Mon, 31 July 2017
(Ex.33:7-11,34:5-9,28; Ps.103:6-13; Mt.13:36-43)
“The angels will hurl them into the fiery furnace
where they will wail and grind their teeth.”
It is the justice of God which is our theme today. And though it is absolutely certain that the mercy of God far surpasses our merit and He does not “requite us according to our crimes,” yet it is equally so – and Jesus could not make it more explicit than He does in His explanation in our gospel today – that God’s will is not for “declaring the guilty guiltless,” and that “the followers of the evil one” shall be punished. It is this invariable necessity of God’s justice I highlight today because of its general ignorance in this age.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness,” David declares in our psalm. “The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Yes, “surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him.” But what if we should not fear Him? What if we should not give Him the love and honor and respect which is rightfully His? It cannot but be that we pervert His kindness and compassion and, by our own will, turn it into the flaming punishment it thus becomes. This is the justice of God: it reaches down “for a thousand generations”; it covers the earth with its forgiveness. But turning from it we inevitably cast ourselves into hell, for there is no place to hide our hardened hearts from His merciful love. Thus our refusal to accept His surpassing kindness is that which provides the kindling for the everlasting flames. And if we deny the existence of hell, we deny the presence of God’s love, and our own free will in choosing it or not.
In our first reading there is quite a jump, better than a chapter, in the scene. In the first half Moses is in the tent of meeting where he would serve as judge for the people; in the second half he is on Mount Sinai, where God has led him to receive the Ten Commandments (a second time). The Lord has also promised to reveal His back to Moses – no one can see His face and live – and it is this scene that is spoken of in our gospel. Moses speaks the Lord’s silent NAME, “YHWH”, and God comes in power, crying to him of His infinite mercy and absolute justice. As the Lord passes by in this way, Moses is overwhelmed and begs God to remain with him and the people, recognizing that they will not be able to take a step without Him. And in His great kindness, but not without appropriate punishment, the Lord will remain with Moses and the Israelites through their desert journey.
“The saints will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.” The angels shall gather the good seed unto their just reward. And there shall be great rejoicing as the mercy of God thus comes to fulfillment. But none of this can be until “all who draw others to apostasy and all evildoers” are cast out from His presence. Just as the faithless were not permitted to enter the Promised Land but died in the desert, so only those whose hearts burn with the love of God will shine in His kingdom. For the rest only the fires of torment await.
O LORD, the weeds must be burned
that those whom your Son has redeemed
might shine brightly before you.
YHWH, to Moses you spoke face to face, proclaiming your NAME to him, and he bowed down in your wondrous presence as your power passed before him. Your merciful ways you made known to him, your mercy and your justice, for you put away the sins of those who fear you, but the wicked shall know punishment.
We are indeed stiff-necked, O LORD, and deserving of your fiery wrath. But help us now to turn to you that we might be preserved from destruction at the end of the age. Your good seed let us be, sown by Jesus and His love. By His sacrifice He prepares the ground for a bountiful harvest.
O LORD, let us shine like the sun in your kingdom on the Day of your Son’s return. And so, now let our ears be open to hear of your mercy; upon our hearts inscribe your NAME that we might remember your love.
Sun, 30 July 2017
(Ex.32:15-24,30-34; Ps.106:1,19-23; Mt.13:31-35)
“Eventually the whole mass of dough began to rise.”
The kingdom of God comes gradually, grows imperceptibly; from the smallest of seeds it becomes “the largest of plants,” and “the birds of the sky come and build their nests in its branches.” Indeed, this yeast is kneaded into our hearts, and by its grace we rise gradually unto the form heaven would make us – and so the glory of God becomes ours, and with others we share His grace within us.
See that it is the people’s impatience which has led them into sin: “Make us a god to be our leader,” they say to Aaron, “as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him.” Moses is gone to the mountain forty days to receive the commands of God upon the tablets of stone, but this time is too long for the Israelites to wait, and so when he returns with the “tablets that were made by God, having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God Himself,” he finds that they have “exchanged their glory,” present so really, so physically, in the Law he carries in his hands, “for the image of a grass-eating bullock.”
They could not wait. The God they sought in vain image was coming to them in truth with His Law written in stone, but they did not perceive His approach; and so, taking matters into their own hands, they crafted their condemnation. For now it is but chastisement that awaits them; this, too, comes gradually, and is unavoidable. As the Lord says to Moses, “When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
“So grave a sin” the Israelites commit. It is only because “Moses, His chosen, withstood Him in the breach, to turn back His destructive wrath,” that the people were not struck out of the book the Lord has written. Indeed, though they shall all die in their sin in the desert, their generation shall maintain the promise. But it shall not be until Christ Jesus stands in the breach for all, that we who are so prone to evil shall be saved entirely. Only He makes the absolute atonement for the sin of the people, which Moses prefigures in our first reading today.
And now that the Son has come, now the seed is planted in our hearts, now the yeast begins to rise in our souls – now the kingdom of God is nigh. From the desert we are thus led, the angel of God going before us. We have but to listen to the word He speaks to us in His blessed parables and apply its truth to our lives, and thus staying the path set before us we will come in time to the kingdom that awaits us. We shall yet see the Lord descend from on high, not carrying tablets in His arms, but carrying us and our salvation in full bloom. And on that holy day we shall eat of the bread He has caused to rise in our hearts and in our lives.
O LORD, may your kingdom grow ever in our midst,
and may we patiently await its coming.
YHWH, your Son comes to stand in the breach, to reveal to us your holy kingdom. For it now we must but wait, and allow your will to be accomplished.
We have sinned gravely against you, LORD. Our hearts have all turned from your glory to the idols of this age. We have been blinded by the gold the world so persistently offers.
Give us patience to wait on your goodness, LORD. Give us the wisdom we need to know the coming of your reign. For it rises in our midst this day, if we but have eyes to see what your Son reveals.
From the mountaintop let your Word come down, O LORD, to instruct us in your ways. For without your Law to guide us here, quickly we become depraved.
O punish us not in your rage, dear God; strike us not out of your Book. Let our hearts embrace the words of your Son.
Sat, 29 July 2017
(1Kgs.3:5,7-12; Ps.119:57,72,76-77,97,127-130; Rm.8:28-30; Mt.13:44-52)
“The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.”
Wisdom. The “pearl of great price.” How precious the ability “to distinguish right from wrong” by the grace of God, and to choose the right way at all times. For finding the pearl is one thing, a gift from the Lord, but wisdom is revealed in him who “goes and sells all that he has and buys it,” knowing there is no treasure greater than the heavenly light shining from the face of God.
It is heaven we must desire. What else is of any worth, my friend? And in His justice, in His truth, in the wisdom and understanding that come from the touch of His hand and the words from His mouth alone will we find what is the desire of all the righteous souls.
Solomon demonstrates that he “love[s] [the Lord’s] commands more than gold,” and this pleases the God who seeks to rule His heart. He shows that he is the son of his father David by coming humbly before the Lord, recognizing that he is “a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.” And such utter dependence on the Lord’s grace He cannot but bless, declaring to His servant: “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” Because the young king has made the desire to “know what is right” his request of his God, he receives this, and so much more.
All knowledge, all wisdom is given to Solomon, and shall not be taken away. But perhaps we should note that what he is given here in such abundance, he shall not heed throughout his life – for he shall not always sell all else to follow in the light of the Lord’s decrees. Perhaps none but Jesus Himself can do this wholeheartedly; but none should also make the riches of the earth, which contradict the heavenly treasure, his abiding desire, as the older king shall do. All must strive to remain in His light, to be as “the scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven… who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old,” who serves as the angels that “separate the wicked from the righteous” – even on this earth distinguishing evil from good.
“Brothers and sisters, we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Paul’s words reflect the wisdom of God. For truly His elect are known to Him from before time; truly He calls us “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” And truly we know that by the justification of our souls under the cross of Christ we shall come to the glorious presence of the Father in heaven. And this is all that matters. “Do you understand all these things?” Then place all in His hands.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: ""Heaven" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you yourself are the pearl
of the greatest price –
let us find you and your Word at work in us this day.
YHWH, let your kingdom come into our midst; let us seek it with all our heart. For nothing else has worth, nothing else lasts – only in you do we find a home.
Let your wisdom fill us, LORD, like light from above. Let us listen to your Son’s teaching that we may be conformed to His image. You desire to give us every good gift; it is your will to bring us to glory. May our desire be in accord with your own and all will work only for our good.
And we shall come to Heaven, where you dwell. We shall come to the light of your face, O LORD, and gaze upon you forever. Your angels will gather us into your House, and there we will remain always.
You invite us to ask of you our heart’s desire, and you cannot but grant what you offer freely. May our desire please you, LORD, may it be your own, and we shall be blessed with your treasure.
Fri, 28 July 2017
(Ex.24:3-8; Ps.50:1-2,5-6,14-15; Mt.13:24-30)
“All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.”
But will they? Who among them will remain faithful to the covenant they make with God? All the Israelites vow as one to follow “the words and ordinances of the Lord,” yet only two men shall come from the desert and enter the Promised Land. Their children shall exhibit greater fidelity, but these, too, shall falter – throughout the history of the chosen people there shall be weeds, sometimes in abundance, sown among the good seed.
And in our psalm, God declares: “Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” For “God Himself is the judge,” and He will tell how well the “twelve pillars” “erected at the foot of the mountain” stand before Him. He will make known how efficacious has been our sacrifice. Jesus teaches us of God’s justice in His parable: “At harvest time I will order the harvesters, first collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn.” Indeed, the weeds shall be separated out into everlasting fire, while the wheat which has been true to His Word enters heaven. If we have been faithful to our covenant with the Lord, if we have been hearers and doers of His Word, we have nothing to fear. Love overcomes all fear, and the Lord assures us of His grace: “Call upon me in time of distress; I will rescue you.” But if our vows have been in vain, we have much to fear at the hand of the harvest master.
All shall be brought before Him – “The Lord has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting.” From east to west they shall be gathered before His judgment seat, and on that last day Jesus shall speak the sentence which awaits us all. The weeds may seem to grow and thrive in this day, but be assured that this day is passing away; His Day shall last for eternity. The enemy shall be cast from His presence forever.
In the desert the people of God were excited to pledge allegiance to the Lord. But what is promised must be done or the pledge is worthless. We, too, profess our faith in God, and indeed His blood is sprinkled upon us daily as we raise the cup of blessing in His Name. This New Covenant far surpasses the Old and puts the onus upon us thus to a far greater degree to heed the words of the psalmist: “Fulfill your vows to the Most High.” Let us therefore truly heed and do all that the Lord calls us to. Let us not hesitate to come into the Lord’s presence offering Him a sacrifice of praise, but let us not forget the promise inherent in our worship of Him; each day let us grow as wheat before the master of the harvest, His Word providing nourishment for our souls.
O LORD, make us faithful to our covenant with you,
that we shall not be burned in the fire.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your voice and vow our faithfulness to you, yes, but most of all let us stand with you, carrying out your will in all things. Then at harvest time we shall have no fear; then truly as your wheat we shall ever grow, and be gathered into your kingdom.
But if we turn away, if we instead serve the enemy, what hope shall we find on that Day when you stand before us as Judge? What can we be but bundled as weeds and thrown into the fire? O LORD, let us stand strong in the blood of your Son, for only His sacrifice will save us.
We praise you, LORD, for your goodness to us, for planting us in your blessed field. Let us do everything your Son has told us; may He continue to speak to our hearts this day. In His blood let us be washed clean, that we might shine with Him in perfect beauty on the last day.
Thu, 27 July 2017
(Ex.20:1-17; Ps.19:8-11,Jn.6:69; Mt.13:18-23)
“What was sown on good soil
is the man who hears the message and takes it in.”
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul… The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye… More precious than gold” and “sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb” is the word of God. How beautifully our psalm speaks of the words of everlasting life which issue forth from the mouth of God, the Law of the Lord embodied in Christ Jesus. And those who follow the command of God shall bear a mighty yield, for “the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.”
In our first reading we find the great Law written on stone, our Ten Commandments – the blessed guide of man’s walk through this world of sin. They give light to our steps, teaching us ever the way we should go. But great as these words are and necessary as they may be to keep our steps from faltering, to prevent our eye from entering darkness, so much greater is He who sums them up and brings them to completion in His flesh and blood. The love of God and neighbor commanded so clearly to Moses on Mount Sinai here shines in a light beyond our human comprehension. Indeed, to hear its call, to become good soil, we must be made as He is, walking in the grace of divine perfection. Only then will the Word which stirs our souls – in whose light we long to cleanse our hearts and by which we hope to enter God’s reign – only through the intercession of Jesus the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, will we come to know the realization of the call of God to His children, rendered in His commands.
Thirst for the Word, brothers and sisters. Our souls must indeed have a deep hunger for His presence, for the light that comes only by following Him. Our worship must not be in vain, and we must not be distracted by the allure of this world. Standing fast through any suffering, we must take in deeply the Word spoken to our hearts, ever making greater place for Jesus in our lives. We must put flesh to the words of everlasting life, we must be as the Law walking the face of the earth – we must be as our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then it is we shall know His blessing; then we shall labor with Him and yield a great harvest. Then we shall share in the sweetness of the glory of Him who commands us to walk rightly by His side.
Today let us rejoice in the Lord and in His Law; let us find the light it brings and become children of that light. With Jesus and all His saints in heaven let us hear the Word whispered deeply in our spirits and become doers of that word of God. Then we shall bear fruit unto eternal life.
O LORD, let nothing take us from you;
in your Word let us make our home.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your commands, for you have the words of everlasting life and by your instruction we are saved and produce fruit in your holy NAME.
To Moses you gave your Law, O LORD, that we might remember to love you always and so to love our fellow man. In this is our joy, you know, dear God, and so you lead us on right paths that we might be blessed by you.
And your Son you send to speak clearly to our souls of the way which leads to life. Of the dangers He tells us, LORD, that we might not be separated from the light of your face. If it is your Word we desire, we shall be enlightened and walk with Him along the way of perfection.
Let us not lose your grace and blessing, LORD, but prepare good soil to receive your Word, that we might grow ever unto Heaven and become a fragrant offering to you.
Wed, 26 July 2017
(Ex.19:1-2,9-11,16-20; Dn.3:52-56; Mt.13:10-17)
“Blest are your eyes because they see
and blest are your ears because they hear.”
Jesus tells us today, “Many a prophet and many a saint longed to see what you see but did not see it, to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” How blessed are we, for the light of His face now shines upon us, for His teaching is now in our ears.
With fear and trembling the Israelites came to Mount Sinai to witness the presence of God. They wished not to be there as He revealed Himself in mighty signs: “There were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” What an astounding scene! For “the whole mountain trembled” and “the trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God answering Him with thunder.” Here is the revelation of God in all His majesty as He communicates Himself to His people. Our psalm, too, sings of the glory of the Lord and the praise due Him: “Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,” “on the throne of your kingdom,” “in the firmament of heaven.” The Lord is indeed “exalted above all for all ages.”
But overwhelming as the Lord is and difficult as it may be to find Him, we must never close our hearts to His presence. Yes, there must always be proper fear for the awesome glory of God, but our eyes must yet be open to see Him and our ears open to hear Him. He comes now to us not in thunder, not in earthquakes – but in a still, small voice… in the gentle presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And though this pregnant silence radiating the Word of God may be just as fearful to the heart darkened by the cares of the world, though the refining fire it is may bring a greater pain to the soul being cleansed of its sin, we must not turn away as did the ancient Israelites, as did many of Jesus’ time: we must not allow our hearts to be “sluggish” to understand.
He stands before us now, present here at Mass and in all His holy sacraments. Indeed, He comes to us speaking through the people and all the things around us. He is ever calling to our hearts, ever shining His light upon our minds. Do we open ourselves to Him? Do we seek to grow in the Spirit each day, every day…? Blessed are we now that Jesus has come and on the third day been raised from the dead. The Lord instructed Moses: “On the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.” That day is now fulfilled in our sight; let us cleanse our hearts, that we might be prepared to see Him.
O LORD, what we see and hear,
what we taste and touch,
each day at your altar!
YHWH, how can we look upon you who are so far beyond our understanding, who are exalted above all for all ages, we who are so sluggish of heart? The ancient Israelites trembled at your glorious presence revealed to them at Mount Sinai. How could they bear the trumpet blasts, your voice speaking in peals of thunder, the fire, the smoke covering the mountain…? Would not any soul die at such display? How shall we approach your mountain?
Yet you look into the depths in which we dwell in our misery, in our darkness and our fear, and you come to us gently in the presence of your Son. Our fears you understand, LORD, and so seek to allay them; yet our blindness remains. Even to Jesus we close our hearts, though He comes only in love and bearing blessed truth to save our souls.
O let our eyes look gladly upon His face and our ears hear expectantly the words from His lips! Let us turn to Him, LORD, and find healing for our hardened hearts. Let us be at peace in your presence.
Tue, 25 July 2017
Ex.16:1-5,9-15; Ps.78:18-19,23-28; Mt.13:1-9)
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.”
He gives us bread to eat; He gives us wine to drink. All our food comes from His hand. He provides for our every need. It is not by our own strength we are fed. It is not by our own strength we produce fruit to feed others. All our grain is from His hand and grows only with His blessing.
The Israelites find themselves in a barren desert and begin to fear for their empty bellies. “Can God spread a table in the desert?” they ask in doubt, and begin to dissemble before the Lord. But it is God’s will to teach them a lesson, to show them from whom their sustenance comes, for even when in Egypt their “fleshpots” were provided by Him. But they are a blind and ignorant race, and so He must show them the power of His grace, of His providence. He thus gives them a food they have never seen before, whose very name, “manna”, reveals its mystery. And so they partake of this food of the angels; “even a surfeit of provisions He sent them,” though their flesh shall not be long satisfied with this heavenly food.
And we, do we realize all our food comes from the Lord? Do we see His hand at work in all things? Or do we go blindly along through this desert as well, listening too carefully to our grumbling stomachs while ignoring His Word in our hearts and presence in our midst? Do we, too, forget all He has done for us? Or do we turn faithfully to Him for His heavenly provisions and find ourselves satisfied with the food from His hands? And thus, do we ourselves yield grain from the good soil He sets us on, increasing “a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold” His word in our hearts, that others might be fed too by our God? Jesus sits before us today and calls us to such fruitfulness in His name. Let us not be choked by the cares of this world or fail to have depth of faith within our souls, but let us take the blessed food He provides in His Word and in His Body and His Blood and so be nourished well to provide for others.
The desert in which we find ourselves, by which the Lord tests our faith, can seem to overwhelm us at times. May it never cause us to act as the Israelites, who “tempted God in their hearts by demanding the food they craved.” Let us remember that only the “heavenly bread” rained upon us by Him will save us from the temptations and emptiness of this life. I pray He fill you with His bread of eternal life.
O LORD, you give us bread to eat;
yes, you provide holy seed –
and we must produce fruit unto Heaven.
YHWH, our trust in you increase this day; let us know it is by your hand we are fed. And what food is ours by your grace! Even the Body and Blood of your Son.
Bread from Heaven you give us, LORD, feeding us with the flesh of Christ. As once you gave the Israelites bread in the desert, so now you open the doors of Heaven and provide for us our daily food.
Plant your Word in our souls, dear God, that it might grow and nourish us well, that we might bear fruit a hundredfold in the Name of Jesus. Our ears open to hear His voice, let us be faithful to His call.
All the distractions of this world take from us; save us from the rumblings of our belly. Let us understand that you care for all our needs if we but trust in the Word you send us.
Sun, 23 July 2017
(Ex.14:5-18; Ex.15:1-6; Mt.12:38-42)
“The Lord Himself will fight for you;
you have only to keep still.”
But the scribes and the Pharisees cannot keep still, cannot hold faith firmly in their hearts, but are anxious for a sign. But it is “an evil and unfaithful age” that is “eager for a sign,” and so no sign will bring it salvation. Jesus indeed will die and rise again, but it will be of no avail to those whose hearts are closed, to those who blindly fight by their own power. Indeed, a sign was not needed by either the queen of the South or by Ninevah; the wisdom and the preaching that come from the Lord were enough for them to bend the knee and to repent. These pagans, these foreigners, had hearts open and seeking the word of the Lord – and so shall be saved thereby. But these scribes and Pharisees who hear the wisdom and truth pouring forth from the lips of Christ are deaf to its significance, and so shall be condemned.
The Lord indeed it must be who fights for us, and not we ourselves. We must sing with Moses, “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior.” Knowing we can do nothing by our own power, let us shout to our God, “Your right hand, O Lord, has shattered the enemy.” Is it Moses’ staff and “hand outstretched” which part the Red Sea, or is it indeed the Lord’s power? Is it we who save ourselves from the pursuit of sin marching like Pharaoh’s army against us, or is it God who hurls “Pharaoh’s chariots and army… into the sea”?
“Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today,” brothers and sisters. As He saved the Israelites from the relentless pursuit of the Egyptians, so He will save your soul from the onslaught of sin upon your soul. You must but trust in Him. Take not refuge in signs and wonders, which you might forget upon their passing, but be still and wait for the Lord, listening for His voice, remaining steady in the faith He instills in your heart, and you will not be shaken by the temptations and distractions and fears brought by the world and its blinded mind. “They sank into the depths of the sea like a stone,” Scripture tells us: so it will be with your sins and the temptations which surround you. “These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.” Have but faith in your hearts.
Jesus, may we simply know that you are with us
and follow in your footsteps each day.
Fight for us, O Lord,
for the battle is always yours.
O LORD, greater even than Moses
is your Son Jesus Christ;
should we not listen to Him and reform our lives?
YHWH, Jesus has drowned our sins in the sea, buried them in the belly of the earth, and we have been raised up with Him, saved from the pursuit of evil. In glory is He covered now; may we indeed stand with Him on the far shore.
Slaves of the Egyptians never let us be again. To fear of the march of Pharaoh’s army never let us return. O let us be filled with trust in you, LORD! Let us indeed be still and allow you to work for us. For it is only by your right hand, by your magnificent power, that we are saved from the pursuit of the enemy – only by the sacrifice of your Son are we preserved from sin and death. Let us today reform our lives that we might escape condemnation. Let us put our faith in the wisdom of your Son.
We need no sign beyond the presence of your Christ in our midst. O LORD, let us go forward through the sea with Him at our side.
Sat, 22 July 2017
(Ws.12:13,16-19; Ps.86:5-6,9-10,15-16; Rom.8:26-27; Mt.13:24-43)
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Such are the Lord’s instructions to the harvesters, His angels that come “at the end of the age,” when “just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,” so will “all who cause others to sin and all evildoers” be thrown “into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Though the Lord is a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity”; though He is “good and forgiving… attend[ing] to the sound of [our] pleading” and “permit[ting] repentance for our sins” – though while the grass grows He is patient and waits for the weeds which have been sown to turn to Him, yet the time of harvest shall come: the time to judge the living and the dead. And so it is that the One who is “lenient toward all” shall reveal to all that indeed He does “show [His] might when the perfection of [His] power is disbelieved.” The obstinate of heart shall not remain forever; sin must be burnt with fire, and so those who cling to it and its sower, the evil one.
There is time. There is time and He who has “the cure of all” reveals indeed that “the just must be kind.” But the end presses on; it is upon us. And the time and lenience granted those who toil vainly for the evil one will but serve to prove their deserving of the Lord’s inevitable justice. They will but harden themselves further, to their own perfection of sin, meriting in the end the undeniable punishment of the loving and just One.
And the same is true of the just themselves. The time given by our gracious God, though it seem troublesome for the weeds of sin that prick our hearts, is but a means of proving, is but a refinement of the perfection of our God’s love within us. And so we must be patient as the tree does grow, acceptant of the pains it brings. And so we must but watch as the leaven rises, and we with it come to Christ. Yes, “the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit.” Take confidence in this. Just as the Lord knows the path to perdition the wicked sow within their souls, so He knows clearly the hope we have for heaven. And all shall reach their perfection in Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Salvation Army" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in your greatness have mercy on our souls
and let us grow unto your kingdom.
YHWH, you are all good and all powerful, holding all the world in your loving hand; yet though you are kind and desire the repentance of every soul, your justice and love call for the punishment of evil.
Your angels shall go out at the end of the age and they shall do your holy will, gathering your just ones into your kingdom but burning with fire those who cause others to sin. This is but right, LORD; this is but kindness itself – that like should go to like and so the desire of hearts be fulfilled. Indeed, let those who set their hearts on evil come to evil, and those who set their hearts on you come to good.
You are patient, LORD; you give us time that we might grow to the perfection set for our lives. No soul is plucked up before his time – none comes to his end without opportunity to change his life. For you are gracious, you are kind, and your power you use for mercy’s sake. Let us turn to you this day and find the fire of your Spirit at work in our hearts.
Thu, 20 July 2017
(Ex.11:10-12:14; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Mt.12:1-8)
“The Son of Man is indeed the Lord of the sabbath.”
“There is something greater than the temple here,” greater than the Passover and all the feasts of the Lord, greater than the Law… for Jesus and His mercy subsume all these by His holy sacrifice, by His very presence amongst us. And now on the new sabbath day, the words of the psalmist are fulfilled: “The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as we offer now even daily the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – the Holy Eucharist – as each day becomes a “memorial feast” for us. Here we remember and partake of the Lamb “without blemish”; here the blood of the firstborn Son slaughtered for our sakes is applied to the temples our bodies become by its anointing, by our raising of the cup. And heeding Christ’s words to be on watch, we are made ever ready for flight from this world of sin and into the arms of our God.
It is an ominous night, that first Passover. The darkness upon the land, the cries of mothers for their firstborn sons foreshadows the horror of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and the piercing of our consciences which comes thereby. By His sacrifice we cry for our sins; but by this death are we released from bondage to that same sin. By it His mercy is poured upon us from age to age until the end of all time. For now the Passover is made complete; now the sacrifice is truly whole. And all of the old is made new as it is brought to fulfillment in the only Son.
“You have loosed my bonds,” O Lord. Each day you prepare my soul for flight from this world by the cup of thanksgiving, the sharing in your sacrifice, you offer to us each day at the hands of your priests. As it is raised and as we “call upon the name of the Lord,” you come to us with your merciful anointing, and all guilt we may have incurred is cleansed thereby. O Lord of the Sabbath, O Son of the Most High, O Temple of God and perfection of the Law, see the Lamb we eat at your Command; see the blood which marks our houses, and pass over us in the Day of Judgment – bring us freely into the celebration of your eternal feast in heaven.
As we come to the altar today, brothers and sisters, let us remember the merciful sacrifice the Lord has made for our blessed protection and fulfillment of the hunger we have for His presence. Freely let us partake now of His Body and Blood and so become one with Him who is Lord of all and master of our souls. And let us share His merciful love with the waiting world. Let us enter now the eternal Sabbath.
O LORD, feed us in our hunger;
your mercy be upon us this day –
free us from our slavery to sin and to our ways!
YHWH, your Son is the Temple where we are called to dwell, the Lamb of sacrifice of which we must partake. It is His blood that washes us clean of sin, that keeps us free from your executing judgment. With Him and in Him we shall not die, we shall not be condemned, but live forever to praise your NAME.
Our bonds you have loosed, O LORD; from all hunger and thirst you have saved us by the feast before us even this day, by the Body and Blood we receive at the hands of the priests you have ordained in Jesus’ Name. Perpetually we may now receive your graces. Forever we shall take up this Cup of salvation. Now that you have visited us with your mercy, what more could we need?
Thank you, LORD, for the sacrifice your Son has made for our sakes. By it may we leave this land of darkness and come to dwell with you.
Wed, 19 July 2017
(Ex.3:11-20; Ps.105:1,5,8-9,24-27; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
I AM has come and led His people “up out of the misery of Egypt,” up out of slavery. The heavy yoke of sin He breaks from our necks, and in its place we find His gentle presence.
How this world can make us weary! How the Israelites suffered under the iron hand of the Pharaoh. But the Lord says to them, “I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt.” And He says to us the same: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” To Moses as proof of His presence He even gives His NAME, the silent WORD – “YHWH” – which speaks volumes of His being here and everywhere always: “I AM WHO AM.” That gentle, all-present Spirit, that WORD that is Life, is made known to us now in Jesus, the WORD made flesh, He who is “gentle and humble of heart.” And so salvation is fulfilled: release from slavery ultimately comes in the gentle yoke of the Son of God. Let us place it upon our shoulders.
I repeat, this world can be burdensome. As it works its way into our hearts and souls, it brings terrible chains which bind us. As the culture of death which surrounds us in this land of exile finds inroads into our homes and penetrates our minds, it can bring a slavish weight to bear. But though the prince of this world and his subjects might harden their hearts against the emancipating Word of God, though they might refuse to allow us to worship our God freely and with all our beings and belongings… yet the Lord “remembers forever His covenant”; from age to age His word is true. And He shall not be lacking for “wondrous deeds,” “portents,” and “judgments” to assure His people’s freedom, to assure their coming gently and wholly into His sacred presence.
“I will stretch out my hand,” the Lord tells us. He will stretch forth His hand and break the yoke from our backs with a word from His mouth. And rest shall be ours. Eternal rest in His sacred presence, in the light of His holy face, is inevitably ours as we follow in His humble ways.
Come, brothers and sisters. Fear not Pharaoh. The evil upon us is passing away; only what is real, only what is of His Word – only I AM shall remain. Take His yoke upon you, and be led gently forth.
O LORD, by your NAME and by the Cross
we are unburdened of words,
unburdened of thoughts and fears –
let us walk with you!
YHWH, our burden you wish to remove, for our plight in this world you see, and take pity. And so, wondrous deeds you work in our midst, wondrous deeds in the sight of the nations, that all might know that you are God, in whom all find their rest.
Your NAME you gave to Moses, LORD, to reassure his heart and show yourself to Him. Knowing you, he could find faith in your goodness, in your eternal presence, and in your call upon his soul. And so, in peace he could face all the difficulties that lay before him; so he could face the king of Egypt without fear.
And your greatest gift you give to us, dear God, in the coming of your Son, in the complete revelation of your goodness He is to us. Does He not tell us that you are near, that you are always here to refresh our souls and make us whole? And so, the burden of His Cross is light upon our shoulders.
Tue, 18 July 2017
(Ex.3:1-6,9-12; Ps.103:1-4,6-8; Mt.11:25-27)
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him
in fire flaming out of a bush.”
The Lord appears to Moses. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,” reveals Himself on Horeb, the mountain of God. He comes to him who, as we are told elsewhere, is the humblest of men, calling him – much as He will later call Peter, James, and John from their nets to be fishers of men – from “leading the flock across the desert” to lead His people out of slavery, out of Egypt, through the desert and to the Promised Land.
In our gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father reveals Himself “to the merest children,” not to “the learned and the clever.” And so He has come here to Moses, a man whose speech is weak but whose heart is indeed humble as a child, to call him to be the greatest, most godly of men, and to this great task set before him. Like John the Baptist after him – who will be the greatest of men born of woman – he is entirely deferential to the Lord. Here he hides his face, “afraid to look at God,” and questions sincerely: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” Such as these the Lord calls; to such as these He reveals Himself. These are they “to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father.
“Merest children.” Only to these does the Lord reveal Himself. Only to those whose hearts are pure, who take no pride in themselves. In a word, “humble” must we be. “He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.” To them He will show that “the Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.” And as their lives are redeemed from destruction, they will “bless His holy name.” Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is filled, but only those who come as children before Him will know “all His benefits.” Only those who humble themselves before Him will be raised up to see His glory and live in the light of His presence.
O Jesus, we pray that you will reveal the Father to us. We pray that our hearts will be circumcised and that we will ever bow before the glory that is God. Bring the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to purge all our iniquity and prepare us to hear your voice, O Word of God. Call us forth to do your will and lead us ever to your holy mountain, that always we might be in your presence, that forever we might worship you in spirit and in truth, as merest children, as sons and daughters of your eternal light. May we never be consumed by sin or the vestiges of our pride, but be brought to life by the grace and power of God. Show us your face and let us indeed live in the light of its holy fire.
O LORD, you reveal yourself to us through your Son
that we might be saved from our sin.
YHWH, make us humble, humble as children; meek as Moses, innocent as your Son, we shall see your face. Reveal yourself to us, we pray, though we deserve not such kindness and mercy.
To your light let us come, to the fire burning in our midst, that fire ignited by Jesus, that we might see you, LORD, that indeed we might know you who look upon our misery, who desire so to save us from the slavery of sin. Lead us out of this desert to your holy mountain by the grace that comes to us only through your Son.
O dear Jesus, how can we stand in the presence of your Father, we who have become so corrupted by iniquity, we who are blinded by the evil upon our souls. Only you can make us as children again, pure and innocent in the sight of the LORD, pure and innocent as you are. Let us be united to you in all humility that we might come before the Father and praise His holy NAME.
Mon, 17 July 2017
(Ex.2:1-15; Ps.69:3,14,30-31,33-34; Mt.11:20-24)
“I drew him out of the water.”
Moses was drawn from “the watery depths” by Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his own mother. Into the river all male Hebrew children were ordered cast, but by the providential hand of God, this “Moses” is saved. And it is through him his people shall be drawn out from amongst the Egyptians and the slavery put upon them; and it is by the Law spoken through him that those who believe are kept from “the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold,” that one finds release from the bonds of sin.
But now Moses’ zealous concern for his people has caused him to slay an Egyptian, so now he must flee from the face of Pharaoh who seeks to kill him for his sin. And what irony is there that having fought one day for a Hebrew oppressed by an Egyptian, the next day he finds two Hebrews fighting! And what apparent lack of appreciation for his concern for their plight – he who has no fear of being enslaved, living in Pharaoh’s palace as he does – do the Hebrews show. How similar is this lack of appreciation to the cities which Jesus reproaches for “their failure to reform” at His preaching and at the miracles He has worked among them. Here is an even greater than Moses, the very Son of God, coming to heal them of all their ills and bring them eternal salvation, but they refuse even to turn from their sins that they might find such blessing. What hope is there for them? If the power of God cannot convince them, then indeed the flood shall overwhelm them and they “shall go down to the realm of death,” for they refuse to be drawn up out of their sins.
Oh that this not be said of us, brothers and sisters! We indeed have been drawn out of the water. Baptized by the Spirit who moves upon the waters and nourished at the breast of holy Mother Church, eating the Lord’s own Body and Blood and ever finding forgiveness for our sins by his priests’ commission, we have been graced with all we need to be led from the darkness of this world, from the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold. We must be ever mindful not to slip back into the watery mire of sin to which this world would draw us and lose the blessing the Lord has provided us to maintain us for the day of judgment. Great miracles the Lord has worked in us; great miracles He works for us this day. Let us never fail to reform our lives and conform ourselves to His grace. Our own death sentence has been removed, washed from us by the blood of Christ; let us not fall again into the swamp of sin, but ever rise to the glory of God.
O LORD, we would all go down to the realm of death
if it were not for the grace of Christ –
let us hear and heed His words and reform our lives.
YHWH, you call us to repentance that we might be raised from the abysmal swamp of sin. Your Son works His miracles in our midst to bring us to sackcloth and ashes. But are our hearts not hardened, even to His sacrifice? Then how shall we be saved from the watery depths?
Moses was drawn from the water to which he had been condemned by the whim of Pharaoh. Though but a child, he cried to you, LORD, and Pharaoh’s own daughter you sent to rescue him. Her heart you softened to the forsaken.
And now that we are afflicted and in pain, in exile from your presence because of the darkness of sin, will you not answer us if we call out to you, O LORD? Is your help not with those who seek you, who seek to be saved from your impending judgment by the reformation of their lives?
O let us turn from our sin, LORD! that we might be exalted to the skies.
Sun, 16 July 2017
(Ex.1:8-14,22; Ps.124:1-8; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.”
The Israelites lived and worked side by side with the Egyptians for some four hundred years; they had virtually become members of the same household. But jealousy overcame a “new king” of Egypt, who determined “to oppress them with forced labor,” hoping to break their will as well as their backs. But they only grew stronger because, as our psalm tells us so vividly, the Lord was with them. “Had not the Lord been with us… when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive.” And, quite literally, “then would the waters have overwhelmed” them, for it was commanded that their newborn males be thrown into the river. But the Lord was with them, and through all this oppression they only grew stronger.
The Israelites stand as an example for our own faith and its struggle with the world today. Jesus tells us in our gospel that peace shall not be found with the earth, and even those of our own flesh, by following His call. Indeed, He has come, “in short, to make a man’s enemies those of His own household.” How true this was for the first Christians, all of whom were Jews, and all of whom would find resistance and even persecution for following this way in which Jesus calls us. Division among the family must have been common. But it is no less true today that a man who truly seeks to follow the way of the Lord will meet with the same resistance, even from those who profess to be Catholic and Christian (even from within himself), because the same jealousy the Egyptians had toward the Israelites exists now, and always will, and the same fears the Jews had of Christ also will not easily pass away. The world is ever in opposition to the cross, yet knowing this, Jesus emphasizes that “he who will not take up his cross and come after [Him] is not worthy of [Him].” We are eternally called to turn from the world, in all its forms, and lay down our lives and our wills.
But we are not alone in this mission to overcome the sins of the world. As the Lord was with the Israelites, He is certainly with us. Following Him so closely, it cannot but be that He is near at our sides. And not only He and His Spirit but His people as well are present to us in this struggle we undertake. We do have brothers and sisters in the struggle; there are many who give us “a cup of cold water” along the way. Still the Lord is ever here to help us; still when the world seems to overwhelm us, we are “rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.” Still we grow stronger through all the oppression we endure. Let us praise the Lord for His saving power upon us. Let us continually recommit our lives to His mission on earth, placing Him even before family and friends, and in the losing of our lives we shall come to life and ever grow in His eternal light.
Strengthen us, O Lord,
under the burden of work we endure for you;
help us to carry our cross.
And may we multiply and spread in your Name.
O LORD, let us bring ourselves to naught
for the sake of Christ
and He will redeem us from every persecution.
YHWH, what division there is in this world! What oppression your disciples bear! Even from neighbors, even from those in their own households, persecution comes. But this should not trouble our souls: the Cross is to be expected. For certainly jealousy exists among the sons of men, and so, will there not be those jealous of the greatest gift of all? But through it all you are with us.
O help us to lose ourselves for your sake, dear LORD! Help us not to be afraid of such total dispossession. Let us treasure being bereft of all things of this world that we might truly find our place in Heaven. For our reward will not be wanting – all we do for you is greatly blessed. And so, if we give our very lives, will we not find the greatest blessing?
You free our souls from every snare; however much the waters rage they will not overwhelm us. For you are with us in our labor, LORD, and save us from all danger.
Sat, 15 July 2017
(Is.55:10-11; Ps.65:10-14,Lk.8:8; Rom.8:18-23; Mt.13:1-23)
“The seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit.”
Comes the Word of God. To our eyes, to our ears. A seed sown within our hearts. May it find rich soil in which to grow, that we might know “the redemption of our bodies.”
“The rain and the snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth… so shall [God’s] word be that goes forth from [His] mouth.” For indeed it makes the earth “fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats”: it nourishes the expectant soul and provides seed for its increased growth. All is given life by the Word of God.
What Isaiah prophesies, David sings – “You prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.” And by this grace which falls from heaven, consuming the manna which is its fruit, His children know the “bounty” of the Lord; for His “paths overflow with a rich harvest.” Hardly can we contain the blessings of “the valleys blanketed with grain.”
Jesus has come. The Lord has “visited the land and watered it.” The grace of God is in our midst in heavenly flesh and blood. And we are left dumb; for the Word of God indeed silences our tongue. What can we say as we see His fields coming to life? How can we speak of the beauty of a land bathed in light? Deeply into our souls His words do fall, and we awaken, we arise as His children of light, beginning now to understand the blessing at our fingertips, the redemption we do find in the Body and Blood of Christ. And though we “groan within ourselves,” we know these are the “labor pains” of growth. For in this cleansing rain purging our hearts we come to be “set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
What a wonderful word we have from our Lord: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.” What a promise He makes to those who gaze upon that which the prophets longed to possess: “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.” And so, what confidence we who are granted “knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” should have in His grace-filled Spirit; and what fruit we should thus bear, even to life everlasting.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Listen through the Music" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let your rain fall upon us
that we might bear fruit in your Name;
let us hear your Word and answer your call.
YHWH, make us fertile and fruitful. Open our hearts to receive your Word; let it sink deep within us and grow by your grace. Your grace is as the rain which waters hearts set on your will. May we indeed receive your abundant gifts, O LORD, and yield a rich harvest in your Name.
So blind are our eyes, dear LORD, so dull our hearts. We are deaf to your Word as we set our sights on the things of this world. The devil easily enters in and steals from us that which we neither have nor desire. But you come to us in your compassion to teach us, to open our ears to your Word that we might be as the untilled meadows, the fields no human hand has touched, which produce fruit in abundance by your grace.
The first fruits of the Spirit we now have as a gift from you, LORD. Yet we await the fullness of your blessings; yet we groan in pain as still we need to grow in you. Set us free from all slavery to corruption that we might share in the glorious freedom of your children of light. May our fruit be worthy of your kingdom.
Fri, 14 July 2017
(Gn.49:29-32,50:15-24; Ps.105:1-4,6-7,33; Mt.10:24-33)
“Whoever acknowledges me before men
I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Joseph does well in acknowledging God before his brothers, as, refusing to take revenge on them, he states of his suffering that “God meant it for good.” He thus proves himself a servant of the Lord; realizing that “no pupil outranks his teacher, no slave his master,” he asks, “Can I take the place of God?” and so simultaneously accepts the scourgings that come with being a servant of his “father’s God.” Indeed, further applying the Lord’s words to the apostles in our gospel to Joseph, we know that it has been his proclaiming before the world, before Pharaoh himself, the dreams the Lord has spoken to him in the secret of his room that has brought Joseph to this position of eminence wherein he can so dutifully and kindly provide for “the survival of many people.” And so, as he prepares to die, as this sparrow falls – even as his father before him “drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was taken to his kindred” – it is with confidence the Lord will acknowledge him before the Father of all that his life ends, as well as with the faith that his children shall be blessed and come into the land promised them by Him who holds both body and soul in His all-powerful hands.
And what of our own witness? Have we the forgiveness of Joseph, which is the forgiveness of God? Do we “seek to serve Him constantly” and “proclaim all His wondrous deeds,” as our psalmist encourages us today? Are we true pupils of this great teacher, faithful to our call to live and to die in His light? Or are we afraid for the body and judging by the dictates of this earthly life?
These are questions we must ask ourselves each day, for each day and at every moment our souls are required of us, lest we die for want of the Bread which comes to us by His holy hands. The Lord holds our life’s breath in His hand and “every hair of [our] head has been counted” by Him, so indeed we should fear Him. But that fear is born and finds recompense in love; the fear that comes from the world and its power brings only death to our bodies and souls. Let us simply recognize the truth of His presence and His power to all we meet, to all for whom we are responsible, and our salvation and the blessing of our progeny will be assured. And so with confidence, with faith of the Holy Spirit, we shall die and come to life, this day, and in eternity.
Lord, make us true servants of your love;
and gather us into the bosom of Abraham
and into your sacred heart.
O LORD, let us become like our Teacher
and die on the Cross;
may we make His presence known
by laying down our lives.
YHWH, let us seek to serve you constantly, that we may be your chosen ones. Let us proclaim your NAME from the rooftops; then we shall live in your light and be blessed – then we shall die in your arms and be gathered into Heaven.
Why should we fear for the life of the body when you are ready to hear our prayers, our pleading for mercy. You watch over our every step for your heart is set upon us to save us from every evil, to keep us from the persecution of a sinful world. And we shall take rest in your presence, LORD, when our days are over.
Let us be as your Son, our Teacher. Let us follow His instructions and walk ever in His way. Then indeed we shall be blessed and have nothing to do but praise your NAME. Then indeed all our sins will be gone, and we shall enter the land you promise.
Thu, 13 July 2017
(Gn.46:1-7,28-30; Ps.37:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40; Mt.10:16-23)
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.”
We are as exiles in this world. Indeed, the Lord sends us forth “like sheep among wolves.” In Egypt must we dwell for a time, until we are prepared for the coming of Christ.
But here He meets us. Here He weeps over us and so enables us to face the death which is upon us, which indeed surrounds us in this foreign land. Even in our trials, in all our persecutions, He is there: He suffers with us, and we with Him. And His Spirit is very present to lead us; it burns in our hearts to guide us, giving us the words we must speak, assuring us that Jesus is with us in all we do.
As Israel sets forth for Egypt, he is fearful. But he calls upon the Lord in his sacrifices, and in vision once again God comes to him, providing His assurance, His continued blessing. David’s psalm speaks so well of the protection and blessing which is ours in this land of exile: “The Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever. The salvation of the just is from the Lord; He is their refuge in time of distress.” Yes, He is our refuge in this land where we walk as exiles, in this world which would persecute the Word of God, pursuing it to kill it, to destroy it. But it is even in Egypt that a great nation shall be made of Israel; here, even under slavery, the people of God shall multiply and prosper. And so it is with us who follow Jesus: here in this world of persecution we are refined and made whole, as individuals and as a people; here under the threat of death we come to life, for His gentle yoke is upon us, and in Him we find refuge and even joy in all our sufferings. By undergoing persecution in His Name, we draw so very close to Him; and laying down our lives we find the great love which is without end.
Jesus speaks to us; the Spirit is here with us. There is no need to fear. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” Have faith in the word He speaks to your hearts and be assured that He watches over you here in this land of exile, not only protecting you from the wolves that surround you, but even increasing your blessings all the while. Your home in heaven is assured; see that Jesus is alive now and dwelling with you and you shall be able to close your eyes in peace, knowing all your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, you will see again when the Lord brings you to the land of promise.
O LORD, bring us to the place
we will find your presence,
the place we will find your love.
YHWH, you go with us into Egypt; through the persecutions of this world you are with us to speak for us and bless us and increase our yield. We need not be afraid of the way you call us, for you indeed love what is right and so are with the just who reflect your goodness. Though the wicked be destroyed, the inheritance of your faithful ones lasts forever.
Nothing can separate us from you, LORD; nothing can take us out of your hand or from the land you promise your chosen. Even death we escape by your grace and mercy, by your secure protection.
Give us the wisdom we need this day, O LORD, and the innocence to make our way through this world remaining on the path you set for us. Even the powerful of this world you send to save us, for we are your favored sons.
Wed, 12 July 2017
(Gn.44:18-21,23-29,45:1-5; Ps.105:5,16-21; Mt.10:7-15)
“It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you.”
Remarkable words from the mouth of Joseph as the brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt stand dumbfounded before him, fearing indeed for their own lives. And indeed Joseph may have been justified to command the ending of their lives to avenge his treatment at their hands. But the Lord has looked with favor upon him who had been “bound with chains,” raising him up to be lord of Pharaoh’s house and “ruler of all his possessions,” and Joseph rightfully attributes such blessing to God and sees His hand at work in all this matter. Here is the great example of trust in God’s providential care. And Joseph has but a deep love for his brothers, and will now care for their lives and that of his father.
The same trust in God’s providence is asked of the disciples in our gospel. Jesus sends them forth with “no traveling bag, no change of shirt, no sandals, no walking staff,” telling them, “Provide yourselves with neither gold nor silver nor copper in your belts”: “the workman, after all, is worth his keep,” and God will always provide for those who serve Him.
Certainly a great lesson is in this for all of us. Do we have such trust in God? Joseph says that it is God who has, in effect, sold him into slavery that he might later be made a leader in Egypt and save his family from famine, this despite the fact that his own brothers have treated him with such disdain. Do we have such a blessed view of the trials which come our way? Can we see them as the hand of God working, and working for the good? Can we forgive so beautifully those by whom the trials come? Have we such vision that sees the hand of God at work in all things? “All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” Paul tells us elsewhere (Rm.8:28). Can we give all things which happen to us to God and trust that His will shall be done, is done, in them all?
Where is our trust? Is it in money and the things of this world? Do we think that these things will provide for us, will make us happy, will keep us satisfied – are these our gods? Or do we seek and accept the reign of God which the Lord tells us is at hand? Do we receive well His message of peace, His blessing of God’s love and care, or do we expel Him from our homes? And do we share His free gift with others?
There is great “famine on the land,” a famine of the hearing of God’s word and trusting in His hand. Let us come to the Son who has accepted scourging in the will of His Father and find all we need from Him who now sits on His throne. Believe that He does provide, and all will indeed be yours. And your trials will be turned to joy.
O LORD, you bring your peace to every house,
and so, too, do your disciples.
YHWH, it is you who provide for all we need, you and you alone. And if we but trust in you, all we need will be ours. If we but set our hearts on your holy will, your blessings will rest upon us – no trial will overcome us.
The blessing of peace your children bring to every house they enter, for you are with your disciples, O LORD and God, and work your will in all they say and do. May we freely give the blessing of peace you have so freely given to us. May every soul we meet be offered your peace and be encouraged to enter into your presence.
What need we more than this peace? What more than your presence can feed us? In all things you work toward good for those who trust in your providence. And in this we find our peace. In this we find release from every prison; every sin is forgiven. Let us but have faith that you are at our side at all times.
Tue, 11 July 2017
(Gn.41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24; Ps.33:2-3,10-11,18-19,22; Mt.10:1-7)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
In our gospel, Jesus commissions the twelve apostles to go forth after “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in order “to expel unclean spirits and cure sickness and disease of every kind” and bring His people into “the reign of God.” In our first reading, we see that “famine had gripped the whole world,” and the lost and hungry sheep of Israel, the sons of Jacob themselves come to Egypt and their forsaken brother Joseph to find food, to find healing for their ills. They have sinned terribly against Joseph, and against God, by selling their younger brother into slavery because of their jealousy of him. Now that God has favored him who was so forsaken, he stands above them with their very lives in his hands, holding not only their food as procurator of Egypt, but also with the power to cast them into prison, or to release them.
Do we see the similarity between Joseph and Jesus? Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Savior of the nation of Israel and, in the flesh, one of their own – their favored Son. And He who will be forsaken and sold to the Romans for crucifixion, He whose elder brothers will betray Him into the power of this world, is He who holds their, and our, very lives in His hands. It is when He opens His hands that they are fed; when He says the word, they, and we, are cast into prison – or released. By His word all demons are expelled and all infirmities healed. He indeed has every right to cast our souls into everlasting prison and torment; but, like Joseph, He takes pity on those who have wounded Him: like Joseph, we know that “He wept.”
But His weeping does not come automatically. Just as with Joseph, it is prompted by the repentance of His brothers, who have so despised him but now recognize their sin and bewail it to the Lord. His forgiveness and His healing – His salvation – come to those who in like manner “fear Him.” Upon these the Lord looks with pity. With these Jesus Himself cries. For these the Lord sends forth His apostles, to heal them and call them into the reign of God. As for the repentant, He will indeed “deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.” These lost sheep He will save.
And “the plan of the Lord stands forever”: it reaches to us this day. It is eternal, for all who fear Him, in whatever time or place. His word extends now to the ends of the earth, to the twelve tribes of Israel and beyond. Founded firmly in the Twelve (apostles), it now comes to the ears of all mankind. Let us repent even this day, brothers and sisters, be healed, and be fed by the hand of God.
O LORD, your reign is at hand,
at hand for all to touch…
for your holy will endures forever,
and calls us ever to enter in.
YHWH, your eyes are indeed on those who fear you; those who hope for your kindness, you do not disappoint. For you send Joseph to Egypt before his brothers to preserve the Nation from famine; and the apostles your Son sends forth to heal us of all our ills. Into your reign let us be gathered!
How lost we are, dear LORD, as we travel through this world. How much in need do we find ourselves, we who have strayed from your pasture, we who have separated ourselves from you by our sin. Because we are hard of heart and have condemned our brother, we find ourselves in desperate straits. And what hope do we have but to come to you? What can we do but turn to the Brother we have so harmed, begging for His mercy? And what can He do but look with pity upon us – what can He do but weep for our sakes? And so salvation comes to us. And so we bless you, LORD.
Mon, 10 July 2017
(Gn.32:23-33; Ps.17:1-3,6-8,15; Mt.9:32-38)
“You test my heart, searching it in the night.”
“You have contended with divine and human beings,” the angel says of Jacob; and so he receives his new name, Israel: “he strives with God”. Such striving with the Lord in this night which has set upon the earth is our lot in life. May we prevail upon Him as has Jacob.
As he is about to reenter the Promised Land after fourteen years away, fearful for what awaits – particularly in the face of the potential anger of his brother Esau, whose birthright and blessing he has assumed – Jacob sets himself apart from all things and alone prepares to confront the Lord. We are told he wrestles all the night with a “man,” for indeed as such does God appear to him through His messenger. In contending with the Lord, Jacob remains strong and earns the blessing of his new name. He is a worthy combatant in the struggle to know God in this life, and so, “on waking” the next morning, as he goes forth at dawn, he is “content” in God’s presence; he is prepared for any danger which lies before him. And reconciliation with Esau he shall find. And the father of the Israelites he has become.
How much easier it is for us to behold the face of God, to come to know Him whom our souls long to see, now that Christ has come. And yet the struggle goes on; it is not over, but rather finds a certain intensification through clarification in the shadow of the cross. We see in our gospel how Jesus Himself struggles. His children are “like sheep without a shepherd,” “lying prostrate from exhaustion,” and He must become exhausted as they, as He tours their towns, constantly teaching and preaching and healing all their infirmities – and all this while being accused of doing the work of “the prince of demons” by those in the role of leaders. The struggle Jesus undergoes is most evident in His entreaty to His disciples: “Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather His harvest.” Jesus desperately needs assistance.
The Lord shall find assistance in His apostles; they, too, shall carry the cross of Christ, laying down their lives for the building up of the Church. But all of us are indeed called under the cross; all of us are beckoned into the struggle for souls, the divine and human drama that is our lot in this world. But first we must be tested, as will be Peter and the apostles; for we must be tried in His holy fire to be purified of any “malice” and “deceit” which clings to us, and so be prepared to enter the struggle, to labor in the fields – to meet our destiny which lies in the heart of our Lord.
There we shall find comfort, but here the dark night is upon us as we strive with God to be made perfect in His sight. May the dawn break upon us and we go forth at His side.
O LORD, let us labor with your Son,
striving always for union with you.
YHWH, may we all be gathered into your arms, safe from all that could harm us. Help us to meet the test you set before us; enable us to meet with you, O mighty God. For how shall we come face to face with you if you do not bless us, if you do not give us the strength we need. Heal us this day of all infirmity, of all the disease that sin does bring, that waking from the dark night this world imposes, we shall be content in your presence.
You try us by fire, LORD, by holy fire that would purge us of all dross, of all sin that clings to our souls. Remove all doubt and fear from our hearts; hear us as we call to you. Do not leave us till we are blessed to bear your NAME.
Why should we question your goodness, LORD? Your goodness cannot but prevail. May we embrace the Son who walks among us, and be joined to you by His compassion.
Sun, 9 July 2017
(Gn.28:10-22; Ps.91:1-4,14-15; Mt.9:18-26)
“Know that I am with you;
I will protect you wherever you go.”
What the Lord says here to Jacob, He says indeed to all of us: He will protect us on our journey; let us but take refuge in Him. Our dearest Jesus is the abode of God, and in Him our souls are safe.
As Jacob sets forth alone from the land of Canaan, he fears that he shall not return to this place of His promised inheritance. But the Lord comes to him in a dream to stand “beside him” and assure him that the promise is firm: “I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” With these words of encouragement and the vision of heaven’s ladder still in his mind, Jacob cries out in “solemn wonder” of that place in which the Lord revealed Himself to His servant. He sets up a memorial stone, thereby to mark “God’s abode.”
Our psalm today sings of the Lord’s protection upon those who trust in Him. He answers our call in distress, rescues us from “the snare of the fowler,” and gives us refuge. Thus we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” abiding in His shadow, covered by His wings of blessed protection. “Because he clings to me, I will deliver him,” says our psalmist in the voice of the Lord; and indeed we know that trusting in Him is our salvation.
And in our gospel we discover where such refuge lies; we find Him who is the true house of God, and we are shown the faith which is necessary to make our home there. What Jesus says to the woman, He says to His whole Church: “Courage, daughter! Your faith has restored you to health.” Her great faith told her she needed but to “touch his cloak,” but to press up against the walls of the temple that is Christ to find healing. And the synagogue leader states simply and clearly his faith in the Lord: “My daughter has just died. Please come and lay your hand on her and she will come back to life.” Yes, indeed the protection of the Lord, the refuge and strength He is to us in our faith, reaches beyond the grave.
Our own journeys can be arduous, brothers and sisters. At times it can seem as if the Lord is leaving us, as if He is far away. Faith. Faith, brothers and sisters, will see us through all difficulties, even death. We are destined to rise with Him on the last day; we are blessed here now along the way. Jesus is the ladder which leads to heaven; He Himself is the House of God. With faith in Him and in His protection, let us climb with the angels to His abode.
Today in our hearts let us set up for Him a memorial stone, that we might remember His sacred presence. For now we do more than touch the tassel of His cloak; He enters us and we enter Him whole.
O LORD, we shall be raised up,
if we but trust in you.
YHWH, you are our refuge; help us to trust entirely in you. If we have but faith, we shall be saved from all disease and even death. We shall dwell with you forever. For you bless those who trust in you, who seek to do your holy will.
To Heaven let us come, dear LORD; send us your Son to carry us there. He is the ladder upon which we climb, aided by your angels. How shall we fly unto you if you do not reach down to us? If you do not call us, we cannot go forth. Without your protection we shall surely die. We have no hope but you.
You raise the daughter of the faithful man; you heal the hemorrhage of the poor woman. Into the Promised Land you guide your chosen child, Israel. You alone are awesome, O God. You alone save us from distress. Bring us into your House this day, for your House is a fortress where we take refuge and find our souls secure.
Sat, 8 July 2017
(Zec.9:9-10; Ps.145:1-2,8-11,13-14; Rom.8:9,11-13; Mt.11:25-30)
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.”
A remarkable confluence of Scripture today, extolling the “great kindness” of our King, who comes to us “meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass,” and inviting us to take refuge in Him and in His blessed humility.
Yes, upon a beast of burden, upon the young offspring of a beast of burden comes He who bears the burden of all our sins. Not on horse or in chariot does He come, for horse and chariot He casts into the sea: by Him “the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and He shall proclaim peace to the nations.” It is not the rich and powerful of this world He dies for, it is not their stead in which He stands, for the Lord has “hidden these things from the wise and the learned” of this world and “revealed them to little ones.” This we see in the “little one” His Son has become. This we find when we imitate His sacrifice.
David’s psalm echoes the Lord’s own words – “The Lord lifts up all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down” – and Paul says the same when he declares, “The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you.” For what is it to “put to death the deeds of the body,” that by the Spirit we may live, but to humble ourselves in the sight of God, to bow down before God and men and bear His light burden? For though we be crushed by the weight of labor and persecution in Jesus’ name, yet we live eternally in “His dominion [which] shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
The Lord Jesus states clearly, “I am meek and humble of heart,” and like Him, and like His Father, we are called to be. And for the grace of Him who is “compassionate toward all His works” we should “rejoice heartily” with our Savior, who exclaims today, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth”; for all His works “give [Him] thanks” and “[His] faithful ones bless [Him]” for His faithfulness. “A just savior is He,” and “the glory of [His] kingdom” and His “might” are known in His mercy, are felt in the comforting hand He stretches forth to lift up the humblest of our kind. “Praise [His] name forever and ever.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Dust" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, blessed are you,
for your Son comes to us in humility
that we might come to you in glory.
YHWH, you speak of peace to your people, the peace that comes from your Son’s humble sacrifice. May we give praise to you, Father, that He has revealed to humble hearts your blessed way.
O LORD, help us put to death the deeds of the body, that we shall live in the flesh no more. Let your Spirit overtake our souls, that we might rise with your Son from this fallen earth. We bow down before you, our LORD and our God; raise our heads to praise your NAME forever.
Your burden place upon our shoulders, dearest LORD. Your Son’s Cross is indeed light for us to bear. For it is He who carries the Cross; it is He who bears the weight of our sin. It is He who takes from us the burden of the flesh and fills us with the Spirit of light and truth. O let us take His Cross upon ourselves and rest in the glory we thus find!
Make us your little ones, LORD, humble as the only Son.
Fri, 7 July 2017
(Gn.27:1-5,15-29; Ps.135:1-6; Mt.9:14-17)
“Pour new wine into new wineskins,
and in that way both are preserved.”
“Jacob.” The name means “the supplanter”. Here he supplants his twin brother, Esau, whose name means “red earth”. Though born second, Jacob receives the blessing of the firstborn. Of what significance is this supplanting, is this blessing of Jacob, who is to be “Israel”, and from whom the twelve tribes shall proceed? Far more than some sibling rivalry, it shows the coming of the New Covenant of the spirit which shall supplant the Old of the flesh.
It is not the will of Isaac to bless Jacob; his love is for Esau – who before this time has forfeited his birthright to Jacob in order to feed his hungry belly. But Isaac is blind. He is blind because he, too, is a natural man, a man of the flesh seeking to feed his belly. And so the Lord inspires Rebekah to intercede, to see that His will is accomplished. Notice please the words of Isaac when Jacob comes to him dressed in the hairy skin of a beast and the clothes of Esau: “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s.” Indeed, the voice is of the spirit; the skin he feels is of the flesh. And the Word must go to the word, the Spirit to the spirit; and so it is Jacob who must receive the blessing, despite the will of Isaac.
And how is Isaac brought to do the Father’s will? He is deceived by his own preoccupation with the flesh, with the old wineskin. Upon eating his fill, and drinking his fill of the old wine, he is blinded further. And smelling the clothes of Esau he is inspired to pronounce his blessing. But what Esau possesses in his clothes, Jacob holds in his spirit – this fragrance is that which rises to the nostrils of the Lord. And it is His will which must be done. He chooses the spiritual man.
And in our gospel, too, we see the blindness of the natural man in his preoccupation with the flesh. John’s disciples, like the Pharisees – whose stomachs growl from fasts in which they find no blessing – looked jealously upon the disciples of Jesus, who do not have to endure the penance which is so tedious to these men removed from the Spirit. But in Jesus is the blessing of the Spirit, reflected in God’s choosing of Jacob, here fulfilled in the sight of men whose eyes need yet to be opened to its grace.
The new wine is of the Spirit of God, brothers and sisters; we drink it each day in the blood of Christ. Let it not be poured into skins that yet look upon the world with eyes of flesh; rather, be made new as it calls you to be, and preserve your soul unto heaven. It is the Spirit which gives life; the flesh is of no avail.
O LORD, may the new wine of the Spirit be upon us
to bless us, always.
YHWH, you have chosen Jacob for yourself; you do what you will. All goes well with Israel, for you have blessed him. The man of the Spirit is your favored Son, while the man of the flesh finds his birthright gone.
Into new wineskins let your blessings be poured, O holy LORD. Make us new in your presence this day that the blood shed by your Son may be our own. Let us drink of this New Covenant, anointed by your Spirit, and we shall live forever in your sight, blessed as Jesus with whom we become one.
Praise you, LORD, mighty God! Praised be to your holy NAME! For all is done in your will, despite our many shortcomings. You are great in Heaven and on earth and lead your chosen ones by your mercy. Let us not take refuge in the things of the flesh but rejoice ever in the Holy Spirit, even on this day of fasting.
Thu, 6 July 2017
(Gn.23:1-4,19,24:1-8,62-67; Ps.106:1-5; Mt.9:9-13)
“In his love for [Rebekah] Isaac found solace
after the death of his mother Sarah.”
And of this love Jacob shall be born; and from him shall come the twelve tribes of Israel, who shall people the earth as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.
Sarah had died and “Abraham had now reached a ripe old age.” Now conscious of his mortality, Abraham sets his sights firmly on his son and his coming progeny. Now with great resolve he sets to seek a wife for Isaac, telling his servant as he sends him to his people: the Lord “will send His messenger before you, and you will obtain a wife for my son there.” And Abraham’s faith in God’s promise is rewarded, as the servant is led directly to Rebekah. And how inspired is the meeting of Isaac and Rebekah. We are told they are both looking about for one another, and seem to recognize each other immediately, even from a great distance. Indeed, they are brought together by God to fulfill His promise to Abraham.
Notice in our gospel that Jesus seems to be looking around as well: “As Jesus moved about, He saw a man named Matthew at his post where taxes are collected.” Like Abraham, Jesus, too, is concerned for His progeny, for those who will follow Him – those who will bring His promise of salvation forth when He has returned to the Father. And He chooses Matthew as an apostle to follow Him. And notice Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call: “Matthew got up and followed Him.” It seems here, too, the love is mutual, that Matthew, too, has been looking about for the Lord, and that the two are drawn together by the Father to ensure the fulfillment of the covenant with His Son. And Jesus, who has just come from public forgiveness of sin, seems not so much to be speaking to the Pharisees’ complaining of His eating with sinners, as to Matthew, whom He’s calling to carry out His mission of teaching and healing, when He says: “I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.”
The word goes forth. The promise is sure. It comes to us even this day. The Lord provides for its care and will see it through to its fulfillment. In each one of us His salvation is at work even now. Brothers and sisters, mourn not so much for the sin which troubles your heart as you accept the Lord’s solace and rejoice in His mercy. With the psalmist, say to the Lord: “Visit me with your saving help, that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones.” Amen.
O LORD, call our sinful souls into your loving arms,
that in death we may be comforted.
YHWH, how good you are to your inheritance; how you favor your people with your blessing. How you watch over us and lead us to the accomplishment of your will, to finding prosperity in your presence. We are but weak and sinful men, and yet you call us to sit at table with your Son in the kingdom, yet you call us to be your disciples and carry your Word forth. O let your mercy indeed go forth to the ends of the earth!
Help us, O LORD, to observe what is right, to do always what is just in your sight. Help us ever to follow in your way and be obedient to your command. For what is your command to us but love itself; where does it lead but to your side? We are sick, desolate and alone, but you would heal us by your grace. And so you send your only Son to serve your will, to make us as your holy Bride.
Wed, 5 July 2017
(Gn.22:1-19; Ps.115:1-6,8-9; Mt.9:1-8)
“God put Abraham to the test.”
And so is his faith in the living God made known. And so we see to what faith and obedience we are called. All that we hold back from the Lord, all that is due our God – and our neighbor – we must give without hesitation at the voice of His command.
In Leviticus 5, a ram is prescribed as the sacrifice for those who have withheld their tithe, who have shorted the Lord of His due offering. And the same is prescribed for those who cheat their neighbor of what is justly theirs. It is a ram Abraham finally offers “in place of his son,” to satisfy the sacrifice called for by the Lord. And what the Lord teaches us in this passage is that, really, what is due to Him is beyond our ability to pay. Not only are our children in His hands (and any other blessings), but our very lives as well are His – all comes to us only as a gift of His love. And His greatest gift shall be His only Son, whom He shall offer without reservation, not withholding Him from such sacrifice on the cross, that what is due Him may be fulfilled by Him, since it is beyond our ability to do so.
Isaac carried the wood of his own sacrifice to “the place of which God had told [Abraham]” to travel. He is as the unknowing sheep led to his own slaughter and is a sign of the Christ who will carry the wood of His own cross, without a word, to His own crucifixion. How can we understand all this? What a test it puts us to! Abraham prepares to slaughter the son of the promise; by the Father’s will Jesus is nailed to a cross like the worst of criminals… How can the mind of man fathom the workings and will of God? The question seems overwhelming but the answer is simple – and it is but that we trust in Him and in His love.
In our gospel, “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of the people in “His own town,” He was moved to forgive the sins of the paralytic; and in the same breath, by the same power, to heal him. The scribes were indignant at His presumption to forgive sins. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” Jesus asks, putting them to the test before revealing to them the authority given Him. And are not their thoughts like our own? Are not their doubts and questions and, indeed, presumptions not like our own hesitation and refusal to come to faith in God and trust in His will and His love? Are not their fears like our own in coming to the foot of the cross and partaking of His blood?
Our psalm makes clear that our God is a loving God, not one of wood or metal, and it is life He desires for His children. Jesus makes clear God’s desire for us to be healed, to be whole in His sight – and His beneficence in “giving such authority to men” to effect this desire (particularly in the Sacrament of Confession); we must not think He is otherwise, and we must be prepared to give Him our very lives. For how else shall we come to life but by giving all to Him who holds all in His loving hands? Have faith and trust in Him, brothers and sisters, and obey His command. It brings only life.
O LORD, your Son has authority to forgive men’s sins,
for it is by the blood of His sacrifice
we are redeemed.
YHWH, you put us to the test to see if our faith is strong, to see if we really love you above all things and truly trust in your providence. For your providence can be trusted; your love cannot be denied. You have given us your only Son in sacrifice, and so we are free from all cares, all sin, in this life. O let us stand up and walk with you in the steps of Jesus your Son!
We shall not die. This is what you wish to teach us, LORD. You hold our lives in your hand and you shall not let go. And so, we need not turn to idols of silver and gold, lifeless objects with no breath in them; we need but trust in your unending love and we shall be blessed through all generations.
Heal us, O LORD, of all the evil that is within us, all the fear and all the blindness to your will. Let us give you praise for your grace among us and, ready to sacrifice all to you, have faith in your abundant love.
Tue, 4 July 2017
(Gn.21:5,8-20; Ps.34:7-8,10-13; Mt.8:28-34)
“When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress He saved him.”
Ishmael is the model of the afflicted man calling out to the Lord and being heard in all his distress. His very name means “he whom God hears” and indeed we see clearly today how, though “it is through Isaac that descendants shall bear [Abraham’s] name,” nonetheless, the Lord has pity on Ishmael and his plight – his rejection by the mother of the promised child and his wandering in a trackless waste – and declares that of him a “great nation” shall come. Indeed he is left to die by his mother, so desperate had their situation become; but upon the child’s crying out, the Lord hears and sends His angel to assist them and assure them of the boy’s future greatness.
Ishmael is a son of Abraham; though born of a slave woman, yet “he too is [Abraham’s] offspring,” and so for this the Lord takes special care to watch over him. For God has chosen Abraham to be the father of many nations and does not wish to see His blessed patriarch distressed. We have already seen how God has heard the prayer of Abraham for Lot; now we see the same regarding Abraham’s concern for Ishmael.
We must, brothers and sisters, understand whence our own blessing comes. We are spiritual sons of Abraham, of Moses, of David… but most particularly we are children of Jesus and His apostles, the Church. A far greater intercessor have we in the Son of God Himself, so let us not be afraid to cry out to Him in our need. For if God heard the prayers of Abraham, how much more will He hear the prayers of His Son? And if God watched over the kin and offspring of the blessed patriarch, how much more concern does He have for the children of light born of the blood of Jesus Christ?
Our confidence must be sure in Him, for He cannot help but hear our prayer. Indeed, our gospel tells us that when “the demons kept appealing to Him,” even them He heard and granted their plea. If the Lord hears such as these, how can we even begin to doubt His presence to us? Now let us not be afraid to come to Him. Let us not be like the inhabitants of that Gadarene territory who found the Lord too much to bear and “begged Him to leave their neighborhood.” Let us not think in our hearts coming to Him we will die, that His light is simply too bright. No. He calls us as children to take refuge in Him.
It is His desire to bless our days. Turn not away from Him, for as David sings for us, “Those who seek the Lord want for no good thing”; He hears and answers all our cries.
O LORD, you have power to bless and to save;
you have pity on every poor man,
and so, let us not be afraid to cry out to you.
YHWH, you cannot help but answer our cries; your Son cannot turn his back on those in need, those who plead for His mercy. For you are love and mercy itself, and your compassion knows no bounds. And so, the son of the slave girl you bless, and even respond to the demons’ request.
And will you not hear us when we call to you, LORD? Should we doubt your concern for our well-being? Every afflicted soul you would save from distress, if he would but your mercy seek.
For this grace let us praise you, LORD; let us not turn away from you in fear. For our sins you would wipe away, remembering them no more. Be with us now and let us grow in you. Let us remain with you forever, your blessing upon us all our days. O let us prosper in your love, in your holy presence.
Mon, 3 July 2017
(Gn.19:15-29; Ps.26:2-3,9-12; Mt.8:23-27)
“Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”
“The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah,” and “without warning a violent storm came up on the lake, and the boat began to be swamped by the waves.” The Lord saved Lot from the destruction of Sodom, and Jesus calmed the winds and the sea, saving the disciples; but how little faith either showed in His power.
Lot seems oblivious to the annihilation about to be wrought by God, hesitating to flee even at the urging of angels. Indeed, he is brought from that place only by force and “by the Lord’s mercy,” by all appearances deserving to be swept away with the others in their sin. Then upon being carried the greater part of the way, he is too tired to complete the salvation the Lord has begun. And as for the apostles, they quickly dissemble at the threat of the elements, forgetting entirely in whose hands all these forces rest. Indeed, where Lot fails in proper fear for his own protection, the disciples are filled too greatly with concern for their mortal lives. Neither has the holiness or faith necessary for eternal glory.
“Gather not my soul with those of sinners,” we should all cry out to the Lord, for indeed we all fall short of the glory of God; and if it were not for His mercy and protection, all would die in their sins. But He has the power to save us, and the kindness besides. Only let us not presume upon His mercy, nor fail to stand strong in His grace and faith. We have one greater than Abraham watching over us and interceding for us with God; let us no longer question His will for us or wonder who it is that controls the wind and the sea, the earth and the fire. Now we should know clearly that these obey Him, and that we must do the same.
Brothers and sisters, can we say to the Lord with David: “Test my soul and try my heart”? Are we prepared to expose ourselves to His refining fire? Would we “walk in integrity” with this son of Jesse, crying out to the Lord, “Redeem me, and have pity on me.” If we come to Him and lay our lives before Him, He will certainly enter in and preserve us from all distress. His voice shall resound about us and within us, calming the wind and the waves contending in our hearts. Remember that He has the power. Remember that He, only He, is alive. And by His grace He will save our lives.
O LORD, if we have faith, you will save us –
however dark things may seem,
your Word and your light are near.
YHWH, how little faith we have. Even when your angel is with us, even with your Son in our boat, we doubt and fear. We cannot trust. We cannot be strong in the face of temptation, before the traps of the evil one. It is because we are concerned for our flesh that we fail to recognize the Spirit is all that matters, that we fail to realize you can do all things…. O help us to believe in you!
Though we are weak and sinful, you reach out your hand to save us; you do all you can to bring us to safe haven, LORD. Yet there are those among us who, even while fleeing the destruction of this world, turn back to what is being abandoned and are destroyed. Why? Why are we so foolish? Why have we such attachments to what can only harm us? Why should we care for the things of this life?
Your life awaits us, LORD. Let us come quickly to the kingdom, trusting in you.
Sat, 1 July 2017
(2Kgs.4:8-11,14-16a; Ps.89:2-3,16-19; Rom.6:3-4,8-11; Mt.10:37-42)
“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
The Lord encourages us today to “take up [our] cross and follow [Him],” to place Him first in our lives to find the reward He holds. And in our second reading Paul says the same, reminding us that “we were indeed buried with Christ through baptism into death,” that we have “died with Christ… to sin once and for all” – this is our cross – and that laying down our lives before the Lord we now find ourselves “living for God in Christ Jesus”; we now find ourselves “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father [that] we too might live in newness of life” with Him who is Life itself.
And Jesus sends us forth as His disciples, saying, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Thus, by our lives we call others to die with Christ that they too might live with Him in eternity, that they too might be blessed as we. Others should see in us the Lord and be prompted to give of themselves as we do, as He does – that in Him all might rejoice.
In our first reading we find a woman who has proven the truth of Christ’s statement, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.” Quite literally does she give her “cup of cold water” to the great prophet Elisha, feeding him “whenever he passed by” and even making a place for him to stay in her home. She has recognized “that he is a holy man of God” and is drawn to him, desiring to have his godliness near her life. And by sharing her food and her home, she is laying down her life; by serving this “righteous man” she is serving God, and so she will know the blessing of God.
“This time next year you will be fondling a baby son,” is the holy man’s promise to the woman; and no greater blessing could she hope for. Here is life to her. Here is that “newness of life” of which Jesus speaks so well exemplified in our sight. And we should know that the same will be our own. “In the light of [His] countenance” we shall “know the joyful shout.” “At [His] name [we] rejoice all the day.” “The praises of the Lord [we] will sing forever,” for His Son has been born in our midst; our life has come to us, has suffered and died, and now sits with the Father on high. And to Him do we come with all we are. Before Him do we lay down our lives… and all we give freely He blesses.
Written, read, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Coat of Warmth" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we lose our lives for your sake,
we shall never die.
YHWH, let us receive your Son into our homes, and all those He sends; thus we shall be receiving you and have your Word alive in us. Thus we shall come to newness of life in your eternal kingdom.
And how do we receive your Son, O LORD, but by laying down of our lives and taking up the Cross He bears? Only by giving what little we have to Him for your sake will we find ourselves so blessed as to rejoice forever in your presence.
We are blessed insofar as your Son dwells with us. We are blessed insofar as we die with Him. For having died with the Christ, we believe we shall also live with Him, and what should we desire but this eternal life? O let us live for you alone, dearest LORD and God!
This day, dear God, let us give all we own to those who come in your Name; let us put all our lives at the service of your kingdom. Leaving this world behind, we shall be exalted in Heaven.