Wed, 28 June 2017
O most blessed apostles of the Lord
upon whom the Church is founded
and the faith goes forth,
in you we cannot be shaken
and the Lord’s reign extends
to the ends of the earth –
pray we always take refuge
in His House
and in the teaching of His mouth.
It is you who preserve
the authenticity of the faith;
through you we may be assured
the Spirit of God is with us,
leading us out of the dark prison
of this world
along the narrow path to Heaven.
Pray the chains fall from our hands
and we heed the angel’s command,
remaining faithful to the end,
pouring out our lives like a libation.
Feed the poor sheep in your care.
Wed, 28 June 2017
Acts 12:1-11; Ps.34:2-9; 2Tm.4:6-8,17-18; Mt.16:13-19)
“On this rock I will build my Church,
and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.”
We go through death to life, for death has no power over us: the power of Jesus founded firmly on Peter, brought forward by Paul, and present in all the members of the Church and in its faith, has conquered death and leads us all to heaven.
Today we celebrate the solid foundation of the Church in Peter, the man of faith, first of the apostles and rock upon whom we are firmly set; and Paul, the great Apostle, through whom that faith went out to “all the nations.” Our readings today clearly manifest the faith we possess, which overcomes even death, in Jesus’ commissioning of Peter and in the example shown in the lives of both Peter and Paul.
Our first reading describes Peter’s mystical release from prison and reveals in this act our own coming to the heavenly kingdom: the chains of sin fall from us, we are clothed in righteousness, and led through the snares of this world to freedom. And it is he who holds “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” who is led out; and indeed by these keys, by this office and its grace, “the iron gate leading out to the city” opens before us “of itself.” And in our second reading we find Paul declaring the faithful life he has led even unto the end, which he now faces, and that his fighting of the good fight has merited the crown which awaits him on the Day of Lord. He is able to state with confidence, “The Lord will continue to rescue me from all attempts to do me harm and will bring me safe to His heavenly kingdom.” Finally, our psalm confirms the protection the Lord grants His faithful ones: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
We are sharers in this faith with Peter and Paul. This is evident in the Church who “prayed fervently to God” on behalf of Peter, and whose prayers were answered in this astounding fashion, and is made certain in Paul’s proclaiming that Jesus gives the reward of a heavenly crown not only to Paul himself “but to all who have looked for His appearing with eager longing.” The Church is one in all its members, and though the Lord has chosen certain of us to special places and granted them special blessings and powers, all are blessed by this same God.
So, today as we rejoice in this faith with which we have been gifted by the Lord, as we “together extol His name,” let us consider the place we have in His holy Church and the work to which He calls us. And let us resolve to fulfill that call, pouring ourselves out unto death, that we might be assured of our entering through the heavenly gate. Let us walk in faith the narrow path the Lord has set before us, for it leads beyond death to life.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by James Kurt.
Music by Carie Fortney; performed by Carie Fortney and Annette Meyer. Used by permission.
O LORD, may we be loosed
from the chains of this earth
that we might walk with you in Heaven.
YHWH, the gates of the netherworld cannot prevail against you and your Church. To Peter you have given the keys to the kingdom and these shall open every lock the devil can devise; the chains fall from our wrists by the angel you send to guide us.
You deliver us, LORD, from every evil and bring us into your heavenly kingdom. The lion’s mouth shall not close upon us, nor any prison door keep us from you. For we are redeemed by the sacrifice of your Son; in Him and in His blood your Church finds power and grace to facilitate release from all the wiles of the evil one.
Jesus sets your people on solid rock through His commissioning of His apostle Peter. And your Word goes forth to the ends of the earth through Paul and all your disciples. And so, on the day of your Son’s appearance, all shall enter freely through the eternal gates to dwell in your presence forever. You have heard our cries to you, O LORD, and bring us quickly to Heaven.
Tue, 27 June 2017
O great teacher of the Catholic faith
who served to set a foundation
upon which she could grow
in peace and in truth,
in the Spirit of God,
you who valiantly defended her
against attacks of heresy
and shed your blood
in the battle –
pray we shall find shepherds today
to explicate the faith of the apostles
as you have done,
that none shall be led astray
into false doctrine
by whim and fancy,
by pride and envy,
but drink rather the pure milk
of our Mother
and of the one true God.
To vision of the Father let us come
by revelation of His only-begotten Son.
Tue, 27 June 2017
(Gn.15:1-12,17-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mt.7:15-20)
“Abram put his faith in the Lord,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”
In our gospel today, Jesus teaches us, “You can tell a tree by its fruit.” And what can we tell of Abram but that he is a bountiful tree, faithful and strong. Indeed, in his faith is his goodness, and in his children, who reach down even unto this day, his blessed fruit is known.
What holy, gentle conversation the Lord has with Abram, coming to him in visions to speak to his soul, to thus nourish this tree which He has planted upon the earth. And how faithful Abram is, patiently awaiting the growth which comes from God. Here, my friends, is the Lord’s relationship with man exemplified. This is how we should be with our God… seeking the Lord, asking Him the questions which are upon our hearts, believing Him as He speaks to us – as He surely does. For such is our God to us: coming to us in our fears, reassuring our souls, remaining ever faithful to us as He brings to maturity the fruit He has planted in our spirit. No doubt we should have of His blessing. His promise is sure.
And so with our psalmist we should celebrate; we should “glory in His holy name.” For we are “descendants of Abraham,” partakers of the faith brought to fulfillment in Jesus, fruit of the tree of life. And the Lord “remembers forever His covenant.” This grace we have been given shall never leave us; the life within us shall remain. And in our days, through our time, as we partake of our daily bread, the Lord continually speaks to us and blesses us, bringing our fruit to maturity as we progress and grow in His Name. And we shall look upon our children’s children. Our own trees shall indeed bear fruit in His light. We must but remain faithful to Him; we must but keep diligent as Abram who, though “birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,” stayed by his holy sacrifice.
We shall see the false prophets of our age come to naught; we shall see these trees “cut down and thrown into the fire.” And we will see and know the rebirth of true doctrine: our Church we will witness in all its heavenly glory. “Fear not!” the Lord says to Abram, and so He speaks to us. Our descendants shall be numerous as the stars. With all the children of God we shall rejoice. Keep faith in your hearts.
O LORD, how fruitful indeed is Abraham,
whose spiritual children surpass
the many nations born of his loins.
YHWH, let us be fruitful in your sight. Come to us and reassure us of your presence with us, of your blessing upon our souls, that we might enter into the Covenant you made with Abraham and be fruitful in faith as he. O let our descendants be as the stars in the sky.
O LORD, make us as your chosen ones, serving you constantly on this earth, and we shall rejoice forever in the glory of your kingdom with all your saints in light. Steadfast let us be in doing your will, in keeping the wolves at bay. May the sacrifice we offer be holy, and we be acceptable in your sight.
Your voice make known to us, LORD; let us hear and answer your call. A faith so simple and profound provide your disciples – make us as children before you. And as we seek you so, let us find you.... May the blood of your Son course through our veins, and so we bear fruit all our days in your holy NAME.
Mon, 26 June 2017
O great defender of the Mother of God
and of the faith itself,
courageously you declared
that Jesus is God indeed,
become Man in Mary His Mother;
this you made plain for all to see,
O shepherd of the people of God,
that truth might reign
and the Virgin might find
her proper place among us –
pray, O brave teacher,
that we shall not be afraid
to proclaim the truths
inscribed by the Spirit
upon the heart of the Church
and in her inspired writings;
and may indeed our Mother,
the Mother of Jesus,
the Mother of God,
be recognized for her preeminence
amongst the saints,
that the Word of the Lord might be fulfilled
and all generations call her blessed.
Mon, 26 June 2017
(Gn.13:2,5-18; Ps.15:1-5; Mt.7:6,12-14;)
“How narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road,
and how few there are who find it!”
In our first reading today, the way Abram walks with God is contrasted with the path Lot chooses for himself. Though the road seems wide and clear, this gate leads to damnation, and indeed, as our gospel states, is one which is chosen by the traveler himself; whereas the narrow path is one which is found in God.
Lot and Abram could no longer dwell together; their possessions were too great and the tensions were too high among their servants. Taking “no reproach against his neighbor,” acting as the just soul spoken of in our psalm, “Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife between you and me,’” and put the whole land at his disposal, offering to take what remained. So “Lot looked about,” Scripture tells us, to see what pleased his eyes, and then “chose for himself,” again the words of Scripture, that broad expanse of land which he thought would be fruitful for his needs. And where does this decision he takes by the sight of his own eyes lead him? To the depraved, to the reprobate, to the dogs and swine – to the infamous land of Sodom, whose people “were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord.” To such we are led by our senses.
Once Lot is gone, how is Abram led to his destination – are his feet led by his own eyes as well? No, the Lord comes to Him as guide. It is He who tells him to “set forth and walk about in the land.” It is again God and his faith which serve as his light. And what promise there is by way of this path! But what difficulties one must face to attain it.
When Abram arrived at his destination, “he built an altar to the Lord.” (In what contrast is this altar to the unholy sacrifices offered at Sodom.) The altar of Abram signifies both the faith of this just man and the sacrifice necessary to walk with God and find the life to which He leads us. We know that Abram’s path will be particularly rough, as will be that of his descendants. There will be slavery and wandering in the desert, and once come into the land of promise, it shall not remain with them. Indeed, it is only we now in the Spirit following the coming of Christ for whom that promise is fulfilled. And yet do we struggle. And yet every day must we examine our conscience and reform our lives to prepare ourselves to enter that gate which is so narrow. No sin will it accept. No foolish pride can exist in our hearts if we hope to enter life.
The way is rough, but what blessed protection the Lord gives by His guidance; and we “shall never be disturbed” by the trials of this world but come thereby to the sure promise of heaven.
O LORD, the wide road of the world
leads to damnation;
the narrow gate of the Cross of Christ
takes us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us be just, as Abraham, and as faithful to your Word. Not by our own eyes let us set forth, but led by your command. Your narrow way let us follow, the way that leads to life.
The just man thinks only the truth in his heart, and does not slander his fellow man. He is a man of peace who takes up no reproach against his neighbor but gives him preference of place. This is what it means to treat others as we would be treated, for when we give others such deference (as Abraham does for Lot), you, O LORD, defer to us… and we are truly blessed. For no one is as just as you.
Let us come to know your justice, LORD, and we shall be kept from the dogs and swine. Through the narrow gate let us enter and not the gate that is clear and wide, and we shall be preserved from all evil – for you will be at our side. And though the Cross does enter into our lives, it only serves to bless us with passage into your Promised Land.
Sun, 25 June 2017
(Gn.12:1-9; Ps.33:12-13,18-20,22; Mt.7:1-5)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
There is a plank in our own eye; there is but a speck in our brother’s. This is what the Lord sees. And this is what we see if we fear the Lord. If we fear the Lord, we remain humble before Him. If we fear the Lord, we will be released from judgment. If we fear the Lord, we indeed will be as Abram, following His blessed commands.
“Abram went as the Lord directed him,” our first reading tells us so aptly today. He left his father’s house at a word from God and followed wherever God led, his path illumined only by faith. He walked not by his eyes but only by his faith in the Lord’s promise to him; the Lord became his eyes and he trusted himself and all his family and all his possessions to these eyes which watched over him. In darkness and in quiet he sets out, the Lord as his only light and His voice as his only guide. Such faith, such blessed faith and humility.
Such faith must we all have, brothers and sisters, for it cannot be otherwise but that the Lord calls each one of us to such faith, to such trust; He calls each of us from our “father’s house” to walk with Him alone and find our way in His presence. Do we fear Him? Do we love Him? Are we humble before Him? If so, we will know the path upon which the Lord leads us; we will hear His voice speaking quietly in our ears and in our hearts. And we will follow Him. And He will bless us and fulfill His own call for our lives. He will remove the plank from our eyes and grace us with the ability to remove the speck from others’. He will be our wisdom in teaching, our strength in serving. We will not go forth vainly in our own power, but will know His hand guiding us in all we do, for all will be done in His Name. Then great things will be accomplished in us. Then we become sharers in the promise of Abraham.
The Lord is our God. He watches over. He judges. He leads. All healing and all grace and blessing come from His hand and not our own. Our eyes see only what is before us; His illumine the universe. But we may share in His vision, we may partake of His presence, if we have faith, if we humble ourselves before Him and go as He directs.
And as He blesses us so with His guidance, as we find ourselves coming into His kingdom, let us not fail to build an altar to His Name, let us remember to praise Him for His grace. And we shall find our path sure; and in time we shall come “by stages” to eternal life.
O LORD, let us not judge, but love;
let us go as you direct us.
YHWH, who can see as you see, who has vision so pure? Only he who repents of his sin and obediently follows your way, walking in harmony with his brother. If we are not humble, we are blind, for your power is not known to us. We shall remain in darkness forever if we do not come to faith in you.
Let us be faithful as Abraham; let us reflect his obedience to your Word. Let us listen this day to your Son and turn from hardness of heart and judgment of others that your kindness may be upon us, O LORD. If we are not kind and forgiving, neither shall we be forgiven, but rather bring condemnation upon our own souls – O let us repent of such blindness!
Save us, O LORD, from the death of sin, from vain pride; preserve our souls in this land of famine, in this foreign place. Let us leave behind the idols of this age and build an altar in our hearts to you. You are our God, you alone. Help us to leave all behind to find your way, walking humbly with one another. Then our eyes shall be opened.
Sat, 24 June 2017
(Jer.20:10-13; Ps.69:8-10,14,17,33-35; Rom.5:12-15; Mt.10:26-33)
“For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.”
Jeremiah “hear[s] the whisperings of many” who seek to “denounce him”; those who “watch for any misstep” plot his destruction: “Perhaps he will be trapped, then we can prevail, and take our revenge on him.” Like David he has “become an outcast to [his] brothers, a stranger to [his] mother’s children.” And for what does he suffer such persecution but for speaking the truth of God’s word to his fellow Israelites? As David declares to the Lord, “The insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me”; both the prophet and the king endure persecution for righteousness’ sake.
But both prophet and king declare victory in their struggle: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” Through the power of God it is they who “will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” The Lord hears their pleas for help, their prayers come before Him, “for the Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” And so both king and prophet end in joy, in utter hope, as David proclaims, “Let the heavens and the earth praise Him, the seas and whatever moves in them”; and Jeremiah likewise calls all to honor our unfailing God: “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for He has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.”
And, brothers and sisters, in what greater way is this salvation from the grasp of evil better known, more fully realized, than in our Lord Jesus Christ? Paul tells us, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and this death came to all men.” What greater persecutor have we than death itself? But now “the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many” – now all are saved by Him who has died, and has risen. Its clutches no longer hold dominion.
So Jesus exhorts the Twelve, and all who would conquer death and all sin, to “fear no one”: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” What power has the prince of this world over our immortal souls now that Jesus has come? He can’t touch us by his persecutions; and so now we are called to “proclaim on the housetops” what we “hear whispered” by the Lord in our hearts. Now with Jeremiah and David we must fearlessly “speak in the light,” for the Lord has made us a promise, and His Word is true – “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” But if we deny Him, He will deny us. Therefore, let us be heedless of the shame and the pain we share with our Savior and never fear to declare His truth in love to all. Nothing is greater than the power of His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us declare your glory,
you who set us free from the bonds of sin and death –
you who are our Savior!
YHWH, you have raised us from the power of sin and death, from the strength of our persecutors which we could not match. In the bonds of Satan we have been, and under his threat we dwelt in fear. But your Son has come to set us free that we might walk in liberty with Him and proclaim your holy Name to all the earth. Praise you, LORD! Thank you for your goodness to us. Let us live in your light.
O LORD, how hopeless we were, trapped in the bonds of death and sin. How could we hope when so oppressed that everywhere we looked we saw but emptiness and fear. But when we called out to you, you heard our plea… and your Son you sent into our midst to save us from all evil. Let us now with great zeal declare your glory, LORD, though it mean we must die for you. For in this death, this dying in your Name, indeed life comes to us once again.
To you we entrust our cause, dear LORD, and you are ever faithful. Save all men from the evil one!
Fri, 23 June 2017
O Sanctuary of the Father,
Temple of the Holy Spirit,
Mother of the Son of God
who carried Him in your womb
and contemplated Him
in your heart –
how shall we find Jesus
how shall we become
the temples of the Spirit
the Lord calls us all to be
if you do not pray for us,
if we are not formed
in your womb,
in the love
with which you are blessed?
Hold us in your soul, dear Mother,
that our spirits might join with your own
and we might thus become one
with our Lord and brother.
In us also let Him make His home.
Fri, 23 June 2017
O greatest of men born of woman,
before you were formed in the womb
the Lord called you;
while still in this cave
you leapt for joy
at His presence come to you…
a sharp, two-edged sword He made you
to hail the coming Messiah,
the Light in our midst,
the New Covenant born of the Old –
how shall we humble ourselves
as you have done;
how shall our call be realized
in flesh and blood
as was your own?
Pray, dear brother,
that from darkness we be taken,
from blindness and inability to speak
we be rescued,
that the Word among us
we may know
and raise our voices
to proclaim His salvation to all.
Fri, 23 June 2017
(Is.49:1-6; Ps.139:1-3,13-15; Acts 13:22-26: Lk.1:57-66,80)
“I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, he who hails the coming of the Lord, is born today. This voice speaks of the Word among us. And from before his birth he is called, in the womb he is formed, to proclaim with the sword of truth God’s salvation for His people. “Surely the hand of the Lord was with him,” and surely we find the grace of God by walking the path he blazed for us in the desert; for surely that way leads to the glory who is the Son of David.
Yes, “to us this word of salvation has been sent.” To us this light has been brought forth. We “distant peoples” hear now the call of the voice which pierces our souls: Make straight the way of the Lord! The tongue now speaks; no longer silenced, no longer hidden, it has risen from “the depths of the earth” to plainly declare the coming of Christ. Yes, in the womb of the Old Testament the Lord wonderfully formed the salvation of Israel, probing and scrutinizing all its ways and preparing it for birth in the light of day. And now what He hid in His quiver He shoots forth to wound with amazement the hearts who have waited to hear the Word of life. “John heralded His coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel”; by his voice a place is made for the Savior, Jesus.
At the turning point of the history of salvation John stands. He has come to direct souls to the Promised Land. For this he was made. To this call he answers – to lead us to the Son of Man. The old is passed away; now all is made new. Fulfillment has come. The womb has brought forth. The time of salvation is here. For He through whom time and the earth and heavens were made is now come to wash even the dirt from our feet. Listen to the voice which hails the Word of God in our midst. His call is for all ears; the light shines for all “who are God-fearing.”
Your recompense is upon you now. You, too, make known His light to the world.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, your Word of salvation you speak
through the mouth of John,
whom you have blessed with your might and power.
YHWH, your Word of salvation goes forth to the ends of the earth, proclaimed through the mouth of John, the fulfillment of the prophets of Israel. In his birth what is old passes away, and what is new comes. Now the light of the nations enters this house.
Loose our tongues to declare your glory, dear LORD. You who have formed us in the depths of the earth, in the womb of the Church, now gather us into your arms that we might be raised unto the glory of your Son, brought into union with you who are our Father and our God. O may we share your Name as we are born into your kingdom!
Let your hand be upon us for good, O LORD; let your will be accomplished in us as it has been in John. Let all souls know that it is you who probe us and know us, you who understand all our thoughts and ways. May all our thoughts and actions be in accord with your own, and so in all things let us declare to all that your Son has come – O let us be His servants!
Thu, 22 June 2017
(Dt.7:6-11; Ps.103:1-4,8,10,17; 1Jn.4:7-16; Mt.11:25-30)
“He has loved us
and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.”
Who better to hear from on this blessed feast than John, the Lord’s beloved disciple, whose words indeed continually breathe the fact that “God is love” and who eternally exhorts us to “love one another.” John cannot but speak of the love God has for His children and the love we must offer in return; and all of our Scripture today echoes his understanding and calls us to be washed in the blood of Christ.
In our gospel Jesus calls unto the hearts of all: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” He invites His little ones: “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” O so gentle and humble of heart is the Lord our God… so loving, so kind! David sings of Him so well in his psalm of praise and thanksgiving: “Merciful is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” Why does God’s king “bless the Lord” with “all [his] being” today? Because “not according to our sins does He deal with us.” Because of His forgiving grace – this greatest sign of His love, embodied in His only Son. And so, as Moses says to all the people in our hearing on this holy feast, we should “love Him and keep His commandments,” for He is “the faithful God who keeps His merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation.” Yes, this covenant of love has been fulfilled in Jesus’ blood, in Jesus’ heart from which His blood does come, and “when anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God”; then we “come to know and believe in the love God has for us.”
And to whom does the love of God come so readily? Who finds such faith in the Lamb of God and knows that “He pardons all [our] iniquities” and “crowns [us] with kindness and compassion”? Jesus in His prayer to the Father states, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children,” and this is confirmed by Moses, who tells the Israelites, “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.” It is not the strong and the wise of the world the Lord showers His love upon, but the humble and the lowly. These know the love the mighty and humble, gentle Lord holds in His Sacred Heart. Alleluia!
Brothers and sisters, “it was because the Lord loved you… that He brought you out with a strong hand from the place of slavery.” Let your soul “find rest” in that merciful love this day, and let it share that love with all others.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, how you love us!
sending your only Son to die for our salvation –
let us come to Him this day and know your love.
YHWH, so loving you are that you share your very self with us in the Person of the Son of God, in Jesus the Christ. How is it love come to us so truly? How is it you, who are love, make yourself known to us in such a real way? It is because you are love and desire therefore to share love with us, your poor creatures.
O LORD, you forgive all our sins, you heal all our ills… all that is evil you take from us that we might be one with you who are love. O that we might have a heart so humble and lowly as your own! that we might truly come to know your love, that we might truly come to be your own children. Let us share your love with one another and we shall find ourselves living in your love.
In you let us take our rest, O LORD, in your Sacred Heart. Jesus is your very heart and His blood you would have course through our veins. O let His Heart beat in our own, that overwhelmed with His love we might become one with you in Heaven. Give us your Spirit of love this day to make us your own people, your own flesh and blood.
Wed, 21 June 2017
O kings of martyrdom
who indeed laid down your very lives
rather than heed the dictates
of an evil emperor,
whose loyalty to the Lord
and the Church He established
your defense of the faith
written in the blood you shed –
pray that the mediocrity,
the utter inability to stand for truth
in this relativist age,
will be defeated
by souls founded firmly
in the Spirit of Christ
and in the Cross
He offers forth
for our salvation.
Pray for leaders of Church and State
to embrace your singular devotion.
Wed, 21 June 2017
O lover of poverty
who gave up great wealth
to find her abiding
within the walls of your heart,
a heart which turned thus
to God’s people
and the shepherding of them
with great care –
pray that we too may hear
and come to realize in our lives
the call of our Lord
to give up all things
for the sake of the kingdom,
to be attached to nothing
but service of the poor,
service of God Himself
in the humble of this earth;
pray that like you
we may have the heart of a shepherd,
of a laborer in Jesus’ vineyard,
united in the Spirit
with all God’s children
with whom we share His Heaven.
Wed, 21 June 2017
(2Cor.11:1-11; Ps.111:1-4,7-8; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
And what we need is to be holy as He is holy. And it is this we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. We simply seek to be like Him, and that all obstacles to holiness be removed from us. And like a loving father He meets our needs.
And Paul is a father to the community at Corinth; he loves them “with the jealousy of God Himself.” He has given them in marriage to Christ and is solicitous that the wedding chamber not be corrupted by false doctrine. “Super apostles” have come among them who “win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words,” rattling on like empty wind and taking money from Paul’s children for the sound and the fury they bring. But they signify nothing by all their skill; they are but ravenous wolves amidst the flock.
Paul says of himself, “I may be unskilled in speech but I know that I am not lacking in knowledge”; and how his words echo Christ’s own, that we should not get lost in mere words. And how like a father knowing and caring for the needs of his children is Paul. In our psalm, too, is reflected the Father’s “gracious and merciful” nature which Paul shows to the Corinthians: “Sure are all His precepts… wrought in truth and equity.” This knowledge of God is what must be conveyed, and it is this Paul offers the people.
And like a caring father who provides sacrificially for his children, Paul refuses to take return from them for his work: his work among them is a labor of love for which he seeks no recompense. By this they must learn how freely God gives to those who seek Him and be purged of their notion that it is those whom they pay, and greatly, who care for them. Indeed, the Father knows always what we need, and gives it freely to those who simply come as repentant children. He exacts no cost and requires no dramatics to receive His presence and His love.
Forgive my folly here, but why do you turn to the icons and idols of this glamorous age to find the peace you seek, when in His Church the Father waits to answer all your needs? Do not be led astray by the powerful-seeming images which surround us in this day; come to the Lord of all, and before Him in silence kneel and pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.”
O LORD, you know what we need
and provide our food, the Bread He is,
through the apostles.
YHWH, let us not be seduced by our pride – it is not by our own words and our own will we shall come to Heaven. It is you who must inspire us; we must but be your humble servants. Then great deeds will be accomplished in us, for it will be your work alone that we do.
You, O LORD, are faithful and just to all who call upon you in truth, to all who have faith in your enduring love. Those who share your mercy with others are blessed with freedom from all cares, for in your mercy the evil one finds no place. Let all souls pray to you and know that you desire to give us all we need.
You are not blind, O LORD, to our plight; we know nothing of which you are unaware. And so let us not reach out our hands to the fruit of disobedience – let us not seek in ourselves or in those around us the glory that comes only from you. Then we shall remain in your Garden forever, doing the work for which you made us. Then we shall be wed to your Son.
Tue, 20 June 2017
O patron of youth
whose innocence was unsurpassed,
whose desire to give yourself
to the Lord
in poverty and purity
led you to relinquish
your wealth in this world
at a tender age
that you might embrace Jesus
pray for the youth of our day
and the child in each of our souls,
that all might turn away
from the temptations which surround
and threaten to enter and enslave;
let all turn toward
the love of the Lord
and His heavenly call,
a call to a kingdom
that surpasses everything of this earth
and brings the joy
known only in breathing and speaking
His holy Name.
Tue, 20 June 2017
(2Cor.9:6-11; Ps.112:1-4,9; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Keep your deeds of mercy secret,
and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
In the ground, hidden and secret, the seed is planted. From the womb of the earth it sprouts, and gives its yield. We plant the seed; God provides the seed. And it is through His power that anything which we plant grows and increases. So it is with our generous acts, as well as our prayer and fasting.
“Happy the man who fears the Lord… His generosity shall endure forever.” For “He who supplies seed for the sower and bread for the eater will provide in abundance; He will multiply the seed you sow and increase your generous yield.” Trusting in Him, we shall know His blessings; and greater blessings than these shall we know and shall others know, who praise God for the gifts He provides. Wonderful it is to behold God’s ever-increasing generosity; more wonderful yet to participate in it. It is a fountain welling up to eternal life, in which we are cleansed and made of light.
But let us take to heart the warning of the Lord this day: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for others to see.” The world does not see God, it cannot know God. Thus God is termed “hidden” and “secret.” And though we are to make God known to the world, we cannot do so unless we exist where He is. In the recesses of our heart, in the quiet, we shall find Him. In the center of our being we must place Him. Closing the doors of our rooms, entering the stillness of our souls… kneeling there we shall find Him. And He shall hear us, and He shall reward us with the blessing of answered prayer, of fruitful yield in His Name. If we do not remain with Him there in secret – even in the midst of the city, even among the distractions of this world – all our actions will be in vain. It does us no good to gain the whole world and lose our souls; and all our good deeds are empty show without Him who is goodness at their core.
“He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” Let us know the blessing of bearing fruit in God. Let us give generously, knowing that for all the good we do, the Lord will provide yet more seed for us to sow, and we shall reap in abundance His heavenly blessings. If we do all without fanfare, but quietly, humbly, secretly trusting all to His care – the blessing of His presence we shall keep with us, and we shall see our works and our prayers bear fruit in the kingdom of God.
May God bless all humble souls with His bounty.
May He reveal Himself to their hearts.
O LORD, let us give all we have,
and give always from the heart,
and we will be giving with you…
and you will increase our yield.
YHWH, let us cheerfully give to you all we have; all we have is from you and so it is but justice that we place all in your hands. You will multiply our offering if in sincerity we sacrifice it to you.
In secret let us keep our deeds of mercy; hidden in the depths of our soul, let them grow by your Spirit. In the stillness you reside, and so, there we shall find you. There you shall hear and bless our prayers. O LORD, let our prayers rise up to you!
Help us to trust in you, dear God, and in your generous love. You wish to bless us with all that is good but cannot do so unless we believe in your goodness, unless we reflect your grace and mercy in our lives. We are called to live with you and remain with you. Let the light of faith dawn upon us this day.
Then we shall fear nothing; then we shall live in awe of your presence, LORD. Your glory dwelling in us and shining through us, we shall be greatly blessed. Then we shall give freely to all!
Mon, 19 June 2017
(2Cor.8:1-9; Ps.146:2,5-9; Mt.5:43-48)
“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
Our psalm today begins with praise of God and the proclamation of the happiness of those “whose hope is in the Lord,” for it is He who “gives food to the hungry” and “raises up those that were bowed down.” Freeing captives, giving sight to the blind, protecting strangers… such is our God and Father. And in our gospel Jesus tells us, “You are sons of your heavenly Father,” and “you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be His image, doing the things He does.
Paul presents Jesus, the only Son of the Father, as our model in generosity. In his gentle reminder he states: “For your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty.” He also presents to us the Macedonians, whose “overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity.” And Jesus makes clear that our generosity, our “sharing in the service” of God, must extend beyond our friends. The Father makes no distinction – “His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust” – and so we are challenged “to know the grace of God” completely by giving our love to all, even as Christ’s arms are open to everyone as He hangs on the cross.
How is it that poverty produces such generosity? And how can we share in both with our God? The poverty of which the Apostle speaks and which Jesus exemplifies and calls us to follow is the emptying of self of all which is our own, and in the very act of emptying, of giving, is generosity itself. Whether it be a man of riches handing over his money or a man of great love performing acts of kindness, he who has is divesting himself of that which he has to enrich another. We remember that when the woman touched the hem of His garment, Jesus perceived power had gone forth from Him (Mk.5:30). Here is that emptying of love to heal the other. And on the cross, of course, Jesus emptied Himself completely… and so He died.
Should we be afraid, brothers and sisters, of sharing so completely in Jesus’ love? Do we think that if we give to others, we will have nothing remaining for ourselves? Is Jesus hanging on the cross the end of the story? No, brothers and sisters, we should not be afraid. We must see, indeed, that the more we give, whether of money or of love, the more we are bound to receive. Do you think that God does not see your generosity? Do you not realize that He rewards those who are His children? Do you think Christ still hangs on the cross?
Come to the holiness of God, brothers and sisters; there is no greater grace on earth. Give of yourselves entirely, love even your enemies, and you shall know in ineffable wonder the surpassing love of God for all. Such is our call and our joy.
O LORD, let us be perfect as you are perfect,
loving as Jesus on the Cross –
we will not know you otherwise.
YHWH, how shall we be made perfect as you are perfect; how shall we love as Jesus on the Cross? You alone are generous in giving. You are only of love. Help us to be unsparing as you who have given us your only Son.
It is you who provide seed, you who provide bread. We can produce no nourishment for our lives or the lives of others by our own hands. All is yours, but you will give abundantly to those who seek to love as you. All we need we will have, O LORD, and more, if we empty ourselves of all we own.
O make us ready to give all over to you, to love as you do! Let us not be afraid to share our very lives even with those who would kill us. To them let us give more freely, for they need your love all the more. You cannot but help love all those in need, LORD, to feed the hungry, to give sight to the blind, to set captives free… and we who hope in you, what else can we do but reflect your eternal glory?
Sun, 18 June 2017
O sign of perfect solitude
who heeded so well
the Lord’s command
to enter into your closet
in order to pray,
whose great measure of self-denial
led you to the peak of contemplation
in God’s holy presence,
whose only desire
was that souls might draw close
to Him –
pray all who seek the Lord
may approach Him with a whole heart,
a heart set on Him alone,
that in such perfect devotion
all might find Him present
in their souls, in their spirits,
and be elevated in their lowliness
to His indescribable divine love,
to His peace which passes
all our understanding
but draws us ever closer
to His wounded side.
Sun, 18 June 2017
(2Cor.6:1-10; Ps.98:1-4; Mt.5:38-42)
“When a person strikes you on the right cheek,
turn and offer him the other.”
“Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” Alleluia! And how do we know the salvation of the Lord except by the cross. This is our joy. These “difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots”; the “hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings” – these crosses bring us immeasurable joy, for through them we share in the suffering of Christ and so also in His resurrection glory. Thus the Lord can encourage us not to seek to avoid such suffering; thus He instructs us to be prepared to suffer over and above that which comes to us – for He knows that as we give of ourselves in this ready way, as we lay down our lives without hesitation, we shall find ourselves in the hand of God, we shall come quickly to join Him in heaven. With Paul, we must “present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials,” and His salvation will be made known in us. And we will rejoice with Paul in all our sorrows. And we will be able to exclaim with him, “We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!” For the fullness of Christ will reside with us.
Give. Give, and do not count the cost. How hard it is for us to freely give of our possessions, much less of our very lives. Are we ready to “give to the man who begs” from us? Are we prepared to care for others’ needs? Or do we hold tightly to our possessions, calling them our own? And what of the possession of our pride and the protection of ourselves from injury? What of our judgment of others? Are we ready to give these up so completely? Can we turn the other cheek to those who do us wrong, offering the pain to God and finding great comfort there, or do we need to strike back against the offending party, exacting the retribution due us according to the law? Do we indeed live by the law, or have we transcended the law: do we now live by the Law of love? Are we a new creation in Christ?
It is not easy to lay down our lives in such a way as Christ calls us. The world ever mocks the absurdity of this sacrifice. But we who are in Jesus should know the absolute truth of Paul’s words and Jesus’ instruction. If we are to be Christians, we must know the joy and freedom that come from suffering all with Him who is our salvation. He is all that matters. If we have Him, we have all things. Come to this truth, brothers and sisters; leave behind the fears wrought by attachment to the things of this world. This world is of sin, anyway. As we lose our possessions for Him, He gives us all the more. As the body dies, the spirit comes to life. What the devil would take from us, let us give him, for he cannot touch the life that is Christ: our souls are in the hand of God. And, as with Job, all will be restored to us, and more, in the day of the Lord. So, “wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left,” let us learn always to turn the other cheek to our persecutors.
O LORD, grant us the grace to endure all trials
in patience and with love,
that we may give witness to your salvation at work in us.
YHWH, your salvation has come to us, and it comes in the form of a Cross; in the suffering and death of your Son we are set free to rejoice in you. Though we seem to have nothing, though we be beaten and robbed, yet Jesus is with us, and with Him everything is ours. O let us accept the salvation that He brings this day! Let us be patient amid all trials and we will know your presence among us.
Help us, dear LORD, to walk with your Son on the way of the Cross. He is struck repeatedly; He is stripped and forced to carry the burden of our sin. We beg you not to turn your back on us, though we have turned our backs on Him. Help us to do what we are unable to do – to give witness to the truth and love of the Christ… to endure all as He has done.
O to be disciples of Him who saves us! O to know His holy innocence and unending life! O to sing with joy to you, dear God, in the unbreakable Spirit of your Son.
Sat, 17 June 2017
(Dt.8:2-3,14b-16a; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; 1Cor.10:16-17; Jn.6:51-58)
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
“Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” And here is the Word standing before our eyes. Here is the Bread that gives us life. Here is Jesus Christ, in this Blessed Sacrament, nourishing all our lives.
Yes, His “flesh is true food, and [His] blood is true drink,” for it feeds not only our bodies, but our souls as well, anointing us with His presence, joining us to His sacrifice. And so it becomes His flesh we carry in our bodies; so it becomes His blood running in our veins. For, as Paul asks so pointedly, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” And so, do we not become like our God, who comes to us so humbly in this food, who becomes one with our own flesh and blood? Is heaven not here with us and within us as we eat of His presence? Or does He lie about His gift?
Brothers and sisters, nothing more wonderful could the mind of man conceive than this blessed gift we receive at the hands of our own Savior. It is a wonder beyond our understanding and yet a wonder truly present with us, as real as our own flesh and blood. As the Lord “fed [the Israelites] in the desert with manna, a food unknown to [their] fathers,” so we feed now on this food unknown to all – this bread of the angels. And though our doubting hearts may question, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat,” when we partake of this Sacrament of the altar, we find no question remaining; for in faith we taste His glory.
Over and over Jesus repeats His refrain: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” knowing how slow we are to hear, so slow of heart to believe – how easily we “forget the Lord, [our] God, who brought [us] out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” And falling back to the “waterless ground,” we fall away from His table and fail to realize that “with the best of wheat He fills” us. But listen to Him. Come to Him. Eat. Drink. Do not have unbelieving hearts – but believe! Be as children, pure and lowly, and “glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion,” and what is beyond your understanding will become the light of your understanding, and lead you to eternal life. He has given His “flesh for the life of the world.” Live in Him, brothers and sisters. Live in Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Body of Christ" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, how you provide for us!
giving us even your Son’s Body and Blood
to nourish us on our journey to you.
YHWH, feed us with your Son’s Body and Blood, for He alone is the finest wheat and the drink that lasts unto eternity.
Apart from you we are dead in our sin, LORD, wandering aimlessly in this desert filled with snakes. But He came indeed to save us, to share with us the life that is you. As to an oasis we come to Him, and He does not fail to revive us at His table, at the altar of His sacrifice.
O LORD, may we ever find nourishment in Jesus; each day let us be fed by His Word and His Sacrament, which makes that Word so real… real as the blood coursing through our veins. He indeed took flesh for our sakes, and now by His sacrifice that flesh He leaves with us in this Bread of the angels.
Let us never turn from Him, LORD, but participate always in His Body and Blood. Make us your children, make us like Him, the Word made flesh to join us to you.
Fri, 16 June 2017
(2Cor.5:14-21; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mt.5:33-37)
“The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction
that since one died for all, all died.”
How strong is Paul’s “yes” for the Lord. With what ardor does he cry out: “The old order is passed away; now all is new!” How purely he is led in the Spirit to call to our very souls, “In Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” He has no need to swear by earth or heaven of his conviction that Jesus died for our salvation. He is indeed a new creation and can but speak of that which he knows to the depths of his soul; driven by the miracle of his own reconciliation to God, he desires naturally – by the supernatural grace at work within him – to draw others to “become the very holiness of God.”
Paul sings out with our psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being bless His holy name.” He cries out with David: “He pardons all your iniquities, He heals all your ills.” This is the truth which impels him, which he cannot but preach – that our sins are forgiven in Christ the Lord and we need but to come to Him to be raised up to new life. This is His ministry of reconciliation; this is the message entrusted to him… and he must appeal for God’s holy will to be accomplished in us.
Let me join in his shout, let me state so unequivocally – let us all be convicted with Paul of the love God has for us, of the death He has died for us… of the new life we have in Him. Yes, let us indeed shout it from the rooftops, let us cry it out for all to hear. Many are on the path to destruction, many are dying in their transgressions; all are inclined to the condemnation the devil has wrought in our lives, and all must be encouraged, all must hear the exhortation to turn from their sins. May we give our “yes” firmly to God and our “no” firmly to the devil, that others might know in our very lives of the holiness of God and the glory to which He calls us.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord”: this the world must know. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us”: this the sinful heart wallowing in the darkness of doubt must hear. The blood of Christ must be shown to all. Let us not hesitate to speak the great truth of God’s salvation through Christ the Son. Let us not fail to live His new life every day of our lives.
The Lord calls. The sound of His voice is unmistakable. All our sin is dead in Him; through Him we are raised to life. May this Word go forth to the ends of the earth, and may we help carry it there.
O LORD, by Jesus’ grace let us be reconciled to you –
let us say Yes to Him and No to the world.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you. Let us be a new creation through Christ your Son and give our ‘yes’ ever to your will. Sure of soul let us be, of the salvation you bring in Jesus and His messengers. He has died for our sakes that we might be raised with Him. O let our transgressions be far from us this day!
What kindness you show to your wayward sons, O LORD. None of us has been found worthy of your kingdom, but in Jesus all our sins you wash away that we might stand in your presence. May all hear the call of the Apostle to our souls and be reconciled to you in Jesus’ Name. May all know the grace and mercy you offer freely forth.
Make us simple and make us sure; let us in all things do your will, giving our ‘yes’ to you and our ‘no’ firmly to the evil one. Then to Heaven we will come, LORD, to dwell with you upon your throne – O let us enter the New Jerusalem as your sons and daughters impelled only by your love.
Thu, 15 June 2017
(2Cor.4:7-15; Ps.116:10-11,15-18; Mt.5:27-32)
“While we live we are constantly being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake,
so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh.”
In our gospel we continue to see how the grace of Jesus supersedes the Law of Moses. Yesterday we were told not only must we not murder, but that we must not even be angry with or speak ill of another. Today Jesus tells us the commandment against adultery applies even to our eyes, to our thoughts, and that God allows no divorce… And of what does Jesus speak but that which Paul tells us as well – that our bodies, our sinful flesh, must die in order for the glory of God contained therein to shine. Jesus makes this graphically apparent when He speaks of gouging out our eye and cutting off our hand: the body must provide no hindrance to entering the reign of God, and so it must die; sin must indeed be rooted out of us.
“In earthen vessels” we are, weak and mortal, subject to the afflictions of time. The trials of this world therefore do not escape us and indeed are necessary for us to overcome, to purify, our mortal flesh. We must be chastised. We must suffer. But we do not suffer in vain. “We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed.” The trials of this earth have no ultimate hold over us; in fact, they do not lead to death but to life. Why? Solely because it is “the dying of Jesus” we carry in our bodies; entirely because we unite our suffering to Christ’s, it becomes redemptive and not destructive. “We have that Spirit of faith,” and that Spirit of faith is life to us even in our greatest afflictions; and that Spirit of faith turns the deaths we undergo to new life. How? By our overcoming of these deaths and thereby giving death to sin.
A man is addicted to alcohol – this is a temptation and an affliction for him. By the power of Christ and faith in His Name, he puts down the bottle. Who can measure the grace at work in him? Who can capture the life he now knows? And we all have our addictions, be they anger or lust or greed or whatever, and they all must be overcome. And as we overcome them, what freedom do we find. For in this we thwart the devil’s plan to bring us to destruction by the weakness of the flesh. He does not like to see our faith in Jesus spawning such resurrections. And neither does the world like to see a man make progress in God. So the afflictions will be doubled; the world and the devil will attack our weak human vessels all the more. But “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones”; and the more we set aside the sins of the flesh, the more He will bless us – the greater He will preserve us from evil.
He that is in us is far greater than he that is in the world, brothers and sisters. And the more the devil tempts us, the stronger only do we become, because the God of life holds even this purveyor of death in His all-powerful hand. We must but have faith and we will find life; through all our afflictions we will rejoice.
O LORD, all must be sacrificed
for the sake of the kingdom,
and in the death of this mortal flesh we shall find life.
YHWH, how sweet is the death of your faithful ones who unite themselves to the dying of your Son! How blessed is the fruit of such sacrifice! For not only is life revealed in the flesh of those who die for the sake of Jesus, but also in those to whom such witness speaks. And so, indeed, let our bodies die, our earthen vessels be broken, that our spirits might live forever with you in Heaven.
O LORD, despite the afflictions that come, though we are indeed delivered to death, yet we shall pay our vows in the presence of all your people; yet we shall remain faithful to our call to serve you by laying down our lives. For we are not adulterers and we wish for no lover but you alone. May we be wed to your Son in His sacrifice that we might be wed to Him in glory!
All our bonds you loose, O LORD, when we are prepared to die, when we hold to nothing of this sinful life. And so we shall not despair nor be destroyed even as we bleed for you and the love of our neighbor.
Wed, 14 June 2017
(2Cor.3:15-4:1,3-6; Ps.85:9-14; Mt.5:20-26)
“See the splendor of the gospel showing forth the glory of Christ.”
Today the gospel is preached: Jesus, the image of God, has come among us, “glory dwelling in our land,” and removed the veil from our understanding so that now we “are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The words of life are spoken by the Lord; the Holy Spirit comes amongst us as light to illumine our minds and lead us beyond the bounds of the law to the kingdom of God itself. And we must live in that light, we must make it our own, becoming children of the light of the Spirit of God, “that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.” He has indeed come amongst us, salvation is at hand, and we must become perfect as the Father is perfect, as Jesus who is the pure reflection of the Father is perfect – we must allow the Spirit to remove any taint of darkness from our souls.
Jesus tells us, “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Here He means that the law may lead us out of Egypt, it may serve to release us from the bonds of this world of sin, but this guard we have while treading this earth is not enough to bring us into the promised land, into the heavenly kingdom to which we are called. And as long as we concern ourselves only with fulfilling the minimal requirements of the law (not to murder, not to commit adultery…), we will continue to suffer; we will remain unfulfilled. Jesus calls us to greater than that: He calls us into His very light of perfection in the presence of the Father. This call is implanted upon the soul of each one of us, and as long as we ignore it, as long as we veil our minds to the depth and the breadth of this call to perfection with Christ… as long as we say, “Well, I haven’t killed anyone,” and stop there… so long we will remain unsatisfied, so long will the fires burn – so long will we be in prison paying the last penny.
Jesus is calling you now, brothers and sisters; Paul and all the true preachers of Holy Church are calling you now to remove the veil from your eyes, to come into the Lord’s light – to cease to make excuses for your sins, however small they may seem – to seek perfection in Christ… to find the kingdom of God. The Spirit will aid you in your journey; He will be with you every step of your walk on the way of perfection, be assured of this. The Lord does not call us to Himself and then leave us alone to struggle vainly. He is with us through all our trials. But we must come to Him and live in His light of purity, and shine that light for others to see.
O LORD, your kingdom comes
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
who purges us of sin
and makes us shine with His radiance.
YHWH, your glory shines now in our midst in the face of Christ, and He calls us to that same glory by the Spirit that is within us. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world; let us make known your glory by our words and actions.
In the way of salvation we walk, insofar as we follow the commands of your Son and His love. He calls us to dwell with you, O LORD, to reconcile with one another and be perfect as you are perfect – to find our holiness fulfilled. We fall short as long as we limit ourselves to the principles of the law; your glory is far beyond the basics of the law, and it is to your glory and your love Jesus calls us.
What a gift is ours in Christ! Union with you, dear Father in Heaven! Let us not be blinded by the god of the present age, by unbelieving minds, but let the veil be lifted from our faces to gaze upon the glory of your Son and so be transformed into that glory by the Spirit upon us. Alleluia!
Tue, 13 June 2017
(2Cor.3:4-11; Ps.99:5-9; Mt.5:17-19)
“Not the smallest letter of the law,
not the smallest part of a letter,
shall be done away with until it all comes true.”
Jesus comes to fulfill the law and the prophets. The law watches over us while we are here in this world. It guards us and puts to death the sin that is inherent in our earthly nature. There is great glory in this blessed protection, as is witnessed in our psalm today – “Holy is the Lord, our God” – because it acquaints us with God’s justice and, as said, watches vigilantly over us to maintain our standing in the presence of God. But the law does not bring us to the fullness of God’s love; it does not bring us into the heavenly kingdom and “the glory that endures.” Moses brings the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan, but he does not cross over with them. He looks out over the Promised Land from his place on the mountaintop, but does not enter therein. It is Joshua who leads the people into the land promised through Moses (as even he does in today’s Office of Readings). And so it is Jesus who brings us to the heavenly kingdom by His law of love.
In speaking elsewhere of the glory of love (1Cor.13:8), Paul tells us that prophecy shall fail and tongues shall cease but love is eternal, favored well beyond any other gift. Prophecies speak of earthly matters and the law is for our earthly nature, but love speaks of God and heaven. We must be very careful to heed the words of Christ and realize that as long as we are in this world and subject to the sin that our flesh brings, the law has a prominent place in our lives and cannot be jettisoned prematurely – as many advocate by their lack of diligence to its precepts, presuming heaven before its time – yet we must always remember that it is the glory of heaven and not of earth to which Jesus calls us, and that there the law will be fulfilled; there we shall be made perfect in the light of God.
The law is “destined to pass away” only insofar as it is fulfilled, and therefore it never really passes away but is subsumed by a greater law. Let us continue to glory in the chastising hand of God and in the service of purification the law provides us. Let us come by its means to the flesh of Christ, and by the grace of God enter fully into Him.
Jesus is our Promised Land, brothers and sisters; with the law as our guide, but above all with faith in our hearts, let us come into His holy, eternal, loving presence. We have the manna of the Eucharist to share this day; tomorrow we shall feast in fullness on the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ.
O LORD, your commands must be fulfilled
or they shall remain, along with our sin.
YHWH, you are holy and your glory surpasses all that is of heaven and earth. Though we are your creation and you are present to us, though you are with us even in the law you gave to Moses, and though we need your law to purge us of all evil, to put to death the deeds of the flesh… yet in such death we are not fulfilled. We must come to join you in your glory; we must find life in you.
And so, O holy LORD, your Son walks among us, not to destroy the law or contradict the prophets who call us from our wayward path, but to fulfill their voice by the very presence of the Word. Now your holiness has taken flesh, and so at your mountain we can worship in Spirit and in truth. Now we may enter your kingdom.
It is in Jesus we are saved from the death the law brings; it is through Him we find the ministry of the Spirit and so the glory that passes not away. This glory is your very presence speaking to us and shining upon us, dear LORD. O let us call upon your NAME and dwell with you forever!
Mon, 12 June 2017
O gentle preacher of the Word,
the fire of the Holy Spirit
upon your soul
for the conversion of heretics
and the leading of all
to God –
hold us in your arms
even as the infant Jesus
who appeared to you
along the way,
and pray that the Word
may be instilled in our hearts
even as it was in your own,
that we shall never go astray
but always have the consolation
of the Spirit of God
and His love and innocence
to lead us through this life
till we find ourselves
at home in the Father’s arms,
where you dwell in peace
with all His blessed saints.
Pray for us, our teacher and brother, this day.
Mon, 12 June 2017
(2Cor.1:18-22; Ps.119:129-133,135; Mt.5:13-16)
“God is the one who firmly establishes us.”
“Light of the world” and “salt of the earth” – this is what we are by the power of God. It is by Him we are “set on a hill” to give “light to all in the house”; it is we who preserve the integrity of creation. It is a holy call and a demanding one, and we should not waver in our resolve to follow the Lord and fulfill His work and His will; for it is indeed His will that we show His goodness before the eyes of men, and so “He who anointed us and sealed us” will always strengthen us for our task – by Him who holds the entire world in His palm, our own work will be made light.
But heed the words of our readings: we must always give our “yes” to God. Having put our hand to the plow, we cannot turn back. In fact, we should say with the psalmist, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands”; so great should be our love for God and for His life-giving words that ever do we thirst more greatly for the love and the light He brings us through our walking in them. His discipline is redeeming and freeing; and as we drink in its light, as we find ourselves becoming one with Him and with His Son who has shown us clearly and completely the way of perfection, we become the light He is. And we cannot but shine that same light to others, directing them to Him who establishes all holy souls in His blessed kingdom.
What joy should be ours as we find ourselves becoming one with God as His children of light. What absolute exhilaration is evident in Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians, as well as in our psalm. The source of such excitement is his firmness in faith; the Spirit is speaking in his heart and he is not afraid. Indeed, he takes his very life, his daily bread, in proclaiming it.
Have we such faith in our hearts, or have we somehow gone flat? Can we proclaim our unwavering trust in the Lord, or is our light still shaded by doubts and fears? If our love for God is true and our love for one another is real, we shall be firmly established – our light shall go forth.
Let us pray to Him that from the light of His words we shall not be distracted. The light of His presence is all that matters. Shine forth His light to the world.
O LORD, may the Spirit of Truth be with us
to guide us by His holy light.
YHWH, your promises have been fulfilled in Jesus and in Him you firmly establish our place before you, the Holy Spirit in our hearts. You call us to be salt and light to this world, to be the disciples of your Son. Help us to be steadfast in that call, that the light of the Spirit might go out to the ends of the earth.
We are anointed with the Christ and have His life within us. He it is who walks before us, making our footsteps firm. We must follow in His way and give our ‘yes’ entirely to you. O LORD, let us not waver in our weakness but ever keep your commands and so radiate your goodness to all men. Make our witness sure and true; let us ever remain in the light of your presence.
O LORD, let all praise be given to you from hearts filled with your glory. With open mouth let us ever yearn for your Word. In wonder let us stand before you, worshiping ever in your kingdom as your holy children. Let your countenance shine on your servants; transform us into your light.
Sun, 11 June 2017
(2Cor.1:1-7; Ps.34:2-9; Mt.5:1-12)
“Blessed are those persecuted for holiness’ sake;
the reign of God is theirs.”
Here is the core teaching of our faith. Here are the beatitudes, the call to sweet humility which flows like blessed honey from the lips of our Savior. And that teaching is that the humbled shall be exalted, that those who mourn and sorrow for the lack of love we find in this tainted world and who strive to bring that love to the hard heart of man shall be blessed, are blessed, for they share in the sufferings of Christ, who wept for the sins of His people, who, looking out upon them from the cross cried: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why has this world made in the image of Christ turned so against Him, and when shall it return to the love of God? And we who cry with Christ, even for our enemies, even for the most despicable criminal, we shall know the joy He finds – like the repentant thief, we shall be this day with Him in paradise.
“Just as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the consolation,” St. Paul so concisely states. One can hear him brimming with joy as he speaks of the comfort we find in the Lord in all our afflictions, and the grace of sharing that consolation with others. This is our great possession. This is the kingdom of God within us: to see through all trouble and affliction, to conquer it in Jesus’ Name – to find such strength even while here on earth to overcome all evil and come to heaven. “Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you… Be glad and rejoice.” How marvelously the Lord exhorts us to come to the glory of heaven, to overcome the dark with light. For light it is where we dwell, and this light is unconquerable.
Let us make room for Him in our hearts, brothers and sisters; let us give place to Him in our lives. Let us even in the simplest ways show heaven’s glory here on earth. If we are lowly and we are true, our light cannot help but shine. And for those who seek it our lamps will shine, and we shall illumine one another. Let sweet humility be your treasure and the Lord’s peace your goal in life.
The angel of the Lord is around us to save us. Nothing of this earth shall touch us. Let us lay down our lives to destroy death’s bonds.
O LORD, it is the cross of suffering with Christ
that brings us great joy.
YHWH, blessed are we when persecuted because of our love for you, because of our desire to be as your Son, for enduring all the sufferings this world brings we find great joy in your presence. You console the afflicted who call out to you, for you are the refuge of all who suffer for your sake.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy; let us be made whole in your Son. If we must sorrow and mourn to be conformed to your Son, to be purged of all sin and join Him in your kingdom, let it be so. Let us take our strength in you; in you we find refuge. Reward in Heaven is all we desire – to you let us come by way of the Cross of your only Son.
Bless you, LORD, for the goodness you show to us, for the joy you bring us in our suffering for you. You deliver us from every danger, and so we stand firm in hope, consoled by the promise in the words of Jesus. Let us remain ever blessed as we set our hearts on serving you.
Sat, 10 June 2017
O son of encouragement
and of consolation in the Holy Spirit,
you who were filled with faith
and lived that faith for the Lord,
giving up all things to bring His Name forth
to the ends of the earth,
calling all souls
and confirming them in the truth
by the authority of the risen Son –
whose footsteps go forth today
as did yours
upon the birth of the Church;
what souls are so blessed
to be set apart by the Spirit
to perform His works
in this dying world,
to bring His light
to those who sit in darkness?
Pray the Lord shall indeed
send out laborers into His vineyard
and they shall with the same faith
be an encouragement to all,
a consolation to Christian souls.
Sat, 10 June 2017
(Ex.34:4b-6,8-9; Dn.3:52-56; 2Cor.13:11-13; Jn.3:16-18)
“The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is your holy and glorious name.” Brothers and sisters, let us praise God this holy day; let us rejoice in His love. Let us be as Moses, who upon hearing the NAME of the Lord spoken in his hearing, upon having the Lord’s presence revealed to him, “at once bowed down to the ground in worship.” He did not fail to bless God “in the temple of [His] holy glory,” but as the Lord “look[ed] into the depths from His throne upon the cherubim” – as He who transcends all made Himself known to His servant upon the earth – cried aloud to God for His protection, for the protection that the three holy men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) knew by the Hand of God, by His blessed angel, when saved from the flames in the fiery furnace. And though “exalted above all forever,” the Lord hears and answers His children.
God is three and God is love. The One God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is made known in His love. Both the unity of God and His gracious and merciful love are evident today in John’s famous quote: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” They are, of course, Jesus’ words whispered to Nicodemus in his night of doubt and question, and they should fall deeply into our own ears and speak clearly to our hearts of the intimacy of Father and Son and the love one holds and the other carries, a love which is in essence the working of the Spirit. It is this love and union with these to which we are all called, and which we all find by believing “in the name of the only Son of God.”
Brothers and sisters, the presence of God is among us always; the Son has come to save our race, and has thus made all things holy. What Moses knew on Mount Sinai with the “two stone tablets” in his hands, we should know simply by opening our eyes – for His NAME should be written on our hearts. And so always we should be in prayer and praise of the majesty of God. With the living creatures and the elders in heaven we should continually bow down before Him and stand to shout of His glory. Open your hearts to Him who is all in all.
On this Trinity Sunday I will leave you with Paul’s parting words to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" (first part) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we believe in the only Son
whom you have sent
that we might have eternal life in the Spirit.
YHWH, you indeed are merciful, and so you send your only Son to us to save us from the condemnation upon our souls because of our sin against you. From your throne in Heaven send your Spirit forth to carry the salvation wrought by your Son to the very ends of the earth, that all might be one in you and live in your eternal peace.
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to us you make yourself known, coming into our midst to dwell among us. And so we know your merciful love; and so we are drawn into your presence. Father in Heaven, speak your NAME into our hearts that in wonder we may stand before you, that with great love we might worship you, and come even to share your divine nature through the sacrifice of your Son and the power of the Spirit upon us this day. You alone are God, and we are your children – write your NAME upon our souls that we might dwell with you in the Temple of your holy glory.
Fri, 9 June 2017
(Tb.12:1,5-15,20; Tb.13:1-2,6; Mk.12:38-44)
“Almsgiving saves one from death.”
We must give alms, yes; and the greatest of alms is the gift of ourselves to God.
In our gospel we hear of perhaps the most famous example of almsgiving: the poor widow who gave her two copper coins to the temple treasury; and in our first reading we complete the Book of Tobit, he who is himself a great biblical model of almsgiving, and who is here instructed by the angel Raphael on the merit of giving alms. Yes, the widow gives generously all her money, without hesitation and without a thought. Unlike those who give from their surplus, “she gave from her want, all that she had to live on.” She holds back nothing. And at the prompting of Tobit, Tobiah offers half of all the many riches gained from his journey to his guide, Raphael (not realizing he is an angel with no need of these things).
As Raphael reveals himself to Tobit and his son, he extols the great merit of almsgiving, which he states is better even than prayer and fasting. He wishes to tell them of the value of almsgiving, it is true, but he wants Tobit to know that his generosity has been witnessed by God and that it has saved him from the death he had asked for. Raphael lets Tobit know, too, that he has been tested by God (in being stricken with blindness) to prove that his generosity is genuine. It must be shown that his virtue is not vain as the scribes’, who “recite long prayers for appearance’ sake” to cover the fact that they “devour the savings of widows.” Does he have the heart of the poor widow in his generosity, or does he just like to parade around in the robes of such virtue?
The key to the merit of all our almsgiving is found in Raphael’s initial response to Tobiah’s offer: “Thank God! Give Him the praise and the glory.” All our good works must be done for the praise of God as witnesses to His glory. “Before all men, honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising Him,” the angel exhorts us all. And it is this praise of God we must give first before any treasure of the world. This praise of God and telling of His Name is the greatest of almsgiving. Do you think it is the two coins which save the widow, or can you see the heart for God from which they are offered? Do you think the widow is giving her coins for show, or is it obvious to you that it is her love of God which drives her to this act? We can easily surmise that this woman’s life is one of prayer to God, a genuine prayer unlike the vanity of the scribes, and it is this which most pleases God and saves her very soul; for she is empty of all else but Him. And of all the many acts of kindness Tobit has performed, all the dead he has buried and offerings he has given, perhaps none is above his obedience to the angel’s final command: “Write down all these things that have happened to you.” For by his laying down of his life and the Lord’s marvelous grace working in it, more than two thousand years later, we still receive the spiritual gifts contained therein; his praise of God with “full voice” still comes to our ears and gives us hope that we too might be raised up from any vanity in our own generosity and see the face of God.
Let us praise the Lord with all our lives and give all our selves to Him.
Let us live to praise the Lord.
O LORD, let us praise you with full voice;
let us give all we have to you.
YHWH, you call us to give alms that our souls might be saved. By our generosity you shall know us, if it is in union with you. For all must be done in your NAME and for your praise, or all is quite worthless. Indeed, a little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness; and so, whatever we give without giving glory to you is given in vain, but if we give a penny (which is all our lives are worth) in praise of your goodness toward us, how blessed we shall be!
LORD, all you do is for our good, whether you scourge us or raise us up in your mercy, for all is done to bring us closer to you. Until all our lives are in your hands, your angel you send to test us and to heal us, to turn us back to you – all empty show be taken forever from our souls that we might dwell humbly with you in glory.
Let us not care for the riches of this world even should they increase, but set our hearts on praise of you alone… and the doing of your will with all we have and are.
Thu, 8 June 2017
O harp of the Holy Spirit
whose song rose up to Jesus
and in honor of the Virgin Mary,
whose heart was set on Heaven
and the eternal light therein,
and who served so well to defend the faith
when from contemplation you came –
pray we too shall have a song
dedicated wholly to the Lord
welling up in hearts
set on His presence,
on the kingdom that passes not away;
and pray, too, the teaching of the Church
shall always be true,
shall always be rooted
in the Spirit,
expressive of the love of God.
What is this world as it passes away,
and who are we apart from God
and His House?
O how we long for Heaven!
Pray, dear brother, with our Blessed Mother,
that we shall come to dwell where you are.
Thu, 8 June 2017
(Tb.11:5-15; Ps.146:2,7-10; Mk.12:35-37)
“The Lord gives sight to the blind.”
Now in His teaching Jesus truly begins to open the eyes of the people. We have witnessed this week His fielding their questions regarding theology and the law, but He now takes a step further, revealing to them and to us the Truth itself – that He Himself is the Son of God. “The majority of the crowd heard this with delight.” Many eyes begin to open, many hearts begin to see… but will they remain so joyful when Jesus reveals Himself to them completely (on the cross)?
And of course, our first reading speaks principally about the opening of Tobit’s eyes, as he who has been blind these four years is healed by the fish gall acquired through the intercession of the angel Raphael. But the reading is really about more than this: it shows the love of his parents in their longing for Tobiah’s return. Notice that as his eyes are opened, Tobit exclaims, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!” as he weeps with his arms around him. And at the very beginning of the reading we find Anna, his mother, “watching the road,” looking desperately – she has been there for weeks – for Tobiah to return from his journey. When she sees him, she, too, throws her arms around him, and says, “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” as she sobs aloud… It is not so much the fish gall that has cured Tobit’s blindness, for the light of his eyes, that which causes them to see, he himself ascribes to Tobiah his son. And it is not so much seeing Tobiah that brings such absolute joy to his mother, as it is being with him again, knowing that he is alive – for she had seriously feared him dead.
Brothers and sisters, are we like Anna and Tobit? Do we watch vigilantly for the return of the only Son of God? We proclaim that our eyes have been opened to know Him as our Savior, but is He truly the light of our eyes? Even today do we make seeing Him and knowing Him the life that brings breath to our souls and makes our hearts beat? Are we the “oppressed,” the “hungry,” the “captives” – those who are “bowed down” of whom our psalm speaks – who will thus know His “justice,” His “food,” His “freedom”… His “resurrection”?
We must love dearly our Holy Catholic Church, for it is essential here on this earth, where it is the keeper of the Father’s vineyard; but we must remember Jesus goes beyond religion, beyond theology and laws. For He is more than these. He is what sets us apart from any other religion, for He is a person, the second Person of the Trinity – God. Let us open our eyes and our hearts and follow Him with our lives, knowing He is our only Son, our hope, the light of our eyes. For He who is the Son of Man is also the Son of God.
O LORD, open my eyes
that I might praise you forever.
YHWH, it is you who give sight to the blind, you who set captives free. Your Son is indeed light to our eyes and salvation for our very souls. Give us new life that we might praise you all the day.
You keep faith with us, O LORD, for though we wait many days, though we must hope even in the darkness, you do not disappoint our expectations – you do not take back your Word. Your Son has come among us now and revealed your glory to our eyes. He who lived before us has been born into our midst and died for our sakes. Now His enemies become His footstool. Now His reign has begun. And those who have longed for His coming rejoice in praise of your holy NAME.
O may He return soon to us! For blindness besets us yet while we dwell upon this plane. Send your angels to bring Him back to us, O LORD, that forever we might look upon His face. Give us courage now; raise up the souls that are bowed down. Alleluia!
Wed, 7 June 2017
(Tb.6:11,7:1,9-14,8:4-7; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.12:28-34)
“Love the Lord your God”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On these two great commandments rest all the Law and the Prophets. By them we shall be “not far from the reign of God.” In them the Lord leads us into His bridal chamber, where we shall be made one with Him in glory forever.
Here on earth we dimly mirror the love of the Lord for His Church in our marriage of husband and wife; in this, love of neighbor is known in its most intimate and complete way. But always love of God must precede love of any creature, for it is “those who fear the Lord” who are happy, who “eat the fruit of [their] handiwork” and see their children prosper.
Tobiah has such love. Such strength of love does he have in his heart for Sarah that he hesitates not at all even in the face of death. Seven have died before him, but he gives fear of this not a thought. And it is not in his lust that he takes such great strength; he is not led foolishly by his eyes and his loins. It is indeed his fear of the Lord, the love for his God and his desire to keep His commands, in which he finds unwavering hope. Even from his marriage bed does he rise to invoke the name of God, demonstrating his “noble purpose.” He recognizes that God first must be praised, and that it is He who gave Adam his Eve.
Jesus loves us just so, brothers and sisters, and even greater than this is His love for His bride. He heeds fully the command of God regarding His Church: “Take her and bring her back safely to your father.” He comes to us, as it were, on a long journey, the angels of the Lord blessing His steps, and seeks without fear His rightful wife, who has languished so long surrounded by death. This death He takes upon Himself, facing it with faith and prayer alone to show us the love God has for us, and that we must have for one another. And wedding us unto Himself, He redeems us from the death we have known and makes us so fruitful in His Name. Yes, brothers and sisters, we must love the God who has loved us so, and love one another the same.
May God bless all marriages;
May they witness to the love the Lord has for His Church.
O LORD, if we but love you and our neighbor,
all will be well;
we will approach the kingdom of Heaven.
YHWH, you are love and love is stronger than death; so those who love you shall conquer death and live forever in your love. O let us but love!
The demons are ever round about, dear LORD, working to take the life from us, the life that is rooted in you and blessed by you – the life which you yourself are. Let us have your angels to guide us through the darkness of this earth to your unending light; teach us to love you with all our being, to keep nothing back from you. By our trust and in our prayer may we be saved from all evil. If we but praise you with all our heart, you will certainly hear our plea.
No lust let there be in any marriage bed, O LORD, but may every husband take his wife with you and your purpose in mind. Then shall all be blessed; then shall all creation praise you… then shall love be known to the ends of the earth. Then shall all the devils flee and your kingdom come to be present in all souls. Let us take our place in Heaven with you and your Son! To Him let us be wed.
Tue, 6 June 2017
(Tb.3:1-11,16-17; Ps.25:1-9; Mk.12:18-27)
“He is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
Rich readings. First of all, we see the striking similarity between the story woven by the Sadducees to thwart the wisdom of the Lord and the situation in which Sarah finds herself. In both cases, seven – the number representing fullness – husbands have died. In one the wife has also died; in the other, she wishes for death. And in both there have been no children, no fruit, no new life. Death in its fullness is throughout today’s readings, as even Tobit begs to die.
In addition to death, our readings are also clearly about prayer. In our first, Tobit and Sarah pour out their hearts in tears before the Lord whom they so love. Our psalm is the lifting up of the soul in prayer to God by the humble. And the Sadducees questioning of Jesus is also a kind of prayer, though one which comes from a hardness of heart, inauthentic and insincere.
And what has the Lord to say of death; what is the answer to these prayers? We often hear that God always answers our prayers, though often in ways we do not expect. Such is the case here. Neither Tobit nor Sarah will get the death they seem to seek; instead, Raphael – the angel whose name means “to heal” – “was sent to heal them both.” And the Sadducees, “who hold there is no resurrection,” will not find confirmation for their creed which clings to death as the end of all. Yet all will be answered according to the disposition of their hearts, and in this sense all receive exactly what they seek, for the Lord looks upon the heart. The prayer of Tobit and Sarah is not really to die but “to be delivered from such anguish” – it is healing they seek, and this they shall find. And the Sadducees, who do not really seek an answer of the Lord regarding resurrection, whose hearts are closed to the life-giving power of God, will likely not hear the words of Christ… and so by their ignorance come to adhere more firmly to their creed of death.
We do get what we ask for. As our psalm tells us, the Lord “teaches the humble His way.” The compassion and kindness which are synonymous with God are known to those who trust in Him; but “those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith,” for the compassion of our Lord finds no place in them. For them there is no hope, no life, no resurrection from the dead… and they shall not know how God answers prayer.
Brothers and sisters, let us pour out our hearts before our Lord and God, and know His healing grace, and find His everlasting life.
O LORD, though we wish to die
when amidst the persecutions of this race,
let us be resurrected with you.
YHWH, hear our prayer and save us from the insults of your enemies. Let us not be overcome by darkness or by sin. You are our God and you answer all our pleas; let us not be put to shame.
You look upon the heart, O LORD, and listen to our true desires. Every prayer you cannot help but answer according to the faith by which it is offered. You give us what we ask for, not in our words but by our intention. And so, you thwart the insincere prayer of the wicked, but are merciful to those who are humble before you.
And you protect us, LORD, from every attack of the devil. Those who break faith heedlessly shall not triumph over your righteous ones; they shall be turned back by the power of your Word. For in life alone you dwell – in you there is no death – and so those whose hearts desire life in your presence shall rejoice… even as those who do not believe fall helplessly into the earth.
Mon, 5 June 2017
O preacher of the Word of God
and model of the Gospel,
you embraced poverty and penance
in accord with the way of Christ
and His teaching
and called your brothers
to do the same,
that the Church might be renewed,
that she might be holy
even as the Father is holy –
pray all souls
might indeed find holiness of life
even as within
pray all might embrace
the poverty of Christ,
living the faith pronounced
in sacred Scripture.
And pray that they may be led
along this narrow path
to the kingdom of the Lord
by faithful priests and bishops,
shepherds like yourself.
Mon, 5 June 2017
(Tb.2:9-14; Ps.112:1-2,7-9; Mk.12:13-17)
“The heart of the just man is secure,
trusting in the Lord.”
Today in our reading and gospel we find just men put to trial and testing. Our Lord is steadfast before the devious inquiry of the Pharisees and Herodians, answering them with a wisdom greater than Solomon’s; for what can Jesus, who is Himself the Word made flesh, do but take refuge in the Father with whom He is one. And so wisdom is His to answer His foes, and He is unmoved, indeed moving with “amazement” those who would trap Him.
The heart of Tobit does not remain as secure. We see in his anger that his trust in the Lord has been shaken. He has always been just, generously giving to those in need, taking the plight of his people to heart. Indeed, it is after performing a good work – “fatigued from burying the dead [I] went to sleep next to the wall of my courtyard” – that his trial comes upon him. Here is a man who has done all he could to help his fellow Jewish exiles suffering persecution at the hands of the Ninevites, and now he is stricken with blindness.
But the Lord does not leave him alone; He does not cast him out. For two years his needs are cared for by Ahiqar, and then his wife is able to work to meet their expenses. And successful she is over and above expectations. Yet he is prodded into anger by her good reward. His response (in the words of St. Dorotheus, from today’s Office of Readings) “breaks the cover on the passionate anger within him,” an anger, an unease, he has likely been harboring for some time. It is an anger, we can surmise, that comes from the helplessness his blindness has brought upon him. He is no longer in control of his fate, but must depend on others for survival. And though the Lord provides, he finds it too difficult to trust in this provision. (He may indeed be particularly resentful that it is now his wife who provides for him, taking the role he believes in his heart he should play.)
We can certainly understand Tobit’s frustration over his condition. Few but Jesus would stand up well to such trial. But Jesus is our ideal. It is to be like Him that we are called. We shall always need to do battle against the sins that are ever with us, but as St. Dorotheus says of the Christian, “The more perfect he grows, the less these temptations will affect him. For the more the soul advances, the stronger and more powerful it becomes in bearing the difficulties that it meets.”
Let us set ourselves to trust in the Lord and so ever find security in Him. We must place all in His hands, even unto death, and then we shall be free.
Let not the things of Caesar weigh upon you;
you belong to God and not the world.
O LORD, only you can make us secure –
let us trust in you and not in money.
YHWH, with the things of this earth let us not be concerned; let us know that we are in your hands. To you let us trust our very lives, and we shall not be disturbed.
The forces of the world close in on us, enticing us to fear and anger. But if we stand strong in the faith, the Spirit will be with us to save us. In you, O LORD, let us remain.
The just man delights in your commands; the upright shall ever be blessed. Let us indeed remain steadfast, LORD, that we might look down upon our foes.
And though persecuted for righteousness’ sake, if afflicted for doing what is right let us not resent our fate, but continue to look to you to cure our blindness. Your Son, O LORD, has suffered the Cross though innocent – why should sinners like us complain?
It is hard, LORD, and we do often break, but help us to return to you this day and stand before our accusers with the same faith your Son so peacefully displayed. Let us give ourselves entirely to you.
Sun, 4 June 2017
O apostle of the faith
called out from monastery walls
to travel into the world,
laboring and suffering
even to the shedding of blood
as you steered Christ’s ship
pounded by waves
but kept on course,
spreading out upon the face of the earth
by the sacrifice of shepherds
like yourself –
pray the bishops of today
will unceasingly teach the faith,
defending the Church from all assaults,
never silent in the face of danger,
never turning from their call
but preaching the Gospel
in season and out of season
that in all seasons
Christ’s flock might increase
and be strengthened.
Let us rather die
than give in to the impending darkness.
Sun, 4 June 2017
(Tb.1:1-2,2:1-9; Ps.112:1-6; Mk.12:1-12)
“The stone rejected by the builders
has become the keystone of the structure.”
First, Tobit is not a parable; it is not a “story”. A parable begins, as does Jesus’ own in our gospel, with a statement such as, “A man planted a vineyard…” It is always “a man”, a generic man, never a particular man in a particular place at a particular time, as is the case with Tobit. For parables deal expressly with the universal. Though one may derive universal significance from the life of Tobit, it is his life itself which is related to us and not that of an “Everyman”. (How this simple fact is overlooked I can only attribute again to a lack of faith which blinds reason.)
This aside, today we see the persecution and mockery “a sincere worshiper of God” suffers before the face of the world. It is evident in Tobit’s being “hunted down for execution” for performing the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead, as well as in the wagging of his neighbors’ tongues; and it is, of course, fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ, which the Lord speaks of today to the elders of the people in a thinly-veiled parable of their persecution of all the prophets.
What a good man Tobit is, desiring to share his feast with the poor and rising even from table to do the work of God, always ready to serve Him. And how he weeps for the oppression of his people. Jesus is just the same, coming from the majesty of the Father’s table in heaven to call us to His wedding feast, and weeping over those who, like Jerusalem, fail to hear His voice.
Our lot in this world is one of suffering and persecution, but it is not without hope. For we know that as Job found greater wealth in his latter days and Tobit shall be rewarded for his patient endurance, so the Lord is resurrected from the grave. It is our psalm which reminds us of this promise despite any darkness around us: “The Lord dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright… the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.”
So let us not lose heart on the hard road we tread, but endure all patiently with Jesus, for we shall find our place in His joyful kingdom; we shall drink the wine of His vineyard.
O LORD, how shamefully your servants are treated! –
but Jesus rises from the dead,
and we with Him.
YHWH, you are a light in our darkness; you are with us in our tears and in our mourning, and so, from our graves we are raised. Has not your Son come among us and suffered at the hands of men? Has He not been beaten, dragged outside the walls of Jerusalem, and killed? And has He not been raised again – does He not sit at your right hand? The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. How marvelous are your works for your faithful to behold!
Though Tobit weeps in exile, LORD, mocked by neighbors and friends, though he must bear the murdered body of his kinsman to a shallow grave; yet wealth and riches are in his house, for it is in your House he dwells, and his name you shall remember forever.
Your Son bears His Cross before His accusers; though blessed at table in your House, He quickly comes to us at your Word… and we bear Him away. But the plans of men are thwarted by you, LORD, and all our evil you turn to good. Let us set our souls on the sacrifice of your kingdom.
Sat, 3 June 2017
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; 1Cor.12:3b-7,12-13; Jn.20:19-23)
“Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.”
What our first reading captures in all its dramatic moment, David’s psalm declares in clarity – “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” – and our gospel defines in Jesus’ word and action with His apostles: “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Spirit comes from heaven above, through the only Son, to redeem, renew, and strengthen all on the face of the earth.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” and they all spoke “of the mighty acts of God,” and each one of those gathered there “from every nation… heard them speaking in his own language.” For the language in which they spoke was the language of the Spirit, the language all understand. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and we are all given to drink of one Spirit,” and what does this Spirit say but, “Jesus is Lord,” the truth to which all are called, for which every heart yearns.
And though all find life in “the same Spirit,” though all declare as one that Jesus is Lord, for each of us “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts.” As David exclaims, “How manifold are your works, O Lord!” And is not this call to “different forms of service” revealed in the fact that “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them”? Each is thereby given his own “theme,” his own song to sing to please the Lord, and our prayer should therefore always be, “May the Lord be glad in His works!” (And for those who deny that man has been given the gift of forgiving sins, do they not read the Lord’s straightforward words to His disciples at this most decisive moment: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”?)
Praise God for the gifts He imparts to all His children. Praise Him for the peace He leaves us and the mission on which He sends us. But praise Him most especially for the breath of the Holy Spirit which animates our very beings, for “if [the Lord] take away [our] breath, [we] perish, and return to [our] dust,” but with this Spirit we share in the very power of God.
Fill this house, O Lord, with the power of your Spirit.
Let the Church always proclaim your praise.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
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, 2 June 2017
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?
Fri, 2 June 2017
(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, 1 June 2017
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.
Thu, 1 June 2017
(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, 31 May 2017
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.
Wed, 31 May 2017
(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, 30 May 2017
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.
Tue, 30 May 2017
(Zeph.3:14-18 or Rom.12:9-16; Is.12:2-6; Lk.1:39-56)
“Sing praise to the Lord for His glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.”
How can we capture the joy of this day? For here is the sign of our promised salvation; here we find the first apostolic act in Mary’s bringing the Word of God, so recently conceived in her womb, to Elizabeth, and to her son John the Baptist.
“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!” Zephaniah encourages the holy nation. And for what does Zion, and indeed the whole world, rejoice but that which we celebrate this day? Here in these simple, lowly women we find all of Israel rejoicing as she brings to birth her Savior. Yes, even now “the Lord, [her] God, is in [her] midst,” even in her womb; and already He begins to bring salvation forth. Already we find a kind of first Pentecost as first, “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’… and then Mary said: ‘My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior?” And already the Baptist in the womb of his aged mother has been inspired by the presence of the Son of God; already he has “stirred in [her] womb for joy,” just at the sound of Mary’s voice touching the ears of his mother, even as Jesus is but days old in Mary’s blessed womb.
And how does all this joy come but through humility. “For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call [her] blessed.” Yes, Mary is raised “to high places,” is become the Mother of God, because of her great humility before Him. It is this lowliness she proclaims in her canticle today; it is this lowliness Elizabeth exudes when she asks, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” – and it is this same lowliness which is required of all the children of Israel, of all Abraham’s descendants, if we are to know that “the Lord has removed the judgment against [us],” if we are to “shout with exultation” for “the Holy One of Israel” in our midst.
Let us heed Paul’s instruction to the Romans to “put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly” that we might “rejoice with those who rejoice.” As our holy women today, these models of faith, let us “look on the needs of the saints as [our] own” and “be generous in offering hospitality.” “Be fervent in spirit; He whom you serve is the Lord.” For it is He who comes under your roof this day. It is His holy name you should proclaim in all you do and say. And the blessing of salvation shall be upon you.
Mother of God, bring to us this day our Savior,
that we might rejoice with you in heaven.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you have looked upon us in our lowliness
and sent your Son to dwell among us –
may we praise you always for your glory!
YHWH, let us praise your holy NAME this day, for you have come into our midst and raised us poor creatures from the dust to dwell with you in your Temple. Praise you, LORD! Visit us this day in your love, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
O LORD, make us humble and lowly as she who carries your Son to us, humble and lowly as Israel your Chosen one – humble and lowly as Jesus Himself. In Mary’s womb with Him let us dwell and so hear your voice calling to our hearts through all she speaks unto our poor ears. In darkness we remain, in the cave of this world; but you bring us light and life – for such grace let us praise you!
Dispel all fear from our hearts, LORD, at the sound of your Mother’s voice, and so with her let us proclaim your greatness, and the salvation you have wrought in your mercy. We are nothing, nothing but simple souls waiting on your Word… Speak to us this day and awaken us to your glory, that our hearts might exult in your presence all our days.
Mother of God, pray for your poor children.
Mon, 29 May 2017
(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, 28 May 2017
(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, 27 May 2017
(Acts 1:12-14; Ps.27:1,4,7-8,13; 1Pt.4:13-16; Jn.17:1-11a)
“One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek:
to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”
Obedient to the instructions of the Lord, the apostles returned to Jerusalem, where they gathered together in “the upper room” and “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer,” waiting for the promised gift of the Spirit of God. With David they long to “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple,” and so, with him they sing, “Of you my heart speaks, you my glance seeks.”
The Pentecost is soon to come; the Spirit shall soon fall upon the apostles and fulfill their longing for union with God. But as they wait, they suffer, as do we all, for waiting means to suffer – finding patience is to share in the passion of Christ, in the absolute subjection of our wills to the Father and so the death of our own ways. But Peter’s words come as comfort to us as we ourselves wait for the glory of God to come to us: “Beloved: Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” He knows of what he speaks. For his patient waiting, his dying to self, has been rewarded by the gift of the Spirit now with him as he speaks… and each day his continued suffering brings renewed joy. He is able to sing with full voice the words of David’s psalm: “The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” And to such fullness of the glory of God we all should come.
In our gospel Jesus calls down the glory of the Father upon Himself and so, in turn, upon all who love Him, that He may “give eternal life to all [the Father] gave Him.” As the Son has glorified the Father on earth, now He seeks to be glorified by Him in heaven, and not for His own sake, but for the benefit of those who listen as He prays to His Father. In our midst He prays for us that the power of the Holy Spirit might make us one with Him as He is one with the Father, that we might share in the glory of God.
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” “Out of the world” He calls us, away from its darkness He brings us, that “in the world” we may be, sharing His glory with all… so to find eternal life, so to find ourselves in the hand of God, in His Temple, gazing always upon the light of His face. Alleluia!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (second part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we remain devoted to prayer
and to carrying the Cross,
we shall rejoice forever in your House.
YHWH, how we wait for your glory. How we pray we shall be ready to receive the fullness of your gift from on high. The Spirit promised your chosen ones be upon us this day to lead us to the glory of your Temple.
O LORD, give us light that we might see, that we might gaze on your loveliness, that we might contemplate your presence. To eternal life let us come. Through the persecutions of this world, through our sharing in the Cross of the Christ, let your Spirit rest upon us and we be joined to your glory.
It is Jesus’ desire that we be joined to Him, that we be with Him in your glory. He prays for us as we pray for your Spirit to come and anoint us with that glory. Hear our prayers, O LORD. May Mary and all your holy apostles pray for us as well, that together our prayers might rise unto you and we rise with them to eternal life.
Fri, 26 May 2017
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.
Fri, 26 May 2017
(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, 25 May 2017
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.
Thu, 25 May 2017
(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, 24 May 2017
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.
Wed, 24 May 2017
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.
Wed, 24 May 2017
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?
Wed, 24 May 2017
(Acts 1:1-11; Ps.47:1-3,6-9; Eph.1:17-23 or Eph.4:1-13 or Heb.9:24-28,10:19-23;
Mt.28:16-20 or Mk.16:15-20 or Lk.24:46-53)
“God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.”
Three events are the subject of today’s readings. The key of these is certainly the Lord’s ascending into heaven and taking His place at the right hand of the Father. Without this the other two could not follow. And so we celebrate the Lord’s Ascension in particular; but we also hear of the coming Pentecost and the apostles’ call to go forth to the ends of the world.
“As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.” Now He goes to heaven, returning to the Father, as He has said, to enter into glory. And as He has asked, we should be joyful, we should “shout to God with cries of gladness. For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great King over all the earth,” and now Jesus, our Savior and our brother, is with Him, and so brings us to Him. His glory becomes our own, and so His now assuming His throne in heaven should cause us to “sing hymns of praise” to Him who now “reigns over the nations.”
And from His place seated “at the right hand of God” “upon His holy throne,” the Lord keeps “the promise of the Father about which [we] have heard [Him] speak.” For “in a few days [we] will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”; Pentecost will be here, and Jesus’ words to His disciples as He prepares to ascend will be our own: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” It is from this Holy Spirit that the Church takes its strength, through whom we are all made one in “faith and knowledge of the Son of God,” and by whom we attain to “the full stature of Christ.” He it is who inspires all, and He could not come except that our high priest has entered the sanctuary of heaven – opening for us the way to enter there – and from there delivered unto us the grace which through Him comes.
And what does this inspiration, this absolute strength we take in the Spirit call us to do but to heed the Lord’s words and “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” knowing as He has said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age”? And so, apostles and prophets and evangelists and all His children go forth empowered by His Spirit that “hearts [may] be enlightened,” that all might know “the hope that belongs to His call… the riches of glory in His inheritance… and what is the surpassing greatness of His power” – that all might believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus is now seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven, “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” All things are “beneath His feet,” for “King of all the earth is God,” and Jesus is God. But though the Son has joined the Father, remember He is with us always, suffering with us still and bringing us to His side by the power of His Spirit. Wait now on His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (1st half) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the cloud
which took Jesus from our sight
soon bring Him back to us
and keep Him with us forever.
YHWH, your Son mounts His throne of glory, He ascends to you in Heaven, drawing us up into your presence and giving us the power to proclaim your glory and baptize all in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – with you, O God, let us be made one!
And let us go, O LORD, even to the ends of the earth, your Son working through us by the power of the Spirit upon us. As we wait now for your promise to fall upon us and be fulfilled in us, let us with faith set our hearts on your surpassing presence. From the bonds of this earth let us be freed, that by the power of the Spirit we might indeed join Jesus at your right hand. O let thy kingdom come!
Soon your Son shall return to us and we will sing in unending joy. But even now we are the Body of Christ, united with Him in Heaven. O LORD, send your Spirit forth that we might find the strength to call all souls unto your glory.
Tue, 23 May 2017
(Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps.148:1-2,11-14,Is.6:3; Jn.16:12-15)
“It is He ‘who gives’ to all life and ‘breath’ and everything else.”
“His majesty is above earth and heaven,” brothers and sisters. And so our psalmist today encourages all in the heavens and all on earth to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” “From one stock He made every nation of mankind to dwell on the face of the earth,” and it is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And so should we, “His faithful ones,” not offer Him praise?
Brothers, be not ignorant as the men of Athens who thought “the God who made the world and ‘all that is in it,’ the Lord of heaven and earth,” as “something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of man’s genius and his art.” Could man with all his intelligence make the sun or wind? Then how can it be that he might contrive the Creator of these? Such groping in darkness for the God who is “not really far from any of us” shall not be tolerated forever. For the time has come to turn on the lamp which lights the room and let all shadows flee. He who is going to “judge the world with justice” is among us now; it is He whom God “has endorsed in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead.” And it is faith in Him to which we must come.
Jesus promises the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide [them] to all truth.” It is He who “will not speak on His own, but will speak only what He hears.” He receives from Jesus, who possesses “all that the Father has,” all that He announces to us. And Paul is His mouthpiece today, speaking not what he has invented by his erudite learning and fanciful imagining, but rather proclaiming the truth he hears the Spirit inspiring in his soul and burning in his heart.
We shall not get to heaven on stairs we make with our soiled hands; they cannot but crumble under the pressure of time and the weight of truth. Only by obedience to the Spirit who inspires all, shall all find the presence of the “God Unknown” to hearts of stone and minds as fleeting as a wisp of smoke. “He calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives,” for their scoffing at truth shall bring them alone to a dark room, where there shall be no breath of the Spirit. But we who know all wisdom comes from God, living in its light are made His children.
O LORD, may we know your glory in the Word
announced to us by the Spirit Jesus sends.
YHWH, the light of wisdom you alone shine by the Spirit of Truth come through your Son. You are exalted above earth and Heaven, and we cannot approach you by our minds or the work of our hands – only by faith will we come to know your surpassing glory.
O LORD, let your glory be announced to all that all might praise you in whom we live and move and have our being, that all might thus come to know themselves by realizing we are your offspring. If we do not see you, how blind we remain to everything, hopelessly groping in the dark for truth and light. We cannot make truth, we cannot make you, for it is you who have made us.
May we heed your call to reform our lives, dear LORD, that we might come to understanding, that guided by the Spirit we might come to faith in you and praise your Name forever with all your children in the heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 22 May 2017
(Acts 16:22-34; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Jn.16:5-11)
“Immediately all the doors flew open
and everyone’s chains were pulled loose.”
“Your right hand saves me,” David sings unto the Lord this day in our psalm. Mighty indeed is His power, and so we should “worship at [His] holy temple, and give thanks to [His] name,” for He has “built up strength within [us]”; by the power of the Holy Spirit He has set us free from our prisons, from the chains of sin.
“When I called you, you answered me,” David sings. And how the Lord answers Paul and Silas as they call unto Him in song of their own. “After receiving many lashes they were thrown into prison, and the jailer… put them in maximum security, going so far as to chain their feet to a stake.” Yet what do we find these apostles doing in the deep of the night? – “praying and singing hymns to God as their fellow prisoners listened.” And God hears their prayers; they bring “a severe earthquake [which] suddenly shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations” and setting all those inside free of their chains.
Can we have a clearer sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power than this? Well, yes, because as wondrous as earthquakes are, the truest sign of the Spirit came this night when the jailer “and his whole household were baptized.” The earthquake and the flying open of prison doors may have opened his heart to hearing the word of God, but his wholehearted acceptance of “his newfound faith in God” is the Spirit’s great work. For what is of greater importance, the stone and steel of a prison cell shaken and cast to the ground, or the salvation of the eternal soul of man?
The Lord Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as Advocate to plead our cause and prove us right about our faith in the One who saves from sin. In justice and in truth He goes to the Father, and from His exalted throne He sends forth the Paraclete to prove His presence with us still; and by the grace and power of the Holy Trinity at work in our midst, “the prince of this world has been condemned” and the prison he built to contain us destroyed.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.” Let us sing to Him, brothers and sisters. Let us join with David and Silas and Paul, and all the redeemed of the Lord, and “joyfully celebrate with [our] whole family,” with all the children of our God, our everlasting faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit. From prison we have been released; with the Savior we are risen. His Spirit is upon us now.
O LORD, may we believe in your Son
and so be saved from our sin,
entering your House with songs of praise.
YHWH, you have saved us from certain death, death at our own hands because of our sins. To our very foundation you have shaken us and served to make us new men. May all be baptized in your Name!
Send your Spirit forth, O LORD, to shake this place in which we dwell, that we might be released from our prisons, from dwelling in our self-made hell. The chains of this world are easily broken by your power come from above; let us turn quickly from our sin and acknowledge your power and might, and we shall be saved – we and all our household.
No fear let us have of the world’s efforts to chain your Word, O God. Despite all, let us sing your praise, knowing the devil has been condemned, and the Spirit will never die in us. And whatever darkness may surround us this day shall soon pass, and with your angels we shall sing your praise in your eternal kingdom.
Sun, 21 May 2017
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.
Sun, 21 May 2017
(Acts 16:11-15; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.15:26-16:4)
“You must bear witness.”
The Spirit will come and call to your hearts to speak of the name of Jesus and His salvation. As He prompts you, you must speak the truth in love, you must go as He calls – you must bear witness. And sometimes the word you speak, and you yourself, will be accepted with the faith and great hospitality as known in Lydia (who is said to be “one who listened,” for “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying,” and who generously invited Paul and his companions, foreigners traveling to distant lands, to “come and stay at [her] house”); and other times those who “know neither the Father nor [the Son]” will “expel you from synagogues,” will cast you violently from their midst, and “anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” It does not matter. The Word must go forth, in season and out.
How few true witnesses there seem to be today, for in the time and place in which I stand certainly the Word of God is out of season. False witnesses with strange gospels abound, but the tongue of the apostles is tied, and what is spoken seems to land upon deaf ears. Those who have no conception of the Holy Spirit and so know neither Father nor Son are emboldened to speak as messengers of Jesus, though the Jesus they know is not the Christ and what they speak but serves to lead the sheep astray. And where is His Church? Will no one stand to speak of His love?
Today instead of “sing[ing] for joy upon [our] couches… the high praises of God… in our throats,” the houses in which we dwell seem to swallow our souls, and we are left mute in the face of destruction. And it is hard to say that our faith is shaken, for who can find any faith at all? Neither persecution nor glad acceptance do we find, for we speak no word to challenge the world.
Let us pray to the Lord, brothers and sisters, that He will send laborers forth, that even in this time of lethargy upon His Church, new life is beginning to grow. For until the end of time the Word must go forth; before then it shall not have reached its goal. However well the devil may fool us into complacency, we must know that it is always time to preach the Word, for ever will hearts be seeking Him – and ever hands seek to destroy Him. “The Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” This call to the humble must be heard by all.
O LORD, let us stand strong in doing your will,
praising your Name, come what may.
YHWH, help us to go forth in the Name of your Son, to speak His Word to the world, to bear witness to truth as He has. For though we be persecuted and even killed for serving you, there will be those who will listen and be saved.
Ready our hearts for what may come, O LORD, that we shall not fear in the hour of darkness, on the day the power of the evil one asserts itself. Help us to realize his power is as nothing and those who do his bidding shall pass like the fading grass. Only those who hear and heed your voice will stand on the last Day.
The faithful will rejoice in you, LORD, and sing a new song to your glory come into our midst by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We shall praise you forever in your eternal House. Even now in prayer we come to dwell with you.
Sat, 20 May 2017
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.
Sat, 20 May 2017
(Acts 8:5-8,14-17; Ps.66:1-7,16,20; 1Pt.3:15-18; Jn.14:15-21)
“Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit.”
It is of this way to life Jesus teaches us when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” for what is it to keep His commandments but to carry His cross – to lay down our lives, to die to the flesh, to suffer for His sake – and what is love but the life the Spirit brings. And both dying to self and loving God we find the Spirit at work in our lives; He is “the Spirit of truth,” yes, but also the Spirit of love, for He is the love of the Father and the Son, and it is by Him we become one in love with Father and Son, and so share in the oneness of the Holy Trinity.
Love and truth are really one and the same; neither exists without the other, for both are of God who is one in Himself. We know the commandment of God, which calls us by the fire of truth to kill all the sin within our souls, is simply a commandment to love, for the whole law is summed up in love. And when Peter calls us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for [our] hope” (in other words, to speak the truth of the risen Christ), he cannot but immediately add, “Do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear”; for if not spoken in love, it is no truth at all – it is but vain posturing.
Truth and love may also be seen in Philip’s work in the city of Samaria. He went and “proclaimed the Christ to them” – thus the sword of truth goes forth to pierce hearts and bleed them of sin – but the new life that is brought about by this death to the flesh is also evident, in the signs of God’s love he enacted in casting out evil spirits and in the “many paralyzed or crippled people [who] were cured.” And oh how the fullness of truth and the perfection of love came upon these converts when Peter and John “laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Alleluia! If before “there was great joy in that city” upon being “baptized in the name of Jesus,” now what joy there is for them to know this blessing would never leave.
Jesus promises to send “another Advocate to be with [us] always”; this is the Holy Spirit who confirms in us that once dead to sin, we shall live forever in Him. For this blessing let us “shout joyfully to God” and “sing praise to the glory of His name.” For indeed now by His kindness and His truth, by His grace and by His might, in love and justice He has set us free from the death of sin and brought us to life in Him. Alleluia!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Loving Sprit" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, reveal yourself to us this day
that we might praise you with joy.
YHWH, we sing praise to your Name for all your gifts and graces but especially for the great gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love and truth, the Spirit of the Christ, ruling our lives. For sealed by the Spirit we are forever joined to you and your Son in surpassing glory. Alleluia!
How blessed are we, dear LORD, that your Son has been preached to us and we have welcomed Him into our hearts and so found healing from all that sin had inflicted upon us. What joy there is in being baptized in the Name of Jesus!
What everlasting joy we know in having the hands of your apostles laid on our heads that we might receive your Holy Spirit! For now we are filled to overflowing with your glorious praise. No longer orphans, we are joined to you, our Father, through Jesus your Son. One with you, O Triune God, we become as, put to death in the flesh, we are brought to life in the Spirit. Alleluia!
Fri, 19 May 2017
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.
Fri, 19 May 2017
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps.100:1-3,5; Jn.15:18-21)
“I chose you out of the world.”
What is the world but heartache and sin; from this the Lord would release us.
Jesus tells His disciples: “You do not belong to the world,” and yet, as is most evident in the journeys of Paul, to all the world do the apostles go. The Master tells them, “You [will] find that the world hates you”; even so, they preach to a world which has no respect for the name they proclaim, who “know nothing of Him who sent” them. The inevitable persecution they do not fear, the death their work brings they do not flee, but face all in complete readiness.
Indeed, Paul is our example of the commitment we all must have to doing the Lord’s will in this world. With great fervor he travels from land to land and, praise God, “through all this, the congregations grew stronger in faith and daily increased in numbers.” He transmits the Lord’s Gospel message to all waiting ears and perseveres through all trials. For there are those throughout this earth who will listen to the Word that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are,” and that Jesus is His Son – and Paul cannot help but strain forward to find these hearts which long to “come before Him with joyful song.” So great is Paul’s desire to bring the word of the Lord to those who have never heard it before that he must be restrained by the Holy Spirit. Twice today in our first reading he is prevented from entering and preaching to lands for which it is not time, finally being called in a vision to those who awaited him. Paul and the apostles’ readiness to do the Lord’s will is related clearly in Luke’s statement, “After the vision, we immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the Good News there.”
We must go where we are called and move as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus the Christ. Into the world He leads us all to bring His light forth. Though never of the world, we must encourage all the world to “sing joyfully to the Lord,” to “serve the Lord with gladness.” By our words and by our lives we must show that we are “His people, the flock He tends,” and others will be drawn from the clutches of a world that hates the truth and into the protecting arms of God.
O LORD, let your Word go forth to all the world
that all might be saved from the world
and come to you.
YHWH, should we not rejoice that the world hates us, that it persecutes us and the Word we speak, for does this not show that we are of Jesus, that we are one with Him in following in His way? And is this not the path by which fruit is born, fruit that will last unto Heaven? Is this not the way souls are saved and come to rejoice in your kingdom?
Help us to remember this, LORD, to remember and desire only to do your will, to follow in the way Jesus leads and bring His Word, His Spirit, to the ends of the earth. Make your apostles as zealous as Paul to bring the Gospel to all who are open to receive salvation, to know the blessing of being your children.
May all souls be grafted onto the tree of your Chosen people. Let your Church increase in faith and numbers, LORD, until the return of your Son.
Thu, 18 May 2017
(Acts 15:22-31; Ps.57:8-12; Jn.15:12-17)
“There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Do not Judas and Silas fulfill the Lord’s command to “love one another”; do not they lay down their lives for the Lord when they bring word “to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” of the apostles’ decision regarding those who have “upset [them] with their discussions and disturbed [their] peace of mind”? Do they not carry the love of the Lord in their persons as well as in the letter in their hands?
And are these not made friends of the Lord even as the apostles and elders, even as those who come to them? Jesus says to His disciples in our gospel, “I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” And now in the same way these disciples “go forth and bear fruit” as the Lord has commanded by making known to the children of the nations “the decision of the Holy Spirit,” the whole Truth of God’s love, thus drawing them into the friendship of Christ.
The apostles and elders, who call themselves “brothers” of those of Gentile origin, “have unanimously resolved to choose representatives and send them” to witness of the Lord’s love for them; Paul and Barnabas are called by the apostles, those “who have dedicated themselves to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ” – there is left no doubt of the strength of the decision that is made and the authority by which it comes. And so “there was great delight at the encouragement [the letter] gave,” for it and those who read it hold indeed the love of God, the absolute truth of the Holy Spirit, by whose power they have been freed from the burdens being imposed upon them and brought into the fold and friendship, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
“I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, I will chant your praises among the nations.” With David, the Gentile disciples “sing and chant praise” to the living God who is “exalted above the heavens” and “above all the earth.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon them now by the love that has been laid down before them, and now they too are called to lay down their lives in the Lord’s love, as are we all, that friends of Jesus, sons of the Father, may ever be drawn into His holy fold.
O LORD, your love is all we need –
help us to worship you with our very lives.
YHWH, let us all live in your love and rejoice in the blessing of the Holy Spirit; let us dwell with you in the glory that is above all the earth. Obedient to your Word, to the rightful authority of your Church, we follow in the way of the Spirit and find ourselves as friends of your Son.
You do not make the way difficult for us, but quite simple. You simply call us all to love. To lay down our lives for one another, even as Jesus has done, may seem impossible to our corrupted hearts – but in you all is made very easy, for your yourself are love. O LORD, help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son and so bear the fruit of eternal love.
It is clear, dear God, that you desire all to share in your great blessings. You long to give us all we ask for. You wish for us peace of mind and heart, and you know this is found only in doing your will, for your will is only love. Let us heed your command to love, and so chant your praises in the kingdom.
Wed, 17 May 2017
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.
Wed, 17 May 2017
(Acts 15:7-21; Ps.96:1-3,10; Jn.15:9-11)
“We are saved by the favor of the Lord Jesus.”
We are told of the Council of Jerusalem, convened to determine if the Gentiles need be subject to circumcision and the Mosaic Law, “After much discussion, Peter took the floor,” and that after he had finished speaking, “the whole assembly fell silent.” What is there to say after the Rock of the Church has spoken? And how marvelously his declaration mirrors Jesus’ own simple command to His disciples, “Live on in my love.”
I am certain that before he stood to speak in the midst of the din of argument that pervaded this first assembly of God’s people, Peter heard the words of Jesus speaking to his heart: “Simon, son of John, feed my sheep.” He remembers his call and the Spirit the Lord has placed upon him as keeper of the keys of heaven. He remembers, too, the vision the Savior of mankind brought to his mind, instructing him not to discriminate in his sharing of the Word of God. He therefore reminds his brothers that God “reads the hearts of men,” and particularly of how “He showed His approval [of the Gentiles] by granting the Holy Spirit to them,” just as He had done to those gathered in this assembly. God “made no distinction… but purified their hearts by means of faith also.” And would they then place undue burden upon what God has wrought by His own hand?
Yes, Peter in his pronouncement sings of the “new song” of the Lord and by doing so encourages all to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” He hereby “announce[s] His salvation,” that His glory might be told “among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” Here he demonstrates how the Lord “governs the peoples with equity.” The righteous judgment that James makes, now shared in harmony by all assembled, is none other than the judgment Peter has proclaimed – which is none other than Jesus’ own word for all to keep the commandment to live in the Father’s love that all our “joy may be complete,” that all may be gathered into the Father’s kingdom.
Scripture says of the House the Father builds here on earth, of Jerusalem, His Church: “From its ruins I will rebuild it and set it up again, so that all the rest of mankind and all the nations that bear my name may seek out the Lord.” What was the house of David now shelters all the nations – the old Jerusalem has become the new City of Peace held in God’s own hand, His Holy Spirit breathing upon its members and giving them life. By the favor of Christ has this been accomplished; let no man shorten the arm of the Lord.
O LORD, may all peoples be saved
by the love your Son bears to us.
YHWH, it is by faith you have purified our hearts, and it is to love you call us. It is by the Spirit we are saved and drawn into your holy kingdom.
O let the favors of your Son be upon us, dear God! His love beat in our hearts and course through our veins. Yes, let us live in His love and so remain in your joy forever.
Your commandments are not burdensome, O LORD, but lead only to freedom, absolute freedom in the light of your presence. Help us not to take unnecessary burdens upon our shoulders, burdens that would keep us from you and your love. Let us never quench your Spirit at work in our lives.
Work your wonders in our midst, dear LORD, and may we cooperate fully with them, that forever we might sing your praise and bless your holy Name with all our brothers and sisters. In faith may all souls seek your face, and so find it by your grace.
Tue, 16 May 2017
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.
Mon, 15 May 2017
(Acts 14:19-28; Ps.145:10-13,21; Jn.14:27-31)
“We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.”
“With this instruction” Paul and Barnabas “gave their disciples reassurances, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith.” Their apostolic journey has been a witness that the road to the Lord is wrought with difficulties, but that it bears great fruit. These apostles are pursued from towns in which they have preached by those who would destroy them and their word. Paul is stoned, seemingly unto death. But their trials do not dissuade these apostles from retracing their steps through the very towns from which they have been ejected and installing elders, priests, in each one, “commend[ing] them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” And so they arrived again at the place “where they had first been commended to the favor of God for the task they had now completed.” Now they are able to relate in joy “all that God had helped them accomplish, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles,” perhaps the greatest feat of the growing Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Of course, Jesus’ words to His disciples are the same as Paul’s: “‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you,” Jesus says, and adds, “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” For the peace Jesus gives is deeper and abides eternally; it remains through any trial of the world for it is not dependent on the consolations that come from earthly things. And so He can assure them, “Do not be distressed or fearful.” He can freely invite them into the peace He possesses and to which He returns, as He retraces His steps back to the Father from whom He has come, whence He had first been commended to the favor of God for His mission. He knows they will suffer, even as He is about to suffer death at the hands of “the Prince of this world.” But He knows the devil’s power “has no hold” on Him, and would have us know Satan has no power over us either. For we are with Jesus; we are with the Father in heaven. And though we be as Paul in his persecutions, though we be stoned and “dragged… out of town” and left for dead, the Lord’s angels will surround us as Paul’s disciples surrounded him – as they come to Jesus in the tomb – and like Paul, and like our Lord, “before long” we shall get up and return to our call; and ultimately we shall rise from the dead to eternal life with Jesus, coming to the home He now prepares.
“I go away for a while and I come back to you,” Jesus assures His disciples, and asks them to be joyful that He returns to the greatness of the Father, whose “dominion endures through all generations.” And so, brothers and sisters, may our “mouth[s] speak the praise of the Lord” all our days; “may all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” Let us do as He commands and “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom and speak of [His] might,” and that power will enable us to endure all things, and we shall be brought at last into His reign.
O Lord, though it mean we must die,
let us be obedient to your command,
that we might enter your reign.
YHWH, let us discourse of the glory of your kingdom; let us carry your Word to the ends of the earth. Let us not fear the trials that must come to all who enter your reign but hold the peace Jesus offers ever in our hearts. Let us, too, come to you in Heaven.
Though we be stoned and left for dead, we shall rise up again, for you, O LORD, are with your disciples, surrounding them with your grace and protection. As Paul returned even to the towns from which he had been cast out, so let us be ready to enter every battle this world presents, knowing the power you give us is greater than any of this earth, for it overcomes even the Prince of darkness.
Let us give you thanks, O LORD, in all the works we do and so make known to all men your glory.
Sun, 14 May 2017
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.
Sun, 14 May 2017
(Acts 14:5-18; Ps.115:1-4,15-16; Jn.14:21-26)
“May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
“Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” Thus are we blessed, by keeping the word of the Lord. Thus we know His love, for thus we accept the love He offers by His instruction and by His presence.
It is this blessing of “the living God, ‘the one who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them’” that Paul and Barnabas would bring to the hearts of the Gentiles to whom they preach. It is in the name of Jesus, Paul brings healing to the lame man who “used to sit crippled, never having walked in his life.” Indeed, the same healing he would bring to all the pagans before him who also have been crippled all their lives by the folly of worshiping “idols [that] are silver and gold, the handiwork of men” and the products of human imagination. Never have they walked in the true light of the Lord. In fact, their limitations are most evident in their desire to sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul themselves, as Zeus and Hermes; “even the priest of the temple of Zeus… wished to offer sacrifice to them,” and Barnabas and Paul must shout at them “frantically”: “We are bringing you the Good News that will convert you from just such follies as these”!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory” is our psalmist’s refrain today, and the same is exclaimed by Barnabas and Paul: “We are only men, human like you.” Worship the living God! is their exhortation. And Jesus Himself speaks in the same humility and with the same deference to the Father: “The word you hear is not mine, it comes from the Father who sent me.” All comes from the Father and must return to Him; and so we are all encouraged to make our home with Him alone.
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.” He wills to love all, to bless all, to make His home with all. To find our homes with Him, to know the blessed love the living God has for all His creatures, we must listen to the instruction of His Son, to the Holy Spirit the Father now sends in His name, and to the ones who are sent to preach the truth of the living God. May the light of His face shine upon you.
O LORD, let us keep your commands
and so live in your surpassing love.
YHWH, you come to all who love your Son and keep the Word He imparts to us. It is this Word that brings us love, and all who cherish love, cherish it, and so find your presence. May you be revealed to all souls in your only Son.
Help all wayward people to turn from vain worship to know you, O living and true God. May all your creatures give you due praise, turning resolutely from the work of their hands. Glory abides with you alone; may we find that glory by obedience to your call to love.
Let us dwell with you, O LORD; come, we pray, to dwell in us. Help us indeed to keep your commands, which are but life for our souls. Your Spirit be with us this day to lead us to all truth in your Son’s Name, that we might do your will in strength, proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all men. O let us rise from the dust to live in your Heaven!
Sat, 13 May 2017
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.
Sat, 13 May 2017
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; 1Pt.2:4-9; Jn.14:1-12)
“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood
to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter tells us in his letter that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own.” Quoting Scripture, he calls us to “‘announce the praises’ of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His wonderful light.” The house we become, the priests we are, and the sacrifices we offer are evident throughout our readings today.
First, in our gospel Jesus tells the disciples very directly, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” and that He is going “to prepare a place” for them, and so for us, there. And even now He draws us to that place He is with the Father, each to our own room, each with his own ministry. For, second, the priesthood all share in Christ is pictured in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. As the community of disciples grows in Jerusalem, so do the functions prescribed to its members. It becomes clear that the Twelve and their successors are to “devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word,” so in order to care for the particular concerns surrounding such matters as the daily distribution of food, they ordain “respectable men” to “serve at table,” thus instituting the ministry of the deacon. And, finally, the spiritual sacrifices all offer to God are sung of by David in our psalm: “Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting.” As this humble servant “give[s] thanks to the Lord on the harp” placed in His hands by God, so all have their place in the kingdom founded on Jesus; all have their lives to offer in praise of God by the instruments He provides.
“Whoever believes in me will do the works I do.” Yes, the Lord’s works in great abundance are given to us to accomplish through Him who now sits with the Father. The way to His heavenly kingdom has been made clear by the ministry and the sacrifice of Jesus, and we must follow in His footsteps, for we are now the Body of Christ here on this earth. In Him and through Him we offer ourselves and all we do to draw all to the House which He prepares in light, to proclaim with our beings that “of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.” Today we are encouraged to hear that “even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith,” that the priests of the Old Covenant were now finding themselves true priests under the New. And so we should realize the manner in which we are all called to service in the Temple of the Lord as members of His own Body, giving praise to the Father of us all through His only Son.
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, let us live in your Son and so in you
that we might do your works in this world
and praise you forever in Heaven.
YHWH, let us be built into and grow as the Body of your Son. Make us a royal priesthood, a holy nation – your Church. Into your House let us come and dwell, eternally praising your Name.
Jesus is in you and you are in Jesus, and those who believe in Him and so in you become one with Him, and so with you, dearest LORD and God. O Father in Heaven, to Heaven let us come, to oneness with you. Let us do your works on earth and so find our way to your kingdom.
Why should we be troubled when we have the promise from Jesus that He prepares a place for us? Why should we fear when He is near in the power of the Holy Spirit? Let us follow closely the way He leads, that indeed we might exult in your presence forever.
Fri, 12 May 2017
O marvelous Wonder,
O Lady who shines
like the sun,
who brings the Light
into our midst
and calls us to repentance
that we might be saved,
that the whole world
might turn to the Lord
and be preserved
you come at the end of the age
to lead us back to your Son
before He comes again
and finally –
pray we shall hear and heed
your warning to our souls
and, with the faith of the children
whose eyes beheld you,
in union with the Cross of Jesus
for the salvation of all
and the renewal of the Church and the world.
Fri, 12 May 2017
(Acts 13:44-52; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.14:7-14)
“I have made you a light to the nations,
a means of salvation to the ends of the earth.”
In the preaching of Paul today is fulfilled the words of our psalm, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” Rejected by the Jews to whom he comes, he “now turn[s] to the Gentiles,” and – fulfilling the words of our psalm which read, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, break into song; sing praise” – our first reading tells us “the Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and responded to the word of the Lord with praise.” Thus does the light of the Lord’s salvation go out to the ends of the earth.
And our gospel makes clear just how salvation comes to all. First Jesus declares with wonderful clarity the oneness of the Son and the Father. When asked by Philip, “Show us the Father,” Jesus responds, “After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?” Notice that Philip’s request refers to the Father but Jesus’ response refers to the Son, as if to ask of one is to ask of the other. The Lord then states the truth of His oneness with the living God in plain terms: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” There is no separation here, and all that Jesus does is done by the Father, so the living Lord of the universe is at work in absolute fashion through the Son’s words and works. In Him the Father’s will of love, His desire to save His children from sin and death, is accomplished.
But more than this is made evident of the working of salvation, for the Word must reach to the ends of the earth. How is this accomplished? The Lord again declares with absolute clarity the oneness now of Himself and His disciples. In order “to glorify the Father in the Son,” He makes them the solemn promise, “The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.” And the oneness of Jesus and His disciples is made more poignant in His definitive statement: “Anything you ask me in my name I will do.” Who does these works of the Lord? Who brings His salvation forth? We do the works, do we not? We are those still on this earth with flesh and bone and voices. Yet He says “I will do” them to show how He works through us in all we do, to reveal our oneness with Him and the Father.
Our first reading tells us, “Almost the entire city gathered to hear the word of God” when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch in Pisidia. In this simple line is shown both that the salvation of the Lord is going forth to all, and that it is occurring through His disciples. For it is indeed “the word of God” that Paul the apostle speaks and not his own, and this Word is irresistible in its truth and love to all hearts open to hear the voice of Him who speaks, for this Word brings only joy.
O LORD, looking upon your Son we see you;
when others look at us may they see Jesus.
YHWH, you live in your Son, accomplishing your works, and He in His turn works through us. What grace and blessing you grant all your disciples, that we might share in your very life and work! Alleluia!
And this grace and blessing extends to all throughout the earth; all may know the salvation wrought in men by the only Son. And so, what can we do but sing to you in joy, for your light is with us even in the persecution your Word brings.
O let us be one with you, dear God, even as Jesus is one with you. To your side let us, too, come; this is your will now that you have revealed yourself to us in your Son. May we say in truth, He is in us and so we in you. No separation let us know from your surpassing glory.
I pray, O LORD, even the words on this page be spoken not of myself but by you, that your work be accomplished in this poor servant.
Thu, 11 May 2017
O child of courage,
though but a boy
you gave your life
as the strongest of men,
proving thus your love for Christ,
a love that steels souls
even in the face of death,
even in the youthful breast –
if but a young child like yourself
could die so freely for the faith
and show the face of Jesus
to the whole world,
how much more should we,
so graced by the Lord
with years of devotion,
be ready to give
for the name of God?
Pray your innocence
may renew our hearts
and your strength
fortify our commitment
to give our lives for Christ
and His Church.
Thu, 11 May 2017
O brave soldiers,
the world could not take
Christ from your hearts;
though it tried to expunge Him
from the army in which you served,
your allegiance to the holy One of Israel,
our Lord and God,
and so death you preferred
to life without Jesus –
pray for us who are so weak in faith,
that our stale complacency
might be invigorated
by the blood of our Savior,
the blood you yourselves shed
as you filled up what was lacking
in the sufferings of Christ.
Pray we shall not turn
from the sacrifice to which the Lord calls us
but embrace with joy the cross we must bear,
and which bears us unto Heaven.
Thu, 11 May 2017
(Acts 13:26-33; Ps.2:6-11; Jn.14:1-6)
“You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.”
This same verse appearing in both our first reading and our psalm is spoken also by Jesus in our gospel when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” for such is the Son begotten of the Father.
How comforting are Jesus’ words in our gospel, and how enlightening Paul’s speech. The disciples’ hearts are troubled at the Lord’s speaking of His imminent departure; that He must die begins to sink in to them. But the only Son tells them, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” and, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you.” Not only this, He also promises, “I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” The words come like a river of peace, like a wind of love breathing upon them, and upon us. And the same message is spoken by Paul to “the children of the family of Abraham and [all] others who reverence our God.” His is “this message of salvation,” that though the rulers condemned Him to death and “laid Him in a tomb,” “yet God raised [Jesus] from the dead.” And now His witnesses, those to whom He appeared thereafter, declare the Good News of His resurrection, and our own. “The words of the prophets which we read sabbath after sabbath” and “what God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, in raising up Jesus.” This is the word Paul brings to the waiting ears of his Jewish brothers, and which should be heard by us all.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” brothers and sisters. The Lord is near and is calling us to His home. Even as we speak He is preparing a place for us. The death that you experience day to day is passing away, and all that will be known is the truth, the life of God the Father. The Lord declares, “I myself have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain,” and Jesus is that King for all ages and all peoples. With His truth He shatters kings, and so death itself, “like an earthen dish”; He takes “the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for [His] possession.” He has died, but He is risen, and now all must “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before Him.” There is no breaking in to the place He prepares for us to dwell.
The devil has been defeated by the Son begotten of the Father; his house has come crumbling down. We need but follow the way Jesus is to find our home in the New Jerusalem. Death no longer holds dominion, for the Son is now come.
O LORD, you have begotten Jesus
and raised Him from the grave we have made
that we might be saved,
that we might dwell with you forever – Alleluia!
YHWH, may we come to you through Jesus your Son; may we follow in His way, for His way is truth and leads to life, and leads to you. O may we be resurrected from the dead with Him that we might come to new life with you who are Life itself.
Let us not be troubled, LORD, by the death Jesus had to die, and the death we too must know. What is this world and the things of this world in comparison with you? What can this world do to us if we have Jesus as our guide? For He shatters the powers of evil like an earthen dish and raises all the faithful from the tomb. Let us come to the dwelling He prepares for us in your heavenly kingdom.
Though He has died, He has been raised, and we shall be raised with Him, all according to your will, Father God. And on Zion we shall find our home with your eternal King.
Wed, 10 May 2017
(Acts 13:13-35; Ps.89:2-3,21-22,25,27; Jn.13:16-20)
“He who accepts anyone I send accepts me,
and in accepting me accepts Him who sent me.”
And who is this Jesus who sends apostles like Paul forth traveling from Syria to Cyprus to Asia Minor? Who is He of whom Paul rises to speak in this distant synagogue? Two quotes I offer for your consideration. First is the Baptist’s declaration, “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals”(Lk.3:16). The second is the mere statement of fact that He “washed the feet of the disciples.” And so with two questions I will tell you who He is: Tell me, who is worthy to unfasten His sandals? Then tell me, whose feet does He not wash? Mary washed His feet with her tears and her hair and knew herself nothing but unworthy to touch Him (Lk.7:38). Jesus stoops to cleanse the feet of even Judas, His betraying apostle, who will kiss Him on the cheek, but to whom He shall turn the other one. He heals lepers; children come to Him – none is beyond His humble reach. Yet this man with the towel around His waist is none other than the Son of God.
The Israelites awaited His coming. Hundreds of years they expected Him. Paul tells us that “God testified, ‘I have found David son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart who will fulfill my every wish,” and in this Son of David the Father’s every wish is indeed fulfilled. Here is the “Savior for Israel.” It is of this Christ the Lord speaks when He says, “With my holy oil I have anointed Him, that my hand may be always with Him, and that my arm may make Him strong.” And He in turn says of the Lord, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior.” So obedient is Jesus to the Father that there is none for whom He will not die; for all He shall drink the cup the Father offers, that the whole world might know the Father’s love. Here is the great “I AM”, “the fulfillment of Scripture,” the WORD made flesh, the image of the living God: Jesus, Son of David, Son of God – God Himself dwelling among us. And as He was Chosen, so He now chooses, instructing men to go forth.
Do “you know all these things”? Do you see who He is and hear the words He speaks? Then “blest will you be if you put them into practice.” For in humble service of the Name of God, with Him you shall “be exalted.” Bring forth His message of love.
O LORD, obedience to the Church
is obedience to your Son,
and obedience to your Son is obedience to you –
may we all be as faithful as Jesus.
YHWH, may we be men after your own heart, men formed in the image of Jesus and so reflecting your glory – may we be worthy to be called your sons. O let us never raise our heel against you but ever put into practice your humble love.
O LORD, you call us to serve as you called David; you anoint us with oil even as your only Son. Let us, too, be sons of David, calling you our God, our Rock, our Father – in the image of Jesus let us indeed be formed.
None is worthy to unfasten the sandals of our Savior. None of your poor creatures could even touch your Son. Yet He comes to wash our feet, to touch us with your merciful love. Help us, O LORD, to imitate Him; help us to reveal your glory in the service we show one another. Help us ever to declare your faithfulness, made known in your only Son.
Tue, 9 May 2017
(Acts 12:24-13:5; Ps.67:2-6,8; Jn.12:44-50)
“Set apart Barnabas and Saul for me,
to do the work for which I have called them.”
These words came to the Church at Antioch “while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and fasting”; spoken by the Holy Spirit, they show how intimately the Church and her apostles are connected to the Lord Jesus and His Father.
In John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims, “The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to speak.” Jesus is sent by the Father. He is the image of the Father: “Whoever looks on me is seeing Him who sent me.” In the same way, Barnabas and Saul are “sent forth by the Holy Spirit” through the ministry of the Church, who “imposed hands on them and sent them off” to proclaim the word of God. Jesus is sent by the Father. Jesus speaks in the Holy Spirit the words of everlasting life. Hearing these words His children, His Church, go forth to the ends of the earth. There is absolute unity in the Church and all its members, as long as we are as obedient as Jesus, our Head, who declares, “Whatever I say is spoken just as He instructed”; as long as we are as faithful to the Spirit’s prompting as Jesus is to the Father’s will, we shall reflect His glory as He reflects the Father.
And what is the glory of the Son of God but to bring light to this dark world: “I have come to the world as its light, to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the dark.” The words He speaks, the instruction He offers and the sacrifice He makes, indeed bring spirit and life to those who listen and obey. He is true when He says He has not come to condemn but to save, for the world is already condemned by its sin and His words would bring it to life. And so, if we reject His words, we reject the lifeline He provides, and what hope can there be for us? If instead of asking that “He let His face shine upon us” and celebrating in joy the salvation that comes “among all nations” – if we do not seek the holy light of God, where else shall we find eternal life? “His commandment means eternal life”; all other words lead to destruction. We must follow the Lord and His way.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious to us that we are called even as Barnabas and Saul and the first Christians in the city of Antioch. The Spirit of God remains upon the Church, and He would send us forth in Jesus’ name to do the work and will of the Father. Do not reject His call upon your soul; put faith in Jesus and in Him who sent Him, and the Spirit will lead you forth.
O LORD, you speak through your Son
and call His apostles to proclaim your Word
to the ends of the earth – Alleluia!
YHWH, send us forth in the Holy Spirit; in the Name of your Son let us preach to the nations. Let us be a reflection of Him as He is the pure reflection of you. He brings your light to us by His presence among us – may we be His presence in this world that your light might shine unto all.
In your Son we see you, O LORD. Though you are hidden from all human eyes, Jesus gives us new vision. He indeed is Light itself and looking upon Him we see anew: our minds are illumined to look upon you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia!
For this great gift let us praise you, LORD. By this great blessing to us you are made known. Help us to declare to all what you reveal to us, to make you known even to the ends of the world. Your salvation come to all nations.
By faith in your Son we are saved and brought into your presence. Your Spirit be with us even this day to accomplish your mission.
Mon, 8 May 2017
(Acts 11:19-26; Ps.87:1-7,117:1; Jn.10:22-30)
“Of Zion they shall say:
‘One and all were born in her.’”
“I tell of Egypt and Babylon among those that know the Lord; of Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia,” sings our psalmist today. Yes, “when the peoples are enrolled” in the kingdom of heaven, when it is noted: “This man was born there,” it shall not be to the soil of Jerusalem to which the angels refer, but to birth in the spirit of the place, in the Holy Spirit Himself, who leads all into the New Jerusalem. For all nations are called, and it matters no more the land of your origin.
This impotence of place and importance of the Spirit is made clear in Jesus’ words to “the Jews gathered around Him” “in the temple area, in Solomon’s portico.” To those here in the heart of the city of Jerusalem He says, “You are not my sheep.” They “refuse to believe” that He is the Messiah and so they prove that they are no sons of Abraham, that they have no faith. Only those of faith hear the voice of the Shepherd, and only these are admitted into the kingdom. This He tells them plainly. For what is He saying when He declares, “The Father and I are one” but that He dwells with the Father in heaven, and not upon this earth. The earth to which they cling shall pass away, but the kingdom shall last forever.
“My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says, and how that voice does work among all souls. (For this let us praise the Lord!) We are told in our first reading that at first “the community who had been dispersed by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, making the message known to none but Jews.” Here, even though the Word is spread far, it is kept for those born of the land of Zion. But then the change occurs, and the truth of the Word, which goes beyond all borders, becomes known, for “some men of Cyprus and Cyrene among them who had come to Antioch began to talk even to the Greeks, announcing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to them.” The church in Jerusalem, the protector of the faith – whose seat is now in Rome – sends Barnabas to investigate. He finds “the evidence of God’s favor” and rejoices to realize the Lord’s sheep come from near and far. Here “in Antioch the disciples were called Christians for the first time.” Here it becomes clear that there is a new Church being formed, one that finds “eternal life” in following Jesus.
“The gates of Zion” “the Lord loves,” and to this holy mountain He brings all, through the Gate that is Jesus. And “no one shall snatch them out of [His] hand,” for this mountain cannot be shaken, this Temple cannot be torn down. It is of the life of heaven “all shall sing, in their festive dance” when they proclaim: “My home is within you.” And this land shall endure forever.
O LORD, let us be found in your Hand,
filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith,
living as your Son.
YHWH, into your House all faithful souls are called; in your Church all find a home. We are born into the New Jerusalem by virtue of our Baptism, and so become assimilated to Christ. And as He dwells with you as your Son, so we become as your holy children, wherever we may come from.
Jesus is one with you, dear Father, and we are called to be one with Him. Though from the Jews He comes, He goes out to all the earth, bringing the light of salvation. And when by the Spirit we are reborn in Him, when His sacrifice bears fruit in us and we come to eternal life, we become as your City, O God, our names written in Heaven.
You establish your Church, O LORD; the New Jerusalem is built up in your Name. And all who long for truth and love hear the Good News of your risen Son and fly with Him unto your kingdom, where they rejoice all the day.
Sun, 7 May 2017
(Acts 11:1-18; Ps.41:3,42:2-3,43:3-4; Jn.10:1-10 or Jn.10:11-18)
“God has granted life-giving repentance even to the Gentiles.”
In his vision Peter sees “an object like a big canvas… lowered down to [him] from the sky by its four corners.” Upon it he discerns “four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.” Like Noah’s ark it seems to contain all the animals upon it. But these animals he sees are not for the good Jew to eat: they are unclean. And so Peter protests when instructed to “slaughter, then eat.” But he is assured (and three times), “What God has purified you are not to call unclean,” even as “the canvas with everything in it was drawn up again into the sky.”
What is this shepherd to do – he who has been told by the Lord, “Feed my sheep”? When the uncircumcised come to him seeking salvation, how can he turn away? And so, as the canvas which came from the sky and returned to the sky, we learn that everything comes from God and returns to Him, and He calls whom He will. And so the Gentile man whose home Peter enters by the Spirit’s direction is “saved, and all [his] household.” “As [Peter] began to address them the Holy Spirit came upon them,” for they, too, “believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, even these thirst for God “as the hind [who] longs for the running waters,” and so are led to the Lord’s “holy mountain, to His dwelling place”; even these “go in to the altar of God.” For these unclean creatures are made as the pure and obedient sheep of Israel, heeding the Good Shepherd’s voice. Here are “the other sheep that do not belong to this fold” of which Jesus speaks, whom He leads, too, by His loving word.
All that He calls shall come to Him who lays down His life for the sake of the fold, by whom all “have life and have it to the full.” All living creatures are His own, for it is He who is the living God; and all who live, live for Him and through Him alone. The Son has come from the Father that we might know Him as He knows Him, and so that we might indeed have life. As good sheep let us follow in His way, and lead those behind us also to salvation. Let us all “go and behold the face of God” as we turn from anything that makes us unclean in His sight and listen for His voice leading our pure hearts.
O LORD, open the gate that we might enter in
and dwell in your presence.
YHWH, let all hear and heed the voice of your Son, who is the true Shepherd leading repentant souls to salvation. Send your apostles into every house that all might hear the call of Jesus, be purged in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and come to dwell in your House, beholding your holy face.
Let us be led forth by the Christ to your mountain, O God. Make us one flock in Him, all as your blessed children. O let us be as sheep slaughtered for your table, joining your Son on the altar of sacrifice; by His voice let us be cut to the heart and in our repentance become a holy offering to you.
False prophets keep far from us, dear LORD, those who work but for pay, who care nothing for your flock. In the Spirit send forth disciples to lead to running water those who thirst for you, O living God.
Sat, 6 May 2017
(Acts 2:14a,36-41; Ps.23:1-6; 1Pt.2:20b-25; Jn.10:1-10)
“Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.”
Jesus says in earnest to the Pharisees, “I am the gate for the sheep… Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” But they are as the thief who “comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.”
Today, too, brothers and sisters, the thief is among us, those teachers who do “not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climb over elsewhere.” For neither seeing nor caring to seek the wholeness of Scripture, that it is here that God speaks, they attempt to enter another way, relying on their own devices. So it says in the commentary of the missal I read: “the author of the First Letter of Peter” and “the author of John’s gospel,” for the author here shows he knows not the Word of God. Like the Pharisees who were so preoccupied with the words of the law that they could not see the Author of Life standing before them, so these are blind to the voice of Jesus and His apostles speaking in this Holy Book. As they piece together the fragments of supposed facts gleaned by their fanciful imaginations, the wholeness of the Word, holiness itself, entirely escapes them. How can they hear His silence amongst such chatter?
And so the false shepherds strip the “verdant pastures” and pollute the “restful waters” of Holy Scripture. On wrong paths for their own sakes they lead others into the “dark valley” with no “rod” or “staff” of the Lord to give “courage.” Only coming before the Word of God as children will they “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and so see the truth of prophecy – but this is entirely too shameful to their pride. By their own minds must they live; in their reason alone they seek their refuge, caring not to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and have His “goodness and kindness follow” them. They need this not – they are quite self-sufficient.
Brothers and sisters, my prayer is that you “save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” that you “run away” like sheep at the “voice of strangers,” saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” And as for these blind guides, I pray that they shall cease their vain effort to crucify the Lord again by making Him and His Word into a metaphor, a symbol – an empty construct of the human imagination – rather than the flesh and blood of God He Is. May they be “cut to the heart” as those at Peter’s preaching, and like the rest of the faithful who “had gone astray like sheep” now return “to the shepherd and guardian of our souls.” Entering through the gate that is Jesus, may they recognize the voice of God as He speaks through His Rock and His Beloved.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Lose the Pretense, How Do We?" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, the innocent Lamb is Himself our Shepherd;
may we find salvation at His side.
YHWH, let us enter into your presence through your only Son, who is the true Shepherd guiding us to you. May we follow in His steps. Even though it lead to the Cross, may we remain near Him, ready to give our lives as He has, as the innocent Lamb for our salvation. Though we are cut to the heart by the truth He speaks in His Word and through His apostles, let us turn to Him in repentance and find His comfort and peace – let us thus find ourselves in your holy arms.
O LORD, let our ears be open to hear His voice and His voice alone. Let us not be led astray by false shepherds, false prophets who seek only their own gain and not the welfare of your sheep. It is to sacrifice you call us, not to selfishness, and by laying down our lives, by entering the wounds in His flesh, we shall find eternal rest in your House. Let us be washed clean in His blood and so be saved from corruption.
Fri, 5 May 2017
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; Jn.6:16-21)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him,
upon those who hope for His kindness.”
As the apostles set out to cross the lake, “it was dark, and Jesus had still not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.” As they struggled to row and keep afloat, “they sighted Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.” They had not expected their prayers for assistance and their wishes that Jesus was with them to be answered so remarkably, and so they must have wondered if He was a ghost. But He assures them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (And these eternal words of comfort and peace come to rest upon His Church.) The disciples of the Lord now were ready “to take Him into the boat, but suddenly it came aground on the shore they had been approaching.” He is with you, brothers and sisters, be assured, and will bring you to the home you seek, despite the storms you may face.
In our first reading, the eyes of the widows must have been looking to the Lord, wishing that He were with them to provide for them. In this case, “the Twelve assembled the community of disciples,” and though they do not enter the boat themselves, do not “wait on the tables” to address the tumult that had arisen between the factions, they provide what is needed to calm the winds and see this boat ashore by laying hands on “deeply spiritual and prudent” men chosen from their own. And so, “the word of God continued to spread” through the apostles’ concentration “on prayer and [their] ministry,” “while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.” So the widows are fed as the Word is spread; so the boat comes aground on the land it approaches.
Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters. In all things He is there, working. He ministers to us always as the head of His Church through the hands and hearts and voices of all His disciples. And each to his own call, and this ship shall find its port assured. And all shall sing His praises as they see in us and we know in Him that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” His eyes are upon us. Do not be afraid.
O LORD, let us live and act
as if we believe in your Son;
let us do the things He has done.
YHWH, you have loosed our bonds and raised us from death by the sacrifice of your Son, and in His Name all are now saved from their sins and consecrated to you. Help us to believe the words He speaks, to be of the Spirit and life and not the flesh. O let us come to you!
O LORD, let our faith not be shaken by the demands of your Son, by the challenge He offers us to believe and so come to life in His Name. Let your Church flourish and grow in fear of you and the consolation of the Spirit. Yes, let all be converted to love of you and serve to do your will in this world, till all come to dwell eternally in your kingdom.
This day we take up the cup of salvation and declare your praise, O LORD. This day let us fulfill our vows to you, that in your sight our death might be blessed and we be raised to life with you.
Thu, 4 May 2017
(Acts 9:1-20; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Jn.6:52-59)
“My flesh is real food and my blood real drink.”
And “the man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.”
The truth is simply stated to those who wonder at His words today in our gospel. As the Israelites in the desert asked, “What is this?” when presented with manna as their food, so now the Jews say, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” For those who do not believe, it is impossible; but for those who believe, it is the gift of God.
Here is the Bread of Life in our midst, as real as the Light which shone around Saul and knocked him off his horse; as real as the voice which spoke aloud to his soul. This bread and wine on the table of the Lord, this great grace upon His altar of sacrifice, is indeed that which feeds us, that which sustains us – that which makes Him most present to us. Our first reading says of Saul that “his strength returned to him after he had taken food.” For three days he had fasted in darkness, experiencing the absolute blindness of his life as persecutor of the Church. Then Ananias laid his hands on him and he recovered his sight. Then he was baptized. Then he could come to the table of the Lord our God and gain the strength “to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.” Yes, the Scripture refers in fact but to ordinary food, but indeed it indicates the “real food” Saul shall soon come to know and find his spirit through.
“The man who feeds on me will have life because of me.” He will become one with the Son as He is with the Father. And he, too, the Lord will be speaking of when He asks, “Why are you persecuting me?” By this Bread we become so one with our God, and with Him we suffer for His Name. “I myself shall indicate to him how much he will have to suffer for my name,” Jesus says to Ananias. And so the disciple is convinced that this man who has done nothing but harm to God’s holy people is truly being called to come to the Lord of all. It is through such suffering that discipleship comes, as it is through His sacrifice we have this food upon our table.
Eat His Body, dear brothers and sisters. Drink His Blood. Let us share together this day this gift of oneness with our God. And let us be strong; and let us bleed with Him upon the cross, to bring His Name to all. “The fidelity of the Lord endures forever,” and He shall never leave us orphaned. He shall feed us forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread that is your Son,
that we might have strength to do your will.
YHWH, how shall we come to see that your Son is the Bread of Life and we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in us, to be united with Him as He is to you? We have scales upon our eyes and upon our hearts – how shall they fall away and our souls open to receive your Word? Send your disciples forth to lay their hands on all blinded men.
There are those still who persecute your Church, thinking they are acting in your Name, O LORD. There are many who cannot but harden their hearts to your gracious gift to them. Help all souls to accept your Son and see that it is His Body that acts in your Name. Help all come to the table of sacrifice and eat His flesh and drink His blood, that they too might proclaim Jesus as your Son.
From our horses we all need to fall; your light we need to shine about us. Let us hear your voice, O LORD, and be obedient to its commands, and so live in your presence forever.
Wed, 3 May 2017
(Acts 8:26-40; Ps.66:1,8-9,16-17,20; Jn.6:44-51)
“No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
How evident it is in our first reading that the Father draws all believers unto Himself. For though it is clear that the Ethiopian eunuch is in search of God, has a desire for God, and welcomes God – He is coming from pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is reading Holy Scripture, and “invite[s] Philip to get in and sit down beside him” – which is necessary for belief as well, it is most certain that the Lord is leading him to Himself. The angel of the Lord directs Philip to the Ethiopian. The Spirit specifically instructs him to approach his carriage, and then inspires His disciple to speak to the eunuch of the Word of God and lead him into the waters of baptism (snatching him away immediately upon the completion of his task).
Also evident in our first reading is Jesus’ quotation of the prophets: “They shall all be taught by God.” For indeed it is God that, through Philip, enlightens the Ethiopian eunuch regarding the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah, and all of Scripture, “telling him the good news of Jesus.” It is “not that anyone has seen the Father,” for the Father is not visible to our human vision. But the Father has sent the Son, “the one who is from God,” and “He has seen the Father,” and He knows Him. And now through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son sends His disciples forth as His own flesh and blood, with the same Spirit that inspires Him, to reveal the Father’s love to a waiting world.
“The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” We are those who have heard His Word, who have been instructed in His way, and who have received His Body and His Blood. And so, having eaten “the bread that comes down from heaven,” we indeed become flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone. Wed we are to the Son of Man by the power of His Word and the blessing of His Sacrament. We have responded to the Lord’s call; He who draws all to Himself and to the Father has become our “living bread,” our life-giving water. And now at His command we must draw all men to the Son, who brings all to the Father.
The Light of the world shines in our midst, and we are drawn as moths to this flame, to Him who “is deprived of His life on earth.” And though we die in our turn as this Sheep who “was led to the slaughter,” yet “of His posterity,” and so our own, all the world will speak… and be drawn to Him who has been lifted up from the earth upon a cross, to Him who dwells with the Father in heaven.
O LORD, your Son is the living Bread
come down from Heaven;
let us seek Him and listen to Him,
and rejoice in Him.
YHWH, let us be taught by you; let us be drawn to you and receive the Bread that is your Son. Let us be baptized in His Name, with you and the Holy Spirit, and so let us come to eternal life in your kingdom. May all souls praise you for your goodness toward us!
What can we do but rejoice when we hear your voice speaking to us in the depths of our souls, when your Word is revealed to our ears and our hearts – when Jesus stands before us in the flesh and offers Himself to us for our salvation? And so, let all indeed come to Him, and so to you, LORD, and loudly sound your praise.
You stand before us in the flesh of your Son, O LORD our God, and this Good News goes forward by the power of the Holy Spirit upon His Church. We who eat the Bread He offers become His Body; let your Word now extend from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Tue, 2 May 2017
O holy apostles of the Lord
upon whom the Church is established,
your words go out to the ends of the earth,
bringing the Gospel to all nations.
You who were near to Jesus Himself,
who were with Him all the time
He walked among us…
there is no greater witness
to the way and the truth and the life
of our God, our Savior –
please pray for the Church in the world
that it shall be led by the Spirit of Truth
and we shall all be as brothers of the Lord,
living in His love
and revealing the Father.
As you have performed the works of the Son,
so let us join in the work of redemption,
that all the earth will come to see
that Jesus is in the Father
and we are made one in Him.
Tue, 2 May 2017
(1Cor.15:1-8; Ps.19:2-5; Jn.14:6-14)
“The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.”
What is the message the apostles preach “to the ends of the world”? What is “the glory of God” that “the heavens declare” and “the firmament proclaims”? It is none other than Jesus’ words to Thomas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me”; it is His answer to Philip: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” The Father “lives in [Jesus] accomplishing His works,” and Jesus lives in His apostles continuing the great work of God.
Here is the Gospel in short, which Paul preaches to the Corinthians in our first reading: “Christ died for our sins in accord with the Scriptures… He was buried and, in accord with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” He has appeared to all the apostles who preach His Name, who declare His salvation to all men; and He is known to us this day in His Spirit, in His Church, in His Sacraments and in His Word. And indeed it is so that knowing Him we know the Father; filled with His Spirit we cannot but proclaim the majesty of the grace at work in Him through His Church. Standing on the solid foundation the apostles have set, what can shake our faith or keep us from His glorious presence?
Brothers and sisters, on days such as this – and indeed on all days – our hearts should burn intensely with the love of the Lord. Our souls should join with the blessed spirit of these holy apostles and declare aloud the silent Word that “imparts knowledge” to the minds of all. So should our “voice[s] resound” of the glory of God and the grace He has poured forth in our spirits. Let the earth be filled with His light!
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you are seen in your Son;
let Him be seen in us.
YHWH, let us do your works; let us believe in you and bring your Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let us declare with your holy apostles that your Son has died for our sins, and that He is now risen.
Dear LORD, open our eyes to see that Jesus is in you and you are in Him. Truly He is the way, the truth, and the life – by His presence amongst us, we are saved and drawn into life. Let us follow in His way and so become one with you and with the Spirit.
With confidence may your apostles speak, LORD, that your voice might go out to all the world and all hearts might declare that Jesus is God, and that in Him alone we are redeemed. O let us all speak for Him as He comes to us this day!
Make us His brothers in the faith, dear Father, those who see you and know you and do your will. Strengthen us today to do your work, and so find glory in your Name.
Mon, 1 May 2017
O defender of the faith
in the divinity of Christ,
bulwark of the Church
of the One
who is true God and true Man,
upholder of the way
in the face of all persecutions –
pray that the shepherds of the Church