Fri, 29 May 2015
(Sir.51:12-20; Ps.19:8-11; Mk.11:27-33)
“When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom.
She came to me in her beauty,
and until the end I will cultivate her.”
Oh how Sirach speaks of his love, of the wisdom that is the light of his life! He is “resolutely devoted to her” and does “never weary of extolling her.” To his teacher he gives “grateful praise,” for he treasures her sweetness above all things.
“I will ask you a question. If you give me an answer, I will tell you on what authority I do the things I do.” So does wisdom speak. So does the Lord inquire as to what is in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees and priests. But there He does not find wisdom’s radiant beauty; there He finds nothing, for these leaders are so empty, so pitifully vain. Rightly do they say, “We do not know,” for there is no light in them – only the dark connivings of the world’s greed and pride.
And can wisdom answer him who has no ears? Can she speak to those who do not listen to her voice whispering in their souls? She does not engage in useless activity and cannot wed herself to those whose spirits are impure, whose hearts are not set on her fruits. “In cleanness I attained to her,” Sirach happily declares, for he “purified even the soles of [his] feet” to find her. But these men who weary so easily of her “great instruction,” who would so readily look upon the riches of this world, how can they taste her sweetness? How can they gaze upon her infinite beauty…?
And so the Lord turns away from them. He cannot tell them “on what authority [He] do[es] the things” they see displayed so powerfully before their eyes, for their eyes are blind and their hearts are turned against Him. They do not wish to know the answer to their question; they do not truly seek wisdom. And she does not come to those who do not desire “her secrets.”
“The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.” In silence, in obedience, in humility and purity you will hear the Lord speaking. And He will guide you to all His grace; and His name alone you will bless and praise. What great profit you shall find if from your innocence you cultivate wisdom until the end of time.
O LORD, open our eyes and minds to your light,
that by the power of the Spirit
we might be formed by wisdom
into the image of your Son.
YHWH, send your wisdom upon us; let her make her home in us. May we be distracted by nothing of this world as we seek her diligently and with a whole heart. You will be faithful in giving her to us if it is she we truly desire.
The Pharisees could not know your wisdom, LORD, because your wisdom they did not really want. They cared only for their positions and their goods and what people would say or do to them, and not at all for the truth. And so the truth escaped them. Wisdom will settle in with none who do not have an open heart.
O LORD, we recognize the authority of your Son, that all wisdom and power are with Him; indeed, that He is your only Son. Let us delight in His words and give Him grateful praise for all He has taught and done for us. More precious than gold is the light He brings to our eyes and to our minds, and the love that through Him makes its home in our spirits.
Thu, 28 May 2015
(Sir.44:1,9-13; Ps.149:1-6,9; Mk.11:11-26)
“They are as though they had not lived,
they and their children after them.”
This line from Sirach could refer well to the Jewish nation symbolized by the fig tree “withered to its roots.” For “never again shall anyone eat of [its] fruits”; its temple now destroyed shall never be rebuilt. And yet Sirach speaks not of those who have perished in sin, and so are never to be known again in the sight of God, but of “godly men” of Jewish ancestry who, though “there is no memory” of the particulars of their actions in time – as there is with the great patriarchs and prophets of old – yet are of the race of those “whose virtues have not been forgotten”: the memory of their goodness lives on in the heart of God, and “through God’s covenant with them their family endures.”
The covenant is removed from the hands of the Jewish people. This is indicated clearly in our gospel today not only in the withered fig tree, but in Jesus’ driving out those who had made their station in His Father’s temple. These shall be replaced by the Lord’s appointed servants, and the Church shall be built where the temple once stood. But this does not mean that the godly deeds of the godly men under the covenant of old are forgotten now that the New Covenant has been instituted; nor does it mean those in His Church are beyond reproach.
Let us look more closely at the Lord’s interaction with the fig tree, for it can teach us much. First, Jesus “felt hungry” – He desires our souls. Then He saw “a fig tree some distance off” – far removed are we from His sacred presence. He is attracted by its “foliage” – it has the appearance of fruit and life. But “when He reached it He found it had nothing but leaves…” There is no fruit upon it to satisfy His hunger; and so for its uselessness He curses it to dust. As He has done with the faithless Jews, so will He do with the faithless among us.
But “it was not the time for figs,” you say, as if to justify your emptiness. My brothers, in the Lord’s kingdom it is always time for figs – we in His Church are ever called to bear fruit in His name, in season and out of season: our souls are required of us this very day. And if we satisfy not God’s hunger for our fruits of prayer and charity, if we too have polluted His house with acts of “buying and selling” instead of the worship demanded of us… if we have gilded the temple to attract the eye but are utterly barren within, what shall He say when He enters our temple area? What action shall He take against those who serve as thieves of His love? They shall indeed be blotted from His Book of Life.
But those who “put [their] trust in God,” those who serve Him in spirit and in truth, shall not be forgotten by the Lord, whether their names are known in this world or not. “For the Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” It is not the “acclamations from the crowd” in which Jesus puts His heart, but in doing the will of God. And so all who are like Him shall secure with Him their place in heaven. “Let the children of Zion rejoice in their King,” for none “in the assembly of the faithful” is forgotten.
O LORD, let us trust in you and rejoice in you…
let us bear fruit in your NAME.
YHWH, we pray that we shall be remembered by you, that we shall not be cast out of your Temple for making it a den of thieves, for failing to worship you as we ought. Though we not be remembered by the world, though we perform no great deed worthy of history, yet let us find room in your memory, in your heart – in your Book of Life.
The humble you look upon with favor, LORD. The godly of any age you bless. You will not remove your favor from any who remain faithful to your Word. But those who abuse their power, who take for granted your grace upon their souls, these you cannot but cast from your presence as you overturn the tables in which they trust.
Let us bear fruit for you, dear LORD, fruit that will last unto Heaven. May our prayer be made in fidelity and sincerity that we may come to praise you in your kingdom with all those of holy heart. May our glory never be blotted out.
Wed, 27 May 2015
(Sir.42:15-25; Ps.33:2-9; Mk.10:46-52)
“As the rising sun is clear to all,
so the glory of the Lord fills all His works.”
“How beautiful are all His works! even to the spark and the fleeting vision!” “Can one ever see enough of their splendor?” Yet how blind is man to their glory! How much we need to receive the Lord’s vision.
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth their host”; “at God’s word were His works brought into being.” And so, bathed in His grace what can heaven and earth be but a wonder to behold? Then why is it we see only darkness? Why are our eyes so blind to His presence in all the creatures He has made only for good? Is it not that we say “I see”? Is it not that we tell ourselves, “There. Now I have God in my hands. Now His ways I understand”?
My poor friends, you can never plumb the depths of God’s works, for “even God’s holy ones must fail in recounting the wonders of the Lord.” It is He alone who “plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart; [your] innermost being He understands.” And He sees as He looks into your soul that you are blind, that you do not see Him as He is… and He longs to call you up closer to Himself. “The Most High possesses all knowledge”: He remembers the past, He sees the future – the moment is in His hand. And you yourself He would hold in His hand and move according to His will, if only you would let Him.
Come to the Lord like the blind man you are; do not let the scolding of the world hinder your plea to His compassionate heart. “You have nothing whatever to fear from Him!” for He eternally asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” seeking always to grant you sight. Then when you feel His touch upon your eyes, be as Bartimaeus and “immediately… follow Him up the road.” For on that road your vision will ever be increased. On that road you will learn to “pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness”; you will share in His wisdom and wonder as you “sing to Him [your] new song.” On the road our Savior trod you will find “the strength to stand firm before His glory.”
Rise and walk with Him in faith this day. “He gathers the waters of the sea in a flask”; “not a single thing escapes Him” – and so He is certainly not blind to your needs. To His glory He calls you: shine with Him now more brightly than the sun.
O LORD, give us the vision to see
the beauty of all your works,
your presence in everything.
YHWH, how blind we are to your glory shining in our midst! How we fail to recognize Jesus on the road He travels to you. Why do we not cry out? Why do we hesitate to proclaim our blindness? Are our hearts not made for your glory?
No one can recount all your wonders, O LORD; we cannot penetrate the heart of all being. But if we but trust in you, if we but ascribe to you the awesome power and almighty wisdom that are yours alone, then the beauty of your works will become known even to our poor eyes… and we will be able to sing your praise with the stars and the sea and all you have created.
At your Word, by the Breath of your mouth, all was made: you spoke and it came to be. Let us but call out to your Son for pity, LORD, and the glory of your Creation we shall live and see.
Tue, 26 May 2015
(Sir.36:1,5-6,10-17; Ps.79:8-9,11,13; Mk.10:32-35)
“Take pity on your holy city,
Jerusalem, your dwelling place.”
The prayer of the wise man is good, but I see that the same answer the Lord gave James and John when they asked to sit “one at [His] right hand and the other at [His] left” in His glory, could be given to Sirach: “You do not know what you are asking.” For neither knows the implication of their request – neither can see that it will only be fulfilled in a painful death.
In our gospel Jesus is leading the disciples “on the road going up to Jerusalem,” a crowd following behind. There He will “fulfill the prophecies spoken in [His] name.” There He will “fill Zion with His majesty, [His] temple with [His] glory.” But the keepers of the keys of the temple “will condemn Him to death”; they will thereby destroy the Temple itself. In this way only will the “prophets be proved true.” In this way only He will “deliver us and pardon our sins.” In this way only will He “with [His] great power free those doomed to death.” For the prophets have said that the Servant must suffer. The prophets have said that the Son must die. There is no other way that “three days later He will rise.” There is no other way for Him to redeem those condemned to die.
This must sink into our hearts; this we must understand, we who run so freely from the cross, who think it is a facile thing to “inherit the land.” The Lord will indeed have pity on our souls; He will indeed answer “the prisoners’ sighing” and forget “the iniquities of the past.” But Heaven is attained only by those who drink from His cup; the glory of God is known only by those who share in Jesus’ “bath of pain.” No other way will we be cleansed of our sins. No other way will we be made ready. The cross is the path to the New Jerusalem, and we must walk it with our Lord.
And so, be not lazy about the work He has set before you; fail not to “serve the needs of all.” If you think of yourself and some vain reward, you will never find the blessing which awaits “those for whom it has been reserved.” His “compassion come[s] quickly to us” if we but share in His blood.
O LORD, your Son has come to die
that we might be freed from the death of sin;
on this path of sacrifice let us join Him.
YHWH, you are the eternal God. We are but sinful men. And so, how shall we come into your kingdom? Only by the bath of pain, only by drinking from the chalice of your Son – only by His death on the Cross.
He will be condemned to death. He will be spit upon and mocked. He will indeed be crucified. It is we who lead Him there, we who by our sin and selfishness push Him along the road to Calvary. O LORD, have mercy on our souls!
Hear our sighing in this dark prison; let us live in exile no more. Bring us back to your holy dwelling place… your glory may we somehow know. We call out to you from the ends of the earth, LORD; have compassion on our cries.
Your prophets will be proved true: your Servant will suffer a terrible death. Give us the courage to walk with Him, LORD, to share in the sacrifice He makes.