Fri, 30 June 2017
(Gn.18:1-15; Lk.1:46-50,53-55; Mt.8:5-17)
“Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?”
Our theme again is faith. Do we believe as Abraham, as Mary, as the centurion? Only such trust will save us.
In our first reading the Lord appears to Abraham. We have here the marvelous scene of faith being born, being conceived. Abraham sits patiently, waiting, praying – expectant of the Lord’s return to confirm His word to him. Then, “looking up, he saw three men nearby.” There is the Lord before him. His reaction is one we all must learn to follow: he does not hesitate an instant. He runs to them, bows before them (even to the ground), and begs them to stay with him that he might serve them. With haste he has food prepared for them, “and he waited on them under the tree while they ate”; his eyes “like the eyes of a servant on the hand of his master” (Ps.123:2), he watches their every move to be certain they are well pleased. (In addition to this quote from Psalms, one cannot help but think of Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation (3:20): “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”)
As Abraham sits there gazing at the Lord, He speaks to His servant: “Where is your wife, Sarah?” Here comes that which Abraham has been longing to hear. His heart leaps up, and the Lord states His promise in no uncertain terms. Now Sarah laughs. But Abraham is no longer laughing. The Lord tests him with the question, “Why did Sarah laugh?” to show to Abraham that he no longer thinks the promise too marvelous for the Lord to fulfill. The Lord repeats the promise. Abraham believes to the depths of his soul; He knows the word spoken to him is of truth. And he shall take his wife in fruitful embrace.
How appropriate to hear Mary’s Magnificat in our daily bread, she who is the handmaiden of the Lord, who believed the words of the angel and so found the greatest blessing of the Lord and the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. How like Mary, the model of all the faithful, has her father Abraham come to be.
And, of course, our gospel finds Jesus marveling at the faith of the Roman centurion, greater than any He has found in Israel. It bodes well that all of faith shall be found at table in the kingdom of God, but we must heed Jesus’ warning that “the natural heirs will be driven out.” For we are the heirs of the Israelites. As Catholics we now hold the covenant. We have the apostolic succession, the sacraments, the teaching – all the gifts are ours. But have we the faith necessary to gain entrance into His kingdom; are we prepared to come to His table and dine with Him who feeds us with the food of everlasting life? Do we believe? This question the Lord puts on all our souls. How shall we answer?
O LORD, let us be quick to serve you
and you will make a place for us in your kingdom.
YHWH, instill faith in our very souls, the faith of Abraham and Mary, the faith the centurion shows even though he is not of your people. And we shall bear fruit in abundance; and your mercy shall be known to the ends of the earth.
Though our hearts be old and withered, O LORD, though we be beyond the age of giving birth, yet you come to us in your mercy and make us fruitful in your NAME. And so, what should we do but praise you? How ready we should be to obey your commands!
Look upon your servants in our lowliness. We are not worthy to have you come under our roof, yet your Son you give to us as our very food. We indeed should feed you, O God, but it is you who provide for our needs; by your hand we are fed each day at the table of sacrifice – we who have been so far from your face, you heal and bring near by a word from your mouth, and so we praise you in joy.
Thu, 29 June 2017
(Gn.17:1,9-10,15-22; Ps.128:1-5; Mt.8:1-4)
“Can Sarah give birth at ninety?”
Abraham laughs to himself as he asks the question; and indeed many scoff at the idea today, or simply choose to reason the possibility away. And can a leper be made clean in an instant, just by a touch of Jesus’ hand and the words “Be cured”? Is the arm of God, who created the universe, somehow shortened to such miracles? Why do we think it so? Wherefore our lack of faith?
God appears to this ninety-nine-year-old man and tells him whose wife is barren, in the words of our psalm: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.” And Abraham laughs. (As will Sarah, too, upon hearing such news – thus the name of their child Isaac: “he laughs”.) It’s an understandable reaction. Who would not find the thought humorous? But Abraham does something more than laugh: he also “prostrates himself” before the Lord, face to the floor. How many of our modern scoffers would do such as this? It is human to question, to doubt; but it is godly to humble oneself in faith. There is a world of difference between a laugh of wonder and the scoffing of the skeptic. The latter shall remain barren, never finding the living water that would make him fertile and fruitful; the former by his fear of the Lord opens himself to His favor, to His blessing – and such life-giving breath of blessing will make him bear fruit abundantly.
This humble faith is perfectly evident in the leper as well, and is indeed the catalyst of his healing. We are told the leper “came forward and did Him homage” – falling on his face like Abraham – and said to the Lord, “If you will to do so, you can cure me.” First he shows humility, he shows fear of the Lord; then he expresses his faith. Simply put, he believes in the power of God. And so he is healed. He is made whole, more whole indeed than the Pharisees and priests who stand by calculating how this can be.
God does not come to the proud. He does not show Himself to the self-righteous. He cannot. They refuse Him at every turn. To the humble of heart, to the poor in spirit, the Lord is present – and His blessings they receive. And miraculous are they beyond what the eye can see. Amen.
O LORD, free us from all our disease
by a word from your mouth,
as we bow humbly before you.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth the barren womb bears fruit; by a word from your mouth we are healed. Our reproach, our leprosy, is taken from those who come to you in faith, who bow before you in humility. Only in this way are we saved – only in this way are our lives of any worth.
In wonder we look upon your works, O LORD, in wonder and thanksgiving. How can we not give you praise for your blessings upon us? If we fear you and the hand you stretch forth to redeem our souls, we shall indeed know your blessings upon us through all generations.
Laughter you put into our mouths, dear LORD, as we look upon your hand at work. What joy you bring to the tired soul by your grace living amongst us! Though we seemed at the point of death, though disease had taken hold – you have freed us to walk with you… in all our days your will is done.
Tue, 27 June 2017
(Gn.15:1-12,17-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mt.7:15-20)
“Abram put his faith in the Lord,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”
In our gospel today, Jesus teaches us, “You can tell a tree by its fruit.” And what can we tell of Abram but that he is a bountiful tree, faithful and strong. Indeed, in his faith is his goodness, and in his children, who reach down even unto this day, his blessed fruit is known.
What holy, gentle conversation the Lord has with Abram, coming to him in visions to speak to his soul, to thus nourish this tree which He has planted upon the earth. And how faithful Abram is, patiently awaiting the growth which comes from God. Here, my friends, is the Lord’s relationship with man exemplified. This is how we should be with our God… seeking the Lord, asking Him the questions which are upon our hearts, believing Him as He speaks to us – as He surely does. For such is our God to us: coming to us in our fears, reassuring our souls, remaining ever faithful to us as He brings to maturity the fruit He has planted in our spirit. No doubt we should have of His blessing. His promise is sure.
And so with our psalmist we should celebrate; we should “glory in His holy name.” For we are “descendants of Abraham,” partakers of the faith brought to fulfillment in Jesus, fruit of the tree of life. And the Lord “remembers forever His covenant.” This grace we have been given shall never leave us; the life within us shall remain. And in our days, through our time, as we partake of our daily bread, the Lord continually speaks to us and blesses us, bringing our fruit to maturity as we progress and grow in His Name. And we shall look upon our children’s children. Our own trees shall indeed bear fruit in His light. We must but remain faithful to Him; we must but keep diligent as Abram who, though “birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,” stayed by his holy sacrifice.
We shall see the false prophets of our age come to naught; we shall see these trees “cut down and thrown into the fire.” And we will see and know the rebirth of true doctrine: our Church we will witness in all its heavenly glory. “Fear not!” the Lord says to Abram, and so He speaks to us. Our descendants shall be numerous as the stars. With all the children of God we shall rejoice. Keep faith in your hearts.
O LORD, how fruitful indeed is Abraham,
whose spiritual children surpass
the many nations born of his loins.
YHWH, let us be fruitful in your sight. Come to us and reassure us of your presence with us, of your blessing upon our souls, that we might enter into the Covenant you made with Abraham and be fruitful in faith as he. O let our descendants be as the stars in the sky.
O LORD, make us as your chosen ones, serving you constantly on this earth, and we shall rejoice forever in the glory of your kingdom with all your saints in light. Steadfast let us be in doing your will, in keeping the wolves at bay. May the sacrifice we offer be holy, and we be acceptable in your sight.
Your voice make known to us, LORD; let us hear and answer your call. A faith so simple and profound provide your disciples – make us as children before you. And as we seek you so, let us find you.... May the blood of your Son course through our veins, and so we bear fruit all our days in your holy NAME.
Mon, 26 June 2017
(Gn.13:2,5-18; Ps.15:1-5; Mt.7:6,12-14;)
“How narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road,
and how few there are who find it!”
In our first reading today, the way Abram walks with God is contrasted with the path Lot chooses for himself. Though the road seems wide and clear, this gate leads to damnation, and indeed, as our gospel states, is one which is chosen by the traveler himself; whereas the narrow path is one which is found in God.
Lot and Abram could no longer dwell together; their possessions were too great and the tensions were too high among their servants. Taking “no reproach against his neighbor,” acting as the just soul spoken of in our psalm, “Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife between you and me,’” and put the whole land at his disposal, offering to take what remained. So “Lot looked about,” Scripture tells us, to see what pleased his eyes, and then “chose for himself,” again the words of Scripture, that broad expanse of land which he thought would be fruitful for his needs. And where does this decision he takes by the sight of his own eyes lead him? To the depraved, to the reprobate, to the dogs and swine – to the infamous land of Sodom, whose people “were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord.” To such we are led by our senses.
Once Lot is gone, how is Abram led to his destination – are his feet led by his own eyes as well? No, the Lord comes to Him as guide. It is He who tells him to “set forth and walk about in the land.” It is again God and his faith which serve as his light. And what promise there is by way of this path! But what difficulties one must face to attain it.
When Abram arrived at his destination, “he built an altar to the Lord.” (In what contrast is this altar to the unholy sacrifices offered at Sodom.) The altar of Abram signifies both the faith of this just man and the sacrifice necessary to walk with God and find the life to which He leads us. We know that Abram’s path will be particularly rough, as will be that of his descendants. There will be slavery and wandering in the desert, and once come into the land of promise, it shall not remain with them. Indeed, it is only we now in the Spirit following the coming of Christ for whom that promise is fulfilled. And yet do we struggle. And yet every day must we examine our conscience and reform our lives to prepare ourselves to enter that gate which is so narrow. No sin will it accept. No foolish pride can exist in our hearts if we hope to enter life.
The way is rough, but what blessed protection the Lord gives by His guidance; and we “shall never be disturbed” by the trials of this world but come thereby to the sure promise of heaven.
O LORD, the wide road of the world
leads to damnation;
the narrow gate of the Cross of Christ
takes us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us be just, as Abraham, and as faithful to your Word. Not by our own eyes let us set forth, but led by your command. Your narrow way let us follow, the way that leads to life.
The just man thinks only the truth in his heart, and does not slander his fellow man. He is a man of peace who takes up no reproach against his neighbor but gives him preference of place. This is what it means to treat others as we would be treated, for when we give others such deference (as Abraham does for Lot), you, O LORD, defer to us… and we are truly blessed. For no one is as just as you.
Let us come to know your justice, LORD, and we shall be kept from the dogs and swine. Through the narrow gate let us enter and not the gate that is clear and wide, and we shall be preserved from all evil – for you will be at our side. And though the Cross does enter into our lives, it only serves to bless us with passage into your Promised Land.
Sun, 25 June 2017
(Gn.12:1-9; Ps.33:12-13,18-20,22; Mt.7:1-5)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
There is a plank in our own eye; there is but a speck in our brother’s. This is what the Lord sees. And this is what we see if we fear the Lord. If we fear the Lord, we remain humble before Him. If we fear the Lord, we will be released from judgment. If we fear the Lord, we indeed will be as Abram, following His blessed commands.
“Abram went as the Lord directed him,” our first reading tells us so aptly today. He left his father’s house at a word from God and followed wherever God led, his path illumined only by faith. He walked not by his eyes but only by his faith in the Lord’s promise to him; the Lord became his eyes and he trusted himself and all his family and all his possessions to these eyes which watched over him. In darkness and in quiet he sets out, the Lord as his only light and His voice as his only guide. Such faith, such blessed faith and humility.
Such faith must we all have, brothers and sisters, for it cannot be otherwise but that the Lord calls each one of us to such faith, to such trust; He calls each of us from our “father’s house” to walk with Him alone and find our way in His presence. Do we fear Him? Do we love Him? Are we humble before Him? If so, we will know the path upon which the Lord leads us; we will hear His voice speaking quietly in our ears and in our hearts. And we will follow Him. And He will bless us and fulfill His own call for our lives. He will remove the plank from our eyes and grace us with the ability to remove the speck from others’. He will be our wisdom in teaching, our strength in serving. We will not go forth vainly in our own power, but will know His hand guiding us in all we do, for all will be done in His Name. Then great things will be accomplished in us. Then we become sharers in the promise of Abraham.
The Lord is our God. He watches over. He judges. He leads. All healing and all grace and blessing come from His hand and not our own. Our eyes see only what is before us; His illumine the universe. But we may share in His vision, we may partake of His presence, if we have faith, if we humble ourselves before Him and go as He directs.
And as He blesses us so with His guidance, as we find ourselves coming into His kingdom, let us not fail to build an altar to His Name, let us remember to praise Him for His grace. And we shall find our path sure; and in time we shall come “by stages” to eternal life.
O LORD, let us not judge, but love;
let us go as you direct us.
YHWH, who can see as you see, who has vision so pure? Only he who repents of his sin and obediently follows your way, walking in harmony with his brother. If we are not humble, we are blind, for your power is not known to us. We shall remain in darkness forever if we do not come to faith in you.
Let us be faithful as Abraham; let us reflect his obedience to your Word. Let us listen this day to your Son and turn from hardness of heart and judgment of others that your kindness may be upon us, O LORD. If we are not kind and forgiving, neither shall we be forgiven, but rather bring condemnation upon our own souls – O let us repent of such blindness!
Save us, O LORD, from the death of sin, from vain pride; preserve our souls in this land of famine, in this foreign place. Let us leave behind the idols of this age and build an altar in our hearts to you. You are our God, you alone. Help us to leave all behind to find your way, walking humbly with one another. Then our eyes shall be opened.
Sat, 24 June 2017
(Jer.20:10-13; Ps.69:8-10,14,17,33-35; Rom.5:12-15; Mt.10:26-33)
“For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.”
Jeremiah “hear[s] the whisperings of many” who seek to “denounce him”; those who “watch for any misstep” plot his destruction: “Perhaps he will be trapped, then we can prevail, and take our revenge on him.” Like David he has “become an outcast to [his] brothers, a stranger to [his] mother’s children.” And for what does he suffer such persecution but for speaking the truth of God’s word to his fellow Israelites? As David declares to the Lord, “The insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me”; both the prophet and the king endure persecution for righteousness’ sake.
But both prophet and king declare victory in their struggle: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” Through the power of God it is they who “will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” The Lord hears their pleas for help, their prayers come before Him, “for the Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” And so both king and prophet end in joy, in utter hope, as David proclaims, “Let the heavens and the earth praise Him, the seas and whatever moves in them”; and Jeremiah likewise calls all to honor our unfailing God: “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for He has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.”
And, brothers and sisters, in what greater way is this salvation from the grasp of evil better known, more fully realized, than in our Lord Jesus Christ? Paul tells us, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and this death came to all men.” What greater persecutor have we than death itself? But now “the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many” – now all are saved by Him who has died, and has risen. Its clutches no longer hold dominion.
So Jesus exhorts the Twelve, and all who would conquer death and all sin, to “fear no one”: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” What power has the prince of this world over our immortal souls now that Jesus has come? He can’t touch us by his persecutions; and so now we are called to “proclaim on the housetops” what we “hear whispered” by the Lord in our hearts. Now with Jeremiah and David we must fearlessly “speak in the light,” for the Lord has made us a promise, and His Word is true – “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” But if we deny Him, He will deny us. Therefore, let us be heedless of the shame and the pain we share with our Savior and never fear to declare His truth in love to all. Nothing is greater than the power of His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us declare your glory,
you who set us free from the bonds of sin and death –
you who are our Savior!
YHWH, you have raised us from the power of sin and death, from the strength of our persecutors which we could not match. In the bonds of Satan we have been, and under his threat we dwelt in fear. But your Son has come to set us free that we might walk in liberty with Him and proclaim your holy Name to all the earth. Praise you, LORD! Thank you for your goodness to us. Let us live in your light.
O LORD, how hopeless we were, trapped in the bonds of death and sin. How could we hope when so oppressed that everywhere we looked we saw but emptiness and fear. But when we called out to you, you heard our plea… and your Son you sent into our midst to save us from all evil. Let us now with great zeal declare your glory, LORD, though it mean we must die for you. For in this death, this dying in your Name, indeed life comes to us once again.
To you we entrust our cause, dear LORD, and you are ever faithful. Save all men from the evil one!
Thu, 22 June 2017
(Dt.7:6-11; Ps.103:1-4,8,10,17; 1Jn.4:7-16; Mt.11:25-30)
“He has loved us
and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.”
Who better to hear from on this blessed feast than John, the Lord’s beloved disciple, whose words indeed continually breathe the fact that “God is love” and who eternally exhorts us to “love one another.” John cannot but speak of the love God has for His children and the love we must offer in return; and all of our Scripture today echoes his understanding and calls us to be washed in the blood of Christ.
In our gospel Jesus calls unto the hearts of all: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” He invites His little ones: “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” O so gentle and humble of heart is the Lord our God… so loving, so kind! David sings of Him so well in his psalm of praise and thanksgiving: “Merciful is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” Why does God’s king “bless the Lord” with “all [his] being” today? Because “not according to our sins does He deal with us.” Because of His forgiving grace – this greatest sign of His love, embodied in His only Son. And so, as Moses says to all the people in our hearing on this holy feast, we should “love Him and keep His commandments,” for He is “the faithful God who keeps His merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation.” Yes, this covenant of love has been fulfilled in Jesus’ blood, in Jesus’ heart from which His blood does come, and “when anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God”; then we “come to know and believe in the love God has for us.”
And to whom does the love of God come so readily? Who finds such faith in the Lamb of God and knows that “He pardons all [our] iniquities” and “crowns [us] with kindness and compassion”? Jesus in His prayer to the Father states, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children,” and this is confirmed by Moses, who tells the Israelites, “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.” It is not the strong and the wise of the world the Lord showers His love upon, but the humble and the lowly. These know the love the mighty and humble, gentle Lord holds in His Sacred Heart. Alleluia!
Brothers and sisters, “it was because the Lord loved you… that He brought you out with a strong hand from the place of slavery.” Let your soul “find rest” in that merciful love this day, and let it share that love with all others.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, how you love us!
sending your only Son to die for our salvation –
let us come to Him this day and know your love.
YHWH, so loving you are that you share your very self with us in the Person of the Son of God, in Jesus the Christ. How is it love come to us so truly? How is it you, who are love, make yourself known to us in such a real way? It is because you are love and desire therefore to share love with us, your poor creatures.
O LORD, you forgive all our sins, you heal all our ills… all that is evil you take from us that we might be one with you who are love. O that we might have a heart so humble and lowly as your own! that we might truly come to know your love, that we might truly come to be your own children. Let us share your love with one another and we shall find ourselves living in your love.
In you let us take our rest, O LORD, in your Sacred Heart. Jesus is your very heart and His blood you would have course through our veins. O let His Heart beat in our own, that overwhelmed with His love we might become one with you in Heaven. Give us your Spirit of love this day to make us your own people, your own flesh and blood.
Wed, 21 June 2017
(2Cor.11:1-11; Ps.111:1-4,7-8; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
And what we need is to be holy as He is holy. And it is this we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. We simply seek to be like Him, and that all obstacles to holiness be removed from us. And like a loving father He meets our needs.
And Paul is a father to the community at Corinth; he loves them “with the jealousy of God Himself.” He has given them in marriage to Christ and is solicitous that the wedding chamber not be corrupted by false doctrine. “Super apostles” have come among them who “win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words,” rattling on like empty wind and taking money from Paul’s children for the sound and the fury they bring. But they signify nothing by all their skill; they are but ravenous wolves amidst the flock.
Paul says of himself, “I may be unskilled in speech but I know that I am not lacking in knowledge”; and how his words echo Christ’s own, that we should not get lost in mere words. And how like a father knowing and caring for the needs of his children is Paul. In our psalm, too, is reflected the Father’s “gracious and merciful” nature which Paul shows to the Corinthians: “Sure are all His precepts… wrought in truth and equity.” This knowledge of God is what must be conveyed, and it is this Paul offers the people.
And like a caring father who provides sacrificially for his children, Paul refuses to take return from them for his work: his work among them is a labor of love for which he seeks no recompense. By this they must learn how freely God gives to those who seek Him and be purged of their notion that it is those whom they pay, and greatly, who care for them. Indeed, the Father knows always what we need, and gives it freely to those who simply come as repentant children. He exacts no cost and requires no dramatics to receive His presence and His love.
Forgive my folly here, but why do you turn to the icons and idols of this glamorous age to find the peace you seek, when in His Church the Father waits to answer all your needs? Do not be led astray by the powerful-seeming images which surround us in this day; come to the Lord of all, and before Him in silence kneel and pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.”
O LORD, you know what we need
and provide our food, the Bread He is,
through the apostles.
YHWH, let us not be seduced by our pride – it is not by our own words and our own will we shall come to Heaven. It is you who must inspire us; we must but be your humble servants. Then great deeds will be accomplished in us, for it will be your work alone that we do.
You, O LORD, are faithful and just to all who call upon you in truth, to all who have faith in your enduring love. Those who share your mercy with others are blessed with freedom from all cares, for in your mercy the evil one finds no place. Let all souls pray to you and know that you desire to give us all we need.
You are not blind, O LORD, to our plight; we know nothing of which you are unaware. And so let us not reach out our hands to the fruit of disobedience – let us not seek in ourselves or in those around us the glory that comes only from you. Then we shall remain in your Garden forever, doing the work for which you made us. Then we shall be wed to your Son.
Tue, 20 June 2017
(2Cor.9:6-11; Ps.112:1-4,9; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Keep your deeds of mercy secret,
and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
In the ground, hidden and secret, the seed is planted. From the womb of the earth it sprouts, and gives its yield. We plant the seed; God provides the seed. And it is through His power that anything which we plant grows and increases. So it is with our generous acts, as well as our prayer and fasting.
“Happy the man who fears the Lord… His generosity shall endure forever.” For “He who supplies seed for the sower and bread for the eater will provide in abundance; He will multiply the seed you sow and increase your generous yield.” Trusting in Him, we shall know His blessings; and greater blessings than these shall we know and shall others know, who praise God for the gifts He provides. Wonderful it is to behold God’s ever-increasing generosity; more wonderful yet to participate in it. It is a fountain welling up to eternal life, in which we are cleansed and made of light.
But let us take to heart the warning of the Lord this day: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for others to see.” The world does not see God, it cannot know God. Thus God is termed “hidden” and “secret.” And though we are to make God known to the world, we cannot do so unless we exist where He is. In the recesses of our heart, in the quiet, we shall find Him. In the center of our being we must place Him. Closing the doors of our rooms, entering the stillness of our souls… kneeling there we shall find Him. And He shall hear us, and He shall reward us with the blessing of answered prayer, of fruitful yield in His Name. If we do not remain with Him there in secret – even in the midst of the city, even among the distractions of this world – all our actions will be in vain. It does us no good to gain the whole world and lose our souls; and all our good deeds are empty show without Him who is goodness at their core.
“He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” Let us know the blessing of bearing fruit in God. Let us give generously, knowing that for all the good we do, the Lord will provide yet more seed for us to sow, and we shall reap in abundance His heavenly blessings. If we do all without fanfare, but quietly, humbly, secretly trusting all to His care – the blessing of His presence we shall keep with us, and we shall see our works and our prayers bear fruit in the kingdom of God.
May God bless all humble souls with His bounty.
May He reveal Himself to their hearts.
O LORD, let us give all we have,
and give always from the heart,
and we will be giving with you…
and you will increase our yield.
YHWH, let us cheerfully give to you all we have; all we have is from you and so it is but justice that we place all in your hands. You will multiply our offering if in sincerity we sacrifice it to you.
In secret let us keep our deeds of mercy; hidden in the depths of our soul, let them grow by your Spirit. In the stillness you reside, and so, there we shall find you. There you shall hear and bless our prayers. O LORD, let our prayers rise up to you!
Help us to trust in you, dear God, and in your generous love. You wish to bless us with all that is good but cannot do so unless we believe in your goodness, unless we reflect your grace and mercy in our lives. We are called to live with you and remain with you. Let the light of faith dawn upon us this day.
Then we shall fear nothing; then we shall live in awe of your presence, LORD. Your glory dwelling in us and shining through us, we shall be greatly blessed. Then we shall give freely to all!
Mon, 19 June 2017
(2Cor.8:1-9; Ps.146:2,5-9; Mt.5:43-48)
“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
Our psalm today begins with praise of God and the proclamation of the happiness of those “whose hope is in the Lord,” for it is He who “gives food to the hungry” and “raises up those that were bowed down.” Freeing captives, giving sight to the blind, protecting strangers… such is our God and Father. And in our gospel Jesus tells us, “You are sons of your heavenly Father,” and “you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be His image, doing the things He does.
Paul presents Jesus, the only Son of the Father, as our model in generosity. In his gentle reminder he states: “For your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty.” He also presents to us the Macedonians, whose “overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity.” And Jesus makes clear that our generosity, our “sharing in the service” of God, must extend beyond our friends. The Father makes no distinction – “His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust” – and so we are challenged “to know the grace of God” completely by giving our love to all, even as Christ’s arms are open to everyone as He hangs on the cross.
How is it that poverty produces such generosity? And how can we share in both with our God? The poverty of which the Apostle speaks and which Jesus exemplifies and calls us to follow is the emptying of self of all which is our own, and in the very act of emptying, of giving, is generosity itself. Whether it be a man of riches handing over his money or a man of great love performing acts of kindness, he who has is divesting himself of that which he has to enrich another. We remember that when the woman touched the hem of His garment, Jesus perceived power had gone forth from Him (Mk.5:30). Here is that emptying of love to heal the other. And on the cross, of course, Jesus emptied Himself completely… and so He died.
Should we be afraid, brothers and sisters, of sharing so completely in Jesus’ love? Do we think that if we give to others, we will have nothing remaining for ourselves? Is Jesus hanging on the cross the end of the story? No, brothers and sisters, we should not be afraid. We must see, indeed, that the more we give, whether of money or of love, the more we are bound to receive. Do you think that God does not see your generosity? Do you not realize that He rewards those who are His children? Do you think Christ still hangs on the cross?
Come to the holiness of God, brothers and sisters; there is no greater grace on earth. Give of yourselves entirely, love even your enemies, and you shall know in ineffable wonder the surpassing love of God for all. Such is our call and our joy.
O LORD, let us be perfect as you are perfect,
loving as Jesus on the Cross –
we will not know you otherwise.
YHWH, how shall we be made perfect as you are perfect; how shall we love as Jesus on the Cross? You alone are generous in giving. You are only of love. Help us to be unsparing as you who have given us your only Son.
It is you who provide seed, you who provide bread. We can produce no nourishment for our lives or the lives of others by our own hands. All is yours, but you will give abundantly to those who seek to love as you. All we need we will have, O LORD, and more, if we empty ourselves of all we own.
O make us ready to give all over to you, to love as you do! Let us not be afraid to share our very lives even with those who would kill us. To them let us give more freely, for they need your love all the more. You cannot but help love all those in need, LORD, to feed the hungry, to give sight to the blind, to set captives free… and we who hope in you, what else can we do but reflect your eternal glory?
Sun, 18 June 2017
(2Cor.6:1-10; Ps.98:1-4; Mt.5:38-42)
“When a person strikes you on the right cheek,
turn and offer him the other.”
“Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” Alleluia! And how do we know the salvation of the Lord except by the cross. This is our joy. These “difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots”; the “hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings” – these crosses bring us immeasurable joy, for through them we share in the suffering of Christ and so also in His resurrection glory. Thus the Lord can encourage us not to seek to avoid such suffering; thus He instructs us to be prepared to suffer over and above that which comes to us – for He knows that as we give of ourselves in this ready way, as we lay down our lives without hesitation, we shall find ourselves in the hand of God, we shall come quickly to join Him in heaven. With Paul, we must “present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials,” and His salvation will be made known in us. And we will rejoice with Paul in all our sorrows. And we will be able to exclaim with him, “We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!” For the fullness of Christ will reside with us.
Give. Give, and do not count the cost. How hard it is for us to freely give of our possessions, much less of our very lives. Are we ready to “give to the man who begs” from us? Are we prepared to care for others’ needs? Or do we hold tightly to our possessions, calling them our own? And what of the possession of our pride and the protection of ourselves from injury? What of our judgment of others? Are we ready to give these up so completely? Can we turn the other cheek to those who do us wrong, offering the pain to God and finding great comfort there, or do we need to strike back against the offending party, exacting the retribution due us according to the law? Do we indeed live by the law, or have we transcended the law: do we now live by the Law of love? Are we a new creation in Christ?
It is not easy to lay down our lives in such a way as Christ calls us. The world ever mocks the absurdity of this sacrifice. But we who are in Jesus should know the absolute truth of Paul’s words and Jesus’ instruction. If we are to be Christians, we must know the joy and freedom that come from suffering all with Him who is our salvation. He is all that matters. If we have Him, we have all things. Come to this truth, brothers and sisters; leave behind the fears wrought by attachment to the things of this world. This world is of sin, anyway. As we lose our possessions for Him, He gives us all the more. As the body dies, the spirit comes to life. What the devil would take from us, let us give him, for he cannot touch the life that is Christ: our souls are in the hand of God. And, as with Job, all will be restored to us, and more, in the day of the Lord. So, “wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left,” let us learn always to turn the other cheek to our persecutors.
O LORD, grant us the grace to endure all trials
in patience and with love,
that we may give witness to your salvation at work in us.
YHWH, your salvation has come to us, and it comes in the form of a Cross; in the suffering and death of your Son we are set free to rejoice in you. Though we seem to have nothing, though we be beaten and robbed, yet Jesus is with us, and with Him everything is ours. O let us accept the salvation that He brings this day! Let us be patient amid all trials and we will know your presence among us.
Help us, dear LORD, to walk with your Son on the way of the Cross. He is struck repeatedly; He is stripped and forced to carry the burden of our sin. We beg you not to turn your back on us, though we have turned our backs on Him. Help us to do what we are unable to do – to give witness to the truth and love of the Christ… to endure all as He has done.
O to be disciples of Him who saves us! O to know His holy innocence and unending life! O to sing with joy to you, dear God, in the unbreakable Spirit of your Son.
Sat, 17 June 2017
(Dt.8:2-3,14b-16a; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; 1Cor.10:16-17; Jn.6:51-58)
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
“Not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.” And here is the Word standing before our eyes. Here is the Bread that gives us life. Here is Jesus Christ, in this Blessed Sacrament, nourishing all our lives.
Yes, His “flesh is true food, and [His] blood is true drink,” for it feeds not only our bodies, but our souls as well, anointing us with His presence, joining us to His sacrifice. And so it becomes His flesh we carry in our bodies; so it becomes His blood running in our veins. For, as Paul asks so pointedly, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” And so, do we not become like our God, who comes to us so humbly in this food, who becomes one with our own flesh and blood? Is heaven not here with us and within us as we eat of His presence? Or does He lie about His gift?
Brothers and sisters, nothing more wonderful could the mind of man conceive than this blessed gift we receive at the hands of our own Savior. It is a wonder beyond our understanding and yet a wonder truly present with us, as real as our own flesh and blood. As the Lord “fed [the Israelites] in the desert with manna, a food unknown to [their] fathers,” so we feed now on this food unknown to all – this bread of the angels. And though our doubting hearts may question, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat,” when we partake of this Sacrament of the altar, we find no question remaining; for in faith we taste His glory.
Over and over Jesus repeats His refrain: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,” knowing how slow we are to hear, so slow of heart to believe – how easily we “forget the Lord, [our] God, who brought [us] out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” And falling back to the “waterless ground,” we fall away from His table and fail to realize that “with the best of wheat He fills” us. But listen to Him. Come to Him. Eat. Drink. Do not have unbelieving hearts – but believe! Be as children, pure and lowly, and “glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion,” and what is beyond your understanding will become the light of your understanding, and lead you to eternal life. He has given His “flesh for the life of the world.” Live in Him, brothers and sisters. Live in Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Body of Christ" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, how you provide for us!
giving us even your Son’s Body and Blood
to nourish us on our journey to you.
YHWH, feed us with your Son’s Body and Blood, for He alone is the finest wheat and the drink that lasts unto eternity.
Apart from you we are dead in our sin, LORD, wandering aimlessly in this desert filled with snakes. But He came indeed to save us, to share with us the life that is you. As to an oasis we come to Him, and He does not fail to revive us at His table, at the altar of His sacrifice.
O LORD, may we ever find nourishment in Jesus; each day let us be fed by His Word and His Sacrament, which makes that Word so real… real as the blood coursing through our veins. He indeed took flesh for our sakes, and now by His sacrifice that flesh He leaves with us in this Bread of the angels.
Let us never turn from Him, LORD, but participate always in His Body and Blood. Make us your children, make us like Him, the Word made flesh to join us to you.
Fri, 16 June 2017
(2Cor.5:14-21; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mt.5:33-37)
“The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction
that since one died for all, all died.”
How strong is Paul’s “yes” for the Lord. With what ardor does he cry out: “The old order is passed away; now all is new!” How purely he is led in the Spirit to call to our very souls, “In Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” He has no need to swear by earth or heaven of his conviction that Jesus died for our salvation. He is indeed a new creation and can but speak of that which he knows to the depths of his soul; driven by the miracle of his own reconciliation to God, he desires naturally – by the supernatural grace at work within him – to draw others to “become the very holiness of God.”
Paul sings out with our psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being bless His holy name.” He cries out with David: “He pardons all your iniquities, He heals all your ills.” This is the truth which impels him, which he cannot but preach – that our sins are forgiven in Christ the Lord and we need but to come to Him to be raised up to new life. This is His ministry of reconciliation; this is the message entrusted to him… and he must appeal for God’s holy will to be accomplished in us.
Let me join in his shout, let me state so unequivocally – let us all be convicted with Paul of the love God has for us, of the death He has died for us… of the new life we have in Him. Yes, let us indeed shout it from the rooftops, let us cry it out for all to hear. Many are on the path to destruction, many are dying in their transgressions; all are inclined to the condemnation the devil has wrought in our lives, and all must be encouraged, all must hear the exhortation to turn from their sins. May we give our “yes” firmly to God and our “no” firmly to the devil, that others might know in our very lives of the holiness of God and the glory to which He calls us.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord”: this the world must know. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us”: this the sinful heart wallowing in the darkness of doubt must hear. The blood of Christ must be shown to all. Let us not hesitate to speak the great truth of God’s salvation through Christ the Son. Let us not fail to live His new life every day of our lives.
The Lord calls. The sound of His voice is unmistakable. All our sin is dead in Him; through Him we are raised to life. May this Word go forth to the ends of the earth, and may we help carry it there.
O LORD, by Jesus’ grace let us be reconciled to you –
let us say Yes to Him and No to the world.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you. Let us be a new creation through Christ your Son and give our ‘yes’ ever to your will. Sure of soul let us be, of the salvation you bring in Jesus and His messengers. He has died for our sakes that we might be raised with Him. O let our transgressions be far from us this day!
What kindness you show to your wayward sons, O LORD. None of us has been found worthy of your kingdom, but in Jesus all our sins you wash away that we might stand in your presence. May all hear the call of the Apostle to our souls and be reconciled to you in Jesus’ Name. May all know the grace and mercy you offer freely forth.
Make us simple and make us sure; let us in all things do your will, giving our ‘yes’ to you and our ‘no’ firmly to the evil one. Then to Heaven we will come, LORD, to dwell with you upon your throne – O let us enter the New Jerusalem as your sons and daughters impelled only by your love.
Thu, 15 June 2017
(2Cor.4:7-15; Ps.116:10-11,15-18; Mt.5:27-32)
“While we live we are constantly being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake,
so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh.”
In our gospel we continue to see how the grace of Jesus supersedes the Law of Moses. Yesterday we were told not only must we not murder, but that we must not even be angry with or speak ill of another. Today Jesus tells us the commandment against adultery applies even to our eyes, to our thoughts, and that God allows no divorce… And of what does Jesus speak but that which Paul tells us as well – that our bodies, our sinful flesh, must die in order for the glory of God contained therein to shine. Jesus makes this graphically apparent when He speaks of gouging out our eye and cutting off our hand: the body must provide no hindrance to entering the reign of God, and so it must die; sin must indeed be rooted out of us.
“In earthen vessels” we are, weak and mortal, subject to the afflictions of time. The trials of this world therefore do not escape us and indeed are necessary for us to overcome, to purify, our mortal flesh. We must be chastised. We must suffer. But we do not suffer in vain. “We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed.” The trials of this earth have no ultimate hold over us; in fact, they do not lead to death but to life. Why? Solely because it is “the dying of Jesus” we carry in our bodies; entirely because we unite our suffering to Christ’s, it becomes redemptive and not destructive. “We have that Spirit of faith,” and that Spirit of faith is life to us even in our greatest afflictions; and that Spirit of faith turns the deaths we undergo to new life. How? By our overcoming of these deaths and thereby giving death to sin.
A man is addicted to alcohol – this is a temptation and an affliction for him. By the power of Christ and faith in His Name, he puts down the bottle. Who can measure the grace at work in him? Who can capture the life he now knows? And we all have our addictions, be they anger or lust or greed or whatever, and they all must be overcome. And as we overcome them, what freedom do we find. For in this we thwart the devil’s plan to bring us to destruction by the weakness of the flesh. He does not like to see our faith in Jesus spawning such resurrections. And neither does the world like to see a man make progress in God. So the afflictions will be doubled; the world and the devil will attack our weak human vessels all the more. But “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones”; and the more we set aside the sins of the flesh, the more He will bless us – the greater He will preserve us from evil.
He that is in us is far greater than he that is in the world, brothers and sisters. And the more the devil tempts us, the stronger only do we become, because the God of life holds even this purveyor of death in His all-powerful hand. We must but have faith and we will find life; through all our afflictions we will rejoice.
O LORD, all must be sacrificed
for the sake of the kingdom,
and in the death of this mortal flesh we shall find life.
YHWH, how sweet is the death of your faithful ones who unite themselves to the dying of your Son! How blessed is the fruit of such sacrifice! For not only is life revealed in the flesh of those who die for the sake of Jesus, but also in those to whom such witness speaks. And so, indeed, let our bodies die, our earthen vessels be broken, that our spirits might live forever with you in Heaven.
O LORD, despite the afflictions that come, though we are indeed delivered to death, yet we shall pay our vows in the presence of all your people; yet we shall remain faithful to our call to serve you by laying down our lives. For we are not adulterers and we wish for no lover but you alone. May we be wed to your Son in His sacrifice that we might be wed to Him in glory!
All our bonds you loose, O LORD, when we are prepared to die, when we hold to nothing of this sinful life. And so we shall not despair nor be destroyed even as we bleed for you and the love of our neighbor.
Wed, 14 June 2017
(2Cor.3:15-4:1,3-6; Ps.85:9-14; Mt.5:20-26)
“See the splendor of the gospel showing forth the glory of Christ.”
Today the gospel is preached: Jesus, the image of God, has come among us, “glory dwelling in our land,” and removed the veil from our understanding so that now we “are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The words of life are spoken by the Lord; the Holy Spirit comes amongst us as light to illumine our minds and lead us beyond the bounds of the law to the kingdom of God itself. And we must live in that light, we must make it our own, becoming children of the light of the Spirit of God, “that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.” He has indeed come amongst us, salvation is at hand, and we must become perfect as the Father is perfect, as Jesus who is the pure reflection of the Father is perfect – we must allow the Spirit to remove any taint of darkness from our souls.
Jesus tells us, “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Here He means that the law may lead us out of Egypt, it may serve to release us from the bonds of this world of sin, but this guard we have while treading this earth is not enough to bring us into the promised land, into the heavenly kingdom to which we are called. And as long as we concern ourselves only with fulfilling the minimal requirements of the law (not to murder, not to commit adultery…), we will continue to suffer; we will remain unfulfilled. Jesus calls us to greater than that: He calls us into His very light of perfection in the presence of the Father. This call is implanted upon the soul of each one of us, and as long as we ignore it, as long as we veil our minds to the depth and the breadth of this call to perfection with Christ… as long as we say, “Well, I haven’t killed anyone,” and stop there… so long we will remain unsatisfied, so long will the fires burn – so long will we be in prison paying the last penny.
Jesus is calling you now, brothers and sisters; Paul and all the true preachers of Holy Church are calling you now to remove the veil from your eyes, to come into the Lord’s light – to cease to make excuses for your sins, however small they may seem – to seek perfection in Christ… to find the kingdom of God. The Spirit will aid you in your journey; He will be with you every step of your walk on the way of perfection, be assured of this. The Lord does not call us to Himself and then leave us alone to struggle vainly. He is with us through all our trials. But we must come to Him and live in His light of purity, and shine that light for others to see.
O LORD, your kingdom comes
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
who purges us of sin
and makes us shine with His radiance.
YHWH, your glory shines now in our midst in the face of Christ, and He calls us to that same glory by the Spirit that is within us. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world; let us make known your glory by our words and actions.
In the way of salvation we walk, insofar as we follow the commands of your Son and His love. He calls us to dwell with you, O LORD, to reconcile with one another and be perfect as you are perfect – to find our holiness fulfilled. We fall short as long as we limit ourselves to the principles of the law; your glory is far beyond the basics of the law, and it is to your glory and your love Jesus calls us.
What a gift is ours in Christ! Union with you, dear Father in Heaven! Let us not be blinded by the god of the present age, by unbelieving minds, but let the veil be lifted from our faces to gaze upon the glory of your Son and so be transformed into that glory by the Spirit upon us. Alleluia!
Tue, 13 June 2017
(2Cor.3:4-11; Ps.99:5-9; Mt.5:17-19)
“Not the smallest letter of the law,
not the smallest part of a letter,
shall be done away with until it all comes true.”
Jesus comes to fulfill the law and the prophets. The law watches over us while we are here in this world. It guards us and puts to death the sin that is inherent in our earthly nature. There is great glory in this blessed protection, as is witnessed in our psalm today – “Holy is the Lord, our God” – because it acquaints us with God’s justice and, as said, watches vigilantly over us to maintain our standing in the presence of God. But the law does not bring us to the fullness of God’s love; it does not bring us into the heavenly kingdom and “the glory that endures.” Moses brings the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan, but he does not cross over with them. He looks out over the Promised Land from his place on the mountaintop, but does not enter therein. It is Joshua who leads the people into the land promised through Moses (as even he does in today’s Office of Readings). And so it is Jesus who brings us to the heavenly kingdom by His law of love.
In speaking elsewhere of the glory of love (1Cor.13:8), Paul tells us that prophecy shall fail and tongues shall cease but love is eternal, favored well beyond any other gift. Prophecies speak of earthly matters and the law is for our earthly nature, but love speaks of God and heaven. We must be very careful to heed the words of Christ and realize that as long as we are in this world and subject to the sin that our flesh brings, the law has a prominent place in our lives and cannot be jettisoned prematurely – as many advocate by their lack of diligence to its precepts, presuming heaven before its time – yet we must always remember that it is the glory of heaven and not of earth to which Jesus calls us, and that there the law will be fulfilled; there we shall be made perfect in the light of God.
The law is “destined to pass away” only insofar as it is fulfilled, and therefore it never really passes away but is subsumed by a greater law. Let us continue to glory in the chastising hand of God and in the service of purification the law provides us. Let us come by its means to the flesh of Christ, and by the grace of God enter fully into Him.
Jesus is our Promised Land, brothers and sisters; with the law as our guide, but above all with faith in our hearts, let us come into His holy, eternal, loving presence. We have the manna of the Eucharist to share this day; tomorrow we shall feast in fullness on the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ.
O LORD, your commands must be fulfilled
or they shall remain, along with our sin.
YHWH, you are holy and your glory surpasses all that is of heaven and earth. Though we are your creation and you are present to us, though you are with us even in the law you gave to Moses, and though we need your law to purge us of all evil, to put to death the deeds of the flesh… yet in such death we are not fulfilled. We must come to join you in your glory; we must find life in you.
And so, O holy LORD, your Son walks among us, not to destroy the law or contradict the prophets who call us from our wayward path, but to fulfill their voice by the very presence of the Word. Now your holiness has taken flesh, and so at your mountain we can worship in Spirit and in truth. Now we may enter your kingdom.
It is in Jesus we are saved from the death the law brings; it is through Him we find the ministry of the Spirit and so the glory that passes not away. This glory is your very presence speaking to us and shining upon us, dear LORD. O let us call upon your NAME and dwell with you forever!
Mon, 12 June 2017
(2Cor.1:18-22; Ps.119:129-133,135; Mt.5:13-16)
“God is the one who firmly establishes us.”
“Light of the world” and “salt of the earth” – this is what we are by the power of God. It is by Him we are “set on a hill” to give “light to all in the house”; it is we who preserve the integrity of creation. It is a holy call and a demanding one, and we should not waver in our resolve to follow the Lord and fulfill His work and His will; for it is indeed His will that we show His goodness before the eyes of men, and so “He who anointed us and sealed us” will always strengthen us for our task – by Him who holds the entire world in His palm, our own work will be made light.
But heed the words of our readings: we must always give our “yes” to God. Having put our hand to the plow, we cannot turn back. In fact, we should say with the psalmist, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands”; so great should be our love for God and for His life-giving words that ever do we thirst more greatly for the love and the light He brings us through our walking in them. His discipline is redeeming and freeing; and as we drink in its light, as we find ourselves becoming one with Him and with His Son who has shown us clearly and completely the way of perfection, we become the light He is. And we cannot but shine that same light to others, directing them to Him who establishes all holy souls in His blessed kingdom.
What joy should be ours as we find ourselves becoming one with God as His children of light. What absolute exhilaration is evident in Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians, as well as in our psalm. The source of such excitement is his firmness in faith; the Spirit is speaking in his heart and he is not afraid. Indeed, he takes his very life, his daily bread, in proclaiming it.
Have we such faith in our hearts, or have we somehow gone flat? Can we proclaim our unwavering trust in the Lord, or is our light still shaded by doubts and fears? If our love for God is true and our love for one another is real, we shall be firmly established – our light shall go forth.
Let us pray to Him that from the light of His words we shall not be distracted. The light of His presence is all that matters. Shine forth His light to the world.
O LORD, may the Spirit of Truth be with us
to guide us by His holy light.
YHWH, your promises have been fulfilled in Jesus and in Him you firmly establish our place before you, the Holy Spirit in our hearts. You call us to be salt and light to this world, to be the disciples of your Son. Help us to be steadfast in that call, that the light of the Spirit might go out to the ends of the earth.
We are anointed with the Christ and have His life within us. He it is who walks before us, making our footsteps firm. We must follow in His way and give our ‘yes’ entirely to you. O LORD, let us not waver in our weakness but ever keep your commands and so radiate your goodness to all men. Make our witness sure and true; let us ever remain in the light of your presence.
O LORD, let all praise be given to you from hearts filled with your glory. With open mouth let us ever yearn for your Word. In wonder let us stand before you, worshiping ever in your kingdom as your holy children. Let your countenance shine on your servants; transform us into your light.
Sun, 11 June 2017
(2Cor.1:1-7; Ps.34:2-9; Mt.5:1-12)
“Blessed are those persecuted for holiness’ sake;
the reign of God is theirs.”
Here is the core teaching of our faith. Here are the beatitudes, the call to sweet humility which flows like blessed honey from the lips of our Savior. And that teaching is that the humbled shall be exalted, that those who mourn and sorrow for the lack of love we find in this tainted world and who strive to bring that love to the hard heart of man shall be blessed, are blessed, for they share in the sufferings of Christ, who wept for the sins of His people, who, looking out upon them from the cross cried: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why has this world made in the image of Christ turned so against Him, and when shall it return to the love of God? And we who cry with Christ, even for our enemies, even for the most despicable criminal, we shall know the joy He finds – like the repentant thief, we shall be this day with Him in paradise.
“Just as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the consolation,” St. Paul so concisely states. One can hear him brimming with joy as he speaks of the comfort we find in the Lord in all our afflictions, and the grace of sharing that consolation with others. This is our great possession. This is the kingdom of God within us: to see through all trouble and affliction, to conquer it in Jesus’ Name – to find such strength even while here on earth to overcome all evil and come to heaven. “Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you… Be glad and rejoice.” How marvelously the Lord exhorts us to come to the glory of heaven, to overcome the dark with light. For light it is where we dwell, and this light is unconquerable.
Let us make room for Him in our hearts, brothers and sisters; let us give place to Him in our lives. Let us even in the simplest ways show heaven’s glory here on earth. If we are lowly and we are true, our light cannot help but shine. And for those who seek it our lamps will shine, and we shall illumine one another. Let sweet humility be your treasure and the Lord’s peace your goal in life.
The angel of the Lord is around us to save us. Nothing of this earth shall touch us. Let us lay down our lives to destroy death’s bonds.
O LORD, it is the cross of suffering with Christ
that brings us great joy.
YHWH, blessed are we when persecuted because of our love for you, because of our desire to be as your Son, for enduring all the sufferings this world brings we find great joy in your presence. You console the afflicted who call out to you, for you are the refuge of all who suffer for your sake.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy; let us be made whole in your Son. If we must sorrow and mourn to be conformed to your Son, to be purged of all sin and join Him in your kingdom, let it be so. Let us take our strength in you; in you we find refuge. Reward in Heaven is all we desire – to you let us come by way of the Cross of your only Son.
Bless you, LORD, for the goodness you show to us, for the joy you bring us in our suffering for you. You deliver us from every danger, and so we stand firm in hope, consoled by the promise in the words of Jesus. Let us remain ever blessed as we set our hearts on serving you.
Sat, 10 June 2017
(Ex.34:4b-6,8-9; Dn.3:52-56; 2Cor.13:11-13; Jn.3:16-18)
“The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is your holy and glorious name.” Brothers and sisters, let us praise God this holy day; let us rejoice in His love. Let us be as Moses, who upon hearing the NAME of the Lord spoken in his hearing, upon having the Lord’s presence revealed to him, “at once bowed down to the ground in worship.” He did not fail to bless God “in the temple of [His] holy glory,” but as the Lord “look[ed] into the depths from His throne upon the cherubim” – as He who transcends all made Himself known to His servant upon the earth – cried aloud to God for His protection, for the protection that the three holy men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) knew by the Hand of God, by His blessed angel, when saved from the flames in the fiery furnace. And though “exalted above all forever,” the Lord hears and answers His children.
God is three and God is love. The One God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is made known in His love. Both the unity of God and His gracious and merciful love are evident today in John’s famous quote: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” They are, of course, Jesus’ words whispered to Nicodemus in his night of doubt and question, and they should fall deeply into our own ears and speak clearly to our hearts of the intimacy of Father and Son and the love one holds and the other carries, a love which is in essence the working of the Spirit. It is this love and union with these to which we are all called, and which we all find by believing “in the name of the only Son of God.”
Brothers and sisters, the presence of God is among us always; the Son has come to save our race, and has thus made all things holy. What Moses knew on Mount Sinai with the “two stone tablets” in his hands, we should know simply by opening our eyes – for His NAME should be written on our hearts. And so always we should be in prayer and praise of the majesty of God. With the living creatures and the elders in heaven we should continually bow down before Him and stand to shout of His glory. Open your hearts to Him who is all in all.
On this Trinity Sunday I will leave you with Paul’s parting words to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" (first part) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we believe in the only Son
whom you have sent
that we might have eternal life in the Spirit.
YHWH, you indeed are merciful, and so you send your only Son to us to save us from the condemnation upon our souls because of our sin against you. From your throne in Heaven send your Spirit forth to carry the salvation wrought by your Son to the very ends of the earth, that all might be one in you and live in your eternal peace.
O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to us you make yourself known, coming into our midst to dwell among us. And so we know your merciful love; and so we are drawn into your presence. Father in Heaven, speak your NAME into our hearts that in wonder we may stand before you, that with great love we might worship you, and come even to share your divine nature through the sacrifice of your Son and the power of the Spirit upon us this day. You alone are God, and we are your children – write your NAME upon our souls that we might dwell with you in the Temple of your holy glory.
Fri, 9 June 2017
(Tb.12:1,5-15,20; Tb.13:1-2,6; Mk.12:38-44)
“Almsgiving saves one from death.”
We must give alms, yes; and the greatest of alms is the gift of ourselves to God.
In our gospel we hear of perhaps the most famous example of almsgiving: the poor widow who gave her two copper coins to the temple treasury; and in our first reading we complete the Book of Tobit, he who is himself a great biblical model of almsgiving, and who is here instructed by the angel Raphael on the merit of giving alms. Yes, the widow gives generously all her money, without hesitation and without a thought. Unlike those who give from their surplus, “she gave from her want, all that she had to live on.” She holds back nothing. And at the prompting of Tobit, Tobiah offers half of all the many riches gained from his journey to his guide, Raphael (not realizing he is an angel with no need of these things).
As Raphael reveals himself to Tobit and his son, he extols the great merit of almsgiving, which he states is better even than prayer and fasting. He wishes to tell them of the value of almsgiving, it is true, but he wants Tobit to know that his generosity has been witnessed by God and that it has saved him from the death he had asked for. Raphael lets Tobit know, too, that he has been tested by God (in being stricken with blindness) to prove that his generosity is genuine. It must be shown that his virtue is not vain as the scribes’, who “recite long prayers for appearance’ sake” to cover the fact that they “devour the savings of widows.” Does he have the heart of the poor widow in his generosity, or does he just like to parade around in the robes of such virtue?
The key to the merit of all our almsgiving is found in Raphael’s initial response to Tobiah’s offer: “Thank God! Give Him the praise and the glory.” All our good works must be done for the praise of God as witnesses to His glory. “Before all men, honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising Him,” the angel exhorts us all. And it is this praise of God we must give first before any treasure of the world. This praise of God and telling of His Name is the greatest of almsgiving. Do you think it is the two coins which save the widow, or can you see the heart for God from which they are offered? Do you think the widow is giving her coins for show, or is it obvious to you that it is her love of God which drives her to this act? We can easily surmise that this woman’s life is one of prayer to God, a genuine prayer unlike the vanity of the scribes, and it is this which most pleases God and saves her very soul; for she is empty of all else but Him. And of all the many acts of kindness Tobit has performed, all the dead he has buried and offerings he has given, perhaps none is above his obedience to the angel’s final command: “Write down all these things that have happened to you.” For by his laying down of his life and the Lord’s marvelous grace working in it, more than two thousand years later, we still receive the spiritual gifts contained therein; his praise of God with “full voice” still comes to our ears and gives us hope that we too might be raised up from any vanity in our own generosity and see the face of God.
Let us praise the Lord with all our lives and give all our selves to Him.
Let us live to praise the Lord.
O LORD, let us praise you with full voice;
let us give all we have to you.
YHWH, you call us to give alms that our souls might be saved. By our generosity you shall know us, if it is in union with you. For all must be done in your NAME and for your praise, or all is quite worthless. Indeed, a little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness; and so, whatever we give without giving glory to you is given in vain, but if we give a penny (which is all our lives are worth) in praise of your goodness toward us, how blessed we shall be!
LORD, all you do is for our good, whether you scourge us or raise us up in your mercy, for all is done to bring us closer to you. Until all our lives are in your hands, your angel you send to test us and to heal us, to turn us back to you – all empty show be taken forever from our souls that we might dwell humbly with you in glory.
Let us not care for the riches of this world even should they increase, but set our hearts on praise of you alone… and the doing of your will with all we have and are.
Thu, 8 June 2017
(Tb.11:5-15; Ps.146:2,7-10; Mk.12:35-37)
“The Lord gives sight to the blind.”
Now in His teaching Jesus truly begins to open the eyes of the people. We have witnessed this week His fielding their questions regarding theology and the law, but He now takes a step further, revealing to them and to us the Truth itself – that He Himself is the Son of God. “The majority of the crowd heard this with delight.” Many eyes begin to open, many hearts begin to see… but will they remain so joyful when Jesus reveals Himself to them completely (on the cross)?
And of course, our first reading speaks principally about the opening of Tobit’s eyes, as he who has been blind these four years is healed by the fish gall acquired through the intercession of the angel Raphael. But the reading is really about more than this: it shows the love of his parents in their longing for Tobiah’s return. Notice that as his eyes are opened, Tobit exclaims, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!” as he weeps with his arms around him. And at the very beginning of the reading we find Anna, his mother, “watching the road,” looking desperately – she has been there for weeks – for Tobiah to return from his journey. When she sees him, she, too, throws her arms around him, and says, “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” as she sobs aloud… It is not so much the fish gall that has cured Tobit’s blindness, for the light of his eyes, that which causes them to see, he himself ascribes to Tobiah his son. And it is not so much seeing Tobiah that brings such absolute joy to his mother, as it is being with him again, knowing that he is alive – for she had seriously feared him dead.
Brothers and sisters, are we like Anna and Tobit? Do we watch vigilantly for the return of the only Son of God? We proclaim that our eyes have been opened to know Him as our Savior, but is He truly the light of our eyes? Even today do we make seeing Him and knowing Him the life that brings breath to our souls and makes our hearts beat? Are we the “oppressed,” the “hungry,” the “captives” – those who are “bowed down” of whom our psalm speaks – who will thus know His “justice,” His “food,” His “freedom”… His “resurrection”?
We must love dearly our Holy Catholic Church, for it is essential here on this earth, where it is the keeper of the Father’s vineyard; but we must remember Jesus goes beyond religion, beyond theology and laws. For He is more than these. He is what sets us apart from any other religion, for He is a person, the second Person of the Trinity – God. Let us open our eyes and our hearts and follow Him with our lives, knowing He is our only Son, our hope, the light of our eyes. For He who is the Son of Man is also the Son of God.
O LORD, open my eyes
that I might praise you forever.
YHWH, it is you who give sight to the blind, you who set captives free. Your Son is indeed light to our eyes and salvation for our very souls. Give us new life that we might praise you all the day.
You keep faith with us, O LORD, for though we wait many days, though we must hope even in the darkness, you do not disappoint our expectations – you do not take back your Word. Your Son has come among us now and revealed your glory to our eyes. He who lived before us has been born into our midst and died for our sakes. Now His enemies become His footstool. Now His reign has begun. And those who have longed for His coming rejoice in praise of your holy NAME.
O may He return soon to us! For blindness besets us yet while we dwell upon this plane. Send your angels to bring Him back to us, O LORD, that forever we might look upon His face. Give us courage now; raise up the souls that are bowed down. Alleluia!
Wed, 7 June 2017
(Tb.6:11,7:1,9-14,8:4-7; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.12:28-34)
“Love the Lord your God”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On these two great commandments rest all the Law and the Prophets. By them we shall be “not far from the reign of God.” In them the Lord leads us into His bridal chamber, where we shall be made one with Him in glory forever.
Here on earth we dimly mirror the love of the Lord for His Church in our marriage of husband and wife; in this, love of neighbor is known in its most intimate and complete way. But always love of God must precede love of any creature, for it is “those who fear the Lord” who are happy, who “eat the fruit of [their] handiwork” and see their children prosper.
Tobiah has such love. Such strength of love does he have in his heart for Sarah that he hesitates not at all even in the face of death. Seven have died before him, but he gives fear of this not a thought. And it is not in his lust that he takes such great strength; he is not led foolishly by his eyes and his loins. It is indeed his fear of the Lord, the love for his God and his desire to keep His commands, in which he finds unwavering hope. Even from his marriage bed does he rise to invoke the name of God, demonstrating his “noble purpose.” He recognizes that God first must be praised, and that it is He who gave Adam his Eve.
Jesus loves us just so, brothers and sisters, and even greater than this is His love for His bride. He heeds fully the command of God regarding His Church: “Take her and bring her back safely to your father.” He comes to us, as it were, on a long journey, the angels of the Lord blessing His steps, and seeks without fear His rightful wife, who has languished so long surrounded by death. This death He takes upon Himself, facing it with faith and prayer alone to show us the love God has for us, and that we must have for one another. And wedding us unto Himself, He redeems us from the death we have known and makes us so fruitful in His Name. Yes, brothers and sisters, we must love the God who has loved us so, and love one another the same.
May God bless all marriages;
May they witness to the love the Lord has for His Church.
O LORD, if we but love you and our neighbor,
all will be well;
we will approach the kingdom of Heaven.
YHWH, you are love and love is stronger than death; so those who love you shall conquer death and live forever in your love. O let us but love!
The demons are ever round about, dear LORD, working to take the life from us, the life that is rooted in you and blessed by you – the life which you yourself are. Let us have your angels to guide us through the darkness of this earth to your unending light; teach us to love you with all our being, to keep nothing back from you. By our trust and in our prayer may we be saved from all evil. If we but praise you with all our heart, you will certainly hear our plea.
No lust let there be in any marriage bed, O LORD, but may every husband take his wife with you and your purpose in mind. Then shall all be blessed; then shall all creation praise you… then shall love be known to the ends of the earth. Then shall all the devils flee and your kingdom come to be present in all souls. Let us take our place in Heaven with you and your Son! To Him let us be wed.
Tue, 6 June 2017
(Tb.3:1-11,16-17; Ps.25:1-9; Mk.12:18-27)
“He is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
Rich readings. First of all, we see the striking similarity between the story woven by the Sadducees to thwart the wisdom of the Lord and the situation in which Sarah finds herself. In both cases, seven – the number representing fullness – husbands have died. In one the wife has also died; in the other, she wishes for death. And in both there have been no children, no fruit, no new life. Death in its fullness is throughout today’s readings, as even Tobit begs to die.
In addition to death, our readings are also clearly about prayer. In our first, Tobit and Sarah pour out their hearts in tears before the Lord whom they so love. Our psalm is the lifting up of the soul in prayer to God by the humble. And the Sadducees questioning of Jesus is also a kind of prayer, though one which comes from a hardness of heart, inauthentic and insincere.
And what has the Lord to say of death; what is the answer to these prayers? We often hear that God always answers our prayers, though often in ways we do not expect. Such is the case here. Neither Tobit nor Sarah will get the death they seem to seek; instead, Raphael – the angel whose name means “to heal” – “was sent to heal them both.” And the Sadducees, “who hold there is no resurrection,” will not find confirmation for their creed which clings to death as the end of all. Yet all will be answered according to the disposition of their hearts, and in this sense all receive exactly what they seek, for the Lord looks upon the heart. The prayer of Tobit and Sarah is not really to die but “to be delivered from such anguish” – it is healing they seek, and this they shall find. And the Sadducees, who do not really seek an answer of the Lord regarding resurrection, whose hearts are closed to the life-giving power of God, will likely not hear the words of Christ… and so by their ignorance come to adhere more firmly to their creed of death.
We do get what we ask for. As our psalm tells us, the Lord “teaches the humble His way.” The compassion and kindness which are synonymous with God are known to those who trust in Him; but “those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith,” for the compassion of our Lord finds no place in them. For them there is no hope, no life, no resurrection from the dead… and they shall not know how God answers prayer.
Brothers and sisters, let us pour out our hearts before our Lord and God, and know His healing grace, and find His everlasting life.
O LORD, though we wish to die
when amidst the persecutions of this race,
let us be resurrected with you.
YHWH, hear our prayer and save us from the insults of your enemies. Let us not be overcome by darkness or by sin. You are our God and you answer all our pleas; let us not be put to shame.
You look upon the heart, O LORD, and listen to our true desires. Every prayer you cannot help but answer according to the faith by which it is offered. You give us what we ask for, not in our words but by our intention. And so, you thwart the insincere prayer of the wicked, but are merciful to those who are humble before you.
And you protect us, LORD, from every attack of the devil. Those who break faith heedlessly shall not triumph over your righteous ones; they shall be turned back by the power of your Word. For in life alone you dwell – in you there is no death – and so those whose hearts desire life in your presence shall rejoice… even as those who do not believe fall helplessly into the earth.
Mon, 5 June 2017
(Tb.2:9-14; Ps.112:1-2,7-9; Mk.12:13-17)
“The heart of the just man is secure,
trusting in the Lord.”
Today in our reading and gospel we find just men put to trial and testing. Our Lord is steadfast before the devious inquiry of the Pharisees and Herodians, answering them with a wisdom greater than Solomon’s; for what can Jesus, who is Himself the Word made flesh, do but take refuge in the Father with whom He is one. And so wisdom is His to answer His foes, and He is unmoved, indeed moving with “amazement” those who would trap Him.
The heart of Tobit does not remain as secure. We see in his anger that his trust in the Lord has been shaken. He has always been just, generously giving to those in need, taking the plight of his people to heart. Indeed, it is after performing a good work – “fatigued from burying the dead [I] went to sleep next to the wall of my courtyard” – that his trial comes upon him. Here is a man who has done all he could to help his fellow Jewish exiles suffering persecution at the hands of the Ninevites, and now he is stricken with blindness.
But the Lord does not leave him alone; He does not cast him out. For two years his needs are cared for by Ahiqar, and then his wife is able to work to meet their expenses. And successful she is over and above expectations. Yet he is prodded into anger by her good reward. His response (in the words of St. Dorotheus, from today’s Office of Readings) “breaks the cover on the passionate anger within him,” an anger, an unease, he has likely been harboring for some time. It is an anger, we can surmise, that comes from the helplessness his blindness has brought upon him. He is no longer in control of his fate, but must depend on others for survival. And though the Lord provides, he finds it too difficult to trust in this provision. (He may indeed be particularly resentful that it is now his wife who provides for him, taking the role he believes in his heart he should play.)
We can certainly understand Tobit’s frustration over his condition. Few but Jesus would stand up well to such trial. But Jesus is our ideal. It is to be like Him that we are called. We shall always need to do battle against the sins that are ever with us, but as St. Dorotheus says of the Christian, “The more perfect he grows, the less these temptations will affect him. For the more the soul advances, the stronger and more powerful it becomes in bearing the difficulties that it meets.”
Let us set ourselves to trust in the Lord and so ever find security in Him. We must place all in His hands, even unto death, and then we shall be free.
Let not the things of Caesar weigh upon you;
you belong to God and not the world.
O LORD, only you can make us secure –
let us trust in you and not in money.
YHWH, with the things of this earth let us not be concerned; let us know that we are in your hands. To you let us trust our very lives, and we shall not be disturbed.
The forces of the world close in on us, enticing us to fear and anger. But if we stand strong in the faith, the Spirit will be with us to save us. In you, O LORD, let us remain.
The just man delights in your commands; the upright shall ever be blessed. Let us indeed remain steadfast, LORD, that we might look down upon our foes.
And though persecuted for righteousness’ sake, if afflicted for doing what is right let us not resent our fate, but continue to look to you to cure our blindness. Your Son, O LORD, has suffered the Cross though innocent – why should sinners like us complain?
It is hard, LORD, and we do often break, but help us to return to you this day and stand before our accusers with the same faith your Son so peacefully displayed. Let us give ourselves entirely to you.
Sun, 4 June 2017
(Tb.1:1-2,2:1-9; Ps.112:1-6; Mk.12:1-12)
“The stone rejected by the builders
has become the keystone of the structure.”
First, Tobit is not a parable; it is not a “story”. A parable begins, as does Jesus’ own in our gospel, with a statement such as, “A man planted a vineyard…” It is always “a man”, a generic man, never a particular man in a particular place at a particular time, as is the case with Tobit. For parables deal expressly with the universal. Though one may derive universal significance from the life of Tobit, it is his life itself which is related to us and not that of an “Everyman”. (How this simple fact is overlooked I can only attribute again to a lack of faith which blinds reason.)
This aside, today we see the persecution and mockery “a sincere worshiper of God” suffers before the face of the world. It is evident in Tobit’s being “hunted down for execution” for performing the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead, as well as in the wagging of his neighbors’ tongues; and it is, of course, fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ, which the Lord speaks of today to the elders of the people in a thinly-veiled parable of their persecution of all the prophets.
What a good man Tobit is, desiring to share his feast with the poor and rising even from table to do the work of God, always ready to serve Him. And how he weeps for the oppression of his people. Jesus is just the same, coming from the majesty of the Father’s table in heaven to call us to His wedding feast, and weeping over those who, like Jerusalem, fail to hear His voice.
Our lot in this world is one of suffering and persecution, but it is not without hope. For we know that as Job found greater wealth in his latter days and Tobit shall be rewarded for his patient endurance, so the Lord is resurrected from the grave. It is our psalm which reminds us of this promise despite any darkness around us: “The Lord dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright… the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.”
So let us not lose heart on the hard road we tread, but endure all patiently with Jesus, for we shall find our place in His joyful kingdom; we shall drink the wine of His vineyard.
O LORD, how shamefully your servants are treated! –
but Jesus rises from the dead,
and we with Him.
YHWH, you are a light in our darkness; you are with us in our tears and in our mourning, and so, from our graves we are raised. Has not your Son come among us and suffered at the hands of men? Has He not been beaten, dragged outside the walls of Jerusalem, and killed? And has He not been raised again – does He not sit at your right hand? The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. How marvelous are your works for your faithful to behold!
Though Tobit weeps in exile, LORD, mocked by neighbors and friends, though he must bear the murdered body of his kinsman to a shallow grave; yet wealth and riches are in his house, for it is in your House he dwells, and his name you shall remember forever.
Your Son bears His Cross before His accusers; though blessed at table in your House, He quickly comes to us at your Word… and we bear Him away. But the plans of men are thwarted by you, LORD, and all our evil you turn to good. Let us set our souls on the sacrifice of your kingdom.
Sat, 3 June 2017
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; 1Cor.12:3b-7,12-13; Jn.20:19-23)
“Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.”
What our first reading captures in all its dramatic moment, David’s psalm declares in clarity – “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” – and our gospel defines in Jesus’ word and action with His apostles: “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Spirit comes from heaven above, through the only Son, to redeem, renew, and strengthen all on the face of the earth.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” and they all spoke “of the mighty acts of God,” and each one of those gathered there “from every nation… heard them speaking in his own language.” For the language in which they spoke was the language of the Spirit, the language all understand. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and we are all given to drink of one Spirit,” and what does this Spirit say but, “Jesus is Lord,” the truth to which all are called, for which every heart yearns.
And though all find life in “the same Spirit,” though all declare as one that Jesus is Lord, for each of us “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts.” As David exclaims, “How manifold are your works, O Lord!” And is not this call to “different forms of service” revealed in the fact that “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them”? Each is thereby given his own “theme,” his own song to sing to please the Lord, and our prayer should therefore always be, “May the Lord be glad in His works!” (And for those who deny that man has been given the gift of forgiving sins, do they not read the Lord’s straightforward words to His disciples at this most decisive moment: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”?)
Praise God for the gifts He imparts to all His children. Praise Him for the peace He leaves us and the mission on which He sends us. But praise Him most especially for the breath of the Holy Spirit which animates our very beings, for “if [the Lord] take away [our] breath, [we] perish, and return to [our] dust,” but with this Spirit we share in the very power of God.
Fill this house, O Lord, with the power of your Spirit.
Let the Church always proclaim your praise.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (final part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us be baptized in your Spirit,
renewed for the proclamation of your love.
YHWH, comes the driving wind from Heaven, the Spirit Jesus breathes upon His apostles, and so we are made your sons, dear Father, and declare your glory unto all. May your Church with one voice offer you due praise and teach the nations of your eternal call.
We must leave our sins behind and accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living as one with the Son of God. If we keep His commandments, we shall dwell with you forever, O Father God. For He is with you and through Him you send the Spirit; all who desire to be your children you bless with purging fire this holy day.
Now the promised gift of the Spirit falls upon our immortal souls and we are refreshed and made new creatures, formed in the image of Jesus, your Son. One you make us in Spirit and Body, free from all the works of the flesh. Your Son stands in our midst and offers us His peace; the Advocate now testifies to all Truth… Come and make your dwelling in us, O glorious LORD and God.