Thu, 29 December 2016
(Sir.3:2-6,12-14; Ps.128:1-5; Col.3:12-21; Mt.2:13-15,19-23)
“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.”
A man is a man, a woman is a woman, and children are children – this does not change with time or culture. All are called to be one in the love and sacrifice of Christ; all are one holy family.
Why do we find it necessary to make excuses for Holy Scripture and the “patriarchal family pattern” it reflects and “the subordinationist family ethic of the Biblical culture” (from the commentary of the missal from which I take today’s readings)? How is it we have lost the beauty of Paul’s words on the complementary nature of the conjugal relationship? How is it the family has become bereft of Christ?
One would think Paul states, “Husbands, beat your wives,” instead of “Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them,” by the way his text is avoided like the plague. Why such ignorance of what is actually present in Scripture? And if the Scripture is perverted, why do we not “in all wisdom... teach and admonish one another,” instead of casting the wisdom of the Lord from our presence, or rationalizing it away. Is it a sin for a wife to be submissive, to respect her husband; for children to be obedient toward their parents; for the husband and father to lay down his life for his family? Is power to be defined by the dictates of the world, or by the cross? Do we desire to control, or to love?
“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!” Here is the key to our roles, in the exclamation of our psalmist. “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him,” Paul summarizes his teaching. Hear in his letter the call to “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another,” even as the Lord has done with us. Be led by the Word of the Lord and His instruction and guidance. You, husbands, do you reflect Joseph’s obedience to the Word of God brought by the angel? Do you care for your families as God calls? Are you mothers like Mary, moving according to the protective hand upon your hearth, your house? And children, do you honor your father and mother’s authority over you as Jesus, who, though the Son of God, humbled Himself to be the child in this Holy Family? Let us all be as Christ – honoring, obeying, humbling ourselves… in a word, loving one another as He has loved us. Then we will be of the family of God.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Vision of Children" (2nd part) from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, call us out of Egypt to your holy land.
YHWH, obedient let us be to you, and serve one another. It is your will that we love one another, that we act with humility and patience, always forgiving and living in peace. Indeed, let us reflect the life of the Holy Family.
Was not Joseph obedient to your every word, dear LORD? Did he not have in his soul only to protect your Son and His Mother? Did he think of himself at all? O let all fathers lay down their lives in such a complete manner!
And was not Mary obedient to Joseph (who was obedient to you)? Did she not recognize, O LORD, that your will was being accomplished through his instruction, through the inspiration upon his soul? Did she stop to question his actions? Did she think herself better qualified, being the Mother of God? O let all wives be so respectful of their husbands!
And was Jesus not obedient in all things to Joseph and Mary, He who was Son of God and God Himself? Did He invoke His superiority over them? O God, let all children so honor their mother and father! Let all walk in your ways, in your way of sacrifice, and so be blessed as the Holy Family.
Sat, 17 December 2016
(Is.7:10-14; Ps.24:1-7,10; Rm.1:1-7; Mt.1:18-24)
“God is with us.”
How shall we “ascend the mountain of the Lord”? How shall we scale the heights and come to know Him as He is, He who “founded [the earth] upon the seas and established it upon the rivers”? Only by the Son, who “will save His people from their sins,” are we made ready to stand in His presence. “For it is through the Holy Spirit this child has been conceived,” and we are made holy by the blessing of His presence among our kind.
He is one like us. Can you believe it? Can you understand it, understand its significance and the grace it is as a gift from God? Joseph struggled, certainly, to believe, to understand, to accept the greatness of this gift to him and to his people. The angel of the Lord had to come to him to convince him to receive such great grace into his life, into his home. But he did. He did believe, and he did fulfill his role in the coming salvation.
And, yes, what of us? We “are called to belong to Jesus Christ… called to be holy.” Paul answered the call from God to be His apostle and “bring about the obedience of faith”; again, what of us? Do we answer the call to holiness? Do we reflect that obedience? The time is upon us now. The great sign has been fulfilled in our midst. Jesus has been born and stands with us now to lead us to the purity of the Father – are we prepared to make this Child our own?
What greater truth can be proclaimed than that God is with us? What greater grace can we receive than the forgiveness of our sins, than the preparation of our hearts for heaven? Jesus accomplishes these blessings now for all who desire to enter the presence of God, for He is the presence of God among us; He Himself is divine grace. His mercy is upon us.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” brothers and sisters. The power of the Lord be upon your souls. May the “Spirit of holiness” establish you with the Son as a child of the Father. Be of “the race that seeks for Him,” and you shall find Him present, dwelling in your homes.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Vision of Children" (1st part) from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you call us to be holy;
let us indeed be as the Virgin Mother of your Son.
YHWH, you are with us now in your only Son, who has been born of the womb of the Blessed Virgin. All the earth is yours, and now this Child comes into the world to save it from its sins, from the destruction that is upon it for having turned from you. O let us welcome Him into our homes!
O LORD, let us belong to Jesus and so become one with you. May your grace and peace be upon us this day and all the days of our lives. Make us pure as His Mother that your holy mountain we might ascend and gaze upon your face with all your saints. Obedient to your call as Joseph let us be; let us listen to the voice of your angel.
You desire us all to stand with you, but our hands must be sinless and our hearts clean. May the Virgin Mary, she who has conceived and borne your Son, pray the Spirit upon us, that our obedience shall be like her own, and so her blessing also. Be with us this day, dear God, and let us be with you.
Thu, 15 December 2016
(Is.56:1-3,6-8; Ps.67:2-3,5,7-8; Jn.5:33-36)
“My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Truth has come, and all nations are drawn to Him.
None is excluded in the House of God; His holy Temple is a place where all take refuge, where all find fulfillment, where all find joy. He only asks that we heed His testimony, that we see the works which He performs and act in accordance with His holiness. “Observe what is right, do what is just, for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed,” the Lord says to us all. Set yourselves on right paths with Him who has come, and you will be readily accepted into His presence.
“Loving the name of the Lord and becoming His servants,” this is what brings us into His house. No matter who we are, no matter where we are, no matter when we are, we will be brought “to [His] holy mountain and [made] joyful in [His] house of prayer,” if we follow His ways. Exult in the light of the Lord, know that Jesus is the Temple to which your heart is drawn and your “holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on [His] altar.”
His justice is for all; His love extends to the ends of the earth. David’s prayer is answered in Jesus: “May your way be known upon earth, among all nations your salvation.” For now does He “rule the peoples in equity”; now “the earth has yielded its fruits.” Now the blessing of our God falls upon all whose hearts turn to Him.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Then will all be drawn into His house of prayer and know His love. This day shall not be long in coming; come now to “the lamp, set aflame and burning bright” for all eternity. Enter into the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, you sent your Son
that the light of your face might shine upon us
and all peoples might learn to love your NAME.
YHWH, let us exult in the eternal light that is your Son. He has come among us to draw all souls into your House of prayer, that all might offer holy sacrifice to you on high. And you accept all who come through Him; those who do what is right and keep your day holy you join to yourself. O may all men know such blessing! May all the ends of the earth glory in your presence.
All the nations you gather into your arms, O LORD, by the intercession of Jesus. Your works He performs in our midst to reveal your glory to us and so draw us to the truth, to your holy mountain – to the Heaven where you dwell. May we not be kept apart from your kingdom by any evildoing, by any ignorance of the Word your Son brings to us. Let us enter under your rule.
If we wish to be your children, you will welcome us, LORD. If it is our desire to give you worship, if our hearts are set on prayer, you will bless us. In your Son we will find answer to our prayer, if we believe His testimony, if we believe in the divinity He shares with you.
Wed, 14 December 2016
(Is.54:1-10; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; Lk.7:24-30)
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.”
We are “the barren one who did not bear,” the “wife married in youth and then cast off” by our God. Once “forsaken and grieved in spirit,” blushing for the “shame of [our] youth,” now the Lord takes us home and promises us His love. “My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken,” the Lord in His mercy assures us. Though we be as those in the days of Noah, deserving of His destructive wrath, yet He takes pity on us, not only sparing our lives, but also promising to expand our space, to increase us in His blessed generosity beyond what we could imagine.
“At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.” Yes, our sin has made us sad; our separation from God has invited His wrath and made us less than what we are. But though the Lord may punish in His justice, yet “His anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime His good will.” David sings, “You changed my mourning into dancing,” for indeed great is His mercy toward us; tender is His touch upon us as He brings us “up from the netherworld” and places us at His side in the kingdom, as His holy bride.
And the Baptist makes the way the redeemed must walk. Necessary is “the baptismal bath he administered” in order to realize God’s plan for the salvation of our lives. He is the messenger who goes ahead of the Lord, preparing the path that leads to our being “born into the kingdom of God,” where our greatness cannot be measured for it will be in union with Him who is “God of all the earth.” Indeed, we must turn from our sins to find our way to this unity; we must repent in tears and turn back to Him. And He will be quick to rescue us, and we will be blessed to rejoice forever, to “break forth in jubilant song” at the graces poured forth upon us by our God in the forgiveness of our sins.
His tender Hand is near us, waiting to touch us. Is it your will to be wed to the Most High God? Then receive the baptism He requires and you will be made fruitful in the kingdom of God.
O LORD, take us back to you;
may our hearts be prepared to receive your glory.
YHWH, we must be cleansed in your baptismal bath, for you wish to draw us back to you from our sin; you wish to turn our mourning into dancing, but we cannot approach you, we cannot enter your kingdom if our shame still clings to us, if the dust of this earth remains upon our souls. We have been made barren by the evil our hands have done; we deserve to be drowned in the waters of the flood, to be cast to the nether world… but you look upon our desolation with mercy and seek to wed us unto you that we might again bear fruit, that we might spread out across all the earth. Bring your Heaven to this desert place, we pray.
Weeping we have known. Abandonment we have suffered, O LORD. Let us now hear your voice crying out to us, calling us back to your loving arms. Our sins indeed please wash away. Never leave us again, we pray; assure us of your abiding love. Into your kingdom let us come with all your holy people.
Tue, 13 December 2016
(Is.45:6-8,18,21-25; Ps.85:9-14,Is.45:8; Lk.7:18-23)
“There is no just and saving God but me.”
Jesus is “He who is to come”; His deeds speak for themselves. “There is no other!”
“Justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps.” How evident this is in Jesus’ life, for wherever He goes He teaches wisdom; whomever He touches He heals. God created the world “not to be a waste” but “to be lived in,” and so Jesus sets free all captives – the blind, the lame, the deaf… He releases all from sin. Yes, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” The justice which descends from the heavens, which falls from His lips “like dew from above,” will cause “salvation [to] bud forth.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” We see Him. We hear Him. If our hearts are open to Him, we witness His working every moment of our lives. For He is “the creator of the heavens… the designer and maker of the earth,” and His Hand is at work in all things – He cannot be separated from His creation. The light and the darkness are made by Him, and for us who love Him “truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” “For He proclaims peace to His people.” For those who love Him, there is only light.
And we know that Light is Jesus. It is to witness to Him the Baptist came; and now he hears of the fulfillment of the way he has prepared. We must find “no stumbling block” in the Lord. We must join in proclaiming His good news, in walking in His way – in letting our deeds speak for themselves as wrought by the Hand of the loving Creator and His redeeming Son.
Be of light, brothers and sisters, of justice, of peace. Let kindness and truth meet in all your words and deeds and you will be sons and daughters of the one “just and saving God” – and you will be blessed forever.
O LORD, may every knee bend before you
who created us and redeemed us.
YHWH, in your goodness you have made the earth and all who dwell in it, and by your grace your Son has served to redeem Creation. From the beginning you designed this world to be lived in, you desired that all your creatures should flourish, and though woe has come upon us because of our disobedience, now Jesus has come among us to make the deaf hear and the blind see, to raise us from the death of sin. O let us walk before you in justice!
You are the only just and saving God; beside you there is no other. And should we not rejoice in your presence, O LORD? Your justice rains down upon us from Heaven now, and should we not spring up from the earth declaring your truth and your glory? Should we not be one with your Son who is our salvation and so find your blessings, and so yield an increase of holy fruit? O let us be healed of all our afflictions! that we might know your glory dwelling in our land.
Mon, 12 December 2016
(Zep.3:1-2,9-13; Ps.34:2-3,6-7,17-19,23; Mt.21:28-32)
“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.”
All have been “rebellious and polluted”; all have been as she who “hears no voice” and “accepts no correction.” But the Lord now comes to “change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Who is it who hears the voice of the Lord to “not be ashamed of all [our] deeds, [our] rebellious acts against [Him]”?
“Let me make it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” Jesus states simply and directly to the chief priests and elders. These lowest of society, these most polluted, have put faith in John’s preaching of “a way of holiness,” but those most esteemed, the elder son whose words bear the stamp of God but whose actions are far from Him, are held back from entering the kingdom by their pride, perhaps thinking they are already there.
How sad. How can it be that those so steeped in the holy Scriptures do not hear the words of David’s psalm: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves”? Or how are they blind to the vision of the “humble and lowly” the Lord deems to bless? For that matter, how do they hide themselves from the great prophet’s declaration that the Lord “will remove from [their] midst the proud braggarts”?
Our words alone will not save us, brothers and sisters. However great the lines of the scribe or the preaching of the priest, it will mean nothing if not lived in flesh and blood. Better to say no to God, as the younger son, and then turn to Him and do His will. Certainly we all stray; and this we must recognize. But just as certain is that all must turn to Him, after regretting our sin, and do as He commands.
Do not be afraid. The Lord will “destroy remembrance of evildoers,” but count not yourself as in allegiance with them. Be among those who “speak no lies” and you “shall pasture and couch [your] flocks with none to disturb [you].” The vision of God and His Spirit shall be your own.
O LORD, let us speak no lie before you
but let our actions meet our words of praise.
YHWH, we must do your will to enter your kingdom, this your Son makes clear to all. We cannot merely honor you with our lips but must make our holiness incarnate as His.
O the woe of the proud, dear LORD! How terrible their separation from you. For they are blind even to their separation, and so, what shall save them? Let them be saved by seeing the humble come to you; let them know your mercy and love by witnessing your forgiveness toward the lowly sinner… and let them accept your mercy upon their own hearts.
Purify our lips, O LORD, from all lies, all deceitful words. Let it be your holy NAME that is upon our tongues, that we might dwell in truth and peace and humility, and praise your glory forever.
You are close to the brokenhearted, LORD; you gather even the rebellious into your arms. Let us accept the correction of your Son and cry out to you, that we may indeed be saved and come to serve you.
Sun, 11 December 2016
(Nm.24:2-7,15-17; Ps.25:4-9; Mt.21:23-27)
“A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.”
And the light of that star is reflected in the eyes of Balaam, who, though a pagan, is gifted by God with the clear vision to see the beauty and wonder of “Israel encamped, tribe by tribe,” “like gardens beside a stream,” “like the cedars planted by the Lord.” And as He is seen in the nation of Israel blessed by the Lord, so His glory is reflected in the heart and words and actions of everyone who believes and proclaims in truth that Jesus is that star, that Jesus is the Son of God.
Those who remain close to the teaching of Jesus, and to His ways, “shall have the sea within reach.” There shall be an abundance of wisdom at the ready for those who are graced with ears to hear His words. “He teaches the humble His way,” yes, and guides us on straight paths which lead directly to the Most High. And “with eyes unveiled” we shall gaze not only on His reflection in the fields of this earthly existence, but on Him Himself as He is in heaven.
The teaching of Jesus is divine and He Himself is divine, above whose authority there is no other. But His light can only be seen, His words can only be understood by those whose hearts are open to truth and willing to walk the path He sets. If the “chief priests and elders of the people” closed themselves off from Him in a political quandary, we must not do so. Instead we must be as His apostles, in whom the tribes of Israel are truly aligned perfectly, and have as ready a response as we know Peter had on the shores of Galilee, as Thomas had when He appeared in their midst: He is our Lord, our God. This we must see. This we must know. And this we must proclaim.
The star has risen in our midst; the Savior has come. Now we await the fulfillment of that light and must bring it to bear in this generation. Now we must follow that star where it leads.
O LORD, let our eyes see the coming of your Son,
and our hearts put faith in His authority.
YHWH, let our eyes not be blind, blind to the glory that stands before us in your only Son. Let our eyes be open to vision of your kingdom, the kingdom He brings to this earth. Let our tents be set in line with your will, O LORD; let our hearts be humble before you.
LORD God, you show the humble your way; you bless them with your presence in their souls and your light shining in their lives. Teach us this day the way we should walk, the way marked out for us by your Son. Upon Him your authority rests – let us not question His divinity but believe in His power and so in your own. May His Word transform our souls.
The wisdom of the ages comes to us this day in Jesus and in His words. Here is the ocean at our hands, before our eyes, that all we might know of your goodness, LORD. Let us honor Him as our King who has come and follow in the way He leads.
Sat, 10 December 2016
(Is.35:1-6,10; Ps.146:6-10,Is.35:4; Jas.5:7-10; Mt.11:2-11)
“Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Hope. What hope have we. And so we should “be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” Indeed, we must endure “the early and the late rains” – having been converted to the Lord we shall be purged of all sin on the last day – but, though “hardship” be with us now, our hope should be firm in Him who comes, in Him who “is standing before the gates” even now.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the vision given Isaiah and the salvation sung of by our psalmist. By Him, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” Should not He who has power over all maladies, and even death, bring us hope in the kingdom to come? Should not our seeing these wonders wrought by Jesus instill great faith in our hearts? Should we not even rejoice now in our suffering, knowing well that “sorrow and mourning will flee away” when He comes, that the very suffering we experience now will then be no more? Patience. Indeed, patience brings us hope, enables us to endure all, even joyfully.
And does Jesus not seek to encourage greater hope, greater faith in our hearts by His words about John the Baptist? “What did you go out to the desert to see?” He asks the crowds, addressing their longing for truth, their desire for hope, and confirms that the prophet they sought was indeed greater than all “among those born of women.” But He does not stop there. How much farther He leads them: “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Remarkable. What hope have we, to be greater than the Baptist. For the Baptist is himself a man, who himself suffers and struggles, inquiring if Jesus is “the one who is to come,” and must himself be assured by the Lord. But in heaven no question will remain. This desert in which we seek the Lord will come to full bloom “with abundant flowers.”
Keep the faith in joy, brothers and sisters. We have every reason for hope; we have firm witness of His grace, at work in us even now.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music:"Hold On, Here We Go" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, come with your Word to heal our souls
that we might enter your kingdom.
YHWH, the coming of your Son is close at hand, when all your children will dance and sing for joy. Though He has come once to open our eyes, to clear our ears, yet in some measure we remain blind and deaf, waiting for the day when your kingdom shall be fulfilled in our midst. And so, we thank you for the release from sin Jesus has wrought, and we wait in hope for His return. Give us the patience we so desperately need.
John was the greatest of men, the greatest of prophets, who prepared the way for your only Son, O LORD. To this parched earth, this desert wasteland, he proclaimed a baptism of repentance that brought healing to our souls. Yet all he has done is but a shadow when compared to the glory of the eternal kingdom to which the Christ does carry us.
Strengthen our hands, dear LORD; make firm our weak knees. Let all sorrow and mourning flee from us as we humbly await Jesus’ return and our becoming one with you.
Sat, 3 December 2016
(Is.40:1-5,9-11; Ps.85:9-14; 2Pt.3:8-14; Mk.1:1-8)
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.”
And so, “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And so comes “the voice of one crying out in the desert,” in the desert that is our fallen lives: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”
Turn from your sins, brothers and sisters. Repent. It is the Lord’s will that “all should come to repentance,” that all should be “found without spot or blemish” on the day of His coming, on the day all “the elements will be dissolved with fire.” With the fire of the Holy Spirit does the Lord Jesus come now to baptize, that what John has cleansed from our souls might be gone forever – that the new person we become by this baptism of water might be made complete, might become hardened and lasting in the furnace of His love.
God “proclaims peace to His people. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” Hear what His prophet says, for he cries “out at the top of [his] voice” that indeed all hearts might listen: “Here is your GOD! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by His strong arm.” Yes, “the mouth of the Lord has spoken,” and now the WORD is in our midst, walking amongst us as our shepherd and “leading the ewes with care.” The “justice [that] shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps,” has come, and now the level highway that leads to His kingdom we must tread – there is no denying the road that is set before us.
Christ is coming, brothers and sisters, and Christ has come. The Baptist has prepared His path, and He, the Son of God, has walked it. And now we await His return in glory. And “the Lord does not delay His promise”; His return is sure. Already we see the “glory dwelling in our land.” He waits for you to come now to Him. In patience He looks for you to turn. Turn to Him now in earnest; with all your soul cry out His Name. “Jesus Christ the Son of God” dawns on the horizon. Embrace His love; walk His sacred path.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Under God" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may all souls come from this desert of sin
to your holy mountain.
YHWH, let us be gathered into your barn, into your reign of peace, where, the viper having been defanged, all your creatures live in harmony, glorifying you as God and Father. In your Son let us make our home.
Jesus comes into our midst endowed with your justice and judgment, O LORD. And the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire, but His wheat He will draw into His heart. With fire shall all men be baptized – may that fire be for us a purging light for entering your kingdom.
The Spirit that was upon John shall anoint all who hear his voice, who seek your way, O LORD and God. And so we must make straight our paths to you, following closely in the footsteps of your Son. O let there be fruit upon our trees! to prove our repentance genuine.
Your NAME shall be blessed forever, dear God; in peace shall all your children dwell. May we be covered with knowledge of you, and so live always in the light of your glory.
Sat, 26 November 2016
(Is.2:1-5; Ps.122:1-9; Rm.13:11-14; Mt.24:37-44)
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that He may instruct us in His ways,
and we may walk in His paths.”
“Beat [your] swords into plowshares.” “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” and to “stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” And even now He calls you to “go up to the house of the Lord” and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Advent has come, and so we are reminded of the Lord’s coming and our need to be prepared. He will not come in vain, and will not accept any vanity into His kingdom. His is a kingdom of light into which no darkness enters. His is a place of peace where “rivalry and jealousy” and all “the desires of the flesh” find no provision.
If in the days of Noah they were blind to the time of their visitation, and so “the flood came and carried them away,” how can it be the same with us, who have the first coming of Christ in the manger and on the cross to stir us to wakefulness? If we live now as in the days of Sodom, how much greater will be our punishment? If we allow our house to be “broken into” though we have His voice calling to our hearts, what could make us think that He will take us with Him when He comes again?
It is indeed time to wake from the sleep of sin and “stream toward… the Lord’s mountain.” There we shall rejoice in His grace as His “relatives and friends”; there we shall find the light of His teaching. “For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” and it shall fill the earth with holiness.
The Lord has been born in our midst. The Word has been made flesh and walked among us. Now we are called to become like Him, to walk in His ways of peace. And so when He returns at the end of time, we will be prepared to “set foot within [the] gates” of His kingdom.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Can We Go Together?" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us walk in the light of your Son
until He comes.
YHWH, let us go up to your House, where we shall find our peace, where we shall find the instruction we need to leave behind all deeds of darkness and enter into your holy light. When your Son returns for us, let us be awake and ready to welcome Him, and He will welcome us into your kingdom.
O LORD, let all the nations come to your holy mountain, to the place of wisdom and peace, that all weapons of destruction might be themselves destroyed and war might be no more. Let not any nation raise the sword against another, and let no man fall again into sin. Let us be trained for peace, not war; purity, not lust.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that it shall extend to the ends of the earth. In this time let it come and dispel all rivalry and jealousy, all the works of the flesh. Your Spirit reign upon us, O LORD; let your Son come to carry us to you.
Sat, 19 November 2016
(2Sm.5:1-3; Ps.122:1-5; Col.1:12-20; Lk.23:35-43)
“This is the King of the Jews.”
On earth, our King rules from a cross; in Paradise, upon a glorious throne. O Lord Jesus, “here we are, your bone and your flesh.” May we die with you that we might reign with you in your holy kingdom.
“All the tribes of Israel came to David” and anointed him king of Israel. He had been called by the Lord as shepherd and commander of Israel, and now he would finally receive his kingship. And he would make Jerusalem the city of the king, and make it holy when he brought the ark of the covenant within its walls. And so, here on earth David reigned, as God’s anointed. And so Jerusalem becomes the place of worship, within whose gates all rejoice to set foot. And there “are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David.”
And so Jesus is called the Son of David, for He inherits this earthly kingdom blessed by God, anointed anew to reign from Jerusalem. But, of course, His kingdom is more than that of the flesh, for it is His own flesh that makes it holy – He is the Temple not made by human hands, through whom all things blessed of the earth and of heaven came to find their being: “In Him were created all things in heaven and on earth.” He indeed is the beginning of all things and the fullness, or the end, of all things; nothing, and in particular the Church, exists apart from Him.
And to what heavenly rule are we all thus called by His “making peace by the blood of His cross.” By His sacrifice we shall indeed be saved; He will remember us when He comes into His Kingdom. And there shall be true rejoicing, for there the cross shall be borne no more. Having consumed all our sins and the darkness and death of this life, it shall be transformed into the throne of glory.
Even now the Lord calls to us from the cross; even now His suffering beckons us. Even now we must turn to Him, our King, in our sin and let Him take our corrupted flesh and bone upon Himself to find the blessed reconciliation of our souls in the hand of God. As His forgiveness pours upon us in His blood, we come to the fullness of His heavenly kingdom and “share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” Long live our King, who dies upon a cross.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from My Eye" (first part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, Jesus is our bone and our flesh –
may He be our King!
YHWH, your Son is King of the Jews – let us come with Him into Paradise, where He reigns forever.
By the blood of Jesus’ Cross all in Heaven and on earth are made one, are reconciled to you, O God and Father of all the redeemed. Through Him all things were made and through Him all are saved. May we all come to share the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
David ruled from the holy city of Jerusalem; all Israel came to him to make him king. He was a man after your own heart because he sought your will in all things. But it is Jesus, your Son, He who is called Son of David for His eternal reign over Israel, over all those who strive to do your will – it is He who is and has always been true King of all Creation. To Him let us call out; in Him let us make our eternal home.
Sat, 12 November 2016
(Mal.3:19-20; Ps.98:5-9; 2Thes.3:7-12; Lk.21:5-19)
“For you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
The end comes. The end of the Church year approaches, and the end of time is always upon us. What shall it mean for us, the fact that “there will not be left a stone upon another stone”? That day comes “blazing like an oven” for all evildoers, but for the just the healing rays of the Son of God shine down – will we be burned with the proud like stubble, or made whole in the presence of God?
Yes, “He comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.” He is just and so He cannot but judge with justice. How shall we prepare for His coming? What do we do as we wait? Paul gives us wise instruction, simple instruction, which should be simply heeded: “Work quietly.” It is not for us to be anxious or afraid; it is not for us to fall into disorder or become lazy… it is but for us to remain occupied with the work of God, however simple, however wonderful, that working be. We may be as St. Theresa and her little way, giving ourselves to the Lord in the simple tasks we perform day to day; or we may be as the missionaries for whom she prayed, going out to the ends of the earth, handed over to “synagogues and to prisons,” being “led before kings and governors” to give witness to the name of Christ – “and they will put some of you to death” – but to whatever we are called, always it must be the Lord and His Spirit which are at work in us, helping us to persevere to the end. Not all shall die in the cause, but all must remain faithful to His voice.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes it is the hardest thing simply to go on day to day. Regardless of our situation, we can become distracted and, failing to find the wisdom of Christ, seek to “prepare [our] defense beforehand,” to put the words of the Lord into our own mouths – to decide for ourselves what the Lord would have us do. It is the simplest thing to accept His will, to bask in the rays of His glory… and yet so anxious do we become in our waiting that we cannot hear His still, small voice speaking to our hearts. We must persevere. We must go on. We must listen. He is coming, and if we fear His holy Name, we shall have nothing else to fear: we shall be made whole.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The End of the World Courses through a Day" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us do your work now on this plane
that we might rejoice in your coming Day.
YHWH, help us to persevere until the Day of your Son’s return; that Day is at hand, we know – let us be ready for its purging fire.
And as we stand yet on this earth, let us be ever willing to do your work, to give witness to you and to your Son even with our own lives. Our lives are nothing apart from His sacrifice, and so, O LORD, let us lay them down freely in any way you call.
Give us words to speak to those who accuse us unjustly; put your testimony in our hearts and in our mouths. Your Spirit be with us to guide us in all things, that in all things we might act with wisdom. We shall not fear the destruction of this world, dear LORD, if Jesus remains always at our side.
Come now with your justice, O God, and let us forever praise your NAME. Your holy will be done even this day.
Sat, 5 November 2016
(2Mac.7:1-2,9-14; Ps.17:1,5-6,8,15; 2Thes.2:16-3:5; Lk.20:27-38)
“On waking I shall be content in your presence.”
Our hope is in the resurrection, brothers and sisters. It is this which gives us strength, and it is our endurance which brings us to His presence.
Brothers and sisters, indeed, as Paul wishes us, we have “everlasting encouragement and good hope” through the grace of our Lord. He strengthens our hearts “in every good deed and word” and guards us “from the evil one.” Thus our hearts should be directed “to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”
We have as our example today these seven brothers spoken of in the Second Book of Maccabees, who showed the endurance of Christ and their faith in the resurrection to life despite the severity of their torture at the hands of the wicked of this world – and all this before the coming of Christ into the world and the great graces He has since imparted to His Church. If they could die so for the law alone, to what deeds should we not be able to attain? If in the presence of their torturers they could state with such confidence, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever,” what should we not be able to declare in the name of Him who has now been raised from the dead and ascended to glory? If they were so well able to regard their suffering “as nothing,” how much easier should be our own sacrifice, we who stand “in the shadow” of His cross and have His wounds in which to take refuge? Indeed, such greater reason have we to hold to “the hope God gives of being raised up by Him.”
“That the dead will rise” there should be no doubt in our hearts. The fact that “to Him all are alive” should be firmly fixed as a peg in the deepest recesses of our souls. Certainly, this is who we are, children of the resurrection, with the calling to come to Christ, He who has been raised to life. I pray we shall all be “deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead.” Children of God, may we be like angels in His presence when we rise. May our minds not be darkened by the night upon this earth, but let our hope be fixed on the coming morning and our faith strengthen us to endure until we stand with Him on that new day.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Too Good for This World" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us the courage to believe
we shall rise with your Son.
YHWH, keep us steadfast in your paths that soon we might come to your heavenly kingdom; let us be ready to die for you, that we might be raised to glory.
If the seven brothers spoken of in Maccabees could so readily give their lives, could so courageously face the cruel torture imposed upon them by the devil, what faith should we not have, dear LORD, we who have your only Son now at our side and your Holy Spirit to open our eyes? Do we not even now look upon your face; are the glimpses we gain today not so much greater than then?
How strong we should be in walking your way, LORD, we to whom the resurrection has been spoken of so clearly. We whom your Son has told in no uncertain terms that the just shall rise from the dead and be like the angels of Heaven should have no doubt remaining in our hearts and no fear of proclaiming Jesus as God. O help us to endure with joy even to the Day of His coming!
Thu, 3 November 2016
(Phil.3:17-4:1; Ps.122:1-5; Lk.16:1-8)
“We have our citizenship in heaven.”
Brothers and sisters, we are not among “those who are set upon the things of this world.” Always we must remember this. Though surrounded by worldly things, our hearts are not set upon them; rather, “we eagerly await the coming of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our hearts are set upon heaven.
Then what are we to do with “this lowly body of ours” as we long for the Lord to “remake it according to the pattern of His glorified body”? What purpose have we of heaven here upon this earth? Is there nothing for us to do with this old form that has been afforded us? Is emptiness all we are to know here?
We must know and remember, brothers and sisters, that in this dark world we are called to light; we are called to “go up to the house of the Lord” even here where we stand. Is the Church not with us? And has not the Lord left His sacraments with her, that even now we may be transformed into the new creation He makes us? We do not wait in vain for our Savior to come; we do not sit empty here as we long for His Day. He is here now with a measure of His grace; “His power to subject everything to Himself” is already evident in our midst… and we must join with that power and work diligently to transform not only ourselves into the image of Christ, but the dark world we see around us as well.
“Be imitators of me,” Paul encourages his brother Philippians. In warning them against those who “go about in a way which shows them to be enemies of the cross of Christ,” he exhorts them to be the cross’s friend – to prove their mettle as they continue “to stand firm in the Lord.” There are those for whom “their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame,” and the “devious employee” of whom Jesus speaks may well be among these. But though we are called in no way to imitate his wickedness, yet we must see that he is given “credit for being enterprising” by the owner, despite the fact that he had been “dissipating his property.” “Why?” indeed. And how can the Lord use an example such as this to teach us of the kingdom?
Here the Lord employs great wisdom, and calls us to do the same. For He reveals to us how even in one destined to condemnation there is yet the spark of intelligence. (“I have it!” he declares, after taking consideration.) And should not this light of intelligence, which comes only from our Maker, be in us who are to be found entirely of light? And should we not bring the light of salvation through the gifts the Lord provides us even to those like this employee who are most in darkness? Should the devil control the things around us, the things here at our King’s feet, or should we? Our citizenship in heaven requires us to employ its light here on this earth. There is much we owe our Master. Wise as serpents and harmless as doves let us be.
O LORD, we are citizens of your kingdom;
help us on this earth to find our way to your House
and remain there.
YHWH, help us to stand firm in you and do your will, and so come to your holy kingdom. In the New Jerusalem let us make our home and not in this dark and empty world.
If we could but be imitators of your Apostle, LORD, and so of your Son, carrying our cross eagerly as we await His coming; then we would hear you calling us to your House and rejoice in your glorious presence.
Give us the wisdom, O LORD, to find our way to you, to do well your work upon this plane, our hearts not set on love of gain but making your blessing our only desire. O that we might be forgiven our debt even as we forgive those in debt to us and to you!
Remake us in your image, LORD, in the image of your Son. Let us enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise your holy NAME. And help us to bring others to you and so finish the work Jesus has begun.
Sat, 29 October 2016
(Wis.11:22-12:2; Ps.145:1-2,8-11,13-14; 2Thes.1:11-2:2; Lk.19:1-10)
“The Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost.”
How beautifully the readings speak today of our “Lord and lover of souls” whose “imperishable spirit is in all things” and who is “good to all and compassionate to all His works.” It is indeed “in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” that we be glorified in Him and He in us, and so we praise Him: “Every day I will bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever.”
The Lord “love[s] all things that are”; all is made by Him, so how could He but love all. Though to Him “the whole universe is as… a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth,” He loves it all with a most personal affection, shown in the grace-filled coming of His Son among us. And why has this Son come but to forgive? Why has He walked the earth but to call men back to their place in the loving heart of the Father? Why has He come but to show the Father’s loving mercy?
And appropriate is Paul’s warning “not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly” in fear of the Lord’s imminent return in judgment. Here is remedy against all the false prophets predicting the sudden end of this universe God has created, as if they could move His hand, as if they could know His mind. Whence does this come but the same grumbling of the people when Jesus moved to go in to sup with Zacchaeus, the famous sinner? Whence does this come but a failure to understand the Lord’s wisdom and love and manner of working in the world, failing to see that what the Lord does is “rebuke sinners little by little, warn[ing] them and remind[ing] them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in [Him]”?
It is evident that the majority in the crowd would have preferred, in fact, rejoiced in seeing, Zacchaeus’ utter destruction. They expected the Lord’s punishment on this sinner, and desired it to come immediately. Why? Again, they knew not God’s love or the Lord’s purpose. Why? Even more to the point: they were sinners themselves who failed to recognize their sin and realize their own need for mercy – and so had neither the Lord’s patience, nor His love.
How well that loving forgiveness is illustrated in our gospel; how like the parable of the Prodigal Son. As the son returns to the father, Zacchaeus goes ahead and climbs the tree. As the father sees the son from far off and goes to him, so Jesus spies Zacchaeus in the tree and calls to him. As the father’s generous love sparks the son’s complete repentance, so Jesus’ acceptance of Zacchaeus brings salvation to his house, shown in his generous penance. I pray we all seek the Lord who seeks for us and act as Zacchaeus, who “came down quickly and received Him with joy,” as the Lord freely offers His love and forgiveness to our souls. Praise Him for His kindness!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Save the Children" (first half) from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our stature before you
has been diminished by sin,
but your Son comes to raise us to Heaven.
YHWH, how compassionate you are toward all your creatures, desiring the repentance of all in whom your imperishable Spirit dwells that they might not die but turn to you and live. And so you have sent your Son to seek and save the lost. And so we should praise you for your greatness.
You have indeed made all things, and man in your image and likeness. And so you cannot but look upon us with pity as we distort your blessed image by sin; and so, little by little you rebuke us, LORD, reminding us of our sin that we might abandon our wickedness and believe in you.
You are our God and King, faithful and holy in all your works, but we are weak and prone to stray from your grace. So in your kindness you bow down to lift us up, we who are falling, that we might look upon your face, that in glory we might dwell with your only Son… that your salvation might come even to the house of the worst sinner.
Wed, 26 October 2016
(Eph.6:10-20; Ps.144:1-2,9-10; Lk.13:31-35)
“Today and tomorrow I cast out devils and perform cures,
and on the third day my purpose is accomplished.”
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war,” King David sings, for the Lord is the “shield… who subdues peoples under [him]”; He is the “stronghold” by whom “victory” is his.
The same image of battle is used by Paul as he encourages us, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” But “our battle ultimately is not against human forces” – in war against nations or even any individual enemy – “but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in the regions above.” It is spiritual warfare we engage in, and in it we must “pray constantly and attentively for all in the holy company,” for the attacks against us are constant and we must ever with our brothers and sisters resist the evil one and “stand [our] ground.” Heed Paul’s summary of the strength we must draw from the Lord for our mission: “Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear.”
Does not the Lord do just this? Does He not witness fully to the courage we must have in the battle of earthly life? For though the Pharisees come with the warning, “Leave this place! Herod is trying to kill you,” Jesus “proceed[s] on course” in firm resolve. Though “Jerusalem… slay the prophets and stone those who are sent to [her],” yet the Lord’s face is set like flint to enter there. In every step along the way, on every day that leads there, He conquers the devil valiantly, displaying His great power over all darkness of this world by His Word of truth; and when He comes to the cross the war will have been won – the evil one will have no weapon remaining.
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Blessed is Jesus the Christ, and blessed all those who follow in His way, who fight unto death the evils that beset us here. Brothers and sisters, faith in God will deflect all “the fiery darts of the evil one.” “The helmet of salvation” will protect you from all harm; and by “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God,” you shall conquer mightily with the Lord. “Pray in the Spirit.” Pray always. Pray for the Church militant that she proclaim the Gospel and come quickly to the Lord’s salvation.
O LORD, we bless your NAME and we are strong;
we are ready for battle against all evil.
YHWH, give us strength in the battle of earthly life, strength to overcome the attacks of the enemy, strength to stand with you on the holy day. You are our strength; you are our deliverer. You save us from all harm by your invincible power and glory – let us indeed stand strong in battle on this earth, that we may come quickly to Heaven.
Your Word go forth, O LORD, to the ends of the earth, your Word of truth, your Word of life. The sword of the Spirit be in our hands, upon our tongues, that we shall defeat all the forces of the evil one. Let us be ever in prayer before you, ever calling upon your holy NAME. And we shall be saved, and we shall save others by the grace that you give to do battle this day.
With your Son let us cast out devils, LORD; let us serve to cure the troubled soul of man. Blessed is He who comes in the NAME of the LORD! Let us be blessed to follow Him on the way to Jerusalem, on the way to the Cross – for on the third day He shall rise.
Sat, 22 October 2016
“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
“The one who humbles himself will be exalted,” for it is the lowly the LORD hears. And in no greater way, and for no greater benefit, do we humble ourselves than to recognize our sinfulness before God. It is then we prove ourselves His own, for it is then Truth is with us.
We must guard ourselves ever from the sin of pride, brothers and sisters; it is just such presumption that breaks down the spiritual life, for it separates us from our proper place before our Lord and God. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”; “He hears the cry of the oppressed.” He does not come to heal those who are well, nor does He respond to the prayer of the oppressor; and our life on this earth is one of continual healing, and whenever we judge another we condemn our souls.
“May it not be held against them!” is Paul’s prayer for his unjust accusers and those who have deserted him. (How like Christ’s prayer from the cross it is!) He is crushed before the courts of this world and yet does not judge, and yet does not condemn. For he is the servant of the Lord and shows himself faithful to such a call. Even as he is “poured out like a libation,” he remains faithful, unwavering in his hope of standing before and being redeemed by “the just judge.” He knows fully that “the Lord redeems the lives of His servants” and that “He who serves God willingly is heard,” and so he humbles himself when accused, trusting that “the Lord will rescue [him] from every evil threat and will bring [him] safe to His heavenly kingdom.”
Yes, “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.” How blessed are they who know their humble place before the Lord, for He hears them and comes quickly to rescue them when they cry out to Him in all their humility. And of course our greatest rescue must be from sin, that which has made us base before His eyes. To its recognition and for its overcoming by the Lord’s grace we must dedicate ourselves every day of our lives. And so we cry out for forgiveness. And so we return to our homes justified.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "This World of Sin" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you are the just Judge –
hear our cry and save us from oppression.
YHWH, those who take refuge in you are saved from every evil; those who call out to you are heard and redeemed. Those who are humble before you, you exalt to the heavens, but those who are proud condemn themselves.
What hope have we but you, O LORD, we poor sinners who so soon shall die? What more can we do than spend our lives for you – in this there is great grace through all our days, and a crown of righteousness in the end. Thus we who are nothing, who would come to nothing without your mercy, may reach even unto your throne, O Most High God. For you indeed hear the cry of the poor; the just petition of a broken heart you cannot resist.
As widows and orphans we walk the face of this dark earth; as slaves in bonds we look for freedom. Come and wed us to yourself, O Father in Heaven, and we shall enter your House justified.
Sat, 24 September 2016
(Amos 6:1,4-7; Ps.146:2,5-10; 1Tm.6:11-16; Lk.16:19-31)
“Keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Lord is coming. First of all, know this. “The King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see” will reveal Himself “at the proper time.” Shall come the end of this world and the birth of the new in the presence of our all-holy God. Do not doubt this. Do not question it in your hearts. But believe.
Second, know the nature of our God. This our psalm makes abundantly clear: “The Lord gives sight to the blind” and “protects strangers… The fatherless and the widow He sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts.” And since “the Lord raises up those who were bowed down,” we must bow down and serve Him, bringing His love to this world; keeping “faith forever” we must give “food to the hungry,” showing His unending compassion to all those in need.
Third, know the fate which awaits those who fail to adhere to His command of love, those who stain themselves with comfort and riches in a vain existence and have no heart for those who suffer now by their lack. As He prepares a place of refuge in Abraham’s bosom for those who “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness,” so a place is set for those “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day” but who were “not made ill by the collapse of Joseph,” who have no regard for the destruction of God’s people – who step over and upon the poor lying at their doors as they pursue the fatting of their bellies. “A great chasm is established” between the redeemed and the condemned; as Lazarus had no way to enter the door of the house of the rich man, so he cannot pass now into the arms of God… only now that darkness without is eternal – his torment shall not end.
It is popular to believe that Jesus somehow did away with punishment, that in His all-embracing love there is no longer need for justice, and so hell is no longer a factor. The “God of the Old Testament” is presented as the one of punishment with Him of the New conversely being of love. Brothers and sisters, they are one and the same God. And as in the time before Christ, the Lord forever showed compassion for the humble of the earth, so now Jesus shows condemnation to the wicked who refuse to turn from their ways. Only now the love and justice, which are also one, are made eternal by the coming of the end of the age in the Person of Jesus Christ. Continue to keep yourselves pure and serve the Lord – His Day is at hand.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Child and the Beast" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us make the poor man our brother,
and we will know Jesus and so be with you.
YHWH, you secure justice for the oppressed; the poor and the downtrodden you raise up even as you cast their oppressors into the bowels of the earth. The path of the righteous you indeed bless, but the way of the wicked you thwart. You confuse those who do not listen to Moses and the prophets, those who reject your only Son, for you are just and no man can own what he readily spurns.
If it is the belly upon which we set our hearts, it shall grow fat and keep us from entering the narrow gate. If upon our own needs and wants alone we look, failing to see the longings of others or help them in their plight… we shall fail the test you place before us, and be unworthy to be called your sons, dear God.
For you are kind and loving, O LORD, and care always for the hungry and those in captivity. Though you dwell in unapproachable light, to us you come with great mercy to raise us to Heaven with your only Son.
Fri, 23 September 2016
(Ec.11:9-12:8; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Lk.9:43-45)
“The dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”
“As a watch of the night” is our life, passing unnoticed while souls slumber. “You make an end of them in their sleep,” Psalm 90 prophesies (as we hear the same verses of this same psalm for the second time in three days); indeed man lies unaware of his coming death, ignorant of the day which passes. For though in our youth we “follow the ways of [our] heart, the vision of [our] eyes,” and seem to “ward off grief” at will, yet “the next morning [we] are like the changing grass”; so quickly does our flower fade. And so little of this do we see.
In our gospel the Lord speaks again to His disciples of His imminent death, and so, really, the death we all must undergo; but though He makes a clear point that they should listen carefully, saying, “Pay close attention to what I tell you,” yet they seem unable to hear His words. Our gospel tells us, “They failed… to understand this warning; its meaning was so concealed from them they did not grasp it at all.” He repeats what He has said before in no uncertain terms, and yet they are deaf to His word; yet they are blind.
How like us all the disciples are. When confronted with the coming of death how easily we shut our eyes. Though it draw upon us inevitably, how desperately we hold to the vanity of these passing things, unwilling to hear of the day when “the sun is darkened… and the strong men are bent… and the sound of the mill is low.” “Man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets” – so Qoheleth paints the image of the time when “the clouds return after the rain.” How compelling his verses are, and how ominous… and of this darkness we must hear. It is not wise to remain blind to the passing of this life, or with it we shall die when it ends. Though none of this should touch our souls, yet we must learn to let the body go.
O Lord, “you return man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men,’” yet you hold each of us in your loving hands. And so we cry unto you this day, “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” For we wait with expectant hearts for Him who has risen from the dead to come to us again. Let your Spirit breathe upon us now and turn this dust into the image of your Son. May it be your Day which comes to us, even as we die.
O LORD, we conquer death
through the death and resurrection of your Son –
be with us as we wait for His return.
YHWH, death comes inevitably to all. It draws near to us like the setting sun. We are mortal, the subjects of our own sin. And so to dust we return.
But your Son has subjected Himself to this death of ours, LORD; He has undergone its torments. In our place He has stood, and been broken for our sakes. He who lives with you in eternity has been delivered into the hands of men and suffered the darkness upon their souls. And so, may we not be born again?
O Jesus, you have overcome the darkness with your unending light; you have come to rescue us from falling into the well, that the clouds might not return again after the rain but that we might know new life with you in the morning after this world passes away, in the glory of your coming Day.
Help us, O LORD, to overcome our fear, to conquer the bonds of this dark place and our own mortality. Let this not be our lasting home, but raise us to your presence that even this day we might rejoice in you.
Sat, 17 September 2016
(Amos 8:4-7; Ps.113:1-2,4-8; 1Tm.2:1-8; Lk.16:1-13)
“If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?”
This world and the things of it are not our own; we are children of heaven. Yet we are here amongst these things which are foreign to us. And so, what should we do? With all the Lord puts in our hands as we pass through this generation we must honor God. Though in the world of mammon, we must use it to serve our God in heaven. Thus we shall prove ourselves worthy to enter into that kingdom which is above, which is our true home. This call is stated simply in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “On earth as it is in heaven” – we must bring the kingdom of God to bear in this place we find ourselves.
In our first reading, Amos makes clear what our attitude should not be with regard to the riches or power we may find at our disposal. We must never “trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.” We must never reflect the greed of these merchants who cannot wait for the sabbath, the Lord’s Day, to end, that they might satiate their thirst for wealth, and this by dishonest means. The Lord will condemn such pride and avarice.
In our second reading, Paul gives a clearer idea the manner in which power should be employed in his exhortation to prayer for those in position of authority. God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth,” and if our kings seek to maintain peace in the world, they will save not only themselves, but provide ground for others to come to God. Again, all that is given us, be it riches, power, wisdom or strength, must be given over to service of the Lord. We must be as He “who gave Himself as ransom for all” in His teaching, in His healing, indeed, in the laying down of His very life. And so, if we ourselves are teachers, we must be as Paul and do so “in faith and truth,” without any deceit. And when we offer prayers, we must always lift up “holy hands, without anger or argument.” In our prayer should always be forgiveness of others.
In our gospel parable Jesus illustrates and commends not deceitful dealings with others’ wealth, but to be wise in what is given us, to turn the riches of this world against the prince of this world (Satan), and use them for the good of the kingdom. Even in these things which are the devil’s we must work to serve our Master in heaven. And so we feed the hungry, we clothe the naked, we pray for those in power, that the Lord who is “high above all nations” and whose glory is “above the heavens” might stoop down to us and through us fulfill the mission of Christ; for “He raises the lowly from the dust, from the dunghill He lifts the poor.” And we must do the same to find our place with Him in heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Asylum Paradox" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us serve you alone
with all that is at our hands.
YHWH, help us to be trustworthy in the very small matters of this dishonest world, with the wealth that passes so quickly away. This is not our world, but your world we must reveal to this place; if we do not reflect your glory now, how can we be called children of your light?
And so we pray for all souls, that they will turn from the oppression wrought by their greedy hands and acknowledge you as God Most High and your Son as their Redeemer. We desire no man to be trampled underfoot but for everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth; and so with hands held aloft we call down your mercy, dear LORD.
With the things you place in our hands here upon this dying earth, let us be faithful, let us be true – let us produce fruit unto the kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is our only home, and so with all our strength let us seek to raise souls to dwell there with all your angels and saints.
Thu, 15 September 2016
(1Cor.15:12-20; Ps.17:1,6-8,15; Lk.8:1-3)
“Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
This is the heart of our faith. This is the “Good News,” the Gospel preached in our midst. This is our firm belief. Upon it all our hopes stand. Christ has been raised, and His disciples will follow Him. As surely as we accompany Him here in His mission on earth, so surely will we find ourselves in His presence in heaven. Dying in Him means rising in light.
But “if our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men.” We could then be said to have truly wasted our time, for then the very heart of our faith would have been torn out, and what but scoffing would we have to hold? A dead Christ we would carry in our arms, and we “the deadest of the dead” with Him.
Paul speaks of this quite pointedly; he pulls no punches in this regard, declaring openly: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.” Yet there are those today, as then, who “say there is no resurrection of the dead,” that “Christ was not raised” – and these would call themselves Christian. And in the same manner there are many who do not truly believe the resurrection, yet wear the Christian nametag. If we have doubt in our hearts, or, worse yet, if we preach against the core of the faith, what do we do but kill ourselves? What do we do but work against the very Gospel of Christ? And how then do we merit the name of Christian?
Brothers and sisters, we must know in our hearts and be assured that Jesus is risen from the dead. We must realize that God has “attend[ed] to [David’s] outcry,” that He has “hearken[ed] to [his] prayer” – that the most urgent longing of our souls has been answered by the “savior of those who hope in [Him].” With David, we of faith should say with his resolve: “On waking, I shall be content in your presence.” Has the resurrection not been indicated in the “women who ha[ve] been cured of evil spirits and maladies” and who now accompany Jesus? Does not Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven devils had gone out,” give clear example of hope in Christ fulfilled? For she is not at all as she was, and this woman once so completely possessed by death itself is the first to see the Lord risen.
We must know the resurrection in our lives on earth; this is the only way we will comprehend it in heaven. Release from sin allows us to see already the eternal fruits of the kingdom. Accompanying Him now, our sins behind us, already upon heaven’s road we tread. And we know of a certain we shall pass through these “towns and villages” even unto His kingdom.
O LORD, your Son has been raised from the dead;
may we be raised with Him and be at your side.
YHWH, your Son is raised from the dead for us that we might enter your glorious presence. Though in the shadow of the wings of the Cross on this earth we make our home, it but prepares us for the kingdom. For even here our sins are taken away, and we come to new life in the Spirit.
We cried out to you, O LORD, and you heard our voice and sent your Son to walk among us. And if we follow in His steps we shall come to where He leads – we shall come to you. The path He trod must be our own, for it is the way of salvation. Through death on the Cross we come to life, for as we die with Him so we are raised.
Let us rejoice in His resurrection, O LORD; let us have faith in the new life at work in us even this day, and look with hope to our place in your kingdom. On waking may we look upon your face and be content in your eternal presence. For your glory let us ever strive, giving all to you as we walk in your way.
Sat, 10 September 2016
(Ex.32:7-11,13-14; Ps.51:3-4,12-13,17,19,Lk.15:18; 1Tm.1:12-17; Lk.15:1-32)
“The Lord relented in the punishment
He had threatened to inflict on His people.”
Redemption is ours, brothers and sisters. Though we are great sinners, the Lord has mercy on us when we turn to Him; for, as Moses interceded for the Israelites in the desert, so Christ Jesus intercedes for us now before the throne of His Father. Indeed, He “came into the world to save sinners,” sinners like you and me.
What examples of sinners we have throughout our readings today – what examples of great sinners and the greatness, the abundance of God’s grace. Where shall we begin? In our first reading the people of Israel had fallen into the depths of depravity as they passed through the desert. While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, they were far below, “making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it.” To it they sacrificed, and in drunken revelry proclaimed it God. Yet because of Moses’ intercession the Lord held back His blazing wrath against them. He did not destroy them.
In our second reading we find “the foremost” of sinners, the apostle Paul, recognizing his own great guilt as arrogant persecutor of the Church and, in the same breath, witnessing to the manner in which he was “mercifully treated” by the Lord, that he might indeed be “an example for those who would come to believe in [Jesus] for everlasting life.” If the Lord can turn him who was the primary persecutor of Himself and His people into a leading apostle of His Word, how might He not convert our own hearts, or the hearts of any, to Him and to His will?
And, of course, in our gospel we have the parable of the prodigal son, he who “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation” yet was openly received into the waiting arms of the same father whose property he swallowed up when this dissolute child came to his senses and returned to him. The Lord makes so clear in His parable today the great desire God has to take the sinner in His arms, to place Him on His shoulders; indeed, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Brothers and sisters, we all have need of repentance, and the Lord welcomes us all.
After all this, perhaps our most poignant witness to God’s forgiveness and grace comes in King David, who has been adulterous and murderous but who cries out to Lord in our psalm, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” His “contrite spirit,” his humble begging is heard by the Lord, as is the repentance of us all. Through the blood of Jesus, all ignorant sinners may be saved.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Wish I'd Never Done It" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you welcome poor, repentant sinners
into your House with joy.
YHWH, have mercy on us poor sinners. In the greatness of your compassion, wipe out our offense. Like the Israelites who made the golden calf in the desert, like David who turned to adultery and murder, like Paul who persecuted your Son with such abandon, we are all your prodigal children. But as you had mercy on all of these, look upon us with kindness as we turn back to you.
O LORD, how greatly you desire our repentance. What great joy it brings you when we confess our guilt. For this you sent your Son to suffer and die; to save our souls you did not spare His life. And so, as we listen to His teaching, as we hear His call to penitence, our contrite heart causes you to rejoice that you might have us home again.
Forgive us our sins, dear God, and help us to forgive others. In this is your will fulfilled; in this the blood of your Son bears fruit, and we are redeemed.
Thu, 8 September 2016
(1Cor.9:16-19,22-27; Ps.84:2-6,8,12; Lk.6:39-42)
“Although I am not bound to anyone,
I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible.”
How like His Lord is Paul in his declaration, “To the weak I became a weak person with a view to winning the weak.” For as Jesus descended from heaven to take on flesh and save those corrupted by its sin, so the Apostle has made himself “all things to all people,” stepping inside their skin “in order to save at least some of them.” Indeed, Paul proves himself to be “on a par with his teacher” in sacrifice and fruitfulness, for how well he serves “to remove the speck from [his] brother’s eye” that he might see Jesus in the clear light of day.
The Apostle has been “entrusted with a charge,” that of “preaching the Gospel.” And doing so willingly he finds his “recompense.” And what is this recompense but that he receive nothing in return for his work, nothing here on earth except of course the blessing of persecution such work for the Master entails? Then why engage in such toil, and why call others to such a life of self-sacrifice? Ah yes, because of the “crown that is imperishable” which awaits the runner of such a race. This heavenly blessing, too, is found when one does all “for the sake of the Gospel.”
“My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God,” our psalmist intones today, and goes on to proclaim the happiness of those “who dwell in [God’s] house.” “Continually they praise [Him]… They go from strength to strength,” for “grace and glory He bestows.” This is the goal Paul has in mind when he says, “I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line.” All his tribulations never distract him from his final destination; the kingdom of heaven remains ever upon his heart. And ever does he strain forward that he and so many others might attain that crown for which “our soul yearns and pines.”
Brothers and sisters, we must “discipline [our] own body and master it”; we must “remove the plank lodged in [our] own [eye]” if we hope to join Paul in the place where “even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young.” And our young we, too, must bring there – all those in our charge must know of the kingdom of God. And so let us join Paul and our holy Lord in here becoming slaves of all, enduring our exile bravely that we might draw others to the eternal home found on the altar of the living God.
O LORD, let us be led by your holy apostles
to lay down our lives with your Son,
that we might find our home in you.
YHWH, all holy hearts long for your presence, long to make their home in your house; and you send to us apostles, teachers of your way, that we might find you. O may the vision of all be made clear to see your glory! May all learn the lesson they need to know, taught by your Son in His sacrifice and carried on by His disciples.
We long to praise you, LORD, but there is a log in our eye that blinds us to your coming kingdom. Help us to remove all obstruction, all distraction, all our blindness, that we might not lose sight of the blessings you offer to those who spend their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Let us rather carry that Good News of salvation to all souls, serving to remove the specks from their eyes by your grace and mercy. Help us to be slaves of all that all might make their home in you. Keep us from the pit, we pray, by your guidance and secure protection. Let us always yearn for you.
Sat, 3 September 2016
(Wis.9:13-18b; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Phlm.1:9-10,12-17; Lk.14:25-33)
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.”
The wisdom of the cross, that blessed necessity for every Christian’s life. What does it teach us? How does it call us to act? Its wisdom is not of this earth, for the “corruptible body burdens the soul,” but the counsel of the “Holy Spirit from on high” brings the freedom to be sons of God. This wisdom can only be found by knowing we are but dust and renouncing all things of dust to serve the living and true God.
“Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” our first reading from the Book of Wisdom inquires of us. Indeed, things before our eyes, things of this earth, “we find with difficulty,” so who can understand things of heaven? How shall we attain the vision of God, of whom our psalm states, “A thousand years in your sight, are as yesterday, now that it is passed, or as a watch in the night”? How can we who wilt and fade “like the changing grass” come to the surpassing knowledge our Lord possesses?
Jesus answers the question. He turns to the crowds who follow Him, who are excited by His presence but unaware of the demands made upon every Christian’s life, and He teaches them this wisdom that is of God. It is His essential lesson: Be prepared to give up all things for the sake of the kingdom. Put nothing before your worship of God. Renounce all your possessions and be ready to die for Him – only then can you approach the glory He brings to this earth. Only by the wisdom of His cross will you find the kingdom of God. For indeed “the earthen shelter” and all its concerns weigh down the mind, weigh down the spirit, and keep it from attaining to God; they must therefore be left behind to find the freedom of sons of the Most High.
The Lord comes to “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” It is this teaching Paul seeks to impart to Philemon as he asks him to forgive the slave that has wronged him and accept him back “forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.” This same forgiveness, which is divine not earthly, is that which is asked of us all by the Lord. For so we have been forgiven by Him, so we who were sinful slaves have been made his brother… and so we must do the same for others. It is no longer the mind of man by which we judge but the mind of God, and the grace of this wisdom we gain only by carrying our cross. It is this which shapes us in His image, which imparts to us His wisdom – and by this the work of our hands shall prosper.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Open Air" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to renounce all our possessions
that we might know your counsel and follow your Son.
YHWH, send your Holy Spirit from on high that our paths might be made straight, that we might walk the way of the Cross and so find the grace we need to be disciples of Jesus and so enter your presence. Without such kindness toward us, we shall be lost, distracted by the vain things of this dying earth.
We are but dust, dear LORD, passing like the changing grass, and our hearts are often set on the passing things around us. Teach us to renounce our possessions, help us to know it is in this true freedom lies… that walking the way of worldly concerns will lead us only to death but laying down our lives with your Son we shall come to glory. Let us not be so foolish as to think we shall be blessed otherwise.
Freely let us offer all we have to you, LORD; then you shall indeed prosper the work of our hands. And we shall go from being slaves of the flesh to dwelling as your beloved in the age that does not pass away.
Fri, 2 September 2016
(1Cor.4:9-15; Ps.145:17-21; Lk.6:1-5)
“God has put us apostles at the end of the line,
like men doomed to die in the arena.”
“Up to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, poorly clad, roughly treated, wandering about homeless,” the great Apostle Paul tells us of the persecution and slander all the Lord’s apostles must undergo. And yet “when we are insulted we respond with a blessing,” for this is our call in the Lord: to love even our enemies, that we might show the love of God to all, that we might indeed become “a spectacle to the universe, to angels and men alike” – “fools on Christ’s account,” yet bearing all patiently that the Gospel might truly be fulfilled and the last shall be shown to be first in the eyes of God.
It is this birth to which Paul brings the Corinthians, his “beloved children.” And though it seem a difficult fate to call down upon a people, yet we know that David’s psalm is true, that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth”; and so through all trials He leads us and comforts us, making any suffering a light burden to bear. And just as Paul is father to this nation, so the Father of all is there always to watch over all His children, for it is “in Christ Jesus” the Apostle has begotten them; and as He has heard the cry of His Son upon the cross and brought Him to resurrection, so “He hears [all His children] cry and saves them.”
In our gospel the Lord’s disciples are hungry, and so, in the hot sun, “walking through the standing grain” with Jesus, He feeds them: all around is food at their hands. Truly their prayer does He answer; their need does He see. But instead of seeing that the Lord “fulfills the desire of those who fear Him,” all the Pharisees can do is ask, “Why are you doing what is prohibited on the sabbath?” Thus the very men who should be present to bless and comfort and guide the followers of the Holy One can but call them into the arena of persecution with the rest of the fallen world. Thus the shepherds who are called to feed the sheep would remove the food from their hands and see them perish. Instead of becoming apostles themselves, they become their bane. For they cannot comprehend that God’s love transcends God’s law, that “the Lord keeps all who love Him” and this is what makes Him “just in all His ways and holy in all His works,” and not the mere precepts to which they hold so desperately, so blindly… so jealously. Thus the chosen of God become in their eyes “the world’s refuse, the scum of all.” And what can they be but crucified?
All must come to the holy Lord and “all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” And though war be brought upon our souls, we must always “try conciliation” – peacemakers covered with blood and spittle is the state to which we are called. No other way will the world come to know that the love of God transcends all, and all call upon Him from their hearts.
O LORD, though persecuted and poor,
we are surrounded with your presence,
and so are fed in times of famine.
YHWH, you are our LORD and God; when we cry out to you, you save us. Though we must endure persecution for your sake, though we suffer want and go hungry, you surround us with standing grain – you are ever near to help us. Let us indeed praise your holy NAME!
What should it matter to us if we are beaten, if we are insulted and spat upon; if you are with us we are free of pain, for all these things your Son endures for our sake. We are your children and you love us, so even these trials you turn to good. Remain ever with us to save us by the Cross of your only Son.
He is Lord over even the Sabbath. He has power from on high. For you, LORD, have given all things over into His hands, and for us He does provide. Our rest we take in Him, our food He places in our mouths – through Him we remain close to you: He is our Bread of Life. And so, let us rejoice to walk in His way.
Sat, 27 August 2016
(Sir.3:17-18,20,28-29; Ps.68:4-7,10-11; Heb.12:18-19,22-24a; Lk.14:1,7-14)
“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.”
Is this not the message of Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel, and indeed of all our readings – and indeed the essence of our Christian lives? “Take the lowest place.” Exalt not yourself in the sight of God, who sits at table with you, whose presence is everywhere, and is a guest far greater than you. Give your place to the poor, provide for them out of your means, as He has done, and then you will know the glorious vision of heaven where He dwells.
The Pharisees are blind to the presence of Jesus; because of their pride and desire for esteem, they cannot see the guest of honor in their midst. They observe Him carefully, ready to judge Him, but it is He who sees them and seeks to instruct them in their ignorance. The Lord is most out of place here among the proud. He looks around for lowly ones, but finds none. The poor have not been invited to this feast; the blind here do not recognize their need for Him… and so this banquet is not like that of heaven. And so, who of these will partake of His Body and Blood and come to “the heavenly Jerusalem”?
“God gives a home to the forsaken,” David declares in our psalm, and we are called to be like God. Jesus makes this quite evident in His instruction to the host of the banquet: “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” who are unable to repay such kindness, and then “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” This attitude of self-giving we must make our own, knowing our own lowliness in the sight of God, and the vision of heaven of which our second reading speaks will be ours as well. Then we will come with the “countless angels in festal gathering” and “the assembly of the firstborn” into the presence of Jesus and the holy blood of His sacrifice. “The just rejoice and exult before God,” and with them we too shall rejoice, if we make ourselves humble before Him.
It is no mystery that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” No, the teaching is clear, and only by living it will we find its fruit, brothers and sisters. “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts,” Sirach instructs us; for how can you find favor with God (or with anyone) if you have no respect for Him? And if you do not see the greatness of the God before you, how shall you enter His kingdom?
Our place before God is with faces to the ground. This is just. This is right. By this He will be pleased and so lift our heads to gaze upon His countenance.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Humbled and the Exalted" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us always to take the lowest place,
that you might call us up to you.
YHWH, you give a home to the forsaken and call us to do the same; as you have provided for our needy souls – though we deserved it not – so you call us to care for others, or we shall not find our place with you.
We are truly lowly, dear God, for before you, who could stand? How can we hope to sit at the same table as your only Son and partake of the food He provides? Yet to His side He calls us; to be lowly as He is our great gift. His grace we shall know, and in abundance, if with Him we lay down our lives for those in need.
Then we shall come to your holy mountain, to the heavenly Jerusalem with all your angels and saints. Washed in the blood of the Lamb you offer for our sakes, emptied of all the vanity of our race, we shall be exalted and chant your praise, dearest LORD, we who have made ourselves humble and lowly before you, we who have thus found our place at your table with Jesus, and been made perfect by His Cross.
Sat, 20 August 2016
(Is.66:18-21; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Heb.12:5-7,11-13; Lk.13:22-30)
“People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”
“I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory,” even those of “distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory,” says the Lord. The Word goes forth. The Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and it will open the eyes and ears of all peoples. But who shall be ready for its coming?
Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy and the verses of our psalm are in harmony with the Lord’s own words: all the nations shall come, all shall “praise the Lord,” and all shall find a place in His kingdom. The light that goes forth, the glory of the Lord, knows no boundaries, is not limited by constructs of time and place – there are no walls in its way. All nations. All tongues. All peoples at all times and in all places are called forth by the all-encompassing love of our God and our Savior. You are welcome at His table, my brother, my sister, whomever you are, wherever you are. It is the Lord’s will that all come to Him who is the Father of all nations and of all creation. But do you know the way?
The way of the Lord is not easy; it is narrow and rough – it is one wrought with chastisement, with discipline. “For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” And how can you expect to come into His paradise if the soil of this world still clings to your soul? The cross is the way to the kingdom; only the scourging discipline of the Lord will enable us to sit with Him.
And this discipline, this cross, is of love. Do you see this? Do you see how much the Father loves you in His reproof of your sin? “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” If you have not learned this basic lesson of the working of the Lord’s love, you “will not be strong enough” to enter His gate. You must “not be disjointed but healed” as the Lord takes from you all that is unfit for His presence. Your suffering the loss of this life is all that will bring you to heaven.
We note that even the above words of the Lord are as chastisement to the Israelite people who walk with Him, for He is telling them they are not alone in the call to God; other nations shall indeed enter before they. And as this pride in their heritage must be wrested from them before they are prepared for the kingdom, so all that limits the love of the Lord from working in our lives must be taken from us before we may enter in. Fear not the pain this brings. The “wailing and grinding of teeth” outside His gates is more painful by far – and for this suffering there is no healing anymore.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Are No Words" (middle part) from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, teach us always to do what is right
that we might be as your sons
and enter into your House.
YHWH, all peoples are called to your glory, to your kingdom, for all are sons and daughters to you. But truly you must be our Father, we must come from you, we must reflect your image, the image your only Son reflects to us in His way of the Cross, if we are to enter your presence. Relying on accidents of time or place we shall never be saved. Only by accepting the discipline you offer will be made ready for Heaven.
Strengthen us, O LORD, by the chastisement you bring to our souls, by the Word of truth come from Jesus’ mouth. He knows you and is the way to you – let us be obedient to His call and the call of His apostles to enter through the narrow gate, to leave all of this world behind that we might come rejoicing to your holy mountain with all our brothers and sisters, with all your blessed children. May all men hear your Son’s voice this day, that none shall be barred from your kingdom.
Thu, 18 August 2016
(Ez.37:1-14; Ps.107:1-9; Mt.22:34-40)
“I will open your graves and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.”
The commentary in the missal I read states: “The lesson here is return from captivity, not life after death.” And so the speaker proves once again the limited vision of so many of our scholars – indeed, how like the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the lawyers of Jesus’ time these faithless are, how blind… how dry their bones without spirit.
Certainly the prophet Ezekiel speaks to the exiles of their return to Israel: to these he is sent, and of this redemption they must hear. But if this were all the Scripture says, what lesson would we take from it – this passage why should we bother to read? And if this were all God intended even for these scattered children, what an ineffective God He would be. (As limited in vision as so many of our leaders today.) For what is the land upon which any find life but the kingdom of heaven? And how do we come there except through death, the death of our attachment to this earth? Vain all is if we have not the resurrection of Jesus within us; we must rise from our graves before anything has meaning in life.
That the Lord speaks of more than the return to Israel in Ezekiel’s prophecy of the dry bones today is indicated clearly in our psalm, which equates “the redeemed of the Lord” with those “gathered from the lands, from the east and the west, from the north and the south.” Is it not so that the Psalms, though greatly written a millennium before Christ (and hundreds of years before even Ezekiel’s time), speak of Christ, and even in the voice of Christ? Is it not Jesus who speaks even to Ezekiel himself? Listen to our psalm. It speaks of the Israelites’ wandering “in the desert wilderness.” It says they were “hungry and thirsty” and that “their life was wasting away within them.” Certainly they lacked food and water in this arid place – but is this all of which the psalmist speaks! Do they not rather fail to drink from the spiritual rock which follows them? Is their hunger not for Christ? And the “inhabited city” to which the Lord leads them, is it but the land beyond the Jordan River? Is it the dust of this earth that will satisfy their dry bones? No. They “give thanks to the Lord… because He satisfied the longing soul and filled the hungry soul with good things” – things of the spirit, not merely the body.
“On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well,” Jesus says of the love of God and neighbor. Here is the Spirit! Here is the Life! Here is what nourishes the dry bones and makes them stand upright: the Love of God! This is in every passage of Scripture – every prophecy, every psalm… This Word is the lesson we must always find: Jesus Christ is risen from the grave!
“From the four winds come, O Spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.” May the Spirit of love open all eyes.
O LORD, your love bring to our hearts,
your Spirit breathe within us that we might stand
and praise you in our heavenly homeland.
YHWH, you bring us to life by a word from your mouth; speak over us your holy Word that we might rise from the death that has settled upon our souls, that there might be flesh on these dry bones and your Spirit breathing in us. Bring us back to the land you have set aside for all your children – let us enter Heaven.
If your command we follow, LORD, we cannot but come into your presence, we cannot but live forever. If there be love in our hearts for you and our brothers, what can we be but united to you? If we place you above all our joys, if we love you with heart, mind, and soul, your life will indeed be within us… for you yourself are love.
Breathe upon us this day, dear LORD. Speak your Word of truth and life. Announce by the tongue of your Prophet the way we must go to find you. And let us be obedient to His command of truth, His Word of life, that we might stand in hope with Him, our hungry soul fed by this spiritual Bread, our thirsting hearts washed clean in His blood.
Sat, 13 August 2016
(Jer.38:4-6,8-10; Ps.40:2-4,14,18; Heb.12:1-4; Lk.12:49-53)
“Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the Lord thinks of me.”
Persecution is necessarily a part of every Christian’s life. Not many of us will struggle “to the point of shedding blood” as has Jesus, as has Paul, as have all the apostles; and not many of us will be thrown into muddy cisterns as is Jeremiah… but all will remain “afflicted and poor” in their striving against sin and have to endure “opposition from sinners” as they grow in holiness before their Lord and God. Jesus is anguished at the baptism He must endure in carrying the cross of division set in opposition to the forces of sin in this world, and so all who call themselves Christian take this same cross upon their shoulders. If we do not suffer for the faith, we must question whether we have become lukewarm and worthless, but to be spit from the mouth of God.
Division must necessarily come as we follow in the steps of Jesus, “the leader and perfecter of faith.” As the princes of the people were set against Jeremiah for his prophesying in truth against the nation, spelling out the danger it faced for its sin, so opposition will come to us even from friends and family as we seek to draw closer to Jesus; for the world is set in opposition to the cross, and any who yet cling to it and its sin will inevitably be insulted by our resistance to its ways. And so persecution comes to those who remain faithful to the ways of Christ.
But your hearts should not be troubled, brothers and sisters, for though the world of sin encompasses us now and often closes in, we indeed have a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding us with their protection. As Jeremiah had Ebed-melech to intercede with the king to draw him from the muddy mire, so we have Jesus now to intercede with the Father for us to lift us out of the dark cistern that is the world. And not only Him do we have at our side, but all those who have suffered with Him – all the saints and all the martyrs, all the apostles and prophets – who stand at His side in the heavenly kingdom and with Him reach down to assist us.
So fear not, little ones, remember Jesus: “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame.” He “has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God” and we shall soon join Him there with all His angels and saints if we but endure the persecution with Him now a little while. The Lord thinks of those who are afflicted and poor. He blesses their sacrifice and makes it fruitful (by which we may draw even sinners unto Him). Continue ever to run the race of faith.
O LORD, lift us up from the pit
and baptize us with your fire.
YHWH, opposition from sinners we must indeed endure if we are to be called by the Name of your Son. The Cross we must carry through this world if we are to come to where Christ is at your right hand. If we are lowered into a muddy cistern, what should that matter to us, as long as we ourselves are not guilty of sin.
Should we not take great strength in the suffering of Jesus and all those who have followed Him so faithfully to the Cross? Have they not proven that you come, O LORD, to save those who cry out to you? We shall be delivered even from death by the grace upon your Son, and so why should we fear the shedding of our blood?
Your sword of truth cannot but divide the evil from the good, those who look to you from those who take their refuge in the things of this earth. Let your fire come, dear God, and burn away all sin from our midst, that all your afflicted and poor may rise from the ground blessed.
Sat, 6 August 2016
(Ws.18:6-9; Ps.33:1,12.18-20,22; Heb.11:1-2,8-19; Lk.12:32-48)
“You also must be prepared, for at an hour
you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord.” Though we do not know the day or the hour of His return, we must always be ready for His coming. As the ancients, the Hebrew fathers and especially Abraham the father of faith himself, we must ever be seeking our heavenly homeland. By faith the ancients, who saw the promise only from afar, “awaited the salvation of the just”; by faith Abraham “sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country.” As he dwelled in tents, nonetheless, “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.” With the incarnation of Christ, and in His death and resurrection, what greater assurance have we of that which we hope for. We now have Jesus speaking to our hearts: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” How much more are we called to follow His way in faith; how much more we should now be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.
“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when He comes and knocks.” If the Lord finds us “vigilant on His arrival,” how blessed will we be. If we have distributed well the food He has put in our charge here, if His work we have accomplished according to His word, we shall ourselves sup at the table the Lord prepares for us in the heavenly homeland. But all we are given here, all the graces and blessings which are ours through Jesus and through His Church, we are responsible for; by them we must bear fruit in patience and in faith, Peter first, as the first of servants, and all of us beneath his charge in proportion to “the food allowance” placed in our hands for distribution at the proper time. (This refers primarily to our priests, but we all do share in the priesthood of Christ, and all are graced with a measure of the flesh of Christ to share with the world.)
“Exult, you just, in the Lord,” for what was held “in secret” by “the holy children” of times past has now come to light in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we await the second coming of Christ with a “sure knowledge” far surpassing the one granted our fathers. We are “the people He has chosen for His own inheritance,” and a promise so sure should spur us on to a readiness that is meet to such a wonderful gift. The Lord is coming to sit us at table at the place He now prepares; let us “make preparations” of our own, remaining ever the servants of Christ, that we shall not be taken unawares when it is time to fold up our tents in this world and join the Lord in glory. Hear Him knocking even now at the door of your hearts.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Readiness Is All" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our hope is in you;
may we patiently await the coming of your kingdom.
YHWH, how we hope for your kindness to deliver us from death, to save us from our adversaries, even from our very selves. We place all our trust in you – O may our faith soon be rewarded!
If we but had the faith of Abraham, dear LORD, blessed as he would we be, with no fear for the impending darkness, with hearts set solely on your coming light. The salvation of the just let us await with steadfast hearts, knowing well that you are faithful to all your promises and that you have promised a heavenly dwelling to all who seek their place with you.
To this earth let us not be attached; all of this world let us offer freely to you. You are our only treasure, dear God – you are all that is worthy of our concern. And so, let us await your Son’s return with loins girded and lamps burning. Let us be ever vigilant for His coming, serving well your holy will all our days, and our inheritance we shall find in you.
Thu, 4 August 2016
(Nah.2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7; Dt.32:35-36,39,41; Mt.16:24-28)
“It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them.”
When the Lord comes indeed “He will repay each man according to his conduct.” And the justice and judgment that are the Lord’s alone are evident in His work amongst Israel and their enemies, spoken of in our first reading and psalm today.
“The flame of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon!” such is the graphic description of the horrors inflicted by the “bloody city” of Ninevah, of Assyria, whose nation is “all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops!” And that which they have visited upon the nations, and upon the children of Israel, shall come to rest upon their own heads. For “surely, the Lord shall do justice for His people” and prove to the evildoers that it is He alone who “will sharpen [His] flashing sword”; it is He whose “hand shall lay hold of [His] quiver.” For vengeance is with the Lord alone and it is He who “will repay [His] foes and requite those who hate [Him].”
All those who take up the sword, what can be said of them? “Close at hand is the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them.” Like Ninevah they shall be “destroyed, and who can pity her?” Is she not like he who has “gain[ed] the whole world and ruin[ed] himself in the process?” And shall not all who trust in “horses a-gallop, chariots bounding, cavalry charging,” themselves hear “the rumbling sound of wheels”? As the Lord has duly repaid those on earth, so He will more greatly repay all on the Day of salvation.
But even as death is visited upon the sinner, life dawns upon the righteous. For them, “the bearer of good news [comes], announcing peace.” Those who are pierced to the heart by the cross of Christ in this life, those who bear its weight through this forsaken land, walking in the footsteps of the Lord – even these shall “see the Son of Man come in His kingship.” For “whoever loses his life for [God’s] sake will find it,” and it shall be preserved unto eternity.
Brothers and sisters, though wounded here, the Lord Himself shall heal us. Let death come to all sin, and salvation shall be assured.
O LORD, let us not be trampled underfoot
but come rather to see your glory
by following in your way.
YHWH, it is you alone who bring both death and life, for life itself is in your hands, as is judgment of those who violate it. Your justice is both sure and true, and so you will repay each man according to his deeds: those who have embraced plunder and looting cannot but come to the death they have made; but those who embrace the Cross and lay down their lives in this world shall be blessed greatly by the sight of the Son of Man coming in His glory. Although such vision cannot but bring agony to those whose hearts are set on the ill-gotten gain of this evil age, the destruction of all evil in the LORD’s reign brings joy to the heart set upon Him who passes not away.
And so, dear LORD, let us be numbered among those who seek to lose their lives that they might be found walking in the way of your only Son. We pray the angels of Heaven may carry us to your kingdom on the Day He judges the world and all souls.
Sun, 31 July 2016
(Jer.28:1-17; Ps.119:29,43,68,79-80,95,102; Mt.14:13-21)
“Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.”
The word of truth is what Jeremiah speaks in the face of the lies of Hananiah. The false prophet declares in the name of God: “I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of the nations,” even as he “took the yoke from upon the neck of Jeremiah” – which he wore to symbolize the exile to which Judah was fated – and broke it “in the presence of all the people.” A dramatic action and a prophecy all would gladly consume. But a lie. To Hananiah, Jeremiah prophesies the truth: “By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke!” as well as the false prophet’s own death, which comes in but a few months. And yes, it is seventy years the exile shall last, and not two.
And is it not the word of truth by which the Lord feeds the five thousand today? Using human logic the disciples suggest to Jesus that He “dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.” But it is with the word of truth Jesus states: “Give them something to eat yourselves.” How? they respond. “We have nothing here... but five loaves and a couple of fish.” How does the Lord multiply these loaves and fish? How can He feed five thousand with barely enough food for fifty? It is not possible except by the word of truth, which can move mountains. Is it not His looking up to heaven and blessing and breaking the food that causes it to be multiplied in the sight (and eating) of all? Does not the Father give the Son all for which He asks? Is His prayer not true?
Brothers and sisters, if the ordinances of the Lord are our hope, what can we not do? What food can we not multiply? What ailing hearts can we not heal? For trusting in Him and in His Word all is ours for the asking. But making our own words and our own desires our way in this world, what can we come to but death? What shall we find but an iron yoke upon our necks?
Yes, the yoke of the Lord is light, for it is formed by the word of God, and in its truth we are buoyed up unto heaven. And all our words are justified. And we are fed with the bread of life.
O LORD, your Word is fulfilled in our midst,
and so your Son feeds us with His Body and Blood.
YHWH, take all falsehood from our hearts and from our lives; on your Word alone let us depend. For as we go according to our own thoughts, so we are lost, so we are without answer to the difficulties of life and fooling ourselves with the responses we devise. But trusting in you, what cannot be done; what do we lack? For you feed us by your own hand if we but remain obedient to your command and come to your Son.
In your Word is our hope, dear God – let it be spoken clearly to our ears and let us cling to its truth. Let us not fear whatever darkness may come to us in this land of exile, but let us know that your yoke is light and it frees us from the yoke of sin and all oppression.
Heal our troubled souls, dearest LORD, by the compassionate touch of Jesus. Let us know we are not alone but that you care ever for your poor flock even in this deserted place. You hand be upon us to bless us, and your Word be spoken to the ends of the earth.
Sat, 30 July 2016
(Ec.1:2,2:21-23; Ps.90:3-6,12-14,17,95:7-8; Col.3:1-5,9-11; Lk.12:13-21)
“If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Yes, “all things are vanity!” without God. All is empty, for “like the changing grass” our life “wilts and fades”; we are turned “back to dust,” and so what becomes of the earthly desires we pursue? Where do “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” lead us but to the grave – and what do they do for us here but keep our hearts from what truly matters?
See the difference between the man in our first reading who “labors under the sun” in “toil and anxiety of heart” and those in our psalm who “shout for joy and gladness” all their days, for the latter say to the Lord, “Prosper the work of our hands,” putting all things into the care of Him who indeed holds all things in His loving embrace. One’s heart is set on “what is on earth,” and so he is blinded by the flesh into which he puts all his hopes. Like both the man in the crowd and the one in the parable of our gospel, his sights are set on his possessions and the feeding of his belly – both of which shall rot away. The other’s heart, however, is set on “what is above.” He is rich in “what matters to God” because he has died to the vain things of this earth, dying with Christ to their illusion and, so, rising with Christ to the life and glory of heaven. As one sinks into hell, the other rises to newness of life “in the image of [his] Creator.”
In what image is our own life made? What do we pursue with heart and soul as we tread this earth? Are we consumed by the mud at our feet, miring ourselves in selfishness and sin; or do we indeed rise above the greed which tempts our hearts to “eat, drink, be merry”? If we are truly raised with Christ as we proclaim as Christians, we would be seated at God’s right hand with Him, knowing that He is our only refuge, our only God. But so many are distracted by the idolatrous images that surround us in this world. So many desire to be rich and famous, to satiate their appetites in gluttony and drunkenness, to do what pleases their flesh in sexual immorality. And what shall become of these but that the worm shall consume them and they will cry out with Qoheleth, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”
Brothers and sisters, with Jesus and with Paul I encourage you to find the treasure that is meaningful in life. Set aside the earthly passions that drown the soul, and seek what is alive with Christ. We have a great call in this world to bring the Lord’s light and life forward, to make Him present in our own flesh, in all our work. With Him in our hearts, nothing is done in vain, for such “bountiful harvest” as this is stored up for heaven, which shall never pass away. Let us make His resurrection our own; even as we die to the empty desires of this earth, let us rise unto God as a holy sacrifice.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Addictions: What Do You Say?" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let our lives this day be in line with your will,
united to the glory of your only Son.
YHWH, let us not store up treasures for ourselves, but think rather of you and the salvation of others. All is indeed vanity if like Qoheleth we set our sights on what is on earth, if we are preoccupied by our possessions. For these shall rot with the lusts of the flesh and we shall die with them. But if we set our hearts on you and on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at your right hand, then we shall be blessed with life everlasting.
Your Son calls us to glory with Him in Heaven. He warns us of the emptiness of this earth and the riches hereon. He would turn our eyes to you and away from all greed and selfishness. He alone can prosper the work of our hands, LORD, for without Him we pass like the changing grass and nothing comes of our days.
O LORD, let us not labor in vain but with the wisdom that comes from above, that we might not come to great misfortune but to eternal life in your presence. Remake us in the image of your Son.
Tue, 19 July 2016
(Jer.1:1,4-10; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; Mt.13:1-9)
“O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.”
So does the seed grow, and bear fruit in the sight of the Lord.
Our psalmist declares, “On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.” Indeed we are planted in our mother’s womb and we grow by the grace of the Lord. And as our bodies grow so gradually from the womb of our mother, so our spirits, too, grow from the womb of our Mother, the Church, in whose womb the Lord plants us and nurtures us with His water, the Holy Spirit. For it is the Lord who prepares the ground for our planting. As He declares to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” So even before we are planted as seed the Lord holds us in His Hand, and that Hand of love shall never leave us.
And what does the Lord expect of the seed He plants and nurtures but that it sprout and bear much fruit? What does He do but call us forth to proclaim His Word with our lives: “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak” – what He requires of Jeremiah He requires of us all. As “the Lord extended His hand and touched [the prophet’s] mouth, saying, ‘See I place my words within your mouth!’” so He reaches out to us all, planting His Word within our hearts and expecting it to grow and blossom forth. Into the light our works must come to reveal His heavenly presence.
“The crowd stood along the shore” as rows of plants in an ordered garden, and Jesus watered them with His teaching. And in whom would His Word take root? Who would grow unencumbered in His light? Who would bear fruit unto the kingdom of God? “Let everyone heed what he hears!” Make the Lord your “rock of refuge” and He will “rescue [you] from the hand of the wicked” and nurture you with His Bread and the Word of Life. And your “mouth shall declare [His] justice, day by day [His] salvation” as you come gradually and invariably – you know not now – to the kingdom our Savior prepares with His Blood.
O LORD, let the seed we sow with you
bear fruit by your blessing.
YHWH, from the womb you call us; from our conception you bless us with your Word to nourish us and help us grow in your sight, that upon maturity we might praise your NAME and share your Word with all. Help us indeed to grow each day in you and do your will with all our lives.
O LORD, may we bear fruit a hundredfold! May we be planted in good soil, in the womb of your Church, that fruitful indeed we might be. Touch our mouth with your hand that our tongue may be purified to speak of your glory and so serve to plant seeds of life in souls with ears to hear your voice. Let us not wither and die in our sin or be choked by the cares of this world; keep the clutches of Satan far from us, and we will be your own children, declaring your salvation until your Son returns.
O LORD, we depend on you for our very lives, for the breath in our nostrils and the love in our hearts. Shine your light on us this day and let our fruit be pleasing to you.
Mon, 27 June 2016
(Amos 3:1-8,4:11-12; Ps.5:4-9; Mt.8:23-27)
“The lion roars – who will not be afraid!
The Lord God speaks – who will not prophesy!”
Yes, the Lord prophesies against Israel today like a lion rending and roaring: “You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.” He brings upon His chosen “such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: [they are] like a brand plucked from the fire.” In no uncertain terms does He cry out through Amos – “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
A frightening prospect indeed it is which is presented to us in our readings. Here is the Lord God coming to take vengeance on His people. This is He before whom “no evil man remains,” who “destroy[s] all who speak falsehood.” And against His own who turn from Him, He reserves greater punishment.
How shall we react, we who are now become His chosen children? What should we do before such an awesome prospect as the Lord’s hand coming with power? With David we should “bring [our] plea expectantly before [Him]”; with the disciples we should make “our way toward Him” and call out: “Lord, save us! We are lost!” And if we have the faith and humility of the Lord’s king, who declares, “I, because of your abundant kindness, will enter your house; I will worship at your holy temple in fear of you, O Lord,” then with his same confidence we may believe that the Lord will wake and take “the winds and the sea to task” – that what besets us because of our sin and separation from Him will be appeased by the same voice which threatens our destruction thereby. For indeed the Lord is abundantly kind and speaks to us as His own, and chastises us as His own. He raises His voice that we might return to Him; He places us in the fire that we might be purged. Let us find our strength in a holy fear.
And let us join His voice. Let us call out with Him to His blessed children, that all might return to Him who is their maker and protector – that all might be rescued from harm. The Lord would not see us caught in the snare laid for the wicked, and so He has sent His only Son to appease the wrath He has justly spoken forth. Let the lion’s mouth not close upon our heads, but may we be awakened by its voice and open our own mouths to declare the mercy of our God.
O LORD, the wind and the sea obey your Son,
but we harden our hearts against Him –
O let us heed His voice!
YHWH, even wind and sea obey you, and so we call upon your NAME to be saved from their clutches. Let not our sins overwhelm us, but bring us the grace of your salvation.
LORD, we deserve your just punishment, for we have stubbornly turned our hearts from you. Though you have been kind in watching over and protecting us from harm, we have not recognized your goodness toward us and praised your NAME; instead, we have turned to other gods and walked in the wickedness of our hearts. And so, what can you do but cry out against us; and so, what can we be but destroyed if we do not heed your voice?
Give us courage, LORD, for our strength fails us. All we can see is the turmoil our weakness brings upon us. Help us to see beyond the troubles the world presents, troubles we have brought upon ourselves, that we might see you and your power at work, and place all our faith therein. O let us listen to your prophets as they cry out and so walk your way in peace and light, despite the surrounding darkness.
Sat, 18 June 2016
(Zec.12:10-11,13:1; Ps.63:2-6,8-9; Gal.3:26-29; Lk.9:18-24)
“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.”
Jesus is the Christ of God. It is He who suffers, He who has been pierced for our sins, and He whose blood cleanses us as we look upon Him, as we cry out in tears for the pain we have caused Him and resolve to follow Him now in His way of the cross. What is the “fountain to purify from sin” but the blood poured forth in His sacrifice, and what is it we thirst for but to drink in full the grace contained therein? And it is our great grace to suffer with Him, to take up our cross daily and share in His sacrifice, denying ourselves to find Him and His life. This is what makes us one, with Him and so with one another: this is the baptism that redeems us and makes us whole.
Do we live out our baptismal vows? Do we follow Him in the way of the cross? Are we truly longing for the Lord, pining for Him, gazing upon Him – what is the banquet we seek to satisfy our souls? Are we one in His Spirit, loving Him above all others? Or do we set our souls on the empty pleasures of this life? These we must lose to find Him. Here in solitude the Lord tells the disciples quietly and sincerely, knowing the vanity and thirst for power the devil would plant in their souls – “The Son of Man must suffer greatly.” How He desires them to hear His teaching. How He longs to keep them from the evil one and see that their hearts are not fixed on this life. He knows only this will save them. He knows only repentance brings the life of God, and so He approaches them in the silence of God that His words might sink deeply into them.
And they will listen. And they, too, will all die. They will understand the sacrifice that leads to life. And what of us? The Lord speaks to us, too, today. His words are here written down and proclaimed for our ears to treasure. Do we turn to this fountain of forgiveness, mourning for our sins “as one mourns for an only son”? And does our mourning lead us to lay down our lives?
Nothing of this world will suffice. His Body and Blood alone are our food and drink here in this life. They make us one and make us strong, and by them He will uphold us, if our hearts are set on losing this life to find Him.
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, in the Cross let us find
your cleansing fountain.
YHWH, we look toward your sanctuary and what do we see but your Son pierced for our sins? And so we mourn, and so we cry… and it is in these tears we are washed clean – baptism in His blood purifies us of sin. And so, in the shadow of His wings we rejoice.
For now, O LORD, our souls may cling to you; by the sacrifice of your Son we are made one with Him and with one another. And His call to take up our own cross, to share in His sacrifice, we receive with great joy; for He has shown us that it is this path that leads to salvation, that leads to eternal glory in your presence.
O let us enter your sanctuary this day, LORD our God! Let us join ourselves to the offering Jesus makes for our sakes, eating His Body and drinking His Blood and doing your will as He has done. At the banquet of Heaven let our souls be satisfied!
Sat, 4 June 2016
(1Kgs.17:17-24; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-12; Gal.1:11-19; Lk.7:11-17)
“O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld.”
“You preserved me from among those going down into the pit.” For I was dead, but now I live. These should be the words of us all, for the Lord indeed is our salvation – our life breath comes from Him, and He will preserve us from all death. No longer in sin, we rise to new life.
The resurrecting power of God is clearly evident in our readings today. We see both Jesus and Elijah raising the dead. And perhaps the rising of Paul from the blind pit into which he’d fallen, which led him even to persecute and attempt to destroy the Church, is the most remarkable resurrection.
What we should take from today’s readings is the sure knowledge that God is life and that life has no origin other than Him. Paul proclaims the Word he preaches comes only from God through the revelation of Jesus Christ – emphasizing that no man taught him the Word which burns in his soul (a Word which gives life to all who hear it) – and in both the gospel and the first reading those who witness the raising of the dead attribute rightly its source to the Lord. In one they proclaim, “God has visited His people,” and in the other the widow of Sidon states of Elijah: “The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.” This is the character of the Word, this is the quality of God – He gives life. And so we know Him.
And we indeed are all as the widows in today’s readings; we are all bereft of our only sons, of the light of our eyes and our very life. We mourn for the loss of our souls which is imminent because of our sin. And we, too, weep. Who shall save us? Who shall speak a word to us to revive us, to return our life’s breath, to restore our souls? Jesus comes to us. He visits our city, He comes to our door. His Word approaches our hearts and calls to us to arise – He breathes upon us the breath of new life. His apostles go forth from the foundation set in Peter, and this true Gospel is that which shall save the world, which shall bring it from its mourning to joy.
But do we mourn the loss of our souls? Do we bewail that which is taken from us by sin? Do we see the death upon us? We must come as widows calling upon the Lord to find His Word at work in our hearts, bringing us to life. And we must share that Word with others. Once raised from the dead, we must proclaim what the Word has done for us. We must recognize His power at work in the world.
May the Word go forth to the ends of the earth, speaking of the saving power of God. May it raise all from death.
Written, read and chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Be Well" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let the life breath return to your children;
by your grace let us rise from the dead to praise you.
YHWH, your Son looks with pity upon our poor condition, He sees that we are bereft of our only Child, of the light of our eyes – He sees our souls descend to the nether world and desires only to raise them from such darkness to the eternal light of your presence… and He prays for us… and He calls to us… and we rise and are held in our Mother’s arms.
To the Church Jesus entrusts our souls; our very lives are in the hands of our Mother on earth. Dearest God, let us never be separated from the life-giving Breath you give us through your apostles, through the magisterium, through the teaching of your Son which they guard so assiduously. In your House let us remain all the days of our life.
What hope have we if you call attention to our guilt, to the sin upon our souls? But in your compassion you preserve us from certain death, and for this we praise you. Thank you, LORD, for visiting your people and changing our mourning into dancing before you.
Wed, 25 May 2016
(1Pt.2:2-5,9-12; Ps.100:2-5; Mk.10:46-52)
“Be as eager for milk as newborn babies –
pure milk of the Spirit to make you grow unto salvation.”
Does not the “blind beggar Bartimaeus” show his eagerness for the milk of the Spirit, for the blood of Christ upon his soul, when he persistently calls out “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” despite those who “were scolding him to make him keep quiet”? And was his ready desire to meet with the Lord not revealed most clearly when “he threw aside his cloak, jumped up and came to Jesus.” All else becomes as nothing as even in his blindness he strains forward to find the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, should we not “come to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but approved, nonetheless, and precious in God’s eyes,” just as this beggar? Are we not “‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people He claims for His own to proclaim the glorious works’ of the One who called [us] from darkness into His marvelous light”? Is it not so that “once [we] were no people, but now [we] are God’s people”? Once we were blind as Bartimaeus, without mercy for our souls, “but now [we] have found mercy.” And oh how we should treasure such grace – even as a newborn child treasures its milk.
Who better than Peter, our high priest, to let us know that we “too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”? Having been cured of our own blindness, having been purged of our “carnal desires,” we join this blessed Rock of the Church at the altar on high, sharing in the sacrifice of our Risen Christ. Should this thought not cause us to “serve the Lord with gladness”? Should it not make us ever eager to serve Him more, to draw ever closer to Him as He passes by? Is it not our desire to be with Him forever?
“Get up! He is calling you!” Do not be afraid for “He made us” and we are “the flock He tends.” The gentle Lord desires nothing more than to heal your troubled soul. See that you now “follow Him up the road” in joy, growing daily in the new life and light of the Spirit of God.
O LORD, in your great mercy
you have saved us from our sins
that we might see your glory –
let us proclaim your marvelous works this day.
YHWH, we praise you for the mercy you bring to our souls. We were once blind and begging by the roadside, but you have heard our cries and healed us; and now we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem. In His very sacrifice we share, offering ourselves and our works up in His Name. So generous you are that in His priesthood we now share.
O LORD, though we are the poorest of sinners, though we have been so far from you and your mercy, mired in the deepest darkness, yet you have come to us, you have passed by the gutter in which we were splayed, and you have lifted us by your Word from our emptiness – you have given light to our eyes. Let us thank you now by following in your way, and so fulfill your grace at work in us.
O LORD, let all our carnal desires be stripped from us like an old cloak and let us stand with you in white robes. Truly, O LORD, make us your own, that we might praise you forevermore.
Thu, 4 February 2016
(Sir.47:2-11; Ps.18:31,47,50-51; Mk.6:14-29)
“Herod feared John,
knowing him to be an upright and holy man.”
O how the Lord has given power to His great men. It is He who “gave great victories to [the] king.” David “called upon the Most High God, who gave strength to his right arm”; and as David “made sport of lions as though they were kids,” as he “slew the giant” and his “tens of thousands” in battle, so John the Baptist slays the sins of the multitude, even striking great fear into the heart of King Herod by the simple words: “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” And though it is John who is beheaded, it is Herod who shakes in his boots long after the Baptist is gone. As our gospel relates today, “On hearing of Jesus, Herod exclaimed, ‘John, whose head I cut off, has been raised up!’” This king’s guilt remains, as do the words of the Baptist in his heart.
“He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him,” David declares so knowingly in our psalm today. Indeed, the Lord’s blessed protection has been continually with his king, who has ever taken Him as his Rock. Of David, Sirach writes, “With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung.” What tremendous witness the wise man gives to the Lord’s chosen king. And perhaps most poignant and most significant is his statement that “the Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever.” David does not lose his kingship because of his failures – as does Herod, who is already dead by his wickedness – but in fact has the establishment of “his throne in Israel” fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
The Lord’s power is upon His chosen. To each He gives the grace needed to offer lives of sacrifice. As David’s life was “like the choice fat of the sacred offerings” and John’s death a holocaust that rises yet unto God, so all our lives may be enriched and blessed, and made whole in His sight; so will they be as “sweet melody,” if we but entrust them to the Lord our God. And then none shall be able to stand before the power that is with us, for His holiness conquers all.
O LORD, may all we do be a song of praise
to your holy NAME;
let all evil be overcome by the strength of your Word.
YHWH, as David slew Goliath so John the Baptist slays Herod, even from the grave. Still this vain king is tormented by the Baptist’s word of truth; still his sin is exposed and his guilt apparent. Still he lives in fear. Still John speaks in Jesus his Savior.
O LORD, with David let us sing praise to your holy NAME, for you conquer all evil in this world and the next; you give power to your Son Jesus and His apostles to destroy all wickedness. Who can stand before your glory? Before you the dance of lust turns to dust.
You are the shield of all who take refuge in you, LORD. You are indeed God Most High, and to you we offer thanks and praise. For there is nothing we need fear; with you at our side we are safe from all our enemies.
Into your kingdom let us come, dearest LORD and God, far apart from this sinful world. Even here you reassure our hearts of your eternal presence.
Wed, 27 January 2016
(2Sm.7:18-19,24-29; Ps.132:1-2,3-5,11-14,Lk.1:32; Mk.4:21-25)
“If your sons keep my covenant and the decrees which I shall teach them,
their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.”
Yes, “the Lord has chosen Zion; He prefers her for His dwelling.” His blessings are upon His Church and its people, for “the Lord swore to David a firm promise from which He will not withdraw: ‘Your own offspring I will set upon your throne,’” and Jesus completes that promise by establishing the New Jerusalem in His Name. But we must exhibit the “anxious care” David has shown for the preservation and promotion of the house which is ours through this Son of David and fulfillment of God’s promise.
If “the eye is the lamp of the body,” as Jesus has said elsewhere in the gospels (Mt.6:22), then we must say with David: “I will give my eyes no sleep, my eyelids no rest, till I find a place for the Lord.” Always our light should be shining forth; always we should be looking to “make our call and election permanent” (as Peter has elsewhere stated – 2Pt.1:10) – always we must seek to serve Him, if ever we wish to dwell with Him. For as Jesus says so poignantly to the crowd today: “Is a lamp acquired to be put under a bushel basket or hidden under a bed? Is it not meant to be put on a stand?” Thus He encourages us to bring our light “out into the open,” to let it shine forth for all to see. For then it shall be blessed.
“Listen carefully” now to what the Lord says further: “In the measure you give you shall receive.” Here is a golden rule which must be understood and practiced. For it is so that the more we share the gifts the Lord places in our hearts and at our hands, the greater these blessings grow. As we share our faith, more faithful do we become. As we speak of Him, the more do we understand of Him. In giving ourselves away for others and the sake of the kingdom, we find ourselves present in His light. And so do we grow. And so is our place in His house assured. And so we shall dwell with Him forever.
Let us pray with David in our first reading, brothers and sisters: “Bless the house of your servant that it may be before you forever,” that what the Lord has promised each of us through the Son of David may come to light. As David simply asks the Lord to accomplish what He has graciously vowed to do – “Confirm for all time the prophecy you have made concerning your servant and his house” – let us beg the Lord to grant the same to His Church for the salvation of all souls who worship Him in truth and serve Him in strength. Alleluia.
O LORD, dwell in us as you have promised
that we might shine your light forth.
YHWH, who are we that you bless us with a place in your kingdom, that you shine your eternal light in our eyes? How can we know you, how can we even approach you, we who are but useless servants….? And yet you make us your sons. Let us cherish the blessing you give us and shine the light you provide.
Your House is a house for all peoples, LORD, and all peoples you would draw into your sanctuary. The promise you made to David comes to us all through the Son you place upon his throne. Now that Jesus is with us, help us to be as generous as you and serve to extend your blessing to all men. O what a blessing it is to share your love with others! Let us not be afraid or hide your light away.
All we have let us give, O LORD, for all we have is a gift from you and it is increased only when we give it to others. May all come into your presence.
Sun, 10 January 2016
(1Sm.1:1-8; Ps.116:12-19; Mk.1:14-20)
“Hannah was childless.”
And so she would “weep and refuse to eat,” for it was “a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren.”
But He will not leave her barren long. Her husband’s love for her despite her condition and her own prayers will soon be answered: she will give birth to the great prophet and priest, Samuel, who will anoint kings in Israel.
And her song of joy, which will foreshadow our Blessed Mother’s own Magnificat, is here foreshadowed in our psalm in praise of the Lord’s favor to His servants: “To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as is her faithfulness in fulfilling her vow to offer her son entirely to God: “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people.” All who have looked upon her shame and sorrow shall marvel at the blessing the Lord’s “handmaid” will receive as He looses her bonds of emptiness and makes her fruitful in His eyes.
And in our gospel the Lord awakens the empty womb of the earth, stirring it to life. “The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the Good News!” He proclaims to a people in darkness. And children He brings forth from this barren country, the disciples He calls unto Himself, to be the first to share in His life. And they come forth, these pillars of the Church; they leave behind the world, all the world, to follow Him. Immediately, “on the spot,” they “became His followers.” “Along the Sea of Galilee,” beside this simple body of water, the waves of grace call forth from the darkness the light that shall illumine all men.
“How shall [we] make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for [us]?” How shall we poor sinners, barren of good works, unfruitful in His sight, thank Him for hearing our grieving cries? Simply, we must bear fruit in His name.
We are no longer childless.
O LORD, call us to yourself
that we might be childless no more.
YHWH, let us enter the temple singing your praise, for though we sit here in darkness weeping for our barrenness before you, you shall hear our prayer, you shall answer our weeping and make us fruitful in your sight. For now the Word goes forth to the ends of the earth, the Good News your Son brings to us through His blessed apostles, and our lives will be reformed and we made ready to enter your presence.
Look upon us, LORD our God, as here we toil in vain for the bread which cannot satisfy our souls. For you alone do we long, and long have we been waiting in tears for you to come to us and call us to your side. Hearing the sound of your Son’s voice, what can we do but rejoice? For He is our light in this darkness.
And so, let us offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving; let us leave all behind now to follow your Son, for He leads us to fruitful labor in your holy NAME. O LORD, let us die to the things of this world that we might live in glory forever.