from destruction
by the sacrifice of your only Son.
YHWH, what do you see as you look down on us from your holy height? Can you be pleased with your creatures if they do not follow your ways? You desire to give us the earth and all it holds, but we are not worthy of such a gift. And so you send your only Son to redeem us, to remake us in your image, that we might be pleasing to you and that we might inherit not just this world but eternal life in Him who dies for us. Praise you for your kindness toward us! Let us come to Him and follow in His way.
Jesus dies for us, LORD. In flesh He comes and offers His life that all the corruption upon us might be taken away, that it might die with Him on the Cross. And should we not follow Him to the Cross? Should we not see that all that is evil in us dies with Him that we might rise unto your heavenly kingdom? O let it be so! Let us come to the place where we shall never be destroyed. Look down upon us and hear our prayer.
Tue, 14 February 2017
(Gn.8:6-13,20-22; Ps.116:12-15,17-19; Mk.8:22-26)
“Noah then removed the covering of the ark
and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.”
A return to earth, the flood waters having ceased. A new day dawns in this “the first month, on the first day of the month.” The world is made anew, and it shall last, and man shall last upon it, until the last day comes. Here is the second Creation, the first re-creation… the new generation extending from Noah. After the cleansing rain, a soft white glow is upon the earth, a radiance of God’s presence.
Gradually it comes to us, this vision of new life that is the Lord Himself. Three times Noah sent the dove forth from the ark before the blessed moment came when “it did not come back,” when all could rejoice that the waters had subsided. And twice the Lord touched the blind man’s eyes before “his sight was restored and he could see everything clearly.” Just as first the dove came back quickly, then with a “plucked-off olive leaf” in its bill (showing that the tops of trees were visible), before finding a place to make a home; so first the man sees people “like walking trees” before the Lord touches Him again and perfect vision becomes his own. It is only gradually – day by day, week by week, year by year – that we come to full awareness of the Lord and with Him make our home.
And once out of the ark, “Noah built an altar to the Lord.” And how pleased the Lord is with the “sweet odor” of the sacrifice he offers. Here is the beginning of the sacrifices at the heart of Jewish worship which shall find their place in the temple at Jerusalem, “in the courts of the house of the Lord,” and know their fulfillment in the eternal sacrifice of the only Son. Of course, it is not the odor alone which pleases the Lord, but what it signifies: Noah thinks first of Him who always thinks of us first, and so engages God in a marvelous mutual love. Here our second human father reveals to the Lord that the goodness He has planted in us is not gone, that it is not necessarily so that “the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start,” that he is capable of love… though this truth shall not be known in full until the redemptive offering of Christ on the cross.
“As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease,” and mankind shall not be struck again from the land. “How shall [we] make a return to the Lord” for this special blessing? And how shall we repay Him for “the cup of salvation” we now “take up,” the cup which holds the blood of the Son? For Noah’s sacrifice is indeed made complete in our midst, before our eyes, and the waters that once threatened to overwhelm us now recede as we discover our home in the heavenly kingdom. We must show that the fullness of God’s love exists in us and join our lives to our Savior’s holy sacrifice.
O LORD, open our eyes
that we might know your presence among us
and offer you due praise in the sacrifice of our lives.
YHWH, may our sacrifice be acceptable in your sight. May it come from a sincere heart and express our gratitude for saving us from the overwhelming waters of our sins. May it be joined to the sacrifice of your Son and so be fruitful, and so serve to keep us from all harm and bring us to your kingdom.
Our blindness we beg you cure, LORD, by the grace at the hands of Jesus. May He take us aside and place us in your presence that we might be healed of all that keeps us from knowing you and praising you for your goodness. Help us to have faith that you are leading us to the land you promise, to the new heavens and new earth. For this grace let us ever call upon your NAME.
And help us to make return to you, O LORD, you who alone deserve our worship and love. A holy offering may we lift up even as we lay down our lives with your only Son.
Mon, 13 February 2017
O brothers in the faith
who brought that same faith
to the peoples
entrusted to your care,
who extended the reach of the Church,
gathering in lands
under her holy roof
and into her blessed arms…
faithful you were unto death
in proclaiming the word of God –
please pray that we, too,
shall be holy brothers of Christ,
offering our work, our lives,
for the sake of the nations
yet to be called
into His fold,
for the sake of peoples
unfamiliar with His Word,
that the heavenly kingdom
may come to fulfillment
and all be made one in God’s presence.
Mon, 13 February 2017
(Gn.6:5-8,7:1-5,10; Ps.29:1-4,9-11; Mk.8:14-21)
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters,
the Lord, over vast waters.”
“Mighty” indeed is the voice of God, but who can hear it? Who listens to its “majestic” ringing in their ears?
In the time of Noah the Lord’s “heart was grieved,” for He “saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil.” So great was the Lord’s grief over man’s disobedience that He uttered the saddest words we could hear: “I am sorry I made them,” and resolved to “wipe [them] out from the earth.” If we have not pleased our Father, what hope have we of life? If we have not listened to His voice, what can we hear but a sentence of condemnation?
It seems Jesus’ heart is grieved, too, today at His disciples’ ignorance of His instruction. Here in a boat upon the waters His voice chastises their slowness to comprehend His call to wakefulness in the Spirit: “Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight? Ears but no hearing?” and finally, “Do you still not understand?” And though He seems eminently frustrated by the fact that their vision is still trained so stubbornly on the bread of earth rather than the Bread of heaven, though they so quickly forget the miracles He has worked and the power He has revealed, yet He shall not remove them from His sight, but continue in patience with their schooling.
For just as “Noah found favor with the Lord” and thus served to salvage our race from utter destruction, so the Lord’s apostles have found favor with Him. And Jesus knows that as “Noah did just as the Lord had commanded him,” putting complete faith in God’s word, so these disciples will also in strength and in faith carry out His mission after His own death and resurrection, after His ascension into heaven… and with the Holy Spirit’s power upon them. As in Noah’s ark God keeps man’s “issue alive over all the earth,” preserving them from the flood, so now in the barque of Peter “all the [Lord’s] household” takes refuge from the fiery destruction that is coming upon the world in these the last days.
Like the “one loaf” the disciples hold in their hands is the Church of the Lord – it is all that is needed for food in this world. And so as we sail along to the farther shore, let us listen to God’s mighty voice speaking through Her. As the end approaches, be sure to heed the Lord’s instruction: “Keep your eyes open!” Beware the hypocrisy and pride of the powers that be.
O LORD, how shall we be just in your sight
and begin to understand your majesty and glory?
YHWH, you are majestic, exalted far above earth and sea and every living creature. But we are deaf and blind to your ways, and so, beset by wickedness. How shall we hear your mighty voice calling to us over the waters, calling to us in your Son? How shall we heed the thunder of your glory and praise you in your Temple with full voice? How do we begin to understand what is far beyond our poor minds?
Send your Spirit upon us, LORD, that we might know and eat the Bread that is your Son, that we might be saved from the destruction that is coming upon all living things. Into your Ark let us come, into your holy Church; with your apostles let us dwell, enlightened by your teaching and sharing in your food.
The Bread of Heaven make our own, LORD, that we might rise above the earth to where you dwell enthroned in glory and majesty with your only Son.
Sun, 12 February 2017
(Gn.4:1-15,25; Ps.50:1,8,14,16-17,20-21; Mk.8:11-13)
“Sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Thus does the Lord encourage Cain not to hang his head at his failures in worship but to learn from his errors and be strong. Here already in Scripture we see how redemption is possible, how God gives us power to conquer sin. But Cain does not fight off the demon at his door but instead attacks his brother Abel, killing him who has overcome sin. The jealous demons write their name in Abel’s blood, by the hand of Cain his brother.
And the Pharisees are the same as Cain. It is they of whom our psalmist sings, they who “recite [the Lord’s] statutes, and profess [His] covenant with [their] mouth,” but whose hearts are far from Him and who “hate discipline and cast [His] words behind” themselves. It is they who “sit speaking against [their] brother,” for indeed they come to “argue with Jesus,” to “test” Him who is most especially their brother, who is their Messiah. And it is they who will shed their brother’s blood, who will conspire to kill their own “mother’s Son.” And though Jesus Himself “correct[s] [them] by drawing [their sin] up before [their] eyes,” yet, like Cain, they refuse to see the evil taking hold of them, and so will be unable to turn from it. And their punishment shall be greater than that of Cain, for so much greater is their sin. As Cain is banished from the soil which had been his own, so the covenant which the Lord had given into the Chosen people’s possession shall be taken from their leaders’ hands, and they shall be left empty – except for the hope of turning to Him and cleansing themselves in Jesus’ blood.
The sign the Pharisees seek is essentially one they would make with their own hands, one which they would find at their command. But “no such sign will be given” them, for then truly would they be condemned. They must come to the sign Jesus is and accept it as the Lord God offers – their attempts to control the Father’s will are perhaps the most tragic of transgressions. They say, as does Cain, that God must accept matters their way and are not humble to His Son’s teaching. And so, sadly for them, “He left them” there on the shore alone, burning in their jealousy.
Fight the demons, brothers and sisters. Ward off sin in all its forms. The Lord promises we shall have the strength, if we are willing to turn from our sins and accept His chastising word… and wash ourselves in His cleansing blood. But if we remain “resentful” and so “deaf” to the Lord’s correction, what shall save our souls? And with Cain we will wander restlessly the earth, avoiding the glorious presence of the Lord.
O LORD, we are a jealous race;
forgive our shedding the blood of our Brother.
YHWH, how sinful we are! How we turn our hand against our brother, inflicting upon him the punishment for our guilt. In condemning others we seek to rid ourselves of the condemnation we deserve; but this only brings the punishment on our own heads. Help us to admit our sin and turn away from it!
Killing our Brother will not free us from the death upon our souls. O LORD, how can we be so blind, so hardhearted, as to think such wickedness is our salvation? Jesus comes to us as our Brother, as the one closest to us and most concerned for our well-being… but we cannot bear to hear His voice speaking of our need to turn away from sin, and so, what can we do but kill Him? O set us free from bloodguilt!
Accept the sacrifice of a pure heart, dear God; make our offering to you sincere. Our very hearts let us give in the service of our brother.
Sat, 11 February 2017
(Sir.15:15-20; Ps.119:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34; 1Cor.2:6-10; Mt.5:17-37)
“Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
of keeping your statutes!”
The clear theme of today’s readings is the need to “exactly observe” the commands of the Lord, to keep His law “with all [our] heart.” It is this walking “in the law of the Lord” that makes us blessed in His sight.
It is popular to believe that Jesus’ coming somehow nullifies the law and makes it unnecessary for our lives. The Lord makes it quite clear the opposite is true: “I have not come to abolish but to fulfill.” In fact, He could not make the point more certain than His saying, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law.” Indeed, He does not say only that killing subjects one to judgment, but even anger at one’s brother. Not only is committing adultery wrong, but “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Simply because forgiveness is greater in the presence of Jesus does not mean punishment is less; it is in fact greater as well, and more than greater – eternal. Now “the Spirit scrutinizes everything.” Now even the smallest of sins is exposed to the all-encompassing light of Christ and to the “all-seeing… eyes of God.” The sins being more greatly exposed, of course the forgiveness is greater, for there is that much more for the all-compassionate God to forgive. But by the same token, for those who do not come to Jesus to receive His grace and mercy, for those who choose death over life… the punishment is certainly all the greater; for more they see upon their souls about which to gnash their teeth. And now the choice that is made by the will of man is no longer temporal: it is made eternal by the Son of Man. There is no release from Gehenna, and Jesus comes to usher us into Heaven or cast our souls into Hell. And further warning is found in the saints, who have said that most must pay “the last penny” in the fires of Purgatory before entering the heavenly gates.
The Lord gives no one “license to sin.” All shall be responsible for their actions against Him and against His wisdom and love. All are commanded to act justly before Him, if we hope to come into His kingdom. “Yes” is “yes” with the Lord, and “no” is “no”: no deception will stand before Him. We must pray each day for the wisdom to follow Him, and so find His everlasting grace upon our souls even as we journey through this world.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Give Me Strength" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us resolve to walk in your wisdom
that we might find eternal life.
YHWH, help us to follow in your ways with our whole heart, to seek ever to fulfill your commandments, to be obedient to your Word and that of your Son. Then we shall be blessed, for then we shall be perfect even as you are perfect.
Now your Spirit reveals all your truth through the teaching of Jesus. Now light is fully shed on the wonders of your Law. Now we are called to love as you love – not to be angry with our brothers, not to have lust in our heart… not to let our eyes wander or our tongue speak anything but your truth. The way to Heaven your Son makes clear to us: O LORD, let us heed His Word and walk in His holy way!
How holy we must be to enter your presence, how detached from all sin. Nothing of darkness can approach your glory, and so to the letter we must follow your Word. Indeed, we must wholly live in your love. To see as you see, O LORD, to transcend our blindness… to come to what is beyond our minds, we must give ourselves over to the Spirit and be purified of every stain of sin.
Fri, 10 February 2017
O lovely Lady who appeared to Bernadette,
Mary, Blessed Virgin and Mother of our Lord –
let our eyes, too, see your beauty
and hear your voice
calling us to pray for sinners,
calling us to come to you with our prayers
and to wash ourselves clean
in the water you provide
through Jesus your Son.
O Immaculate Conception,
so pure, so full of grace,
cleanse all our sickness from us;
let us be immersed
in the bath of purity
that washes us of sin,
that makes us whole
in the sight of God.
If we but had innocent hearts
we would see you,
we would remember the blessing you are
to all faithful souls…
O let us come to you
and find the grace we need this day.
Fri, 10 February 2017
(Gn.3:9-24; Ps.90:1-6,12-13; Mk.8:1-10)
“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Because of the fall we come face-to-face with this truth: our own mortality, our own humility, that we are but a creature made from the dust of the earth. And this truth we must understand. Because we have “eaten from the tree of which [God] had forbidden [us] to eat,” “thorns and thistles” the earth brings forth for us and “by the sweat of [our] face shall [we] get bread to eat,” until we learn our place – for our own sakes – before our Creator, or “until we return to the ground, from which we were taken.”
“Cursed be the ground because of you!” the Lord God exclaims to the man. The womb of the woman, like the earth for man, shall bring her pain in bearing children, in bearing her fruit… and the serpent shall eat dust “all the days of [his] life.” If now we should eat of the tree of life, to what state would we be condemned! How shall we be saved from such a fate, wherein our own flesh brings upon us such pangs – how shall we escape ourselves? And how shall we look upon God again?
“Teach us to number our days aright,” our psalmist cries, “that we may gain wisdom of heart.” And what is he asking but that we realize, as God would teach us, that though He is “from everlasting to everlasting,” that though for Him “a thousand years are as… a watch of the night,” we are “like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades.” So passing is our life. This indeed we must comprehend, for this is truth, and failing to understand it we shall not find answer to our prayer: “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” But knowing our limitations before our God, He comes quickly to remedy our weakness.
See how Jesus looks upon those who “were without anything to eat,” those whose bodies fainted before His eyes. Listen to the thought of His heart: “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd. By now they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way. Some of them have come a great distance.” Oh how the Lord has pity on us! Oh how He knows our plight – that we are but fading grass, having been far removed from His sight! And how He wills to feed us, to nourish those who come to Him, who share the “three days” of His trial. For though they toiled not, “the people in the crowd ate their fill” in the most peaceful of fields. The Lord had come to save them! And now eternal life is upon them.
Brothers and sisters, we need no longer fear our dying flesh, for the Lord feeds us with Bread that does not fail, that brings life eternal to the lowly body that eats it. And so, no longer are we dust alone, though to dust our body may return. But we become eternal souls in the hand of our Savior, eating from the tree of life He is. In all humility let us receive His gift, His saving presence among us. And to God we shall return, and now forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread of life
that we might lie in the dust no more.
YHWH, have pity on our weakness, for our flesh is like the changing grass – we do but wilt and fade. Weak in body and in spirit we find ourselves separated from you by our sins, by our disobedience to your command. You care only for our good; let us come to you and remain with you till you take pity on our souls.
You give us food to eat, O LORD, even the body of your only Son. Let us not prefer the food of this world or that which the devil offers. If our eyes are opened unto death, if we but see our weakness, our nakedness before you, without realizing your eternal love… to what end shall we come? We shall but return to dust.
Your punishments are good, LORD; your chastisements are what heal our tortured souls. Let our suffering be joined to Jesus’ own, that we shall hunger for you alone, and in our humility you will be quick to feed us and return us to your fold.
Thu, 9 February 2017
O innocent soul,
pure as an angel,
meek as a lamb,
from slavery you were taken
to the house of God,
where freedom you found
in faith in the Lord –
pray for the freedom of all slaves
chained in soul or body,
that they shall be released
from the snares of this world
to walk at liberty with Jesus.
Pray His goodness reign
in all His children,
in all who would be
gentle as this Lamb;
may all those in need of His grace
hear His Word proclaimed,
and in His blood
And pray His Mother watch over
all who are near or far from Him,
till they enter His presence.
Thu, 9 February 2017
(Gn.3:1-8; Ps.32:1-2,5-7; Mk.7:31-37)
“The eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked.”
How different this opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve is from the opening of the deaf man’s ears in our gospel; for our first parents’ eyes were opened unto blindness, but the deaf mute’s ears and tongue only to light.
Why this difference? Why such contrast in the freeing of the senses to receive their signals? Why is one evil and the other good? The opening of the eyes of the man and the woman brings their downfall because they are not prepared for what they see. They seek to be “like gods who know what is good and what is bad,” but they have not the skins to hold such wine of wisdom. And so they burst. And so they died before the glorious light suddenly before them… and so “the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden,” for they could not show their faces of dust before His Face of Majesty. (Indeed, the woman first erred when she “answered the serpent,” when she responded to his enticement, not realizing she was no match for his “cunning”… much as she failed to understand she is no match for God’s wisdom.)
On the other hand, the opening of the deaf man’s ears and the loosing of his tongue is prepared by Jesus Christ, He in whose presence we are able to see light itself, He who provides the new wineskins for our becoming like God, enabling us to stand before the wonder of His Holy Face. Notice how “Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd” before healing the deaf-mute; see how this contrasts with Adam and Eve’s hiding from God. Where they would avoid the glance of the Lord, Jesus brings the man closer to Him by drawing him away from the crowds; and there, more perfectly in His presence, He heals him. And the man is healed, of course, because he himself does not hide: he is brought openly by his friends to Jesus. In this way he “acknowledged [his] sin” before God; his “guilt [he] covered not” (as the man and woman covered their nakedness with fig leaves). No, in his “spirit there is no guile,” and so his “fault is taken away”; and so, paradoxically, he who “confess[es] his sin to the Lord,” as the humble King David, finds that by the Lord his “sin is covered” – he is forgiven.
Brothers and sisters, let us learn to open our tattered souls to our Lord and God, never to hide; for to hide is hell and the Lord calls us to Him in the light of heaven. And He will prepare our eyes to see, and He will make our ears ready to hear, and our tongues shall be loosed to praise His name and exclaim our amazement at His grace… for we shall be released from the blindness of sin and be as His Son, who alone can answer the devil.
O LORD, let us hear your voice calling us
to confess our sins and return to you this day.
YHWH, how terrible it is when we transgress your Word, when we rebel against your loving will! We are blinded by our sin even as our eyes are opened to our weakness… and so we hide from your glory, which we cannot contain.
We have bodies, LORD. You have made us so. We are not like you, pure Spirit and perfect Light. And how weak our bodies can be when we lack your secure protection, when we lose your presence with us by our failing to love you. Who can save us from such travail? Who can open our ears again to hear and heed your holy Word?
O LORD, as we confess our faults to you, as we come before your Son to seek His healing – He who comes to show us that we are like you (for He is like you and we like Him), He who would restore us to our place as your children, blessed to be in your image… then our nakedness is covered; it is taken away as we reveal our weakness before you. Let us listen only to you!
Wed, 8 February 2017
(Gn.2:18-25; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.7:24-30)
“A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one body.”
And Jesus leaves His Father’s side and His mother’s care, and takes to wife His chosen people. From His side indeed we are born, and become His holy family.
To the “sons of the household” Jesus comes; among the Israelites He walks, calling them to His table to eat the food of eternal life, of eternal union with Him and His Father. Those who were conceived by God, who were taken as a rib from His own side and formed as His special bride, Jesus seeks to bring to full nuptial blessing in Him. For this He would even die (as any man should for his wife). But one “approached Him and crouched at His feet” who was not among those called to the “table first,” who was not of the family of the Chosen. Unfazed by His rebuff she continues begging, not for “the food of the children” but just for their “leavings,” their crumbs, knowing even this will be enough to join her to His banquet, believing only a word from His mouth will save her own daughter from the devil’s clutches and bring her to His sacred presence.
And moved is He by her who is unmoved by His rebuke. And so, “when she got home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.” And so she finds herself and her family wed to Jesus the Christ. Why? Because she is one who does indeed “fear the Lord,” who does in fact “walk in His ways”; crawling on her knees before Him, she finds herself “happy” and “favored,” eating “the fruit of [her] handiwork.” She knows she is not one of the “wild animals” or of the “birds of the air”: she is made in God’s image, a human being, and is inextricably drawn to His side, the side from which she has been born… and thus she finds her life and becomes with her daughter (with all us Gentile people) one of the “olive plants around [His] table,” grafted onto His “fruitful vine.”
Let man love woman as his own flesh, and let all men love one another as fellow children, for our Father in heaven loves us all much more greatly and draws us all to be wed to Him through our Bridegroom, His only Son. As His side is opened by the lance and so we His Church are born in His blood, washed clean by His holy water, so let husbands give themselves for their wives, knowing they are “taken from” their own sides. Yes, let us all die for one another that the love of God might extend to “the recesses of [His] home,” from which no soul is excluded. In His blessed marriage feast let us all shout for joy!
O LORD, blessed are those
who humble themselves before you;
they shall be joined to you.
YHWH, flesh of your flesh we are; flesh of your flesh let us be, wed to you through the flesh of your only Son. One with you let us dwell forever, for from you our very lives taken.
And help us thus to love one another, LORD. If you love us so much to give us yourself, let us then reflect your love and so give ourselves for the sake of others. Let husbands love their wives and all souls serve the needs of others, finding great joy and blessing in thus serving your will.
To your table let all come, LORD, that they might share the food of your children, the Bread that is Jesus your Son, the Word that is your Spirit. May all souls recognize the greatness and the goodness of Him who walks among us, and may we be hidden with Him in you and so become your fruitful children. In faith let us be born and live in you and with you forever; let none be alone or apart from you.
Tue, 7 February 2017
O innocent soul,
pure as an angel,
meek as a lamb,
from slavery you were taken
to the house of God,
where freedom you found
in faith in the Lord –
pray for the freedom of all slaves
chained in soul or body,
that they shall be released
from the snares of this world
to walk at liberty with Jesus.
Pray His goodness reign
in all His children,
in all who would be
gentle as this Lamb;
may all those in need of His grace
hear His Word proclaimed,
and in His blood
And pray His Mother watch over
all who are near or far from Him,
till they enter His presence.
Tue, 7 February 2017
O soldier for the Lord
and servant of the poor
who trusted in God alone
and gave your life
for those in need –
may we, too, become friends of the one Lord,
purified of all dross
by the trials we endure
and by doing His will
in this world.
His children let us become
as we care for the children
most in need,
those who seem abandoned
His hands and His heart
let us be,
that in such love
we shall be free
of all fear and separation
from the Father
and so dwell with those we serve
in the peace of Heaven.
Tue, 7 February 2017
(Gn.2:4-9,15-17; Ps.104:1-2,27-30; Mk.7:14-23)
“The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.”
In addition, “out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food.” These would feed the body of the man. But only spirit feeds the soul.
Body and soul. They meet in man and become one, yet one is the cause of life while the other passes. When God formed man out of the clay of the ground, what He held in His hands was the body, and at the time it was dead. Not until He breathed into him did man become alive: in this breath he found his soul. And the time shall come when this form does rot, but not the soul. Only in heaven will we have bodies that live eternally with our spirits (though certain saints – as did our Blessed Mother – may know this holy union even here on earth.)
And so does Jesus tell us “that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure,” and, to make this point graphically clear, adds, “It does not penetrate his being, but enters his stomach only and passes into the latrine.” What is of the body is just so passing, and therefore of no consequence. It is “what emerges from within a man” that “makes him impure.” For sins such as “acts of fornication, theft, murder,” etc. are not the result of the food we eat, but of the thoughts in “the deep recesses of the heart.” These are what make a man impure – or, by contrast, which will make him pure. It is the soul that is capable of good or evil, not the body. And even though it is eating of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” that causes man’s downfall, this is not the result of the fruit itself, but of the covetousness and pride of man’s disobedience. It is the ‘eating,’ the desire of the eye and the heart and the act which follows, which constitutes the sin, and not the fruit eaten.
Our psalmist speaks of the body and soul as well. It is so that by the Lord we are “filled with good things,” that He gives us “food in due time,” food we need for our survival; but as the psalmist says of the soul, “If you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust.” How quickly we would die, in a moment or two, without the breath of God in our nostrils, without His Word to give us life. And what great care we should take of the spirit that enters our beings. May our souls ever be set upon our God and His teaching. May our every thought and word and action be of Him, that we shall never be disobedient. O Lord, “when you send forth your Spirit, [we] are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” Give us your divine breath of life in our nostrils this day.
O LORD, you make us of the clay of the earth,
but it is not the body that is of consequence
but the Spirit breathing within us –
let it be your own.
YHWH, it is you who make us of the clay of the ground and you who breathe the breath of life into our nostrils. It is you who feed us in both body and spirit – you are our LORD and God.
It is you who care for us each day, O LORD, you who send your Son to take away our sins. He reveals to us that it is not the flesh that gives life but the Spirit that is within; and He would cleanse us of all iniquity that we might stand as your sons always.
Though Jesus comes in the flesh and gives us of His flesh to eat, this food is not the passing kind but that which lasts unto eternal life. And so, LORD, we pray that we shall embrace Him and the Word, the Spirit, He imparts to us. Thus will we be raised from the dust of death, from the chains that bind us to this earth, and rise with Him unto Heaven.
Feed us with your Word, LORD, that we might be renewed and live forever in your Garden.
Mon, 6 February 2017
(Gn.1:20-2:4; Ps.8:2,4-9; Mk.7:1-13)
“God created man in His image;
in the divine image He created him.”
At God’s word “the water teem[s] with an abundance of living creatures… birds fly beneath the dome of the sky,” and “the earth bring[s] forth all kinds of living creatures,” too. And “God saw how good it was.” Then God conceived the crown of His creation and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And so, “little less than the angels He made him” and gave him “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” And all this was “very good” in God’s eyes. Alleluia!
But what does man do with this ultimate blessing from His Creator: he takes the freedom and power placed in his hands and makes himself a slave to “cups and jugs and kettles,” forever trying to wash his hands clean of the sin upon them. God gives man “rule over the works of [His] hands, putting all things under his feet,” and all man can do is trample upon them as he forgets the God who made him.
“How accurately Isaiah prophesied about [us] hypocrites when he wrote… ‘Empty is the reverence they do me because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts.’” Placing our traditions and practices above God’s commandments we lose sight of the glory upon us, of the majesty of God’s works around us, as we lock ourselves in a dark and empty room of our own making. And all the creatures God has placed in our unclean hands suffer too, as our hearts turn from their stewardship to our selfish plottings. And so, though we are crowned by God “with glory and honor,” we crown Him with thorns.
O Lord, “what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” Lord, come and restore us to our former glory. Father, let us give you true honor. May your Word be made fruitful in our lives and we become as your Son. Let all be blessed and made holy again in your sight. In Jesus’ blood please wash our hands, that we might help you build your peaceful kingdom.
O LORD, may your Word be fulfilled in us;
may we who were created in your image
be recreated in the image of your Son,
washed clean in His blood.
YHWH, you place all things in our hands, and we but corrupt them. Your glory and majesty you reflect in your creation, and especially in man, but he cares not well for your gift and abuses his dominion. His hands are not subject to your will but soiled by his own, and so creation with them.
In your image you create us, LORD: what greater blessing could there be! Like gods we are made to reflect your presence on this plane – why have we gone so astray? And how shall we return to you? Only by heeding the chastising word of your only Son, who speaks with your own authority. Listening to Him we heed your commands; turning from Him we can only be condemned.
Thank you for all your blessings, LORD, for the beauty and goodness of your creation. Most of all, we thank you for making us in your image. Let us not nullify your word and remove ourselves from your presence, but honor you in all we do.
Sun, 5 February 2017
O proclaimers of the faith
even unto death,
death on a cross,
you who have followed
in the way of our Lord
loving your enemies
even as they killed you,
encouraging your brothers
even with your last breath –
may the blood you shed not be forgotten
by those of the nation in which you preached
and by all souls who seek God;
may it nourish the land
and bring it to bear much fruit
Pray that we who are so fearful here
may find the faith and courage
and so be blessed with the same grace
that imparts the peace of the kingdom.
Sun, 5 February 2017
(Gn.1:1-19; Ps.104:1-2,5-6,10,12,24,31,35; Mk.6:53-56)
“How manifold are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have wrought them all.”
It is the Lord who “fixed the earth upon its foundation not to be moved forever,” and “with the ocean, as with a garment [He] covered it” – “the earth is full of His creatures.” By the Word of His mouth all comes into being, and is sustained, sustained in the goodness of God.
Here as we read the beginning of sacred Scripture, we might do well to quote St. Bonaventure from the day’s Office of Readings. In speaking of knowledge of Christ as “the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all sacred Scripture,” He states: “It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in Christ. This faith is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and a key to its understanding.” But how many read God’s Word as though in a dark room.
The prevailing lack of faith and so blindness to the truth of Scripture is evident again today in the commentary of my missal, which says of the Creation prophecy in Genesis, “The story is divided artificially,” giving as example the fact that “the sun is created after light.” How indeed we grope in darkness without the light of the Spirit; without childlike faith we shall never understand God’s Word, never enter His kingdom. Is the light of God dependent upon the sun or the stars? When our psalmist sings of the Lord “robed in light as with a cloak,” is it sunlight of which he speaks? Does the light of the Lord not necessarily precede the limited light of the sun – which the Lord has but made “to govern the day” for a time – even as it shall be all by which we see when the sun and the moon and the stars pass away? Where is your faith, where is your understanding… why is the Lord’s light not in you, my brother?
Brothers and sisters, as the people of Gennesaret upon seeing Jesus “immediately recognized Him” and “scurried about” to bring all their sick to Him, so we must be drawn by the light of God to the Truth that is Christ the Lord. He is in every page of Scripture. He is at work with the Father in Creation. He is the all-powerful Word which brings all into being by its eminent wisdom made flesh before our eyes; and we shall never know the wonder of God’s works and the wonders He has wrought in our own soul unless we come to faith in Him. In Jesus are all God’s works revealed. He is the light of the universe. (And though His radiance extends beyond our sight to infinite galaxies, it is here in this dome between clouds and sea we dwell, the earth from which we have been formed solidly beneath our feet.)
O LORD, you created the world and all it holds
and redeemed us by your Son –
let your light be upon us this day.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth you have created the heavens and the earth and given us light to guide our way. It is you in whom all glory and majesty dwell, yet you have made this world as a reflection of your beauty. For this we should ever praise you.
But how we have disfigured your Creation, LORD! How we have lost our way. Still, you do not leave us alone in the darkness we have made – to us you send your only Son, Word made flesh, Light of the world. And as we recognize in Him your glory in our midst, as we reach out to Him for healing, we are made well again, whole in your sight.
Let us dwell, O LORD, in the place you have made for us; in your goodness let us remain. Through the ministry of your Son let us be fed by your hand, that we might be led one day to your Promised Land.
Sat, 4 February 2017
O good child of God
who gave your life so willingly
for the sake of Christ
and so wore His holy blood
upon your robes,
you who were blessed
to remain ever faithful to the Lord
even as those around you
turned from His presence –
pray for us this day
that our lives too
may be holy and blessed
as your own,
that we too might give witness to the Lord
with the same pure love
you did so readily show.
Pray we shall be wed to the Spouse
you so intimately knew
and thus become one with Him
and all His saints in Heaven.
May our lives also be good,
may they also be godly,
and may we, too, stand as others fall.
Sat, 4 February 2017
“Your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
And how shall “your light break forth like the dawn” except that you “share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” Indeed, you must “remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech,” for only “the man who is gracious and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice,” only for him “light shines through the darkness” – as he is thus light being brought to this world of darkness and sin – only “he shall not fear,” for “his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” And he shall stand on the last day, when the light comes to its fullness.
This emptying oneself of all that is evil and finding oneself in all that is just by “lavishly [giving] to the poor,” by feeding all those in need, is as Paul comes to the Thessalonians: “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling.” “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” “Not with persuasive words of wisdom” does he come “but with a demonstration of Spirit and power.” Embracing the cross he empties himself entirely of all selfishness, of all that is not of God, and thus the light that shines through him is entirely of the Lord, and serves as genuine food to the hungry soul.
Brothers and sisters, to whom is the Lord speaking in our gospel but to us? Who is “the light of the world,” what is the “city set on a mountain” but the Church? If we are not “the salt of the earth,” bringing out the flavor of justice and love from the flesh of the Body, who shall be? And what shall become of us and the world, therefore, but “to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”? Sometimes we look to others – to government, to business, to science – to lead the way. But all that need be is that we light the lamp that is in our grasp by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the house shall be illumined; we shall no longer fear or worry for the fate of those in need, for we shall be present to serve them. But if “under a bushel basket” we place the light that is ours, what can the world be but dark; and what can the people do but suffer? Brothers and sisters, we are called to shine the love of God. The time has come to do so.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from My Eye" (2nd part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us trust firmly in you
and so shine your light
even as your Son, Jesus.
YHWH, help us to be the light you call us to be, the light we must be if the world is to be saved from darkness. Your Son has come as the true light to illumine the hearts of all men, to save them from their sin, and we must now carry that light forth, for who else shall do so?
Bless your Church, O LORD. with the sacrificial Spirit of your only Son. Instill in our hearts the love only He knows. Help us to be generous, to lay down our lives for others, that the hungry might be fed and the naked clothed with your glory. O may our light indeed break forth like the dawn in this dark world that all souls might be drawn to your kingdom!
No fear have we, dear LORD, but the fear of failing to serve you, failing to reveal the face of Jesus in all we do. Let us not hide His light; let our spirits not be corrupted and we be trampled underfoot for turning from your call. Rather, let us do good, let us do your will, that your glory may be ever with us.
Fri, 3 February 2017
(Heb.13:15-17,20-21; Ps.23:1-6; Mk.6:30-34)
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.”
All things are cared for by the Lord; our work and our rest are in His hands. Nothing need we fear. No good desire goes unfulfilled – His sheep He loves.
Brothers and sisters, “through Christ may [the God of peace] carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him.” Let Him guide you “in right paths” for the accomplishment of His will. In “good deeds and generosity,” in obedience to superiors, in every intention of the heart, “continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge His name,” for this thanksgiving He desires before all deeds and in all deeds; such praise will ensure His blessing, and lead to greater praise, and so greater blessing! Have every confidence that the Lord “will furnish you with all that is good, that you may do His will,” and rejoice always in all you accomplish by His grace.
See in our gospel that when “the apostles returned to Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and what they had taught,” “He said to them, ‘Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little.’” They have done His work faithfully, and now He would give them rest; now He would refresh and renew their souls. “Beside restful waters He leads me”: in a “boat by themselves” He takes them. “In verdant pastures He gives me repose”: “to a deserted place” the boat goes. And though upon arrival at their destination the people wait “like sheep without a shepherd” and so their work must resume, this does not distract from the promised rest which awaits the finishing of our work in this world, and indeed but emphasizes that our rest shall be complete only in heaven.
For now the Lord watches over. Now He cares for us like needful sheep. Now He takes upon Himself all our fears and burdens, and calls us to do the same for all. What should we want? What do we need when we do the Lord’s will? In this laying down of our lives all is provided; in our work we take our rest, we eat our bread. For He is with us with His “goodness and kindness”; He remains at our side even in darkness… We become one with our Shepherd, and no further grace we desire.
O LORD, in you alone we take our rest,
through the blood of your only Son.
YHWH, through Jesus may we carry out your will; washed in His blood may we be raised from the dead. In Him let us take our refuge, and nothing shall be wanting to us.
In your Son all our needs are met, and this to overflowing. For He has pity on all our weakness – O LORD, let us be obedient to our Shepherd!
LORD our God, let us praise you in all things, your NAME ever on our lips. In all our work may we be blessed and brought into your heavenly presence.
You would give us rest, dear God; you call us to an out-of-the-way place to be with you. May we find repose in your eternal kingdom after these days of toil are passed.
But even here you are with us, LORD, even in this dark place. Your Son is the Shepherd who walks amongst His sheep, leading us ever to your side.
Thu, 2 February 2017
O bringer of light
to many nations,
you who struggled on
for the souls placed in your care
that all might know the Christ
for whom you toiled,
to convert obstinate hearts –
may your zeal
inspire missionaries this day
to go forth selflessly
proclaiming the Gospel to all,
bearing witness to the Lord
in the cross they bear
in season and out of season;
whether producing much fruit
or being rejected,
may their hearts be set on the Word
and the love of God
for His children.
Pray especially those lands you led to Christ
will turn again
to the one true light.
Thu, 2 February 2017
O shepherd whom we invoke
for the healing of throats,
you who suffered torments
for the sake of the Name
and embraced death
as leader of His flock –
open our throats
to speak of Jesus,
to declare His goodness and glory,
the salvation that comes
only through Him.
Let us not fear
nor shrink from the threats
of the mighty
but stand fast
in the Lord’s healing grace,
confident that His every blessing
will keep us well
and on the path
that leads only to Heaven.
Pray all sickness flee from us
this day and forever.
Thu, 2 February 2017
(Heb.13:1-8; Ps.27:1,3,5,8-9; Mk.6:14-29)
“I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.”
A series of parallels we have today between our first reading and our gospel. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Hebrews not to “neglect to show hospitality” to our “fellow Christians,” since we may be “entertain[ing] angels” thereby; but it is not angels Herod entertains at his birthday banquet, and a false sense of hospitality leads him to grave sin, as when Herodias’ daughter requests the Baptist’s head on a platter, “because of his oath and the presence of his guests,” he “dispatch[es] an executioner.”
Paul also tells us to “be mindful of prisoners as if [we] were sharing their imprisonment”; and it seems almost against himself Herod indeed sympathizes with John. We are told, “When he heard him speak he was very much disturbed; yet he felt the attraction of his words.” He knows John is the angel he should better entertain, but denies the voice speaking to his heart. And so Paul’s warning, “You may yet suffer as they do,” proves true with Herod, who is clearly imprisoned by his own fear that John has been raised from the dead to haunt his soul.
Of course, the central cause of all Herod’s problems is his breaking the command Paul expresses distinctly: “Let marriage be honored in every way and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,” for it is “on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married,” that John chastises Herod, that the king has the prophet imprisoned, and that he is cornered into murdering him. And so now he knows very deeply the extent to which “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” Indeed, his adulterous relationship and his niece/daughter’s dance of lust stand as examples comparable to the profligate lands of Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality, for their opposition to the Father’s love.
It is the Father’s love and our trust therein which rises above the immorality and violence so present in our gospel. At the heart of Paul’s letter is his paraphrase of today’s psalm: “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?” Indeed the faith in God David sings of so confidently – “Though an army encamp against me… though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust” – is what the Baptist holds in his own spirit, even as he extends his neck for the executioner’s blade. He knows well that the Lord “will hide [him] in His abode in the day of trouble,” and so no trouble does his death cause him: the Lord will certainly “set [him] high upon a rock,” keeping him untouched by the lust and destruction which surround him in Herod’s dank prison. It is Herod upon whom darkness shall fall.
“Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me.” Through all things let me remain in your light. And as John’s life ended, this greatest of “leaders who spoke the word of God” to us, so let my own, in faith in you, O Lord, who are with us forever.
O LORD, though thrown in prison or put to death,
still you protect us;
in purity in your presence let us dwell.
YHWH, O what fate awaits those who feed their lust, who wallow in the wickedness of this world! Theirs is a punishment far worse than death, for never will their fear come to an end.
But those who love you and their brothers, LORD, those who have pity on souls most in need, these are shielded by you in the day of trouble and shall rise to be with you in the end.
Your children are persecuted on this earth, O LORD our God. They walk in the footsteps of your Son. But despite the war that is waged upon them, despite the threat of death itself, those who trust in you are not shaken. But those who sit upon the thrones of sin, those who give free reign to their passion and greed – these do but fat themselves for the day of slaughter, when the dance of lust shall be long past.
Let us serve you in our brothers, LORD. Let us share in the pains of those oppressed and keep ever to your way, and you will keep us from all harm to sit with John and Jesus on the last day.
Wed, 1 February 2017
(Heb.12:18-19,21-24; Ps.48:2-4,9-11; Mk.6:7-13)
“You have drawn near to MountZion
and the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem…”
“…to the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” Alleluia! “Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God.” And great is our call to dwell in His blessed City with all His holy ones, and with our Lord. Could there be a greater cause for joy? For “His holy mountain, fairest of heights, is the joy of all the earth,” and the joy of heaven.
To the New Jerusalem we are drawn, brothers and sisters, to the fairest heights. Holiness in the Lord is our call – to dwell with our Lord forever. But what is the road that leads to such a blessed mountain? How do we who tread the dust of this earth find our way to heaven? Evident the Lord makes the path today in the summoning of His apostles. In their call we find our own.
“Do not bring a second tunic,” Jesus says to the Twelve as He sends them forth to preach and to heal. For they are to make no provision, to put no stock in the things of the earth… “to take nothing on the journey.” Their trust must be entirely in Him and the word with which He anoints them: the power He gives, the grace He provides, is sufficient not only to cast out demons, but to find all we need for our day-to-day lives. The Lord teaches us as He teaches them that our faith must be complete, our spirits wholly set on His will, if we are to make our way across the dust of this earth to His kingdom. Nothing short of the sacrifice He Himself offers first will bring us there. His sprinkled blood must be upon us, and work through us.
“O God, we ponder your kindness in your temple”; we marvel at your grace. For no longer by “fearful… spectacle” of “blazing fire” and “gloomy darkness” do you make yourself known to us. No longer are you “untouchable,” Lord. But present in our midst, sandals upon your feet, you, O unapproachable glory, draw near to us, and so enable us to draw near to you, to touch you, O wounded Savior. And your sandals you place upon our feet and invite us to walk in the way you have shown. May we do so, Lord, as humbly as thou; and so to our eyes and our hearts make your kingdom known.
All the saints in heaven, pray for us. All His holy angels, watch over our way. May our feet stand forever upon the Lord’s holy mountain. In His heavenly City let us make our home. (In His Church, in His Mass, He is with us.)
O LORD, may we take with us only
the Cross of your Son
as we journey to your holy mountain.
YHWH, how can we express the joy of the gracious gift of your Son in our midst? In Him your Temple comes to us; in Him we dwell in your City, O living God. He is the mountain to whom all holy souls come. His is the blood that washes us clean and prepares our hearts to receive your glory. May we follow in His steps this day that we might live ever in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Nothing need we but your Son and His Cross, O LORD. There is nothing in which we should put our trust but His Word. For walking in His sandals all is provided for us – what does any son need but you.
O Father in Heaven, in your great love you think of us and draw us into your presence with all the holy ones. Let us be made ready to stand on your mountain by our trust in you today. Let your Son work in us; in Him let us make our home.
Tue, 31 January 2017
(Heb.12:4-7,11-15; Ps.103:1-2,13-14,17-18; Mk.6:1-6)
“Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines;
He scourges every son He receives.”
Like His only Son we must be. For without discipline where would we be? Apart from the Lord’s chastising hand, into what state would we fall? Without the cross, how could we find the kingdom?
If the Lord did not scourge us, we would be blind as His countrymen in our gospel today, who question even what their ears behold and their eyes see – dead to His presence we would remain. Only the dust of His flesh would we look upon, thinking He is no more than our sinful selves; far short of His divinity would we fall. And so a word of chastisement He brings to our hearts, as He does those of “His native place,” of “His own house,” condemning our failure to honor God in His prophets and in His Son, calling us beyond our eyes of flesh to the breath of the Spirit.
Oh how our “lack of faith distress[es] Him”! Oh how He would stir within us “that holiness without which no one can see the Lord”! For “the kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear Him,” and His kindness He would have all know. But failing of a reverent awe for the Most High Lord, what do we do but grovel in the dust? Our hearts cannot know Him if they are not humble; our souls cannot bless Him if they are not holy… and so we lose “all His benefits” by a stubborn pride. This is not the will of God.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord “knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.” But from the dust He calls us to join Him on high, to rise above our earthen state. In His compassion the Father would have us be even as He is; and so He sends His only Son to suffer for our sins, to show us the path to holiness we must walk. “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees”; fear not the cross of Jesus. For by it you will be made strong, you will be made whole; through it “the grace of God” will pour, and make you as His own.
Peace soon follows every cord of scourging; the nails in our hands open our souls to the Spirit’s movement, to the Lord’s love, as by this bleeding our sins are purged. And in His light we shall soon stand, “all [our] being bless[ing] His holy name.” Then we shall no longer question His wisdom but in His mercy make our home.
O LORD, may we be your sons
not just in flesh but in truth;
your compassion be upon us
in the discipline of your Word.
YHWH, thank you for your discipline, for your blessed chastising hand. It is out of love you correct us; in your compassion you desire us to be with you. Let us praise you for your kindness.
Forgive us, LORD, all our blindness, all our failure to see your hand at work. Our disobedience hurts us most of all, for by it we separate ourselves from your love. In our lives let your will be done!
If you had not compassion on our erring hearts, if you scourged not our sinful souls, where would we be, LORD, where would we be? From your healing and your teaching let us never be apart.
Come to your native place this day, O LORD. Those baptized in your NAME please bless. Let us welcome you with open arms into our houses, treasuring every chastising word, and we shall be at peace in your presence.
Mon, 30 January 2017
O teacher and father
of the children in your care,
in whose hands
they were not abandoned
but held in patience
by Christ’s love –
teach us, too,
to have that same patience,
to have that same love
for those the Lord places
in our care,
that anger shall be banished
from our hearts and our minds,
that the wisdom of Christ’s sacrifice
you taught and lived
we too might embody,
and so serve
in raising the kingdom of Heaven
among the children of this earth.
And pray that we, too,
may know the Lord’s gentle word and touch
upon our own souls
and so grow into His likeness.
Mon, 30 January 2017
(Heb.12:1-4; Ps.22:26-28,30-32; Mk.5:21-43)
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
who inspires and perfects our faith.”
Like the woman in our gospel who saw Him in the crowd and with great confidence made her way toward Him but to reach out and “touch His clothing,” knowing in her heart that by this she “shall get well”; like the official of the synagogue who draws near and falls at His feet begging healing for his daughter, who even after being told, “Your daughter is dead,” does “not grow despondent or abandon the struggle” but takes refuge in the Lord’s encouragement to trust; like all the “cloud of witnesses” that have sought Him, that have believed in Him, that have never taken their eyes off Him or His love – let us be saints who “lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead,” and we shall receive our reward even as those who have gone before us have done. By endurance in faith we shall find Jesus.
Sin it is, of course, that is the greatest obstacle to sanctity in the Lord, to achieving our goal of eternal life in heaven; death and disease are merely the fruits of this poisonous tree. And so the “fight against sin” is truly our greatest struggle, for once sin is set aside, peace comes to our souls and we are no longer anxious or fearful, despite any workings of the devil – despite the destruction in his hands. The woman’s “flow of blood” (for as many years as Jairus’ daughter, “a child of twelve,” has been alive) is but symptomatic for us of the greater affliction of transgression against God. And even the young girl’s death is nothing really, for it is so that “she is [only] asleep,” as the Lord says, and not dead at all… and so death and disease mean nothing unless they are accompanied by sin. It is this plague which must be overcome.
And for this healing we come to Him. For this grace we must press upon Him, like the crowds who surround Him this day. And like the raised child’s parents our “astonishment [will be] complete,” for we shall be clean: we shall be alive in the Lord. “To Him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth”; by Him alone all shall be raised. So let us keep our eyes and our hearts fixed upon Him, knowing “they who seek the Lord shall praise Him” – in Him our faith is complete. “To Him alone [our] soul shall live”; therefore, let us bleed with Him this day.
O LORD, let us be freed of all illness;
let us be raised from our graves to walk with you.
YHWH, our faith unites us to you and so we find healing for every disease and every sin, for no evil lives in you. And so, help us to endure all, keeping our eyes ever fixed on your Son and the hope He brings to our souls, and we shall be well in your presence.
O LORD, you raise us from the sleep of death and sin. Your Son who walks in our midst leads us to your glory. And so, let us bow down before Him, humbling ourselves in faith, and our every prayer shall be answered; and we shall be united to you and your glorious majesty.
Why should we be afraid? Why should we fear placing our trust in you? Let no obstacle stand in the way of our coming to you that we might join the band of your holy ones in your eternal kingdom. Though we must shed our blood in the struggle, let us know our salvation is assured.
Sun, 29 January 2017
(Heb.11:32-40; Ps.31:20-25; Mk.5:1-20)
“They broke the jaws of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword…”
In each of these descriptions of the powerful deeds of the men of old what is conquered is an instrument of death, and so what is indicated is the power of God – from whom these men derive their strength – to destroy death itself. This is made more obvious in the fact that “women received back their dead through resurrection” by their faith in God, and is apparent even in those who “were tortured and did not receive deliverance”; for they suffered all “in order to obtain a better resurrection,” one not simply of the earth and the body, but one which is absolute, one which pertains to spirit and body in heaven… and we can be assured they received such reward.
Brothers and sisters, death is the devil’s instrument, but life is of God; and the Lord of life holds power over all death and banishes it by His word. That death is the devil’s tool, so ready at his hand, is made evident after Jesus “gave the word, and with it the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine”: immediately “the herd of about two thousand went rushing down the bluff into the lake, where they began to drown.” As the demons had driven the man of Gerasene into the tombs upon taking possession of him, so they drive these swine to their demise. Death is the devil’s will; he would see the destruction of all life.
And what of those men of old who seem so much like our possessed man today; what about those who “dwelt in caves and in holes of the earth” and “went about garbed in the skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented”? How do these differ from the poor soul of Gerasene? Does the devil not have power over them, too? The answer is no – the two are clearly different. The power the devil had over the ancient prophets, which is witnessed most fully in Christ Himself as well as all His followers, is a power only over the body, over the physical circumstances of life. As with Christ and His followers, the spirit, the soul of these ancients, remained untouched by the devil’s claw. The same is not so for the poor soul among the tombs: of him the devil had taken possession body and soul. And, you might say, Is the strength exhibited by the demoniac not like that of Samson when he broke the chains of the Philistines? What of this similarity? My friends, the chains upon the demoniac were meant to help preserve his life, and when he “pulled the chains apart and smashed the fetters” by the strength of the devil, it was only that he could continue “gash[ing] himself with stones”; whereas Samson broke his fetters by the power of God in order to preserve his life from the clutches of the Philistines. (One must always use right judgment and discern well, especially the things of the spirit, avoiding preoccupation with the superficiality of circumstances and jumping to quick decisions.)
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!” Keep “constant” in faith and “from the plottings of men” and “the strife of tongues” He will “shelter” you. Whether overcoming or being overcome by death in this life, the life of heaven awaits you and is with you.
O LORD, of the least of us you make use,
joining all to your Body to proclaim your glory.
YHWH, your power is greater even than that of death, and your power you share with all your holy ones, that in your NAME they might overcome death and all its workings. What great deeds are we not capable of if we but put our trust in you? We shall indeed rise from the dead with Jesus your only Son.
Death surrounds us in this world; it is as if we dwell in a tomb. For where can we turn where sin does not exist, and so, how can we be free of its clutches? It is like the lion’s jaw or a raging fire or the devouring sword. But you give power to conquer sin to those who take refuge in Christ’s blood. Even in this dark world, they are screened in your abode. Though we are made to dwell in caves or in holes of the earth, you are yet with us, LORD, we who are to be made perfect in you. O let us sit at your feet in our right mind all the days of our lives! Let us declare your goodness to all.
Sat, 28 January 2017
(Jer.1:4-5,17-19; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; 1Cor.12:31-13:13; Lk.4:21-30)
“I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
When God calls Jeremiah to prophesy “against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people,” He tells him to “gird [his] loins” and commands: “Be not crushed on their account.” For though his people “will fight against” him, they shall “not prevail over” him. The Lord makes Jeremiah “a fruitful city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass” able to stand against attacks of any in “the whole land”; He preserves His prophet’s life despite any danger or threat.
In our gospel Jesus is likewise protected by God from any harm His people would inflict upon Him. Here in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus is called to prophesy against the faithlessness of the people; and though before He spoke His harsh word of truth they had “all spoke[n] highly of Him,” now “filled with fury” they drive Him “out of the town, and lead Him to the brow of the hill… to hurl Him down headlong.” But the deliverance promised Jeremiah and sung of so beautifully by our psalmist is with the Lord’s only Son as it had been with His prophet, and “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” Though they would not accept the deliverance He brings, He is delivered from them.
“O my God, [you] rescue me from the hand of the wicked”; you indeed are “my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.” O Lord, “let me never be put to shame,” but “in your justice rescue me, and deliver me.” For you are “my rock and my fortress,” “my hope” who never fails to save. May I walk through all the difficulties of this world, all the darkness of sin and temptation and suffering, with you at my side, therefore with nothing to fear. Make me strong as your prophet, as your Son, for my life is in your Hand.
Brothers and sisters, soon all persecution will pass away with all the imperfect trappings of this desolate earth, and only God’s love will remain. Let us be as He who “endures all things”; let us be of love. And nothing of this world shall touch us as we pass through its midst, shielded by the Word of God, guarded by His eminent love.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, blessed are the lowly ones,
for they shall be with you in Heaven.
YHWH, make us your lowly servants that we might be blessed as your Son, blessed to be called your children. For you look upon the lowly and the poor with mercy; those who are bowed down you raise up. Help us always to be humble before you and make our boast only in your love.
Your Son has come to call the weak of this world, those who are despised for their humility, those who seem certain to be cast aside for their lack of wealth and power in this life. But to shame the wise, to break the pride of those who are rich in their own eyes, you have chosen, O LORD, to bless the meek of the land with all graces – even your kingdom you give to us.
And so, what care we for the persecution we must suffer for the sake of your Name? We thirst only for your presence and so do not mourn the passing of this vain world but only that we cannot come more quickly to your side. O let our heart be clean as your only Son’s, that we might look upon you, O LORD our God!
Fri, 27 January 2017
O wise doctor of the Church
who ate the bread of angels
in your long hours
of prayer and study and writing
and shared with us
the knowledge you gained
of the sublime truth of God,
shedding the light of reason
upon the faith we hold so dear –
teach us this day
to know God
that we might better love and serve Him,
that we might not be blind
to His presence in our midst,
to the holiness to which He calls us.
Pray we shall enter into
His Cross, His love, His obedience;
pray we, too, might have knowledge,
true knowledge of His grace
and the everlasting life
which is ours in Him…
and pray the Lord send us holy teachers
to fill your shoes.
Fri, 27 January 2017
(Heb.11:1-2,8-19; Lk.1:68-75; Mk.4:35-41)
“Why are you so terrified?
Why are you lacking in faith?”
“Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see,” our brother Paul would have us know, and realize. We all hope for something; there is ever something we all long to see. The eyes are set in the front of the human head and always he is looking at what is before him, straining to see what is ahead. And what is it we hope to see further along this road we tread? What is our hope for the future – what is set indelibly in our hearts, calling us forward to tomorrow? Are we as Abraham, who was “looking forward to the city with foundations,” to the city of God, and so was able to uproot himself from his city here on earth, “not knowing where he was going,” and dwell in tents? Have we the same hope as he?
If we have his hope, we should have his faith as well, and more. For what upon this earth is worthy of greater assurance than the coming of the kingdom of God? Is there any firmer promise in which to believe? And if Abraham and all the “men of old” were able to live by faith and so find God’s approval and His blessing, how much more should we be ready, how much greater confidence should we have, we upon whom the light which they only “saluted… from afar” has dawned? To our eyes has been brought what they were kept from seeing; and so our faith should go beyond hope – it should be most real, utterly unshakable by the vicissitudes of this world. For He is here, He who was “promised through the mouths of His holy ones, the prophets of ancient times.”
Brothers and sisters, it is time to “cross over to the farther shore” with our Lord. What Moses could only view from afar is now present to us in the flesh of Christ: heaven is in our midst, and nothing should we fear… no room for doubt should we make. In the words of our gospel we witness the disciples coming gradually to see Him who has entered their boat, who has power over all. And their fear shall leave them soon, even as awe overtakes them. And we must be the same, and more. For upon us the Spirit has already come, completing the Trinity’s presence among us. Nothing more is there to look forward to than our life in heaven, and nothing for our crossing do we lack. Sure indeed should we now be. And so, “rid of fear and delivered from the enemy” by Him who is all-powerful, “we should serve Him devoutly, and through all our days, be holy in His sight.” Let faith find its fulfillment now in the lives we lead in His name. Cast all fear away, and love.
O LORD, you are able to raise us even from the dead –
let us put our faith in you.
YHWH, will Jesus not lead us to the farther shore, to the kingdom where you dwell? Will not He who holds the wind and the waves in His hands and commands them by a word of His mouth, will He not save us from all that would keep us from you? But are our hearts set on the Promised Land of Heaven as was Abraham’s and all the prophets’ of old? Are we so willing to give up all the things of this world to find your eternal City?
O LORD, have we the faith that you are able to raise from the dead, that even death and sin and all the wiles of the devil and the trappings of this earth are in your power to command? If so, then why should our hope ever be dimmed; why should we be afraid?
Save us, LORD, from our faithlessness! Let us serve you in holiness all our days, our hearts set on the land to which Jesus would take us.
Thu, 26 January 2017
O holy virgin
and spiritual mother
to the poorest of girls,
whom you protected and guided
in wisdom and love,
keeping them from the snares
of the world
and raising them in Christ;
you who fulfilled so well
the twofold call
to love God and save souls –
pray for those
who so easily go astray
in a world of great corruption,
where souls are in danger
of being captured
by the wiles of Satan and sin;
and pray, too,
that there shall be many
who desire as you have,
with the living love of God,
to bring them into His fold.
Thu, 26 January 2017
(Heb.10:32-39; Ps.37:3-6,23-24,39-40; Mk.4:26-34)
“You need patience to do God’s will
and receive what He has promised.”
Brothers and sisters, “we are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and live.” Whatever “great contest[s] of suffering” may be before us or behind us or upon us even now, we do not “surrender [our] confidence” in the Lord but stand strong, enduring all by our “trust in Him” and so coming by these means to the kingdom of God.
My friends, we know we have “better and more permanent possessions” in heaven, and so “the confiscation of [our] goods” upon this earth, the “insult and trial” we have to endure, and even the prison into which we may be thrown, hold no sway over our souls and do not deter our resolve to follow the way of Christ – in fact, they but increase our firmness in the Lord. For seeing how “He delivers [us] from the wicked and saves” us when we “take refuge in Him” reveals to our souls the firmness of His hand upon us and the passing nature of any vain temptation or torture. We comprehend hereby that we need but “commit to the Lord [our] way… and He will act”; He is the one who preserves us from all harm and sees that fruit is born in our lives.
And so, day by day we come to Him; night after passing night we approach His presence. We grow in His sight even as “the soil produces of itself first the blade, then the ear, [and] finally the ripe wheat in the ear.” Even unto the day of judgment we shall grow so gradually, so blessedly, steadily producing fruit in His glorious light, and thus avoid any condemnation. For He has taken possession of our souls; His hand is upon us now, and from such marvelous grace we cannot turn our faces away.
“A brief moment, and He who is to come will come; He will not delay,” says the Lord; and so, brothers and sisters, let us “live by faith” as the Lord’s “just man,” knowing full well that “He will make justice dawn for [us] like the light,” that on His Day we shall be drawn into the kingdom of God. “Bright as the noonday shall be [our] vindication,” so let us endure all patiently and bravely in this world, ever bearing fruit in His name.
O LORD, help us to endure all persecutions
that we might grow steadily unto your kingdom.
YHWH, let us take refuge in you and there find protection and blessing. Let us grow gradually unto your kingdom, enduring all with patience and faith. Your justice will dawn for the man who remains steadfast in your sight.
O LORD, what should we care if we must suffer persecution, if our goods are confiscated and we are thrown into prison? For what blessed possessions we have in you, those which last forever. And so, increase our faith day to day as we see your hand continually rescue us from all distress, from every trial; let us ever grow unto your presence and make our home in your branches.
If we could but be the man you desire us to be, LORD, for our own sakes! If we could but trust in you and your constant blessings! Then we would forever be sustained, knowing that you will not delay your coming but very soon we will be with you in eternity. Be with us as we wait here.
Wed, 25 January 2017
O blessed disciples of Paul
and shepherds of the Church
who imitated so well
your father in the faith
who imitated only
the Lord Jesus Christ
and thirsted for His Cross –
pray this holy Apostle
be our father, too,
and you with him,
that we too might embrace the Cross;
teach us the sound doctrine
handed on to you
that we may hand it on
and all souls
might fight the good fight
and run the race with Jesus
unto eternal life.
Pray for all the shepherds of the Church
that they be faithful as you have been
to rightful authority.
Wed, 25 January 2017
(Heb.10:19-25; Ps.24:1-6; Mk.4:21-25)
“Since we have a great high priest who is over the house of God,
let us draw near in utter sincerity and absolute confidence.”
Let us shine our light without fear, for it is the light of the Lord and cannot be removed. “Let us hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope, for He who made the promise deserves our trust.” Do you think He will fail you in your commitment to Him? No, His love is always first to come; you need but follow.
And let us “encourage one another,” brothers and sisters, even as Jesus does us all in our gospel today. Let us “rouse each other to love and good deeds,” calling one another to shine our light, the light that is in each of our hearts by the grace of our Savior. “Our hearts sprinkled clean from the evil which lay on our conscience and our bodies washed in pure water,” ready we are to do His will in this world; “the blood of Jesus assures our entrance into the sanctuary,” and so, with our place in heaven set firm, we hesitate not to put our love “on a stand” and let it pierce the darkness all around.
“We should not absent ourselves from the assembly,” brothers and sisters. We should not think we need not gather together in His name. For we cannot take strength alone to fight our battles in this world; apart from one another we will be worn down by sin, by pride. Our light is not our own but is meant to be shared; indeed, it belongs to the whole community for it belongs only to the Lord. And it can only grow and increase when given in measure to others; otherwise it will be taken from us.
So let us draw near our Lord as we draw near each other in the sharing of our gifts. Let us be as “he whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain,” and our gifts will be acceptable one to another, and our lives will be acceptable to God. And we shall “ascend the mountain of the Lord” and “stand in His holy place” – the place He makes for us by His sacrifice… “We shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God our Savior,” if we seek His face alone.
Do not be afraid. Hide not your light. Enter His presence, do His will, accepting the grace He imparts to our lives. He calls you to join in His sacrifice.
O LORD, all the world is ours
if we but come to Jesus for the cleansing of our sins.
YHWH, let us be the race that seeks your holy face and to shine your holy light to all around us. This world is your own and we are in your hands, and none of us can ascend to you if we come not through your only Son. Let us come to Him with confidence and joy and seek to serve one another and the salvation of all. Then we shall be seeking you; then we shall be serving you – then we shall be standing again in His stead, and so find your holy blessing and receive it more and more.
O LORD, let us give ourselves as Jesus has done. Let us be His very flesh and blood. Bless your Church, O God, with His love, with His light shining in every member. Let us not hide in fear but freely offer the gifts you impart to each of our lives for the service of the whole Body. The more we give the more we shall receive, for the more we give the more we share in your love. Let us not fail to shine forth your light as you call us to do.
Tue, 24 January 2017
O you who persecuted
the Church of God
but then preached the faith
you upon whom
abundant mercy fell,
whose weakness became strength
as each day in bearing
you grew closer to God –
show us the way
Pray we fall continually
from our horse,
from our pride,
and allow the Lord
to change our lives.
be our constant food,
that the love of Jesus
and His forgiveness
we shall ever know
in greater measure.
Tue, 24 January 2017
(Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Mk.16:15-18)
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.”
One would not have expected these words to be spoken so profoundly to the heart of St. Paul. For he, then known as Saul, had spent such time and with such vigor had persecuted the followers of Christ. Why does the Lord shine His light all about him? Why does He speak to him and reveal Himself to him? Why is it this man who is picked to bring the Name of Jesus to all the nations? Perhaps it was his very vigor in persecuting His followers Jesus admired. Perhaps his sincerity and commitment to this cause in the name of God He knew He could use for the cause of justice and right. Perhaps he is a sign to us all that none is beyond the redemption the Lord offers. We know only that he who was persecuting the Church now works to build it up. We know only the story of this great Apostle to the world.
“Recover your sight,” Ananias says to this Saul, and so Paul, once blinded by the light of the Lord, now has his eyes open to see. So he who once went about with scales on his eyes, he whose vision was once so prevented from realizing the truth of the Jesus in his midst… he who was once so like his brother Pharisees, now sees. And what he sees is not simply Ananias standing before him. What he sees standing before him in this faithful disciple of Jesus, is Christ Himself. And he realizes whom he has been persecuting, and repents. And so he is baptized. And so his mission, one wrought in the suffering of Christ, begins.
“Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify Him, all you peoples!” are the words of our psalmist, but they could as easily be the exhortation of the Apostle Paul. Having himself believed in the Good News proclaimed to all creation and accepted Baptism into its way, he himself now brings so many others to walk along the same path. Great signs accompany him, and his words to our ears are as those of Jesus to him, for now he is such a strong part of the Body of Christ, persecuted by this world and calling it to salvation. On this day all our hearts should turn to the Lord, that we might join Paul and profess our faith in His Name.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, help us to believe
and so turn to your Son to be saved.
YHWH, let all men turn to you as has your great Apostle. Reveal yourself to the eyes and ears of all souls who seek God, all who are zealous for the truth. Why should we continue so blind? Let all be baptized into the way of your Son and so be blessed with His power and His love.
Let us not be afraid to lay down our lives for you, O LORD. Let us not turn away from what we must suffer for your Name and that of your Son. In this we should find our joy; proclaiming the Gospel to all Creation should be the food that sustains us. Let us be the sign of your presence in this world.
Lay your hands upon us, LORD, that we might be healed. Send your disciples to us to teach us of your way and your truth. Let us enter into that way with them and declare to all that Jesus is the Messiah and in Him all souls are saved and brought to light.
Mon, 23 January 2017
O most devout spiritual guide,
great pastor of your flock
and of all souls,
you who speak to us
even this day
with your words of wisdom
and blessed direction –
pray every branch
of Jesus’ vine
may aspire to His perfection;
in whatever state we find ourselves,
let us set our hearts
on loving the Lord
and serving Him and neighbor
Teach us to pray faithfully,
to offer our lives
in all situations,
all for the glory of God.
Our call may we hear
and heed by your intercession,
following the Christ and carrying His Cross
as He leads.
Mon, 23 January 2017
(Heb.10:1-10; Ps.40:2,4,7-11; Mk.3:31-35)
“I have come to do your will, O God.”
But what is this will of God? How do we know it? How shall we live it? The will of God is known through the obedience of the Son, in His sacrifice for our sins; and all who seek to do the will of God must follow in His way, offering themselves freely, innocently, to the Lord for the sake of the Body of Christ.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asks the crowd. Who enter into His fold, becoming children of God the Father? “Whoever does the will of God.” Whoever does the will of God is the only answer He could make. Whoever is as His mother and says, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word”; whoever is as His brother apostles and suffers martyrdom for the faith, unafraid to speak out in His name; whoever is like the simple sheep surrounding Him in the gospel today, listening so obediently to the heavenly words He utters… these are “brother and sister and mother” to Him. Oh what a glorious family to be among!
Brothers and sisters, we no longer have “only a shadow of the good things to come” but rather a “real image of them” in the flesh and blood of the only Son. The salvation of our God is abstract and fleeting no more, for the Lord has come in a body to make ever so real for us the glory of God. Our hearts should leap up at His presence; our ears should be “open to obedience” to hear and heed His voice. Our mouths agape, we should wonder at His presence among us and desire only to become one with Him who holds our very lives in His sacred heart, in the Spirit upon the flesh He is.
Oh have we not “waited, waited for the Lord”? And how should we not act now that He has “stooped toward” us, now that He has humbled Himself to become man? A spirit of exultation should fill us, for by His presence with us He “put[s] a new song into [our] mouth, a hymn to our God.” Our hearts are set on fire with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we can no longer “restrain [our] lips,” but must declare even with our precious Lord: “I have come to do your will,” to join in your blessed sacrifice – to know the glory of kinship with you, my God, by whom we are all called.
O Lord, “I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.” I declare it on these pages. Please gather me this day into your holy family.
O LORD, help us to join your Son in doing your will
by laying down our lives in this world.
YHWH, let us do your will. This alone we ask of you. Let us do your will that we might join with your Son, our Brother, and be sanctified by the offering of His body for our sakes. Let us join with Him in seeking to do your will, in offering our bodies as sacrifice, in declaring your goodness to all souls.
Put a new song into our mouths, LORD, one that proclaims your glory. Let us be filled to overflowing with your presence in our souls that we cannot but speak of your kindness and your truth, your faithfulness and your salvation. Here am I; I come to do your will. Let this be our song. Let us be cleansed of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus – let our body be as His own.
O that we might be your holy family, LORD, that we might be as Mary and the apostles, giving our complete “yes” to your call. May your Son open His arms to gather us into your presence.
Sun, 22 January 2017
(Heb.9:15,24-28; Ps.98:1-6; Mk.3:22-30)
“His death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions.”
By his death Jesus has disarmed the devil; the Lord has destroyed Satan’s power by His holy sacrifice. Because of Jesus’ innocent blood, “Satan has suffered mutiny in his ranks and is torn by dissension,” for none of his adversarial accusations can stand before such pure love. “He cannot endure, he is finished”… and with him, sin also dies, for there is no longer anyone to accuse us of our sin. It is as if Jesus says, “Kill me if you will,” and once having done so, Satan has nothing left in his arsenal. Once taking all our sins out of his bag and piercing the Savior through with their cumulative strength, what more power has he to effect death? Death has its day, and life – the life that is the love of the Son – has triumphed over it: our sins’ effects have come full force against our Lord and Maker, and “His right hand has won victory” over them.
And so this great promise the Lord can make, this astounding statement He brings to our ears: “I give you my word, every sin will be forgiven mankind and all the blasphemies men utter.” Though the sin against the Spirit will not be forgiven – for how can he who calls salvation condemnation find the grace of God; how can lies find discourse with Truth? – yet all the sins man has committed in his ignorance and lust will be washed clean in Jesus’ blood when any soul comes humbly to Him. And in consequence of this blessed mercy, “those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,” for our Savior has “entered heaven itself that He might appear before God now on our behalf.” Yes, He serves as mediator now, interceding before the Father against our transgressions, that He might prepare for us a path to His kingdom. His cross and His sacrifice stand as our ladder unto heaven.
“The Lord has made His salvation known” by the offering of His Son, and to “all the ends of the earth” “His holy arm” is revealed. He has appeared once in weakness to take away our sins, but “He will appear a second time not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” And so, as we are washed clean of sin in His blood, we must stand ready for His final coming, for our promised reward, “sing[ing] praise to the Lord.”
O LORD, cast all the demons far from us
that we might worship you in faith and truth
and come to your kingdom.
YHWH, we should be offering you and your Son songs of praise, not blaspheming against your goodness toward us. For He has come to deliver us from sin, to cast Satan from our midst that we might enter your kingdom and glorify your NAME – let us not doubt or deny the grace you send us; let us not court condemnation with a hardened heart.
There is a pride from which we suffer, LORD, a pride and a fear. We are unable to humble ourselves before your majesty or receive the love you bring. Our hands are grasping and our hearts impure, and so we do not see how much we need the salvation wrought by your Son. Help us to turn from our sin, to seek the blood of Jesus upon our souls, that we might become pure and innocent as children before you, living only in the truth, and so, joyfully singing your praise.
Sat, 21 January 2017
O martyr of the Lord extraordinaire
who suffered unspeakable torture
but was not bowed
by such savagery,
who spoke of great faith,
singing of God’s glory
even as your limbs
even as all the brutality
the world could inflict
sought to break
your spirit –
help us to conquer the world
as you have done,
as the Lord has done in you,
not to be afraid
but rather to serve
our Savior and His Cross
as His blessed disciples;
pray we, too, shall enter the heavenly gates
open to those in whom the Spirit speaks
even unto death.
Sat, 21 January 2017
(Is.8:23-9:3; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; 1Cor.1:10-13,17; Mt.4:12-23)
“Light has arisen.”
“Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.” Yes, “a light has shone”; Jesus has come. No longer do we walk in darkness. So we should proclaim with David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”; we should long to dwell in the Temple He has built, “gaz[ing] on the loveliness of the Lord.” Here in His House we “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” Here in His Church we come to the paradise He has come to establish in this land of darkness.
The light dawns as Jesus calls His disciples to His side. Here are the beginnings of His Church, the coming of light to this earth. The Lord calls Peter and Andrew, and James and John, and they respond, and they follow the light. And the light goes forth as He goes “around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Do you see how the light grows? Do you know the light reflected in the disciples’ eyes, which shall take root and become known to all the world? Here indeed is the Church begun, the holy House of God – the New Jerusalem. And nothing shall disturb its growth; nothing shall dim or block the light that has come.
Yet what division is upon the Church Christ has founded here on the shores of Galilee. How has it come to be that we are so disobedient to Paul’s instruction “that there be no divisions among [us], but that [we] be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” How many more rivalries have we than the Corinthians. Not only do those separated from the Church declare their peculiar allegiance to various people or nations, saying, “I belong to Luther,” or “I belong to Calvin,” or “I belong to England” – and now there are some 360 different denominations, one for every day of the year, it seems – but within the Catholic Church deep divisions arise between “liberal” or “conservative” theologians, thus bringing darkness upon God’s people. The Church remains, and nothing shall overcome it, but what a poor sign it is to the world as the devil has his day in its division.
The Lord has come bringing “abundant joy and great rejoicing” for those who remain in His light. The unbroken flame rises up from these first apostles Jesus called on this one morning by the Sea of Galilee. The net extends from their hands and draws in all who truly seek to dwell in the presence of God.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Mirror of Knowledge" (2nd part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the Gospel be proclaimed
in strength this day
in your Son’s holy Name.
YHWH, your light has dawned upon this dark world; in Jesus your Son our salvation has come, and now we may dwell in your House with Him. Beginning on the shores of Galilee, your Word goes forth, calling all men to your kingdom. May we repent of our sin that we might enter there.
Today your Son calls the first apostles from their boats to dry land that they might be fishers of men. And so He works through His apostles even to this day. A great light shines upon those who walked in darkness – we who were sinners now come to your Temple, LORD, there, we pray, to remain all our days.
Let there be no division in your Church, dear God, but let us be united in the flesh of your Son and preach His Gospel with one voice (His own) to the ends of this dark earth. O let your holy light now shine through all He calls to be His disciples! The yoke of sin that has enslaved us be smashed, we pray, that we shall no longer be afraid, that we shall no longer walk in darkness.
Fri, 20 January 2017
O holy virgin martyr,
O innocent child
who offered your life
more freely than a bride
to her husband,
more courageously than a warrior
who though lacking in years
was not lacking in faith
nor desire to honor
your only Spouse…
you who were honored
by the Fathers of the Church
and are remembered to this day
as a holy offering,
a lamb of God sacrificed in flames
yet professing ever
your love for Christ –
but a small measure of your courage
would save our souls.
Pray but a drop of His blood
we may know
falling from our veins.
Fri, 20 January 2017
(Heb.9:2-3,11-14; Ps.47:2-3,6-9; Mk.3:20-21)
“Behind the second veil was the tabernacle call the holy of holies.”
To this holy of holies in the temple of Jerusalem only the high priest could come, and only once a year. So holy was it deemed. This tabernacle contained the ark of the Lord with the two tablets upon which the commandments of God were written, and some manna from the Israelites’ travels through the desert. This was truly sacred ground for God’s chosen people, a place they held in awe.
In our gospel the people press upon Jesus; they gather in great numbers at the door of the house where He is staying, sensing that this place is a holy of holies, that there is something inside that makes it sacred. But from this holy tabernacle they are not excluded for its sanctity, but welcomed by Him who is inside, who makes it holy. So much does He welcome those who come to His door that He does not take time even to eat. Better He should feed those who come to Him with His sacred presence than that He should feed Himself, for He will not see any turned away.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus has “entered once for all into the sanctuary, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,” and He Himself has become the “holy of holies”: He Himself is the sacred sanctuary in which God reposes. And He is with us. To this day He is in our presence. Do you not know that He rests in every tabernacle of every one of our churches on this earth? Do you realize the holy of holies that is in our midst? And when He is exposed upon our altar for all to adore, do you realize that here “God sits upon His holy throne”? And do you come to Him? More than a mere image or reflection of the glory of heaven, truly that transcendent glory is present in this bread the angels consume, and which is offered us here.
And so, should we not “shout to God with cries of gladness” or prostrate ourselves in absolute reverence at this the presence of “the Lord, the Most High, the awesome… the great King over all the earth” here in our midst? Should we not receive Him worthily, realizing that here is the holiest of holies whom we cannot reverence too greatly, whom we cannot worship enough? “God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts,” and we should join in this celebration and “sing praise to our King” before the throne upon which He sits, before the Tabernacle in which He rests.
Come to Him in sacred wonder. In this Sacrament He waits. May “the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!”
O LORD, your Son has ascended into your presence
carrying our sins and washing us clean in His own blood –
how incomprehensible is your great love for us!
YHWH, let us worship you, O living God, through Jesus your Son, who has entered into your sanctuary carrying all our sins that we might be cleansed of them and offer you holy praise. He is your Tabernacle in our midst. Let us come to Him and there find our healing, and there find our salvation.
O LORD, your Son cares only for our salvation, not for feeding Himself. His very body He would make our food and so He offers all His life, every hour of His day, for our salvation. Never would He turn away from us or keep us waiting for your grace. Let us not fail to come to Him to find the blessing He imparts.
The blood of the Christ cleanses our consciences and provides for our eternal redemption. It carries us to the Holy of Holies where you dwell, O Most High God. In awe let us sing your praise with Him who mounts His throne this day. Reign over us with your love; through the blood of your only Son may we stand unblemished in your presence.
Thu, 19 January 2017
O soldier for Christ
who sought with such courage
to embrace His Cross,
to die a death
worthy of such a Lord,
you whose heart
was so set
on imitating the suffering
only He knew
and so were rewarded
with the crown of martyrdom –
where is our courage;
where is our strength?
Pray for us,
O warrior of our Lord and God,
that our lives
may bear witness
to approach your own,
that we shall not shrink
from the Cross before us
but with your same zeal
seek to make it our own.
Pray the blood of Christ upon us.
Thu, 19 January 2017
O Holy Father of the Church,
Pastor of the sheep of our Lord
who have given your life freely
for the name of Christ
and its spreading
throughout the earth,
you whose blood was shed
by the persecutors
of the body
but whose soul
was ever in the Hand of God –
pray our lives
shall be lived in integrity
and our death correspond,
that a blessed witness
we too shall give
to the glory of God
and His Son Jesus Christ,
and so lead others
to that same glory.
May none of the flock
or their shepherds
fear the sacrifice of their lives.
Thu, 19 January 2017
(Heb.8:6-13; Ps.85:8,10-14; Mk.3:13-19)
“I will be their God
and they shall be my people.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land”; for absolute oneness do we find with our Lord and God through the ministry of His only Son. For the Lord has said of His new covenant, “All shall know me, from least to greatest,” promising: “I will place my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.” There shall be no separation from His presence for those who believe; His “kindness and truth shall meet” in us as they have in Jesus. Alleluia!
But yet does the time move toward perfection. Though the new covenant be fulfilled in Jesus, it is still being fulfilled in the world and among those who dwell in the world. We know this because the Lord says of the covenant to come, through His prophet Jeremiah: “They shall not teach their fellow citizens or their brothers, saying, ‘Know the Lord’” – there being no need any longer to teach the perfected – and also, “Their sins I will remember no more,” meaning that sin will no longer exist. But Jesus upon commissioning the twelve apostles sends them out “to preach the good news” and “to have authority to expel demons,” and to this day there is need, and great need, for instruction in the Word of God and healing by the expulsion of sin in Holy Confession. This ministry still in place, we know we have yet to reach perfection; we know we have yet to find absolute oneness with Christ and His sacrifice… and so, perfect union with the Father yet awaits us.
“He appointed the twelve as follows: Simon to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee; and John, the brother of James (He gave these two the name Boanerges, or ‘sons of thunder’); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon of the Zealot party, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” Upon these the new covenant is founded. By their ministry it shall grow, taking root in the world and bearing much fruit. And though Matthias must take the place of the traitorous Judas, there is no breaking the line that comes from these foundation stones: all of the coming kingdom is traced to them and from them, for they are anointed by the Son and by them God will make all His children.
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” In His Church as in His arms make your home, for His blessings are upon us and shall be fulfilled.
O LORD, let us be companions of your Son
that we might be made one with you.
YHWH, as your Son is joined to you and the apostles to Him, so let us be joined to them that we might be joined to Jesus and you, and your promise might be fulfilled and your NAME be written on our hearts. O let it be so, that all shall know you, that we shall be your people.
O LORD, let truth spring out of the earth as your justice looks down from Heaven. Let the union of Heaven and earth accomplished in your Son be accomplished in us as we join ourselves to Him. O let us walk in the way of His steps that we might find salvation!
LORD, forgive us our sins, remember them no more – cast all evil from us. May the priests who stand in your Son’s place absolve us of all wrongdoing as we come on our knees before them. Your power be upon us for good; by your Word let us be taught, till we are entirely one with you, living in your New Covenant, living in the flesh of Christ, as His holy Body.
Wed, 18 January 2017
(Heb.7:25-8:6; Ps.40:7-10,17; Mk.3:7-12)
“Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through Him,
since He forever lives to make intercession for them.”
Oh how the people approach Him today, seeking healing, seeking grace: “a great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon” – from all around they came to press upon Him, to press upon Him… “All who had afflictions kept pushing toward Him to touch Him. Unclean spirits would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, “You are the Son of God!” So great were their numbers He needed to take refuge in a fishing boat. Oh “the press of the crowd against Him,” the press of the crowd. They could not resist drawing toward Him who stood at the center of the universe, Him who stood in the place of God, Him who was God. Greater than the pull of gravity was the pull of their hearts toward salvation.
And do you think He has left you, brother? Do you say, “Where is He now that I need healing, that I may press upon Him myself?” He has not left you alone; He has multiplied His presence and increased His grace through the ministry of His apostles. They now go out to those who would press upon Him, and through these priests they find the high priest, He who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.” Indeed, He is not on earth anymore and His ministry is not earthly – yet He is ever present to all who stretch forth their hands to Him. Do you not know the immense mercy available to you in the Sacrament of Confession? Do you not realize the heavenly food you eat in Holy Communion? Press upon Him this day; approach the priests who, despite their imperfections, hold the power He has left in our midst, and to your loving God you will come.
“Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry now,” and “He is mediator of a better covenant,” an eternal covenant. Brothers and sisters, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in heaven, minister of the sanctuary and of that true tabernacle set up not by man but by the Lord.” What greater gift could we ask for? How much more exalted could we be called to be than to receive mercy from Him who dwells in the heart of the Father, than to take food from the hands of Him who holds the hand of God?
O Lord, “may all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’”
O LORD, your Son has taken on our flesh
that He might draw us
into the sanctuary of your presence
O let us join ourselves to Him!
YHWH, your Son is able to save all those who approach Him, for He sits with you in the heavenly sanctuary having offered Himself for our sakes. And so the crowds press upon Him, and so the devils cannot but recognize His power over them… and so we are saved from our sin by our faith in Him and offering ourselves to you through His hands.
O LORD, may we be an acceptable sacrifice to you, joined well to the sacrifice of Jesus. May we say with Him, “I come to do your will,” and think of nothing but obedience to your call. Write your law within our hearts that we might transcend the darkness of this place as we align our lives with your Son’s and die to all that keeps us from you. He is made perfect forever in your presence and intercedes for us to be made perfect with Him. O let us press upon Him this day that we might ever glorify your NAME.
Tue, 17 January 2017
(Heb.7:1-3,15-17; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.3:1-6)
“Without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or end of life,
like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
We hear today more specifically about “Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God,” whose name means “king of justice” and also “king of peace,” who is therefore so like our King Jesus; it is in his line the Lord takes His place.
“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor,” King David declares of his Lord and our Lord. Indeed before the dawn of light upon earth, Jesus is King: He is the only-begotten Son of God whose rule is from everlasting to everlasting; and His priesthood, like that of Melchizedek, is “in virtue of the power of a life which cannot be destroyed” – not by physical descent but by spiritual ascension. From God Himself He receives His kingship and His priestly anointing.
In contrast to the eternal priesthood and princely headship of our Lord and Savior, we see in our gospel those whose power comes only by “virtue of a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent,” and which is, therefore, passing away. Indeed, before their eyes it passes this day as Jesus stands before the Pharisees at the front of the synagogue and calls them to acceptance of the greater glory now in their midst. But they “closed their minds against Him” as they refused to realize the limitations of their own calling as leaders of the people, choosing to cling to a dying law and a power which is being taken from them even as a greater is offered, rather than stretching forth their hands to the Lord, in whom the law takes life and finds fulfillment, through whom all power comes…
Yes, the Lord “stretch[es] forth” “the scepter of [His] power” even as the man stretches forth his “shriveled hand” here at the front of the synagogue, before all the people and their teachers on a sabbath day, and finds it “perfectly restored.” The same He would do for each of them and for all of us, if we but recognized His transcendent power and glory, if we but realized He is the Son of God.
O LORD, your Son is of the Spirit
but we are of the flesh;
help us to offer this poor flesh
through His eternal priesthood.
YHWH, in the line of Melchizadek your Son comes to us, without beginning of days or end of life, for by you He is begotten before the world was brought forth. And so His power is like your own, and so in Him we shall not die but be healed of all evil upon us.
We praise you, LORD, for your justice toward us, for the presence of your Son. For in Him we take our refuge; in Him we find our salvation. O let us freely reach out our hands to the grace He offers that He might stretch forth His scepter toward us and we be made whole in your sight!
The Day you make is one of peace, O LORD, and so the Son you send brings to us that peace. Let us give to Him our possessions, even our very body and soul; for all He touches He sanctifies, and so we will thus be blessed by Him.
No hardened heart could ever destroy Him or His love. Let us sacrifice ourselves with Him, LORD, that we might join Him at your right hand.
Mon, 16 January 2017
O father of monks
and all who would give themselves
completely to the Lord,
you who have been so obedient
to the word of God,
to His call
to sell everything,
to renounce all possessions
and follow Him –
how we need your prayers
when love for material things
possesses our very bodies
when prayer and penance
seem things of the distant past.
Make present to us
the blessed call of the Lord,
the renunciation of the world,
that we too might find
the riches of Heaven
you knew so well.
Pray we give up all for God.
Mon, 16 January 2017
(Heb.6:10-20; Ps.111:1-2,4-5,9-10; Mk.2:23-28)
“I will indeed bless you, and multiply you.”
God promised to bless Abraham, to make his descendants numerous as the stars; and “He swore by Himself,” “by oath,” to carry out His promise, thus giving an unshakable, “unchangeable” “firmness to [the] promise.” God does not go back on His word. And so, “after patient waiting, Abraham obtained what God had promised”; He became the father of many nations, of all those of faith.
Now if God is so faithful, should we who are “heirs of His promise,” who are children of Abraham in the faith and so the sharers of the same blessings promised to him, should not “we who have taken refuge in [God]… be strongly encouraged to seize the hope which is placed before us”? For we, “through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises”; and greater promises than Abraham do we receive at the hand of our Lord now, for our “hope extends beyond the veil through which Jesus, our forerunner, has entered on our behalf.” As David “entered God’s house… and ate the holy bread which only the priests were permitted to eat,” and “even gave it to his men,” so Jesus enters His Father’s house, passing through the gates of heaven into the sanctuary, into the holy of holies, and there partakes of bread at His Father’s hand… and indeed shares it with us, His brothers.
Oh brothers and sisters, each day we partake of the bread of the angels from the hand of the Lord; it surrounds us like the “standing grain” around the disciples. And does it not prove to us that “great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights”? Doesn’t it reveal to our souls that our hope in Him is “a sure and firm anchor,” that His love for us is strong and all His promises are fulfilled in our midst, before our eyes? “God is not unjust.” No, “gracious and merciful is the Lord.” “Holy and awesome is His name,” and He shares the glory of His presence with all His children: “He has given food to those who fear Him.” So, let us “not grow lazy” in faith but take strength in this food He supplies. “He will not forget [our] work and the love [we] have shown Him by [our] service.” But let us continue to serve Him in our brothers; let us “show the same zeal till the end,” that all His promises we may taste. Indeed, the more we eat His bread, the more we accomplish His work, the more His blessings are multiplied, in us and in the world!
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” The gift of God’s rest is ours, releasing us from slavery. Freedom we find in His name, blessing we find in His promise – His rest is upon us as we remain in Him. And “He will forever be mindful of His covenant”: His blessings shall ever increase in our souls.
O LORD, your Son has entered into your presence
that we might be fed with the Bread of Life –
let us hope always in Him.
YHWH, if Abraham’s cause for hope was great, how much greater is our own, we for whom Jesus has passed through the veil of death that we might enter your presence? Now that your Word has been made flesh and been given to us as food for our journey, how much stronger should our faith be, and so, how much surer our work? We should not bend in the wind like standing heads of grain but know the glory to which we are called as we reach up to you through the grace that is with us by the sacrifice of your Son.
O LORD, you are indeed gracious and merciful; you look upon our needs and answer them. You promise to be with us always and increase and multiply our works, so long as we remain faithful to you. Let us trust in your Word to us and find hope always that you are near. In Jesus your Son, you have walked among us – your great love for man let us never forget.
Give us the food we need even this day, O LORD, the Bread that is our very life.
Sun, 15 January 2017
(Heb.5:1-10; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.2:18-22)
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Without beginning or end is the holy priesthood of our Lord; high above all sacrifices reigns His own.
“Taken from among men” is Jesus our high priest “and made [our] representative before God.” Like others He is in this respect; yet the “gifts and sacrifices” He offers are infinitely greater than any that have ever been, for it is Himself He lifts up for our sins. “He is Himself beset by weakness,” though not His own; He is Himself pierced for transgression, though not of His making – and in the cross of our condition He bears “in the flesh,” in the crucifixion He suffers at our hands, does the high priest become the victim whose blood covers the earth with redemption. Yes, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” What other high priest can boast as much?
And yet the people would limit the grace that pours forth in the blood of His sacrifice, in the sweet-smelling flesh He offers, to a dying law which has been corrupted by the hands of man. They fail to see that the old is subsumed by the new… and so the Lord seeks to teach them to receive the “new wine” He would pour into their hearts with minds open to the light of God. They do not yet know the joy His disciples experience just being in the presence of the Messiah, the bridegroom of all faithful souls; as yet their hearts have not been circumcised by the nails of the sacrifice He makes in their name. But soon their time will come, we pray. When He is lifted up, perhaps they shall see.
And in our psalm we have David’s verse of Jesus: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’” Jesus is David’s Lord even then, for Jesus our Savior has always been. Beautifully does David speak of this as well, in the voice of God: “Before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.” As the dew covers the earth unseen before the sun rises, so before the Father pronounced the words “Let there be light” – first bringing the universe into being by the power of His Word – Jesus was eternally present, even as the water the Spirit moved upon.
And so He has “princely power,” seated at the right hand of God. And so He “rule[s] in the midst of His enemies,” His sacrifice destroying the death which seemed to take hold of Him. And so, like the order of Melchizedek, which came well before the institution of the Israelite’s priestly line, from all eternity His salvific priesthood is – and shall last until the end of time.
O LORD, you sent your Son to offer Himself
in our stead;
may we be clothed anew in His grace.
YHWH, the priesthood of your Son is from all eternity and will last until the end of time for the expiation of our sins. And the sacrifice He offers is Himself in the suffering and death He endures in our midst. Though He rules forever at your right hand, He humbles Himself to suffer at our hands that the evil in our hearts might be washed clean by the blood He freely sheds. O let us be made as new wineskins able to receive the grace He pours forth.
Jesus is our Prince who fights our battles and puts all our enemies under His feet. He crushes the head of the devil and destroys all the weakness by which we are beset, and He does this by the weakness He endures and the death He suffers for our sakes. O LORD, let us know the glory He would bring to our poor souls, the salvation wrought by His holy sacrifice, and let us join ourselves to that sacrifice by fasting and doing penance in His stead as long as He is apart from us, until the Day He returns.
Sat, 14 January 2017
(Is.49:3,5-6; Ps.40:2,4,7-10; 1Cor.1:1-3; Jn.1:29-34)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is “the Son of God,” the One upon whom he has seen “the Spirit come down and remain.” And we are all His servants, made holy only in Him. John declares his own servitude, speaking of “the one who sent [him] to baptize with water,” and stating, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because He existed before me.” His witness to Jesus and the strength he takes from Him is clear, as is the case with St. Paul, who declares himself “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and goes on to say that, indeed, all the Church is “called to be holy” in Jesus Christ. This call from the Lord to be His servant, and that it is through His servants the Lord shows His glory, is prophesied in strength by Isaiah in our first reading, showing that even before Christ came to be born among us He indeed existed and through Him the Father called His servants, His children, to Himself. For Isaiah speaks for God, saying, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Here he speaks of Jesus; here he knows even in his time of the salvation the Lord brings.
And David in our psalm echoes the same theme of the servitude of Christ and the servitude in Christ to which all are called, and which acts as a light to this world. “Ears open to obedience you gave me,” proclaims the great and humble king, and sings as if in the voice of Christ: “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” What great blessing it indeed is to share in the servitude of Jesus, to have His song placed in our mouths, to make our lives “a hymn to our God.” He makes us His own and we share in the blood that flows through His veins when we place ourselves in the service of the Lord.
The Lord calls. He is among us now and has made His salvation known. Through the prophets, through the Baptist, through His apostles and martyrs and saints – through “all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” He reveals His glory day to day. It is His desire that we be strong in Him as we join to Him and are baptized by Him with the Holy Spirit. His grace and peace He would leave with us, His glory He would reveal through us, if His servants we would make ourselves this day. Find your strength in Him, brothers and sisters. He stoops toward you and hears your cry, and will instill His song of praise in your hearts, to be declared to all the world.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Miracle" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we all testify
that Jesus is the Son of God;
by Him may all souls be saved.
YHWH, ears open to obedience give us that we might be your servants, that we might be as the Body of your only Son, doing your will in all things, ever making Him known. Let all we do testify to His presence in our midst that salvation may come to all men, even to the ends of the earth. Your apostles, your prophets, please make us, crying out your way, calling all to holiness in the Lamb of God.
Jesus is the One who is greater than us, greater than any man who has walked this earth, for only He is your Son, dear God; only He sanctifies the human race by His blessed sacrifice. Let our lips not be restrained, but let us declare His glory to all souls.
You have stooped toward us, O LORD; through Jesus you have shown us your glory. Your Servant you have called and sent among us that we all might become your servants in Him. O let your law be so in our hearts and the doing of your will our delight! Alleluia!
Fri, 13 January 2017
(Heb.4:12-16; Ps.19:8-10,15,Jn.6:63; Mk.2:13-17)
“Nothing is concealed from Him.”
In God’s eyes all men are sinners; this is what His penetrating vision cannot help but see. Yet it is just such sinners as we He has come to call, to call away from our sin. The Pharisees cannot bear this sword of truth to pierce their soul, and so they take up the sword of anger against those who are being redeemed, and He who is redeeming them. Let us not be as these hardened hearts, brothers and sisters, but expose our sin to the Lord’s sharp gaze, that He might heal us by His grace.
That Jesus Himself sees all that is in a man is indicated by His “overhearing the remark” of the complaining Pharisees today, and more clearly elsewhere in His reading their and His disciples’ thoughts without a word being spoken (e.g. Mt.17:25). As nothing is concealed from the Father, so nothing is concealed from the Son: “The reflections and thoughts of the heart” are open to Him. And He knows the troubles that affect each of us. And these, even of the Pharisees, He would heal, even as a wise physician – but we indeed must come with our souls exposed and prepared for surgery.
And though this process can be painful, and though we might say to ourselves, “We are not deserving” – though the questions of the Pharisees might be our own – yet we must witness Jesus’ attitude toward Levi and his fellow tax collectors/sinners. Yet we must see how He defends these from attack, not bringing their shame before them as the Pharisees would, but with a heart set only on forgiveness. For indeed “we have a great high priest,” one who takes our sins upon Himself, one who suffers with us our weakness in order to save us from its consequences. And so with Levi and his friends we should “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor,” both in the confessional and at the Eucharistic table, for our need He has come to fill with His love.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul”; Jesus is this law made flesh. “The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye”; to remove the darkness of our vision, the all-seeing God has come. “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever,” and as long as we come before Him, trembling for our sin, we shall live on in His love.
Shine your light upon our souls, O Lord,
and remove all darkness from them.
In your grace you make us whole;
with you let us be holy.
O LORD, your Son has come to save us from our sins;
may the light of His Word dispel all darkness
from our souls.
YHWH, let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. For you see into the depths of our hearts; you know well the sin that is within us – yet you are merciful in judging us, desiring only to heal us of our sickness. O let us always come humbly before you to find your blessing upon our souls, that we might ever serve you well with our poor lives!
O mighty God, O all-seeing and all-knowing LORD, let us treasure your Word, your Law, which is as balm for our troubled spirits. Let us welcome your Son to our table that He might feed us with your truth, that we might find wisdom and learn by your grace to live forever in joy in your presence.
How we need your Son, our high priest, as our physician, He who gives Himself to take away our sin. O LORD, may we indeed find your favor through Him, obediently answering His call to salvation.
Thu, 12 January 2017
O shepherd and doctor
of God’s holy Church,
is this not what you would declare
with all your breath
to the ends of the earth:
“Jesus is the Son of God
and God Himself”?
Would you not proclaim
the true light of Scripture
and the Word, the Light,
become flesh in our midst?
Know, O saint of the Lord,
that your words reach our ears
and our hearts
even to this day,
and this day we proclaim you holy
and your words true –
continue to speak to us;
please intercede for us,
that the Truth you declared
will be taken up again
by those in His stead today.
Thu, 12 January 2017
(Heb.4:1-5,11; Ps.78:3-4,6-8; Mk.2:1-12)
“The promise of entrance into His rest still holds.”
But only those with faith in Him shall be made whole.
Paul says of the Israelites in the desert, “The word which they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive it in faith.” Though they had seen “the glorious deeds of the Lord and His strength and the wonders that He wrought,” they yet became “wayward and rebellious, a generation that kept not its heart steadfast nor its spirit faithful to God.” Yet they disobeyed and disbelieved. And so they entered not into His rest; they received not the grace of union with the Lord in His peaceful kingdom, but rather died in the desert in their sin. Thus does Paul warn us not to “fall in imitation of Israel’s unbelief,” but ever to “strive to enter into that rest” God holds for all His faithful.
And the faith necessary to enter God’s rest is illustrated clearly in our gospel today, as is the woe of unbelief. It is “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of those who lowered the paralytic through the ceiling to Him that He said to this poor soul, “My son, your sins are forgiven”; and it is upon hearing these grace-filled words from the Savior’s mouth that some of the scribes, those faithless souls so much the descendants of their faithless fathers, grumbled against Him and accused Him of “blasphemy.” And as the Lord here makes clear the equation of forgiveness and healing (“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again’?”), commanding indeed the paralyzed man: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home,” so does this healed soul, washed clean of all his sin, with his companions and all those of faith who stand “awestruck” as they look on… so do these enter God’s rest – even as the scribes gnash their teeth.
Brothers and sisters, “God rested from all His work on the seventh day,” and that rest awaits all at their completion of the Lord’s work in this world. This truth Jesus reveals in our midst even this day. And so we “should put [our] hope in God, and not forget the deeds of God but keep His commands”; for “it is we, who have believed, who enter into that rest,” so long as we keep faith in Him.
O LORD, let us enter into your rest,
that we might rise and carry souls to you.
YHWH, how shall we have our sins forgiven if we have not faith in you and in your Son; how shall we enter into your rest if we turn away from you? We must come to you and to your Son, believing in the salvation wrought by you and letting nothing stand in our way… and you will bless us and gather us into your arms.
O Lord Jesus, forgive us all our sin this day. Cast far from us all that keeps us paralyzed, all that prevents us from rising and following you. Take away our rebellious souls, our unfaithfulness before you – O may we hear your gracious words calling us to stand and walk with you! O may we know the peace of your forgiveness!
O LORD, you are our God, and in you alone we find our rest, we find healing from all our sickness and sin. Help us to be strong in faith ourselves and serve to bring others to you as well. You await our coming to you; let nothing else matter to us at all.
Wed, 11 January 2017
(Heb.3:7-14; Ps.95:6-11; Mk.1:40-45)
“Today, if you should hear His voice,
harden not your hearts.”
Today we see Jesus continuing His healing ministry, and we see how it becomes “no longer possible for [Him] to enter a town openly” because of the public proclamation of His wondrous and powerful works. We see also how, though “He stayed in desert places… people kept coming to Him from all sides,” for His work must be accomplished. But we see most particularly the way we must come to Him to find our own healing.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us,” David sings, calling all to their proper place before God. And this the leper in our gospel does today, indicating indeed to all the attitude we must have toward Jesus, the place we must find at His feet. With soft hearts we must come before our Lord in tears for the sin upon our souls. Not like those in the Egyptian desert can we be, those who “saw [His] works for forty years” yet “tested and tried” Him constantly. This generation indeed He “loathed” in His anger, calling them “a people of erring heart” who “know not [His] ways.” On the contrary, our hearts must burn with a tender love of God and one another as we approach the Lord in the desert where He waits to save us from our sin. He will match any tenderness of our own. “Moved with pity” we shall find Him, ready to gather our broken spirits into His arms.
“Take care, my brothers, lest any of you have an evil and unfaithful spirit and fall away from the living God.” See that your hearts are never “hardened by the deceit of sin.” It is always “today” and the Lord is always calling to your soul, always requiring your life from you – always offering His love to you. Offer your own in return, that you shall not be cast from His presence, that you shall not be ostracized like this leper from the community, but remain ever in His holy fold as “the flock He guides” with His gentle hand… and finally that you might “enter into His rest.” He calls you to healing at His hand; hear and answer on your knees.