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.