Thu, 31 August 2017
(1Thes.4:1-8; Ps.97:1-2,5-6,10-12; Mt.25:1-13)
“God has not called us to immorality but to holiness.”
And so, “keep your eyes open” and “make still greater progress” in the path that leads to His kingdom. Your lights shining brightly as you await His return, be ready to enter His marriage feast.
“It is God’s will that you grow in holiness,” Paul instructs us in our first reading. “Conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to God” is his message. For there is a day coming on which the Lord will judge us and all we do; therefore, we must have nothing to do with “immorality” or “passionate desire” or “cheating” – “for the Lord is an avenger of all such things” – and these will find us barred from His kingdom. Rather, we must stay the path we are on, guarding ourselves “in sanctity and honor” and securing even greater gifts and graces from God that we might keep in store against His judgment, against His wrath to come. For if “the mountains melt like wax before the Lord,” how strong must we be to stand on that day of His return?
But for those who do stand strong, for those who do acquire “flasks of oil” to keep their torches burning for whatever hour the Lord might come – for them there shall be great rejoicing… This is the fate of the just. “Light dawns for the just; and gladness, for the upright of heart,” for their light is a match for His own and so He weds them unto Himself; to rejoice with the king of all the earth is their portion and cup.
Yes, “the ones who were ready went in to the wedding with Him,” but those unprepared were locked outside the doors. And so we must ask ourselves, does Jesus know us? Are we ready for the day of His coming? Do we avoid all stain of sin which detracts from the purity we must maintain as bridesmaids of the Lord? Or is there yet that which keeps us from standing ready at His gates? He will come. He will come again to judge our souls, this Son of God most just, and so we must heed the instruction of the Holy Spirit now to prepare ourselves against that day, ever making progress in His Name.
Let holiness be our treasured possession, brothers and sisters. Let it be a flaming torch growing ever higher by the breath of the Spirit upon our souls, until it reaches unto Him and His kingdom. The Lord’s “delay” in coming serves but to weed the evil from the good. Take this time to increase in faith and in knowledge of God. Be as His own.
O LORD, we must keep ourselves pure
to meet with you who are purity itself.
YHWH, let our eyes be open to see you, our hearts set on fire with your love. Let our flame not die out before the Day of your coming but ever increase as it rises unto you. Let your Spirit be upon us to lead us in wisdom every hour of every day.
O LORD, how shall our holiness grow to meet your own that we might be wed to you? How shall we turn from immorality, from the blindness upon our souls, and come to the glory to which you call us, your glory which you would make our own? O help us to listen to the instruction of the Spirit that we shall remain just in your sight.
Let your light dawn upon us, dearest LORD; let your gladness fill our souls. Let us rejoice at your wedding feast, at our union with you in your kingdom. What need we but holiness? And so, let us set our hearts on you.
Wed, 30 August 2017
(1Thes.3:7-13; Ps.90:3-4,12-14,17; Mt.24:42-51)
“Stay awake, therefore!
You cannot know the day your Lord is coming.”
And what is it to stay awake, to be ready, but to do as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians in our first reading: to continue to grow in holiness until that day we meet with the Lord. This is our essential call.
Here we are, having been converted to the Lord, having found faith in God as our foundation and been appointed servants by Christ until He should return. We are that “faithful, farsighted servant whom the master has put in charge of his household to dispense food at need.” Certainly our priests dispense the most necessary food of the Word and the Bread of Life, but all Christians the Lord gifts with His store of nourishment for the people; all of us are called to provide spiritual as well as physical nourishment to our brothers and sisters. We cannot do other than this or we are not Christians, and we will be far from the Lord at His second coming – when He calls to account all His servants.
And each day we must indeed know the Lord’s increase and “overflow with love for one another and for all”; we must always grow in the gifts the Lord gives us, not becoming impatient for the time which passes, but ever taking it as opportunity to strengthen our salvation in Christ. We must in this way have the vision of God: “A thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch in the night,” our psalm declares (expressing the patience Moses and the Israelites needed in their forty years wandering through the desert); and so short should our wait seem if lived in the presence of our God.
And so now as we wait and watch, now as we make ourselves ready for the Lord by the service we perform in His Name, let us entreat the Lord to “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness,” let us pray for Him to “prosper the work of our hands.” For all in our hands is our gift from Him to accomplish in His Name and by His grace, and by so numbering “our days aright” in His presence, we shall “gain wisdom of heart” and be awake and ready for His coming.
My prayer for you, brothers and sisters, is Paul’s own: “May he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” I pray we shall meet on that happy day.
O LORD, we must serve you each day and every hour;
thus will we be ready for your Son’s coming.
YHWH, let us be ready for the return of your Son, our hearts set on His coming Day. Make us holy before you, doing your work all our days that we might be acceptable to you.
O LORD, we long for the return of your Son, for the dawn of His light upon us. For we are in exile here in this dark place and the devil would come and steal our love for you away, tempting us with the passing of time to become impatient for the fulfillment of your promise.
Let us not be led astray. Let us remember that you are with us always, that a thousand years are as a single day in your sight – let us be blessed with your vision as we serve you, LORD! All is ever new in your presence.
And let us never cease to serve you, never turn from the joy of joining our lives to your own. Then our shortcomings shall be remedied, LORD, and we will see you face to face on your holy Day.
Tue, 29 August 2017
1Thes.2:9-13; Ps.139:1,7-12; Mt.23:27-32)
“Make your lives worthy of the God
who calls you to His kingship and glory.”
God is our Father, and those who preach “God’s good tidings” love us “as a father does his children,” for their message is “not as the word of men” but truly “the word of God at work within [those] who believe.” Come to the Lord’s table. Eat of His Body, drink of His Blood. Become as He is by His holy Word.
Children of light we are called to be, and what is that light but the one which shines in all places at all times and which is inescapable. “Where can I go from your spirit?” David wonders in our psalm. Whether we fly to the heavens or “sink to the netherworld,” He is there. For Him “darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day” because He Himself is light, and where He is, light shines – and He is everywhere.
How can we become children of such an awesome God? How can we enter “His kingship and glory” as Paul exhorts us in our first reading? The only way is by Jesus and the only way is to follow those who bring Jesus to us, whose conduct is “upright, just, and irreproachable” as is Paul’s – our means of salvation is the Church, its prophets and martyrs, its teaching and sacraments… its grace which comes to us through Jesus Christ to lead us to the Father of all. On the apostles and their message of the Gospel our faith is set.
In our gospel Jesus again chastises the Pharisees, those who have not been loving and faithful fathers for the people, those from whom care of the kingdom will be taken for the “hypocrisy and evil” within them. For though they present “a holy exterior,” it is but the bones of the saints they hold within their whitewashed tombs and not their blessed spirit. Indeed, they shall show themselves murderous as their forefathers, who shed the prophet’s blood – and whom they ascribe to themselves by name – in their giving up the fulfillment of the prophets to crucifixion. “Full of filth” inside and lovers of the tomb’s darkness, they are not worthy to be called fathers of the Lord’s children. And Jesus proves that God’s light shines in even the darkest places by exposing their corruption in our gospel today.
Brothers and sisters, beware of following false leaders whose motives are not pure, who do not lay down their lives for the flock. Remain within the walls of the Church, where the Spirit dwells and where the Father nourishes His people on their way to His kingdom and glory.
O LORD, take all falsehood from our souls
and let us toil only for you.
YHWH, how shall we become true servants of your Word, free of all hypocrisy and evil, not seeking our own gain but the salvation of others? Purge us of the filth within us and make our conduct irreproachable, that you may be known and all your children follow in your way.
Surround us, O LORD, with your presence this day; let your Word be at work within us. Let us not whitewash our sin but acknowledge it before your all-seeing eye, and in repentance find our freedom. Guide us in all things, even in the darkest night, that we may come to know you are ever with us.
For you let us work, LORD, and not for the burying of your light. Let us toil on this earth only to bring your truth to all souls. From the tomb let us be raised to dwell in your holy presence.
Mon, 28 August 2017
(1Thes.2:1-8; Ps.139:1-6; Mt.23:23-26)
“First cleanse the inside of the cup
so that its outside may be clean.”
The Lord rails against the Pharisees again today, calling them from false practice to genuine faith; and in Paul we again see the paragon of true ministry in the Lord’s Name.
In our gospel the Lord calls the Pharisees “frauds,” for they have the appearance of holiness in clothing and posture and minor actions, but inside are “filled with loot and lust.” In our first reading, it is quite evident that the preaching of Paul “does not spring from deceit or impure motives or any sort of trickery,” as does the work of the Pharisees. He is not at all guilty of “flattering words or greed under any pretext,” seeking the glory of God rather than “glory from men.” This, of course, is the central question: do we perform our acts for others to see, from selfish motives of pride and greed and the accolades we might gain from man; or are we laying down our lives for God, giving no thought to our own importance or the opposition we may face? Does our work and our life spring from truth, or does it spring from lie?
“O Lord, you have probed me and you know me,” David sings in our psalm today. Truly the Lord is “the tester of hearts.” He is familiar with all our ways and the motives whence they come. Indeed, “even before a word is on [our] tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.” Inside and out He sees us, He scrutinizes us, that He may enter into us and renew us. It is by His grace that the inside of the cup might be made clean and so our work be fruitful in His Name.
And so, what of us, brothers and sisters? What does the Lord see when He peers within our hearts, when His penetrating gaze pierces our soul? Do we meet “the test imposed on us by God” as Paul does and live in “justice and mercy and good faith,” or is there but corruption within us which will not allow the Lord’s light to enter, thus making us blind to His grace?
The Lord surrounds us so, that we call out with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.” Indeed, the Lord is far above and beyond our comprehension and His holiness can seem beyond our ability to attain; but if we have hearts that are open and trusting and loving of His Word, we find that He is “gentle as any nursing mother fondling her little ones,” that He, in fact, shares with us His very life, and so makes us as His own. The Lord will cleanse the inside of the cup. Let Him act upon your soul.
O LORD, you see clearly the inside of our cup,
and would cleanse it by your gaze.
YHWH, you are the tester of our hearts; you scrutinize all our ways. And you know us – you know us well. The greed and deceit within us we cannot hide from your watchful eye. You are not fooled by empty show.
You surround us with your presence, LORD, and test us by our trials. You are far beyond us in eternal glory, and yet you come near. You draw near to us in your Son and so declare to our souls the truth of who we are and what we have done, and what we have failed to do. But you do this not for our condemnation; it is because you love us as a mother her child that you chastise us. It is to make us whole.
O LORD, though knowledge of you is too wonderful for us to comprehend, though great fear fills our souls as you come to us with your piercing fire – though your scrutiny may cause us great humiliation, great suffering, you work gently to heal our hearts of all their affliction.
Sun, 27 August 2017
(1Thes.1:2-5,8-10; Ps.149:1-6,9; Mt.23:13-22)
“You turned to God from idols,
to serve Him who is the living and true God.”
Contrast is at the heart of today’s readings again. The faith of the Thessalonians and the inspired preaching of Paul are in distinct opposition to the empty ways and words of the scribes and Pharisees.
In our first reading Paul praises the Thessalonians, who are “laboring in love, and showing constancy in hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” telling them, “Throughout every region your faith in God is celebrated.” In our gospel Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for their blindness to the presence of God. In contrast to the Thessalonians, they have turned from worship of the true God to idols; their vision set on the gold therein, they are unable to see the temple and how sacred it is – their hearts set on things of this earth and the laws they have contrived, they are blind to the Son of God, who sits upon the throne of heaven, as He stands before them. And not only are their vain beliefs in contrast to the true faith of the Thessalonians, but their failures in carrying the Word of God forth stand also in sharp contrast to Paul’s fruitful preaching. Paul’s preaching was “one of power; it was carried on in the Holy Spirit and out of complete conviction,” and so led to the conversion of many nations. On the other hand, Christ says to the scribes and Pharisees: “You shut the doors of the kingdom of God in men’s faces… You travel over sea and land to make a single convert, but once he is converted you make a devil of him twice as wicked as yourselves.”
We must be the fruit of the Apostle’s preaching, brothers and sisters, and not the vain teaching of those who set their souls on the gold of this world. For as the faithful “sing to the Lord a new song of praise,” as they “rejoice in their king” and “praise His name in the festive dance,” even so the voice of the wicked will be silenced: they shall choke to death on all their pride. So let us be those who “await from heaven the Son [God] raised from the dead – Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” With the Thessalonians let us prove our faith in our labor of love, working ever for the coming of the kingdom. And “the high praises of God [will] be in [our] throats” and the “glory of all His faithful” will be ours. Turning from all the idols of this blind generation, let us be born now of the Spirit of God.
O LORD, we are your own;
let us offer ourselves to you.
YHWH, let high praise of you be in our throats; let us sing for joy in your presence. O let us worship you who are the living and true God! Let us turn resolutely from the idols of this vain world and so be made fruitful in your sight. May the doors of your kingdom open for us and for all souls, we pray.
Jesus is seated upon the throne of Heaven and it is through Him we come to you, O mighty God, that we might be delivered from the wrath to come and be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth be upon our hearts and our tongues as we preach the Gospel of Christ with all our lives – thus may we be found worthy to praise your NAME in the assembly of the faithful.
There is woe in store for those who pervert your words to selfish ends, O LORD, who blind themselves and those they teach to the glory of your presence among us. O let us labor in love in the Body of your Son!
Sat, 26 August 2017
(Is.22:19-23; Ps.138:1-3,6,8; Rom.11:33-36; Mt.16:13-20)
“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Thus the Lord grants principal authority in His Church to His rock, Peter. Thus He prophesies what He has promised: the power and teaching given those who sit on Moses’ seat shall pass to this new leader He appoints to guide the flock of the New Jerusalem. And is this designation, or redesignation, of power not remarkably foreshadowed in our first reading: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open”? For the Lord has said to “Shebna, master of the palace: ‘I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station… and give over to [Eliakim] your authority.’” The same declaration Jesus has made to the chief priests and leaders of the people, and here He indicates its fulfillment.
“He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.” Is this not the case with our Papa, our Pope, whom the Lord has assigned in His “inscrutable” judgment to feed His sheep? “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” whose mind no man has known. For see the authority He gives to man, He who has all power to give. Even unto heaven does the reign of the apostles now extend, with Peter in the fore. And “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it,” for it is granted by “the Christ, the Son of the living God” through the revelation of His “heavenly Father.” “I will fix Him like a peg in a sure spot,” the Lord states of Eliakim; and now no surer peg is there than Peter, through whose care all “worship at [the Lord’s] holy temple.”
“Your kindness, O Lord endures forever.” Your love for your sons on earth reaches unto heaven. And so you grant us blessings beyond our imagining; you strengthen us beyond our weak frame. And as to the apostles you deliver authority, so one in your grace all become. How shall we repay you for your kindness toward us? How shall we care for the gift you give? How shall we maintain your presence among us, except that in your love you remain? Bless this House and all its leaders; may “in the presence of the angels [we] sing your praise.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Branch of the Vine" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt. (Background chanting by members of Neocatechumenal movement awaiting arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at the United Nations.)
O LORD, teach us always to do what is right
that we might be as your sons
and enter into your House.
YHWH, all peoples are called to your glory, to your kingdom, for all are sons and daughters to you. But truly you must be our Father, we must come from you, we must reflect your image, the image your only Son reflects to us in His way of the Cross, if we are to enter your presence. Relying on accidents of time or place we shall never be saved. Only by accepting the discipline you offer will be made ready for Heaven.
Strengthen us, O LORD, by the chastisement you bring to our souls, by the Word of truth come from Jesus’ mouth. He knows you and is the way to you – let us be obedient to His call and the call of His apostles to enter through the narrow gate, to leave all of this world behind that we might come rejoicing to your holy mountain with all our brothers and sisters, with all your blessed children. May all men hear your Son’s voice this day, that none shall be barred from your kingdom.
Fri, 25 August 2017
(Ruth 2:1-3,8-11,4:13-17; Ps.128:1-5; Mt.23:1-12)
“The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.”
Today we can contrast the faith of Ruth with the Pharisees’ of Jesus’ time. In our first reading, Ruth says to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Let me go and glean ears of grain in the field of anyone who will allow me that favor.” She puts herself at ready service in all humility, despite the potential dangers that come with being a foreign woman working in a place dominated by men who may not have the greatest of respect for women in general and especially for her. In contrast, in our gospel Jesus says of the Pharisees, “They bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, to lay on other men’s shoulders, while they themselves will not lift a finger to budge them.” These Pharisees have no heart for service; they are sooner the oppressors of the poor and vulnerable, and are rather concerned for “places of honor at banquets” and “marks of respect in public” than the needs of others. How stark the contrast is between she who serves and those who are inflated with pride.
And how true are Jesus’ words: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Indeed, God’s providential hand watches over Ruth as she gleans in the field that “happened to be the section belonging to Boaz of the clan of Elimalech,” her father-in-law, and so a close kinsman. Not only does Boaz make provision for her safe and fruitful gleaning of his fields – instructing his young men to do her “no harm” and indeed to leave food behind that it will be easy for her to gather – but he seeks diligently to take her to wife… and through their union she (and Naomi) is blessed with a son who will be grandfather to King David. But what of these Pharisees and their vanity? From them Jesus will take the keys of the kingdom, the teaching authority on earth which they so misuse for their own gain, and give it to others as He builds His Church on Peter and the apostles. And so today we hold up Ruth as a model of faith, while these dead men’s bones which walked the earth in whitewashed tombs now find their home rotting in the grave.
“You shall eat the fruit of your handiwork,” our psalm proclaims. Those like Ruth who “fear the Lord, who walk in His ways… shall be like a fruitful vine” and their “children like olive plants around” their table. However, those inflated with pride, serving no one but themselves, shall come to naught. Let us heed our Lord’s warning today not to exalt ourselves in any work we do, but rather set our hearts on serving others. Then we shall truly be fruitful, for then we shall know the fruits of heaven.
O LORD, you bless all those who fear you,
who are humble before you.
YHWH, make us humble before you and before others, ever willing to serve in your NAME. Then we shall be blessed. Then we shall find our place in your kingdom. For then we shall be fruitful and our fruits shall raise us to you.
Anyone to whom you lead us, let us serve, dear LORD. Guide our steps to the field where we shall glean grain for food that will sustain us all our days. You alone are our nourishment, and fed by your hand we shall have abundance.
But if into pride we fall, exalting ourselves above others, assuming the place reserved for you and your Son, how we shall be cast down! Our hearts and our hands will be empty as our deeds: our vanity will spell our end. No fruit of any worth shall we bear, and so our souls shall starve for want of love. O LORD, let us be truly humble! Let us be like you.
Thu, 24 August 2017
(Ruth 1:1,3-6,14-16,22; Ps.146:2,5-10; Mt.22:34-40)
“Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge,
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
How well our readings harmonize this day. Jesus speaks plainly to the keepers of the law the greatest commandments – total love of God and neighbor – and Ruth puts them into practice for our witness. And our psalm sings the praises of our great God of love, whose care for “the hungry” and “the strangers,” “the fatherless and the widow,” we are called to imitate. Alleluia, indeed.
Ruth is a foreigner, from a land which follows other gods; yet she is willing to leave “her people and her god” to follow Naomi and the living and true God unreservedly. Oh how this mirrors all our call to leave all of this world behind and follow the Lord and His way. Oh that we had the courage and faith of this Moabite woman who will become the great-grandmother of King David. How well this illustrates God’s call and blessing to any and all who seek Him, who long to walk in His steps. And how well His way of compassion and love is shown in His care for this widow Naomi, who came to Moab hungry and leaves now to return to Israel with this blessed daughter-in-law to be with her and serve her without restraint.
The words of the Lord are so true: “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” They silence even the hardest of hearts with their radiance. We know that God is love, that through His help we find blessing – that His concern for all those in need extends “through all generations” – and we know that we should be like Him… but how often we fail to practice Ruth’s resolve.
This day let us cast off our reservations, brothers and sisters, and cast ourselves upon the love and grace of the Lord. Let us resolve never to “abandon or forsake” Him. Knowing clearly the love of God which comes from the lips of our own Lord of love and our blessed psalmist, and which is embodied by Ruth’s profession of faith and commitment to love, let us vow in this spirit to return the Lord’s boundless love, for in loving we become like Him whom we love and so stand with Him who “shall reign forever” in the eternal kingdom of light and love. Again I say, now is the acceptable time; today is the day of salvation. Follow Him unreservedly.
O LORD, may we increase in purity daily,
for the hour of your Son’s coming is nigh
and we must be ready to become His bride.
YHWH, help us to trust entirely in you, to love you with all our heart, and our neighbors as ourselves. Help us to leave behind our people and anything that keeps us from you. To you and to your love let us come, and with you make our home.
You provide, O LORD, for all those in need, for the widow and the orphan, and the stranger who draws close to you. You make no distinction among people: it is those of faith who are acceptable to you and whom you bless. Those of faith who reflect your great love become as your sons and daughters; these are wed to you.
O let us never abandon or forsake you, LORD! Let us go wherever you lead, and make your people our people. With you and with those who follow you let us stay and remain, and we shall dwell securely in your love. You are our only hope – reign over us forever.
Tue, 22 August 2017
(Jgs.9:6-15; Ps.21:2-7; Mt.20:1-16)
“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
Jesus, the Son of God and true King, who is first, has made Himself last, and so for His humility will be exalted forever; Abimalech, rebellious son of Gideon, who is least of all his brothers, has made himself first, and so will be humbled for his vain pride.
In our first reading Jotham curses his brother Abimalech from the mountaintop as this least of the trees is anointed king after having murdered all other of his brothers. (There were seventy sons of the judge Gideon – who himself refused kingship.) The people of Shechem have fallen by pride in this son of their own city and so they, too, are cursed for taking refuge in his dark shadow. Abimalech’s thorns shall pierce them and shall prove a bitter medicine of purgation for these wayward Israelites. They shall indeed be the death of one another.
In contrast to this false king, in David’s psalm we hear of the blessings the true king receives from God, in whom he rejoices and to whom he gives all glory for victory: “O Lord, in your strength the king is glad.” It is not by his own will that this king reigns, but by the will of the Father, and so his place is assured and he is exalted and made “a blessing forever.” David, too, was the least of his brothers, but unlike Abimalech, who took matters into his own jealous and bloody hands, he trusted always in the Lord and humbled himself before the God of all, and so, “great is his glory in [the Lord’s] victory.”
And, of course, we know that it is the Son of David, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords: in Him is the blessed kingship of God fulfilled. And, of course, it is His great humility which has made Him so exalted. Did He not take the crown of thorns upon His head? Was He not pierced by the pride of man’s rebellion? Did He not accept the bitter wine as He died upon the cross? And so should not all trees bow down to this sanctifying tree, this true vine? Is it not by the fruit of this buckthorn that we are purged from our sins against Him who is Most High? He who has been raised on the cross is indeed King of us all, and all others mere pretenders.
Brothers and sisters, it is only in Christ and in the shadow of the tree that is the cross that we shall find blessing, that we shall find glory, that we shall be exalted and receive “a crown of pure gold.” Follow no other, for false gods abound and their fall is great. Toil only in the vineyard of the Lord and regardless of the length or breadth of your labor you shall receive your recompense, which is oneness with Him who is eternal and whose generous reign knows no bounds. And be not envious of others’ entering in if it is you who must toil long – your service of God should be your joy and a source of great humility.
O LORD, those who are least in the eyes of the world
are first in your eyes,
for you love all souls, but despise sin.
YHWH, you have sent us a great King, before whom all others must bow, in whose light all other reigns pale. For He is the only true King, the only King whose reign endures. And only in Him is true justice; and only in Him is true charity. Only in Jesus will all be cared for, will all be united with you.
Let us serve your Son well, dear LORD. Let us enter His vineyard and do the work set before us by His gracious concern. He seeks to draw us into His realm that we might be blessed by Him; let us not be idle or jealous of His goodness toward all, but treasure every hour we toil in His presence.
There are false gods enough to lead any soul astray, but only you are LORD and only on your Son do your majesty and splendor rest. Let us take our refuge, Father, in the shadow of His Cross.
Mon, 21 August 2017
(Jgs.6:11-24; Ps.85:9,11-14; Mt.19:23-30)
“Go with the strength you have and save Israel
from the power of Midian. It is I who send you.”
The world is at enmity with God. The kingdom of heaven is not as the kingdom of this earth, thus Jesus tells us that “the last shall come first.” For though we pray the Lord’s kingdom come now to this earth, it shall not be fulfilled until “the new age when the Son of Man takes His seat upon a throne befitting His glory.” We must therefore not judge with the mind of the world but continually struggle against it and its power.
In our gospel Jesus calls the apostles to give up all things for the sake of the kingdom. As He instructs them of the danger of the riches of this world, they are “completely overwhelmed.” Judging with an earthly mind, they think riches should be of assistance; but the Lord wishes to teach them of the mind of God, upon which the world is set in opposition. The apostles indeed “have put everything aside to follow” Jesus, and for this they shall receive their reward. But their only reward on this earth will be persecution; it is in heaven their glory shall come.
Yes, the Lord “proclaims peace to His people” and “justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps”; and though the Lord blesses and guides us in our fight against evil now – imparting to us a share of His Spirit – yet we know “His benefits” shall only be fulfilled in heaven; this is the land which “shall yield its increase.” As in our first reading the meat and cakes of Gideon are laid upon a rock, not consumed by the mouth for the sake of the belly but consumed by the fire of the Lord to feed his faith, so it is that the Lord and His angels and all those who follow Him are of the Spirit and not the flesh. And so it is that the Lord chooses those who are least in the eyes of the world, as is Gideon: “My family is the meanest in Manassah, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house,” and places His power upon them, to show us not only that “for God all things are possible,” but more so to instruct us not to put faith in the passing things of this world but in the eternal “justice and peace” of His heavenly kingdom.
We must indeed struggle continually against this world and its power with the strength God gives us, brothers and sisters. In the riches of this life we must never take our ease. For these are set in opposition to God in enmity. God is Spirit and we must be as He is, taking our places in His heavenly glory with the apostles who have laid down their lives and so now judge in righteousness with Jesus the king. Go forth now in His Name.
O LORD, let us follow in the way you mark out for us,
and we will be blessed.
YHWH, you come to those who are lowly, who place their trust in you. Those who set their hearts on you and give up the things of this world will be blessed in your kingdom.
Call us forth in your NAME to do your will, O LORD. Without you, we are nothing, the meanest creatures on this earth. But with the strength that comes from you, we can conquer all our enemies. It is from you all blessings come; only through you will our land yield its increase, will we be fruitful here and in Heaven.
Why should we desire the riches of this world when you are the only treasure worthy of our time, when it is only your glory that passes not away? O LORD, accept the offering of our lives. Increase our faith in your protection, in the angel you send to call us to you, and we shall live ever in your peace.
Sun, 20 August 2017
(Jgs.2:11-19; Ps.106:4,34-37,39-40,43-44; Mt.19:16-22)
“They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken,
and did not follow their example of obedience
to the commandments of the Lord.”
It is not long before the Israelites break their vows to the Lord, mingling with other nations and worshiping their idols. As soon as the generation which has known Joshua dies out, their children begin to stray. And though the Lord “raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers,” to save them from their enemies when He heard their cry of affliction, repeatedly “when the judge died, they would relapse and do worse.” Thus it shall also be with the interminable series of good and evil kings which shall lead to their exile, and thus the necessity of the eternal King, Jesus Christ, under whose reign there is no faltering backward – for He lives forever to intercede.
So evil had the Israelites become that they “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.” And one must ask, should the Lord God not punish such deeds? Does He not hold justice in His right hand? Should such action be allowed to transpire? Although the Lord holds compassion in His left hand and always has regard for our affliction when we cry out to Him, He does not, He cannot, allow sin to go unpunished. If He did so it would but grow more grave and the peril to the soul would be greater, and thus He would fail in compassion not only to the victims of oppression but to the soul of the oppressor.
How difficult this is to hear in the materialistic age in which we dwell, where the body is king and possessions take the place of the spirit. How like the young man in our gospel many are when they hear the call to perfection, when they are challenged to give up their possessions, for our souls have become one with our material wealth, and to lose it we think spells death. But it is not death but life to which Jesus calls us, life in the Spirit, which is life itself. And whether we own things or not we must not own them; we must know that all belongs to God, or we shall not belong to God but to the false idols of the nations around us and the death and defilement their evil practices bring. For do we not today sacrifice our children on the altar of abortion in the name of ease and luxury.
“There is One who is good. If you wish to enter life, keep His commandments.” If you wish for death, continue to stray.
O LORD, how shall we give ourselves entirely to you,
you who alone love us?
YHWH, save us from following the false gods that surround us and close in. Easily we go astray without your shepherds to lead us. May your Son be present to us this day in your Church that we might be kept from falling into the power of our enemies by the sins we commit.
Why should we abandon you, LORD? Why should we fall under the devil’s sway and give ourselves to the service of the empty things of this world? Look upon our weakness. Help us rather to abandon our passing possessions and put our trust in your unfading glory. Help us keep to your Word and your way and find the goodness, the perfection, only you hold.
Your Son calls us this day away from the vain pursuits of this corrupted place. May we heed His voice and turn from the evil sacrifices of wanton nations to join ourselves to His Cross.
Sat, 19 August 2017
(Is.56:1,6-7; Ps.67:2-3,5-6,8; Rom.11:13-15,29-32; Mt.15:21-28)
“God delivered all to disobedience,
that He might have mercy upon all.”
(In love let me speak, O Lord.)
Brothers and sisters, the Lord has said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Yet our scholars and leaders make it a den of unbelief. Like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they are deaf and blind to the light of God. We must not follow in their steps, but speak the truth of the presence of Christ that all might enter the portals of the Lord.
I ask you: How shall the Lord’s “way be known upon earth; among all nations, [His] salvation,” if His Truth is blunted, if His Word is watered down into an alphabet soup? The commentary of the missal I read states of our gospel: “Matthew took this story from Mark… He molded it to bring out a message for the Church of his day.” And so again, and continuously, those who presume to speak for the Church know nothing of God’s Word. In their excessive analyzing, in their presumption and fabrication, they themselves attempt to mold the divine Scriptures to fit the vision of their blinded eyes, unable to see the Lord who stands before them. It is remarkable how ignorant these “intelligent” beings are to the simple fact that “prophecy has never been put forth by man’s willing it,” that “men impelled by the Holy Spirit have spoken under God’s influence” (2Pt.1:21). And so they seek to make the Bible as any other sacred text, and the Church no different than the next.
Why? So that there will be “an open-minded respect for all who seriously follow their religious convictions, provided of course that they fulfill their obligation to find the truth.” But what they do not see is that the very condemnation of people they seek so anxiously to avoid, they are themselves effecting, in an eternal fashion. For they do not open the loving arms of the Catholic Church and speak of the acceptance of all into its grace and favors. They themselves do not “fulfill their obligation” to the truth for they know not what truth is: that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life is not heard by those who thirst for it most of all.
And they do not see the absolute beauty of the woman’s cry, “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Or Jesus’ wonderful exclamation, “O woman, great is your faith!”) They do not see the way is not easy for any to come to salvation – be it the Gentile to whom the gates had seemed to be shuttered (though even throughout the Old Testament the Lord makes it very clear that “foreigners who join themselves to the Lord… them [He] will bring to [His] holy mountain”) or the Jew who must repent of the hardness of his heart. They do not witness that all must come crawling on their knees to Jesus, and so how can they preach it? Their eyes are not open to see that the daughter who is healed is more than just the woman’s blood offspring, but all the Gentile race; and they do not call all these to the light of His face. May the Lord have mercy on their disobedience. “May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear Him.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Whole Whale" (second half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, lift us up from the pit
and baptize us with your fire.
YHWH, opposition from sinners we must indeed endure if we are to be called by the Name of your Son. The Cross we must carry through this world if we are to come to where Christ is at your right hand. If we are lowered into a muddy cistern, what should that matter to us, as long as we ourselves are not guilty of sin.
Should we not take great strength in the suffering of Jesus and all those who have followed Him so faithfully to the Cross? Have they not proven that you come, O LORD, to save those who cry out to you? We shall be delivered even from death by the grace upon your Son, and so why should we fear the shedding of our blood?
Your sword of truth cannot but divide the evil from the good, those who look to you from those who take their refuge in the things of this earth. Let your fire come, dear God, and burn away all sin from our midst, that all your afflicted and poor may rise from the ground blessed.
Fri, 18 August 2017
(Jos.24:14-29; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-8,11; Mt.19:13-15)
“We will serve the Lord, our God, and obey His voice.”
Like children we must come before the Lord and extol His holy Name. “Completely and sincerely” we must serve Him and He will place His hands upon our heads and bless us. And we will sing with David of the “fullness of joys in [His] presence, the delights at [His] right hand forever.” We indeed will be as children, and He will be our God. Listen to the words of Jesus: “Let the children come to me… The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Oh to know the blessing of being in the Lord’s presence forever!
“My Lord are you. Apart from you I have no good,” cries David to his God. Indeed, how our psalm sings the praises of the Lord and the blessing of our refuge in Him. How well it illustrates the fruit of the covenant the people enter into with God at Shechem under Joshua’s leadership. The Promise having been fulfilled, Joshua calls the Israelites to renew their commitment to the Lord. And though their fidelity to Him will only be for a short time and the stone set up shall soon be a witness against them, yet their vows are those we must all make in sincerity and in truth. Obeying His voice is indeed our salvation. As David sings, “I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me.” The Lord is ever there for those who trust in Him, who give their lives to Him, who serve Him – who come to Him as a humble child in innocence and love. What greater blessing can we know than to love the Lord who is “a holy God” and so become one with Him? This is our “allotted portion,” this is our “cup” – this is the reign of God upon us to which we are called.
“I set the Lord before me,” our psalm states, “with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” If we but set our hearts on Him, brothers and sisters, there can be nothing that will move us. If we but take our vows in the Spirit of Truth, He will be ever with us. Let us not be afraid. Let us not be afraid that we will fall, that He will leave us. Let us pursue Him with heart and soul; let us give our lives over to Him.
To serve Him and to love Him is our blessed joy. Let us be as children before Him and reap this joy unto life eternal. Let our covenant with Him be written upon our hearts and evident in all our lives, and we shall stand in His presence forever. Set aside all false gods; listen to His voice. Alleluia!
O LORD, may you be our God
and we be your children!
YHWH, lay your hands upon our heads that we might be blessed, that we might have the strength to worship you alone. Let us be resolved to serve only you, to put all false gods far from us. It is you who are our allotted portion and cup, you who hold fast our lot – in you let us take refuge this day.
You alone are holy, LORD; you alone are exalted far above all gods. In you alone we find our salvation, and so, to you alone should we come for blessing. Let us be as children, with hearts set on loving only you, and the kingdom of Heaven shall be ours, for you will then be at our side.
Forgive our transgressions, O LORD, our turning away from you… our breaking the covenant we made to serve you alone. Let our vows be renewed this day, and let them be set in stone before you. Help us by your grace not to waver, not to fear, but to know your innocence in our souls and remain humbly at the feet of your Son.
Thu, 17 August 2017
(Jos.24:1-13; Ps.136:1-3,16-18,21-22,24; Mt.19:3-12)
“I gave you a land which you had not tilled
and cities which you had not built, to dwell in.”
All of our lives come to us by the grace of God, “for His mercy endures forever.” It is never by our own hands that anything good is accomplished. As the Lord says to the Israelites, “It was not your sword or your bow,” by which they conquered the nations – emphasizing that it was He who destroyed them – so we must know, too, that it is the Lord who goes before us and brings us to the land He has prepared for us; and it is by His hand that all our enemies, all obstacles, are conquered.
Our first reading and our psalm speak particularly of the Lord’s finally bringing the Israelites safely into the Promised Land. Joshua, who has by God’s grace accomplished the work commissioned upon him through Moses, now seeks to remind the people of the blessings God has bestowed upon them in giving them this fruitful land, that they might not forget their God and the praise due Him. As Moses prepared the people with his speech before they entered the Promised Land, so Joshua exhorts them now that they have attained their goal; and the focus of both addresses is that they not forget their God who provides them with all things.
In our gospel Jesus teaches us of the blessing of chastity, of the sanctity of marriage and the godly call to celibate life. Of what does He speak but of the Promised Land become quite real in the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem. We are told throughout the letters of especially St. Paul that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that sins against their purity and integrity are the gravest of offenses, for in these the sin is so real, so present, even to our flesh. In these temples we dwell. These temples we must keep holy, we must keep pure. “It is so difficult,” you might say. Then remember the Lord’s words to the Israelites; remember that it is He who “slew powerful kings” before them, that it is by His power they conquered, and you will be able to say with them that it is the Lord who “freed us from our foes.”
Jesus says of celibacy, perhaps the greatest gift of God and the closest to Him we can come, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, only those to whom it is given to do so,” and this is our key to attaining its grace, and indeed the grace of any form of chastity: we must know it is He who works in us and we must seek His blessing “for the sake of God’s reign”; and then He will make us steady and strong in the fields of His Promised Land as we call upon and praise His Name.
O LORD, there is no separating what you have joined;
you do not leave us but in your mercy bless our way,
and just so we should remain faithful to one another –
your promise should be our own.
YHWH, all good comes to us at your command, and so we praise and thank you for your merciful love, for your rescuing us from the land of Egypt and bringing us into your kingdom. We cannot leave sin behind and enter into union with you except by your word and your will; and so, join us together, we pray – never let us be separated from you.
It is then we shall know your goodness fully, LORD, when, one with your Son, we renounce all of this world for the sake of your reign and find your grace at work in our lives. Only then will we enter the Land you promise to your faithful children.
You make all our enemies flee before us, LORD; it is you who conquer all kings of sin. For your mercy cannot be bound, and those who cry out to you, you save.
Wed, 16 August 2017
(Jos.3:7-11,13-17; Ps.114:1-6; Mt.18:21-19:1)
“My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
The forgiveness of sins and the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land is our theme today. Both are very much one and the same.
In our gospel Jesus tells the parable of the merciless servant in order to teach Peter and the apostles of the office of forgiveness which is theirs through his intercession. When one of a king’s officials is unable to pay his debt, he “prostrates himself” before the king and begs for time. “Moved with pity,” the master lets the official go and writes off the debt. (In just the same way the apostles are to forgive those who repent of their sins.) But the same servant who is forgiven then demonstrates no forgiveness to a fellow servant, demanding from him all that is owed and throwing him in jail. When the king gets wind of the servant’s lack of mercy, he removes the forgiveness of his debt and seeks to extract every penny from him. The parable illustrates Jesus’ central teaching: we must forgive to be forgiven. And it indicates the power of forgiveness Jesus, the King, gives to His apostles, the officials, the servants – evident in its being prompted by Peter’s question regarding forgiveness. The Lord reminds them (and us) of the forgiveness they have received from Him, and that they should carry this gift to others.
A metaphor of this power is presented in our first reading. Joshua, Moses’ successor, leads the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land at the instruction of the Lord. Notice what causes the waters of the Jordan to “halt in a solid bank,” allowing the people to pass over on dry land (much as the previous generation had done at the Red Sea). The waters cease flowing “when the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord… touch the water of the Jordan.” Much as Christ and His apostles stand in the breach interceding for the forgiveness of our sins and thus drawing us into the heavenly kingdom, so “the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.” Of old the priests led by Joshua found their power of intercession in the ark of the covenant which held the Ten Commandments; today our priests, led by Peter, find their power of forgiveness in the cross of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us all forgive one another from the heart. Let us flee in fear like the “Jordan turned back” on its course the danger of holding a grudge or failing to share the blessings we have received from Jesus. Let us cross the Jordan to the Promised Land ourselves and serve to draw others into the heavenly kingdom. Let us not disappoint our Father and so know His wrath; let us shine His loving mercy forth till all have crossed on dry land.
O LORD, without forgiveness in our heart,
we shall never cross over into the Promised Land.
YHWH, how shall we pass into the Promised Land if you do not go with us; and how shall you go with us if we are burdened by sin? We need you to go before us, and we need your forgiveness, or we shall be left on the banks of the Jordan.
And how shall we be forgiven our sins and find your presence among us if we fail to forgive those who are indebted to us? O LORD, how can a man with a hardened heart come before you who are mercy itself? He has no place in your kingdom, and so the waters which would have cleansed him of his sins drown him instead.
Send us your priests, dear LORD, to lead us in your stead. May Peter be at the head of your people to bring them as has Joshua, as does Jesus, into your Promised Land. And may we thus be freed from sin that we might follow them.
Tue, 15 August 2017
(Dt.34:1-12; Ps.66:1-3,5,8,16-17,20; Mt.18:15-20)
“This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
that I would give to their descendants.”
The promise is coming to fulfillment; Moses looks out on the land the Lord so long ago vowed to give the great patriarchs. And though he shall not enter in and dwell there with the people, yet he has confidence that the promise shall be fulfilled. And though after forty years of struggle he will die here at the border, we know he has a greater reward stored up for him in heaven.
What is this Promised Land now? Where do we find it today but in the Church founded by Jesus upon his apostles and living in the hearts and lives of all His disciples? This is the Promised Land, the heavenly Jerusalem at work in the world even now. Notice that Joshua “was filled with the Spirit of wisdom, since Moses had laid his hands on him.” And “the Israelites gave him their obedience, thus carrying out the Lord’s command.” In the same way the power of the Holy Spirit coming from Peter and the apostles is passed down to this day in the Lord’s Church: the power is indeed from Jesus and His Spirit, but their power works invariably through the deeds of men so ordained. And by that power Joshua will lead the Israelites to the Promised Land even as Peter and his successors lead the Church to our heavenly homeland, insofar as we give obedience to them at the Lord’s command.
Jesus in our gospel outlines the special place the Church holds both in judging offenses and offering prayers. He repeats the Church’s power to bind and loose from fault, a power that begins with Peter but extends to all His disciples so ordained, and reminds them also of the great strength they take when together they call upon His name: “If two of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in heaven.” The Lord does not work in a vacuum but accomplishes great and wondrous things through those He lays His hands upon.
What great works were accomplished by Moses: “He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to perform.” Oh “the might and terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel.” Do you think this power dies with Moses? Do you think it has come to an end? No. For his successor Joshua parts the Jordan River by the same power; and now in Jesus and through His Church that power comes to fulfillment. Tremendous are the Lord’s “deeds among men.” If we but “appealed to Him in words,” what wonders would we know. Wars would cease and this world would look much more like the heavenly kingdom He has promised us all. Let us pray with one voice, as one Church, in His Name.
O LORD, what greater gift could you give
than the power upon your priests
to forgive men’s sins?
YHWH, what power you give to those who serve you; what tremendous deeds are wrought by your disciples. For what equal had Moses in the signs and wonders you worked through him? And what greater work can there be than the forgiving of men’s sins, which you accomplish by your priests this day?
Upon your Church you place your power, LORD; where two or three are gathered all prayers are answered. And even judgment you give to Church leaders, the power to discern right from wrong. As your lawgiver had clear vision till the end of his days, to see and know your will and teach the people of your ways, so this day is fulfilled in your Son and in those upon whom He lays His hands the grace of wisdom and understanding to lead souls into the promised land of Heaven. Let us listen to the words they speak to us, let us be obedient sons.
Sun, 13 August 2017
Dt.10:12-22; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Mt.17:22-27)
“In His love for your fathers the Lord was so attached to them
as to choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples.”
The Israelites are the chosen race, and Jesus the Chosen One of that race. Upon them the blessing rests, and in the Son it is fulfilled.
Our first reading tells us that the Lord is a great God, “who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.” And the Israelites are called to be made in the image of their Father, showing His might in this way of compassion and truth. “And now, Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to fear the Lord, your God, and follow His ways exactly,” declares Moses. And so he enjoins upon the people the Lord’s word, “His statutes and ordinances,” which “He has not made known” to other nations, and which serve as their guide to maintaining His light in their lives. “He has strengthened the bars of your gates… He has granted peace in your borders,” our psalm confirms: by the grace of God’s law their children are blessed and become “numerous as the stars of the sky.”
And in our gospel we see again the fulfillment of the Father’s blessing and of His law in the Person of Jesus and the sacrifice He, and we, are called to make. First Jesus makes clear that He is the Son of God exempt from the temple tax – how can the temple pay tax unto itself, or, better yet, how can the temple be paid tax by Him who made it? Jesus is the Chosen One, the chosen of the chosen sons. And His new Law, His new way – which again is but the fulfillment of the law laid out by Moses – is the cross. Moses tells us of the compassion and justice of the Father, who cares for widows and orphans and aliens, and Jesus embodies that love and truth by being “delivered into the hands of men who will put Him to death” for our sin and to show the love God has for us in such utter sacrifice.
Brothers and sisters, allow me to note here that there is no distinction between the love and the justice of God: they are inseparable, the one ever complementing the other. It is out of both love and a sense of justice that the Lord defends the widows and orphans, saving them from their oppressors and gathering them into His arms. His love breeds justice and His justice love. This is the way of God; and this must be our way as His children.
Yes, God loves the world and so He sends His Son to make atonement for our sin. We have sinned and atonement must be made; it cannot be otherwise. And it cannot be otherwise but that God makes that atonement by His love. Let us join to Him as sons in His holy sacrifice. This is our special, blessed call.
O LORD, though in His love He made Himself
an outcast for our sakes, for our lack of love,
Jesus is your only Son.
YHWH, you are the great God, mighty and awesome, your glory far above us and our ways. Yet you bless us with your presence, you proclaim your Word to our hearts – you send your Son into our midst as the Temple in which we may worship you and so join ourselves to your surpassing glory. For this grace let us never cease to praise you; let us never fail to follow in your way.
Your Son shows to us the way we must walk; the way of love He marks out for us in perfectly fulfilling your will, in freely going to the Cross. Here your surpassing love for your poor creatures you reveal to us. And this same love you call us to – this same glory is ours, O LORD, by the mercy He bears.
To this Temple let us come. In your Son let us make our home. He who humbles Himself for our sakes, who joins Himself to us for our salvation, let us follow unto glory. Your Word be fulfilled in our midst.
Sat, 12 August 2017
(1Kgs.19:9a,11-13a; Ps.85:8-14; Rm.9:1-5; Mt.14:22-33)
“When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance to the cave.”
For the Lord was in the “tiny whispering sound.”
God speaks in silence. His Word sinks deeply into our souls, piercing the spirit within us, and so what can we be but afraid? His still, small voice brings us into His awesome presence.
Brothers and sisters, it is the same NAME of God revealed to Moses the lawgiver that is spoken to Elijah the prophet here on the same “mountain of God, Horeb.” This WORD, this NAME (YHWH), invokes fear, for it silences the tongue, stilling all distraction we might make, and so allows the purity of God to pass into us. What but fear, what but holy wonder, can penetrate our very bones when we become thus surrounded by His presence, when He penetrates the core of our being? “The Lord will be passing by” is the promise made to Elijah; and in the silent WORD the Lord’s promise is kept.
And is it not this same WORD in which Jesus rested when “He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray”? Is it not this same WORD the Lord brought to Peter and the apostles when He “came toward them walking on the sea” as their boat “was being tossed about by the waves”? As He stepped into the boat with His blessed Rock, is it not so that “the wind died down”? My brothers and sisters, Jesus is this WORD spoken to Elijah, this NAME given Moses, made flesh in our midst. And in His presence “the strong and heavy wind,” “the earthquake,” and “the fire” become as nothing, as all distractions cease and we find ourselves at the feet of “the Son of God.”
Upon coming from this mountain Moses led his people out of Egypt. Upon coming from this mountain Elijah will anoint a king and a prophet to succeed him. Upon coming from the silence of the mountain Jesus – as He did before in calling His twelve apostles – comes to confirm the call upon Peter and his brothers even as He sees that His mission must increase with the death of John the Baptist. From the silent WORD all is spoken. It is His NAME for which we must listen, that we might “speak the truth in Christ.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land.” And so, let us “hear what God proclaims; the Lord – for He proclaims peace,” and in His peace alone will we discover our true and lasting home. (Fear not the troubling of your soul; He breathes a light calm upon the waters.)
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "WH" from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our hope is in you;
may we patiently await the coming of your kingdom.
YHWH, how we hope for your kindness to deliver us from death, to save us from our adversaries, even from our very selves. We place all our trust in you – O may our faith soon be rewarded!
If we but had the faith of Abraham, dear LORD, blessed as he would we be, with no fear for the impending darkness, with hearts set solely on your coming light. The salvation of the just let us await with steadfast hearts, knowing well that you are faithful to all your promises and that you have promised a heavenly dwelling to all who seek their place with you.
To this earth let us not be attached; all of this world let us offer freely to you. You are our only treasure, dear God – you are all that is worthy of our concern. And so, let us await your Son’s return with loins girded and lamps burning. Let us be ever vigilant for His coming, serving well your holy will all our days, and our inheritance we shall find in you.
Fri, 11 August 2017
O tireless worker for the Lord
who when cut off from everything
dearest to you
gave yourself completely to God,
you who have shown the way
of the martyrdom of love,
of dying entirely to self
and serving our Savior
in the sick and the poor,
in whose guise He comes –
pray our lives shall not wallow
pray we shall have
the same thirst for love as you,
that by our love we may die
and so overcome death
to live forever
in the presence of our Redeemer.
Visit us this day in our weakness
that our hearts, too, might be strong
and our lives be laid down
in the blood of the only Son.
Fri, 11 August 2017
(Dt.6:4-13; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; Mt.17:14-20)
“Praised be the Lord, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.”
In our first reading we hear the Shema, the great Commandment of the Mosaic Law – the Lord is God and we must love Him with all our being. Moses exhorts the people “not to forget to the Lord,” who brought them out of slavery in the land of Egypt and is about to bless them abundantly in the Promised Land. Quite graphic is he, and are their practices, in encouraging remembrance of the Lord’s command. His words are to be drilled into the children, bound at wrists and on foreheads, and written “on the doorposts of… houses and on… gates.” And David’s psalm mightily extols the love we should have for our Lord: “My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!” the great king of the Israelites exclaims in his overflowing praise for his saving Lord, in whom he finds his strength. Indeed, the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is our life and our salvation.
And it is the faith at the heart of our praise of God which saves us from our enemies, which redeems us from our sins. Jesus demonstrates this clearly in our gospel today. “What an unbelieving and perverse lot you are!” the Lord declares in chastisement of His disciples and all those who would seek His graces, His healing, for they have not the faith to rescue the possessed boy from the grip of the devil. Where is their praise of the Lord’s Name? Where is their surpassing love of Him? How is it their belief in the Lord’s power to deliver from the bonds of slavery has been so easily shaken? Is it not “the Lord alone” who is God? “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would be able to say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible for you.” Let these words be inscribed upon our hearts, that we will never forget the abundant glory of God which we possess by our faith in Him.
Glorious are you, O Lord, beyond all creatures, beyond all existence! Far above us do you sit, and yet how close to our hearts do you remain. There is none who compares with you; there is nothing in the heavens or on earth greater than you, for you have created all that is. Strengthen our failing love, let it match the glory of your presence, that we might be delivered from all sin and conquer all evil in your divine Name. Give us faith and trust in you, and we will praise you forever. Safe from our enemies, we will glory always in your everlasting love.
O LORD, let us praise your NAME
and so find safety from all our enemies.
YHWH, give us the grace to love you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, you who alone are God, you who alone are good. It is you alone who care for us, who provide for our every need. May your blessing remain upon us as we praise your holy NAME.
Where shall we find faith, O LORD, even the size of a mustard seed, we who are such a perverse and unbelieving lot? How can we learn to trust in you and in your power to do all – and to do all through us weak vessels. It is you alone who have all power; by your Word the entire universe came to be and is sustained…. Help us to take refuge in that Word and not in the world of passing things.
We love you, LORD, our Rock, our shield, the sword of our salvation! But we are indeed weak and forgetful souls in need of healing. Increase our faith in you and in your Son, that we might serve you alone.
Thu, 10 August 2017
(Dt.4:32-40; Ps.77:12-16,21; Mt.16:24-28)
“The Son of Man will come with His Father’s glory
accompanied by His angels.”
The Lord God came to “take a nation for Himself from the midst of another, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with His strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors.” As He came with power to rescue the Israelites from the bonds of Egypt, so He will come at the end of time, and is come now, to save us from this world of sin. Indeed, the Son of Man shall come fully into His Kingship on the last day and “repay each man according to his conduct.”
How shall we secure a place in His kingdom? Moses tells the Israelites, in his final address to them before they enter the Promised Land, “You must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below,” and that they “must keep His statutes and commandments.” Then they will be blessed and prosper. Jesus tells us in our gospel, “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps.” As it was then, it is now, only the road is more straitened for the goal is more blessed: now it is even unto death we must be obedient to His ways; but now we find not only life on the land, but glory everlasting.
“Among the people you have made known your power,” proclaims our psalm today, and indeed our first reading recounts the “wonders of old” the Lord wrought in the midst of His people: with their eyes they saw His “great fire,” and with their ears they “heard Him speaking out of the fire.” It is, of course, the presence of Jesus we see before us now and hear speaking in our hearts by the fire of the Holy Spirit. He makes His power known to us now in a far surpassing way. And if we wish to know the glory of God burning in our midst and leading us to the eternal kingdom of light, we must be made holy by its power. “O God, your way is holy,” our psalm states, and if we wish to follow in His way, we must be holy as He.
The Lord is coming with His holy angels. He shall soon be here in all His glory. Now He has left us a blessed cross to place upon our shoulders; it is this most wonderful of signs by whose testings we are led in power to the eternal reign of our Savior. As intimately as you know His humble cross, as closely as you follow His sacrificial path, so well will you know His Father’s glory.
O LORD, your greatness is revealed to all;
let us dwell in your light.
YHWH, how great were your deeds in bringing your chosen people out of Egypt! What wonders you worked among them. To them you showed that you are LORD and there is no other.
But how much greater is the presence of your Son among us this day and the deeds He has wrought for our salvation. How much more clearly you speak to us now, LORD, through the wonders He works – and how perfectly your glory will be known when He returns accompanied by His angels! There will be no greater deeds to be worked when that Day comes.
But until that Day let us walk with you here; let us take up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus, keeping your Word that we may prosper in good deeds ourselves and come finally to the Land you promise, to eternal life, our eyes looking upon your surpassing glory.
Tue, 8 August 2017
(Nm.13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35; Ps.106:4,6-7,13-14,21-23; Mt.15:21-28)
“They forgot the God who had saved them.”
But He did not forget them. Though He curses them in our first reading for their lack of faith, and though they shall indeed all – except for Joshua and Caleb – die in the desert over forty years, their children shall enter and take the Promised Land from the five tribes which inhabit it; and despite their repeated faltering in following His word, He shall come to redeem them from their exile once again, and in a full way, in the Person of Jesus Christ.
The Israelites grumbled against Moses and against God in the desert. Fearful at the report of the “giants” in the land they were called to seize as their own, they failed to remember the Giant who fought for them, “who had done great deeds in Egypt.” “They waited not for His counsel,” nor trusted in His protection, and so they dissembled at what their eyes saw and their ears heard, having not the heart of faith, remembering not the word of the Lord. The people of the land may have been giants, but the Lord towers over all the earth. We must always remember His surpassing power.
And in our gospel we find one of the descendants of those who had made the Israelites so fearful to enter the Promised Land groveling at the feet of the Lord, this Son of David, indeed as a dog before its master. How fortunes have changed. Jesus says to this Canaanite woman, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” See God’s love for His people. See how He has kept the word of His covenant not to forget them. See how He yet chooses them from among the nations, sending His Son in the flesh as one of them. And yet, shall they recognize the grace that walks amongst them? Will their hearts be open to accept Him now, or hardened to His call and blind to His presence will they remain?
This question is asked of each one of us, brothers and sisters, for we are the spiritual descendants of the Israelite people. Will we remember Him and His Word amongst us? Do we recall all He has done for us? This Canaanite woman who begs crumbs from the Lord’s table is greatly blessed. She has the faith required for the kingdom of heaven. Again in Scripture it is a Gentile, a foreigner, who exhibits the faith the “sons and daughters” should have. The Lord uses such as these to shame His chosen ones and show them how far His love does spread, how great His grace truly is – that it can capture even these giants in its net. And so, should it not capture the Jew? And so, should we not be taken in it as well? Now that His salvation has extended to the ends of the earth, shall His chosen be forgotten? Will they continue to forget their place in His land? I pray it shall not be so for you and I, brothers and sisters, but that we will always remember His Name.
O LORD, if only we had faith!
we would never be afraid –
we would certainly be saved.
YHWH, why are we so forgetful of you and your power to save? Why are we who know you, who have seen your hand at work, who have been blessed by your abiding presence – why are we so blind to your unending love for our poor souls? Those who do not know you, who are so far away from you, come on their knees before your Son begging His grace and forgiveness, begging His blessed protection… and these receive answer to their prayers, even as those of your own household wither and die in the hardness of their hearts, in their lack of faith.
Forgive us, LORD, our crimes against you; let us not die in this desert of sin. Send your Chosen One to help us, to save us from the condemnation we deserve for our wicked ways. We are as mere grasshoppers before you, O Giant! Have pity on your faithless sons and gather us into the land you have promised.
Mon, 7 August 2017
(Nm.12:1-13; Ps.51:3-7,12-13; Mt.15:1-2,10-14)
“If one blind man leads another, both will end in a pit.”
Aaron and Miriam would lead the people, they would presume the place of Moses; but they are blind, they cannot see who it is the Lord calls, who is His chosen. And so the Pharisees, too, are blind guides, deaf and blind to the presence of Jesus, who is God’s Chosen One. Considering their own gifts and talents but not recognizing from whom they come and what their limits are, their blindness leads both forth into sin against the Lord and against His anointed. And it will only be by crying out to the Lord, as does David in his psalm, that the sin shall be cleansed from them and a “clean heart” will be created within them.
Aaron does cry out, begging Moses to intercede with the Lord for their sister’s leprosy, and so cleansing shall come for her; but we have a fear for the Pharisees, for the Lord says of them, “Let them go their way.” Their way leads to destruction; their blindness shall lead them into a pit. If they continue to turn from the Lord standing before them, they shall multiply rather than find forgiveness for their sins. Oh that their hearts would not be hardened! Oh that they would cleanse their souls and not their hands! Oh that they would see what is first with the Lord, and how He must be followed! “Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,” with David let them cry out to you, Lord, that they might be washed clean of the guilt into which we are all born, that the leprosy might be taken from their spirits.
We all are in danger of blindness, brothers and sisters, and the affliction which comes from its snares. We must never presume upon the Lord or His chosen leaders, or cast from His presence will we be. It is true that all have sinned. It is so that we all fall short. But we have a greater than Moses in our dear Jesus, who cries out for His wounded Church: “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!” when He sees the afflictions upon us. What are the thoughts of our hearts? What comes out of our mouths? Is it a desire to love Him and a cry for assistance, or do we harden our hearts against His truth?
Let us not follow and become blind guides. There was one man chosen to lead the multitude out of slavery and through the desert, and there is one Man now to lead us to the Father’s presence. He has left His Spirit upon His Church, upon His apostles and those who follow His teaching – and most particularly upon His one chosen servant, the rock that is Peter. Let us walk in light, being led along the path He marks out for us by His chosen guide.
O LORD, let us not follow blind leaders
but only those inspired by your Word Himself.
YHWH, let us watch what comes out of our mouths; let us not boast before you or your chosen ones but listen to your voice speaking through your Church. Your Spirit is upon this House and those who sit upon Moses’ seat, upon the Chair of Peter – let us be humble and obedient to your Word.
Then we shall be cleansed of our sin, O LORD; then we shall share in the power you give your holy ones. When we are as meek as Moses, then we shall stand in your presence and be blessed.
O wash us clean of all our sin! Our offenses are ever before you, LORD. Let us not be as lepers cast from the light of your face, but let our spirits be renewed by the grace come through the prayer of your Church.
Forgive us this day our sins against you, LORD; let us come to your priests upon our knees, confessing our guilt openly in your sight, that we shall no longer be blind or fall into the pit but with understanding hearts see your mercy at work within us.
Sun, 6 August 2017
(Nm.11:4-15; Ps.81:2,12-17; Mt.14:22-36)
“How little faith you have!”
It is the Lord’s exclamation to His holy apostles, to the foundation of His Church – to His Rock. And certainly it applies to all of us as it does, too, to the Israelites in the desert. All need greater faith to come upon the new shore of paradise and find healing for all our ills.
As the Israelites tramp through the desert, they grow tired of heavenly food and desire something earthen. Their faith in God is shaken by the lusts of their belly, and their outcry against the Lord grieves His servant Moses. He finds himself unable to carry this stiff-necked people “like a foster father carrying an infant.” He breaks under the burden of “all the people” even as Peter – who shall have to carry the whole Church upon his shoulders – trembles at the wind upon the sea. Moses asks for death to find relief, and Peter cries as he begins to sink… and the Lord will “at once stretch out His hand” and catch them both, His ears ever open to the prayers of His holy ones. But greater faith will they both need to have to lead God’s people forward. Peter will find it after Pentecost (though not before denying Him three times), and the stubbornness of the Israelites, “the hardness of their hearts,” will keep Moses from the earthly Promised Land; only in the next world will he discover paradise.
The faith we need to make it through the desert that is this world and come into the heavenly kingdom of our Lord and God is spoken by those trembling in the storm-tossed boat: “Undoubtedly you are the Son of God,” and exhibited by the men of Gennesaret. For they “brought Him all the afflicted, with the plea that He let them do no more than touch the tassel of His cloak.” Thus, the same faith the woman in the crowd with the open wound for years had shown Jesus on His way to raise the little child is shown here by these poor sinners, for “as many as touched it were fully restored to health.”
A word from His mouth. A drop of His blood. The touch of His hand. The hem of His garment. A crust of bread from His table… This is all we need. If we have faith, in a moment we will be restored to life; we will be redeemed from all our ills, from all our sins – from all the temptations of our bellies and this desert. The sea may rage and contend with the wind, but we will remain calm and patient in His presence: we will walk on water, we will find “honey from the rock,” if we have but faith. It is not far away, and that the size of a mustard seed is all we need. Find relief from all your distress by calling upon the Savior.
O LORD, what little faith we have! –
how quickly we forget you are our loving God.
YHWH, how can we face the distress of this world, the wind and the waves that threaten to overcome us, the disobedience of those in our care? It is a weight too heavy for us to bear! How could Moses carry your people through the desert; how does Peter hold up your Church? Indeed, it is only by faith we have any strength at all – indeed, it is you who bear all our burdens.
Under the weight of the Cross Jesus has sweated and died. All He has taken upon Himself. And we need but say: “Undoubtedly you are the Son of God!” to the One you have sent to save us, and all our burdens will be lifted from us, and we will be preserved from death. But what little faith we have, O LORD! and how much we need your help.
But you are faithful when we call out to you, dear God. You desire to feed us with finest wheat. You would heal all our ills and bring us to the farther shore, if we but believed in your loving Son.
Fri, 4 August 2017
(Lv.25:1,8-17; Ps.67:2-5,7-8; Mt.14:1-12)
“It is really the number of crops he sells you.”
The earth is the Lord’s; it is not our own. And it is only by His grace that we share the fruits of the land. “The earth has yielded its fruits; God, our God, has blessed us,” our psalm declares. These fruits may be bought and sold, but the land is God’s own.
“In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property.” “This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.” The jubilee year delineated in our first reading makes clear that we are God’s and not our own or anyone else’s. While we tread this earth, in the forty-nine years leading to the jubilee, land is bought and sold, even slaves are made and taken. But come the jubilee the trumpet is blown and all return whence they came: in this moment we go back to our homes and find the truth – that we are God’s alone. All that is bought and sold is only temporary; these crops are consumed and pass away. The land from which they come is in God’s hands and does not pass away. To it we must return. For He is our portion and cup.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Indeed, we should fear Him who holds the earth and all its peoples in His creating hand. We should not presume upon God’s mercy and “deal unfairly” as we buy and sell in this world with all that He provides. In our gospel Herod is gripped by fear because he knows he abuses the power given him; he is struck to the heart by John’s preaching because his sin is exposed to the light. But instead of proclaiming liberty, instead of returning to the Lord, he hardens his heart against Truth, presumes license and not liberty, and has “John arrested, put in chains, and imprisoned.” But, of course, the Word of God cannot be chained; and Herod is not entirely wrong when he claims John has been “raised from the dead” in the person of Jesus, for the same Spirit which worked in this most fruitful of men comes forth fully in the Son of God. Good reason has Herod to fear.
And it must be noted that the beheading of John does not bring his end, but his beginning. It returns him to the land whence he has come. It is as his jubilee, his time to “return to his own property” – to enter the kingdom of God. For his body buried by his disciples is but as the crops bought and sold (and a more fair and abundant dealer in the fruits of this earth the world has not known); it is, of course, his eternal soul which finds liberty now in the land of the Lord.
This world cannot hinder the fruits that are of the Lord. In faith let us remain in Him, producing an abundant yield in His Name, that the way of the Lord “be known upon earth,” and that we may come to His salvation at the time of Jubilee. (We shall hear the trumpets resound through the halls of heaven.)
O LORD, there is a land
to which you call us to return,
and this heavenly homeland is all that matters.
YHWH, the earth is yours and all that it holds, and you call us ever back to you. Let us not be possessive of the gifts you give us but remember that the yield of the land is in your hands.
O LORD, you proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land; you call all back to yourself, from whom we come and in whom we find our freedom. Your call to our hearts to glorify you we must heed, if we are to find your blessing.
But if like Herod we harden our hearts against your truth, LORD, if like him we seek to chain your Word with our corrupted hands… if to death we put your call, what shall be left within us? Then in what fear we shall tremble!
Your Prophet comes and walks amongst us; your power is upon Him for good. The trumpet resounds throughout the earth, calling all men to their ancestral homes. To you let us come with nothing but exultant joy at your presence.
Thu, 3 August 2017
(Lv.23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37; Ps.81:2-6,10-11; Mt.13:54-58)
“Offer as an oblation to the Lord holocausts and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”
Our first reading and our psalm speak and sing of the honor due our God. The Lord outlines for Moses “the festivals of the Lord” which must be celebrated “at the proper time with a sacred assembly,” and our psalmist exhorts us to “blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast” in honor of the one true God. We should worship no god but Him and “hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work” on His sabbaths and on the days He sets aside for celebrating His Name. Due honor and praise must be given our God.
But when Jesus comes into the midst of His people, due honor is withheld. Though they cannot deny His teaching, the wisdom and grace He imparts, yet they are blind to His presence before them. They do not know whence He comes. They cannot see that He is of God. And so because of their limited vision, their “lack of faith,” He cannot touch them or heal them as He passes by. Here He stands in their synagogues, but the shout of joy does not go up from their midst because their hearts are shut tight to the divine presence of the Lord. The due praise they are moved to is thus denied, and they break the Law of God.
It is sad when justice is not done to our God. We are the ones who would benefit most from offering due sacrifice and oblation – He has no need of our holocausts – yet we commit this kind of suicide by reserving the honor due Him, resisting thus truly entering His marvelous presence and becoming one with the One who created us and saved us. He invites us to the feast, to the glorious celebration, but we turn down His invitation to join Him at the table of His Body and His Blood. Each day it is prescribed for us to give our souls to Him; in every place the cup of salvation is raised unto the glory of God: here the festival of the Lord is fulfilled in our midst. But how many say they see but bread and wine, they hear but empty phrases. Their hearts are not set on His coming.
We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters; we are His mother. We are those who recognize His presence and give glory to His Name. The world cannot see Him; the world does not know Him. But we know Him. Let us “take up a melody, and sound the timbrel, the pleasant harp and the lyre,” and with all the music our lives can produce give Him glory in our celebration… with all the work we do and all the rest we take each day in Him. Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation. Here the feast begins. Let us come into His presence singing for joy.
O LORD, let us believe in you and worship you,
and we shall be blessed.
YHWH, let us worship you as is due; let us give praise to your NAME and each day celebrate your glory in our midst. Every day a sacred assembly we may now hold, now that Jesus has walked among us, now that He is present to us upon your holy altar; and so, let us welcome Him into our house and sing praise for the blessing He is to this place.
To the teaching of your Son let us listen, LORD; He has come in the flesh with your wisdom and power. Let us not question His origin but know He is from you, as He shows with all He says and does. Why do our corrupted souls condemn the Man who comes only to save? Why do we not see that God is here with us?
Remove our weakness, LORD, the blindness of our human eyes, that we might with all our hearts keep your festival at the proper time, for the day of atonement is upon us.
Wed, 2 August 2017
(Ex.40:16-21,34-38; Ps.84:2-6,8,11; Mt.13:47-53)
“The cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling.”
The Dwelling is the Tabernacle of God, the place in which the ark of the covenant holding the Ten Commandments was housed; and so it was God’s dwelling-place. And when this cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set forth; and when the cloud stopped, so would they. In this we see clearly that the Israelites were led by God and by His Law. “In the daytime the cloud of the Lord was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all stages of their journey.”
Our psalm extols the glory of God and His place of dwelling. It is for Him and to be in His house we yearn. “Happy they who dwell in your house!” the psalmist exclaims. So far surpassing is the glory of the Lord that “I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” For “even the sparrow finds a home” at the altar of God, and so, how blessed shall we be in His presence.
And in our gospel Jesus completes His parables on “the reign of God,” the kingdom of heaven – the House in which we long to dwell eternally. And, of course, here before us stands the new ark of the covenant in the Person of Jesus. Here the new and fulfilling Law of love is housed, by which we are now led. The Spirit descended upon Him as a dove, thus anointing Him with God’s glory, and it is this “cloud,” this Spirit of Truth, which descends upon us now and by which we walk with God. The Old Covenant and Law are certainly not to be discarded, for “every scribe who is learned in the reign of God is like the head of the household who can bring from his storeroom both the new and the old”; but the Old is indeed subsumed by the New, for the Person of God – Word made flesh, God made man – far exceeds and truly completes the first dwelling, which was but made by human hands. Now the Law has found a new and lasting home.
It is well we understand all that the Lord would teach us. It is necessary that that teaching be complete, or we shall fall short of what our “heart” and “flesh cry out for.” “The living God” awaits us; His glory He would give us. Let us be covered by His cloud and be led forth in His Word of Truth to His eternal reign. From “strength to strength” let us go, until we dwell with Him forever, His Word written on our hearts. Amen.
O LORD, we pray we shall not be cast out
but be gathered into your dwelling,
and in your presence make our home.
YHWH, in your Dwelling let us make our home, your cloud ever upon us; in the flesh of your Son we must live, led by the Holy Spirit. What is old and what is new help us understand, that we might be good stewards of your love and all souls may enter your kingdom.
At the end of the age your angels shall separate what is good from what is evil, for the evil have no place with the good. Only what is good may come into your House; what is evil will be burned in the furnace. And so our souls cry out for you, dear God, that you might make a place for us in Heaven.
To your threshold let us come, by the teaching of your only Son; His Spirit upon us to lead us to you, let us be obedient to His words. Let us do all you command, O LORD, for only then shall we be blessed. As your servant Moses let us be – in the new Moses let us make our home.
Tue, 1 August 2017
(Ex.34:29-35; Ps.99:5-7,9; Mt.13:44-46)
“The skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the Lord.”
His face shining like the pearl of great price, with whom he speaks, Moses comes down from the mountain carrying the Ten Commandments. Here is a great treasure in His hands, which he has given up all to find. But, of course, the greater treasure is the Word of God from which it takes its meaning and of which Moses converses with the Lord; and the greatest treasure is certainly God Himself, who makes us shine as stars in the night that is this world. “Holy is the Lord, our God.”
And so, of course, the greatest treasure we can find here on earth, hidden in this ground from which our bodies are formed, is our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the very image of God, God Himself, the WORD made flesh in our presence. And thus as the Israelites had the Ten Commandments as the heart of their covenant, so we have a surpassing covenant founded in the Body and Blood of our Lord, in which His presence truly abides. Still we have His words of Truth, still they illumine our faces. But now they are spoken by the incarnate mouth of God; now the veil has been removed from the face of the One who inspires all souls, and our hearts burn with the pure light of His wisdom – and now we have that flesh and blood which make the words so real at our fingertips and upon our lips… and so, one we become with His holiness.
Radiant is the splendor of God. He alone is worthy of our praise. It is He alone we should strive to possess in this life. He is buried here in our hearts; He is waiting deep within our souls for us to uncover our faces, to uncover our minds from the veil which conceals His light. Indeed, He is waiting for us to shine as the pearl of great price, to give light to the world as He does, that all might come to converse with Him with unveiled faces. But we must give up all else to find such grace: this pearl must remain unmixed with baser matter. As Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights, neither eating nor drinking, so we must come to Him so utterly, leaving all of this world behind, to find the riches which await us in the heavenly kingdom.
Jesus is the way to that kingdom. In his Word, His Body and His Blood, we find the pearl of great price. And so shall our faces shine radiantly white as we converse with the Lord in His presence for all eternity. Praise Him, brothers and sisters, for His grace at work in your life.
O LORD, holy are you,
and holy are those who seek your face.
YHWH, holy are you, and we are called to be holy as you are holy, to have our faces shine as radiantly as Moses’ – to come into your presence.
O let us converse with you, dear LORD! For now we have Jesus who speaks with us, who tells us clearly of the glory of your kingdom and how we are called to give up all to enter there. How the pearl of great price is made evident in His flesh! To Him let us come and we shall be one with you, and we shall be holy.
Before us on the altar shines the pearl of great price, the Body of Christ given to us that we might see and know your holiness, O LORD, that we might become as His Body in the world. Let us worship Him in the Sacrament, here on your holy mountain.
In the field that is your Church we find hidden in this Bread all we need for the salvation of our souls, for discovering holiness in your presence, LORD.