Tue, 29 October 2013
(Rm.8:26-30; Ps.13:4-6; Lk.13:22-30)
“Lord, are they few in number who are to be saved?”
We question. We wonder. With the man who spoke to the Lord as He made His way toward Jerusalem, as He approached His own death, we question Jesus, “Who will be saved?” particularly as we face our own imminent death. Jesus answers the man, and so He responds to us, too. His answer is simple: “Come in through the narrow door.” His answer is wise, and comes with, and itself is, a warning to us not to take for granted the salvation by our God but to be diligent about our striving toward His kingdom, to be purposeful about our dying for Him. Those who walked with Him may have thought that this alone would be sufficient to ensure their entrance into heaven. But simply knowing Him, seeing Him, and even eating with Him will not do: He must know us. He must see us about His work as we see Him about the Father’s work – He must come in and eat with us, nourishing our souls with His daily bread of labor in His Name, of life in His Word.
Brothers and sisters, we may come to His table every day. We may eat of His Body and drink of His Blood and hear His Word proclaimed to our ears; we may be members of His Church, sitting here in these pews; we may have since birth been graced with the blessings of the sacraments and teaching of our Catholic faith – but this alone does not assure our entering into heaven. We must live that faith. We must put flesh and blood to our belief. There is no other way we can be saved, because this is our life and our life is required of us by God. It will not magically occur at the moment of death if we have not spent our lives for Him.
O brothers and sisters, we must cry out with David, “Give light to my eyes that I may not sleep in death.” We must sing to the Lord with him, “Let my heart rejoice in your salvation.” We must seek Him, seek His life, with all our hearts, that the prophetic words of Paul might become our own, that our predestination “to share the image of His Son” the Father might accomplish in us. For the Lord does call us, and we must respond. As we respond, we shall be justified – He shall enter in and cleanse us of our sin. And remaining on this path of justification we shall soon find glory with God in His eternal kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, let the will of the Lord be accomplished in us. In our moments of doubt, when we have no words with which to come to God, let us turn to the Spirit who “intercedes for the saints as God Himself wills,” “with groanings which cannot be expressed in speech.” He truly is our help in weakness. He truly is our guard on this perilous journey. Only remaining with Him and in His Church do we find comfort in the knowledge that we are to be saved.
O LORD, call us unto your kingdom
that with your Son we might be glorified –
let us embrace the Cross as we make our way to you.
YHWH, send your Spirit to help us in our weakness; hear us as we cry out to you. In our lives let your will be accomplished, that with your Son we might be glorified. You lead us forth in your goodness – may we be obedient to the promptings of our heart.
Within us you place your Spirit, LORD; to our ears come the teachings of your Son. Through the narrow door let us pass, by the groanings you inspire in us. What can we do but call upon your NAME? Let us not cry out in vain.
Our enemies surround us, LORD, and seek our downfall. How they wish to see us sleep in death. They would bar the door to your House that we might not enter – in your loving kindness defeat their plans. Let us be made in the image of your Son that on the last day we might join your saints in the kingdom.
Sat, 19 October 2013
(Ex.17:8-13; Ps.121:1-8; 2Tm.3:14-4:2; Lk.18:1-8)
“Call out to Him day and night.”
How faithful is the Lord. How true is He. As our psalmist so well states, “He neither slumbers nor sleeps.” Indeed, “He is beside [us] at [our] right hand”; always “the Lord will guard [us] from all evil” – “The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever.” But are we so faithful to Him, turning to Him for His eternal help?
“Pray always without becoming weary.” This is our instruction today. This is the “wisdom for salvation” sacred Scripture brings us. Do we receive the “correction” and “training for righteousness” it would impart? Do as Jesus asks: “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.” Though he “neither fear[s] God nor respect[s] any human being,” yet because of the widow’s persistence, he renders a just decision for her. And do you think God will not hear and answer us when we call out to Him? Do you think He is so “slow to answer”? Rather, “He will see to it that justice is done… speedily,” for ever He waits for us to turn to Him; always He longs to do justice for us – it is His great joy to answer our prayers.
Learn from our reading from the Book of Exodus. It informs us, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” And it was not until Aaron and Hur supported him and “his hands remained steady till sunset” that “Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” And so the sword of the Spirit shall not truly be our own, we will not truly be victorious in the battle against sin, until we remain always in the presence of the Lord, until we, like Him, no longer slumber or sleep.
Brothers and sisters, “proclaim the Word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient,” as Paul exhorts us. In sacred Scripture and the power of the Spirit we find our source for right living; by it we become “equipped for every good work.” And consistently good works are found by us only if our prayer is consistent and good. Only if we remain steady and persistent in our calling out to Him at all times will He “not suffer [our] foot to slip.” Let us “lift up [our] eyes toward the mountains,” seeing always whence our help comes. The Lord prays for us always; let us join Him in prayer.
O LORD, may you find faith in our hearts,
and perseverance in doing your will.
YHWH, we must but be persistent, persistent in our prayer and in our work for you, and we shall find your blessing – all our enemies will be conquered and we will dwell forever with you.
We look to you, O LORD, for you alone are our strength and our salvation, you alone guard us from all evil and equip us well for battle. In you and in your Word we take our refuge, and so we find the wisdom we need to attain to your glory. Quickly you come to answer our pleas, for your heart is ever set on our salvation.
O may your arms be ever raised to bless us! May your love for us remain always steady, and we remain steady with you. Let us not grow weary in the battle of earthly life but continually find our inspiration in you, always ready to do your will. Hear us as we call upon you this day, O LORD, and justice shall be ours.
Sat, 12 October 2013
(2Kgs.5:14-17; Ps.98:1-4; 2Tm.2:8-13; Lk.17:11-19)
“All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.”
“The word of God is not chained.” It cannot be imprisoned. It is free. And it cannot be limited by national boundaries; it is for everyone. The universal call of salvation is made most clear in our readings today: in our first reading, Naaman the Syrian is healed of his leprosy, and in our gospel a Samaritan is healed of the same. Both are foreigners and essentially enemies to Israel, but it is these two we hear of today to make clear that the Word of God and His power are unbounded.
And when these foreigners are healed, they return praising God; they make clear their faith in the Holy One, much to the shame of those who are native to His House, who may often lack such recognition of the Lord and His work in their lives. This is perhaps the greatest message of today’s readings, that we must be as the Samaritan who, “realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and… fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.” For this is what the Lord desires of us, thanksgiving, a sacrifice of praise. How clearly this is shown in Naaman as well, whose offerings of gifts are repelled by Elisha, the man of God, “despite Naaman’s urging,” but who will not leave without earth from the land of Israel, declaring, “I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except the Lord.” The Lord desires of us our praise and worship of Him only, and when we come bearing this gift of ourselves, He says to us, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
And it is unto the end we must remain faithful, praising God for the graces He gives, if we hope to “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.” We should hear in Paul’s teaching in our second reading of the means to salvation and the means to condemnation. The Lord “remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” He is God; He holds salvation and glory. If we persevere with Him, dying with Him, giving all our selves always to His service, “we shall also reign with Him.” It cannot be otherwise because the Lord indeed blesses those who come to Him. But “if we deny Him, He will deny us,” and this cannot but be, too, for He cannot dwell with untruth.
The Lord’s Truth extends to the ends of the earth now; His Word goes forth to all, and in all salvation may be known through Jesus Christ. But who will trust in Him and fall at His feet in praise of Him as they find healing for their sin? Let it be so with us all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Numeric Truth" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us give you thanks and praise you
for your healing mercy.
YHWH, it is by faith alone we are saved, and all souls are called to faith in you; and any soul with faith you will accept into your fold. To all the ends of the earth your salvation is revealed – may men come from every land and every tongue to worship you alone.
O LORD, let us not be weak in faith; let us not be put to shame by the great devotion shown to you by those who have been foreigners to your Word. Let us join them at the feet of your Son and give thanks for the grace and healing you shower upon us by His presence.
There is so much of which we need to be healed. How shall we lose our blindness to your glory shining all around us? When will we cease taking you for granted, and so hardening our hearts in a vain pride? Your wondrous deeds are upon us, LORD; your Word is preached to all mankind. O let us respond in faith and humbly worship you!
Sat, 5 October 2013
(Hb.1:2-3,2:2-4; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; 2Tm.1:6-8,13-14; Lk.17:5-10)
“The vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.”
And we are servants of this Gospel.
And so, with faith and in patience we must accomplish “what we [are] obliged to do.” We must serve the Word of God. Never hardening our hearts against the voice we hear, rather, we should “stir into flame the gift of God” we are blessed with as Christians, as Catholics; “the Holy Spirit that dwells within us” should be our refuge and our guide – it should be our stronghold despite any “destruction and violence” we witness before us. For we know that if we endure till the end, till the fulfillment of the vision of the Gospel, though we deserve it not, the Lord will call to us when we “come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field and say, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table.’” Indeed, He has promised in His mercy and His glorious benevolence to put on His apron and serve us, His “unprofitable servants,” at table in the eternal kingdom. But have we the faith to believe? Have we the patience to endure? Listen to His assuring words: “Wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” His Word is certainly true and the vision written “clearly upon the tablets” of our hearts, if we believe.
And we show our faith when we “sing joyfully to the Lord,” when we “bow down in worship” before Him in spite of any “clamorous discord” that surrounds us in this world. In such praise in the face of the darkness of evil we bear “hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Yes, He alone is our strength; it is from Him alone that we find the faith and patience to endure and produce fruit upon this earth. So, “let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds.” Though we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” with the prophet Habbakuk, we know that if we listen to the instructions of the Apostle Paul to “take as [our] norm the sound words [we] heard from [him],” “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” we shall endure, and we shall find answer to our prayer.
The vision is coming to fulfillment. The Lord of all is with us now. Let us “not be ashamed of [our] testimony to our Lord,” but proclaim with courage the word the Spirit prompts in our hearts – Jesus is Lord! Let us say it. Let us not be afraid of it or its consequences. Let the truth of God cross our lips even as it stirs the faith within us. Jesus is Lord, and His Kingdom comes. Do not delay your service of Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Duty" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us bear the hardship of the Gospel
that we might look upon your face.
YHWH, you call us each day to love and to serve you that we might know your love in our hearts even this day. It is our great grace and blessing to do your will, for then we share in your glory, in your presence among us today.
If we had but faith, O LORD, what is there we could not do in your Name? If with patience we waited for your coming, we would know how near you are. Help us to fan into flame the gift of your Spirit that makes us strong in holiness. O let us accomplish all you command, never turning our faces away!
We have seen your works; we have done your works. We have spoken the Word you have placed in our hearts and on our lips. Let us not now doubt that you are God or think that any power of this earth holds any sway in our lives. Let us trust only in you, dear God, for your promise is on the horizon and you do not disappoint.
Wed, 7 August 2013
(Nm.20:1-13; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; Mt.16:13-23)
“‘You are the Messiah,’ Simon Peter answered,
‘the Son of the Living God!’”
With this response, because of this faith come from the “heavenly Father,” Jesus declares to Peter, “You are ‘Rock’, and on this rock I will build my Church.” He entrusts to him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, with power to bind and loose. As from the rock Moses struck, “water gushed out in abundance for the community… to drink,” so through Peter and the Church Christ has founded we are nourished by the sacraments and true teaching. So the Son of the Living God is with us.
“Let us acclaim the Rock of our Salvation… Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides.” By the hand of Peter the Lord guides the Church born of His blood. Indeed, as Moses led the Israelites through the desert, so Peter leads us now to the gates of heaven. Let us declare our faith with him; let us echo his words to the Lord, giving Him due praise and “joyfully sing[ing] psalms to Him.” He is our God, He is our Savior, and in this Rock we take refuge.
But let us remember, too, not to judge “by man’s standards but by God’s.” His ways are not our ways, as both great leaders had to learn. It seems to our human minds unfair that Moses should be deemed unfit to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land; it is they, after all, who continually tempted him with their grumbling, plotting even to take his life. And why is the Lord so harsh toward Peter, even calling him “Satan”? He is only concerned for Jesus’ life, is he not? The Lord does not judge as we judge. He wishes to teach Moses to deepen his love and concern for the people, that anger is never justified in the care of those in one’s charge – the Lord does not act in the rashness of anger and anxiety, and neither should we. And to Peter He must show the necessity of the sacrifice of this life, that we must be “put to death” to be “raised up on the third day” – it is the laying down of this life which brings glory.
Really, in both cases the Lord is calling His leaders to lay down their lives for the people, to do as He does and take the people’s sins upon themselves. And this is, of course, the call of us all – to be like Him, to join with our Savior, the Son of the Living God, in His sacrifice. What is more against the standards of man than the cross of Christ, as Paul has told us elsewhere, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1Cor.1:23) – and yet the source of our salvation. For to come to the Living God we proclaim as our own, this world and its passions must be left behind. The Father dwells in highest heaven and His ways must become our own. Take refuge now in the Rock of Christ and in His Church; this shall lead you to His presence.
O LORD, your ways are so far above our own,
and how shall we attain to them,
except by faith and the grace that comes to us
through your holy Church?
YHWH, how could we even begin to put you to the test? How could we be so foolish as to ask you any question, as to doubt your goodness toward us, your presence among us? What of this world should lead us to such blindness to your love? Should we not be ready even to die for you?
It is you who have the power and grace to put us to the test, and so your Son asks, “Who do you say that I AM?” Do we really believe He is the Messiah? Do we really believe you have sent Him to us to die for our sins that we might be raised up with Him? Or do we indeed doubt the greatness of your love? O LORD, help us to judge as you judge, to see as you see, and so to know your glory.
It is not in this desert we shall find our home; it is not the food of this world that is our fare. It is to Heaven we must come, and in your Church we shall find a way there. Help us, O LORD, to show forth your sanctity, to join in the sacrifice of your Son and worship Him alone.
Sun, 30 June 2013
(Gn.18:16-33; Ps.103:1-4,8-11; Mt.8:18-22)
“While the two men walked on farther toward
the Lord remained standing before Abraham.”
“Then Abraham drew nearer to Him…”
A marvelous scene. First, as Abraham walks along with the Lord, we hear the Lord’s thoughts. The Lord wishes to share His plans with him, not to act apart from His blessed one. He tells Abraham of the imminent destruction of
Evident in this scene is the psalmist’s words: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord.” How patient and kind and forbearing. How He desires that we draw near to Him and share in His will. And how forgiving is He: “He pardons all your iniquities… He redeems your life from destruction.” For
But we must come to Him in the humility of Abraham. We must not approach Him as does the scribe in our gospel, proclaiming so boldly and so foolishly his willingness to follow Jesus, yet knowing nothing of the glory of God and what following Him entails. Nor must we come so shakily as the disciple who makes excuses. Upon hearing of the difficulties, he attempts to put off following Christ for a time… There is but one time with God, and it is present, and it is now. We must come to Him in humility and find the strength His grace provides as He draws us to Himself.
There is a time to speak, brothers and sisters – a time to speak and a manner of speaking. It is not right to speak until the Lord stops to listen. We must wait on Him and His grace. One does not burst into the court of a king unannounced proclaiming his loyalty to Him who sits on the throne. One waits until called and then pours out one’s heart, trusting in the compassion of the Lord.
It is His desire to share with us all His works. It is His pleasure to hear our good prayers. But let us realize to whom we speak and come in true faith and humility; and He will hear and answer all our petitions, and we will become sharers in His promised glory.
O LORD, in the Day of Judgment
you will spare those who walk with your Son.
YHWH, how kind and merciful you are, for you stop to listen to our prayers; you desire to share with us your plans. What are we but dust and ashes? And yet you make us your own sons and shower your blessings upon us. Be so kind as to answer our call to save all those in need.
Your Son you send to us, LORD, to walk among us and lead us to you, our Father in Heaven. And so, all things of this earth we must leave behind if we are to walk in His way, if we are to rest with you in the heavenly kingdom.
But we are weak, dear God, so weak and so blind. We know not what it is you ask of us, and are afraid to come to your side. Draw us unto you, LORD, in your kindness; in your compassion help us to approach you with our plea. Without your help we shall not find the salvation you wish to share with us poor creatures. Without your grace we cannot follow your Son.