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, 25 June 2016
(1Kgs.19:16b,19-21; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Gal.5:1,13-18; Lk.9:51-62)
“No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind
is fit for the kingdom of God.”
We must follow Jesus. And the path He walks leads to the cross.
Our gospel tells us, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” Jesus knows what awaits Him in Jerusalem. He knows how He will weep over the city for its lack of faith, and He knows their lack of faith will bring His crucifixion. Yet into the waiting arms of death He travels, undeterred. And how many there are who proclaim their desire to walk with Him; how many volunteer to follow in His way. But how little they know of the difficulty found on that road: “The Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head” – we must give up our homes. “Let the dead bury the dead” – we must leave behind our family. Yes, we must never look “to what was left behind,” namely, “the desire of the flesh” of which Paul speaks. We are now “guided by the Spirit”; the flesh no longer holds sway over us. That which is opposed to the Spirit we must give no thought to anymore.
Look at Elisha, the powerful prophet, in our first reading. He is called by the master, Elijah. Yes, he fails to follow immediately, but look at what he does in saying good-bye to his family. He takes what has been his livelihood to this day and sacrifices it utterly: he slaughters the oxen and even uses “the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh,” giving the meat as food for his people. Nothing remains to call him back; he effects a total departure from his old self.
Brothers and sisters, we must take such complete refuge in the Lord. We must say with David, “O Lord, my allotted portion and cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.” All must be given over to Him and entrusted to His care. It does us no good to hesitate on our journey with Him or take up things which will weigh us down along the way.
“Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery,” Paul exhorts us. Leave all the desires of this world behind to find the freedom known only in heaven. Then we will proclaim with David: “I set the Lord before me; with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” We will know His mantle of strength and protection in our call to walk with Him; the yoke of slavery to sin will be broken from our shoulders. We are truly free, brothers and sisters, only insofar as we follow Him, submitting ourselves to the cross.
O Lord, take all that keeps us back from following in your way, that in such death to self we may draw nigh to your kingdom. Your cross is the path to life.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Hold On, Here We Go" (second part) from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may your Spirit guide us
on the road to the Cross.
YHWH, how shall we be fit for your kingdom? How shall we give ourselves as we must to your will? Help us to leave all behind and never turn back to it. Help us to follow your Son even to the Cross. For if you do not help us, we shall falter on the way. Without your grace we shall not have the light and strength we need.
O LORD, our spirit is willing to follow you, but how weak is our flesh. How concerned we are about the things of this earth! And so your Son must be severe with us, for how else shall we break the yoke of slavery to sin? Without His sharp Word we would linger in complacency all our days.
O let the ties that bind us to this world be cut and we be free to walk with Jesus in utter service and love! May the fire of your Spirit be upon us to burn away all attachment to sin. Be our sole refuge, dear God, that no corruption we shall know but remain at your right hand forever.
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, 11 June 2016
(2Sm.12:7-10,13; Ps.32:1-2,5,7,11; Gal.2:16,19-21; Lk.7:36-8:3)
“I said, ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’
and you took away the guilt of my sin.”
“Who is this who even forgives sins?” It is Christ the Lord, the promised One, the Messiah – the Savior of the human race. But the Pharisee and the others at table “nullify the grace of God.” Simon does not welcome Jesus as a prophet, a brother, or even a respected traveler; instead, he sits back in judgment of the Son of Man: “If this man were a prophet…” he speculates to himself, all the while blind to the tears of the woman, ever remaining cold to her repentance. And even when Jesus speaks to him by name and confronts him with his own guilt, even after he reveals to him the coldness of his welcome to Him whom he should be glorifying, he is not repentant. He cannot be forgiven even a little, for he has no love in his heart.
How different David’s reaction (in our first reading) to the exposure of his great sin to the light. He does not hide from the truth. He does not pretend all is well. He falls to his knees in tears and confesses his guilt at the feet of the prophet of God. And so he finds forgiveness. David recognizes the chastising hand of the Lord and the great grace that is found by it. The woman, too, sees the truth of her sins in the face of Christ and longs to find the grace of forgiveness. The Pharisee hardens his heart.
“A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,” Paul proclaims in our second reading. It is not that the law is bad or that it should be abandoned, as Christ Himself confirms; it is simply that the law alone will not bring us to justification, it does not serve to make us one with God – the death of Christ and faith in Him is necessary for this. If the Pharisee had truly kept the law well, he would have recognized and celebrated Jesus’ coming, for, indeed, He and His love are the very heart of the law – to which Christ has also witnessed. The greatest commandment is recognized by the whole nation of Israel as love of God and neighbor. But the Pharisee fails even to exhibit basic hospitality, an essential work of the law, to the Lord. He knows not Jesus because his adherence to the law is false, is but a pretense. If he followed the law rightly it would lead him to the justification found in Jesus; but love, the heart of the law, is far from his sight.
Let us, brothers and sisters, not be blind as the Pharisee. Let us not take refuge in our own works and ignore the Lord who walks amongst us. If we do not recognize our sins against Him, we shall never come to the light of salvation, we shall never know His surpassing love. Let us be as David and as the woman: let us “bathe His feet” with our tears of repentance. He is waiting to forgive.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Cry Mercy" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, cast all evil from our hearts
that we might walk in the company of your Son.
YHWH, may we have faith in you and in your Son that we might be saved from our sin and share in your love. It is this grace Jesus comes to impart to us: the forgiveness of our sins. How we should rejoice that you look upon our tears!
To even the worst of sinners you show great pity; we may say that these deserve your mercy even more. For those who recognize the depth of their sin against you, you raise to great heights, O LORD. And it is not so much repentance of sin itself that opens us to your saving hand upon us, but our realization of the glory before us in your only Son and how no soul is able to stand in the overwhelming light of His presence.
And so let us all fall at the feet of Christ with tears pouring from our eyes, in repentance for our sins, yes, but more so for the surpassing love He offers freely to all who believe in Him… and so come to you. Take away the guilt of our sin, dearest God.
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.
Thu, 2 June 2016
(Ez.34:11-16; Ps.23:1-6; Rm.5:5-11; Lk.15:3-7)
“I have found my lost sheep.”
“We have found reconciliation” through the blood of Jesus Christ. So the Apostle Paul tells us, and so we know to the depths of our hearts, which are united to His Sacred Heart. Once we were sinners, scattered like sheep on the hillside, but the Lamb of God has come and died for us, and so we His scattered sheep are led home. He has brought to fulfillment the promise of the Father to walk among us and rescue us from the darkness that envelops this world. “The lost,” “the strayed,” “the injured,” “the sick,” He has come to lead back to the bosom of the Father, where we may take refuge in His Sacred Heart.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”; so let us recognize our sin that His blood might be efficacious. Let us not deny His grace as “people who have no need to repent.” For if we say we are righteous, the darkness will continue to surround us and He will not be beside us to guide us to the Father’s pasture: we will be left alone and forsaken. No, let us cause heaven to rejoice by repenting of our sin each day and always finding His blood at work within us. To what pasture He leads us! What protection we find even in this life, a blessing known especially in His Sacrament. And what future awaits us in His heavenly kingdom. We taste it and make our boast in it now, but there it shall be known in its fullness when, indeed, nothing shall ever harm us. “For, now we rejoice in the refuge He gives as we “walk in the dark valley”; even still He is gathering His scattered sheep. Yes, to this day He moves among us as our Shepherd, and then we shall rest eternally in the Father’s arms.
We give thanks to the Lord for the blessings He provides us on our path to His glory. We thank Him for His Church and its sacraments. We come to the altar and receive His sacrifice this day, knowing we are not worthy of such a call. But we confess our sins to Him. We seek His forgiveness through the ministry of the shepherds He has left us, and His mercy finds a place in us.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, thank you for your grace and mercy.
Lead us home to the Father’s arms.
O Lord, like sheep we have all gone astray;
lead us back today,
and on your holy mountain
may we take rest.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, in your mercy and love
shepherd us to restful waters.
YHWH, is it not the blood of your Son that reconciles us to you, that shepherds us into your kingdom? And so, does Heaven not now await every repentant sinner? O let us rejoice in your presence with all who have found your forgiveness!
Your promise is sure, dear God. You promise to come among us and lead all straying souls back to you, back to your holy mountain; and this you have accomplished by sending your Son to die for our sins. And now by the grace upon us by virtue of His sacrifice, your Spirit guides us in right paths to your House, where we shall dwell forever in your peace.
Why do you love us so, dear LORD? Why does your Son so freely lay down His life for godless men like us? O let us but accept the healing grace that comes to us because of your compassion! Let all souls repent of their sin and rejoice in Heaven, in your Sacred Heart.