Sun, 31 December 2017
O Blessed Virgin
in whose womb was conceived
the only Son of God,
who by such grace
has brought salvation
to our race…
What faith is yours
in God the Father!
What power is upon you
by the Holy Spirit!
What unutterable wonder we find
in your Son!
How is it one of our own number
could give birth
to our Creator?
Such glorious union
with the Godhead
we could never merit
except that the Lord
has chosen you –
pray this day
He shall be born in us, too.
Sun, 31 December 2017
(Nm.6:22-27; Ps.67:2-3,5-6,8; Gal.4:4-7; Lk.2:16-21)
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.”
The blessing of God, His holy Son, was upon the shepherds, and it is upon us all. For “God sent His Son, born of a woman” that His “way be known upon earth,” “that we might receive adoption as sons.” And what greater blessing could man know than to fulfill his call as son of the living God?
We are blessed, brothers and sisters, and we should proclaim it as the shepherds. The blessing invoked upon the people by Aaron has been realized in the birth of the Son. Through Him “the Lord let[s] His face shine upon [us]” – this is His grace come. And how else but in haste should we travel to Him? How quickly we should arrive at His side. And how amazed all should be upon hearing the blessings we have known, at the hand of our God.
Mary is she who is truly blessed, and we honor especially today she “who kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” For so obedient was she to God’s will that He was “conceived in [her] womb” and made flesh in our sight. So, let us thank her today for the blessing she has brought into our midst. As we are now sons of the Father with the Spirit of the Son “crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” in our hearts, so we are sons of Mary, too, for the Lord’s divinity cannot be separated from His humanity – the two meet as one in Jesus Christ. This is our great blessing.
From “an infant lying in the manger” shall come the salvation of our race, and the Mother of this renewed race, consecrated to God in Him who is “named Jesus,” we commemorate with our hearts and our voices in praise this holy day. May she now be the instrument by which “the Lord bless[es]” and “keep[s]” us; may she pray this day that “His face shine upon [us].” And may all her children be one in the blessing of Christ, her Son. Amen.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, what blessing is upon us
this Christmas day!
YHWH, we are your sons now because Jesus has become our Brother. Born of the Virgin, His blessing is now upon our race – He it is who shines the light of your face. Let us glorify you for your blessing.
Now we may call you “Father!” now that the Spirit of your Son is with us. For in Him we are adopted as your sons, LORD, and so through Him you are our Father. Let the light of your face shine upon us all our days.
It is you who rule all nations, LORD; all the earth is in your hands. Yet you come to us as a little child, poor and lying in a humble manger. Let us ponder this wonder with Mary; let us keep your will and your Word ever in our hearts, that we might see unfold the revelation of your presence among us.
Too wonderful for us is the grace you bring, LORD; yet let us live as your sons, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sat, 30 December 2017
(Gn.15:1-6,21:1-3; Ps.105:1-9; Heb.11:8,11-12,17-19; Lk.2:22-40)
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,
and the favor of God was upon Him.”
What child is this of whom Simeon the prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit, declares to the Lord, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all peoples,” even as he holds Jesus in his arms? This indeed is He who is the “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for [His] people Israel”; this indeed is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, foreshadowed in the birth of Isaac, by whom Abraham’s descendants would be “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.” “Binding for a thousand generations,” forever, was the covenant the Lord “entered into with Abraham and by His oath to Isaac,” and now that covenant is brought to perfection in the sight of Simeon and Anna; now “all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” could rejoice and “give thanks to the Lord,” for to the temple had come the Christ of God: here is the Messiah.
“Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!” for in Jesus His Son you shall find Him. Though raised in a humble family in the town of Nazareth, this is He who raises all His chosen unto heaven, who brings salvation to His people. And so rejoice indeed “you descendants of Abraham, His servants, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!” for even as “there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead,” innumerable descendants, even as the Lord fulfilled His promise to Abraham by the birth of Isaac, so the Lord’s promise to Simeon “that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord” is fulfilled in all our midst even this day. Listen to the prophet’s proclamation: the light has come! We are no longer in darkness, no longer in mournful anticipation. And so with Anna we should come forward now and speak “about the child” to all who will listen, to all who long to hear the good news of God.
Brothers and sisters, let the Lord grow in our midst. In this Holy Family that is His Church let Him be nurtured and known. For God’s favor rests upon Him alone and by no other child does salvation come. Today He is presented to all waiting hearts.
Written & chanted by James Kurt; read by Sylvia Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Abouna Joseph; used by permission.
O LORD, let your Word be fulfilled
in the lives of all your children –
let our eyes see your salvation.
YHWH, your Word you fulfill in our midst for you are faithful. Your Christ you send among us to save us from our sins that we might be as your children forever. Let us enter your generation, LORD, and be of your Holy Family.
Your Son has become our brother and so we know you as our Father, LORD. Your promise is fulfilled and He now dwells among us – and so you, too, are with us. From the womb of the Virgin Mary is born a Child with whom we grow into your holy image; we are made pure as she by the grace upon her Son.
In Nazareth let us make our home, O LORD, with Jesus and Mary and Joseph; then our home in Heaven will be secure and even here we will have your blessing. Though a sword must pierce our heart as it has with Jesus and Mary and Joseph and all your saints, yet we shall rejoice in your goodness toward us, that you make us fruitful with Abraham as children of a living faith. Let us become strong and wise in your sight.
Fri, 29 December 2017
(1Jn.2:12-17; Ps.96:7-11; Lk.2:36-40)
“The world with its seductions is passing away
but the man who does God’s will endures forever.”
Upon what is your eye fixed? Do you seek the Lord as has Anna these many years, “constantly in the temple, worshiping day and night in fasting and prayer,” or are you seduced by “carnal allurements, enticements for the eye, the life of empty show.” Indeed, “all these are from the world” (and what appropriate description of the extreme vanity which grasps the world in this day), and indeed are all passing away into the nothingness from which they spring. And those whose hearts are fixed upon them shall pass away with them, while he whose heart seeks the Lord passes to the eternal life of heaven.
“Give to the Lord the glory due His name!” David exclaims in his psalm today, and, yes, much glory is due Him. “Through His Name [our] sins have been forgiven”; through Him we “have conquered the evil one.” Do you know “Him who is from the beginning”? Does “the word of God [remain] in you”? Is it His love you have, or love for the world, wherein His love finds no place to dwell? “The Lord is King,” brothers and sisters. He alone is worthy of our worship, worthy of our attention, worthy of our praise. Waste not your breath on the empty illusions of this passing world.
Anna “gave thanks to God and talked about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.” Do you look forward to such deliverance? Do you care to hear of the glory of the Lord spoken of by this prophetess? Or have you better things to do? What sporting event, television program, or party takes precedence in your life?
We live in a vain world, brothers and sisters. And that vanity permeates this modern society, presenting itself as an accepted good. It is not easy to conquer the hold such illusions cast upon our waiting eyes – only in Jesus will you find the strength to overcome these seductions. As “the child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God… upon Him,” so will you learn to make progress as you “tremble before Him”; so will you grow in His will to eternal life, as you turn away from the carnality of this life. Keep your eyes upon His light, rising from the darkness.
O LORD, let our hearts be set
on worship of you and your Son
and not on the things of this world.
YHWH, you are from the beginning; may your grace be upon us that we might conquer the evil one and endure with you forever. The world is indeed passing away – let us not pass with it.
O LORD, help us to do your will each day and at every hour. Teach us to remain in your Temple always and so be joined to you. If we worship you constantly, you will come quickly to save us – you send your Son to deliver Jerusalem, to comfort all who look to you.
How strong are the allurements of the world the devil presents to our weak flesh! How easily we give in to such distractions, LORD. Let it be your courts alone our hearts are set upon – help us to turn from darkness to your marvelous light.
In you we are made firm, and in your Son. With Him let us grow, O LORD, that we might indeed be your children and remain ever with you. Praise to you, O living God! Let us heed the words of your prophets and apostles.
Sat, 23 December 2017
(2Sm.7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16; Ps.89:2-5,27,29; Rom.16:25-27; Lk.1:26-28)
“The Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father.”
“I have made a covenant with David my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.” Here is the promise made to King David. Upon his seeking to build a house for the Lord, “the Lord… reveals to [David] that He will establish a house for [him].” Through the prophet Nathan, the Lord declares to His humble servant: “When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.” This would seem like all the world to refer to the great King Solomon, but it does not. For, like the earth itself, Solomon and all his gold – and even “the rest from all [his] enemies,” the peace the Lord establishes under his reign – will pass away; they cannot “endure forever” and neither can such a kingdom. The prophet speaks of a kingdom established in heaven (where all by nature endures forever), not one of the earth.
And so it is not Solomon of whom the prophet and the psalmist speak, but Jesus, He whose coming is hailed today by the angel’s words to the Blessed Virgin: “He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” For Abraham has died and Jacob has died and David has died and Solomon has died… and their graves are with us to this day. But Jesus, Jesus lives; Jesus lives forever at the right hand of His Father.
It is indeed Jesus who most truly says to the Lord God, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock.” It is He who is His only Son: it is He who is God Himself, one in being with the Father. This is “the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings”; this is “the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith”: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the only Son – and we must worship Him.
Come now, brothers and sisters, to this Child Mary bears by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Him your peace shall be established in the Father’s kingdom. Come to His holy throne, enter into His eternal reign… and with His humble king, and with His humble Mother, you shall be blessed forever.
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, let the Mother of our Lord come to us, too,
that new life may stir in us as well.
YHWH, blessed is the womb of Bethlehem, of Israel, of Mary the Mother of your Son. For in her you have prepared a body, the body of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that shall be as offering for our sins. In Him we are saved, for in Him your majesty reigns, and so your glory is now in our midst.
O let us leap like John the Baptist at the approach of your Son and His Mother! Bring to life what has remained dormant for such a long time. Arouse within us the joy of new life that we might be stirred to proclaim your glory. He has come who shall shepherd us, LORD; let us be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The sacrifices of old now pass away as all prophecy is fulfilled in the flesh of your only Son. And so we pray, let your will be done. Let your greatness reach to the ends of the earth and your peace reign in every heart by the power upon Jesus the Christ. O LORD, let us be consecrated to you in His holy offering.
Fri, 22 December 2017
(Mal.3:1-4,23-24; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14,Lk.21:28; Lk.1:57-66)
“His name is John.”
Yes, “the hand of the Lord [was] upon him,” whose name signifies the grace of God, who comes at the end of the age to turn men’s hearts back to God, who prepares the way we must walk to find the instruction and purgation of the Lord.
We must be purified by “the refiner’s fire.” We must be purged of all dross “like gold or like silver that [we] may offer due sacrifice to the Lord,” that we might be called children of the One God. The Day is coming; the Lord is returning to the temple, and we must be prepared to welcome Him – and so John is born, sent in the spirit of Elijah the prophet to cry out the way in the wilderness of this world. By the Spirit of the Lord, he “shows sinners the way; he guides the humble to justice,” leading them to the Son who stands ready in Truth to teach and to save. Well do the people do to wonder at the birth of this holy child, for well will they do to follow his exhortation, and come to praise of the living God.
This John leads us to something new, as even the originality of his name among his relatives signifies; he assists us in making the turn, the conversion to the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. From the Old and as a prophet of old, he leads us to the dawn of new light in this world. Jesus he comes to proclaim. Without this grace of God to be washed in the river of our sins, how could we stand on “the great and terrible day” of the Lord’s coming? How could we bear His light, His fire?
“All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy toward those who keep His covenant and His decrees.” Praise God we have the instruction of the Lord with us now to guide us to life everlasting; and thank God we have been made ready by “the messenger of the covenant” to stand in the light of that wisdom. The Lord teaches us now, brothers and sisters; the Lord is with us to instruct us in His way and, “like the fuller’s lye,” to make us white. Let us not make the grace of forgiveness John has wrought by the hand of God among us come to naught – let us listen closely now to the Word of God to which his voice has led us.
P.S. Re the Bible, the Word of God – a quote by St. Hippolytus from today’s Office: “Sacred Scripture is God’s gift to us and it should be understood in the way He intends: we should not do violence to it by interpreting it according to our own preconceived ideas.”
O LORD, you brought John to birth
to prepare the way of your only Son –
let us walk that path to you.
YHWH, your hand was upon John for our good, to prepare the way for your Son, that we might be prepared to receive the glory of His presence among us. This day may our hearts be ready for His coming.
Sinners you show the way, O LORD; you mark out the path we all should tread if we wish to be cleansed of all evil and turn our hearts to you. You are our Father, and all we should desire is to love you – O LORD, lead us in the way to you.
Your Son is the way, dear LORD. It is by Him on His terrible Day that we are purged of all dross in the fire of the Holy Spirit and so made pure to stand before you. O holy God, let us be refined like silver or gold that we might shine so brightly in your presence. By your grace only is this accomplished; let all be made new by your hands.
Sat, 16 December 2017
(Is.61:1-2,10-11; Lk.1:46-50,53-54; 1Thes.5:16-24; Jn.1:6-8,19-28)
“A man named John was sent from God.”
Here is the one of whom the prophet speaks, and who can rightly proclaim the words inscribed by Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” Here is he who has come “to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.” The Spirit is upon him and he speaks of the coming Messiah. He has been sent by God to “testify to the light.”
But who heeds his proclamation? Who is able to hear this voice crying and find the joy of the path it would blaze in their hearts? How many are still as the priests and Levites and Pharisees of today’s gospel, inquiring so blindly, “Who are you”? How many are as the commentators of the missal I read, who term the prophecy of Isaiah a “poem,” and state that the Canticle of Mary is “a song that Luke put into the mouth of Mary”? How many have no sense of prophecy, or the Spirit, or God Himself? How many are deaf to John’s cry?
Our brother Paul instructs us: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances.” And yet the greatest of all prophetic utterances are watered down in ankle-deep wisdom. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary declares. The Spirit wells up in her spirit and she cannot but “rejoice in God [her] Savior.” These are not words put into her mouth by any man; her prophecy does not come from the pen of a scribe but from the very Spirit of God!
The Word of God cannot be chained; the voice “crying out in the desert” cannot be tamed by those “not worthy to untie” the mysteries hidden in sacred Scripture. Paul will be put under house arrest; the Baptist Herod will cast into his dungeon; the Christ shall be crucified – but the Word of God will go forth, and nothing shall silence its voice. The testimony to the light must be heard, “so that all might believe through Him”; there will ever be proclaimed “liberty to captives and release to the prisoners” by the power of Jesus Christ, until all hear of the mercy He has “on those who fear Him.”
A man named John was sent, not to testify to himself, but to prophesy the grace of God; and his voice will cry out the way to the ends of the earth and to the end of time.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from my Eye" (second part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your Son is coming
and we should repent of all sin
that we might be ready to rejoice and give Him praise.
YHWH, the fire of the Spirit has come to us; John has proclaimed the light in our midst. Jesus, your Son, is now among us, and what should we do but rejoice?
O LORD God, holy is your NAME, and holy is the One whom you send to us. So holy is He that we are not worthy to kneel at His feet. For He reflects your greatness, O LORD; His light is your own. How can we stand in your overwhelming glory, except that in Him we receive your promised mercy in our soul?
What mercy you bring us this day, LORD God! What grace is ours in the word the Baptist speaks. For he proclaims the Christ come among us – he proclaims the salvation of your lowly ones.
We are but your servants, LORD, unworthy to wait on your only Son. Yet you bless us with your loving mercy and invite us to perfection in Him. And so, what can we do but rejoice?
Sat, 9 December 2017
(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: "Please Even Me Out" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may peace be proclaimed to your people
and we follow on your way of salvation.
YHWH, let your Word be proclaimed to the ends of the earth that all hearts might be prepared for the return of your Son, for the Day when all the elements will be dissolved by fire and the thoughts and deeds of every soul revealed.
John the Baptist has come and prepared the way for the first coming of Jesus. Now His disciples go forth, now the Gospel is cried out from the heights of Zion – now every man shall plainly see that you, O LORD, are God; and peace shall come to him who turns to your glory.
With fire let us be baptized today, LORD, with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Washed clean from our sins let us now be perfected for life in your kingdom. Let us not fear the coming Day but welcome it and hasten it by living uprightly before you. In your patience you wait for us to turn from all sin and embrace your presence in our midst. Let us make straight your way into our hearts.
Fri, 8 December 2017
(Is.30:19-21,23-26; Ps.147:1-6,Is.30:18; Mt.9:35-10:1,6-8)
“On the day the Lord binds up the wounds of His people,
He will heal the bruises left by His blows.”
“Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal the leprous, expel demons.” With these words Jesus sends His disciples forth proclaiming, “The reign of God is at hand!”
The prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled. The Savior has come. The Teacher is at our side now speaking into our ears, “This is the way; walk in it.” And of all our sins He cleanses us; from all our sickness He heals us. Indeed, “as soon as you call He will answer you,” for He is ready to wipe all tears from your eyes.
And what must be our response to a Lord who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” We must be the same as He. We must go forth as He has, teaching, proclaiming “the good news of God’s reign,” and curing “every sickness and disease.” It is our call to make others whole in heart, mind, soul, and body; and so, to whatever need is present – and there are many or the Lord would not ask us to “beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather His harvest” – we must apply the grace of God. He will do the work that is needed, but He needs us to work through.
To what glory all are called; what a wonderful message we have to bring forth! Isaiah, the great prophet, only touches upon it when he cries out that the Lord “will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground” (see how He will bless your work!) and when he proclaims: “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater.” This vision is for all who turn to the Lord for healing.
We have been bruised, brothers and sisters. No doubt, our sins have brought wounds to our souls. But the Lord will bind up all these; in His surpassing pity He will raise us all from death as He “rebuilds Jerusalem.” Let us bring this message forth.
O LORD, heal us of all ill and teach us
to walk in the way that leads unto Heaven.
YHWH, we lie prostrate from exhaustion, do we not? We thirst for your presence; we hunger for the Bread you provide. Come to us. Send your laborers to teach us and to heal us of every disease, to bring us your grace. Have pity on your sheep, O LORD!
We are broken, but when we cry out to you, O LORD, you hear our voice and quickly answer our prayers. And what promise you make to our waiting hearts! Abundance of blessing shall be ours as you heal the wounds of our sin and bring us into your glorious presence.
Seven times greater than the light of the sun will be your light on that Day, O LORD. Streams of running water will fill our thirst for you and by your teaching we will be led in our every step. Come, LORD, fulfill your promise in our midst. Let all men know your reign is at hand.
Sat, 2 December 2017
(Is.63:16b-17,19b,64:2-7; Ps.80:2-4,15-16,18-19; 1Cor.1:3-9; Mk.13:33-37)
“Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
“O Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, and see.” “Rouse your power, and come to save us.” Do not “let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden [not] our hearts so that we fear you not.” We are your fruitful vine, but “we have all withered like leaves… for you have hidden your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter.” “May your help be with the Man of your right hand.” May we be formed in His image and so be pleasing to you. May we be ready for His return, and our final meeting with you, our Lord and God.
Brothers and sisters, we must be as the Corinthians, among whom “the testimony of Christ was confirmed,” who “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [they] wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He travels now abroad in the kingdom of His Father, but He will return. And He has indeed left us “each with his work”; all are gifted by God and called to bear fruit in the time that is ours now… “May He not come suddenly and find [us] sleeping.” When He “rend[s] the heavens and come[s] down, with the mountains quaking before [Him],” may we not be found quaking as well, having slipped into the slumber of sin, having been covered with this world’s darkness. Rather, let Him meet us doing right at whatever hour He may come. Let us constantly serve our God and “He will keep [us] firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” In many ways does He indeed say it: “Be watchful! Be alert!” Keep your eyes open! Stay awake! Be ready! But ever He tells us to remember that we are “called to fellowship with [the] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” And as “God is faithful” so must we too be faithful to our call, giving witness always to the glory of our Lord.
Now is the time to turn from our sin and be formed in His image. Let the prophet not say over us: “There is none who calls upon [His] name, who rouses himself to cling to [Him].” Let us prepare ourselves for His coming by walking rightly in His ways.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Warm Forehead" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us enter into fellowship with your Son,
becoming one with Him
and watching for His return.
YHWH, let us be mindful of our ways as we wait for the return of your Son. May we be blessed with every spiritual gift as we watch for His coming. Though our good deeds have become as polluted rags, He makes them new, bringing us back to you.
Give us new life, O LORD, that we might call upon your NAME. You are our Father, our God; let us no longer be separated from you and your glory. We are the work of your hands, dear God – remake us in the image of your Son that when He comes we might stand with Him in your presence.
Make us irreproachable, LORD, by your grace, by your mercy, by your rending of the heavens and coming down to us. Let us lack nothing for the hour of Jesus’ return but be ready to enter the kingdom. May our eyes be open and our hearts awaiting our salvation.
Fri, 1 December 2017
(Dn.7:15-27; Dn.3:59,82-87; Lk.21:34-36)
“The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell
on the face of the earth.”
And so we must “pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The vision is explained to Daniel, and really it is quite simple: evil shall come, but good shall triumph in the end. Kingdoms of the Beast, of the evil one, “shall arise on earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever,” the angel tells Daniel, and reiterates this simple point: “All the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting.” Yes, evil kingdoms shall rise and make war “against the holy ones,” devouring the earth, beating it down, and crushing it… but the court of the Lord will be convened and the “final and absolute destruction” of the evil one is thus at hand. In Daniel’s vision “the time came when the holy ones possessed the kingdom.” And so it is; and so it shall be.
“Be on the watch,” the Lord exhorts us in our gospel for this the final day of our liturgical year. We must indeed “be on guard,” for if we do not watch, we will not be prepared for the coming day of the Lord which is ever at hand. Certainly we do not wish to be destroyed with the devil and his angels, but if our “spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares,” how shall we stand? And so it is that we must indeed pray constantly for the strength to withstand the coming chastisement – we cannot underestimate the devil’s power to seduce us with his lies even as the grass grows beneath our feet. As the grass grows, so must our spirits grow, in truth and goodness and love. His peace must surround us to guard us against the sin which attacks us here as we live and breathe upon the face of the earth.
The day will come. Let it be our joy to be found waiting for the Lord.
(And so, Advent is now upon us.)
O LORD, preserve us from what is to come;
give us the strength to stand in your glorious presence.
YHWH, the day of your judgment is coming upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, but on that day your holy ones will be glorified. The beasts and their kingdoms shall all be destroyed and your holy people will reign with your Son.
But we must be ready for that day; we cannot fall into drunkenness. If we become bloated with indulgence and worldly cares, we shall not stand secure before Jesus but be driven out with the evil one. O let not that day overtake us, dear LORD! Rather, take us then into your kingdom.
There is great trial coming upon this world; it is now underway. War is made against your holy ones, and they must suffer and even die. But let us praise your eternal glory, LORD. Let all your servants, the souls of all the just, bless your holy NAME. For our salvation is on the horizon, and nothing need we fear from Him who comes. Let us be awake in prayer.
Thu, 30 November 2017
(Dn.7:2-14; Dn.3:59,75-81; Lk.21:29-33)
“The beast was slain and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.”
Daniel prophesies the coming of pagan empires in his vision of the four beasts. The vision is, in short, an overview of the coming salvation.
Notice that even as Daniel watches the beasts emerge with their horns and tusks and great iron teeth, even as he watches these terrible creatures devour and crush and trample in a kind of destructive euphoria… what does he see? “Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took His throne.” The Lord God, the Eternal King, is there. (He is never far away.) And the arrogant horn is cast into eternal flame, and the other beasts lose their dominion, too, though they received “a prolongation of life for a time,” indicating that a measure of the wickedness of such beastly empires – several of which we have seen very clearly in the last century – shall remain. But, nonetheless, there is “one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” and He indeed receives “everlasting dominion,” a “kingship [that] shall not be destroyed.” Like the Father in His eternal reign is the Son, who has come into our midst and even now winnows away the chaff of this world.
That even as evil presumes to reign the Lord is at work, is assuming His eternal reign in the heavenly kingdom, is evident in Jesus’ words to the disciples in our gospel. He has told them to watch for the terrible signs which will come upon the earth and bring its destruction, and equates the recognition of these signs and wonders of the end time with the budding of a fig tree signaling the coming summer. Jesus is the fig tree, the peace that is born even in the midst of war, the love that grows though surrounded by hatred – the light that overcomes all darkness.
“The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Though the mountains fall into the sea, the Lord’s heavenly reign but comes to fulfillment. Then all creatures, all “beasts, wild and tame,” “everything growing from the earth” and all “seas and rivers” will “praise and exalt Him” whose kingdom lasts forever.
O LORD, the myriads ministering to you
overcome the power of all beasts,
and by your only Son their fate is sealed
and the kingdom comes forever.
YHWH, your reign is near, always at hand. Despite the beasts which remain for a time, your Son has come and conquered all darkness. There is no death or sin in Him, no power that evil has before Him, and so those who find their life in Him shall indeed endure forever. Heaven and earth are passing away but His dominion is everlasting.
Thank you for sending your Son to us, dear God, to cast all evil to the dust, to teach of the kingdom to come. In Him indeed summer is near, a time of great fruitfulness – the time when we shall share with Him in the eternal fruits of Heaven. Peace is upon us, though the destruction of war be all around.
And so, what can we do but praise you, LORD of Heaven and earth? All your creatures can but sing of your glory and bless your holy NAME. This day let your fire burn all our sins away. Alleluia.
Tue, 28 November 2017
(Dn.5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28; Dn.3:59,62-67; Lk.21:12-19)
“You will be brought to give witness.”
“Daniel was brought into the presence of the king.” And what did this wisest of men have to say to this pagan king who ruled the earth? “You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven.” He did not hesitate to tell him of the emptiness of his “gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence.” And, remarkably, not a hair of his head is harmed; even this pagan ruler recognizes the truth of his words, and accepts that he will lose his kingdom.
“Before kings and governors” you will be summoned, “all because of my name,” says the Lord. Yes, witness must be given to “the God in whose hand is [our] life breath and the whole course of [our] life.” The world must come to know Him; light must be brought into the darkness. Is this an easy task? Certainly not. It may be glorious insofar as the Lord blesses our words, insofar as we trust in Him, not worrying about our “defense” beforehand – but the darkness resists the light; the world does not wish to hear of its sins, nor to be called to turn from them. Turning from sin is a painful process, and rather than endure its throes there will be those who would prefer to impose such persecution upon those who call to the depths of their hearts. Unwilling to suffer conversion, they make others suffer for their righteousness.…
All the apostles underwent martyrdom: our Lord rules from a cross. But though we may not escape punishment from those to whom we are called to speak, as has Daniel the prophet, yet as Daniel surely “not a hair of [our] head will be harmed.” For though we be killed for the Word of truth, yet our redemption awaits us: in heaven’s light all is whole. And the rewards offered Daniel even by this pagan king will be as our own in paradise.
“I will give you words and a wisdom which none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict,” our Lord assures us. Let us trust in this gift of faith and witness, and praise with “sun and moon” and “stars of heaven” Him who is “exalted above all forever.” Let us never fear to speak of our God and His hand at work in our lives.
O LORD, if before kings we speak the truth,
yet will our lives be spared,
for your Son indeed rules over all.
YHWH, your dew from Heaven falls upon us and we are given words and wisdom. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to stand before kings and governors and give witness to your glory. And though our words may accuse those to whom we speak of their failure to worship you, yet not a hair of our heads shall be harmed, even if we be executed. For Jesus has died on the Cross, yet He lives forever. And now His Spirit reigns over all who put their trust in you.
By patient endurance may our lives be saved, O mighty LORD and God. To you let us ever turn our sights, and our spirits shall not be defeated. Rather, the kingdom of those who mock your glory shall be divided and brought low.
O may we not be found wanting on the day you judge the world! All the gods of silver and gold, wood and stone, let us set aside to praise you alone, our Savior and our God.
Mon, 27 November 2017
(Dn.2:31-45; Dn.3:57-61; Lk.21:5-11)
“The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once,
fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer,
and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace.”
So shall the kingdom of this world be destroyed by “a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it”; so shall Jesus come – the Son of God, the King of kings – and make all things subject to Himself. And when shall this be? It has happened, and is happening, and will happen soon: fear not in your hearts. Simply praise the Lord of the universe.
There will be no trace of this world remaining when the Lord does come. He shall be the stone that “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth,” which “shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them.” And by whose hand shall this be done? “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people.” And so, if accomplished by the hand of God and not by man, why do we look upon the “wars and insurrections,” “plagues and famines,” and become fearful, as if these shall bring the end? No, “the end does not follow immediately.” We cannot state the time any more than could Daniel, the greatest of all interpreters of dreams and visions. So why are we misled when many come in the Lord’s name saying, “I am He” or “The time is at hand,” as if these could force the hand of God?
Let not the “fearful omens” and “great signs” perturb you, brothers and sisters. These are for those without faith as a warning to turn to God, but for those with faith they should prove no disturbance. Our souls should be set on Jesus, who surpasses all these things – even the temple “adorned with precious stones” – and whose coming we should see clearly in our hearts. Is He not at work in you? Are you not His children? Then why fear these things which are “bound to happen” to the earth? You should “praise and exalt” Him who is “above all” with the “angels of the Lord” and the “heavens.” Let your hearts rise up to Him.
Yes, “the day will come when not one stone will be left upon another, but it will all be torn down.” And in that day the Lord will reign supreme. Set your sights upon His majesty.
O LORD, not one stone will be left upon another;
all will become as dust –
then shall come the eternal reign of your Son.
YHWH, your hand shall crush all things of this world; your right arm shall see to it that the gold and silver, the riches of the earth, all pass away. When your Son returns, all this shall be accomplished. Let us stand ready and waiting for that day.
Why should we fear, O LORD, the destruction of kingdoms? Why should we lament even the temple’s fall? For what is anything of this world in comparison to your glory? Your glory is indeed above earth and heaven and shall never pass away.
With the angels let us praise you, LORD. With all your disciples let us glorify your NAME. You alone are holy, you alone are worthy of praise, and this lesson we must learn if we are to be saved.
And so, on the day when there is not one stone left on another, let us not be anxious or afraid. Though wars and earthquakes come, let our hearts be set upon you, LORD, and exalt your kingdom as it draws nigh.
Sun, 26 November 2017
(Dn.1:1-6,8-20; Dn.3:52-56; Lk.21:1-4)
“To these four young men God gave knowledge
and proficiency in all literature and science,
and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams.”
God is the giver of all good gifts; all is a gift from God. Whatever we give to Him can only seem paltry to Him “who look[s] into the depths from [His] throne upon the cherubim.” But He makes any gift we give, anything we do, great by His heavenly grace.
All our offerings are as the widow’s – but a couple of copper coins – even if we give vast wealth from our surplus. What is anything we offer in the sight of God, who owns the world and all that is in it, who sits “in the firmament of heaven”? So the size matters not. But when we give our paltry gift with a heart of faith, in answer to the love He gives us, how great our gift then becomes. For this He blesses. This He looks upon with favor. This He sees as He glances up; for it is the heart He looks upon and measures. It cannot but be that the widow gave her offering out of love, out of her deep faith in God. How could one become bereft of all riches if one did not believe in Him who surpasses all?
And is it not Daniel and the young men’s faith which God does bless with His gifts of wisdom and prudence? Because “Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine” sacrificed to his pagan gods, God first blesses him and his companions with exceptional health. Though they eat food that is poor as the widow’s offering, yet “they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table” – again, because all gifts, including that of health, are in God’s hands and not in the things themselves. And God’s gift of knowledge and understanding is a reward for their faith in Him as well; they give themselves to Him in obedience and He who holds all such light of wisdom in “the temple of [His] holy glory,” who is “exalted above all forever” – which the young men readily recognize – grants them His favors by His grace.
What gift have we to give? What paltry sum have we to offer? Let it be as the two fish the boy offered in faith and generosity to the Lord (Jn.6:9), and with it He will feed five thousand. Let it be as the two coins jangling in the widow’s pocket, and with it He will build a home for you in heaven. Let it be given in the faith of the four young men and God will bless it and reveal Himself at work in you.
O LORD, you provide, you take care…
let us not be afraid
but give ourselves entirely to your service.
YHWH, praiseworthy and exalted are you, glorious above all for all ages. And those who trust in you are truly blessed; you give them wealth and health – all wisdom comes from you. And though we may have but two copper coins, if we offer them to you, you will provide all we need in this world, and bring us to the riches of Heaven.
O let us be raised up with you, dear God! Let us join you on high where you dwell in glory. To your Temple let us come and before your throne let us bow. If so humbly we worship you, you shall sit us beside you.
Let us be in your service this day, our hearts set on doing your will alone, and we shall be blessed even before kings, even before the Son of Man. O LORD, help us to give all we have to you.
Sat, 25 November 2017
(Ez.34:11-12,15-17; Ps.23:1-6; 1Cor.15:20-26,28; Mt.25:31-46)
“Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine,
you did for me.”
Jesus is King. It is He to whom the Father has “subjected everything” and who “must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet,” until He has “destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power”; and it is He who then “hands over the kingdom to His God and Father… that God may be all in all.” Yes, “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will assemble before Him.” And He who is the Good Shepherd will separate the sheep beneath His rule “one from another”: it is He who will say to the righteous, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”; and to the unrighteous, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” He will judge all souls, for all souls are in His hands. Yes, He is King.
And yet this King is with His subjects; this Shepherd is hidden in His sheep – He is the Shepherd who “finds Himself among His scattered sheep.” Indeed, in His power He promises to “pasture [His] sheep”: “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal”… but more than this, more than this is our King to us. For He is a King who not only serves the poor and broken, but who is the poor and broken Himself. Though all power and glory and honor are with Him who is exalted as Head over all, He travels with the least of His children; He makes Himself one with the least of all creatures. Does He not say, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me”? Oh how He unites Himself with our humanity! His love is beyond our comprehension.
And, brothers and sisters, it should be obvious what we are now called to do; if we wish to be “brought to life… each one in proper order,” following “Christ the firstfruits,” we must walk in His way. If we wish to sing with David His humble king, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” – if indeed we desire to share in His eternal kingship, we must on the dust of this earth serve Him in the least among us… we ourselves must be the least, as He is. Alleluia to our exalted King!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Coat of Warmth" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, walk among us and shepherd us well
in the reign of your Son,
that we might love as you love.
YHWH, how shall we come to dwell in your House forever? How shall we be the sheep at your right hand? Only by becoming as your only Son. Only by making ourselves present among the least. For you have a compassionate heart which reaches out to all in need. You have hands that bind up the wounds of your little ones, that care for the hungry and the sick. You prepare for all righteous souls a place in your kingdom, and your Son shows us how to be like you, that we might enter your presence.
O Jesus, O Lord, who reign above all as our Head, as our God, as the Savior of all righteous souls… how shall we love as you have loved; how shall we see you in the needs of our fellow man? Blind we are and crawling in the dust – how shall we be exalted with you at the Father’s right hand?
It is by your walking amongst us, O Lord and King, that we are saved from all selfishness and find the compassion and humility we need to enter into the Father’s heart. Give us the rest we desire, set us free from sin and death… raise us up to dwell with you as we make our lives like your own.
Fri, 24 November 2017
(1Mac.6:1-13; Ps.9:2-4,6,16,19; Lk.20:27-40)
“The needy shall not always be forgotten,
nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.”
Death comes, yes. Death is upon us and surrounds us in this world. But the suffering we face in this life has its reward. Jesus has brought redemption: He has been resurrected, and we with Him. And this new life is eternal.
It seemed the Israelites were doomed. Antiochus had ruthlessly destroyed Jerusalem and the inhabitants of Judah. All hope seemed lost. But hope was not lost, and today we read of the return of the people to Jerusalem in strength and the defeat and death of their enemy, the king. Now Antiochus has become “sick with grief because his designs ha[ve] failed.” Now he is “overwhelmed with sorrow” as he sees the evils he has committed overtake him and finds himself dying “in bitter grief, in a foreign land.” While in Jerusalem the Israelites celebrate and sing praise to God: “My enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you.”
And now such redemption is made eternal in the Person of Jesus Christ. What was but human and temporal, the fall and rise of empires and of temples, now becomes divine, now becomes everlasting in the coming of the Messiah in the flesh of God. Yet with Him there is death – but after His crucifixion it shall be no more. Yet with Him is new life – but with His resurrection it has no end. Now “those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of resurrection from the dead… become like angels and are no longer liable to death.” In His death He destroys death: He makes it bereft of all power. In His rising He draws all into the eternal presence of the Father. Now “all are alive for Him.”
Brothers and sisters, may any “floods of sorrow” which afflict us now because of our sins or by the oppression of our persecutors not overwhelm us in this day. Let our sins be nailed to the cross with Him who is our salvation, and our hope of overcoming all the scourges of the evil one be made strong in the surpassing light of His glorious rising. With David let us “declare all [the Lord’s] wondrous deeds,” and our enemies will be left speechless.
(I must note today that the city named for this evil king – Antioch – would soon become the place where the followers of Christ were called “Christians” for the first time; and that the seat of the state which would next oppress the people of God – Rome – is now the place from which the Chair of Peter reigns. How God’s redeeming Hand does work.)
O LORD, in Heaven we shall be as angels;
let us not be weighed down by the cares of this earth.
YHWH, turn back our enemies, we pray, the sins that grieve us in this dark place. Let us not in exile die, but by your grace come to new life.
O LORD, how we long for the day when we will no more be liable to death. Like the angels of Heaven let us be; in the age to come let us make our home, leaving behind the vestiges of this vain world.
For all we have done or spoken against you, let us be forgiven, O LORD. From all the evils we have committed in Jerusalem, let us be washed clean. Make your City holy this day, that to your NAME we might sing praise.
Build up the walls round about us, dear God, that we might be protected from all the attacks of the enemy. Give us arms to defend ourselves from their snares, and we shall declare your wondrous deeds. O let us rise again with your Son!
Thu, 23 November 2017
(1Mac.4:36-37,52-59; 1Chr.29:10-13; Lk.19:45-48)
“Let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”
In both our reading and gospel today, we hear of the cleansing of the temple, and we see its purpose and fulfillment.
“My house is meant for a house of prayer,” declares Jesus. A house of prayer, and a house for teaching: “He was teaching in the temple area from day to day.” It is a house of music, for by the Israelites after the Maccabean revolution it “was reconsecrated with songs, harps, lutes, and cymbals.” It is a place for humility: “All the people prostrated themselves…” and worship: “…and adored and praised Heaven.” Praise is most fitting for the house of the Lord, for His holy temple, for it is this which unites us with our God. When we sing of His greatness – “Yours, O Lord, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory. For all in heaven and on earth is yours” – we are joined to Him who is “exalted as head over all.” For in proclaiming the truth of His “power and might” over all, we ourselves are cleansed and become as temples of the Lord, holy and radiant as gold.
“The entire populace was listening to Him and hanging on His words.” To whom did the people listen but the Temple itself? What was begun by the Maccabee brothers is accomplished in Jesus. It had long been the hope and desire of the Israelites, and indeed the longing of all mankind, to have a holy place to worship God, to offer sacrifice to Him who is the greatest love of all hearts. And now He stands before them, now He speaks to them. And He effects the renewal of the temple not so much by His “ejecting the traders” who had made it “a den of thieves,” as by His presence in their midst. For the temple exists not so much in the walls adorned “with gold crowns and shields” as in the flesh of Christ; and it is this Temple we become when we follow Him, when we hear and heed the words which issue forth like a cleansing stream from these sacred lips and heart, and when we eat His body and drink His blood.
The destruction of this Temple will come. Even now the leaders of the people are “looking for a way to destroy Him.” But in three days the Temple will be rebuilt and dedicated forever in perfect purity for all who desire to enter there.
O LORD, purify our hearts
that we might rejoice in your Temple,
our prayer ever rising up to you.
YHWH, may your Temple be cleansed that we might offer true worship to you here in your Church. Let all souls be purified by your Son and by His sacrifice, that your children might sing your praise forever. From eternity to eternity you are exalted, you are the Most High – O let us freely bless your holy NAME!
O LORD, may we know the great blessing of falling prostrate before you who are God. May we find the grace of adoring you alone. May we ever be in prayer in your holy House, and so become holy ourselves in your eternal presence.
Let your sanctuary be purified; let it be dedicated to you, dear God. Let all that is sinful be cast from us by your Son that we might indeed be blessed to be as He is; listening always to His teaching and obeying His every word, let us become a House of prayer for you.
Wed, 22 November 2017
(1Mac.2:15-29; Ps.50:1-2,5-6,14-15,23; Lk.19:41-44)
“We will not obey the words of the king
nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”
The king of heaven shall soon come into the city of peace, humble and riding on an ass, but today He weeps as He sees Jerusalem and knows of its imminent destruction for its sins. Yet He shall ride into Jerusalem, yet He shall be dragged within its walls… and the death He proclaims upon all its children, He Himself shall know, He Himself shall undergo, that there may be means of escape for us all, for all who turn from the prince of this world and his seduction and seek to remain true to the commands of our God.
The persecution of the Jews some two hundred years before Christ’s own we continue to hear of in our reading from Maccabees: “The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.” And though many go over to the enemy, Mattathias and his sons remain faithful, remain true to the Lord. Great is their zeal in the face of the threat and in the sight of the ways of the evil one. And flee the city and its abominations Mattathias did with all the righteous, to make a home apart in the desert. For he recognizes the time of visitation and the destruction of faith upon his city and his people; he has not “completely lost” vision of “the path to peace” but remains faithful even in time of persecution.
“Days will come upon you when your enemies encircle you with a rampart, hem you in, and press you hard from every side,” Jesus prophesies as He weeps over Jerusalem. He wishes not to see the persecution come, nor to have to die Himself. But the people do not recognize with their hearts the love He offers forth… and so what can He do but die; and so what can they know but destruction. But His sacrifice shall prove redemptive for those who turn; a place in the desert He shall prepare for those who desire to be holy, to be set apart from the wickedness of this race.
“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth” and His “faithful ones” gather before Him. In their praise of His glory they fulfill their “vows to the Most High” and so the king of this world holds no power over them. In the New Jerusalem with the risen Lord they live, beyond the destruction of the old.
O LORD, you will come to visit your people;
let us flee the sin of this world or we will be destroyed.
YHWH, it is better for us to dwell in a desert apart if it means we can remain with you. Better for us to leave all our possessions behind than to be enslaved by the silver and gold and many gifts this world offers to those who abandon their faith. Let us remain steadfast with you and fight always for what is just in your sight.
Days will soon come when there will not be one stone left on another. Indeed, our enemies come to encircle us and close in upon us. But we need not fear the darkness, the powers of this dying age. For with you, O LORD, we are strong, stronger than death itself. Let us ever offer a holy sacrifice to you; forever let us praise your NAME.
Jesus weeps for the blindness of the people to His presence among us. They hear Him not as He speaks and summons them to the kingdom. Let us not be so blind and deaf, dear LORD, but obey your every word, and we shall be rescued.
Tue, 21 November 2017
(2Mac.7:1,20-31; Ps.17:1,5-6,8,15; Lk.19:11-28)
“He, in His mercy, will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of His Law.”
When the Lord returns “crowned as king” He will call all before Himself and judge each according to the profit he has made with his life. If we are like the seven brothers who suffered and died for the faith, if we have been like the good servants who invested wisely the gifts left with them by the Lord, we shall come into His reign. If we have wasted His talents or, God forbid, have persecuted, as Antiochus – who “contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews” – those who strive with the Lord to remain faithful to His call, we “will not escape the hands of God.” He will come to judge; in justice He is known.
“On waking, I shall be content in your presence,” sings David in our psalm, expressing the hope of those whose “steps have been steadfast” in the paths of God. And how this hope in the coming kingdom is embodied by the seven brothers with their mother “who were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king” – how well they presage the suffering and death of Jesus, and the sword which pierces His mother’s heart. The mother’s words are particularly beautiful and wise as she witnesses to her sons that she was not the author of their lives: “It was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed,” thus stirring them to faith in “the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning” and holds the life of all in His hands. Hear her words of exhortation to faith spoken to her youngest son: “I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things.” And so she encourages him to “accept death, so that in the time of mercy [she] may receive [him] again.” Here, certainly, is our faith in essence. Here the hope we have in the Lord is lived.
The Lord has gone from us to the “faraway country” of heaven to receive His kingship and return for our souls. He has left with each of His servants gifts for the time of waiting. Today He and His heavenly kingdom are not far away for He is very present in His Church, in her priests and the sacraments, in the Word of God revealed to us, in the sky upon which we gaze to see His handiwork… in all things we know Him and for all our needs He provides. Let us not be afraid to live with Him and so to die for Him, to disregard our very lives in the employment of His talents… and the breath and life we do so cherish shall be ours forever in heaven.
O LORD, Jesus goes to the Cross, but He shall return;
He shall return and judge the souls of all.
YHWH, your Son has gone from us to a faraway land, to your side in the kingdom of Heaven. And if we wish to join Him there, we must employ well the talents He leaves us now in His stead. We must be willing to lay down our lives as He has done if we are to enter into His reign in the time of mercy.
O may your Son come to us even this day, dear LORD! May we know His presence among us in the gifts and graces He leaves us in His sacraments and in His Word. And may we work each day to increase their yield upon this earth, until He returns in glory.
Soon He shall return and we must stand strong in the face of death and torture, before the evils contrived by the hands of men. For you, O LORD, who made the heavens and the earth shall reward every man who gives witness to your love. We shall wake in your presence; breath and life will be ours in your eternal kingdom.
Mon, 20 November 2017
(2Mac.6:18-31; Ps.3:2-8; Lk.19:1-10)
“I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.”
Zacchaeus’ running up ahead and climbing a tree in order to be able to see Jesus as He passed along the way may not be a witness on the order of Eleazar, who “declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God” and went willingly to torture and death, “leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation,” but the same faith inspired both. And perhaps this wealthy man giving half of his belongings to the poor does approach the heroism of Eleazar.
The principal figures in both our reading and gospel today indeed give witness to the faith in the salvation which Jesus has come to bring to all our houses. And both reflect the strength needed to overcome the myriad of obstacles set in our paths. “O Lord, how many are my adversaries!” David cries in our psalm. “Many rise up against me!” Eleazar is threatened by the systematic persecution of his faith and his people by the pagan king and his minions, but in the face of “the instrument of torture” this noble old man tells his persecutors “to send him at once to the abode of the dead,” for he would not bring “shame and dishonor” on himself nor lead the people astray by giving in to an unlawful act. And in our gospel Zacchaeus finds himself surrounded by the murmuring crowd accusing him of being a sinner. But he stands his ground in the face of this persecution, justified or not, and proves himself worthy to be at the side of Jesus.
“The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.” It is His desire to bring us to salvation. Yet if we do not seek Him, He will not find us. If we do not call to Him, He will not hear us. And if we do not stand our ground and give witness to Him when put to the test for our faith, He cannot stand with us.
Temptations must necessarily come. We cannot escape persecution. But we must not listen to those who say, “There is no salvation for him in God.” We must remember that God stands with us if we stand with Him, and that it is just such as us He has come to save.
O LORD, help us to stand strong in your NAME
in the face of persecution;
let us endure all with you.
YHWH, our adversaries surround us on every side saying there is no salvation for us in God because of our sins against you, or because they doubt your existence. Thus the darkness closes in upon us, the wickedness of this evil place. But standing with you we are saved. When we call on your NAME, when we climb the tree of life, your holy mountain, to gaze on your face, you are there to receive our souls: though we die we shall wake with you.
Why should we be afraid, LORD, though myriads of people are arrayed against us, though they threaten us with torture and death? Even if our sins should accuse us, even if rightly we should be condemned, yet your Son comes to seek us out and redeem us from condemnation to stand with Him in your kingdom. O let Him come to our house this day! and with Him let us remain faithful till the end.
Sun, 19 November 2017
(1Mac.1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-63; Ps.119:53,61,88,134,150,155,158; Lk.18:35-43)
“Terrible affliction was upon Israel.”
Oh how the nation had become so blind. Oh how they had turned from their God. Some “preferred to die rather than be defiled with unclean food or to profane the covenant,” but most ate freely of the poisonous fruit of the tree of abomination, and so became as the blind man begging by the side of the road – so spiritually bereft were they.
Our reading from Maccabees tells of a terrible time of persecution upon the Israelite nation less than two hundred years before the coming of Christ, and it shows that that persecution comes from within the community itself, as “men who were breakers of the law” sought alliance with the Gentiles and their pagan worship, thinking so foolishly that this would bring them blessing and comfort. How readily “they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.” And the date is given here when “the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of holocausts,” signifying Israel’s complete turn from God and His laws to the vain worship of false gods.
Our psalm speaks repeatedly of “the snares of the wicked,” “the oppression of men,” the “malicious persecutors,” the “sinners,” the “apostates” who turn from the law and attempt to “twine” others about in their evil. This is man’s sin from the beginning – attempting to form God of his own hands, refusing to be obedient to the ways the loving Father has imparted for his salvation, for his blessing. Man gives himself over to the lusts of this world and the imagination of a proud mind, and through such exaltation of self finds himself soon lost in the confusion that such vanity can only bring. But in the meantime he persecutes the just who hold to the way of truth; for a while he fools himself by the glamour of his idols. But soon the blindness sets in, and soon the salvation of the just shall come.
If we are in affliction because of the persecution of this world of sin that surrounds and closes in, we should consider ourselves blessed; this affliction is proof of our faith, and upon it the Lord looks with favor. If we are afflicted with the blindness of the nations wrought by our wallowing in sin, we’d best cry out to the Lord as He passes us on the way to Jerusalem. He will hear us and He will stop, if we are persistent in our cries. And it is so that our faith will make us whole. Let us find our sight by the intercession of Christ and “giving God the glory” begin “to follow Him,” whatever cross may await us.
O LORD, woe to those who forsake your law! –
let them cry out to you with full voice
that they may be saved.
YHWH, how blind we have become, turning from your law, from your holy ways, to worship the false and empty gods of the nations. O may your Son turn to us and have pity this day that we might see His goodness before us and follow Him to the New Jerusalem. Let us not be counted among those who forsake your Law and profane your Temple; let us rather die than break your Covenant.
By the side of the road we sit and cry for all the afflictions our sin has brought upon us. What hope have we, O LORD, of being taken from this dark place, how could we escape the snares of the wicked round about us, if your Son did not stop and call us to Himself, if He did not come into the midst of the darkness to save us.
Glory to you, O God, and to you alone, for your promise you have not forgotten. From all evil keep us safe.
Sat, 18 November 2017
(Prv.31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Ps.128:1-5; 1Thes.5:1-6; Mt.25:14-30)
“When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.”
And so the Lord is pleased to bless His “good and faithful servant[s]”; for His Church is as His Bride and Her faithful members He invites to share His joy.
With more than the talents of “a man going on a journey” are we entrusted by the Lord. To us He is more like the husband “entrusting his heart” to his wife. All He gives over to us, even His very life, His absolute love – His blood itself He pours out for us. And are we as the good wife who “works with loving hands,” who “puts her hands to the distaff and [whose] fingers ply the spindle”? Do we work diligently with all the gifts the Lord imparts to us and thus increase their yield? Are we as she who “brings [her husband] good, and not evil, all the days of her life,” delivering unto the Lord the honor due His Name? If so, then as the worthy wife receives “a reward for her labors” and as “her works praise her at the city gates,” so shall the Lord richly bless our labors, and the angels at the gates of heaven welcome us with song.
Brothers and sisters, “You are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober,” doing the Lord’s will in all things. Let us not be as the “useless servant” who “dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.” The graces the Lord gives us are not meant for such darkness, but indeed to be brought into the light of day that they might spread “like a fruitful vine” throughout the face of the earth. This is the call of His Church, and we must be faithful in the work with which we have been entrusted: His love must reach to the ends of the world.
And each “shall eat the fruit of [his] handiwork” when the day of the Lord comes upon us. The soul which has courted darkness in its distrust and laziness shall find the spouse that awaits her; but “blessed shall [she] be, and favored,” “who walk[s] in [the Lord’s] ways!” She shall indeed not fear the “sudden disaster” that comes upon the wicked, but shall celebrate “the prosperity of Jerusalem” in her Master’s house “all the days of [her] life.” For in none does the Lord take greater delight than she who returns an increase of His invaluable love.
Wriiten, chanted, and produced by James Kurt; read by Sylvia Kurt.
Music: "We Have Bodies" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us do your work and your will;
let us be fruitful in serving you
until the Day of your Son’s return.
YHWH, you give us gifts, skills and talents upon this earth – even our bodies and minds are from you. But if we employ them not, it is as if we have them not at all… and soon they are taken from us. We must offer all we have back to you, serving you well with all our lives, and we shall be blessed with your abundance.
Into your kingdom let us come, O LORD! Let all we do lead to this grace. Make us fruitful in your Name, ever working with loving hands, and every blessing will be ours – and we shall know the joy of your presence. Let our hearts be set on you alone.
What have we, LORD, that you have not given? And what should we do but use well what is at our hands? If we wish to be wed to you in Heaven, then your heart we must hold within our own. It is your heart you would give us; let us live as your children in the light of this day.
O LORD, may your Son not find us sleeping upon His return, but serving you faithfully, walking ever in your way.
Fri, 17 November 2017
(Ws.18:14-16,19:6-9; Ps.105:2-3,5,36-37,42-43; Lk.18:1-8)
“He led forth His people with joy;
with shouts of joy, His chosen ones.”
“They beheld stupendous wonders.” Before their eyes, “out of what had been water, dry land was seen emerging.” And so, sheltered by the mighty hand of the Lord, they crossed over, from the land of bondage to freedom. And in their joy “they ranged about like horses, and bounded about like lambs…” praising the Lord, “their deliverer.”
This is the story of our own salvation; this is the way of our own redemption from the sin which holds us bound on this earthly plane. Our exodus, too, must come. The Lord shall return to earth. As He was faithful in leading the Israelites forth from the land of Egypt, where they had been slaves four hundred years, so He will not forget us who have been in the bonds of Satan upon this plane. Our deliverance, too, will come.
Yes, my brothers and sisters, God will “do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night.” He will not “delay long over them” but will “give them swift justice.” The vision of the Israelites at the Red Sea will be our own. Before our eyes we will see the dry land appearing. We shall rejoice at the Lord’s hand guiding our steps out of this dark land. “An unimpeded road” we shall travel, moving toward His promised land. Yes, heaven will be ours. The first-born of Satan, the flower of his evil, shall be destroyed in the stillness of the night, and truth and goodness and light will emerge victorious; and we shall be led forth, as it were, “laden with silver and gold,” rejoicing in the abundant blessings of our Lord and God.
He does not delay. He will not delay. We wait, yes, and struggle with our faith… but He is ready – He does not have to be asked twice. But as our hearts are weakened by sin, we must be encouraged, we must continue to pray, always, even in the face of darkness. Through the darkness the Lord’s light shall come shining, if we remain faithful in our cries. So, “sing to Him, sing His praise… O hearts that seek the Lord!” for He is near in all our prayers, and shall lead us forth into His blessed kingdom. Alleluia!
O LORD, your justice is swift
but who is there that calls out to you,
that desires your hand at work in his life?
YHWH, what marvels you have worked for us; for we who were overshadowed by sin, who seemed trapped by its darkness, abandoned to its clutches, have been mightily delivered from sure death and destruction to stand with you in your kingdom. And should we now have no faith in you? Should we fail to cry out to you for secure protection? Will your justice not come quickly to us, whom you so love and for whom you so desire salvation?
O LORD, let us not be so foolish as to doubt your good will toward us and your power to save us; let us not forget the wonders you have performed for us even to this day. And what greater wonders await those who hope in you! For the dry land we shall soon stand upon when your Son returns, when He has overshadowed our enemies and redeemed us from all darkness, shall be the Promised Land of Heaven.
O praise you, LORD! Your people glory in your holy NAME.
Thu, 16 November 2017
(Ws.13:1-9; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.17:26-37)
“Wherever the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.”
It is so that “the heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” It is true that “from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.” Yes, “the things seen are fair,” and speak even of the glory of our God… but they shall indeed all come to naught when He alone stands before us on the last day.
In the created world we exist. To an extent, in the created world we take refuge, discerning the hand of God at work in the things around us and coming by way of the knowledge presented to us in their beauty and wonder to that Hand which has created all. And so they can be beneficial to us. And so they can help to reveal God’s presence to us who are so blind. But both the warning of our reading from Wisdom and Christ’s own words in the gospel must be heeded: we cannot make “fire,” “wind,” or “mighty water” our gods; and we cannot be attached to our possessions. For these things of nature, as great as God has made them, and these things at our disposal, as much a blessing they may be to us for our time on earth, are passing away. Only God remains.
Brothers and sisters, we must look upon the stars of heaven, we must see the signs wrought in our midst… but we cannot be distracted by them from the God who made them. We must eat and drink, we must take husbands and wives… but we cannot get drunk or live in lust, allowing the earthly to overcome our spirits. Lot’s wife turned to see what she’d left behind; she longed to return to her possessions and the carnal life of Sodom. Unable to understand or accept the grace of the angel of God who was leading her forth to a safer and more glorious land, she was turned to salt – all of worth was taken from her; only the carcass remained.
The day shall come when all we see shall be destroyed. And so, how important it is that our hearts not be set on all we see, else we shall be destroyed with it. Though with utmost respect we treat this world and even find joy in its beauty, we must ever keep in mind that its beauty is passing and is only significant if it leads to the eternal beauty of heaven.
O LORD, we must discern the signs of the times,
for your Son will soon return
and we will have to leave all things behind.
YHWH, the heavens declare your glory to all, but do we upon earth hear the angels’ voices? Do we take their message of your beauty and wonder and power to heart, or do we lose ourselves in these things and pass away as they do? For the things in the heavens and those upon the earth, though blessed to find your voice resounding in them, soon turn to dust – only your kingdom remains. Will we stand with you on the last Day?
Soon your Son shall come and fully reveal your glory shining in our midst. Soon He will be here to carry us to Heaven. But will we be ready to travel with Him, or will our souls be dead and empty as a carcass? Will we turn back to the things of the earth and so be turned to salt, or place our faith in Him alone and so fly unto your presence? Let us not be lost in the things we see, O LORD, but raise our minds to look upon that which passes not away. Let us come to you.
Wed, 15 November 2017
(Ws.7:22-8:1; Ps.119:89-91,130,135,175; Lk.17:20-25)
“Let your countenance shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.”
Wisdom, who “is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars… reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.” Wisdom “penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity,” for she is “the refulgence of eternal light.” How like the Lord she is, He whose coming “day will be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other” and yet whose reign is “already in [our] midst.” How we are filled with understanding when this light which “endures forever,” which “is firm as the heavens,” shines upon our simple minds, leading us to the grace of eternal glory.
Wisdom we need, brothers and sisters. The Lord’s Word must be with us. “For there is naught God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.” Else we shall be as those who “go running about excitedly” at every report of the Lord’s being “here” or “there,” at every proclamation of the end being near. The end is here; it is now the Son of Man “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age.” The Lord has come, and so “the reign of God is already in [our] midst.” Its fulfillment we shall not discern by “careful watching,” by setting our sights on the things of the earth, but only with the “intelligent, pure, and very subtle” spirit of Wisdom. She alone teaches us of the kingdom, for she alone is “the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of His goodness.” Without her purity, our minds are dimmed. Without her surpassing light, we cannot but be blind. She alone knows, she alone leads holy souls into the truth of His presence. All words lacking her light are but vain speculation, which shall come to naught, which shall fall to the earth from which they are derived. Heaven alone is lasting.
Have we the light of Wisdom directing our thoughts and actions, brothers and sisters? Is her purity set firmly within us? Will we then stand on the day the lightning flashes, on the day the glory of the Lord is revealed? Do we carry that glory now within us? If not, let us turn to Wisdom, and she will teach us. Like a mother who cares for her children she will be. And led to the presence of the Lord we will be, where we will find our peace. Let us not fail to take her gentle yoke upon our shoulders; let the cross of Christ and the light of the coming kingdom be ever our guide.
O LORD, your Son is in our midst
most especially in His Cross,
and it is through His Cross
Wisdom shines most brightly.
YHWH, let the Spirit of Wisdom fill us, your Holy Spirit pass into us and make us as your prophets. Let us speak only your Word in all we do, moving ever with the One who is beyond all motion – intelligent, holy, and pure let us be. Without the light of Wisdom our lives shall be as nothing in your sight; let your countenance shine upon us.
Your reign is coming by the power of the Holy Spirit; it is now already in our midst. Not relegated to space or time, it is not readily perceived by the mind of man – he cannot put his finger upon it or control it in any way. All we can do is desire your presence with us, LORD, that when the lightning flashes in your eternal sky, we will stand firm with you who endure forever, and with your Son.
Give us your light, dear God, that we might be established well in your glorious kingdom.
Tue, 14 November 2017
(Ws.6:1-11; Ps.82:3-4,6-8; Lk.17:11-19)
“Stand up and go your way;
your faith has been your salvation.”
“This man was a Samaritan.” Jesus chose the lowest of the low, not only a leper, the most ostracized of all individuals, but a Samaritan, a foreigner most despised by the Israelite nation, to reveal His mercy, to reveal the universal nature of His forgiveness, and so the universal call to salvation. He demonstrates that all may have faith in Him, and that it is for us to call all to Him.
Many are given power on this earth, power which was far from the Samaritan leper healed by Jesus. And Wisdom makes clear the responsibility that comes with that authority, the manner in which that judgment placed in the hands of princes must be effected. For the Lord shall hold accountable all to whom power is given; He shall “probe [their] works and scrutinize [their] counsels.” And if they keep not His law and “walk according to the will of God,” great as the power given them shall be their punishment. “For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy,” as was the leper in our gospel today, “but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.”
I find it rather frightening to hear that “for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends,” for, brothers and sisters, we are all given a measure of power by the Lord, and so all shall be held responsible for their gifts. It can make us quake in our shoes to think that we are answerable to God, to the all-powerful Lord of the universe, for all we do. Do we “keep the holy precepts” well? Will we “have ready a response” when He stands before us, when He inquires of our actions? If we desire His words, we know that He will instruct us, but how can we who are so human and sinful be as faithful as we need to be? Our psalm warns us: “You are gods, all of you sons of the Most High” – we are all gifted greatly by our God to be as His children – “yet like men you shall die, and fall like any prince…” yet oh how human we are, how subject to the elements of sin and death.
What shall we do? Our psalm indicates what our actions should be: “Defend the lowly and the fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.” And the blessed leper in our gospel reveals the attitude we should have toward our Lord: “He threw himself on his face at the feet of Jesus and spoke His praises.” If we think ourselves any better than he or do anything differently, we shall not hear the Lord calling us to rise and go forth – we shall not find our salvation. Let us demonstrate our faith and the grace at work within us.
O LORD, you raise the lowly who call to you,
but the wicked who turn their faces from your presence
you cut down.
YHWH, the lowly and the poor you raise up, so let us fall on our face before you. Like the leper let us know and remember that only by your Son are we made whole; only by you do we have life at all. Whatever power we may have in this world comes only from you, and we shall be answerable for it.
You scrutinize all matters, LORD, for your eye sees all things. The haughty soul does not escape your glance but shall be brought to judgment for the evil in his heart and at his hands. If we desire to find blessing from you, to come into your presence in the kingdom, how humble we must be and faithful in your service.
We are all made princes by your grace upon us. Though we come from dust you breathe the breath of life into us and so form us in your image. And in your image we must remain, to it we must return, O LORD. Without your wisdom to lead us, how terribly we shall be judged. Save us from such a deadly fate, and we shall sing your praise.
Mon, 13 November 2017
(Ws.2:23-3:9; Ps.34:2-3,16-19; Lk.17:7-10)
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.”
What does the Lord mean when He instructs us in our gospel to say, “We are useless servants,” than that which David says in our psalm, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves,” and that which the Book of Wisdom states in our first reading: “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself”? For though we who serve Christ seem to be dead in the judgment of this world, and the laying down of our lives in service of Christ – who died upon the cross quite freely – seems to be nothing but “utter destruction,” yet we know that it is precisely this death in Christ which brings life… and in His hands we shall be blessed.
“The Lord confronts evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.” Yet “when the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress He rescues them.” Yes, “those who trust in Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with Him in love: because grace and mercy are with His holy ones, and His care is with His elect.” And “they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever.” For they have given their service to the One who rules the universe, and so in His service they shall remain – death shall have no power over them. If “God formed man to be imperishable” and made him “the image of His own nature,” what shall touch those who serve Him, who treasure that image of God upon them? How shall they die?
“We have done no more than our duty.” This is the bottom line of our time on earth. And the accomplishment of our duty, the fulfillment of the Lord’s Word at work in our hearts, is all that is needed to bring us to eternal life. And though it is not His obligation, though certainly no reward is due us who have but carried out the orders of our superior, the Lord will say to us in His grace on that day, “Come and sit down at table.” And we shall sup with Him eternally, His gracious hand upon us for good.
Brothers and sisters, forget not your call to serve Him, to lay down your lives before Him, and He shall not neglect to hear you now, and to give you life eternal. Keep your “hope full of immortality” even “as gold in the furnace” your mettle is proven this day, and the day of the Lord shall be yours, when all torment shall have fled away.
O LORD, we are indeed useless servants,
but you greatly bless those who serve you.
YHWH, death is upon us this day, you know. But we who are joined to the Cross of your Son are not touched by it: from death you save your faithful servants. Whatever power the devil has to threaten us with our sins and the death that comes from them has been destroyed by the sacrifice of Jesus. And so, we who humble ourselves with Him will be blessed in your kingdom.
When we cry out to you, dear LORD, you are quick to save us; near indeed you are to the brokenhearted. Though our spirits be crushed by the travails of this life, you raise them to your presence. And so, what can we do but glory in your NAME? What can we do but look forward to that day when we shall sit at your table?
O LORD, let us be purified of all dross by the affliction we suffer in union with your only Son. Remade in His image, into your peace let us come, dwelling in immortality.
Sun, 12 November 2017
(Wis.1:1-7; Ps.139:1-10,24; Lk.17:1-6)
“Where can I hide from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?”
Yes, “wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she acquits not the blasphemous of his guilty lips.” For the spirit of the Lord is everywhere and hears everything, listening closely to a man’s inmost thoughts. “For the spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says.” And so it is that David sings, “If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there, too.” How could we escape His encircling Hand and His omnipresent justice if, as David says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all”? And so, in heaven He is present to raise us to glory; but in hell, His presence condemns our sin.
We cannot sin, brothers and sisters. If we do, we shall not escape His hand. It cannot but be that the Lord condemns all evil, for “into a soul that plots evil, wisdom enters not,” and what hope have we of life if the spirit of wisdom guides us not? Indeed, we must “seek Him in integrity of heart.” Yes, justice must be our love, and wisdom our treasure. This alone will bring us unto heaven. If our counsels are perverse and we cause sin to occur, leading others astray by our unjust words and actions, the Lord makes quite clear our fate in our gospel today: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” And there is a “little one” in ourselves, whom only the Lord – who probes our heart and mind – knows, and whom we condemn to destruction by our sin.
Rather, we must have faith. We must forgive others and have an abiding faith in Him, Jesus tells us. This faith will manifest itself in the great works done in His name, and in our following Him simply day to day. With such faith we cannot be shaken. Holding such faith, the light shining upon our souls by Him who sees all will purify us for the coming of His kingdom.
What can we say, brothers and sisters? The Lord hears us. Where can we go? He is with us. Either for evil because of our turning away, or for our good by our turning to Him, the Lord is ever present. It must be our desire to come to Him, in wisdom and in justice, in forgiveness and in faith… and hell we shall avoid as gratefully into His glory we fly, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
O LORD, you see us and the sin we commit,
and so we must turn to you for forgiveness.
YHWH, your Spirit fills the world; wherever we may go, you are present. We cannot escape your light, and should we try, we would but find ourselves in hell. You hear every word we speak: our inmost selves are exposed to your eye. We must but believe in your love, and Wisdom will be with us as guide.
But how difficult we make the path to faith. How ready we are to listen to senseless and perverse counsels and so disbelieve you. As easily as Eve we fall, O LORD. May we know your just rebuke of our sins that we might find repentance and taste your forgiveness upon our souls.
O let us not fight against you, dear God! but work always and only for the salvation of all, for the recognition of your eternal glory present in our midst by the Spirit come through your only Son. And so with you let us dwell.
Sat, 11 November 2017
(Wis.6:12-16; Ps.63:2-8; 1Thes.4:13-18; Mt.25:1-13)
“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
O Lord, “through the night-watches I will meditate on you: you are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.” “As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you”; for though “my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water” for you, O Living God, I have “gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory,” and you have met me with your “kindness.” Your Wisdom “graciously appears to [me] in the ways, and meets [me] with all solicitude.”
“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of Wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.”
I could not say it any better, or any differently, than the sacred author. Do not these words perfectly illustrate the Lord’s message in our gospel today – Stay awake! Keep your lamps burning! Seek Wisdom! Be ready, and she will come to you; and you will be gathered into the marriage feast. Foolishly sit in darkness, unconcerned for your fate, and these ominous words shall resound in your barren soul: “Then the door was locked.” And then there shall be no entering.
I must again remark on the astounding lack of wisdom in the commentary of the missal I read. It states, “Paul is under the misconception that our Lord will return during his lifetime,” ignorantly assuming that when he says, “We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,” he is referring to himself and his companions. Oh my! Where do they derive the oil for their lamps? He is no more referring directly to himself in this instance than he is when he says, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose” – it is of the whole Church, of whatever time or place, he is speaking! How can our “scholars” not see this; and how can they be so ready to utter blasphemy against Holy Scripture and the Lord’s Apostle, suggesting that he purports some greater knowledge of the Lord’s return than the Lord Himself? Do they think he is as ignorant, or proud, as they?
Brothers and sisters, we indeed have great hope of resurrection. When “the Lord Himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven,” we will be caught up with Him “in the air,” in His heavenly presence. But we must have His light within ourselves and keep watch for His Hour, waiting through the night for the dawn of His Day.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Watching the Sun" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, nothing else matters
but our union with you –
let us be with you forever.
YHWH, help us to keep vigil for you and for your Son’s return. Let our hearts be set on your coming glory, that we may join in it ourselves. May our lamps shine brightly as we await the new Day; dispel all darkness from our midst. Give us the wisdom we need to remember your promise of new life in the kingdom – O let us be wed to Jesus, we pray!
Through the night we meditate on you and on your Word; it is for you our souls thirst. What more could we desire than to be with you in Heaven? What more should we long for than your saving grace? And to those who seek you, you come, O LORD. To rescue us from the darkness you do not delay. For even as we remain in vigil, your wisdom hastens to shine the light of your face.
May we be counted among those ready for your coming kingdom; with your Son may we enter the wedding feast. Awake let us be to share in your glory. O LORD, that we shall rise from the dead let us believe.
Fri, 10 November 2017
(Rm.16:3-9,16,22-27; Ps.145:1-5,10-11; Lk.16:9-15)
“Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.”
We are in the world, and amongst the wealth of this world. We have nothing to do with money and the world – “You cannot serve God and money,” the Lord has told us, and so we cannot serve money… yet what have we to use but the riches of this world? And so “through use of this world’s goods,” by showing ourselves trustworthy with this “elusive wealth,” we find and bring others to the “lasting” riches of heaven.
Paul at the end of his letter to the Romans lists all his “fellow workers in the service of Christ.” Here are those who have been faithful with the elusive wealth of this world. They themselves have died, their bodies have been laid in the tomb, yet their works live on in the Spirit they have brought forth. Nothing of this world lasts long, yet these transitory things can and must be used, that “glory be given through Jesus Christ unto endless ages.”
“Generation after generation praises your works and proclaims your might,” sings David to the Lord. And with our voice, too, while we have breath, we must “speak of the splendor of [His] glorious majesty and tell of [His] wondrous works.” Forever and in all our works we must praise and bless the Lord of all, that all we do leads unto the glory of the kingdom, that in all we serve God with all our might. We must join ourselves to Him, and we do this by the gifts He gives us, and by employing now what is at our disposal. So it is. So it has been back beyond the time of Paul, and so it shall be unto the coming of eternity.
Today we must think of how well we use this world’s goods, how well we employ this Word of the Lord in the world. In the “little” things of our daily lives do we honor God, or are we unjust in some manner? For today begins the road to heaven; this time leads to eternity. And if we wish to find “lasting reception” with the Lord in heaven, we must be ever faithful in our works today. To God let us give thanks. May we who are the work of the Lord give praise to Him in all our works upon this earth.
O LORD, let us give you glory
through all that is at our hands.
YHWH, generation after generation praises your works; from the time of the apostles unto this day, all those who serve the Gospel of your Son speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty – let us always discourse of the glory of your reign and give you due praise by all we do in your NAME.
O LORD, we are in the world, and though we can never be of the world, what do we have but the world this day? And so we must use it wisely and make great profit by it, even the salvation of the world itself. May many men come into your presence by the work of your servants each day. And may we always be in their company.
O LORD, let our names be written in the Book of those who have faithfully served you, who have turned their backs on unjust gain for the sake of your Church. May we forever sing your praise with all those your Son has saved.
Thu, 9 November 2017
(Rm.15:14-21; Ps.98:1-4; Lk.16:1-8)
“The worldly take more initiative than the otherworldly
when it comes to dealing with their own kind.”
What is the Lord teaching His disciples? What does He wish to tell them of their call? We need only look at the Apostle Paul, for here is a man, a child of God, who has taken the initiative the Lord would see wrought in us all.
Our first reading indeed speaks clearly of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. Not only has he covered a vast measure of the globe (particularly for that time), but his intense initiative is seen most acutely in his never going “to preach in places where Christ’s name was already known”; rather, “they who received no word of Him” became Paul’s audience. A greater example of taking initiative in the Spirit of Christ to bring His light to the world perhaps will never be known.
But it is required of all of us. We are not free to revel in complacency because Paul has been so industrious. It is still true that the Lord must make His salvation known “in the sight of the nations,” and it is still so that we Christians of the Church militant have the responsibility to see that the Lord’s work is accomplished. Each of us is called to take a measure of initiative, is gifted by God with the responsibility of bringing a portion of His kingdom to light – in our own way, in our own time… but invariably the call is there and must be answered. All must fulfill their role in salvation history before it can be truly and completely proclaimed: “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.”
The devious employee’s heart was set thoroughly on the business at his hands, and he used his business wisdom, his worldly savvy, to save his skin. Where is our spiritual savvy? Where is the employment of our spiritual wisdom and insight to the salvation of others’ souls, and our own? “I can take glory in Christ Jesus for the work I have done for God,” Paul says quite freely. Are we able to say the same? Let us work industriously and with initiative to bring the spiritual kingdom to fulfillment. By God’s grace, let the Spirit come.
O LORD, let us do all we can to bring your Word
to the world.
YHWH, you have made your salvation known in the death and resurrection of your Son, but we must carry that truth to the ends of the world, even as the Apostle Paul.
We cannot sit on our hands, dear LORD; we must not dissipate your grace. Rather, let us readily preach your Gospel in all we think, do, and say. Then we will be pleasing in your sight, and all souls will be drawn into your presence.
O LORD, to your children you have granted complete knowledge of your ways and made them able to serve your kingdom. In the power of your Spirit let us go forth to see that all peoples are consecrated to you.
Let all souls sing a new song to your NAME; let all praise your goodness to us, LORD. From your work let us never turn away until we stand with you on your holy Day.
Tue, 7 November 2017
(Rm.13:8-10; Ps.112:1-2,4-5,9; Lk.14:25-33)
“Love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Jesus tells us, “None of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his possessions,” turning our backs even on father and mother, even on our very selves. Our psalm states of the happy man, “Lavishly he gives to the poor; his generosity shall endure forever.” And Paul makes clear that we “owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
What is this love? Where is this generous spirit? How do we renounce all our possessions? In the cross of Christ we find our call. The cross of Christ means giving all, means laying down our lives for the Lord and our neighbor – the cross of Christ is love itself at work in this world in the death of self and the finding of the grace and the love of God in heaven.
Jesus wishes that you be sure about this. He desires that you understand what is required of you – your very life, your absolute love. Nothing short of total sacrifice will do; we must be entirely whole, utterly holy, to enter His gates, to follow Him into glory. This is greater and more significant than any war, than any project conceived by the mind of man, for it is our eternal soul that is at stake, whose weight cannot compare to even all the world. “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” We all have a cross graciously placed upon our shoulders by our loving Lord to make us one with Him in His redemptive suffering and death, to make us one with Him in such utter love. How will we find heaven if we do not love? How do we come to that place which is only of love if we do not give ourselves to love completely?
“How can I do this?” you say. “The Lord asks too much.” You must remember that it is only love He asks of you, and that it is His cross you carry – He who is only of love – and so He carries your cross with you, making it ever so sweet and light. Do you think the saints feared to die in the name of Christ? Do you think they shrank back even in the face of torture? None of this has any significance to the soul who is set on Christ; and without Christ a hangnail can seem overwhelming.
Love, brothers and sisters. It is simple as that. Love. Not this world, but His heart, His sacrifice, His cross. And you will see all brought to life before you; and you will find joy in your soul.
O LORD, what a beautiful invitation to love
is Jesus’ call to carry our cross with Him!
for He is only love,
and what can we find but love if we follow Him –
and who will we then not truly love?
YHWH, teach us of your way of love, embodied so perfectly in your Son, that we might give ourselves as generously as He to all those we find in need. Help us to give up all things, to renounce our possessions, to turn our backs even on friends and family that we might truly love them and so teach them of your surpassing love.
O how sweet is the Cross your Son would impart to all His followers! What light it gives to the world. If with willing heart we lend to others, expecting nothing in return, how blessed are we to thus share in your love! Love is all that matters; it is the fulfillment of your Law, O LORD. And we find it in the Cross.
Jesus gives so lavishly to us poor souls, we who are so poor in spirit. Nothing have we to offer in return, dear God, but the sacrifice of our lives. May this poor offering be acceptable to you.
Mon, 6 November 2017
(Rm.12:5-16; Ps.131:1-3; Lk.14:15-24)
“Come along, everything is ready now.”
Dinner is being served now in the kingdom of God. But are we prepared to sit down at table? Or do we turn our hearts to other things?
Jesus sets our place now in the kingdom of heaven. He has come. He has died. He has risen and sends now the Holy Spirit to invite us into His presence. And His presence is ever with us; He is ever knocking at the door of our hearts – His Spirit is always with us. But, again, do we hear His call, do we heed His call? Do we care to come into His presence and sup with Him, and receive His gracious gifts at His precious table, at His holy altar… or do we cling to what is evil, what is worldly?
How do we come to His kingdom? How do we find ourselves in His presence? Paul instructs us: we must simply do His will. Doing His will upon the face of this earth brings us to the kingdom of heaven. The teaching should be evident to all Christians: “One who is a teacher should use his gift for teaching… He who gives alms should do so generously… Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer…” Do all things as is meet for those things. It is not complex. There needs no genius to figure it out, or a scholastic degree to understand it. One need not travel miles to discover it. It is truth. It is Jesus. It is to suffer and die for Him as called by the Lord. “Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good.” What more can be said? Find peace in the arms of the Lord. Say with our psalmist, “I have still and quieted my soul… like a weaned child upon its mother’s lap.” We must do as he proclaims: “I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me.” We must not complicate God’s simple love for us and our call simply to love Him with all He gives us. We must, rather, heed His voice, and come into His presence when He calls.
The table is set. His Word is speaking to us. In silence we will hear Him; in quiet we will find His voice. In the vain activity of this world we become deaf. Only by hearing and doing His Word and will, will we come to sit at His table and partake of His heavenly banquet – only if this is the true desire of our souls. Even now we taste Him in the Blessed Sacrament; even today we hear His Word proclaimed. Are we prepared to meet Him? Do we seek to do His holy will?
O LORD, all are invited your House –
let us find our place in the Body of Christ
and serve Him well.
YHWH, help us to do your will in all things, simply and purely, as your sons. What you give to us let us share with others, answering you readily when you call.
What need we do, dear God, but share the gifts you give us with others? What do you expect of us but to use well what you place in our hands? If we can teach, let us teach; if serve, let us serve. Whatever we have let us be generous in offering at the service of our brothers. Let us indeed love freely as you.
Then we will be ready to answer your Son’s call to the kingdom – we will already be answering it in our very actions. We will not be distracted from coming to you, LORD, if our only desire is to do your will in all things, if we are serving you with all our lives. Then your Bread will already be before us, and we shall come into your presence this day. O let your peace reign in our hearts!
Sun, 5 November 2017
(Rm.11:29-36; Ps.69:14,30-31,33-34,36-37; Lk.14:12-14)
“God has imprisoned all in disobedience
that He might have mercy on all.”
I begin to see “how deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” For though I am far from knowing “the mind of the Lord,” yet He does offer me a certain insight this early morning about Him whom Paul says, “From Him and through Him and for Him all things are.”
It is in the complementarity of the readings the insight comes, particularly viewing the gospel in light of the first reading. Jesus instructs the chief of the Pharisees that when giving a banquet he should “invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind” and to be “pleased that they cannot repay” him for his generosity, assuring him he “will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” Now, the Lord does not instruct us to be anything more or less than He and the Father are. So this instruction reflects God’s own great desire and joy in giving to those who are not able to repay Him: it serves as a reminder that God is love, that He thrives, as it were, on mercy, on compassion.
Paul, in the first reading, states to the Romans, “God wished to show you mercy,” and that for this reason the Jews “have become disobedient,” as well as to fulfill God’s longing that “they too may receive mercy” upon returning to Him who set them apart for Himself. Again we see the greatness of God’s love, we glimpse His burning desire to show compassion to all creatures. Now, to the mind lacking wisdom (and love), it might seem as if God is somehow playing with us, causing our falling that He might lift us up again. But it is necessary to remember that God did not desire us to sin, that this was not His intention… and indeed that He did not need us to sin to show us His mercy and love. But our disobedience having come, God in His love is not conquered. This temporary and empty victory by the devil does not tie His hands. Rather, the Lord takes this opportunity to show in an even greater way the very mercy and love which are His essence – shown to us so clearly in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to forgive men’s sins – to show, really, His greatness, which has its source in this love.
And David’s psalm speaks in the same line: “The Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” In our affliction and pain we cry out and He comes with His “saving help”; He is pleased to “rebuild the cities of Judah,” to return us to His side. It is not sin He desires, but the recognition of our dependence on Him for all things, that He might freely show us His love. For this love at His heart’s core and which overcomes all – which is the essence of God and His creation – let us praise Him, brothers and sisters. “To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
O LORD, who can repay you
for your mercy toward us,
for your love is without measure?
YHWH, how great is your mercy, and how greatly you desire us to share in that mercy. And so we have become imprisoned in disobedience, that your love you might freely bestow upon us. And so you call us to give freely to others, that your blessing of mercy we might know even in our own souls.
O LORD, how can we poor creatures share so intimately in your merciful love? How can we who have hardened our hearts so much against you be blessed with the grace of forgiveness and come to the fountain of love you are? We deserve it not. We merit only condemnation. And yet, it is your desire to show us such love, and to have us show it to others.
How can we thank you, LORD, we poor beggars, we blind souls…? How can we repay you for giving us, and then giving us back, our very lives? In your generosity invite us to your table and by your grace let us feast with you.
Sat, 4 November 2017
(Mal.1:14b-2:2b,8-10; Ps.131:1-3; 1Thes.2:7b-9,13; Mt.23:1-12)
“Have we not all the one Father?
Has not the one God created us?”
And should not those who serve in His stead, bringing the word of God to waiting hearts, be as He is, loving all as He does and thus giving “glory to [His] name”?
“I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me,” King David declares, thus revealing the blessed relationship of the faithful, humble disciple and His Lord. We are indeed as little children before God, and He loves us as a tender Father, as the One who has made us with great care. And so we should take our peace upon His lap.
And when the sheep of the flock come to the shepherds the Lord has appointed to teach in His Name, they should find a reflection of the Father’s presence – in these one should discover His love. Yes, they must instruct according to the Word placed upon their souls by their ordination, but they should not merit the words Jesus speaks of the Pharisees: “They preach but they do not practice.” For if “all their works are performed to be seen,” if they teach and preach without love, without living the word of God themselves, soon the flock will be led astray by their vanity and turn from the word they speak itself. Malachi prophesies to the priests of his day: “You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction.” If these leaders show no reverence of God themselves, who will be led to reverence by their instruction?
Yes, still our duty is to God Himself and our worship is of Him alone – and so Jesus teaches the people, “Do and observe whatsoever [the scribes and Pharisees] tell you, but do not follow their example” – but He also demands of His followers that they not possess the vanity of these proud leaders. Oh if all approached the service of Paul, how blessed our Church would be! Listen to his words to the Thessalonians: “Brothers and sisters: we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children,” for he and his fellow workers “were determined to share with [them] not only the Gospel of God, but [their] very selves as well,” so much did they love their flock with the love of God.
And this is as all pastors are called to be, “working night and day” for the little ones in their care. “Feed my sheep,” the Lord commanded His Rock; and all our priests are called to feed the members of the Church not only with the Word of God, but also with His love, that they might learn to take refuge in Him who is Father of all. I ask you, has the Lord not become incarnate in our midst? And should that Incarnation not be known in all our flesh and in all our bone? Then let us serve one another in love.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Everyone's A Baby, Everyone's A Child" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us humble ourselves
before you, our Father.
YHWH, let us all be humble before you, as children on their mother’s lap; then we shall know your blessing – then we shall live in your love. But if we should become proud and seek the praise of others, our souls will be thus corrupted and we will know you no more.
O LORD, please send us holy priests to guide us in your ways. May they always preach your Word in truth that our hearts might not go astray; and may they live according to the Gospel they impart, that an example of your self-giving love will be ever with us.
What is a family without a father, and how can we be your children without your image revealed among us, without the instruction and sacrifice of your Son made real in our midst? You have created us, dear LORD, and you desire to share your blessings with us all. In genuine humility let us come before you and others, serving ever your saving Word.
Fri, 3 November 2017
(Rm.11:1-2,11-12,25-29; Ps.94:12-15,17-18; Lk.14:1,7-11)
“The Lord will not cast off His people,
nor abandon His inheritance.”
Today the gifts and call of the Israelites, which are “irrevocable,” are spoken of beautifully in our readings.
Indeed, the majority of Jews rejected and even persecuted Jesus and His followers. But as Paul tells us, the Lord has always and will always leave a remnant among them to maintain His covenant with them. As Paul reminds us, “I myself am an Israelite.” And of course so were all the apostles. God has not rejected His people, for “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” The promise He has made to bless the Israelites stands to this day.
Paul explains clearly the wisdom of God and how He works through the transgressions of the Jews to bring the Gentiles to salvation. And how the Gentiles’ conversion and the grace poured upon them shall lead the Israelite people back to the Lord: “Blindness has come upon part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles enter in, and then all Israel will be saved.” Yes, all Israel will yet be saved; they shall yet come flowing to the mountain of God, to His Son, and find redemption, and find the honor bestowed upon them; and by their turning, how much all His holy people shall be blessed! “Judgment shall again be with justice, and all the upright of heart shall follow it.” Alleluia!
But there is another lesson for us today, and it, too, has to do with the quality needed by the chosen. Jesus speaks of it clearly in our gospel, and it illustrates the difficulty the Jews have in coming to the Lord, and warns us against the same mistake. Jesus comes to dinner “at the house of one of the leading Pharisees” and witnesses the guests scrambling for the best seats at table. Quietly He speaks to them, gently He reminds them, that they are not called to exaltation of their own position, gifted as it may or may not be, but to humility before all, as He has indeed shown us. How unlike our Lord, who though in the form of God humbled Himself to become human and even to die on a cross (without uttering a word), are they. And here is the teaching of Christ: “Sit in the lowest place.” The greater our call, the deeper should be our humility. This emptying ourselves as has Jesus is an indispensable virtue for any Christian. And only it will bring the Jew to realize the presence of Christ in his midst.
And should we who have been grafted to the kingdom’s tree late in time boast of our gift, walk with haughty eyes in His house? By no means, lest we be cast off by Him. Let us rather treasure the grace the Lord has granted us, preserve His call within us, and make our election permanent, beneath the shadow of His cross.
O LORD, we shall not enter your reign
until we are humble before you;
your Son is ever present
and so we must ever give place to Him.
YHWH, you do not abandon your people, Jew or Gentile believer, but serve in your wisdom to bring all to salvation, if they but humble themselves before you. For pride is the only thing that can condemn us, the only thing that can keep us from you and your merciful love; and so if you make your people to stumble, it is only for their good, only to see that they shall inherit your glory by their conformity to the humility of your only Son.
There is a greater than all of us present here at our feast. Should we not make room for Jesus, LORD? And if we do not, if we clamor to take our place above your Chosen One, if we look upon the gifts and graces that come to us only through Him and use them as excuse to exalt ourselves above others, will not such conceit, will not such blindness to the presence of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins keep us from sharing in His body and blood? O let us enter your gates by taking the lowest place with your chosen ones.
Thu, 2 November 2017
(Rm.9:1-5; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Lk.14:1-6)
“They could not answer.”
The Pharisees are dumb. The leaders of the Jewish nation cannot speak as to whether a man should be healed on the sabbath. How far they have fallen from the presence of God.
We know the Israelites were God’s chosen people. This is proclaimed clearly by both Paul and our psalmist today: “Theirs were the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the lawgiving, the worship, and the promises; theirs were the patriarchs, and from them came the Messiah”; yet when the Messiah, the Son, the fulfillment of all the gifts given them, stands before them… they are blind, they are dumb – they have no wisdom, no light. This is the nation whom the Lord has given “His statutes and His ordinances… He has not done thus for any other nation.” And yet they are unable to judge that it is right for a man to be healed at any time, that this is God’s will, that human life supersedes the mere observance of law, a law they have suffocated of its life.
And we? Again, being successors to the Jews we must always ask ourselves if we do the things which caused the promise to be taken from their hands. Do we proclaim the glory of this Word? Do we “speak the truth in Christ”? Or do we keep silent, too? And not the silence that bears all suffering as has our Savior upon the cross do I speak – I mean the death of the Word in our souls. The inability to discern His will. The fear to praise God by teaching the nations of the grace which has been granted us. “He sends forth His command to the earth; swiftly runs His Word!” But does that Word come through us, does it work through us who are the keepers of the New Covenant, or do we let it die in our throats?
“Blessed forever be God who is over all!” Paul shouts as despair he begins to detect for the failure of so many Jews to turn to Christ. And so we should ever praise our God whenever doubt or fear enters our soul. It is our only refuge. It is our only strength. Silence before the courts of this world which observe us closely will not do. Acceptance of our death, yes, but not fear of retribution should be ours. We must speak the truth in love, relying on the wisdom which comes from Him alone as we make our way through the challenges of this world.
O LORD, why should our mouths be shut
in the presence of your glory?
YHWH, may your Word run swiftly to us and work swiftly through us. May we never hesitate to proclaim your praise, to declare your love for all in all our words and actions. May we think only the good and seek only your will. Let the dictates of the law never quash our souls.
How blessed were your chosen people, LORD! All things were given them at your gracious hands. True worship of you was theirs; but how far they have fallen from your love. Though all was made known to them by your Word, they forgot the blessing upon their nation and became blind to your will. O let their eyes be opened!
You desire only good for all, dearest LORD, and nothing that is for our neighbor’s good can contravene your law. The law you give to lead us to glory, and now that glory is in our midst in your only Son. Let us open our hearts to His teaching and live forever in your love.
Mon, 30 October 2017
(Rm.8:18-25; Ps.126:1-6; Lk.13:18-21)
“Hoping for what we cannot see
means awaiting it with patient endurance.”
We cannot see the coming of the kingdom of heaven. It comes so gradually; it rises imperceptibly, “like yeast which a woman took to knead into three measures of flour.” It grows like the tiny mustard seed, which “became a large shrub and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” A most fruitful reign is the reign of God, and well worth the wait. As Paul says, “I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.” But wait we must. In hope we take our refuge. And as we hope, indeed we suffer, for “we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies.” With the rest of creation we groan “in agony” for the futility to which the physical universe has been subject. Yet hope have we, and it is this which gives us a sense of joy even as we wait so patiently.
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” Our psalm gives us a picture of the joy that awaits us in the redemption of the just in the kingdom of God as it describes the happiness of the exiles’ return from Babylon: “We were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.” The knowledge of the Lord’s hand at work in the lives of these Israelites can only increase our hope, can only stir our faith that we too shall sing, “The Lord has done great things for us,” that we too shall “come back rejoicing” after this time of trial which is our stay here on this earth. And the fact that we have the Spirit now as the first payment against the day of judgment and against the power of Satan in this dark world causes a sense of joy already in our bones, gives us even now a foretaste of the kingdom to come, and which comes to us indeed each day in every breath we breathe in His presence, and particularly in the food He leaves us to consume at the altar of His holy sacrifice.
Yes, we have His Word at work in us even now, brothers and sisters. Even as we speak (even as I write), the seed does grow into a tree, the yeast does cause the dough to rise. Though it take time and we hope most for its fulfillment, yet it is with us even now in this blessed growth we experience in the sight of our God, in the blood of our Lord. Our hope is not in vain, and the tears we shed now certainly nourish the growth of the kingdom within us and all around us. Even in these does our hope find fulfillment. Even in these tears do we taste surpassing joy.
O LORD, let us hope in you always;
your kingdom is rising in our midst.
YHWH, in patience let us await the coming of your kingdom, for it shall surely come and is even now here within us. When it shall be revealed to our eyes, our hope will be fulfilled and all our groanings answered. We shall indeed rejoice in your presence on that holy day.
Your Spirit is now planted in us as a seed of the kingdom, and though we go forth in tears doing your work in this dark world, we ever have the Spirit’s reassurance – the hope He engenders makes any sufferings seem as nothing. For your glory, O God, shall soon be revealed in its fullness; it shall soon come to full growth and we will take rest in its branches. O let us rise unto you!
And so, with patient endurance let us wait, O LORD, for the dawn upon the horizon, for on the new day all Creation shall sing your praise, all its sorrow forgotten.
Sun, 29 October 2017
(Rm.8:12-17; Ps.68:2,4,6-7,20-21; Lk.13:10-17)
“All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
It is the Spirit of God that led the poor stooped woman in our gospel today to the synagogue to see and hear the teaching of Jesus the Lord, and to find a healing for her infirmity. “This daughter of Abraham… in the bondage of Satan for eighteen years” was by the Lord “released from her shackles” and became a daughter also of the Most High God. She is a sign of us all. For all, whether sons of Abraham by the flesh or not, are called into the presence of God to find healing for the sin and sadness and oppression of the devil which trouble us. On our own we cannot stand straight in the sight of God, but by the touch of Jesus we find our dignity and become sons of God with Him.
God is “the father of orphans and the defender of widows”; He “gives a home to the forsaken.” And so we who were once under the “spirit of slavery” to sin may now find “a spirit of adoption through which we cry out, ‘Abba!’ (that is, ‘Father’).” Once having no father to watch over us, now “the Spirit Himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” A greater blessing one could not find than to be a son or daughter of the Most High God. For “God is a saving God for us.” Not only does He love us, but He shows that love even by dying for us, that we might live.
And it is so that “if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God, heirs with Christ.” And though it is by the death of Jesus that we are made heirs of the Father’s glory, we only come into full possession of the riches of our glorious Lord by our own death, for we must “suffer with Him so as to be glorified with Him.” It is this death of ours, a death to self, to flesh, to sin and the world, that brings us the life of Him “who controls the passageways of death” and so is able to free us from all death.
Day by day the Lord “bears our burdens.” On all days, eternally, He is our Father and our Savior, waiting to heal us. Whenever we come to Him, we shall find Him ready to bless us. His Spirit He sends upon all, like a sun that never sets, calling us to His presence. We must but respond in humility and faith, and as we bow ourselves before Him, He will raise us up to the dignity He desires for all our lives. And we shall be His sons.
O LORD, your Son bears our burdens for us –
He releases us from bondage to the flesh
that we might live with Him in the Holy Spirit.
YHWH, orphans and widows we have been, far from you we were separated from the beginning, cast off like a forsaken wife. And we could not find our way back to you by the flesh, try as we might by following the line of our ancestors – this but brought us back repeatedly to their weakness, to their separation from your grace, from the light of your holy face.
But your Son you sent to show us the way to you. In Him we find the blood that must course through our veins; wed unto His flesh we are redeemed…. It is He who puts to death the evil deeds of the body and makes us sons once again of you – now His Spirit is upon us to call out your NAME, dear Father.
O let us be your children! wherever we are from; whether children of Abraham or of foreign lands, let us all be blessed this holy day to know the healing touch of your Son and so inherit your kingdom. O LORD, of your love let us not be afraid.
Sat, 28 October 2017
(Ex.22:20-26; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; 1Thes.1:5-10; Mt.22:34-40)
“If ever you wrong them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.”
In this simple statement by the Lord is revealed the essential nature of our God in His relation with His people. It demonstrates certainly what He says of Himself, “I am compassionate,” for what is He telling us but that He has an ardent care for the poorest among us and the injustice they suffer? But it also demonstrates the justice of God itself, for what does He mean when He says He will “hear their cry” but that He will punish the wicked for their heartless crimes? He states clearly, if any should “wrong any widow or orphan… [His] wrath will flare up, and [He] will kill [him] with the sword.”
Now in the Church today we find an arbitrary and utterly deceptive and false separation of members into “liberal” or “conservative” camps, as if the Lord and His Church could be limited by either assignation. The liberal hears “love God and neighbor” and ignorantly excuses himself from keeping the law; and the conservative grasps the law so tightly he squeezes the very life, the very love, out of it. The Lord is neither liberal nor conservative, but may be said to be both – and that to the extreme in both cases. First of all, He has come to liberate us from our sin, to free us from the sentence of death all justly deserved as much as the adulteress or the thief on the cross He forgave. No one could be more liberal in His free giving of Himself and His love. What compares to the shedding of His blood, and the free gifts we gain thereby? Yet it must not be forgotten that the Lord Jesus is absolutely conservative in His teachings and in His ways; at all costs He preserves the truth. For though He says that “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” of love of God and neighbor, He does not thereby do away with the whole law. Indeed, He strengthens it. Does He not say not a single letter, nor even part of a letter, will pass away until all the law is fulfilled? Does He not tell us now that even to look at a woman lustfully is adultery and to be angry with another is as murder (see Mt.5:17-30)? And will He not come at the end of the age and judge all hearts, separating the evil from the good and casting them into eternal darkness and eternal flames? Though He “delivers us from the coming wrath” if we love Him, failing that, we cannot but be thrown into hell.
The Lord has two hands and either taken alone is ineffective, is, in fact, wicked, for either alone falls short of love and truth. The Lord is absolutely kind and absolutely just: these two meet and kiss in Him. And so they must in each of us. We must be “model[s] for all the believers.” Let it be said that from us “the word of the Lord has sounded forth,” that “in every place [our] faith in God has gone forth – that we have carried both His love and His truth to every heart we touch. Then we shall rightly call the Lord our “rock” and our “deliverer”; then we shall exclaim, “Praised be the Lord” and be “safe from [our] enemies.” Then He will hear our cry and save us, and all who truly love Him, for then we will be His disciples.
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, help us to love you with all our heart,
and to love others as you love them.
YHWH, we must turn from idols to worship you alone, for you are the living and true God and deserve all the love of our heart, mind, and soul. And we must love others as you love all, ever sharing your unending compassion with our neighbor. For you hear the cry of the poor, and to that call we must attend or we are not loving you at all.
Whose compassion is beyond is beyond your own, LORD? Whose love can approach your perfection? For your love is founded on perfect justice, a justice we cannot fathom apart from your favor toward us. Your justice cannot but punish evil, for if not, how could it protect the good? How could the widow or orphan find your compassion if you did not destroy those who oppress them?
But even as you destroy the wicked, you do so out of love, out of mercy even toward those you destroy. For how shall they turn from their sin and be saved if you do not chastise them for their wrongs, for the lack of compassion which separates them from you? Your kindness be upon all this day, O LORD, that we might live in your love.
Fri, 27 October 2017
(Eph.2:19-22; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.6:12-16)
“You are fellow citizens with the saints
and members of the household of God.”
And whom is this building founded upon but our Lord Jesus Christ; He is the cornerstone by which the apostles and prophets are set in place, and we are built upon this firm foundation, all integrated as one “holy temple in the Lord.” This Church is “the dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” Alleluia!
Oh that blessed night Jesus spent “in communion with God”! Praise God for the mountain on which He prayed! For that night, in that place, in these prayers was conceived the foundation stones of His holy temple: in the Spirit that night the essential structure of the Church was given birth in the names of these poor apostles, these simple human beings.
And at daybreak He called them forth by name. Upon them His favor rested. And though one “turned traitor” and had to be replaced, yet here are the pillars on which the Church rests. And to this day their descendants, their blessed successors remain with us, holding up the Church despite their frailties – yes, the power of the Spirit continues to go forth from their call. “Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge.” Nothing can stem the passage of this Word to the ends of the earth, for it is founded in the silent communion with God.
Who can touch this silence? Who can tear down this oneness in the presence of God? No one can hold the wind in his hands and no one can restrain the power of the Spirit. It indeed goes forth. Yes, “the whole structure” continues to be “fitted together” in the Lord’s Name, and no persecution can stop its growth, can prevent its inevitable coming to fullness in the eternity of heaven. And so, let us thank God for His blessed apostles and prophets and martyrs today. Let us pray we shall be found worthy to be one with them in the House they build. And let us come to know the Lord even more, who is at the heart of us all.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, may we be built into your House
with all your holy apostles.
YHWH, let us become your dwelling place; let us make our home in your Spirit as you make your home in us. Let us be firmly founded in your apostles with Jesus as our cornerstone. Then through us, too, your Word will go out to the ends of the earth. Then we will be one with your apostles.
Into your household let us be built, O LORD, with all your saints in Heaven. Let Heaven and earth declare your glory – truly let us be your handiwork. As your Son chose the Twelve by your hand upon Him, so let us be chosen and formed in their image to serve you faithfully in this land, to make this land as your kingdom.
Let our words not be spoken in vain, LORD, our prayers not fall short of your glory; let us rather speak only in the Spirit that your light we might bring to this place. Though our cause seem hopeless, though darkness beset us, yet let us look to you and find refuge in the prayers of your apostles, of all the holy ones in your Temple.
Thu, 26 October 2017
(Rm.7:18-25; Ps.119:66,68,76-77,93,94; Lk.12:54-59)
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is just?”
Do we not have the law of God at work in us now? Must we yet subject ourselves to the judge of this earth, who cannot but condemn us for our sin? If we cried out with our psalmist for the Lord to teach us His “commands,” His “statutes,” His “law,” and His “precepts,” His “promise” of “compassion” would be with us, His Spirit would come to us and instruct us on all matters. No longer “the prisoner of the law of sin in [our] members,” we would be freed “from this body under the power of death.” Not only would our “inner self agree with the law of God,” but our actions would reflect, by the grace of Him who is at work within us, that law now written on our hearts. The “wisdom and knowledge” the Lord thereby imparts would be sufficient for the resolution of any problem in our lives, for there is nothing beyond the scope of the Spirit.
Both Paul and Jesus Himself encourage us to find the Spirit of Christ at work in our hearts. We as a community of believers would have no need to turn to the works of the world to resolve our problems if we followed well the teaching of the Lord and His Church. Should not the Church be our government? Should not the teaching of God, which transcends all earthly wisdom, be sufficient for our discerning right and wrong in any situation? Or is sin still at work in our members? Are we yet subject to this law and the condemnation and death it brings? Has the devil yet a hold upon us; does he yet cast us into darkness? Are we therefore too blind to see right from wrong?
Brothers and sisters, we must cast from our souls all vestige of sin; it cannot hold power over us any longer. We must find the light of Christ in our eyes and so be made able to judge all things in His justice. With our psalmist we must proclaim to the Lord, “Your law is my delight.” If we yet take refuge in the law of sin, it will bring but judgment upon our lives. But if we turn to Him, true wisdom will be ours – and His compassion will save us.
All teaching the Lord puts into the hands of His apostles. Our Pope and bishops and priests continue, as His servants, to proclaim His truth and impart His grace. The Church is the home Jesus leaves us; upon it He places His Spirit. Let us follow the teachings of the Lord and find His power at work in our lives, and all things will be clear to our eyes. And so, condemnation we shall avoid as by the grace of God we judge all things rightly.
O LORD, Jesus has indeed set us free by His power –
let us turn to Him for wisdom.
YHWH, keep us from being imprisoned by sin; only you and your Son have the power to release us from such bondage. Help us to follow your precepts, help us to walk in His way, that we might find your kindness upon our souls and live in freedom this day.
Why is it we are so blind? Why so trapped in the flesh? Our eyes do not look upon the things of the Spirit except with great difficulty, except by the grace that comes to us through your only Son. O LORD, let our eyes be opened to see Him standing before us, and let us follow your Law by His power.
Here we find a war at work within us. Without you we have not the wisdom and knowledge to judge well the path to victory over sin. O LORD, let us not be delivered up to the jailer, for we are not able to pay the price of our transgressions. Let your compassion be upon us that we might live and do what is right.
Wed, 25 October 2017
(Rm.6:19-23; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:5; Lk.12:49-53)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
The division is clear. The Lord Himself has stated, “I have come for division.” Far from establishing “peace on the earth,” His message makes clear the distinction between the evil and the good, the wicked and the just, drawn so well in our psalm today. He has “come to light a fire on the earth.” It shall purify the just for the kingdom of God even as it burns up all the wicked.
Paul also makes clear the division between the evil and the good, between that which is of God and that which is of sin. “Formerly you enslaved your bodies to impurity and licentiousness for their degradation… But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life.” The distinction is certain: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Indeed, the just “is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade,” but the wicked “are like chaff which the wind drives away.” This division is what the Lord’s light and fire reveal; and this revelation is eternal.
It is painful, brothers and sisters. It is painful to undergo our own transformation to justice and light from the depths of depravity into which we have fallen, and will be painful to witness others destroyed by the hardness of their hearts. The Lord Himself expresses this pain when He says, “What anguish I feel till it is over!” He takes no pleasure in bringing the agony of division, which begins with His own agony in the garden and ends with His crucifixion. He suffers most to witness the sins of the masses so acutely. They wag their heads at Him even as He cries from the cross. What is to be done? Division must come. For the kingdom must come, the resurrection must take place, and sin cannot stand in its light – and so those who attach themselves to sin, to the works of the father of lies, will not stand in that day either. And even now the judgment comes, even now we must take sides – even now we choose death, or life.
O LORD, set us free from our sin –
burn away all evil.
YHWH, the sword of the Spirit your Son brings separates the wicked from the just – it is a fire purging all evil from the earth, destroying those who give themselves over to impurity and licentiousness, yet lighting your servants’ way to Heaven. He who walks in accord with that light, placing nothing before its demands to holiness, shall enter your presence even as the insolent are consumed.
What can we do, O LORD. to save souls from death? It shall come inevitably to all slaves of sin. We can but hope to make ourselves pure, seeking ever eternal life, and pray that men will turn to you. All is in your hands; let us be sanctified by your touch.
Who has not sinned? Who has not degraded the dignity you instilled in our souls? Yet you would make us fruitful in the Spirit, O God, if we but set our hearts on your Word.
Tue, 24 October 2017
(Rm.6:12-18; Ps.124:1-8; Lk.12:39-48)
“Offer yourselves to God
as men who have come back from the dead to life.”
If we have come back from the dead to life, should we then offer ourselves up to death again? As Paul questions, “Are we free to sin?” How absurd a thought! If we are sinners, let us give ourselves freely to sin, and find the condemnation which comes from this. But if we are men of justice, let us give ourselves to “obedience” of the teaching imparted to us, and find life firmly in our souls.
Jesus states quite clearly, “When much has been given a man, much will be required of him.” Brothers and sisters, much has been given us simply by our release from the sin which once enslaved us. Indeed, “we were rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare,” as David’s psalm proclaims. The “raging waters” that “would have overwhelmed us,” the “torrent [that] would have swept over us,” has been calmed… For this alone we have much to be thankful; simply by this grace much has been entrusted to us. And what follows only adds to this initial blessing; for each day our souls are required of us, each day He puts in our hands and calls us to the work set aside for our souls to complete. Each day the gift of grace is increased within us. So should we then begin “to abuse the housemen and servant girls, to eat and drink and get drunk”? Should we then return to the slavery of sin which blinds our eyes to His eternal presence? Certainly not. Rather, we should “be on guard” at all times, vigilantly prepared for our master’s return, employing the gifts He imparts to us each passing day.
We are no longer dead, brothers and sisters. We have the grace of our God at work within us, lighting our eyes and filling our souls with His holy food. We must now be holy as He. It is not for us to return to the death of sin, to subject ourselves to its chains once again, to have our eyes darkened and our souls destroyed. The grace, the light within us, must be diligently preserved. We must come to Him, come to His stewards to whom the most has been entrusted, who hold in their power sacramental grace, and confess our sins in His presence, and come and eat of His Body and Blood. Let us avail ourselves of these gifts these successors of the apostles hold and thus find the strength to give our own “bodies to God as weapons for justice” and not for sin.
O LORD, let us give you all that we have,
all that we are;
then there will be nothing left to give.
YHWH, you have saved us from the raging waters, from the torrent that would have overwhelmed our souls – and should we cast ourselves back into the sea? Should we once again give ourselves to sin? No! We must give ourselves as slaves of your justice and serve you all our days, never turning from the grace at work within us, never again obeying the flesh and its lusts.
For soon your Son shall return for us, O LORD – and should He find us in a drunken state? Should He find us with violence in our hands and lust in our heart? If so, then we would prove ourselves unworthy of trust; and what would we be then but beaten for our lack of love?
You yourself are present now in our very spirits, LORD. Let us treasure this grace upon us and work out our salvation, never giving ourselves again to the teeth of the beast.
Mon, 23 October 2017
(Rm.5:12,15,17-21; Ps.40:7-10,17; Lk.12:35-38)
“To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
“May those who love your salvation say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’” May we who love the Lord “exult and be glad” in Him. May we who take refuge in His grace sing aloud His praise. What greater gift could we have than Jesus Christ, whose “single righteous act brought all men acquittal and life. For truly we were dead in our sin,” truly the offense of Adam had infected our souls, truly through this “one man’s disobedience all became sinners” – but more truly “through one man’s obedience all shall become just,” for “His grace has far surpassed” the increase of sin. And so, what should we do but rejoice with David at the truth of Paul’s instruction.
And what should we do but be ready, truly ready, really waiting, patiently, for the return of our Lord. “Be like men awaiting their master’s return from a wedding.” Set your hearts on His coming again, “so that when He knocks, you will open without delay.” This is yet the greater blessing for us servants, that even in these dark days upon this earth, we stand ready for His return. Here is His grace at work within us, that our hearts are set on Him, that His presence, the coming of His kingdom, we know even now in anticipation of its arrival. No greater blessing could we hope for than to be “those servants whom the master finds wide-awake on His return.” By this we know we have conquered sin; by this we see that we have overcome the darkness which surrounds us – if whether “at midnight or before sunrise” we are found prepared, if even in the darkest times we hold His light, if our eyes are like “lamps… burning ready” and our “belts… fastened around [our] waists”… we have all that we need in this world.
Be ready, my brothers and sisters, for the joy is coming; it will not delay. That happiness of life in His presence we sense even now, we taste even this day in our mouths, will come soon to fulfillment in the reign of our God. And so, “those who receive the overflowing grace and gift of justice [will] live and reign through the one man, Jesus Christ,” for whom we await, in whom we take our refuge, whose name we praise, His saving word etched upon our souls and bleeding in our hearts. In all we do we wait for His coming. He alone is our desire, and we shall not be disappointed.
O LORD, let us be always ready to serve you;
let your grace reign in us
and we shall come to do your will.
YHWH, grace has come to us by the sacrifice of your Son and cleansed us of the disobedience of Adam. We are thus set free from sin and placed on the path to eternal life. And so, what should we do now but wait for Jesus’ return, when that grace shall be fulfilled and we shall come to dwell with Him in Heaven?
Truly has Jesus been obedient to your command. Truly has He achieved the conquering of death and the end of its reign for every man. Truly has His death brought us acquittal and life. And truly will He return, O LORD, to reward all His faithful servants; truly will He Himself be their food.
O let us be ready for His coming! Let our lamps be burning ever and our hearts prepared always to open when He knocks. Let us offer ourselves with Him as His Body, dear LORD, that to us quickly salvation shall come even in the dark night of this world.
Sun, 22 October 2017
(Rm.4:20-25; Lk.1:68-75; Lk.12:13-21)
“We should serve Him devoutly
and through all our days be holy in His sight.”
For “this very night your life shall be required of you.” Always and forever our faith is required of us, if we are to draw breath. Always and forever the Lord asks us what fruit we have produced. Always and forever we must be careful not to toil in vain, but to live according to His Word, believing in His promise. Else our lives will indeed be empty vessels.
Holiness befits His house. Adherence to His covenant is our call. Faith in the One who is “saving strength for us” is our necessity. We must indeed be as our father Abraham, who was “fully persuaded that God could do whatever He had promised,” whose “faith was credited to him as justice.” And if we have the same faith as Abraham, we will find the same justice, the same reward as he. “For our faith will be credited to us also if we believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Jesus “was handed over to death for our sins and raised up for our justification” and only faith in Him as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham will give us life.
Why do we turn to the things of this world and in them seek our fulfillment, and in them seek our rest, when they are so vain and when all the while Jesus calls to our souls to come to Him? Why is it we think that in the goods of this world we can find refuge, we can find strength? Why are we so blinded to believe that in them we can find our peace? “Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.” Here is the fruitless mantra of this materialistic world. Here is the epitome of our blindness to His will. Here is the belly seeking to take the place of the spirit.
Can we not see that it is only the spirit that gives life, that the flesh is of no avail, that the riches of this earth serve more as a distraction to finding the life and the peace we seek in the depths of our souls than to bringing a fulfillment of this most human of desires? This desire cannot be satisfied except in Christ. We must not be as “the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God,” or when these passing riches rot away or are taken from us, we will be left terribly empty. Rather, we should “avoid greed in all its forms” and dedicate ourselves to service of the Lord. Only in Him is life and peace made known, and only by holiness do we come there. At all times the Lord is calling to our soul; let us answer Him in faith.
O LORD, Jesus has died and been raised
for our salvation –
may we believe in Him and grow rich in your sight.
YHWH, let us not grow rich to ourselves, setting our hearts on the wealth of this passing world, but rather grow rich in your sight, in your gifts and graces. Let us have faith, first of all; this blessing let us most treasure.
You have sent your Son as Savior for us – what more could we ask of you? Here is the fulfillment of all our desires. And if we put our faith in Him who has died for our sins and been raised for our justification, if we serve Him devoutly all our days, it will indeed be credited to us as righteousness and great reward will be ours in Heaven. O LORD, let us know your mercy upon our souls!
Only in you our life is found, dearest LORD and God. Our every breath is in your hands and when we come to the end of our days, what hope shall we have but that you breathe into us new life? And so, let us store up wealth for you alone, the wealth of a faithful heart.
Sat, 21 October 2017
(Is.45:1,4-6; Ps.96:1,3-5,7-10; 1Thes.1:1-5b; Mt.22:15-21)
“I am the Lord and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.”
Oh brothers and sisters, how clear our Scripture today makes it that “great is the Lord and highly to be praised; awesome is He beyond all gods.” Indeed there is no other God. It is He who grasped the “right hand” of even the pagan king, Cyrus, “subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service.” The heart of this king and all kings and all lands are in His hands – He alone rules all nations! Do you see this? Do you understand that if He calls this foreigner by “name, giving [him] a title,” that there is none that is beyond His reach, that is not under His eye? By the Lord’s power this pagan has conquered the nations of the world. And why? Why does He arm him who knows Him not? “So that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none beside [Him].”
Our psalmist sings so well of the singular power of the Lord God: “All the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the Lord made the heavens.” Again I ask, do you see this? All nations recognize Him who made the heavens and the earth; even these “tremble before Him.” And so all are called to “tell His glory among the nations, among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” For all must be encouraged to “give the Lord the glory due His name”; all must be offered the honor of knowing the greatness of our God.
One of these nations who have come to knowledge of the one God we hear of in our second reading. Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers and sisters loved by God” for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gives thanks to God the Father that this Gentile people has come to faith in Him “with much conviction.” What has been proclaimed so long now bears fruit. For even the millennium before our psalmist had called the “families of nations” to “bring gifts, and enter His courts,” to “worship the Lord in holy attire.” None has ever been barred from adoring Him who is the One God and Father of all. But now the Gospel comes not “in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Now the word is anointed by Jesus’ blood. So now all nations indeed come before Him, giving “the Lord glory and praise.”
And when Jesus says, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” He does not remove anything from under God’s domain. For even the things of Caesar are in God’s hands (as is the coin between Jesus’ fingers today), as the Son makes clear in His words before Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (Jn.19:11). And, “the Lord is King” and King is His Son, and “He governs the peoples with equity.” Let all declare the glory of Him besides whom “there is no other.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The World Is a Work of Art (Made by the Hand of God)" (1st half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, all the earth belongs to you;
let us run in the way you command,
ever giving praise to the glory of your NAME.
YHWH, there is none beside you – you are the Most High God, the only God, the living God… and greatly should we praise you. We should worship you alone, for you alone are worthy of worship. O let us sing to you all the day long!
All the nations are in your hands, LORD and God; all kings run in the way you lead them. There is none above your power or beyond your reach – the world is at your command. As Jesus holds the coin of Caesar between His fingers, so all this earth is under your power, to be disposed with as you desire.
Send your Spirit into us, dearest LORD, O mighty God, that your power might come to us and conform us to your will, that we might labor each day for you and our poor work find your favor. Let us test you not, O LORD, but trust in your goodness toward us and be obedient to your Word.
Praise you for your glory, LORD! Let all souls give you due praise, that we might join with you who made us, that we might share in your surpassing glory.
Fri, 20 October 2017
(Rm.4:13,16-18; Ps.105:6-9,42-43; Lk.12:8-12)
“All depends on faith, everything is a grace.”
Faith is our father; it brings us to life for it makes us children of “the God who restores the dead to life and calls into being those things which had not been.” By faith we entrust ourselves into God’s hands and become as Abraham, who is “our father in the sight of God in whom he believed.” “Hoping against hope, Abraham believed and so became the father of many nations,” and insofar as we believe, we become his children before God. Indeed, it is through faith alone that we are born into His kingdom.
And having faith, we must acknowledge its presence in our lives by witnessing to the Son of God. If we are His disciples, as we must be, we will not hide His grace working in us but allow it to bear fruit in the profession of that faith before the world. And so, as we “come before synagogues, rulers, and authorities,” as we stand before the face of this generation, as we do anything in this world, we must “not worry about how to defend [ourselves] or what to say.” Jesus tells us, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment all that should be said.” And so by this trusting in Him we prove ourselves children of faith.
This is the manner in which I produce this writing. Trusting in Him as entirely as my faith allows, I am not concerned beforehand what I shall speak, what I shall write upon this page. In the measure that I am a child of grace, I prove it by my allowing Him to speak through me at this moment and in His way. This is what we must strive to do with all our work, in all our lives. All our lives are founded upon this faith, and the Lord calls us in an ever greater way to express that faith, to live that faith, by consecrating all we think and do to His will and desire. It is for us to but come into His presence, to remember He is here with us, and so to find His grace at work in our lives.
We must be prepared and be preparing ourselves always to stand before Him forever. As we place ourselves in His presence now, it is so that we die to ourselves and begin to live by His grace. More and more we must trust in that faith which joins us to Him and makes us children of the promise which “holds true for all Abraham’s descendants… for all who have his faith.” Faith alone will bring us to life, for faith alone brings us into the presence of Him who is life. Enter His grace, brothers and sisters, and find it working in your life.
O LORD, if we believe in you,
you will be with us.
YHWH, you restore the dead to life and call into being those things which had not been. And so, should we not put our faith in you? And so, should we not proclaim your glory before men? With a God such as you, what need we fear? O let us live in faith and so be blessed!
All indeed depends on faith, O LORD; it is our very life breath. Everything is a grace from you who bring all things into being, and we must acknowledge that grace at work in our lives in order to join ourselves to you and that grace, and so find life itself. Separated from you we shall but die, but as children of Abraham, as children of faith who believe in you and in your Son, we shall live forever.
You are faithful and true to your Covenant with your chosen ones. Let us trust in you, LORD, and in your Spirit’s movement in our lives.
Thu, 19 October 2017
(Rm.4:1-8; Ps.32:1-2,5,7,11; Lk.12:1-7)
“Happy is the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.”
All our sins shall be taken away by the Lord who watches over us and loves us, if we but believe.
We must lay bare our souls, brothers and sisters. We cannot hide from the eternal, piercing light of God. His hand is upon us at all times; His heart is open always for our entering in. It cannot be otherwise with the Lord of the universe, in whose sight “even the hairs of [our] head are counted.” And He who surrounds us desires but our love, desires but our faith, desires but that we come into His presence confessing our sins, and He will take them away. And we shall not be “cast into Gehenna” but drawn into His kingdom.
His kingdom is coming. Jesus sees it as He gazes out at the dense “crowd of thousands” gathering before Him. He sees the kingdom coming as men’s hearts turn to Him. And so He warns His disciples, who shall be the laborers to reap His harvest, “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” for if they should take pride in their mission, if they should find in their deeds “grounds for boasting” and so forget the favor of God by which all are justified, they shall indeed tempt the fires of Gehenna. “Everything you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight,” for the Lord hears “what you have whispered in locked rooms.” So, keep your hearts set on Him and His goodness, and the truth of the Gospel will be proclaimed to the world, and you shall save your immortal soul.
Jesus knows, too, that the faith of His disciples and their declaration of His Word to the world will bring persecution. He sees in this scene, too, the cross set before Him, and He knows those who follow Him shall share in it as well. And so He reassures His children that the Father is with them, that He treasures them even as He treasures His Son, and so the powers of this age will hold no reign over them, and that they should “not be afraid of those who kill the body and can do no more.”
Yes, our soul is in His hands. He has power to forgive and to protect, if we but come to Him as children, if we but come to Him in faith.
O LORD, all is known to you –
let us confess our sins, and we will be saved.
YHWH, of what can we boast, we who cannot forgive our own sins? Truly, we are in your hands, and so should fear you.
But in your kindness you readily forgive our transgressions; if we turn to you, our sins are wiped away. And so, there is nothing we need fear, LORD, as long as our desire is for you.
Help us to confess our faults that you might remove all our guilt. Inspire us to call upon your NAME, O LORD, and we shall rejoice in your blessings. If we but have faith in you, your justice will be upon us.
There is nothing of consequence we can accomplish on our own, nothing but sin. All the good that we do comes from you, and so, what cause have we to be proud? Let us not be false in our love for you, LORD, but even in the deep recesses of our hearts proclaim your glory continually. O may all men come to faith and be saved!
Wed, 18 October 2017
(Rm.3:21-30; Ps.130:1-7; Lk.11:47-54)
“This generation will have to account for the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world.”
And so shall it be with Christ’s own blood, the fulfillment of all the martyrs’ sacrifice; for these same scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus proclaims guilty of the prophets’ murders will indeed devise the murder of the Son of God. And they prove the truth of His words immediately by their manifestation of “fierce hostility to Him” and their thus giving birth to the plot to crucify Him.
Perhaps most appropriate for today, with regard to Paul’s epistle to the Romans, is the Lord’s admonishment of the lawyers: “You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not gained access, yet you have stopped those who wish to enter!” It is essentially the same message the Apostle teaches: “The justice of God has been manifested apart from the law… that justice of God which works through faith in Jesus Christ.” It is not through “observance of the law” that justification comes; the works of the law – circumcision, animal sacrifice, dietary rules – which address the body, are useless in this regard. God is Spirit and it is spiritual means He uses to redeem us – we must come in faith to Him. And those who would restrict faith by the imposition of these laws serve only to impede the working of the Spirit and His grace. Paul states the question succinctly: “Does God belong to the Jews alone? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles?” If He is God of all nations, it is not meet to impose Jewish religious practice upon those apart from Jewish tradition. But these protectors, or rather “possessors” and defilers of the law – defiling it by their greed in seizing it, their pride in assuming it as their own and not God’s – cannot accept that “it is the same God,” that the Gentiles are equal in grace with the Jews… and so to them this teaching is blasphemy.
At the root of the problem is the fact that these leaders are not as the psalmist in our readings today, who sings: “My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.” Nor do they cry “in supplication” “out of the depths” of their iniquity for God’s forgiveness. If they had been so disposed, they would have seen who stood before them, they would have recognized His coming, and they would have fallen to their knees and found His grace.
Let us not be so hardhearted, for indeed the blood of Jesus is upon the hands of all who sin, just as His salvation is upon all who repent and believe in Him. Water alone will not wash us clean; we must recognize the lack of love we have, and find His Spirit working in us.
O LORD, your justice is shown in your mercy,
which you offer to every faithful soul.
YHWH, we have all sinned and fallen short of your glory, and cannot by our own strength find our way back to you. We cannot justify ourselves but need the grace that comes to us through the blood of your Son to justify our souls, to set us right with you.
But what of those who fail to see they need your forgiveness, who fail to recognize that they, too, are sinners, that they have the blood of Jesus upon their hands? O LORD, how can these be justified? How can they come to faith in you if they do not listen to the One you have sent to draw us back to your presence? They shall but continue in the way of sinning, mounting up the blood of the prophets for judgment day.
Your Son offers His life for our sakes; freely He sacrifices Himself upon the Cross that we might be saved. Help us to turn to Him, O LORD, to see what we have done, repent, and be redeemed. You are the God of us all, and to all souls Jesus’ blood does call.
Mon, 16 October 2017
(Rm.1:16-25; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.11:37-41)
“They stultified themselves through speculating to no purpose,
and their senseless hearts were darkened.”
If these words do not refer to modern man most poignantly, then I imagine nothing can be said of anything. In ancient times, “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man, birds, beasts, and snakes” and bowed down to statues as if they were gods. The images man worships today are also the creations of his own hands, sometimes as physical as the idols worshiped before the time of Christ – who does not long to see his own image on one of our television sets, and who is held in greater esteem than those movie stars whom we have never met but know only of their image on a screen? – but perhaps most particularly they are the vain ideas, which reveal their utter absurdity to any mind with a modicum of common sense, but which are propounded as sacred by the elite thinkers of our day. Their numbers seem endless, and one wonders if man will rationalize himself out of existence, as perhaps he already has philosophically in the declaration that God is dead, and so often done in reality through movements such as Communism and Nazism.
Indeed, how relevant are all Paul’s words today: “They certainly had knowledge of God, yet they did not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks”; “they claimed to be wise, but turned into fools instead”; “they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies.” But “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who… hinder the truth.” “These men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” cannot but come to naught, for “day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge” – the Gospel goes forth “to the ends of the world” and Truth overwhelms all lies. As Jesus overturned the Pharisees who “cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but within… are filled with rapaciousness,” so shall the mind of modern man be shown for all its absurdity in the clear light of day.
Time. There is but time to wait. Time for the Word to go forth and to pray for the conversion of the nations, of all peoples. And there is hope, hope that men shall turn from their absurdity and their perversity to embrace the light of the Gospel and the true teaching of love it brings. We pray the senseless will find faith and be led thereby to salvation.
O LORD, openly your Word speaks to all men’s hearts,
calling them to salvation.
YHWH, how shall the senseless mind of man be redeemed? If it turns from you, the Creator of all, to give praise to senseless creatures, will it not be ever as blind as they? Trapped in its own contrivances, it shall never see the light of day or hear the Word of Truth. And so, to these faithless souls the Gospel will be so much foolishness, as in foolishness they die.
Your Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and is revealed in all Creation. But men who cannot see beyond the flesh quench the Spirit even as they engage in the destruction of their bodies. For the purity of your Creation they pervert, and so fail to stand in your holy light. O LORD, let us cleanse the inside of our cup that we might come to your glory!
Your eternal power and divinity help us to recognize, that filled with knowledge of you, O God, we may keep our hearts from being darkened by the false worship of this corrupted age.
Sun, 15 October 2017
(Rm.1:1-7; Ps.98:1-4; Lk.11:29-32)
“You have a greater than Jonah here.”
Greater than any prophet is He. Wiser than Solomon is the Lord who is the source of all wisdom. For it is He of whom the prophets speak; it is His promised coming “the Holy Scriptures record.” The fulfillment of prophets and kings is in our midst. Our high priest is with us offering the sacrifice of Himself. Let us thirst for Him as the Ninevites did for Jonah’s preaching and seek Him as the queen of the South for Solomon’s wisdom. Let us listen to His servant and apostle Paul as he proclaims the Gospel of God and come to “obedient faith” with all the Gentiles “who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Salvation is upon us as it is all nations.
If Jonah’s preaching was great, the Lord’s is the greater. If he converted thousands, Jesus turns millions to the love of God. If Solomon was wise, our Lord is so much the wiser. For though this great king spoke well of all things of the earth by the grace of God, the Christ comes now with the wisdom of the richness of heaven. And so now we are all “called to holiness, grace and peace.” It is these gifts which are imparted to us “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And by these blessings we become His children, greater indeed than any prophet or king of old.
Yes, the fulfillment has come. “The Lord has made His salvation known.” “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” His Word is brought forth even now, even this day to our hearts in the preaching of the Gospel that is Christ Jesus – “His resurrection from the dead” signals the redemption of all mankind. And so we celebrate. And so we “sing to the Lord a new song” as we, too, participate in His death and resurrection with the beloved apostle Paul, even as we come to the table set before us by His grace and holiness.
May that same “Spirit of holiness” which made Jesus “Son of God in power” now touch our souls and separate us from all that is unholy. May we respond in kind with the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching, that they might not condemn us on the last day for our lack of faith. May the wisdom which comes to us now by the grace poured forth from His lips sink into our hearts and find a place in our lives. For no greater than He shall we find; let us not be blind to this sign.
O LORD, how blessed are we to hear the Gospel! –
let us repent and reform our lives.
YHWH, you have made your salvation known in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Son. He indeed is our salvation, the very life of those who follow Him, who listen to His preaching and reform their lives – who join themselves to Him and to His Church. May we not be condemned for our deafness to His call but set our hearts on the wisdom that comes to us through Him and through His apostles, that indeed we might be saved and rejoice in your presence on the day of judgment. With Him let us be raised from the dead.
May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed to the ends of the earth that His Gospel might be the source of salvation for all souls. Let peoples come from the furthest corners of the world to hear that your promise has been fulfilled in your Son and the Spirit of holiness is now upon all who are obedient to His call. For this grace let us sing your praise, O LORD!
Sat, 14 October 2017
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Phil.4:12-14,19-20; Mt.22:1-14)
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines.”
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” It may be equated with “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” with “calves and fatted cattle ready to be eaten.” A great banquet is the kingdom of heaven!
But, of course, though we speak here of food and eating, we know that it is not this we should thus seek on this earth, for these things are but of the earth and are only used to help us understand the heavenly fruits which are ours in the kingdom of God. Paul makes this clear in his attitude toward food and the provisions that are of this world: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need,” and it truly matters not to him whether he is rich or poor in material things; all that matters is that we “can do all things in Him who strengthens” us – all that matter are the “glorious riches in Jesus Christ.” Food and feasting are but metaphors for the things that in this world are unseen.
However, it is so that “the feast is ready” even here on this earth. It is true that the Lord “spread[s] the table before” us even in this world, even “in the sight of [our] foes.” He does not leave us poor humans alone without real food to strengthen us for our journey. But this food is spiritual fare; His Body and Blood are not juicy and rich to our taste, to our bellies, but to our souls. This food nourishes the Spirit He has planted within us, and helps it ever to grow. Though real as our own flesh and our own blood, yet it truly is of heaven, and lends the glory of God to this bone of His bone.
“God will fully supply whatever you need,” brothers and sisters; have no fear of being in want and no anxiety to build up abundance on this earth. He indeed is beside you always, giving your soul blessed “repose.” Make it your aim to “dwell in the house of the Lord.” Then “on that day” He reveals His kingdom, you will “rejoice and be glad,” saying, “Behold, our God, to whom we looked to save us!” Then you will enter His presence forever. Prepare your soul for the wedding feast of heaven.
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, prepare us well to come into your House,
to enter into eternal life with you,
our God and Savior.
YHWH, you spread the table before us, a feast of your kingdom. Rich food and choice wines are ours even this day in the Body and Blood of your Son. Let us offer you due praise and thanks for all your provisions for our journey to you.
And when we come finally into your kingdom, LORD, where death has been destroyed and we stand in the light of your presence, our hearts shall leap up in absolute joy… and we shall remain with you forever.
But let our wedding garment be prepared this day. O LORD, let us find the purity we need to stand in your presence and rejoice in your glory. For yet our hearts are not set wholly on you – forgive our continual rejection of your grace.