Sat, 4 July 2015
O child of the Apostle Paul,
follower in his steps,
preacher of the Word
he proclaimed so completely
with his very life,
you who desired so
to bear the fruit of love in patience,
to share in the hardships of the apostles
as well as in their glory,
and led your fellow ordained
zealously to desire the same –
pray there shall be reform
in this day among our priests
and among the people of God,
that all will so zealously follow
the teaching and way of the Apostle,
which is, of course, the way of Christ:
to die, to lay down our lives,
to suffer indignation
and pray for our enemies,
all the while calling souls
to the Lord’s undying love,
to His saving blood.
Sat, 4 July 2015
(Ez.2:2-5; Ps.123:1-4; 2Cor.12:7-10; Mk.6:1-6)
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
And so Ezekial, though he is being sent to those “who have rebelled against [God],” to those who are “hard of face” and “obstinate of heart,” yet must declare, “Thus says the Lord,” yet must call to their rebellious hearts “whether they heed or resist.” Likely they will resist him; likely they will persecute him, as they have all the prophets, but still he must “lift up [his] eyes” to Him who is “enthroned in heaven” – despite his weakness before these lions, he must stand strong with God.
And “so are our eyes on the Lord, our God”; so do we look to Him constantly for His mercy and protection. “We are more than sated with contempt: our souls are more than sated with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud.” The believing Christian cannot but be persecuted by the wickedness of the world, pervasive in all men’s hearts, for he stands in constant opposition to the lust and greed and violence with which fallen man seeks to fill his soul. What can we be but weak in the face of such a hardened enemy. And yet we must make that enemy our friend; yet we must say with Paul: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ.” For we know that the power of God is with us despite our humiliation; we know that He acts just the same to thwart the wicked.
On the cross they mocked the Lord; they spurned His goodness and looked with contempt on His love, a love which died for them who beat Him. And today we see that Jesus “came to His native place… to teach in the synagogue,” despite the fact that they would “[take] offense at Him.” They cannot believe this humble carpenter’s son could teach with such wisdom: “Where did this man get all this?” they ask in doubt of His origin. The Lord’s weak appearance belies the mighty Spirit which is upon Him; and those who are blind to truth and so slow of heart to believe cannot but mock and stone Him who alone would give them strength.
Brothers and sisters, to whatever people you go let them know “that a prophet has been among them”; show them all that Christ has risen from the dead. There may be some who will turn from their sin, and even if rebuked, you will maintain the power of the grace of God within. Always remember, it is not you who speak but the Lord.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (first half) from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, though so human and weak in ourselves,
in you we are strong.
YHWH, you call us to endure the mockery of the arrogant, the contempt of the proud. Though persecuted for the Word we bring to rebellious souls, we must nonetheless speak in your NAME, content with such mistreatment. If even your Son was rejected by His kin, to whom He came working wonders, what should we expect else, we who are but weak men? Let us not be afraid to join in the suffering of Jesus, but rejoice that we are called to be as He is.
In humble stature your Christ walked amongst us, but great was your power upon Him. Though we would inevitably reject His loving call and fix Him to a cross, He did not turn from such mockery of His divinity. And so we call upon you, LORD, to give us the strength He showed, to be with us through all that comes with walking in His way. Let your grace be at work in us as we go forth to hardened souls.
Fri, 3 July 2015
O reconciler of warring sons,
tranquility in the midst
of great disturbance,
though born of royal blood
and married to a king,
the Lord you preferred
to all the riches of this world,
and so His peace
became your own –
pray we, too, may keep our hearts
set upon that which passes not away
and the peace which passes understanding;
pray our prayers be deep as your own
and reflect the same tranquility,
that those in our own families
and those under our care,
all those whom we meet
and to whom we relate,
may find the Lord’s peace
dwelling in us
with His divine charity
and so be reconciled to Him
and to one another.
Fri, 3 July 2015
(Gn.27:1-5,15-29; Ps.135:1-6; Mt.9:14-17)
“Pour new wine into new wineskins,
and in that way both are preserved.”
“Jacob.” The name means “the supplanter”. Here he supplants his twin brother, Esau, whose name means “red earth”. Though born second, Jacob receives the blessing of the firstborn. Of what significance is this supplanting, is this blessing of Jacob, who is to be “Israel”, and from whom the twelve tribes shall proceed? Far more than some sibling rivalry, it shows the coming of the New Covenant of the spirit which shall supplant the Old of the flesh.
It is not the will of Isaac to bless Jacob; his love is for Esau – who before this time has forfeited his birthright to Jacob in order to feed his hungry belly. But Isaac is blind. He is blind because he, too, is a natural man, a man of the flesh seeking to feed his belly. And so the Lord inspires Rebekah to intercede, to see that His will is accomplished. Notice please the words of Isaac when Jacob comes to him dressed in the hairy skin of a beast and the clothes of Esau: “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s.” Indeed, the voice is of the spirit; the skin he feels is of the flesh. And the Word must go to the word, the Spirit to the spirit; and so it is Jacob who must receive the blessing, despite the will of Isaac.
And how is Isaac brought to do the Father’s will? He is deceived by his own preoccupation with the flesh, with the old wineskin. Upon eating his fill, and drinking his fill of the old wine, he is blinded further. And smelling the clothes of Esau he is inspired to pronounce his blessing. But what Esau possesses in his clothes, Jacob holds in his spirit – this fragrance is that which rises to the nostrils of the Lord. And it is His will which must be done. He chooses the spiritual man.
And in our gospel, too, we see the blindness of the natural man in his preoccupation with the flesh. John’s disciples, like the Pharisees – whose stomachs growl from fasts in which they find no blessing – looked jealously upon the disciples of Jesus, who do not have to endure the penance which is so tedious to these men removed from the Spirit. But in Jesus is the blessing of the Spirit, reflected in God’s choosing of Jacob, here fulfilled in the sight of men whose eyes need yet to be opened to its grace.
The new wine is of the Spirit of God, brothers and sisters; we drink it each day in the blood of Christ. Let it not be poured into skins that yet look upon the world with eyes of flesh; rather, be made new as it calls you to be, and preserve your soul unto heaven. It is the Spirit which gives life; the flesh is of no avail.
O LORD, may the new wine of the Spirit be upon us
to bless us, always.
YHWH, you have chosen Jacob for yourself; you do what you will. All goes well with Israel, for you have blessed him. The man of the Spirit is your favored Son, while the man of the flesh finds his birthright gone.
Into new wineskins let your blessings be poured, O holy LORD. Make us new in your presence this day that the blood shed by your Son may be our own. Let us drink of this New Covenant, anointed by your Spirit, and we shall live forever in your sight, blessed as Jesus with whom we become one.
Praise you, LORD, mighty God! Praised be to your holy NAME! For all is done in your will, despite our many shortcomings. You are great in Heaven and on earth and lead your chosen ones by your mercy. Let us not take refuge in the things of the flesh but rejoice ever in the Holy Spirit, even on this day of fasting.
Thu, 2 July 2015
O believing apostle
who declared the divinity of Jesus,
our Lord and our God,
all doubt disappears
in the light of your faith,
for we see with you
what is beyond all eyes –
pray for an increase
in our faltering faith,
that we shall indeed believe
though we do not see;
let it be as if we ourselves
have touched the nail marks
in His hands and feet
and placed our hands into His side.
So firmly let our faith be founded
that we shall reach out
to all mankind
and the truth of Christ
as the Son of God
will grow in all hearts
until that Day we see the Lord
with our own eyes.
Thu, 2 July 2015
(Eph.2:19-22; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Jn.20:24-29)
“Blest are they who have not seen and have believed.”
The faith of Thomas. By his faith we find faith. In his desire to know beyond all doubt that the Lord has risen, all our doubt is taken away, and we declare with him, “My Lord and my God!” If Thomas had not doubted so much, we would not believe so much his clear proclamation of the divinity of Jesus. As it is, we no longer have room for doubt. Indeed, Thomas’ ardent need to touch the nail marks in the Lord’s hands and sides is a cry to believe as firmly as bedrock, and indeed his declaration of faith is the strongest in all Scripture. “My Lord and my God!” In this we take refuge.
And how beautifully Paul speaks today of the faith, of the Church wherein we take refuge and dwell as one with “all the saints and members of the household of God… with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.” It is architectural fact that in the cornerstone “the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape”; first it is laid, and then the rest of the foundation extends from it, giving the foundation its direction, its form. And, of course, the entire building rests on and is supported by this cornerstone and foundation. And so is the Church. Christ is our cornerstone around which we are all formed, and the apostles, those who have seen Him and proclaimed His glory, are the foundation upon which our faith rests. And we are all one structure, all made one in faith by the apostles and, of course, by the Lord, who is present in every stone of the building.
Let us firm up our faith this day, brothers and sisters. Wherever we may be throughout the world and at whatever time, let us feel beneath our feet the solid foundation upon which we are built and the blessed cornerstone which is its very source and so the source of all the life and the faith within us. Let us indeed be “built into this temple” and so become temples ourselves, knowing the surpassing blessing of becoming “a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” “A dwelling place for God in the Spirit”: my brothers and sisters, can there be a more marvelous call? Let us have the faith of Thomas, crying out “My Lord and my God!” each day of our lives and in all we think, say, and do. Let this faith permeate our very beings and we shall find ourselves standing firmly in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His kingdom, which is beyond all that eye can see.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us be blessed to know you
with a deep faith,
and so be built into your Temple.
YHWH, how good, how kind, how faithful you are to us! For we are built into the Body of your only Son with the saints of Heaven and become as your holy Temple. What more could we ask for, what more could we desire, than to be one with your apostles, upon whose faith your Church is founded? Let us find our place in Jesus, the Christ.
You are God and your Son is God and we may become one with you, O God, if we but have faith in your surpassing glory, in your goodness and kindness toward us – in your Son who stands before us. Jesus is LORD as you are LORD and we become as you are when we praise your glory and declare your Lordship over us.
You are our LORD and our God. Jesus is our LORD and our God. May your Spirit be with us, O LORD, to fit us well into your Temple, into your Church, which rises this day on the foundation of your holy apostles. Alleluia!
Wed, 1 July 2015
(Gn.22:1-19; Ps.115:1-6,8-9; Mt.9:1-8)
“God put Abraham to the test.”
And so is his faith in the living God made known. And so we see to what faith and obedience we are called. All that we hold back from the Lord, all that is due our God – and our neighbor – we must give without hesitation at the voice of His command.
In Leviticus 5, a ram is prescribed as the sacrifice for those who have withheld their tithe, who have shorted the Lord of His due offering. And the same is prescribed for those who cheat their neighbor of what is justly theirs. It is a ram Abraham finally offers “in place of his son,” to satisfy the sacrifice called for by the Lord. And what the Lord teaches us in this passage is that, really, what is due to Him is beyond our ability to pay. Not only are our children in His hands (and any other blessings), but our very lives as well are His – all comes to us only as a gift of His love. And His greatest gift shall be His only Son, whom He shall offer without reservation, not withholding Him from such sacrifice on the cross, that what is due Him may be fulfilled by Him, since it is beyond our ability to do so.
Isaac carried the wood of his own sacrifice to “the place of which God had told [Abraham]” to travel. He is as the unknowing sheep led to his own slaughter and is a sign of the Christ who will carry the wood of His own cross, without a word, to His own crucifixion. How can we understand all this? What a test it puts us to! Abraham prepares to slaughter the son of the promise; by the Father’s will Jesus is nailed to a cross like the worst of criminals… How can the mind of man fathom the workings and will of God? The question seems overwhelming but the answer is simple – and it is but that we trust in Him and in His love.
In our gospel, “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of the people in “His own town,” He was moved to forgive the sins of the paralytic; and in the same breath, by the same power, to heal him. The scribes were indignant at His presumption to forgive sins. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” Jesus asks, putting them to the test before revealing to them the authority given Him. And are not their thoughts like our own? Are not their doubts and questions and, indeed, presumptions not like our own hesitation and refusal to come to faith in God and trust in His will and His love? Are not their fears like our own in coming to the foot of the cross and partaking of His blood?
Our psalm makes clear that our God is a loving God, not one of wood or metal, and it is life He desires for His children. Jesus makes clear God’s desire for us to be healed, to be whole in His sight – and His beneficence in “giving such authority to men” to effect this desire (particularly in the Sacrament of Confession); we must not think He is otherwise, and we must be prepared to give Him our very lives. For how else shall we come to life but by giving all to Him who holds all in His loving hands? Have faith and trust in Him, brothers and sisters, and obey His command. It brings only life.
O LORD, your Son has authority to forgive men’s sins,
for it is by the blood of His sacrifice
we are redeemed.
YHWH, you put us to the test to see if our faith is strong, to see if we really love you above all things and truly trust in your providence. For your providence can be trusted; your love cannot be denied. You have given us your only Son in sacrifice, and so we are free from all cares, all sin, in this life. O let us stand up and walk with you in the steps of Jesus your Son!
We shall not die. This is what you wish to teach us, LORD. You hold our lives in your hand and you shall not let go. And so, we need not turn to idols of silver and gold, lifeless objects with no breath in them; we need but trust in your unending love and we shall be blessed through all generations.
Heal us, O LORD, of all the evil that is within us, all the fear and all the blindness to your will. Let us give you praise for your grace among us and, ready to sacrifice all to you, have faith in your abundant love.
Tue, 30 June 2015
(Gn.21:5,8-20; Ps.34:7-8,10-13; Mt.8:28-34)
“When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress He saved him.”
Ishmael is the model of the afflicted man calling out to the Lord and being heard in all his distress. His very name means “he whom God hears” and indeed we see clearly today how, though “it is through Isaac that descendants shall bear [Abraham’s] name,” nonetheless, the Lord has pity on Ishmael and his plight – his rejection by the mother of the promised child and his wandering in a trackless waste – and declares that of him a “great nation” shall come. Indeed he is left to die by his mother, so desperate had their situation become; but upon the child’s crying out, the Lord hears and sends His angel to assist them and assure them of the boy’s future greatness.
Ishmael is a son of Abraham; though born of a slave woman, yet “he too is [Abraham’s] offspring,” and so for this the Lord takes special care to watch over him. For God has chosen Abraham to be the father of many nations and does not wish to see His blessed patriarch distressed. We have already seen how God has heard the prayer of Abraham for Lot; now we see the same regarding Abraham’s concern for Ishmael.
We must, brothers and sisters, understand whence our own blessing comes. We are spiritual sons of Abraham, of Moses, of David… but most particularly we are children of Jesus and His apostles, the Church. A far greater intercessor have we in the Son of God Himself, so let us not be afraid to cry out to Him in our need. For if God heard the prayers of Abraham, how much more will He hear the prayers of His Son? And if God watched over the kin and offspring of the blessed patriarch, how much more concern does He have for the children of light born of the blood of Jesus Christ?
Our confidence must be sure in Him, for He cannot help but hear our prayer. Indeed, our gospel tells us that when “the demons kept appealing to Him,” even them He heard and granted their plea. If the Lord hears such as these, how can we even begin to doubt His presence to us? Now let us not be afraid to come to Him. Let us not be like the inhabitants of that Gadarene territory who found the Lord too much to bear and “begged Him to leave their neighborhood.” Let us not think in our hearts coming to Him we will die, that His light is simply too bright. No. He calls us as children to take refuge in Him.
It is His desire to bless our days. Turn not away from Him, for as David sings for us, “Those who seek the Lord want for no good thing”; He hears and answers all our cries.
O LORD, you have power to bless and to save;
you have pity on every poor man,
and so, let us not be afraid to cry out to you.
YHWH, you cannot help but answer our cries; your Son cannot turn his back on those in need, those who plead for His mercy. For you are love and mercy itself, and your compassion knows no bounds. And so, the son of the slave girl you bless, and even respond to the demons’ request.
And will you not hear us when we call to you, LORD? Should we doubt your concern for our well-being? Every afflicted soul you would save from distress, if he would but your mercy seek.
For this grace let us praise you, LORD; let us not turn away from you in fear. For our sins you would wipe away, remembering them no more. Be with us now and let us grow in you. Let us remain with you forever, your blessing upon us all our days. O let us prosper in your love, in your holy presence.
Mon, 29 June 2015
O first of souls to shed blood,
whose sacrifice began the great persecution,
you indeed handed your bodies over
to the mad king of this dark world,
but everlasting reward you have gained
for yourselves and for the Church;
your robes washed clean
in the blood of the Lamb,
you served to nourish the growth
of the people of God –
pray your holy offering
shall always be remembered,
that the Church in this day
and in all days
may be blessed by your witness
that you might light our path to Heaven
until our crucified Lord returns again
to gather all of faith and courage
into His redeeming arms.
Direct download: June_30_The_First_Martyrs_of_the_Holy_Roman_Church.mp3
Category:Saints -- posted at: 7:00 PM
Mon, 29 June 2015
(Gn.19:15-29; Ps.26:2-3,9-12; Mt.8:23-27)
“Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”
“The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon
“Gather not my soul with those of sinners,” we should all cry out to the Lord, for indeed we all fall short of the glory of God; and if it were not for His mercy and protection, all would die in their sins. But He has the power to save us, and the kindness besides. Only let us not presume upon His mercy, nor fail to stand strong in His grace and faith. We have one greater than Abraham watching over us and interceding for us with God; let us no longer question His will for us or wonder who it is that controls the wind and the sea, the earth and the fire. Now we should know clearly that these obey Him, and that we must do the same.
Brothers and sisters, can we say to the Lord with David: “Test my soul and try my heart”? Are we prepared to expose ourselves to His refining fire? Would we “walk in integrity” with this son of Jesse, crying out to the Lord, “Redeem me, and have pity on me.” If we come to Him and lay our lives before Him, He will certainly enter in and preserve us from all distress. His voice shall resound about us and within us, calming the wind and the waves contending in our hearts. Remember that He has the power. Remember that He, only He, is alive. And by His grace He will save our lives.
O LORD, if we have faith, you will save us –
however dark things may seem,
your Word and your light are near.
YHWH, how little faith we have. Even when your angel is with us, even with your Son in our boat, we doubt and fear. We cannot trust. We cannot be strong in the face of temptation, before the traps of the evil one. It is because we are concerned for our flesh that we fail to recognize the Spirit is all that matters, that we fail to realize you can do all things…. O help us to believe in you!
Though we are weak and sinful, you reach out your hand to save us; you do all you can to bring us to safe haven, LORD. Yet there are those among us who, even while fleeing the destruction of this world, turn back to what is being abandoned and are destroyed. Why? Why are we so foolish? Why have we such attachments to what can only harm us? Why should we care for the things of this life?
Your life awaits us, LORD. Let us come quickly to the kingdom, trusting in you.
Sun, 28 June 2015
O most blessed apostles of the Lord
upon whom the Church is founded
and the faith goes forth,
in you we cannot be shaken
and the Lord’s reign extends
to the ends of the earth –
pray we always take refuge
in His House
and in the teaching of His mouth.
It is you who preserve
the authenticity of the faith;
through you we may be assured
the Spirit of God is with us,
leading us out of the dark prison
of this world
along the narrow path to Heaven.
Pray the chains fall from our hands
and we heed the angel’s command,
remaining faithful to the end,
pouring out our lives like a libation.
Feed the poor sheep in your care.
Sun, 28 June 2015
Acts 12:1-11; Ps.34:2-9; 2Tm.4:6-8,17-18; Mt.16:13-19)
“On this rock I will build my Church,
and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.”
We go through death to life, for death has no power over us: the power of Jesus founded firmly on Peter, brought forward by Paul, and present in all the members of the Church and in its faith, has conquered death and leads us all to heaven.
Today we celebrate the solid foundation of the Church in Peter, the man of faith, first of the apostles and rock upon whom we are firmly set; and Paul, the great Apostle, through whom that faith went out to “all the nations.” Our readings today clearly manifest the faith we possess, which overcomes even death, in Jesus’ commissioning of Peter and in the example shown in the lives of both Peter and Paul.
Our first reading describes Peter’s mystical release from prison and reveals in this act our own coming to the heavenly kingdom: the chains of sin fall from us, we are clothed in righteousness, and led through the snares of this world to freedom. And it is he who holds “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” who is led out; and indeed by these keys, by this office and its grace, “the iron gate leading out to the city” opens before us “of itself.” And in our second reading we find Paul declaring the faithful life he has led even unto the end, which he now faces, and that his fighting of the good fight has merited the crown which awaits him on the Day of Lord. He is able to state with confidence, “The Lord will continue to rescue me from all attempts to do me harm and will bring me safe to His heavenly kingdom.” Finally, our psalm confirms the protection the Lord grants His faithful ones: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
We are sharers in this faith with Peter and Paul. This is evident in the Church who “prayed fervently to God” on behalf of Peter, and whose prayers were answered in this astounding fashion, and is made certain in Paul’s proclaiming that Jesus gives the reward of a heavenly crown not only to Paul himself “but to all who have looked for His appearing with eager longing.” The Church is one in all its members, and though the Lord has chosen certain of us to special places and granted them special blessings and powers, all are blessed by this same God.
So, today as we rejoice in this faith with which we have been gifted by the Lord, as we “together extol His name,” let us consider the place we have in His holy Church and the work to which He calls us. And let us resolve to fulfill that call, pouring ourselves out unto death, that we might be assured of our entering through the heavenly gate. Let us walk in faith the narrow path the Lord has set before us, for it leads beyond death to life.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by James Kurt.
Music by Carie Fortney; performed by Carie Fortney and Annette Meyer. Used by permission.
O LORD, may we be loosed
from the chains of this earth
that we might walk with you in Heaven.
YHWH, the gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against you and your Church. To Peter you have given the keys to the kingdom and these shall open every lock the devil can devise; the chains fall from our wrists by the angel you send to guide us.
You deliver us, LORD, from every evil and bring us into your heavenly kingdom. The lion’s mouth shall not close upon us, nor any prison door keep us from you. For we are redeemed by the sacrifice of your Son; in Him and in His blood your Church finds power and grace to facilitate release from all the wiles of the evil one.
Jesus sets your people on solid rock through His commissioning of His apostle Peter. And your Word goes forth to the ends of the earth through Paul and all your disciples. And so, on the day of your Son’s appearance, all shall enter freely through the eternal gates to dwell in your presence forever. You have heard our cries to you, O LORD, and bring us quickly to Heaven.
Sat, 27 June 2015
O great teacher of the Catholic faith
who served to set a foundation
upon which she could grow
in peace and in truth,
in the Spirit of God,
you who valiantly defended her
against attacks of heresy
and shed your blood
in the battle –
pray we shall find shepherds today
to explicate the faith of the apostles
as you have done,
that none shall be led astray
into false doctrine
by whim and fancy,
by pride and envy,
but drink rather the pure milk
of our Mother
and of the one true God.
To vision of the Father let us come
by revelation of His only-begotten Son.
Sat, 27 June 2015
(Ws.1:13-15,2:23-24; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; 2Cor.8:7,9,13-15; Mk.5:21-43)
“God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of His own nature He made him.”
“God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.” “By the envy of the devil death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it,” but God has nothing to do with death: He is but Life, and would have us be with Him where He is.
It is the Lord’s will that all live, that all are rescued from death and destruction; and so Jesus “became poor, so that by His poverty [we] might become rich,” and so He died that we might live… and so He comes healing us of our disease and raising us from the dead. David witnesses to His power in our psalm today – “You brought me up from the netherworld, you preserved me from among those going down into the pit” – and in our gospel Jesus heals the woman of her flow of blood and wakes Jairus’ daughter from her sleep.
“Little girl, I say to you, arise!” the Lord whispers to the child of twelve as He holds her by the hand, and “she [arises] immediately and walk[s] around.” Despite the commotion and the ridicule of the crowd outside, the Lord enters her room and calls quite clearly to her heart… Do you hear Him? Do you hear Him speaking? Does He not call to all our hearts to rise from the dead, from the death of sin or complacency, or whatever disease has gripped our lives? What He speaks to the little girl He says to all: “Rise from your slumber, O sleeper!”
It is not death to which we are called, but life. This Jesus clearly shows in His ministry upon the earth. And though this life can only be fully known having entered the gates of heaven, and though each day we are called to lay down our lives, to die as the Lord has shown us – though this indeed be a world of suffering for the Christian soul who always carries His cross, we know the Mighty One, the Creator of the universe, holds us each in His loving hand, and He will turn our “mourning into dancing” as He breathes life upon us again. “At nightfall weeping enters in, but with the dawn rejoicing,” as we see that never really do we die, as we discover in His presence among us our eternal life… as we sense even now our blessed immortality. Remain with Him forever.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "To Eternal Life" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, lay your hands upon us
that death might flee and we be healed.
YHWH, in you death has no place, no power at all. By a word from the mouth of your Son, the death we have brought upon ourselves is dispelled, and we are raised to life with you. It is for life you have made us; bring us back to your side.
In this world we weep and mourn, O LORD; we cry out for the darkness that closes in. But what is this death that seems to take hold to those who have faith in you? Those who closely follow your Son shall be cured of their diseases, healed of every affliction – even from death they shall be raised, as if they were only sleeping. For He will speak to our hearts, and hearing His voice we shall arise. We shall live in peace forever.
Jesus has laid down His life that we might be brought up from the nether world. Though death and sin and the envy of the devil threaten to take our posterity away, yet we shall sing praise to you, O LORD, for the salvation wrought in our midst.
Fri, 26 June 2015
O great defender of the Mother of God
and of the faith itself,
courageously you declared
that Jesus is God indeed,
become Man in Mary His Mother;
this you made plain for all to see,
O shepherd of the people of God,
that truth might reign
and the Virgin might find
her proper place among us –
pray, O brave teacher,
that we shall not be afraid
to proclaim the truths
inscribed by the Spirit
upon the heart of the Church
and in her inspired writings;
and may indeed our Mother,
the Mother of Jesus,
the Mother of God,
be recognized for her preeminence
amongst the saints,
that the Word of the Lord might be fulfilled
and all generations call her blessed.
Fri, 26 June 2015
(Gn.18:1-15; Lk.1:46-50,53-55; Mt.8:5-17)
“Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?”
Our theme again is faith. Do we believe as Abraham, as Mary, as the centurion? Only such trust will save us.
In our first reading the Lord appears to Abraham. We have here the marvelous scene of faith being born, being conceived. Abraham sits patiently, waiting, praying – expectant of the Lord’s return to confirm His word to him. Then, “looking up, he saw three men nearby.” There is the Lord before him. His reaction is one we all must learn to follow: he does not hesitate an instant. He runs to them, bows before them (even to the ground), and begs them to stay with him that he might serve them. With haste he has food prepared for them, “and he waited on them under the tree while they ate”; his eyes “like the eyes of a servant on the hand of his master” (Ps.123:2), he watches their every move to be certain they are well pleased. (In addition to this quote from Psalms, one cannot help but think of Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation (3:20): “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”)
As Abraham sits there gazing at the Lord, He speaks to His servant: “Where is your wife, Sarah?” Here comes that which Abraham has been longing to hear. His heart leaps up, and the Lord states His promise in no uncertain terms. Now Sarah laughs. But Abraham is no longer laughing. The Lord tests him with the question, “Why did Sarah laugh?” to show to Abraham that he no longer thinks the promise too marvelous for the Lord to fulfill. The Lord repeats the promise. Abraham believes to the depths of his soul; He knows the word spoken to him is of truth. And he shall take his wife in fruitful embrace.
How appropriate to hear Mary’s Magnificat in our daily bread, she who is the handmaiden of the Lord, who believed the words of the angel and so found the greatest blessing of the Lord and the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. How like Mary, the model of all the faithful, has her father Abraham come to be.
And, of course, our gospel finds Jesus marveling at the faith of the Roman centurion, greater than any He has found in Israel. It bodes well that all of faith shall be found at table in the kingdom of God, but we must heed Jesus’ warning that “the natural heirs will be driven out.” For we are the heirs of the Israelites. As Catholics we now hold the covenant. We have the apostolic succession, the sacraments, the teaching – all the gifts are ours. But have we the faith necessary to gain entrance into His kingdom; are we prepared to come to His table and dine with Him who feeds us with the food of everlasting life? Do we believe? This question the Lord puts on all our souls. How shall we answer?
O LORD, let us be quick to serve you
and you will make a place for us in your kingdom.
YHWH, instill faith in our very souls, the faith of Abraham and Mary, the faith the centurion shows even though he is not of your people. And we shall bear fruit in abundance; and your mercy shall be known to the ends of the earth.
Though our hearts be old and withered, O LORD, though we be beyond the age of giving birth, yet you come to us in your mercy and make us fruitful in your NAME. And so, what should we do but praise you? How ready we should be to obey your commands!
Look upon your servants in our lowliness. We are not worthy to have you come under our roof, yet your Son you give to us as our very food. We indeed should feed you, O God, but it is you who provide for our needs; by your hand we are fed each day at the table of sacrifice – we who have been so far from your face, you heal and bring near by a word from your mouth, and so we praise you in joy.
Thu, 25 June 2015
(Gn.17:1,9-10,15-22; Ps.128:1-5; Mt.8:1-4)
“Can Sarah give birth at ninety?”
Abraham laughs to himself as he asks the question; and indeed many scoff at the idea today, or simply choose to reason the possibility away. And can a leper be made clean in an instant, just by a touch of Jesus’ hand and the words “Be cured”? Is the arm of God, who created the universe, somehow shortened to such miracles? Why do we think it so? Wherefore our lack of faith?
God appears to this ninety-nine-year-old man and tells him whose wife is barren, in the words of our psalm: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.” And Abraham laughs. (As will Sarah, too, upon hearing such news – thus the name of their child Isaac: “he laughs”.) It’s an understandable reaction. Who would not find the thought humorous? But Abraham does something more than laugh: he also “prostrates himself” before the Lord, face to the floor. How many of our modern scoffers would do such as this? It is human to question, to doubt; but it is godly to humble oneself in faith. There is a world of difference between a laugh of wonder and the scoffing of the skeptic. The latter shall remain barren, never finding the living water that would make him fertile and fruitful; the former by his fear of the Lord opens himself to His favor, to His blessing – and such life-giving breath of blessing will make him bear fruit abundantly.
This humble faith is perfectly evident in the leper as well, and is indeed the catalyst of his healing. We are told the leper “came forward and did Him homage” – falling on his face like Abraham – and said to the Lord, “If you will to do so, you can cure me.” First he shows humility, he shows fear of the Lord; then he expresses his faith. Simply put, he believes in the power of God. And so he is healed. He is made whole, more whole indeed than the Pharisees and priests who stand by calculating how this can be.
God does not come to the proud. He does not show Himself to the self-righteous. He cannot. They refuse Him at every turn. To the humble of heart, to the poor in spirit, the Lord is present – and His blessings they receive. And miraculous are they beyond what the eye can see. Amen.
O LORD, free us from all our disease
by a word from your mouth,
as we bow humbly before you.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth the barren womb bears fruit; by a word from your mouth we are healed. Our reproach, our leprosy, is taken from those who come to you in faith, who bow before you in humility. Only in this way are we saved – only in this way are our lives of any worth.
In wonder we look upon your works, O LORD, in wonder and thanksgiving. How can we not give you praise for your blessings upon us? If we fear you and the hand you stretch forth to redeem our souls, we shall indeed know your blessings upon us through all generations.
Laughter you put into our mouths, dear LORD, as we look upon your hand at work. What joy you bring to the tired soul by your grace living amongst us! Though we seemed at the point of death, though disease had taken hold – you have freed us to walk with you… in all our days your will is done.
Wed, 24 June 2015
(Gn.16:1-12,15-16; Ps.106:1-5; Mt.7:21-29)
“Anyone who hears my words but does not put them into practice
is like the foolish man who built his house on sandy ground.”
The Lord hears our words and answers our cries, but He is not so interested in these as in our listening to His voice and remaining obedient to Him. His desire is that we always strive to do His will; the recounting of our own deeds rings empty in His ears.
It is ten years since the Lord’s call and promise to Abram. Abram and Sarai grow old and the word of the Lord has not been fulfilled. Sarai thinks to resolve the problem, taking matters in her own hands, and Abram, faltering in his faith and failing to turn to the Lord for guidance, instead “heeded Sarai’s request” to take Hagar as his concubine. And oh what shaky ground Abram would stand upon now! Oh what turmoil would be wrought by his failure to withstand the torrents that come with time! For now the lashing of the winds would only increase; now his sin would bear a son who would be “a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone,” indeed in continual war with his kinsmen. And when the son of the promise does finally come, his children will be subject to the yoke of the descendants of the son of this “Egyptian maid-servant.” Four hundred years they themselves will become slaves to her offspring. And persecution shall follow them through the desert and even into the Promised Land. Though yet blessed, they will not come to the fulfillment of the peace of God; only in the New Jerusalem founded in Jesus’ blood will the law given as their guide and the promise of the ages be fulfilled in God’s sight.
How empty our psalm rings today, for we are reminded by Abram’s fault that we do not “do always what is just”; we remember our own failures to patiently wait on the word of the Lord – we have now in mind our own lack of obedience in hearing and following His command. We see the tangled web we weave when we take matters of our life into our own soiled hands.
But this it is necessary to remember: by our own wills nothing is accomplished. We can do nothing except by God. And let us expect no recompense for that which has its beginning and end in the Lord. Our house will be founded firmly only by silent obedience to the authoritative teaching of Christ.
Jesus, forgive us all our wanderings in the thoughts of our own hearts. Redeem all of mankind in your blood; conform us to the will of God. Hear our cry. Make us silent before you. We are your unworthy servants.
O LORD, if we have you, we have everything,
and so shall stand;
without you we have nothing, and can only be destroyed –
it is by your blessing we live and prosper.
YHWH, if you build our house, it is blessed, it is set solidly on rock. But if we fail to hear and heed your voice, taking matters into our own corrupted hands, there is little hope for our salvation. We cannot be saved if we do not listen to the Word your Son brings us, for only He speaks with authority.
How difficult it is, LORD, not to listen to ourselves, not to be led astray by what seems right to our own minds. Your promise is with us always, and it is sure. Yet we cannot wait for its fulfillment, we cannot trust in your providence – even Abraham lacked faith that you would give him a son, and so he went in to his wife’s handmaid.
And our sins do not lack consequence, dear LORD; you do not fail to punish those who go astray. And so Ishmael will stand in opposition to all his kin; and so we are continually threatened by the fruits of our sin. Yet you hear our plaintive cry.
Tue, 23 June 2015
O greatest of men born of woman,
before you were formed in the womb
the Lord called you;
while still in this cave
you leapt for joy
at His presence come to you…
a sharp, two-edged sword He made you
to hail the coming Messiah,
the Light in our midst,
the New Covenant born of the Old –
how shall we humble ourselves
as you have done;
how shall our call be realized
in flesh and blood
as was your own?
Pray, dear brother,
that from darkness we be taken,
from blindness and inability to speak
we be rescued,
that the Word among us
we may know
and raise our voices
to proclaim His salvation to all.
Tue, 23 June 2015
(Is.49:1-6; Ps.139:1-3,13-15; Acts 13:22-26: Lk.1:57-66,80)
“I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, he who hails the coming of the Lord, is born today. This voice speaks of the Word among us. And from before his birth he is called, in the womb he is formed, to proclaim with the sword of truth God’s salvation for His people. “Surely the hand of the Lord was with him,” and surely we find the grace of God by walking the path he blazed for us in the desert; for surely that way leads to the glory who is the Son of David.
Yes, “to us this word of salvation has been sent.” To us this light has been brought forth. We “distant peoples” hear now the call of the voice which pierces our souls: Make straight the way of the Lord! The tongue now speaks; no longer silenced, no longer hidden, it has risen from “the depths of the earth” to plainly declare the coming of Christ. Yes, in the womb of the Old Testament the Lord wonderfully formed the salvation of Israel, probing and scrutinizing all its ways and preparing it for birth in the light of day. And now what He hid in His quiver He shoots forth to wound with amazement the hearts who have waited to hear the Word of life. “John heralded His coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel”; by his voice a place is made for the Savior, Jesus.
At the turning point of the history of salvation John stands. He has come to direct souls to the Promised Land. For this he was made. To this call he answers – to lead us to the Son of Man. The old is passed away; now all is made new. Fulfillment has come. The womb has brought forth. The time of salvation is here. For He through whom time and the earth and heavens were made is now come to wash even the dirt from our feet. Listen to the voice which hails the Word of God in our midst. His call is for all ears; the light shines for all “who are God-fearing.”
Your recompense is upon you now. You, too, make known His light to the world.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, your Word of salvation you speak
through the mouth of John,
whom you have blessed with your might and power.
YHWH, your Word of salvation goes forth to the ends of the earth, proclaimed through the mouth of John, the fulfillment of the prophets of Israel. In his birth what is old passes away, and what is new comes. Now the light of the nations enters this house.
Loose our tongues to declare your glory, dear LORD. You who have formed us in the depths of the earth, in the womb of the Church, now gather us into your arms that we might be raised unto the glory of your Son, brought into union with you who are our Father and our God. O may we share your Name as we are born into your kingdom!
Let your hand be upon us for good, O LORD; let your will be accomplished in us as it has been in John. Let all souls know that it is you who probe us and know us, you who understand all our thoughts and ways. May all our thoughts and actions be in accord with your own, and so in all things let us declare to all that your Son has come – O let us be His servants!
Mon, 22 June 2015
(Gn.13:2,5-18; Ps.15:1-5; Mt.7:6,12-14;)
“How narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road,
and how few there are who find it!”
In our first reading today, the way Abram walks with God is contrasted with the path Lot chooses for himself. Though the road seems wide and clear, this gate leads to damnation, and indeed, as our gospel states, is one which is chosen by the traveler himself; whereas the narrow path is one which is found in God.
Lot and Abram could no longer dwell together; their possessions were too great and the tensions were too high among their servants. Taking “no reproach against his neighbor,” acting as the just soul spoken of in our psalm, “Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife between you and me,’” and put the whole land at his disposal, offering to take what remained. So “Lot looked about,” Scripture tells us, to see what pleased his eyes, and then “chose for himself,” again the words of Scripture, that broad expanse of land which he thought would be fruitful for his needs. And where does this decision he takes by the sight of his own eyes lead him? To the depraved, to the reprobate, to the dogs and swine – to the infamous land of Sodom, whose people “were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord.” To such we are led by our senses.
Once Lot is gone, how is Abram led to his destination – are his feet led by his own eyes as well? No, the Lord comes to Him as guide. It is He who tells him to “set forth and walk about in the land.” It is again God and his faith which serve as his light. And what promise there is by way of this path! But what difficulties one must face to attain it.
When Abram arrived at his destination, “he built an altar to the Lord.” (In what contrast is this altar to the unholy sacrifices offered at Sodom.) The altar of Abram signifies both the faith of this just man and the sacrifice necessary to walk with God and find the life to which He leads us. We know that Abram’s path will be particularly rough, as will be that of his descendants. There will be slavery and wandering in the desert, and once come into the land of promise, it shall not remain with them. Indeed, it is only we now in the Spirit following the coming of Christ for whom that promise is fulfilled. And yet do we struggle. And yet every day must we examine our conscience and reform our lives to prepare ourselves to enter that gate which is so narrow. No sin will it accept. No foolish pride can exist in our hearts if we hope to enter life.
The way is rough, but what blessed protection the Lord gives by His guidance; and we “shall never be disturbed” by the trials of this world but come thereby to the sure promise of heaven.
O LORD, the wide road of the world
leads to damnation;
the narrow gate of the Cross of Christ
takes us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us be just, as Abraham, and as faithful to your Word. Not by our own eyes let us set forth, but led by your command. Your narrow way let us follow, the way that leads to life.
The just man thinks only the truth in his heart, and does not slander his fellow man. He is a man of peace who takes up no reproach against his neighbor but gives him preference of place. This is what it means to treat others as we would be treated, for when we give others such deference (as Abraham does for Lot), you, O LORD, defer to us… and we are truly blessed. For no one is as just as you.
Let us come to know your justice, LORD, and we shall be kept from the dogs and swine. Through the narrow gate let us enter and not the gate that is clear and wide, and we shall be preserved from all evil – for you will be at our side. And though the Cross does enter into our lives, it only serves to bless us with passage into your Promised Land.
Sun, 21 June 2015
O kings of martyrdom
who indeed laid down your very lives
rather than heed the dictates
of an evil emperor,
whose loyalty to the Lord
and the Church He established
your defense of the faith
written in the blood you shed –
pray that the mediocrity,
the utter inability to stand for truth
in this relativist age,
will be defeated
by souls founded firmly
in the Spirit of Christ
and in the Cross
He offers forth
for our salvation.
Pray for leaders of Church and State
to embrace your singular devotion.
Sun, 21 June 2015
O lover of poverty
who gave up great wealth
to find her abiding
within the walls of your heart,
a heart which turned thus
to God’s people
and the shepherding of them
with great care –
pray that we too may hear
and come to realize in our lives
the call of our Lord
to give up all things
for the sake of the kingdom,
to be attached to nothing
but service of the poor,
service of God Himself
in the humble of this earth;
pray that like you
we may have the heart of a shepherd,
of a laborer in Jesus’ vineyard,
united in the Spirit
with all God’s children
with whom we share His Heaven.
Sun, 21 June 2015
(Gn.12:1-9; Ps.33:12-13,18-20,22; Mt.7:1-5)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
There is a plank in our own eye; there is but a speck in our brother’s. This is what the Lord sees. And this is what we see if we fear the Lord. If we fear the Lord, we remain humble before Him. If we fear the Lord, we will be released from judgment. If we fear the Lord, we indeed will be as Abram, following His blessed commands.
“Abram went as the Lord directed him,” our first reading tells us so aptly today. He left his father’s house at a word from God and followed wherever God led, his path illumined only by faith. He walked not by his eyes but only by his faith in the Lord’s promise to him; the Lord became his eyes and he trusted himself and all his family and all his possessions to these eyes which watched over him. In darkness and in quiet he sets out, the Lord as his only light and His voice as his only guide. Such faith, such blessed faith and humility.
Such faith must we all have, brothers and sisters, for it cannot be otherwise but that the Lord calls each one of us to such faith, to such trust; He calls each of us from our “father’s house” to walk with Him alone and find our way in His presence. Do we fear Him? Do we love Him? Are we humble before Him? If so, we will know the path upon which the Lord leads us; we will hear His voice speaking quietly in our ears and in our hearts. And we will follow Him. And He will bless us and fulfill His own call for our lives. He will remove the plank from our eyes and grace us with the ability to remove the speck from others’. He will be our wisdom in teaching, our strength in serving. We will not go forth vainly in our own power, but will know His hand guiding us in all we do, for all will be done in His Name. Then great things will be accomplished in us. Then we become sharers in the promise of Abraham.
The Lord is our God. He watches over. He judges. He leads. All healing and all grace and blessing come from His hand and not our own. Our eyes see only what is before us; His illumine the universe. But we may share in His vision, we may partake of His presence, if we have faith, if we humble ourselves before Him and go as He directs.
And as He blesses us so with His guidance, as we find ourselves coming into His kingdom, let us not fail to build an altar to His Name, let us remember to praise Him for His grace. And we shall find our path sure; and in time we shall come “by stages” to eternal life.
O LORD, let us not judge, but love;
let us go as you direct us.
YHWH, who can see as you see, who has vision so pure? Only he who repents of his sin and obediently follows your way, walking in harmony with his brother. If we are not humble, we are blind, for your power is not known to us. We shall remain in darkness forever if we do not come to faith in you.
Let us be faithful as Abraham; let us reflect his obedience to your Word. Let us listen this day to your Son and turn from hardness of heart and judgment of others that your kindness may be upon us, O LORD. If we are not kind and forgiving, neither shall we be forgiven, but rather bring condemnation upon our own souls – O let us repent of such blindness!
Save us, O LORD, from the death of sin, from vain pride; preserve our souls in this land of famine, in this foreign place. Let us leave behind the idols of this age and build an altar in our hearts to you. You are our God, you alone. Help us to leave all behind to find your way, walking humbly with one another. Then our eyes shall be opened.
Sat, 20 June 2015
O patron of youth
whose innocence was unsurpassed,
whose desire to give yourself
to the Lord
in poverty and purity
led you to relinquish
your wealth in this world
at a tender age
that you might embrace Jesus
pray for the youth of our day
and the child in each of our souls,
that all might turn away
from the temptations which surround
and threaten to enter and enslave;
let all turn toward
the love of the Lord
and His heavenly call,
a call to a kingdom
that surpasses everything of this earth
and brings the joy
known only in breathing and speaking
His holy Name.
Sat, 20 June 2015
(Jb.38:1,8-11; Ps.107:23-26,28-31; 2Cor.5:14-17; Mk.4:35-41)
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Need you ask? If you must, I will tell you: this is He who “shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb”; He who “set limits for it and fastened the bars of its door” – He who speaks to Job: “Here shall your proud waves be stilled!” This is the Lord, the great I AM!
When the Lord “raised up a storm wind” against those “trading on the deep waters… which tossed its waves on high… their hearts melted away in their plight.” But “they cried to the Lord in their distress [and] from their straits He rescued them.” Is not He who “hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled,” the same God who in our gospel when the disciples cry out, “We are perishing,” because “a violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat” – is this not the same God who “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” by whose hand “the wind ceased and there was great calm”? The power is the same and the God is the same. Jesus is Lord!
And is it not this same God, this same Christ, who stills the waves of your own pride when its waters begin to fill your boat with sin, when it seems you shall sink into the deep and never return? Do you not know your sin? Do you not know His power? Is it not the Lord’s great power and the peace we find by its great grace of which Paul, too, speaks when he says, “The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come”? Is it not the same salvation he refers to when he declares, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation”?
Brothers and sisters, “Let us cross to the other side.” Let us allow the Lord to bring us “to [our] desired haven.” Through the tribulation of this life let us pass, impelled by “the love of Christ,” knowing He holds power over all the proud waves of the sinful sea in His redeeming Hand. Let Him but speak a word to our impenitent hearts to break the waves we raise up and make us whole.
“Do you not yet have faith?” Then indeed be dead in Christ and live “no longer for [yourselves] but for Him who for [our] sake died and was raised.” This is the Lord our God. Silence your tongue before Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The World Is a Work of Art (Made by the Hand of God)" (final section), from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in you we find our peace,
for you created us,
and for our sake your Son died and was raised.
YHWH, what need we fear if we are already dead in your Christ? How could the proud waves of this world be a threat to him who has already reached his desired haven, who has already come to the opposite shore? The power of wind and sea mean nothing to the One who commands these and all other things, and it is He who is with us now.
O LORD, increase our faith in the salvation that is ours through the death and resurrection of your Son. Flesh now has no hold of Him, and so it should no longer trouble those who are reborn in Him. His life should be our own, and this life is unconquerable. O let us trust entirely in His love!
Though the waves do rise above our heads and threaten our boat with sinking, the Spirit of your Son is present to us to command the sea to be still. And so we shall sail peacefully into your kingdom, if we but remember His presence, if we but call on your NAME.
Fri, 19 June 2015
(2Cor.12:1-10; Ps.34:8-13; Mt.6:24-34)
“Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”
The call to treasure in heaven continues.
What care we for the things of this earth? What is money, what are food and clothing to us? Indeed, they must not be our concern. And what matter to us is our bereavement of these things and other like afflictions which the world may inflict upon us. We are called to be like Paul and be “content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress,” yes, even to boast about such weaknesses in the flesh, because we know that when the world attacks us, Jesus comes to save us. “In weakness power reaches perfection,” for when we are afflicted we share in the very “power of Christ,” which is all we can depend on in such times, and which comes to us without fail. Thus even our persecutions become cause for rejoicing and proclaiming with David, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
There is a weakness we should avoid, however. The beatings which come to us from outside us are indeed an opportunity for celebration; but the weakness of being distracted by the cares of the flesh and its pleasures is not to be ours. The Lord speaks lovingly to such weakness in us in our gospel today, gently calling us away from such preoccupation, for He knows, and states quite clearly, that such distractions will keep us from the gates of heaven. “You cannot give yourself to God and money.” We cannot be divided in this way. Our hearts must be set on the holiness of God, trusting even the needs of the flesh to His care, in order to come to vision of heaven – in order to know Christ the Lord and the Father to whom He leads us. Jesus is not concerned for these things and neither should we be. Whether we have or not and in what measure should not matter. We must find the vision of the Lord which rejoices even in our utter bereavement of all things of the earth. Indeed, we cannot come to heaven until we die. “Running after these things” will only kill the life of Christ in us; it is death to such concern which will bring us the true life of heaven.
All that we need will be given us, brothers and sisters, if we set our hearts on Christ. The Lord is not blind to our needs. He sees all and is ever near to assist us in all our troubles. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” We shall “want for no good thing” if we but seek His face. Readiness for heaven must now be with us.
O LORD, how weak we are
as we struggle in this world,
the Cross placed upon our backs –
but O the power of your grace at work within us!
YHWH, what a blessing it is to share in the sufferings of your Son, for then we share in His glory – it is then He is with us; it is then your angel watches over us.
What need we fear of the persecutions of this world if you are at our side? And if we put our trust in you, will you not provide? What is food and what is clothing, what are all the riches of this earth but things that pass with the dawning day? But you do not pass away. You hold all these things in your hand. And so, if in our weakness we find ourselves in need of assistance, you are ready to help us. Indeed, this is your great pleasure, O holy LORD.
Help us to depend on your grace, LORD, for nothing can come to us except as a gift from your loving heart. We shall indeed prosper on this earth and come quickly to the glory of Heaven, if we but take our refuge in you, if we but learn to trust in your care. Thank you for your goodness, which is always with us.
Thu, 18 June 2015
O sign of perfect solitude
who heeded so well
the Lord’s command
to enter into your closet
in order to pray,
whose great measure of self-denial
led you to the peak of contemplation
in God’s holy presence,
whose only desire
was that souls might draw close
to Him –
pray all who seek the Lord
may approach Him with a whole heart,
a heart set on Him alone,
that in such perfect devotion
all might find Him present
in their souls, in their spirits,
and be elevated in their lowliness
to His indescribable divine love,
to His peace which passes
all our understanding
but draws us ever closer
to His wounded side.
Thu, 18 June 2015
(2Cor.11:18,21-30; Ps.34:2-7,18; Mt.6:19-23)
“Store up heavenly treasure, which neither moths nor rust corrode
nor thieves break in and steal.”
It is clear where Paul’s treasure lies, and where it does not lie. In the litany of the sufferings and afflictions he has endured as a “minister of Christ,” we understand without question his utter lack of concern for the things of this world. How could it be otherwise with one who sacrifices himself so completely, readily bearing “labors” and “beatings” at every turn? He gives not only all his possessions, but his very body for the cause of the gospel. This is where his treasure lies – in Jesus and in His word – and he lays down all of this earth to see that blessed Word planted in the souls of all and grow to eternal life. Beatings and stoning and hunger are as nothing to him; it is “anxiety for all the churches” which causes him the greatest pain.
And now, though the moths and rust of this world could not touch him and he remained untroubled by the thieves who waylay ships at sea, there is another kind of thief who is attempting to break in and steal, to steal that about which he is concerned the most. False prophets have come along to influence his flock, and this corruption of the Word he cannot bear; so in this emotional diatribe he in effect calls on the Lord to open the eyes of the churches.
And it is not only those at Corinth who need to be roused from their stupor of nodding approval to the voices of all who come speaking high-sounding words in God’s Name: we today and everywhere must heed the call to be on guard against the thieves who would break into our souls. How strong and knowledgeable must we be in our faith, now with a history of Church teaching behind us – but how weak we often are.
Paul’s words were as caustic salve healing the wounds of his people. I pray they may be so now in calling us to right Church teaching. Each day we hear from those preaching the comfort to be taken in earthly treasure as they bow toward the god of this world – let us stand with eyes of holy light and speak of the unfading glory of heaven. On this may our hearts be set and on the word of Jesus, that all our afflictions will be as so much dust blown away by the wind, by the Spirit of Truth. In Him let us take our refuge.
O LORD, the darkness of this world is deep indeed;
but we are not overcome by it,
for we do not live in it but in the light of Christ.
YHWH, let our light not be darkness; let us not set our hearts on the things of this world but on the things of Heaven. Attached to this earth we would perish in sin – let us be aflame with the Spirit.
Why should we care if we must be beaten, if the threats of thieves surround our souls? The dangers of the world are as nothing, for what can they take from us but this mortal flesh? Our affliction comes only in seeing others fall into sin; our only fear is for their immortal souls, and our own. O LORD, let all stay close to you.
May all your children extol your NAME in the heavenly kingdom. May we all shine forth your light, even now while here on this dying earth. Let its corruptibility not touch us, LORD, as we set our hearts on doing your will. Be the light that shines in our eyes and our minds and we shall never go astray but through all trials increase in faith and come at last to eternal joy in your presence.
Wed, 17 June 2015
(2Cor.11:1-11; Ps.111:1-4,7-8; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
And what we need is to be holy as He is holy. And it is this we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. We simply seek to be like Him, and that all obstacles to holiness be removed from us. And like a loving father He meets our needs.
And Paul is a father to the community at Corinth; he loves them “with the jealousy of God Himself.” He has given them in marriage to Christ and is solicitous that the wedding chamber not be corrupted by false doctrine. “Super apostles” have come among them who “win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words,” rattling on like empty wind and taking money from Paul’s children for the sound and the fury they bring. But they signify nothing by all their skill; they are but ravenous wolves amidst the flock.
Paul says of himself, “I may be unskilled in speech but I know that I am not lacking in knowledge”; and how his words echo Christ’s own, that we should not get lost in mere words. And how like a father knowing and caring for the needs of his children is Paul. In our psalm, too, is reflected the Father’s “gracious and merciful” nature which Paul shows to the Corinthians: “Sure are all His precepts… wrought in truth and equity.” This knowledge of God is what must be conveyed, and it is this Paul offers the people.
And like a caring father who provides sacrificially for his children, Paul refuses to take return from them for his work: his work among them is a labor of love for which he seeks no recompense. By this they must learn how freely God gives to those who seek Him and be purged of their notion that it is those whom they pay, and greatly, who care for them. Indeed, the Father knows always what we need, and gives it freely to those who simply come as repentant children. He exacts no cost and requires no dramatics to receive His presence and His love.
Forgive my folly here, but why do you turn to the icons and idols of this glamorous age to find the peace you seek, when in His Church the Father waits to answer all your needs? Do not be led astray by the powerful-seeming images which surround us in this day; come to the Lord of all, and before Him in silence kneel and pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.”
O LORD, you know what we need
and provide our food, the Bread He is,
through the apostles.
YHWH, let us not be seduced by our pride – it is not by our own words and our own will we shall come to Heaven. It is you who must inspire us; we must but be your humble servants. Then great deeds will be accomplished in us, for it will be your work alone that we do.
You, O LORD, are faithful and just to all who call upon you in truth, to all who have faith in your enduring love. Those who share your mercy with others are blessed with freedom from all cares, for in your mercy the evil one finds no place. Let all souls pray to you and know that you desire to give us all we need.
You are not blind, O LORD, to our plight; we know nothing of which you are unaware. And so let us not reach out our hands to the fruit of disobedience – let us not seek in ourselves or in those around us the glory that comes only from you. Then we shall remain in your Garden forever, doing the work for which you made us. Then we shall be wed to your Son.
Tue, 16 June 2015
(2Cor.9:6-11; Ps.112:1-4,9; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Keep your deeds of mercy secret,
and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
In the ground, hidden and secret, the seed is planted. From the womb of the earth it sprouts, and gives its yield. We plant the seed; God provides the seed. And it is through His power that anything which we plant grows and increases. So it is with our generous acts, as well as our prayer and fasting.
“Happy the man who fears the Lord… His generosity shall endure forever.” For “He who supplies seed for the sower and bread for the eater will provide in abundance; He will multiply the seed you sow and increase your generous yield.” Trusting in Him, we shall know His blessings; and greater blessings than these shall we know and shall others know, who praise God for the gifts He provides. Wonderful it is to behold God’s ever-increasing generosity; more wonderful yet to participate in it. It is a fountain welling up to eternal life, in which we are cleansed and made of light.
But let us take to heart the warning of the Lord this day: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for others to see.” The world does not see God, it cannot know God. Thus God is termed “hidden” and “secret.” And though we are to make God known to the world, we cannot do so unless we exist where He is. In the recesses of our heart, in the quiet, we shall find Him. In the center of our being we must place Him. Closing the doors of our rooms, entering the stillness of our souls… kneeling there we shall find Him. And He shall hear us, and He shall reward us with the blessing of answered prayer, of fruitful yield in His Name. If we do not remain with Him there in secret – even in the midst of the city, even among the distractions of this world – all our actions will be in vain. It does us no good to gain the whole world and lose our souls; and all our good deeds are empty show without Him who is goodness at their core.
“He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” Let us know the blessing of bearing fruit in God. Let us give generously, knowing that for all the good we do, the Lord will provide yet more seed for us to sow, and we shall reap in abundance His heavenly blessings. If we do all without fanfare, but quietly, humbly, secretly trusting all to His care – the blessing of His presence we shall keep with us, and we shall see our works and our prayers bear fruit in the kingdom of God.
May God bless all humble souls with His bounty.
May He reveal Himself to their hearts.
O LORD, let us give all we have,
and give always from the heart,
and we will be giving with you…
and you will increase our yield.
YHWH, let us cheerfully give to you all we have; all we have is from you and so it is but justice that we place all in your hands. You will multiply our offering if in sincerity we sacrifice it to you.
In secret let us keep our deeds of mercy; hidden in the depths of our soul, let them grow by your Spirit. In the stillness you reside, and so, there we shall find you. There you shall hear and bless our prayers. O LORD, let our prayers rise up to you!
Help us to trust in you, dear God, and in your generous love. You wish to bless us with all that is good but cannot do so unless we believe in your goodness, unless we reflect your grace and mercy in our lives. We are called to live with you and remain with you. Let the light of faith dawn upon us this day.
Then we shall fear nothing; then we shall live in awe of your presence, LORD. Your glory dwelling in us and shining through us, we shall be greatly blessed. Then we shall give freely to all!
Mon, 15 June 2015
(2Cor.8:1-9; Ps.146:2,5-9; Mt.5:43-48)
“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
Our psalm today begins with praise of God and the proclamation of the happiness of those “whose hope is in the Lord,” for it is He who “gives food to the hungry” and “raises up those that were bowed down.” Freeing captives, giving sight to the blind, protecting strangers… such is our God and Father. And in our gospel Jesus tells us, “You are sons of your heavenly Father,” and “you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be His image, doing the things He does.
Paul presents Jesus, the only Son of the Father, as our model in generosity. In his gentle reminder he states: “For your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty.” He also presents to us the Macedonians, whose “overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity.” And Jesus makes clear that our generosity, our “sharing in the service” of God, must extend beyond our friends. The Father makes no distinction – “His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust” – and so we are challenged “to know the grace of God” completely by giving our love to all, even as Christ’s arms are open to everyone as He hangs on the cross.
How is it that poverty produces such generosity? And how can we share in both with our God? The poverty of which the Apostle speaks and which Jesus exemplifies and calls us to follow is the emptying of self of all which is our own, and in the very act of emptying, of giving, is generosity itself. Whether it be a man of riches handing over his money or a man of great love performing acts of kindness, he who has is divesting himself of that which he has to enrich another. We remember that when the woman touched the hem of His garment, Jesus perceived power had gone forth from Him (Mk.5:30). Here is that emptying of love to heal the other. And on the cross, of course, Jesus emptied Himself completely… and so He died.
Should we be afraid, brothers and sisters, of sharing so completely in Jesus’ love? Do we think that if we give to others, we will have nothing remaining for ourselves? Is Jesus hanging on the cross the end of the story? No, brothers and sisters, we should not be afraid. We must see, indeed, that the more we give, whether of money or of love, the more we are bound to receive. Do you think that God does not see your generosity? Do you not realize that He rewards those who are His children? Do you think Christ still hangs on the cross?
Come to the holiness of God, brothers and sisters; there is no greater grace on earth. Give of yourselves entirely, love even your enemies, and you shall know in ineffable wonder the surpassing love of God for all. Such is our call and our joy.
O LORD, let us be perfect as you are perfect,
loving as Jesus on the Cross –
we will not know you otherwise.
YHWH, how shall we be made perfect as you are perfect; how shall we love as Jesus on the Cross? You alone are generous in giving. You are only of love. Help us to be unsparing as you who have given us your only Son.
It is you who provide seed, you who provide bread. We can produce no nourishment for our lives or the lives of others by our own hands. All is yours, but you will give abundantly to those who seek to love as you. All we need we will have, O LORD, and more, if we empty ourselves of all we own.
O make us ready to give all over to you, to love as you do! Let us not be afraid to share our very lives even with those who would kill us. To them let us give more freely, for they need your love all the more. You cannot but help love all those in need, LORD, to feed the hungry, to give sight to the blind, to set captives free… and we who hope in you, what else can we do but reflect your eternal glory?
Sun, 14 June 2015
(2Cor.6:1-10; Ps.98:1-4; Mt.5:38-42)
“When a person strikes you on the right cheek,
turn and offer him the other.”
“Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” Alleluia! And how do we know the salvation of the Lord except by the cross. This is our joy. These “difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots”; the “hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings” – these crosses bring us immeasurable joy, for through them we share in the suffering of Christ and so also in His resurrection glory. Thus the Lord can encourage us not to seek to avoid such suffering; thus He instructs us to be prepared to suffer over and above that which comes to us – for He knows that as we give of ourselves in this ready way, as we lay down our lives without hesitation, we shall find ourselves in the hand of God, we shall come quickly to join Him in heaven. With Paul, we must “present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials,” and His salvation will be made known in us. And we will rejoice with Paul in all our sorrows. And we will be able to exclaim with him, “We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!” For the fullness of Christ will reside with us.
Give. Give, and do not count the cost. How hard it is for us to freely give of our possessions, much less of our very lives. Are we ready to “give to the man who begs” from us? Are we prepared to care for others’ needs? Or do we hold tightly to our possessions, calling them our own? And what of the possession of our pride and the protection of ourselves from injury? What of our judgment of others? Are we ready to give these up so completely? Can we turn the other cheek to those who do us wrong, offering the pain to God and finding great comfort there, or do we need to strike back against the offending party, exacting the retribution due us according to the law? Do we indeed live by the law, or have we transcended the law: do we now live by the Law of love? Are we a new creation in Christ?
It is not easy to lay down our lives in such a way as Christ calls us. The world ever mocks the absurdity of this sacrifice. But we who are in Jesus should know the absolute truth of Paul’s words and Jesus’ instruction. If we are to be Christians, we must know the joy and freedom that come from suffering all with Him who is our salvation. He is all that matters. If we have Him, we have all things. Come to this truth, brothers and sisters; leave behind the fears wrought by attachment to the things of this world. This world is of sin, anyway. As we lose our possessions for Him, He gives us all the more. As the body dies, the spirit comes to life. What the devil would take from us, let us give him, for he cannot touch the life that is Christ: our souls are in the hand of God. And, as with Job, all will be restored to us, and more, in the day of the Lord. So, “wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left,” let us learn always to turn the other cheek to our persecutors.
O LORD, grant us the grace to endure all trials
in patience and with love,
that we may give witness to your salvation at work in us.
YHWH, your salvation has come to us, and it comes in the form of a Cross; in the suffering and death of your Son we are set free to rejoice in you. Though we seem to have nothing, though we be beaten and robbed, yet Jesus is with us, and with Him everything is ours. O let us accept the salvation that He brings this day! Let us be patient amid all trials and we will know your presence among us.
Help us, dear LORD, to walk with your Son on the way of the Cross. He is struck repeatedly; He is stripped and forced to carry the burden of our sin. We beg you not to turn your back on us, though we have turned our backs on Him. Help us to do what we are unable to do – to give witness to the truth and love of the Christ… to endure all as He has done.
O to be disciples of Him who saves us! O to know His holy innocence and unending life! O to sing with joy to you, dear God, in the unbreakable Spirit of your Son.
Sat, 13 June 2015
(Ez.17:22-24; Ps.92:2-3,13-16; 2Cor.5:6-10; Mk.4:26-34)
“They that are planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
The imagery today is of trees and plants and the growth and strength of the kingdom of God. “The just one shall flourish like a palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow,” our psalmist rejoices, and adds, “They shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be.” In our gospel Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like the seed that grows gradually, imperceptibly into ripe grain ready for the harvest, and compares it also to the mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” which “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
God is the seed from which all is sprung. Jesus is the “tender shoot” spoken of by Ezekial. Taken from “the crest of the cedar,” the humble bloom of the house of Israel, He is “planted on a high and lofty mountain” – raised up to the right hand of the Father – and by the power of the Holy Spirit, thence He “put[s] forth branches and bear[s] fruit, and become[s] a majestic cedar”: His apostles and prophets go forth and plant the Word of God in all hearts; and as it grows unto heaven and blossoms forth in the works of every Christian, the Church is made to stand fast in the sight of the Lord. “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it”; everyone who seeks refuge from the heat of the sun that is this world of sin beating down upon the human soul shall find in His Church a place of peace and comfort, a house in which he is nourished and sent on his flight, carrying the love of our God across the heavens to all lands.
Brothers and sisters, let us be “courageous,” as indeed Paul declares we are. Let us be strong and sturdy lowly trees growing by the grace of God to heavenly heights in all our deeds on earth. Though “we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord,” though we would today see the kingdom of heaven fulfilled before our eyes, yet as long as we have the flesh of this tree enrobing our souls, let us always “aspire to please Him,” to please our God, to grow closer each day to where He sits on His throne in the kingdom, that when we “all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” we “each may receive recompense” and together “sing praise to… [the] Most High.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Gradual Heaven" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us dwell beneath the shade of your boughs
when harvest time has come,
when your Son returns.
YHWH, let us be planted in your House and grow by your grace into your kingdom, where you dwell in the highest Heaven. We are but lowly creatures, weak and prone to sin, but by your Son and by His Word and His blood we are strengthened and rise, we know not how, to your throne, where He sits with you in eternal glory with all the angels and saints who have done your will in this world.
How can we be made worthy of your kingdom, O LORD? How can we be courageous, believing that we shall be saved from this corruptible flesh and come home to you? Is it not the lowly one you look upon? Is it not to save just such as us that you have sent your Son, who has instructed His disciples, who have instructed us, and through whom we are blessed? O let this Tree be a tree of life growing ever unto your kingdom, all souls entering there with songs of praise to your NAME!
Fri, 12 June 2015
O Sanctuary of the Father,
Temple of the Holy Spirit,
Mother of the Son of God
who carried Him in your womb
and contemplated Him
in your heart –
how shall we find Jesus
how shall we become
the temples of the Spirit
the Lord calls us all to be
if you do not pray for us,
if we are not formed
in your womb,
in the love
with which you are blessed?
Hold us in your soul, dear Mother,
that our spirits might join with your own
and we might thus become one
with our Lord and brother.
In us also let Him make His home.
Fri, 12 June 2015
O gentle preacher of the Word,
the fire of the Holy Spirit
upon your soul
for the conversion of heretics
and the leading of all
to God –
hold us in your arms
even as the infant Jesus
who appeared to you
along the way,
and pray that the Word
may be instilled in our hearts
even as it was in your own,
that we shall never go astray
but always have the consolation
of the Spirit of God
and His love and innocence
to lead us through this life
till we find ourselves
at home in the Father’s arms,
where you dwell in peace
with all His blessed saints.
Pray for us, our teacher and brother, this day.
Fri, 12 June 2015
(2Cor.5:14-21; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mt.5:33-37)
“The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction
that since one died for all, all died.”
How strong is Paul’s “yes” for the Lord. With what ardor does he cry out: “The old order is passed away; now all is new!” How purely he is led in the Spirit to call to our very souls, “In Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” He has no need to swear by earth or heaven of his conviction that Jesus died for our salvation. He is indeed a new creation and can but speak of that which he knows to the depths of his soul; driven by the miracle of his own reconciliation to God, he desires naturally – by the supernatural grace at work within him – to draw others to “become the very holiness of God.”
Paul sings out with our psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being bless His holy name.” He cries out with David: “He pardons all your iniquities, He heals all your ills.” This is the truth which impels him, which he cannot but preach – that our sins are forgiven in Christ the Lord and we need but to come to Him to be raised up to new life. This is His ministry of reconciliation; this is the message entrusted to him… and he must appeal for God’s holy will to be accomplished in us.
Let me join in his shout, let me state so unequivocally – let us all be convicted with Paul of the love God has for us, of the death He has died for us… of the new life we have in Him. Yes, let us indeed shout it from the rooftops, let us cry it out for all to hear. Many are on the path to destruction, many are dying in their transgressions; all are inclined to the condemnation the devil has wrought in our lives, and all must be encouraged, all must hear the exhortation to turn from their sins. May we give our “yes” firmly to God and our “no” firmly to the devil, that others might know in our very lives of the holiness of God and the glory to which He calls us.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord”: this the world must know. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us”: this the sinful heart wallowing in the darkness of doubt must hear. The blood of Christ must be shown to all. Let us not hesitate to speak the great truth of God’s salvation through Christ the Son. Let us not fail to live His new life every day of our lives.
The Lord calls. The sound of His voice is unmistakable. All our sin is dead in Him; through Him we are raised to life. May this Word go forth to the ends of the earth, and may we help carry it there.
O LORD, by Jesus’ grace let us be reconciled to you –
let us say Yes to Him and No to the world.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you. Let us be a new creation through Christ your Son and give our ‘yes’ ever to your will. Sure of soul let us be, of the salvation you bring in Jesus and His messengers. He has died for our sakes that we might be raised with Him. O let our transgressions be far from us this day!
What kindness you show to your wayward sons, O LORD. None of us has been found worthy of your kingdom, but in Jesus all our sins you wash away that we might stand in your presence. May all hear the call of the Apostle to our souls and be reconciled to you in Jesus’ Name. May all know the grace and mercy you offer freely forth.
Make us simple and make us sure; let us in all things do your will, giving our ‘yes’ to you and our ‘no’ firmly to the evil one. Then to Heaven we will come, LORD, to dwell with you upon your throne – O let us enter the New Jerusalem as your sons and daughters impelled only by your love.
Thu, 11 June 2015
(Hos.11:1,3-4,8-9; Is.12:2-6; Eph.3:8-12,14-19; Jn.19:31-37)
“With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.”
“Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!” From His pierced heart flow forth the waters of salvation; in Jesus’ blood we find our life. Oh how wonderful to have a God whose “heart is overwhelmed,” whose “pity is stirred,” who bleeds and dies for us upon the cross to reveal the limitless nature of His love. Here is “God’s manifold wisdom” made known, here in “the unfathomable riches of Christ” freely given to all, that all might “grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge.” Such unsurpassable grace can but leave us breathless in praising His name!
“When Israel was a child I loved him,” says the Lord through the prophet Hosea. His love “like one who raises an infant to His cheeks” does not leave His blessed child; it only grows with time. Even though “they did not know that [He] was their healer,” yet He did not turn away – He multiplied His love for us in the sacrificial offering of His Son. Now having been redeemed of our sin in the cleansing shower of His blood, we can only claim to be “confident and unafraid.” For with Isaiah we fully proclaim: “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior.” What the prophet knew in shadow we see now in the fullness of the light that is the Son, and so “in Christ and through faith in Him we can speak freely to God, drawing near Him with confidence” and “attain[ing] to the fullness of God Himself” and to His love.
My dear brothers and sisters, let our prayer for one another be joined on this “solemn feast day” with Paul’s desire for the Ephesians: “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life.” Then like this blessed Apostle who went from being “the least of all believers,” persecuting the Church of Christ, to being shown “the mysterious design which for all ages was hidden in God” – and indeed “enlighten[ing] all men” of the Father’s love revealed in Christ Jesus – we too will be raised from our lowly state in this world of sin to our place with the Son at the right hand of God. The fountain of salvation is open now; come to the water and drink fully of His love, of His blood.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Cleansing" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, Jesus was pierced for our sins;
His blood pours upon us for our salvation.
YHWH, you are our healer. Your Son is the fountain of our salvation; in His blood we are cleansed of our sins. May we make our home in His Sacred Heart.
We praise you, LORD, for your love, for the care you have shown to your little ones. To us you have sent your only Son to die on the Cross that we might live. Though it is our lance that has pierced His Sacred Heart, yet His unfathomable love pours upon us and bestows on us the great riches of your glory. For this gift what can we do but praise your holy Name?
O LORD, may your Christ dwell in our hearts through faith in Him; may charity be the root and foundation of our lives, that by the love of your Son we may draw near to you yourself, dear God. No longer is your mysterious design hidden from men’s eyes – O let your great wisdom be known and all souls glorify your ineffable NAME through Jesus who speaks to us ever of your mercy!
Wed, 10 June 2015
O son of encouragement
and of consolation in the Holy Spirit,
you who were filled with faith
and lived that faith for the Lord,
giving up all things to bring His Name forth
to the ends of the earth,
calling all souls
and confirming them in the truth
by the authority of the risen Son –
whose footsteps go forth today
as did yours
upon the birth of the Church;
what souls are so blessed
to be set apart by the Spirit
to perform His works
in this dying world,
to bring His light
to those who sit in darkness?
Pray the Lord shall indeed
send out laborers into His vineyard
and they shall with the same faith
be an encouragement to all,
a consolation to Christian souls.
Wed, 10 June 2015
(2Cor.3:15-4:1,3-6; Ps.85:9-14; Mt.5:20-26)
“See the splendor of the gospel showing forth the glory of Christ.”
Today the gospel is preached: Jesus, the image of God, has come among us, “glory dwelling in our land,” and removed the veil from our understanding so that now we “are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The words of life are spoken by the Lord; the Holy Spirit comes amongst us as light to illumine our minds and lead us beyond the bounds of the law to the kingdom of God itself. And we must live in that light, we must make it our own, becoming children of the light of the Spirit of God, “that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.” He has indeed come amongst us, salvation is at hand, and we must become perfect as the Father is perfect, as Jesus who is the pure reflection of the Father is perfect – we must allow the Spirit to remove any taint of darkness from our souls.
Jesus tells us, “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Here He means that the law may lead us out of Egypt, it may serve to release us from the bonds of this world of sin, but this guard we have while treading this earth is not enough to bring us into the promised land, into the heavenly kingdom to which we are called. And as long as we concern ourselves only with fulfilling the minimal requirements of the law (not to murder, not to commit adultery…), we will continue to suffer; we will remain unfulfilled. Jesus calls us to greater than that: He calls us into His very light of perfection in the presence of the Father. This call is implanted upon the soul of each one of us, and as long as we ignore it, as long as we veil our minds to the depth and the breadth of this call to perfection with Christ… as long as we say, “Well, I haven’t killed anyone,” and stop there… so long we will remain unsatisfied, so long will the fires burn – so long will we be in prison paying the last penny.
Jesus is calling you now, brothers and sisters; Paul and all the true preachers of Holy Church are calling you now to remove the veil from your eyes, to come into the Lord’s light – to cease to make excuses for your sins, however small they may seem – to seek perfection in Christ… to find the kingdom of God. The Spirit will aid you in your journey; He will be with you every step of your walk on the way of perfection, be assured of this. The Lord does not call us to Himself and then leave us alone to struggle vainly. He is with us through all our trials. But we must come to Him and live in His light of purity, and shine that light for others to see.
O LORD, your kingdom comes
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
who purges us of sin
and makes us shine with His radiance.
YHWH, your glory shines now in our midst in the face of Christ, and He calls us to that same glory by the Spirit that is within us. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world; let us make known your glory by our words and actions.
In the way of salvation we walk, insofar as we follow the commands of your Son and His love. He calls us to dwell with you, O LORD, to reconcile with one another and be perfect as you are perfect – to find our holiness fulfilled. We fall short as long as we limit ourselves to the principles of the law; your glory is far beyond the basics of the law, and it is to your glory and your love Jesus calls us.
What a gift is ours in Christ! Union with you, dear Father in Heaven! Let us not be blinded by the god of the present age, by unbelieving minds, but let the veil be lifted from our faces to gaze upon the glory of your Son and so be transformed into that glory by the Spirit upon us. Alleluia!
Tue, 9 June 2015
(2Cor.3:4-11; Ps.99:5-9; Mt.5:17-19)
“Not the smallest letter of the law,
not the smallest part of a letter,
shall be done away with until it all comes true.”
Jesus comes to fulfill the law and the prophets. The law watches over us while we are here in this world. It guards us and puts to death the sin that is inherent in our earthly nature. There is great glory in this blessed protection, as is witnessed in our psalm today – “Holy is the Lord, our God” – because it acquaints us with God’s justice and, as said, watches vigilantly over us to maintain our standing in the presence of God. But the law does not bring us to the fullness of God’s love; it does not bring us into the heavenly kingdom and “the glory that endures.” Moses brings the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan, but he does not cross over with them. He looks out over the Promised Land from his place on the mountaintop, but does not enter therein. It is Joshua who leads the people into the land promised through Moses (as even he does in today’s Office of Readings). And so it is Jesus who brings us to the heavenly kingdom by His law of love.
In speaking elsewhere of the glory of love (1Cor.13:8), Paul tells us that prophecy shall fail and tongues shall cease but love is eternal, favored well beyond any other gift. Prophecies speak of earthly matters and the law is for our earthly nature, but love speaks of God and heaven. We must be very careful to heed the words of Christ and realize that as long as we are in this world and subject to the sin that our flesh brings, the law has a prominent place in our lives and cannot be jettisoned prematurely – as many advocate by their lack of diligence to its precepts, presuming heaven before its time – yet we must always remember that it is the glory of heaven and not of earth to which Jesus calls us, and that there the law will be fulfilled; there we shall be made perfect in the light of God.
The law is “destined to pass away” only insofar as it is fulfilled, and therefore it never really passes away but is subsumed by a greater law. Let us continue to glory in the chastising hand of God and in the service of purification the law provides us. Let us come by its means to the flesh of Christ, and by the grace of God enter fully into Him.
Jesus is our Promised Land, brothers and sisters; with the law as our guide, but above all with faith in our hearts, let us come into His holy, eternal, loving presence. We have the manna of the Eucharist to share this day; tomorrow we shall feast in fullness on the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ.
O LORD, your commands must be fulfilled
or they shall remain, along with our sin.
YHWH, you are holy and your glory surpasses all that is of heaven and earth. Though we are your creation and you are present to us, though you are with us even in the law you gave to Moses, and though we need your law to purge us of all evil, to put to death the deeds of the flesh… yet in such death we are not fulfilled. We must come to join you in your glory; we must find life in you.
And so, O holy LORD, your Son walks among us, not to destroy the law or contradict the prophets who call us from our wayward path, but to fulfill their voice by the very presence of the Word. Now your holiness has taken flesh, and so at your mountain we can worship in Spirit and in truth. Now we may enter your kingdom.
It is in Jesus we are saved from the death the law brings; it is through Him we find the ministry of the Spirit and so the glory that passes not away. This glory is your very presence speaking to us and shining upon us, dear LORD. O let us call upon your NAME and dwell with you forever!
Mon, 8 June 2015
O harp of the Holy Spirit
whose song rose up to Jesus
and in honor of the Virgin Mary,
whose heart was set on Heaven
and the eternal light therein,
and who served so well to defend the faith
when from contemplation you came –
pray we too shall have a song
dedicated wholly to the Lord
welling up in hearts
set on His presence,
on the kingdom that passes not away;
and pray, too, the teaching of the Church
shall always be true,
shall always be rooted
in the Spirit,
expressive of the love of God.
What is this world as it passes away,
and who are we apart from God
and His House?
O how we long for Heaven!
Pray, dear brother, with our Blessed Mother,
that we shall come to dwell where you are.
Mon, 8 June 2015
(2Cor.1:18-22; Ps.119:129-133,135; Mt.5:13-16)
“God is the one who firmly establishes us.”
“Light of the world” and “salt of the earth” – this is what we are by the power of God. It is by Him we are “set on a hill” to give “light to all in the house”; it is we who preserve the integrity of creation. It is a holy call and a demanding one, and we should not waver in our resolve to follow the Lord and fulfill His work and His will; for it is indeed His will that we show His goodness before the eyes of men, and so “He who anointed us and sealed us” will always strengthen us for our task – by Him who holds the entire world in His palm, our own work will be made light.
But heed the words of our readings: we must always give our “yes” to God. Having put our hand to the plow, we cannot turn back. In fact, we should say with the psalmist, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands”; so great should be our love for God and for His life-giving words that ever do we thirst more greatly for the love and the light He brings us through our walking in them. His discipline is redeeming and freeing; and as we drink in its light, as we find ourselves becoming one with Him and with His Son who has shown us clearly and completely the way of perfection, we become the light He is. And we cannot but shine that same light to others, directing them to Him who establishes all holy souls in His blessed kingdom.
What joy should be ours as we find ourselves becoming one with God as His children of light. What absolute exhilaration is evident in Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians, as well as in our psalm. The source of such excitement is his firmness in faith; the Spirit is speaking in his heart and he is not afraid. Indeed, he takes his very life, his daily bread, in proclaiming it.
Have we such faith in our hearts, or have we somehow gone flat? Can we proclaim our unwavering trust in the Lord, or is our light still shaded by doubts and fears? If our love for God is true and our love for one another is real, we shall be firmly established – our light shall go forth.
Let us pray to Him that from the light of His words we shall not be distracted. The light of His presence is all that matters. Shine forth His light to the world.
O LORD, may the Spirit of Truth be with us
to guide us by His holy light.
YHWH, your promises have been fulfilled in Jesus and in Him you firmly establish our place before you, the Holy Spirit in our hearts. You call us to be salt and light to this world, to be the disciples of your Son. Help us to be steadfast in that call, that the light of the Spirit might go out to the ends of the earth.
We are anointed with the Christ and have His life within us. He it is who walks before us, making our footsteps firm. We must follow in His way and give our ‘yes’ entirely to you. O LORD, let us not waver in our weakness but ever keep your commands and so radiate your goodness to all men. Make our witness sure and true; let us ever remain in the light of your presence.
O LORD, let all praise be given to you from hearts filled with your glory. With open mouth let us ever yearn for your Word. In wonder let us stand before you, worshiping ever in your kingdom as your holy children. Let your countenance shine on your servants; transform us into your light.
Sun, 7 June 2015
(2Cor.1:1-7; Ps.34:2-9; Mt.5:1-12)
“Blessed are those persecuted for holiness’ sake;
the reign of God is theirs.”
Here is the core teaching of our faith. Here are the beatitudes, the call to sweet humility which flows like blessed honey from the lips of our Savior. And that teaching is that the humbled shall be exalted, that those who mourn and sorrow for the lack of love we find in this tainted world and who strive to bring that love to the hard heart of man shall be blessed, are blessed, for they share in the sufferings of Christ, who wept for the sins of His people, who, looking out upon them from the cross cried: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why has this world made in the image of Christ turned so against Him, and when shall it return to the love of God? And we who cry with Christ, even for our enemies, even for the most despicable criminal, we shall know the joy He finds – like the repentant thief, we shall be this day with Him in paradise.
“Just as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the consolation,” St. Paul so concisely states. One can hear him brimming with joy as he speaks of the comfort we find in the Lord in all our afflictions, and the grace of sharing that consolation with others. This is our great possession. This is the kingdom of God within us: to see through all trouble and affliction, to conquer it in Jesus’ Name – to find such strength even while here on earth to overcome all evil and come to heaven. “Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you… Be glad and rejoice.” How marvelously the Lord exhorts us to come to the glory of heaven, to overcome the dark with light. For light it is where we dwell, and this light is unconquerable.
Let us make room for Him in our hearts, brothers and sisters; let us give place to Him in our lives. Let us even in the simplest ways show heaven’s glory here on earth. If we are lowly and we are true, our light cannot help but shine. And for those who seek it our lamps will shine, and we shall illumine one another. Let sweet humility be your treasure and the Lord’s peace your goal in life.
The angel of the Lord is around us to save us. Nothing of this earth shall touch us. Let us lay down our lives to destroy death’s bonds.
O LORD, it is the cross of suffering with Christ
that brings us great joy.
YHWH, blessed are we when persecuted because of our love for you, because of our desire to be as your Son, for enduring all the sufferings this world brings we find great joy in your presence. You console the afflicted who call out to you, for you are the refuge of all who suffer for your sake.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy; let us be made whole in your Son. If we must sorrow and mourn to be conformed to your Son, to be purged of all sin and join Him in your kingdom, let it be so. Let us take our strength in you; in you we find refuge. Reward in Heaven is all we desire – to you let us come by way of the Cross of your only Son.
Bless you, LORD, for the goodness you show to us, for the joy you bring us in our suffering for you. You deliver us from every danger, and so we stand firm in hope, consoled by the promise in the words of Jesus. Let us remain ever blessed as we set our hearts on serving you.
Sat, 6 June 2015
(Ex.24:3-8; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Heb.9:11-15; Mt.14:12-16,22-26)
“The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the Lord.”
The blood of sacrifice, the blood that seals all covenants with God, is upon all our readings today. In our first reading, on the altar Moses has “erected at the foot of the mountain” where he received the commandments of the Lord – an altar surrounded by “twelve pillars for the twelve tribes” – “young men of the Israelites… offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord.” Half of the blood of the bulls Moses “splashed on the altar”; the other half he “sprinkled… on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of His.’” And so the people promise to heed the Lord’s commands; and so the first covenant is instituted.
Our psalm tells us, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.” And our second reading informs us just how precious is the death of the Lord’s Faithful One. Yes, “Christ came as high priest”; as “mediator of a new covenant” He entered the “perfect tabernacle not made by hands… not belonging to this creation,” and offered not “the blood of goats and bulls” but rather “His own blood.” His “death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant.” And so does “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished before God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
And in our gospel, in anticipation of His crucifixion, on the feast of Passover – when the lamb was sacrificed and its blood used to anoint the houses of the Israelites to thus save them from death – Jesus institutes the New Covenant with His disciples. First “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it. This is my body.’” Then with the cup He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” It is, of course, this New Covenant we celebrate this day, as we come to the table where all the disciples of the Lord have eaten, where all His faithful have been washed clean in His blood. Here we share not only with our minds – for then why should it be necessary to eat and drink (one does not eat and drink a symbol, but feasts with eyes alone) – but with our very bodies, with the fullness of our beings; and our very human nature is transformed by His sacrificial presence. Brothers and sisters, the Lord gives Himself entirely for us; let us here lay down our lives in His flesh and blood. Let us take up the cup of salvation and each day call upon His Name.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Blood in My Palate" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, is Jesus not our inheritance;
do we not eat the Body and Blood
He has given up for our salvation?
YHWH, the blood of the New Covenant be upon us for good, the blood of Christ upon our lips; and let us fulfill our vows before you, serving as the Body of your Son. O let us be blessed with all the graces of Heaven as they pour upon us in the blood of Jesus, our Lord!
How can we make return to you, dear God, for all the good you have done for us, for your giving us your only Son to serve as sacrifice for our sins, as food for our journey to you? You, O God, have come among us in His flesh and remain with us in the Sacrament – how can we grasp such a gift? How can we thank you for your love toward us revealed in the blood of Jesus the Christ?
Let us but take up the cup you offer and call upon your holy Name. Let us but serve you with all our lives, worshiping you in all things, O living God, and the promised eternal inheritance will be ours. O let us drink of the fruit of the vine with your Son in the kingdom! Prepare our hearts to receive your Lamb.
Fri, 5 June 2015
O preacher of the Word of God
and model of the Gospel,
you embraced poverty and penance
in accord with the way of Christ
and His teaching
and called your brothers
to do the same,
that the Church might be renewed,
that she might be holy
even as the Father is holy –
pray all souls
might indeed find holiness of life
even as within
pray all might embrace
the poverty of Christ,
living the faith pronounced
in sacred Scripture.
And pray that they may be led
along this narrow path
to the kingdom of the Lord
by faithful priests and bishops,
shepherds like yourself.
Fri, 5 June 2015
(Tb.12:1,5-15,20; Tb.13:1-2,6; Mk.12:38-44)
“Almsgiving saves one from death.”
We must give alms, yes; and the greatest of alms is the gift of ourselves to God.
In our gospel we hear of perhaps the most famous example of almsgiving: the poor widow who gave her two copper coins to the temple treasury; and in our first reading we complete the Book of Tobit, he who is himself a great biblical model of almsgiving, and who is here instructed by the angel Raphael on the merit of giving alms. Yes, the widow gives generously all her money, without hesitation and without a thought. Unlike those who give from their surplus, “she gave from her want, all that she had to live on.” She holds back nothing. And at the prompting of Tobit, Tobiah offers half of all the many riches gained from his journey to his guide, Raphael (not realizing he is an angel with no need of these things).
As Raphael reveals himself to Tobit and his son, he extols the great merit of almsgiving, which he states is better even than prayer and fasting. He wishes to tell them of the value of almsgiving, it is true, but he wants Tobit to know that his generosity has been witnessed by God and that it has saved him from the death he had asked for. Raphael lets Tobit know, too, that he has been tested by God (in being stricken with blindness) to prove that his generosity is genuine. It must be shown that his virtue is not vain as the scribes’, who “recite long prayers for appearance’ sake” to cover the fact that they “devour the savings of widows.” Does he have the heart of the poor widow in his generosity, or does he just like to parade around in the robes of such virtue?
The key to the merit of all our almsgiving is found in Raphael’s initial response to Tobiah’s offer: “Thank God! Give Him the praise and the glory.” All our good works must be done for the praise of God as witnesses to His glory. “Before all men, honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising Him,” the angel exhorts us all. And it is this praise of God we must give first before any treasure of the world. This praise of God and telling of His Name is the greatest of almsgiving. Do you think it is the two coins which save the widow, or can you see the heart for God from which they are offered? Do you think the widow is giving her coins for show, or is it obvious to you that it is her love of God which drives her to this act? We can easily surmise that this woman’s life is one of prayer to God, a genuine prayer unlike the vanity of the scribes, and it is this which most pleases God and saves her very soul; for she is empty of all else but Him. And of all the many acts of kindness Tobit has performed, all the dead he has buried and offerings he has given, perhaps none is above his obedience to the angel’s final command: “Write down all these things that have happened to you.” For by his laying down of his life and the Lord’s marvelous grace working in it, more than two thousand years later, we still receive the spiritual gifts contained therein; his praise of God with “full voice” still comes to our ears and gives us hope that we too might be raised up from any vanity in our own generosity and see the face of God.
Let us praise the Lord with all our lives and give all our selves to Him.
Let us live to praise the Lord.
O LORD, let us praise you with full voice;
let us give all we have to you.
YHWH, you call us to give alms that our souls might be saved. By our generosity you shall know us, if it is in union with you. For all must be done in your NAME and for your praise, or all is quite worthless. Indeed, a little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness; and so, whatever we give without giving glory to you is given in vain, but if we give a penny (which is all our lives are worth) in praise of your goodness toward us, how blessed we shall be!
LORD, all you do is for our good, whether you scourge us or raise us up in your mercy, for all is done to bring us closer to you. Until all our lives are in your hands, your angel you send to test us and to heal us, to turn us back to you – all empty show be taken forever from our souls that we might dwell humbly with you in glory.
Let us not care for the riches of this world even should they increase, but set our hearts on praise of you alone… and the doing of your will with all we have and are.
Thu, 4 June 2015
O apostle of the faith
called out from monastery walls
to travel into the world,
laboring and suffering
even to the shedding of blood
as you steered Christ’s ship
pounded by waves
but kept on course,
spreading out upon the face of the earth
by the sacrifice of shepherds
like yourself –
pray the bishops of today
will unceasingly teach the faith,
defending the Church from all assaults,
never silent in the face of danger,
never turning from their call
but preaching the Gospel
in season and out of season
that in all seasons
Christ’s flock might increase
and be strengthened.
Let us rather die
than give in to the impending darkness.
Thu, 4 June 2015
(Tb.11:5-15; Ps.146:2,7-10; Mk.12:35-37)
“The Lord gives sight to the blind.”
Now in His teaching Jesus truly begins to open the eyes of the people. We have witnessed this week His fielding their questions regarding theology and the law, but He now takes a step further, revealing to them and to us the Truth itself – that He Himself is the Son of God. “The majority of the crowd heard this with delight.” Many eyes begin to open, many hearts begin to see… but will they remain so joyful when Jesus reveals Himself to them completely (on the cross)?
And of course, our first reading speaks principally about the opening of Tobit’s eyes, as he who has been blind these four years is healed by the fish gall acquired through the intercession of the angel Raphael. But the reading is really about more than this: it shows the love of his parents in their longing for Tobiah’s return. Notice that as his eyes are opened, Tobit exclaims, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!” as he weeps with his arms around him. And at the very beginning of the reading we find Anna, his mother, “watching the road,” looking desperately – she has been there for weeks – for Tobiah to return from his journey. When she sees him, she, too, throws her arms around him, and says, “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” as she sobs aloud… It is not so much the fish gall that has cured Tobit’s blindness, for the light of his eyes, that which causes them to see, he himself ascribes to Tobiah his son. And it is not so much seeing Tobiah that brings such absolute joy to his mother, as it is being with him again, knowing that he is alive – for she had seriously feared him dead.
Brothers and sisters, are we like Anna and Tobit? Do we watch vigilantly for the return of the only Son of God? We proclaim that our eyes have been opened to know Him as our Savior, but is He truly the light of our eyes? Even today do we make seeing Him and knowing Him the life that brings breath to our souls and makes our hearts beat? Are we the “oppressed,” the “hungry,” the “captives” – those who are “bowed down” of whom our psalm speaks – who will thus know His “justice,” His “food,” His “freedom”… His “resurrection”?
We must love dearly our Holy Catholic Church, for it is essential here on this earth, where it is the keeper of the Father’s vineyard; but we must remember Jesus goes beyond religion, beyond theology and laws. For He is more than these. He is what sets us apart from any other religion, for He is a person, the second Person of the Trinity – God. Let us open our eyes and our hearts and follow Him with our lives, knowing He is our only Son, our hope, the light of our eyes. For He who is the Son of Man is also the Son of God.
O LORD, open my eyes
that I might praise you forever.
YHWH, it is you who give sight to the blind, you who set captives free. Your Son is indeed light to our eyes and salvation for our very souls. Give us new life that we might praise you all the day.
You keep faith with us, O LORD, for though we wait many days, though we must hope even in the darkness, you do not disappoint our expectations – you do not take back your Word. Your Son has come among us now and revealed your glory to our eyes. He who lived before us has been born into our midst and died for our sakes. Now His enemies become His footstool. Now His reign has begun. And those who have longed for His coming rejoice in praise of your holy NAME.
O may He return soon to us! For blindness besets us yet while we dwell upon this plane. Send your angels to bring Him back to us, O LORD, that forever we might look upon His face. Give us courage now; raise up the souls that are bowed down. Alleluia!
Wed, 3 June 2015
(Tb.6:11,7:1,9-14,8:4-7; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.12:28-34)
“Love the Lord your God”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On these two great commandments rest all the Law and the Prophets. By them we shall be “not far from the reign of God.” In them the Lord leads us into His bridal chamber, where we shall be made one with Him in glory forever.
Here on earth we dimly mirror the love of the Lord for His Church in our marriage of husband and wife; in this, love of neighbor is known in its most intimate and complete way. But always love of God must precede love of any creature, for it is “those who fear the Lord” who are happy, who “eat the fruit of [their] handiwork” and see their children prosper.
Tobiah has such love. Such strength of love does he have in his heart for Sarah that he hesitates not at all even in the face of death. Seven have died before him, but he gives fear of this not a thought. And it is not in his lust that he takes such great strength; he is not led foolishly by his eyes and his loins. It is indeed his fear of the Lord, the love for his God and his desire to keep His commands, in which he finds unwavering hope. Even from his marriage bed does he rise to invoke the name of God, demonstrating his “noble purpose.” He recognizes that God first must be praised, and that it is He who gave Adam his Eve.
Jesus loves us just so, brothers and sisters, and even greater than this is His love for His bride. He heeds fully the command of God regarding His Church: “Take her and bring her back safely to your father.” He comes to us, as it were, on a long journey, the angels of the Lord blessing His steps, and seeks without fear His rightful wife, who has languished so long surrounded by death. This death He takes upon Himself, facing it with faith and prayer alone to show us the love God has for us, and that we must have for one another. And wedding us unto Himself, He redeems us from the death we have known and makes us so fruitful in His Name. Yes, brothers and sisters, we must love the God who has loved us so, and love one another the same.
May God bless all marriages;
May they witness to the love the Lord has for His Church.
O LORD, if we but love you and our neighbor,
all will be well;
we will approach the kingdom of Heaven.
YHWH, you are love and love is stronger than death; so those who love you shall conquer death and live forever in your love. O let us but love!
The demons are ever round about, dear LORD, working to take the life from us, the life that is rooted in you and blessed by you – the life which you yourself are. Let us have your angels to guide us through the darkness of this earth to your unending light; teach us to love you with all our being, to keep nothing back from you. By our trust and in our prayer may we be saved from all evil. If we but praise you with all our heart, you will certainly hear our plea.
No lust let there be in any marriage bed, O LORD, but may every husband take his wife with you and your purpose in mind. Then shall all be blessed; then shall all creation praise you… then shall love be known to the ends of the earth. Then shall all the devils flee and your kingdom come to be present in all souls. Let us take our place in Heaven with you and your Son! To Him let us be wed.
Tue, 2 June 2015
O modern martyrs for Christ
who gave your lives even as the early Christians,
under torture by the emperor,
who remained steadfast as these
despite sword or fire
come by the power of the king…
a new age indeed you ushered in,
one of mighty suffering,
a time for the blood to mount up on this earth –
pray, brothers in the faith,
that your sacrifice not be in vain,
that we shall join you in loyal service
and so find the Church blessed
with new growth in the Spirit.
Though new to the faith yourselves
when you bled and died for the Word,
deeply was your foundation laid,
unshaken by the threats of the mighty.
Should we not be the same;
should we not follow in your way,
we who profess to love the Lord?
Tue, 2 June 2015
(Tb.3:1-11,16-17; Ps.25:1-9; Mk.12:18-27)
“He is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
Rich readings. First of all, we see the striking similarity between the story woven by the Sadducees to thwart the wisdom of the Lord and the situation in which Sarah finds herself. In both cases, seven – the number representing fullness – husbands have died. In one the wife has also died; in the other, she wishes for death. And in both there have been no children, no fruit, no new life. Death in its fullness is throughout today’s readings, as even Tobit begs to die.
In addition to death, our readings are also clearly about prayer. In our first, Tobit and Sarah pour out their hearts in tears before the Lord whom they so love. Our psalm is the lifting up of the soul in prayer to God by the humble. And the Sadducees questioning of Jesus is also a kind of prayer, though one which comes from a hardness of heart, inauthentic and insincere.
And what has the Lord to say of death; what is the answer to these prayers? We often hear that God always answers our prayers, though often in ways we do not expect. Such is the case here. Neither Tobit nor Sarah will get the death they seem to seek; instead, Raphael – the angel whose name means “to heal” – “was sent to heal them both.” And the Sadducees, “who hold there is no resurrection,” will not find confirmation for their creed which clings to death as the end of all. Yet all will be answered according to the disposition of their hearts, and in this sense all receive exactly what they seek, for the Lord looks upon the heart. The prayer of Tobit and Sarah is not really to die but “to be delivered from such anguish” – it is healing they seek, and this they shall find. And the Sadducees, who do not really seek an answer of the Lord regarding resurrection, whose hearts are closed to the life-giving power of God, will likely not hear the words of Christ… and so by their ignorance come to adhere more firmly to their creed of death.
We do get what we ask for. As our psalm tells us, the Lord “teaches the humble His way.” The compassion and kindness which are synonymous with God are known to those who trust in Him; but “those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith,” for the compassion of our Lord finds no place in them. For them there is no hope, no life, no resurrection from the dead… and they shall not know how God answers prayer.
Brothers and sisters, let us pour out our hearts before our Lord and God, and know His healing grace, and find His everlasting life.
O LORD, though we wish to die
when amidst the persecutions of this race,
let us be resurrected with you.
YHWH, hear our prayer and save us from the insults of your enemies. Let us not be overcome by darkness or by sin. You are our God and you answer all our pleas; let us not be put to shame.
You look upon the heart, O LORD, and listen to our true desires. Every prayer you cannot help but answer according to the faith by which it is offered. You give us what we ask for, not in our words but by our intention. And so, you thwart the insincere prayer of the wicked, but are merciful to those who are humble before you.
And you protect us, LORD, from every attack of the devil. Those who break faith heedlessly shall not triumph over your righteous ones; they shall be turned back by the power of your Word. For in life alone you dwell – in you there is no death – and so those whose hearts desire life in your presence shall rejoice… even as those who do not believe fall helplessly into the earth.
Mon, 1 June 2015
O blessed martyrs for the Lord,
in your catacombs the faith flourished,
upon your tomb the Church was built…
your blood is the seed
planted in the ground
that has caused the growth
of the tree of life;
joining in the sacrifice of Christ,
His great joy you knew –
pray that such grace
will be known to us this day,
that we will give ourselves in faith
to the Holy One by whom we are saved
and so find union with Him in Heaven.
How far His consolation is
from our souls this day,
for how little love we show;
have our hearts not become as a tomb?
Though cold and lifeless,
by your prayers
may our faith flourish once more, dear saints.
Mon, 1 June 2015
(Tb.2:9-14; Ps.112:1-2,7-9; Mk.12:13-17)
“The heart of the just man is secure,
trusting in the Lord.”
Today in our reading and gospel we find just men put to trial and testing. Our Lord is steadfast before the devious inquiry of the Pharisees and Herodians, answering them with a wisdom greater than Solomon’s; for what can Jesus, who is Himself the Word made flesh, do but take refuge in the Father with whom He is one. And so wisdom is His to answer His foes, and He is unmoved, indeed moving with “amazement” those who would trap Him.
The heart of Tobit does not remain as secure. We see in his anger that his trust in the Lord has been shaken. He has always been just, generously giving to those in need, taking the plight of his people to heart. Indeed, it is after performing a good work – “fatigued from burying the dead [I] went to sleep next to the wall of my courtyard” – that his trial comes upon him. Here is a man who has done all he could to help his fellow Jewish exiles suffering persecution at the hands of the Ninevites, and now he is stricken with blindness.
But the Lord does not leave him alone; He does not cast him out. For two years his needs are cared for by Ahiqar, and then his wife is able to work to meet their expenses. And successful she is over and above expectations. Yet he is prodded into anger by her good reward. His response (in the words of St. Dorotheus, from today’s Office of Readings) “breaks the cover on the passionate anger within him,” an anger, an unease, he has likely been harboring for some time. It is an anger, we can surmise, that comes from the helplessness his blindness has brought upon him. He is no longer in control of his fate, but must depend on others for survival. And though the Lord provides, he finds it too difficult to trust in this provision. (He may indeed be particularly resentful that it is now his wife who provides for him, taking the role he believes in his heart he should play.)
We can certainly understand Tobit’s frustration over his condition. Few but Jesus would stand up well to such trial. But Jesus is our ideal. It is to be like Him that we are called. We shall always need to do battle against the sins that are ever with us, but as St. Dorotheus says of the Christian, “The more perfect he grows, the less these temptations will affect him. For the more the soul advances, the stronger and more powerful it becomes in bearing the difficulties that it meets.”
Let us set ourselves to trust in the Lord and so ever find security in Him. We must place all in His hands, even unto death, and then we shall be free.
Let not the things of Caesar weigh upon you;
you belong to God and not the world.
O LORD, only you can make us secure –
let us trust in you and not in money.
YHWH, with the things of this earth let us not be concerned; let us know that we are in your hands. To you let us trust our very lives, and we shall not be disturbed.
The forces of the world close in on us, enticing us to fear and anger. But if we stand strong in the faith, the Spirit will be with us to save us. In you, O LORD, let us remain.
The just man delights in your commands; the upright shall ever be blessed. Let us indeed remain steadfast, LORD, that we might look down upon our foes.
And though persecuted for righteousness’ sake, if afflicted for doing what is right let us not resent our fate, but continue to look to you to cure our blindness. Your Son, O LORD, has suffered the Cross though innocent – why should sinners like us complain?
It is hard, LORD, and we do often break, but help us to return to you this day and stand before our accusers with the same faith your Son so peacefully displayed. Let us give ourselves entirely to you.
Sun, 31 May 2015
O prophet of the Lord
who spoke in His defense
even before the bench of death,
who professed the wisdom of the Cross
over the intelligence of our race
and all the ideas
it could conceive,
who chose true worship
of the One God
even over life itself
and taught us also
His way in His Church –
pray we shall merit with you
the name of Christian,
the name above every other name,
upon our lips and hearts,
that we shall follow in His steps
seeking always the truth
and His love;
pray we shall worship Him
who deserves all worship and praise
and serve Him and His Church
even with our last breath on this earth.
Sun, 31 May 2015
(Tb.1:1-2,2:1-9; Ps.112:1-6; Mk.12:1-12)
“The stone rejected by the builders
has become the keystone of the structure.”
First, Tobit is not a parable; it is not a “story”. A parable begins, as does Jesus’ own in our gospel, with a statement such as, “A man planted a vineyard…” It is always “a man”, a generic man, never a particular man in a particular place at a particular time, as is the case with Tobit. For parables deal expressly with the universal. Though one may derive universal significance from the life of Tobit, it is his life itself which is related to us and not that of an “Everyman”. (How this simple fact is overlooked I can only attribute again to a lack of faith which blinds reason.)
This aside, today we see the persecution and mockery “a sincere worshiper of God” suffers before the face of the world. It is evident in Tobit’s being “hunted down for execution” for performing the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead, as well as in the wagging of his neighbors’ tongues; and it is, of course, fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ, which the Lord speaks of today to the elders of the people in a thinly-veiled parable of their persecution of all the prophets.
What a good man Tobit is, desiring to share his feast with the poor and rising even from table to do the work of God, always ready to serve Him. And how he weeps for the oppression of his people. Jesus is just the same, coming from the majesty of the Father’s table in heaven to call us to His wedding feast, and weeping over those who, like Jerusalem, fail to hear His voice.
Our lot in this world is one of suffering and persecution, but it is not without hope. For we know that as Job found greater wealth in his latter days and Tobit shall be rewarded for his patient endurance, so the Lord is resurrected from the grave. It is our psalm which reminds us of this promise despite any darkness around us: “The Lord dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright… the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.”
So let us not lose heart on the hard road we tread, but endure all patiently with Jesus, for we shall find our place in His joyful kingdom; we shall drink the wine of His vineyard.
O LORD, how shamefully your servants are treated! –
but Jesus rises from the dead,
and we with Him.
YHWH, you are a light in our darkness; you are with us in our tears and in our mourning, and so, from our graves we are raised. Has not your Son come among us and suffered at the hands of men? Has He not been beaten, dragged outside the walls of Jerusalem, and killed? And has He not been raised again – does He not sit at your right hand? The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. How marvelous are your works for your faithful to behold!
Though Tobit weeps in exile, LORD, mocked by neighbors and friends, though he must bear the murdered body of his kinsman to a shallow grave; yet wealth and riches are in his house, for it is in your House he dwells, and his name you shall remember forever.
Your Son bears His Cross before His accusers; though blessed at table in your House, He quickly comes to us at your Word… and we bear Him away. But the plans of men are thwarted by you, LORD, and all our evil you turn to good. Let us set our souls on the sacrifice of your kingdom.
Sat, 30 May 2015
O Mother of our Lord,
who are we
that you should visit us?
Over hills you came
to see your cousin Elizabeth
and the child she conceived
to her you brought the Child
who brings us all salvation.
Yes, to us all you bring Jesus…
all holy souls you visit with His grace.
John the Baptist proclaims this Savior
whom he has known first
in your voice,
and all hearts leap up
at your approach;
for the Lord is with you,
even in your blessed womb:
how blessed is this fruit you bear!
Visit us this day, dear Mother,
with Jesus our Redeemer,
that even this day
we may rejoice in His Name.
Sat, 30 May 2015
(Dt.4:32-34,39-40; Ps.33:4-6,9,12,18-20,22; Rom.8:14-17; Mt.28:16-20)
“You must know now, and fix in your heart,
that ‘the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.’”
“Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?” Moses asks the Israelite nation. “Did any god venture to go and take a nation for Himself” with the great “signs and wonders” that accompanied Israel’s release from Egyptian bondage? No. For the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of heaven and earth, the one true God. For “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth all their host.” Yes, “He spoke, and it was made, He commanded and it stood forth.” None is great as the Father in heaven.
And of the power of the Father, Jesus, the Son, shares: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” He declares in truth. It is He who suffers and dies for us; it is He who thus reveals God’s love – it is He whom all nations adore in the holy court. The words of the Father He brings to our ears; His commands, which bring life and “deliver… from death,” He speaks in our hearing. Here is the Word by which all comes to be made flesh in our sight.
And we, “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” – to this “the Spirit Himself bears witness,” speaking in our souls the NAME of God. Yes, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and the Spirit is now with us to lead us, to help us “keep His statutes and commandments,” that we might “have long life on the land which the Lord, [our] God, is giving [us] forever.” And now so on fire with the Spirit of God, Jesus present with us always in body and soul, and standing as holy children of the Father… we must “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [the Lord has] commanded.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.” His presence is upon us always for good, and we long now to know the fullness of the Trinity. He whose “works are trustworthy” we seek to make our own, that we might be one with Him who is One. “Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.” May He who “loves justice and right” be known in His fullness by all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" (second half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us remain in your NAME
and in your power,
and carry our cross unto Heaven.
YHWH, you are God of Heaven and earth; there is none beside you. By your Word all came to be, and all is held together by your love. We can but hope for your kindness, LORD, to preserve us from the death we deserve. We can but be baptized in your NAME and pray to be as your children.
O LORD, let us be your heirs with Christ. Let us suffer with Him that we might be glorified by the Spirit and come to dwell as one with you in the kingdom. To this earth bring your Word and let us be remade in His image. For He is one with you and the Spirit, worthy of all our worship; and as we worship Him, the Spirit inspires us to cry out, “Abba, Father!” with your only Son.
O LORD, what great grace and mercy you have shown us! You have taken us from the midst of darkness and sin and brought us into your marvelous light by the sacrifice of your Son. In the fire of the Holy Spirit you speak to us and guide us on our journey to you. Help us, LORD, to keep your commands that we might prosper and have eternal life with you in Heaven.
Fri, 29 May 2015
(Sir.51:12-20; Ps.19:8-11; Mk.11:27-33)
“When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom.
She came to me in her beauty,
and until the end I will cultivate her.”
Oh how Sirach speaks of his love, of the wisdom that is the light of his life! He is “resolutely devoted to her” and does “never weary of extolling her.” To his teacher he gives “grateful praise,” for he treasures her sweetness above all things.
“I will ask you a question. If you give me an answer, I will tell you on what authority I do the things I do.” So does wisdom speak. So does the Lord inquire as to what is in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees and priests. But there He does not find wisdom’s radiant beauty; there He finds nothing, for these leaders are so empty, so pitifully vain. Rightly do they say, “We do not know,” for there is no light in them – only the dark connivings of the world’s greed and pride.
And can wisdom answer him who has no ears? Can she speak to those who do not listen to her voice whispering in their souls? She does not engage in useless activity and cannot wed herself to those whose spirits are impure, whose hearts are not set on her fruits. “In cleanness I attained to her,” Sirach happily declares, for he “purified even the soles of [his] feet” to find her. But these men who weary so easily of her “great instruction,” who would so readily look upon the riches of this world, how can they taste her sweetness? How can they gaze upon her infinite beauty…?
And so the Lord turns away from them. He cannot tell them “on what authority [He] do[es] the things” they see displayed so powerfully before their eyes, for their eyes are blind and their hearts are turned against Him. They do not wish to know the answer to their question; they do not truly seek wisdom. And she does not come to those who do not desire “her secrets.”
“The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.” In silence, in obedience, in humility and purity you will hear the Lord speaking. And He will guide you to all His grace; and His name alone you will bless and praise. What great profit you shall find if from your innocence you cultivate wisdom until the end of time.
O LORD, open our eyes and minds to your light,
that by the power of the Spirit
we might be formed by wisdom
into the image of your Son.
YHWH, send your wisdom upon us; let her make her home in us. May we be distracted by nothing of this world as we seek her diligently and with a whole heart. You will be faithful in giving her to us if it is she we truly desire.
The Pharisees could not know your wisdom, LORD, because your wisdom they did not really want. They cared only for their positions and their goods and what people would say or do to them, and not at all for the truth. And so the truth escaped them. Wisdom will settle in with none who do not have an open heart.
O LORD, we recognize the authority of your Son, that all wisdom and power are with Him; indeed, that He is your only Son. Let us delight in His words and give Him grateful praise for all He has taught and done for us. More precious than gold is the light He brings to our eyes and to our minds, and the love that through Him makes its home in our spirits.
Thu, 28 May 2015
(Sir.44:1,9-13; Ps.149:1-6,9; Mk.11:11-26)
“They are as though they had not lived,
they and their children after them.”
This line from Sirach could refer well to the Jewish nation symbolized by the fig tree “withered to its roots.” For “never again shall anyone eat of [its] fruits”; its temple now destroyed shall never be rebuilt. And yet Sirach speaks not of those who have perished in sin, and so are never to be known again in the sight of God, but of “godly men” of Jewish ancestry who, though “there is no memory” of the particulars of their actions in time – as there is with the great patriarchs and prophets of old – yet are of the race of those “whose virtues have not been forgotten”: the memory of their goodness lives on in the heart of God, and “through God’s covenant with them their family endures.”
The covenant is removed from the hands of the Jewish people. This is indicated clearly in our gospel today not only in the withered fig tree, but in Jesus’ driving out those who had made their station in His Father’s temple. These shall be replaced by the Lord’s appointed servants, and the Church shall be built where the temple once stood. But this does not mean that the godly deeds of the godly men under the covenant of old are forgotten now that the New Covenant has been instituted; nor does it mean those in His Church are beyond reproach.
Let us look more closely at the Lord’s interaction with the fig tree, for it can teach us much. First, Jesus “felt hungry” – He desires our souls. Then He saw “a fig tree some distance off” – far removed are we from His sacred presence. He is attracted by its “foliage” – it has the appearance of fruit and life. But “when He reached it He found it had nothing but leaves…” There is no fruit upon it to satisfy His hunger; and so for its uselessness He curses it to dust. As He has done with the faithless Jews, so will He do with the faithless among us.
But “it was not the time for figs,” you say, as if to justify your emptiness. My brothers, in the Lord’s kingdom it is always time for figs – we in His Church are ever called to bear fruit in His name, in season and out of season: our souls are required of us this very day. And if we satisfy not God’s hunger for our fruits of prayer and charity, if we too have polluted His house with acts of “buying and selling” instead of the worship demanded of us… if we have gilded the temple to attract the eye but are utterly barren within, what shall He say when He enters our temple area? What action shall He take against those who serve as thieves of His love? They shall indeed be blotted from His Book of Life.
But those who “put [their] trust in God,” those who serve Him in spirit and in truth, shall not be forgotten by the Lord, whether their names are known in this world or not. “For the Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” It is not the “acclamations from the crowd” in which Jesus puts His heart, but in doing the will of God. And so all who are like Him shall secure with Him their place in heaven. “Let the children of Zion rejoice in their King,” for none “in the assembly of the faithful” is forgotten.
O LORD, let us trust in you and rejoice in you…
let us bear fruit in your NAME.
YHWH, we pray that we shall be remembered by you, that we shall not be cast out of your Temple for making it a den of thieves, for failing to worship you as we ought. Though we not be remembered by the world, though we perform no great deed worthy of history, yet let us find room in your memory, in your heart – in your Book of Life.
The humble you look upon with favor, LORD. The godly of any age you bless. You will not remove your favor from any who remain faithful to your Word. But those who abuse their power, who take for granted your grace upon their souls, these you cannot but cast from your presence as you overturn the tables in which they trust.
Let us bear fruit for you, dear LORD, fruit that will last unto Heaven. May our prayer be made in fidelity and sincerity that we may come to praise you in your kingdom with all those of holy heart. May our glory never be blotted out.
Wed, 27 May 2015
(Sir.42:15-25; Ps.33:2-9; Mk.10:46-52)
“As the rising sun is clear to all,
so the glory of the Lord fills all His works.”
“How beautiful are all His works! even to the spark and the fleeting vision!” “Can one ever see enough of their splendor?” Yet how blind is man to their glory! How much we need to receive the Lord’s vision.
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth their host”; “at God’s word were His works brought into being.” And so, bathed in His grace what can heaven and earth be but a wonder to behold? Then why is it we see only darkness? Why are our eyes so blind to His presence in all the creatures He has made only for good? Is it not that we say “I see”? Is it not that we tell ourselves, “There. Now I have God in my hands. Now His ways I understand”?
My poor friends, you can never plumb the depths of God’s works, for “even God’s holy ones must fail in recounting the wonders of the Lord.” It is He alone who “plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart; [your] innermost being He understands.” And He sees as He looks into your soul that you are blind, that you do not see Him as He is… and He longs to call you up closer to Himself. “The Most High possesses all knowledge”: He remembers the past, He sees the future – the moment is in His hand. And you yourself He would hold in His hand and move according to His will, if only you would let Him.
Come to the Lord like the blind man you are; do not let the scolding of the world hinder your plea to His compassionate heart. “You have nothing whatever to fear from Him!” for He eternally asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” seeking always to grant you sight. Then when you feel His touch upon your eyes, be as Bartimaeus and “immediately… follow Him up the road.” For on that road your vision will ever be increased. On that road you will learn to “pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness”; you will share in His wisdom and wonder as you “sing to Him [your] new song.” On the road our Savior trod you will find “the strength to stand firm before His glory.”
Rise and walk with Him in faith this day. “He gathers the waters of the sea in a flask”; “not a single thing escapes Him” – and so He is certainly not blind to your needs. To His glory He calls you: shine with Him now more brightly than the sun.
O LORD, give us the vision to see
the beauty of all your works,
your presence in everything.
YHWH, how blind we are to your glory shining in our midst! How we fail to recognize Jesus on the road He travels to you. Why do we not cry out? Why do we hesitate to proclaim our blindness? Are our hearts not made for your glory?
No one can recount all your wonders, O LORD; we cannot penetrate the heart of all being. But if we but trust in you, if we but ascribe to you the awesome power and almighty wisdom that are yours alone, then the beauty of your works will become known even to our poor eyes… and we will be able to sing your praise with the stars and the sea and all you have created.
At your Word, by the Breath of your mouth, all was made: you spoke and it came to be. Let us but call out to your Son for pity, LORD, and the glory of your Creation we shall live and see.
Tue, 26 May 2015
O converter of peoples,
called from the quiet
of cloister walls
you went obediently over seas
to preach to the souls
to whom you were sent,
and the Lord worked
through your obedience,
spoke through the words
you uttered to the nations…
and so the light of holy faith
banished the darkness of error
and souls indeed were gathered
into Christ’s fold –
pray, O shepherd,
obedience shall be ours, too,
and all whom the Father
would hold unto His breast
shall come indeed to that sacred place
and there find their rest.
May God’s will be accomplished
in His Church
and we bear fruit in His name.
Tue, 26 May 2015
(Sir.36:1,5-6,10-17; Ps.79:8-9,11,13; Mk.10:32-35)
“Take pity on your holy city,
Jerusalem, your dwelling place.”
The prayer of the wise man is good, but I see that the same answer the Lord gave James and John when they asked to sit “one at [His] right hand and the other at [His] left” in His glory, could be given to Sirach: “You do not know what you are asking.” For neither knows the implication of their request – neither can see that it will only be fulfilled in a painful death.
In our gospel Jesus is leading the disciples “on the road going up to Jerusalem,” a crowd following behind. There He will “fulfill the prophecies spoken in [His] name.” There He will “fill Zion with His majesty, [His] temple with [His] glory.” But the keepers of the keys of the temple “will condemn Him to death”; they will thereby destroy the Temple itself. In this way only will the “prophets be proved true.” In this way only He will “deliver us and pardon our sins.” In this way only will He “with [His] great power free those doomed to death.” For the prophets have said that the Servant must suffer. The prophets have said that the Son must die. There is no other way that “three days later He will rise.” There is no other way for Him to redeem those condemned to die.
This must sink into our hearts; this we must understand, we who run so freely from the cross, who think it is a facile thing to “inherit the land.” The Lord will indeed have pity on our souls; He will indeed answer “the prisoners’ sighing” and forget “the iniquities of the past.” But Heaven is attained only by those who drink from His cup; the glory of God is known only by those who share in Jesus’ “bath of pain.” No other way will we be cleansed of our sins. No other way will we be made ready. The cross is the path to the New Jerusalem, and we must walk it with our Lord.
And so, be not lazy about the work He has set before you; fail not to “serve the needs of all.” If you think of yourself and some vain reward, you will never find the blessing which awaits “those for whom it has been reserved.” His “compassion come[s] quickly to us” if we but share in His blood.
O LORD, your Son has come to die
that we might be freed from the death of sin;
on this path of sacrifice let us join Him.
YHWH, you are the eternal God. We are but sinful men. And so, how shall we come into your kingdom? Only by the bath of pain, only by drinking from the chalice of your Son – only by His death on the Cross.
He will be condemned to death. He will be spit upon and mocked. He will indeed be crucified. It is we who lead Him there, we who by our sin and selfishness push Him along the road to Calvary. O LORD, have mercy on our souls!
Hear our sighing in this dark prison; let us live in exile no more. Bring us back to your holy dwelling place… your glory may we somehow know. We call out to you from the ends of the earth, LORD; have compassion on our cries.
Your prophets will be proved true: your Servant will suffer a terrible death. Give us the courage to walk with Him, LORD, to share in the sacrifice He makes.
Mon, 25 May 2015
O priest of joy
whose song of service
rises unto the Lord
until this day,
whose delight in sacrifice
to give themselves in freedom
to the work of Christ –
pray all God’s priests
will give themselves so completely
in the love of the only Son
that indeed a holy song
might rise unto the heavens
until He returns from there
to carry us home forever.
May the Lord’s healing graces
be poured forth
through your generous intercession
that all souls might be prepared
to unite with their Creator and Redeemer,
with the Spirit who inspires the Church
even here with His glorious presence.
Mon, 25 May 2015
(Sir.35:1-12; Ps.50:5-8,14,23; Mk.10:28-31)
“The just man’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.”
Peter is moved today to voice his fear that all that he and his fellow apostles have offered, even their very lives, will not be enough to secure the kingdom of God. But Jesus reassures all who serve Him: “I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property, for me and for the Gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many… and persecution besides – and in the age to come, everlasting life.” None should fear that their sacrifice will be wasted, “for the Lord is one who always repays,” and repays in full, multiplying whatever gifts we offer beyond our expectations.
“But offer no bribes, these He does not accept!” You will never be able to extort graces from the Lord, and so should always come without expectation of return. Make all your sacrifices as “freewill gifts,” for only that which is given “generously” and “in a spirit of joy” does He smile upon. Bring your gifts to the altar expecting nothing but the cross, in this find your return, and the glory of the resurrection shall indeed be yours. You must learn from those whom the Lord rebukes, though their “holocausts are before [Him] always” – only “he that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies” the Lord, and so you must find joy in your cross.
Oh how “the just man’s offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.” “He who observes the commandments” and “gives alms,” he who performs “works of charity,” who “refrain[s] from evil” and “avoid[s] injustice”… oh how this man “pleases the Lord”! For his life is as a “sacrifice of praise,” an offering of peace and an atonement for sin, which cannot but reach to the throne of God. Yes, “to him that goes the right way [the Lord] will show the salvation of God.” Of this you can be assured.
O LORD, the more we give you our lives,
the more we are blessed,
for the more we are of you.
YHWH, what is it you desire from us but to be generous as you are, to share all your gifts with others? None is more generous than you; none could give a greater number of blessings here on this earth and in the heavenly kingdom. Yet, do we trust in you and in your generosity, in the great wealth that only you possess?
All things are in your hands, O LORD. Let us learn this simple lesson. All things are in your hands and you give them freely and abundantly to those who serve you faithfully. Though there be a cross we must bear in this world, how light it is made by the graces you pour upon us, by the love you share with all your disciples.
And so, let us give alms, let us be just, and let us do all with a cheerful countenance; and we shall reflect your glory in this world and carry even now your presence in our souls. LORD, to the end let us follow in your way and offer ever a sacrifice of praise, and your blessings will be forever upon us.
Sun, 24 May 2015
O humble soul
whom the Lord blessed
with mystical elevations
to His heavenly presence,
you who remained so faithful
through all trials
and encouraged others
to seek such perfection as well –
pray that this proud age
which leans so distinctly
from the truth,
from the love of God,
will be consumed as you were
by the Holy Spirit,
by desire for the Lord’s overtaking
of our lives,
that all souls will turn
from the false gods at their hands,
idols that overshadow their spirits,
and toward the humility
known only in our Savior’s blood.
Only in Him is life eternal;
pray all souls will come to His love.
Sun, 24 May 2015
O Shepherd and Father,
defender of the faith
and of holy MotherChurch
against those who would rob her
of her freedom,
those who would rape her,
stealing away her purity,
those who would deny
her singleness in the sight of God
as the House which He has founded –
those who would destroy the faith
and bring to naught
the Church, our Mother,
and Peter, our Holy Father,
do not relent in their efforts…
and so we need still
your prayers and your courage
to aid us in standing strong
against the tide
the evil one stirs up in this world.
Pray indeed, O Father,
that all our shepherds and all God’s people
will tirelessly defend the truth in love.
Sun, 24 May 2015
O learned master
whose life itself was as a monastery,
consumed as you were
by study and teaching and writing
who till the very end
spoke the name of the Lord
in all your words
and deeds –
pray that the incense of your life
will rise unto the throne of God
and intercede for us here below
who are so far from His presence,
from knowledge of His providence
and remembrance of His sacrifice.
How will we find ourselves
one with the Lord of Creation
and ascend to His glory
if you do not pray for us,
O blessed soul
so united to His will,
so held within His Hand
and breathing forth His name?
Sun, 24 May 2015
(Sir.17:19-27; Ps.32:1-2,5-7,11; Mk.10:17-27)
“Jesus fixed His gaze on them and said,
‘For man it is impossible but not for God.’”
With these incisive words and particularly with this intent look, Jesus “encourages those who are losing hope.” His disciples are “completely overwhelmed” at His statement: “It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” and to keep them from falling into despair at the impossibility of such a proposition, He seeks to teach them that “with God all things are possible.” For truly none can be saved but by the grace of God.
“As Jesus was setting out on a journey a man came running up, knelt down before Him and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to share in everlasting life?’” How like “the penitent [for whom] He provides a way back” is this man on his knees before the Lord today. And even after the Lord seems to rebuff his advance, how he persists, begging further word from the Master with the reply to Jesus’ listing of certain commandments, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my childhood.” Please tell me more, he seems to cry out. And so “Jesus looked at him with love,” a love that is beyond the bounds of this world and beyond the bounds of the law – a love that makes all things possible, even the attainment of the kingdom of God, even for us wretched sinners. “How great the mercy of the Lord, His forgiveness of those who return to Him!” “Happy is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered”; for among the dead we would be if not for His divine mercy.
But oh “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” Though wrought with the Lord’s grace, how difficult it is to accompany Christ on His journey. For our hearts are not on His love but on the things we must give up, and so, how readily we turn away in sadness. It is indeed out of love Jesus calls the rich man from his possessions to His side; this is indeed an immeasurable grace pouring forth from the heart of God… but who among us can accept it? Who among us truly seeks everlasting life?
“God watches over the host of highest heaven, while all men are dust and ashes.” While “the thoughts of flesh and blood” are obscure, as the wise man tells us, and his possessions of even less consequence; while the sun itself “can be eclipsed” and all things of the earth are passing… yet the kingdom of the Lord endures and holds promise of shelter for the contrite spirit of a humble man. For dust may pass easily through the eye of any needle, and we can be united with the vision of God; for us too all things are made possible, if we humble ourselves in the ashes – if we fall sincerely at the feet of the Lord, and accept His word.
O LORD, help us freely renounce all of this world.
YHWH, please help us to inherit eternal life; though we must die first, though we must give up all things of this world, let us not look at what is lost but what is gained, being forever with you in Heaven.
Why should we prefer the riches of this life to life everlasting; why should we not want to be at Jesus’ side even here where we stand? It is a fool who desires passing things to those that last; LORD, give us the wisdom and courage to do what is right.
You would let nothing stand in our way to you, LORD; all blindness and sin you would drown in the sea. You would not remember our transgressions against you or our failure to heed your call… let us turn again and kneel before your Son. Then we shall praise you with all the living on high.
It is not death we should fear or the renunciation of our goods. Let us rather fear disobedience toward you and the loss of the kingdom. O LORD, truly let us be cleansed of the guilt of our sin, that with clear eyes and open hearts we might follow you.
Sat, 23 May 2015
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; Gal.5:16-25; Jn.15:26-27,16:12-15)
“The time for Pentecost was fulfilled.”
A driving wind comes from the sky. It fills the house. Tongues of fire come to rest on the disciples, and they speak in tongues of every nation. The gathered crowd of “Jews from every nation under heaven” ask in wonder, “How does each of us hear them in his native language?” How is such perfect communication possible? How could such light fall upon mankind? How can we be made one?
“The Advocate comes.” “The Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,” sent by the Son to “guide [us] to all truth,” declares the glory of God in our midst, fulfills the Word among us, making us brothers and sisters in the light of the Lord.
“O Lord, my God, you are great indeed!” What wonders you work before the eyes of man! What glorious speech you bring to our ears! So far are your ways above our ways; so little of the truth can we weak human beings bear. But you strengthen us. You give us your Word. You anoint us with your Spirit to destroy this sinful flesh and prepare our hearts to receive the grace that comes only by your power. We praise you, Lord, for the glory you impart to our souls.
“May the glory of the Lord endure forever,” and we endure forever in Him. Let us never be separated from the blessing which comes from the One who never dies, the One who brings life to every creature upon the face of the earth, and in the heavens above. “Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit” now. Hold closely to the gifts He offers freely and powerfully forth this holy day and every day of your lives. In no other way will you be fulfilled; by no other means will you come to heaven. The Spirit is the source of all truth and only by His guidance you will hear of the glory of God. And only by His power will you keep it.
In the Church now the Spirit dwells, teaching all her children. From the four corners they come to receive the bread of life. Let us be fed well for the time is at hand when all the Lord’s words will be fulfilled, when the Son shall return again. Our refuge now is the Spirit. In Him let us place our trust.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (final part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us be baptized in your Spirit,
renewed for the proclamation of your love.
YHWH, comes the driving wind from Heaven, the Spirit Jesus breathes upon His apostles, and so we are made your sons, dear Father, and declare your glory unto all. May your Church with one voice offer you due praise and teach the nations of your eternal call.
We must leave our sins behind and accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living as one with the Son of God. If we keep His commandments, we shall dwell with you forever, O Father God. For He is with you and through Him you send the Spirit; all who desire to be your children you bless with purging fire this holy day.
Now the promised gift of the Spirit falls upon our immortal souls and we are refreshed and made new creatures, formed in the image of Jesus, your Son. One you make us in Spirit and Body, free from all the works of the flesh. Your Son stands in our midst and offers us His peace; the Advocate now testifies to all Truth… Come and make your dwelling in us, O glorious LORD and God.
Fri, 22 May 2015
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.
Thu, 21 May 2015
O saint of the impossible
whose union with Christ
in His Passion and His glory
serves to grant favors
to those in great need,
you whose great thirst
to be one with our Bridegroom
brought the help of the saints yourself –
pray we poor souls
shall fulfill our vocation,
that through the din of this world
we shall hear and answer
the call of the Lord
and give ourselves in His service
in the manner He desires.
Pray our hearts be so set
on union with Him
that no obstacle shall stand in our way,
that all help we need
to find our path to Him
will be provided through your prayers.
How shall we come to dwell in Heaven?
Invoke God’s blessing upon us.
Thu, 21 May 2015
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.
Wed, 20 May 2015
O sacrificial sheep,
priests of the Lord
who offered your lives
even as you offered Mass,
in union with Christ and His Church
for the sake of your homeland:
you prayed for its peace
even as violence was done to you;
you celebrated the Mass
and baptized your flock
even when it became a crime,
even when it cost your lives –
such union with Christ
pray all souls,
and especially our priests,
shall know to the depths of their heart;
let none be afraid
to shed their blood
as one with His redemptive sacrifice.
The Cross pray we follow where it leads,
despite the world’s persecution.
Wed, 20 May 2015
(Acts 22:30,23:6-11; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Jn.17:20-26)
“I set the Lord ever before me;
with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
Yes, “the Lord appeared at Paul’s side” at night, in prison, after his testimony and the near riot it caused in Jerusalem. He comes to encourage him, to strengthen him for further trials; and through all Paul shall remain strong.
“Keep me, O God, for in you, I take refuge,” David prays, and sings of the confidence his heart and soul find in the Lord, his “allotted portion and cup… who hold[s] fast [his] lot.” He knows deep in his spirit that the Lord “will not abandon [his] soul to the netherworld, nor will [He] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption.” And certainly, the same faith Paul exhibits; the same trust in the Lord, Paul holds in his own spirit. He, too, is not disturbed, though he finds himself “on trial now because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
And whence comes such confidence? How can a man so attacked, a man so beaten and cursed, be so without fear? Does not Jesus answer this question in His prayer to the Father, which we are all blessed to hear? Here He prays that we be one in Him even as He is one with the Father. Here He asks that our “unity may be complete.” And if our unity is complete with the Father and with the Son, as well as with one another, what, brothers and sisters, have we to fear? If the love of God which the Father “bore [the Son] before the world began” is in our hearts now, what can disturb them? “That your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them” is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for us all – and do you think the Father does not listen, does not answer His Son? He would have us in His company where He is, gazing upon His glory – and this is where Paul dwells. And so he cannot be moved.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The Spirit brings us now that of which David sings, that which Paul knows, that all might know the glory of God, that all might be one in Him, and so, safe from all harm. As Jesus is resurrected from the dead, so shall we all be. What have we to fear? We must but set Him before us always.
O Lord, let your love live in us
that we might make your Name known
with faith and courage.
YHWH, in you we take our refuge, and so we pray that you keep us ever close by – with you at our right hand we shall not be disturbed. Please answer your Son’s prayer that we be in His company where He is, with you in eternal glory. You will not abandon our souls to the nether world, and so, encourage us as you have Paul, with your presence at our side. In your Spirit may we find confidence to bear witness before all.
Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and with Himself He would bring us to your glorious presence. What need we fear with His power upon us? Why should we be afraid when His Spirit is with us, showering on us your love? In you we should but rejoice for the eternal protection you give us in your holy NAME. To life we shall come even this day, O LORD, for we have believed in your Son and so share in the glory of His resurrection.
Tue, 19 May 2015
O apostle of the holy name of Jesus
who proclaimed God’s loving mercy
to those in darkness
that the light of faith
might save souls
and make them children
of the light of Christ,
radiating His splendor,
the splendor of truth,
to the ends of the earth –
where is such zeal today,
with the preaching of Paul;
and so, how shall souls be saved,
how shall false beliefs flee,
infidelity be consumed
and the truth appear as a great candle
lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame,
if you do not intercede?
Pray that we may not lack
knowledge of and devotion to Jesus,
that His name shall not be suppressed
but preached without cease to waiting hearts.
Tue, 19 May 2015
(Acts 20:28-38; Ps.68:29-30,33-36; Jn.17:11-19)
“O Father most holy,
protect them with the name you have given me.”
In our gospel today Jesus prays to the Father, “who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens,” to “guard [His disciples] from the evil one.” And the parallels continue between His and Paul’s parting words, as the Apostle warns his own disciples, “When I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock,” and therefore exhorts them to “be on guard.”
It is the Lord’s earnest desire of the Father that we His disciples “be consecrated in truth.” If truth be with us, if the Holy Spirit He promises to send be ours, the “careful watch” Jesus has kept “as long as [He] was with [us]” will continue. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the elders of Ephesus to “shepherd the Church of God, which He has acquired at the price of His own blood” – blood the Lord is about to shed in our gospel – will be realized, and His apostles will become themselves those who care for the safety of the people of God. “I consecrate myself for their sakes now,” Jesus says, offering Himself, His blood, as sacrifice for the Church; and Paul commends his disciples to this same Lord, “to that gracious word of His which can enlarge [them], and give [them] a share among all who are consecrated to Him.” In His name all are saved.
“Awesome in His sanctuary is God, the God of Israel; He gives power and strength to His people.” David sings mightily of the majesty of God, whose “voice resounds, the voice of power,” and calling all to “confess the power of God!” indicates how we share in that great power. In declaring of the Father, with Jesus and with Scripture, “Your word is truth,” that truth in essence becomes our own; we are thereby consecrated to it. And so Paul can exhort those he has placed in positions of power: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard,” for he knows as long as (like Paul) they do not “set [their] hearts on anyone’s silver or gold,” as long as they work tirelessly to “help the weak,” to serve the Church, they shall indeed be sharing in the power and authority of God.
Brothers and sisters, we “do not belong to the world” but to God and to His truth. His Spirit is with us to guide us and protect us here on our journey through death to life. As we humble ourselves in prayer before Him, He hears and answers all our needs. Remain in Him this day.
O LORD, shepherd your flock in the truth;
keep all falsehood from us.
YHWH, let us be consecrated in your Word, in your Word of truth, that we might share in your might and power, that we might be protected by your Name. As your Son sends His apostles forth, so these apostles send others forth, all sharing in the power that comes from you by the Spirit upon your Church. May we all be one with your Son as He is one with you, and so may we all do your will despite the persecutions of this world.
We do not belong to the world, O LORD, but to the One who has left this world to come to you in your kingdom. Help us to follow where He leads by your power from on high. Your Spirit fall upon us this day to give us strength to accomplish the work you set before us. From your sanctuary come to us and with us here remain, that we shall never turn from you along this narrow way. From generation to generation let your Word go forth till all your children are consecrated in your truth.
Mon, 18 May 2015
(Acts 20:17-27; Ps.68:10-11,20-21,33; Jn.17:1-11)
“Father, the hour has come!
Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you.”
A day of departures. A day of final words and commendations. Paul bids farewell to the leaders of Ephesus, declaring his faithfulness to them; and Jesus prays to the Father in the hearing of the disciples, calling the Lord’s blessing upon them.
“The Holy Spirit has been warning me from city to city that chains and hardships await me,” Paul confesses as he makes his way to Jerusalem; Jesus now has the cross directly before His eyes, having supped for the last time with His disciples. “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private,” Paul reminds his disciples; while Jesus states to His Father: “I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world.” “I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety,” Paul declares; “I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” Jesus says to the Father. And as Paul hopes, “If only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace” – not caring for his own life or any suffering ahead – Jesus’ only concern as He moves toward His own death and His return to the “glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world began” is that the Father will bless His disciples, for, as He says, “It is in them that I have been glorified.” These who remain in the world, as has Paul, are those who bring His glory forth, even as Jesus has revealed the glory of the Father.
The hour of death has come but “God, who is our salvation… controls the passageways of death” because He “bears our burdens.” The Lord Jesus Christ has borne, and will bear, all the temptations the devil can mount – the greatest of these illusions being death – and has conquered them all. And now His disciples follow in His footsteps, like Paul, who has “served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that came [his] way.” By this sacrifice the Lord “restored the land when it languished,” and now all are called to “repentance before God and… faith in our Lord Jesus” to know that redemption. This life that comes from His death is the glory of the Lord that goes now forth.
O LORD, we must leave this world to come to you,
but you control the passageways of death –
let all be done in your Name.
YHWH, what do you desire of us but sincere repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus? We glorify you by glorifying Him, by keeping faith in Him and witnessing His Gospel to all. May we ever preach the kingdom as has the Apostle Paul and so complete our mission here in union with your Son.
O may we come to eternal life! May we truly know you and your Son. May we share in your glory as He has prayed. O LORD our God, may we make your Name known to all, never shrinking from your call upon our souls, and leave this place blessed by you. Keep us ever in your truth and love until the day we join you in Heaven.
The hour has come, O LORD. Your Son has been glorified by you, returning to the glory He had from before time began. And now in us He seeks to be glorified, to continue the work of eternal life here on this earth. Death is not far from any of us; may we die in you and so be freed from all the chains of this world.
Sun, 17 May 2015
O faithful Shepherd
who laid down your life
for the sake of true teaching,
who was killed by one
set against God’s Word…
though deprived of food
and so of this life,
you were given instead
the life of Heaven
and serve as a holy example
of what should be sacrificed
for love of truth and right –
pray that the flock
shepherded this day by the apostles
will be led by the same loyalty,
led by genuine pastors
whose love for the sheep
would lead them to lay down their lives
that the Church might be blessed
by a radiant faith
which shines the light of Christ
even to the ends
of this dying earth.
Sun, 17 May 2015
(Acts 19:1-8; Ps.68:2-7,33; Jn.16:29-33)
“You will suffer in the world.
But take courage! I have overcome the world.”
“An hour is coming – has indeed already come – when you will be scattered and each will go his way, leaving me quite alone.” Yet the Father is always with Jesus, even as He faces His imminent execution, and Jesus is with us by the power of the Spirit through all the trials we face.
“In me you may find peace,” the Lord assures us, bearing out the words of David’s psalm: “The father of orphans and defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; He leads forth prisoners to prosperity.” Such the Father does for the Son, who is brought from being utterly forsaken and alone upon the cross to the absolute fruitfulness and glory of heaven; and so the Son does for His sons, as from His place in the kingdom He delivers us the same grace of salvation and prosperity in His name.
In the Lord Jesus, Paul finds his peace and his inspiration, fearlessly defending the Gospel in all synagogues “with persuasive arguments”; and this same fire of the Holy Spirit he imparts to the disciples by Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and by laying his hands on them. In these, as in us all to this day, God’s grace and power go forth: “The Holy Spirit came down on them and they began to speak in tongues and utter prophecies.” More than just repentance for sins, this Baptism in the Spirit prepares all to do the work of the Lord despite any difficulties in the world. It convinces us of the divinity of Christ and causes us to declare in truth to our Lord, “There is no need for anyone to ask you questions. We do indeed believe you came from God.” And it enables us to prove such complete faith and trust in the One the Father has sent.
When the Baptism of the Lord comes upon us, God’s “enemies are scattered”; all doubt and fear are driven from us “as smoke is driven away… as wax melts before the fire.” And though we need be refined in the crucible that is our earthly life, yet at every moment God is near to preserve the grace and peace He has planted in our souls, to see that our faith does grow.
Lord, be with us always. Send your Spirit forth.
Let the ends of the earth be convinced of your loving presence
and the salvation it brings to all hearts.
O LORD, let us be baptized in the Name of Jesus
and receive the Holy Spirit
that even in this world we shall live in your peace.
YHWH, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, our enemies are scattered, driven away like smoke, and we conquer the world. His fire burns up every evil and we can but rejoice in your presence, singing praise to your Name. O let that holy fire be upon us even this day!
In the world there are indeed many troubles, many temptations which would cause us to be scattered, separated from you. But Jesus has indeed overcome the world, O LORD; by His death He has put to death all the wiles of the devil, and so in Him we may take great strength. Through belief in Him the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us.
Dearest LORD, let us not be scattered but indeed by your Word upon us scatter all those who hate you. Help us fearlessly defend your kingdom that all poor souls might make their home with you.
Sat, 16 May 2015
(Acts1:15-17,20a,20c-26; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; 1Jn.4:11-16; Jn.17:11b-19)
“As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.”
Jesus sent the apostles forth, and “none of them was lost except the son of destruction”; and Judas was lost only “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” that the betrayal of the Christ might be accomplished. Otherwise, those whom He sent He also protected, He also guarded well from the evil one, that what must be accomplished in them should likewise be brought to fulfillment – that they be one with Jesus in the Father and bring His holy Name to the world, that all might be gathered together as one in God’s truth and His love.
To begin the accomplishment of this mission after the departure of the Christ, the principal soul whom Jesus sends stands up in the midst of all his brothers and calls for the replacement of Judas, that Scripture – “may another take his office” – continue to be fulfilled. Matthias is chosen by the Lord to become the twelfth “witness to His resurrection,” and so “the apostolic ministry” is now in place; and so the army of God can now go forth to reveal that “His kingdom rules over all.”
And what is His kingdom, brothers and sisters, but a kingdom of love? Our beloved John ever makes this clear, ever emphasizes this essential word of truth, and we must declare in truth his essential word of God’s love: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” His proclamation must be our own. We must see and know how the Lord guards us, how He protects us from the snares of the world and preserves us in His love by putting “our transgressions [far] from us,” that we might praise His name in faith even unto heaven. We must say with John, “We have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son as savior of the world.” In genuine recognition of this basic truth we shall find the love of God living in us.
And “if God so loved us” by sending His only Son to us, “we must love one another” by heeding His call to be sent to others. Like Matthias and the apostles, we too have a blessed vocation in Christ to bring His love and His truth to this dying world. To this let us consecrate ourselves as freely as has our Jesus, as freely as the Twelve… “that we might share [the Lord’s] joy completely.” We “do not belong to the world any more than [He] belong[s] to the world”: let us find our place in His kingdom.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Can You Love?" (part B of "Liars Don't Love, Lovers Don't Lie") from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, keep us in your Name
from the evils of the world
that we might remain in your love.
YHWH, send us forth in your Name and that of your Son; you are God and Father of all and Jesus shares in your glory. May we come to share in that same glory by the love you have shown us in sending your Son, and may we share that love with all.
Your Word of truth take not from our souls, dear LORD, but let it be spoken in our every breath. Your love dwell ever in us that we might dwell ever in you and do your will in all things. O let us be consecrated to you with your Son! Let us be made sacred in your sight, that indeed we might be your children, your apostles of love and truth.
Count us among your disciples, LORD, you who are mighty and rule over all, that freed from our sins your love might be perfected in us and we become one with you in Heaven. For us has Jesus laid down His life in perfect love – may we acknowledge His Sonship and so share in your love.
Fri, 15 May 2015
(Acts 18:23-28; Ps.47:2-3,8-10; Jn.16:23-28)
“He went about establishing from the Scriptures
that Jesus is the Messiah.”
In our gospel today, Jesus again assures the disciples, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name,” He tells them of the time when He will no longer speak to them “in veiled language,” but “shall tell [them] about the Father in plain speech.” A most fascinating quote is His statement, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” So great is our oneness with Jesus because we “have believed that [He] came from God,” that now as He returns to the Father, we go there with Him; and since we are thus with the Father through Him, He need not ask for us of the Father, but we ask ourselves. When Jesus declares, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me,” He is telling us that we are indeed one with Him in the Father’s love, and so, of course, the Father hears all our prayers.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Apollos, who was “a man full of spiritual fervor. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus.” His love for the Lord is most evident in His “express[ing] himself fearlessly in the synagogue,” in his “vigorous” preaching of Jesus as the Messiah. He also shows himself to be a humble man, very acquiescent to Priscilla and Aquila, who “took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” As strong as he was, and as much as “he greatly strengthened those who through God’s favor had become believers,” he was very willing to learn of his weakness. And so he becomes a model of faith and of the oneness with God we find in the Spirit through the love of Christ. And so his words are like prayers which never fall short of the glory of God. And so the Father answers all he has in his heart.
“He is supreme,” brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus now sits on the throne of God in the highest heavens. And we who believe in Him become one with Him, and so, one with the Father of all. And thus do we find all our prayers answered; thus do we find all our work blessed. Thus do we find ourselves moving as one with the will of God by the love the Father shares with all of us through our faith in His Son. As great as Apollos and Paul and all the apostles are, we can be, if we but believe that Jesus is God and so share in the Father’s love, and so hear the Holy Spirit speaking plainly to our hearts.
O LORD, Jesus is your Christ;
He reigns with you over all the nations –
thank you for sending Him to us
that we might be united to you.
YHWH, you are King of all the earth, reigning in highest Heaven, and Jesus is the Messiah you send, one with you and born for us that we might be one with both of you through the power of the Holy Spirit. As your Son returns to you, He brings us with Himself; insofar as we love Him and believe in Him, you love us and so unite us with yourself. What can we say of so great a gift but, Alleluia! Praise you, LORD!
May the Name of your Son be preached with zeal to all towns, to every soul that longs for salvation, that none shall be left without instruction but all realize the glory to which we are called in you. With you, O Most High God, may we be joined by the grace found in your Son.
All we desire may we ask for this day in the Name of your Son. And so, O LORD, all shall be as you desire – all will be gathered together as your children.
Thu, 14 May 2015
O farmer of God’s green earth
who cultivated the faith
even as you cultivated the ground,
whose simple and humble life
should serve as inspiration
to all toiling on this plane –
pray that we shall follow your example,
sharing our food with the hungry
as we work for the salvation of souls.
Pray that all the work we do
will bear fruit in God’s kingdom,
that with you and your wife
we may be found worthy
of those blessed words
come from our Savior’s mouth:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.
Enter into your Master’s joy.”
Pray according to your own blessing
from the Lord
that this earth He has given us
to care for
may be saved from the greedy hands of corrupted man
and serve as source of nourishment for all.
Thu, 14 May 2015
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps.47:2-8; Jn.16:20-23)
“Go on speaking and do not be silenced,
for I am with you.”
As Paul continues his missionary journey, his fears are calmed by the Lord, who assures him: “No one will attack you or harm you,” though he be in Corinth, whose infamous immorality is illustrated in the riotous behavior of the Jews in its court, and to which the court “paid no attention at all.” And the Lord is true to His word, protecting Paul throughout his year-and-a-half stay, and keeping him even from having to defend himself from charges in today’s first reading.
In our gospel Jesus reassures the disciples at the Last Supper, as He is about to leave them and their hearts begin to be troubled: “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.” And though there remains ever a measure of grief in our hearts as we labor in this world, our bodies apart from the fullness of the grace of heaven, yet we know that Jesus’ promise has indeed been kept in His sending His Spirit upon the apostles from His heavenly kingdom. It is, of course, this Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and protects Paul, making his missionary work fruitful, for he does all having been baptized by the fire of Christ. And, of course, the disciples to whom Jesus speaks today will soon have no more fear, for Pentecost is not far from them.
Pentecost is not far from any of us, brothers and sisters. The promised Spirit is come into the world to answer all questions, to calm all our anxieties. As we wait these nine days to celebrate this great feast of the Church, as we prepare again to enter into its birth in the Spirit of God, let us be assured that the Lord’s promise remains: “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.”
No one can take from us the promised joy we now hold in our hearts and which is renewed in this season. As Paul is emboldened even through his most difficult trials, as the apostles rejoice at their persecutions for Jesus’ sake, so we should know that the Lord “brings people under us, nations under our feet”; and so, as powerful as the world may seem in all its brazen immorality, yet we are assured that “He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob, whom He loves.” “There are many of [His] people in this city,” here where we dwell on earth, and we must speak to them of the Lord’s glory, His love strengthening us for every task. It is He who accomplishes all in us, and so He will guide and guard our way.
O LORD, give us reassurance of your presence with us,
now and until the end of time.
YHWH, soon our hearts shall rejoice at the return of your Son and our union with you in Heaven forever. But now your Spirit is with us reassuring us of the fulfillment of this promise and guiding and protecting us along the way. We can accomplish all the tasks you set before us because of the glory that is among us even this day in our Advocate from on high.
O LORD, though there is cause for us to weep and mourn in these days we remain apart from complete unity with you, we are strengthened as we wait by the knowledge that Jesus is yet present with us in the Spirit He sends. Let us take refuge in this gift and, as we wait now again for its outpouring in a few days, let us remember your faithfulness to us and our destiny to praise you forever in your eternal kingdom. O you who sit upon the throne, shine your light upon us this day.
Wed, 13 May 2015
O chosen apostle,
destined to serve the Church
as witness to the resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you who walked with Him
from the beginning
even until He was taken
from our sight
yet were not appointed by the Spirit
as one of the Twelve
until a place was made desolate
by the traitorous one –
pray that the call upon the soul
of all God’s children
will be fulfilled
according to His will
and we all shall come to be
witnesses to Jesus
and His eternal glory
wrought in our midst
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let none shy away from the Lord
but assume their rightful place in His presence.
Wed, 13 May 2015
(Acts 1:1-11; Ps.47:1-3,6-9; Eph.1:17-23 or Eph.4:1-13 or Heb.9:24-28,10:19-23;
Mt.28:16-20 or Mk.16:15-20 or Lk.24:46-53)
“God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy;