Mon, 30 October 2017
(Rm.8:18-25; Ps.126:1-6; Lk.13:18-21)
“Hoping for what we cannot see
means awaiting it with patient endurance.”
We cannot see the coming of the kingdom of heaven. It comes so gradually; it rises imperceptibly, “like yeast which a woman took to knead into three measures of flour.” It grows like the tiny mustard seed, which “became a large shrub and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” A most fruitful reign is the reign of God, and well worth the wait. As Paul says, “I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.” But wait we must. In hope we take our refuge. And as we hope, indeed we suffer, for “we ourselves, although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly while we await the redemption of our bodies.” With the rest of creation we groan “in agony” for the futility to which the physical universe has been subject. Yet hope have we, and it is this which gives us a sense of joy even as we wait so patiently.
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” Our psalm gives us a picture of the joy that awaits us in the redemption of the just in the kingdom of God as it describes the happiness of the exiles’ return from Babylon: “We were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.” The knowledge of the Lord’s hand at work in the lives of these Israelites can only increase our hope, can only stir our faith that we too shall sing, “The Lord has done great things for us,” that we too shall “come back rejoicing” after this time of trial which is our stay here on this earth. And the fact that we have the Spirit now as the first payment against the day of judgment and against the power of Satan in this dark world causes a sense of joy already in our bones, gives us even now a foretaste of the kingdom to come, and which comes to us indeed each day in every breath we breathe in His presence, and particularly in the food He leaves us to consume at the altar of His holy sacrifice.
Yes, we have His Word at work in us even now, brothers and sisters. Even as we speak (even as I write), the seed does grow into a tree, the yeast does cause the dough to rise. Though it take time and we hope most for its fulfillment, yet it is with us even now in this blessed growth we experience in the sight of our God, in the blood of our Lord. Our hope is not in vain, and the tears we shed now certainly nourish the growth of the kingdom within us and all around us. Even in these does our hope find fulfillment. Even in these tears do we taste surpassing joy.
O LORD, let us hope in you always;
your kingdom is rising in our midst.
YHWH, in patience let us await the coming of your kingdom, for it shall surely come and is even now here within us. When it shall be revealed to our eyes, our hope will be fulfilled and all our groanings answered. We shall indeed rejoice in your presence on that holy day.
Your Spirit is now planted in us as a seed of the kingdom, and though we go forth in tears doing your work in this dark world, we ever have the Spirit’s reassurance – the hope He engenders makes any sufferings seem as nothing. For your glory, O God, shall soon be revealed in its fullness; it shall soon come to full growth and we will take rest in its branches. O let us rise unto you!
And so, with patient endurance let us wait, O LORD, for the dawn upon the horizon, for on the new day all Creation shall sing your praise, all its sorrow forgotten.
Sun, 29 October 2017
(Rm.8:12-17; Ps.68:2,4,6-7,20-21; Lk.13:10-17)
“All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
It is the Spirit of God that led the poor stooped woman in our gospel today to the synagogue to see and hear the teaching of Jesus the Lord, and to find a healing for her infirmity. “This daughter of Abraham… in the bondage of Satan for eighteen years” was by the Lord “released from her shackles” and became a daughter also of the Most High God. She is a sign of us all. For all, whether sons of Abraham by the flesh or not, are called into the presence of God to find healing for the sin and sadness and oppression of the devil which trouble us. On our own we cannot stand straight in the sight of God, but by the touch of Jesus we find our dignity and become sons of God with Him.
God is “the father of orphans and the defender of widows”; He “gives a home to the forsaken.” And so we who were once under the “spirit of slavery” to sin may now find “a spirit of adoption through which we cry out, ‘Abba!’ (that is, ‘Father’).” Once having no father to watch over us, now “the Spirit Himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” A greater blessing one could not find than to be a son or daughter of the Most High God. For “God is a saving God for us.” Not only does He love us, but He shows that love even by dying for us, that we might live.
And it is so that “if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God, heirs with Christ.” And though it is by the death of Jesus that we are made heirs of the Father’s glory, we only come into full possession of the riches of our glorious Lord by our own death, for we must “suffer with Him so as to be glorified with Him.” It is this death of ours, a death to self, to flesh, to sin and the world, that brings us the life of Him “who controls the passageways of death” and so is able to free us from all death.
Day by day the Lord “bears our burdens.” On all days, eternally, He is our Father and our Savior, waiting to heal us. Whenever we come to Him, we shall find Him ready to bless us. His Spirit He sends upon all, like a sun that never sets, calling us to His presence. We must but respond in humility and faith, and as we bow ourselves before Him, He will raise us up to the dignity He desires for all our lives. And we shall be His sons.
O LORD, your Son bears our burdens for us –
He releases us from bondage to the flesh
that we might live with Him in the Holy Spirit.
YHWH, orphans and widows we have been, far from you we were separated from the beginning, cast off like a forsaken wife. And we could not find our way back to you by the flesh, try as we might by following the line of our ancestors – this but brought us back repeatedly to their weakness, to their separation from your grace, from the light of your holy face.
But your Son you sent to show us the way to you. In Him we find the blood that must course through our veins; wed unto His flesh we are redeemed…. It is He who puts to death the evil deeds of the body and makes us sons once again of you – now His Spirit is upon us to call out your NAME, dear Father.
O let us be your children! wherever we are from; whether children of Abraham or of foreign lands, let us all be blessed this holy day to know the healing touch of your Son and so inherit your kingdom. O LORD, of your love let us not be afraid.
Sat, 28 October 2017
(Ex.22:20-26; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; 1Thes.1:5-10; Mt.22:34-40)
“If ever you wrong them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.”
In this simple statement by the Lord is revealed the essential nature of our God in His relation with His people. It demonstrates certainly what He says of Himself, “I am compassionate,” for what is He telling us but that He has an ardent care for the poorest among us and the injustice they suffer? But it also demonstrates the justice of God itself, for what does He mean when He says He will “hear their cry” but that He will punish the wicked for their heartless crimes? He states clearly, if any should “wrong any widow or orphan… [His] wrath will flare up, and [He] will kill [him] with the sword.”
Now in the Church today we find an arbitrary and utterly deceptive and false separation of members into “liberal” or “conservative” camps, as if the Lord and His Church could be limited by either assignation. The liberal hears “love God and neighbor” and ignorantly excuses himself from keeping the law; and the conservative grasps the law so tightly he squeezes the very life, the very love, out of it. The Lord is neither liberal nor conservative, but may be said to be both – and that to the extreme in both cases. First of all, He has come to liberate us from our sin, to free us from the sentence of death all justly deserved as much as the adulteress or the thief on the cross He forgave. No one could be more liberal in His free giving of Himself and His love. What compares to the shedding of His blood, and the free gifts we gain thereby? Yet it must not be forgotten that the Lord Jesus is absolutely conservative in His teachings and in His ways; at all costs He preserves the truth. For though He says that “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” of love of God and neighbor, He does not thereby do away with the whole law. Indeed, He strengthens it. Does He not say not a single letter, nor even part of a letter, will pass away until all the law is fulfilled? Does He not tell us now that even to look at a woman lustfully is adultery and to be angry with another is as murder (see Mt.5:17-30)? And will He not come at the end of the age and judge all hearts, separating the evil from the good and casting them into eternal darkness and eternal flames? Though He “delivers us from the coming wrath” if we love Him, failing that, we cannot but be thrown into hell.
The Lord has two hands and either taken alone is ineffective, is, in fact, wicked, for either alone falls short of love and truth. The Lord is absolutely kind and absolutely just: these two meet and kiss in Him. And so they must in each of us. We must be “model[s] for all the believers.” Let it be said that from us “the word of the Lord has sounded forth,” that “in every place [our] faith in God has gone forth – that we have carried both His love and His truth to every heart we touch. Then we shall rightly call the Lord our “rock” and our “deliverer”; then we shall exclaim, “Praised be the Lord” and be “safe from [our] enemies.” Then He will hear our cry and save us, and all who truly love Him, for then we will be His disciples.
Written, read &chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Child and the Beast" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to love you with all our heart,
and to love others as you love them.
YHWH, we must turn from idols to worship you alone, for you are the living and true God and deserve all the love of our heart, mind, and soul. And we must love others as you love all, ever sharing your unending compassion with our neighbor. For you hear the cry of the poor, and to that call we must attend or we are not loving you at all.
Whose compassion is beyond is beyond your own, LORD? Whose love can approach your perfection? For your love is founded on perfect justice, a justice we cannot fathom apart from your favor toward us. Your justice cannot but punish evil, for if not, how could it protect the good? How could the widow or orphan find your compassion if you did not destroy those who oppress them?
But even as you destroy the wicked, you do so out of love, out of mercy even toward those you destroy. For how shall they turn from their sin and be saved if you do not chastise them for their wrongs, for the lack of compassion which separates them from you? Your kindness be upon all this day, O LORD, that we might live in your love.
Fri, 27 October 2017
(Eph.2:19-22; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.6:12-16)
“You are fellow citizens with the saints
and members of the household of God.”
And whom is this building founded upon but our Lord Jesus Christ; He is the cornerstone by which the apostles and prophets are set in place, and we are built upon this firm foundation, all integrated as one “holy temple in the Lord.” This Church is “the dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” Alleluia!
Oh that blessed night Jesus spent “in communion with God”! Praise God for the mountain on which He prayed! For that night, in that place, in these prayers was conceived the foundation stones of His holy temple: in the Spirit that night the essential structure of the Church was given birth in the names of these poor apostles, these simple human beings.
And at daybreak He called them forth by name. Upon them His favor rested. And though one “turned traitor” and had to be replaced, yet here are the pillars on which the Church rests. And to this day their descendants, their blessed successors remain with us, holding up the Church despite their frailties – yes, the power of the Spirit continues to go forth from their call. “Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge.” Nothing can stem the passage of this Word to the ends of the earth, for it is founded in the silent communion with God.
Who can touch this silence? Who can tear down this oneness in the presence of God? No one can hold the wind in his hands and no one can restrain the power of the Spirit. It indeed goes forth. Yes, “the whole structure” continues to be “fitted together” in the Lord’s Name, and no persecution can stop its growth, can prevent its inevitable coming to fullness in the eternity of heaven. And so, let us thank God for His blessed apostles and prophets and martyrs today. Let us pray we shall be found worthy to be one with them in the House they build. And let us come to know the Lord even more, who is at the heart of us all.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, may we be built into your House
with all your holy apostles.
YHWH, let us become your dwelling place; let us make our home in your Spirit as you make your home in us. Let us be firmly founded in your apostles with Jesus as our cornerstone. Then through us, too, your Word will go out to the ends of the earth. Then we will be one with your apostles.
Into your household let us be built, O LORD, with all your saints in Heaven. Let Heaven and earth declare your glory – truly let us be your handiwork. As your Son chose the Twelve by your hand upon Him, so let us be chosen and formed in their image to serve you faithfully in this land, to make this land as your kingdom.
Let our words not be spoken in vain, LORD, our prayers not fall short of your glory; let us rather speak only in the Spirit that your light we might bring to this place. Though our cause seem hopeless, though darkness beset us, yet let us look to you and find refuge in the prayers of your apostles, of all the holy ones in your Temple.
Thu, 26 October 2017
(Rm.7:18-25; Ps.119:66,68,76-77,93,94; Lk.12:54-59)
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is just?”
Do we not have the law of God at work in us now? Must we yet subject ourselves to the judge of this earth, who cannot but condemn us for our sin? If we cried out with our psalmist for the Lord to teach us His “commands,” His “statutes,” His “law,” and His “precepts,” His “promise” of “compassion” would be with us, His Spirit would come to us and instruct us on all matters. No longer “the prisoner of the law of sin in [our] members,” we would be freed “from this body under the power of death.” Not only would our “inner self agree with the law of God,” but our actions would reflect, by the grace of Him who is at work within us, that law now written on our hearts. The “wisdom and knowledge” the Lord thereby imparts would be sufficient for the resolution of any problem in our lives, for there is nothing beyond the scope of the Spirit.
Both Paul and Jesus Himself encourage us to find the Spirit of Christ at work in our hearts. We as a community of believers would have no need to turn to the works of the world to resolve our problems if we followed well the teaching of the Lord and His Church. Should not the Church be our government? Should not the teaching of God, which transcends all earthly wisdom, be sufficient for our discerning right and wrong in any situation? Or is sin still at work in our members? Are we yet subject to this law and the condemnation and death it brings? Has the devil yet a hold upon us; does he yet cast us into darkness? Are we therefore too blind to see right from wrong?
Brothers and sisters, we must cast from our souls all vestige of sin; it cannot hold power over us any longer. We must find the light of Christ in our eyes and so be made able to judge all things in His justice. With our psalmist we must proclaim to the Lord, “Your law is my delight.” If we yet take refuge in the law of sin, it will bring but judgment upon our lives. But if we turn to Him, true wisdom will be ours – and His compassion will save us.
All teaching the Lord puts into the hands of His apostles. Our Pope and bishops and priests continue, as His servants, to proclaim His truth and impart His grace. The Church is the home Jesus leaves us; upon it He places His Spirit. Let us follow the teachings of the Lord and find His power at work in our lives, and all things will be clear to our eyes. And so, condemnation we shall avoid as by the grace of God we judge all things rightly.
O LORD, Jesus has indeed set us free by His power –
let us turn to Him for wisdom.
YHWH, keep us from being imprisoned by sin; only you and your Son have the power to release us from such bondage. Help us to follow your precepts, help us to walk in His way, that we might find your kindness upon our souls and live in freedom this day.
Why is it we are so blind? Why so trapped in the flesh? Our eyes do not look upon the things of the Spirit except with great difficulty, except by the grace that comes to us through your only Son. O LORD, let our eyes be opened to see Him standing before us, and let us follow your Law by His power.
Here we find a war at work within us. Without you we have not the wisdom and knowledge to judge well the path to victory over sin. O LORD, let us not be delivered up to the jailer, for we are not able to pay the price of our transgressions. Let your compassion be upon us that we might live and do what is right.
Wed, 25 October 2017
(Rm.6:19-23; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:5; Lk.12:49-53)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
The division is clear. The Lord Himself has stated, “I have come for division.” Far from establishing “peace on the earth,” His message makes clear the distinction between the evil and the good, the wicked and the just, drawn so well in our psalm today. He has “come to light a fire on the earth.” It shall purify the just for the kingdom of God even as it burns up all the wicked.
Paul also makes clear the division between the evil and the good, between that which is of God and that which is of sin. “Formerly you enslaved your bodies to impurity and licentiousness for their degradation… But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life.” The distinction is certain: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Indeed, the just “is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade,” but the wicked “are like chaff which the wind drives away.” This division is what the Lord’s light and fire reveal; and this revelation is eternal.
It is painful, brothers and sisters. It is painful to undergo our own transformation to justice and light from the depths of depravity into which we have fallen, and will be painful to witness others destroyed by the hardness of their hearts. The Lord Himself expresses this pain when He says, “What anguish I feel till it is over!” He takes no pleasure in bringing the agony of division, which begins with His own agony in the garden and ends with His crucifixion. He suffers most to witness the sins of the masses so acutely. They wag their heads at Him even as He cries from the cross. What is to be done? Division must come. For the kingdom must come, the resurrection must take place, and sin cannot stand in its light – and so those who attach themselves to sin, to the works of the father of lies, will not stand in that day either. And even now the judgment comes, even now we must take sides – even now we choose death, or life.
O LORD, set us free from our sin –
burn away all evil.
YHWH, the sword of the Spirit your Son brings separates the wicked from the just – it is a fire purging all evil from the earth, destroying those who give themselves over to impurity and licentiousness, yet lighting your servants’ way to Heaven. He who walks in accord with that light, placing nothing before its demands to holiness, shall enter your presence even as the insolent are consumed.
What can we do, O LORD. to save souls from death? It shall come inevitably to all slaves of sin. We can but hope to make ourselves pure, seeking ever eternal life, and pray that men will turn to you. All is in your hands; let us be sanctified by your touch.
Who has not sinned? Who has not degraded the dignity you instilled in our souls? Yet you would make us fruitful in the Spirit, O God, if we but set our hearts on your Word.
Tue, 24 October 2017
(Rm.6:12-18; Ps.124:1-8; Lk.12:39-48)
“Offer yourselves to God
as men who have come back from the dead to life.”
If we have come back from the dead to life, should we then offer ourselves up to death again? As Paul questions, “Are we free to sin?” How absurd a thought! If we are sinners, let us give ourselves freely to sin, and find the condemnation which comes from this. But if we are men of justice, let us give ourselves to “obedience” of the teaching imparted to us, and find life firmly in our souls.
Jesus states quite clearly, “When much has been given a man, much will be required of him.” Brothers and sisters, much has been given us simply by our release from the sin which once enslaved us. Indeed, “we were rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare,” as David’s psalm proclaims. The “raging waters” that “would have overwhelmed us,” the “torrent [that] would have swept over us,” has been calmed… For this alone we have much to be thankful; simply by this grace much has been entrusted to us. And what follows only adds to this initial blessing; for each day our souls are required of us, each day He puts in our hands and calls us to the work set aside for our souls to complete. Each day the gift of grace is increased within us. So should we then begin “to abuse the housemen and servant girls, to eat and drink and get drunk”? Should we then return to the slavery of sin which blinds our eyes to His eternal presence? Certainly not. Rather, we should “be on guard” at all times, vigilantly prepared for our master’s return, employing the gifts He imparts to us each passing day.
We are no longer dead, brothers and sisters. We have the grace of our God at work within us, lighting our eyes and filling our souls with His holy food. We must now be holy as He. It is not for us to return to the death of sin, to subject ourselves to its chains once again, to have our eyes darkened and our souls destroyed. The grace, the light within us, must be diligently preserved. We must come to Him, come to His stewards to whom the most has been entrusted, who hold in their power sacramental grace, and confess our sins in His presence, and come and eat of His Body and Blood. Let us avail ourselves of these gifts these successors of the apostles hold and thus find the strength to give our own “bodies to God as weapons for justice” and not for sin.
O LORD, let us give you all that we have,
all that we are;
then there will be nothing left to give.
YHWH, you have saved us from the raging waters, from the torrent that would have overwhelmed our souls – and should we cast ourselves back into the sea? Should we once again give ourselves to sin? No! We must give ourselves as slaves of your justice and serve you all our days, never turning from the grace at work within us, never again obeying the flesh and its lusts.
For soon your Son shall return for us, O LORD – and should He find us in a drunken state? Should He find us with violence in our hands and lust in our heart? If so, then we would prove ourselves unworthy of trust; and what would we be then but beaten for our lack of love?
You yourself are present now in our very spirits, LORD. Let us treasure this grace upon us and work out our salvation, never giving ourselves again to the teeth of the beast.
Mon, 23 October 2017
(Rm.5:12,15,17-21; Ps.40:7-10,17; Lk.12:35-38)
“To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
“May those who love your salvation say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’” May we who love the Lord “exult and be glad” in Him. May we who take refuge in His grace sing aloud His praise. What greater gift could we have than Jesus Christ, whose “single righteous act brought all men acquittal and life. For truly we were dead in our sin,” truly the offense of Adam had infected our souls, truly through this “one man’s disobedience all became sinners” – but more truly “through one man’s obedience all shall become just,” for “His grace has far surpassed” the increase of sin. And so, what should we do but rejoice with David at the truth of Paul’s instruction.
And what should we do but be ready, truly ready, really waiting, patiently, for the return of our Lord. “Be like men awaiting their master’s return from a wedding.” Set your hearts on His coming again, “so that when He knocks, you will open without delay.” This is yet the greater blessing for us servants, that even in these dark days upon this earth, we stand ready for His return. Here is His grace at work within us, that our hearts are set on Him, that His presence, the coming of His kingdom, we know even now in anticipation of its arrival. No greater blessing could we hope for than to be “those servants whom the master finds wide-awake on His return.” By this we know we have conquered sin; by this we see that we have overcome the darkness which surrounds us – if whether “at midnight or before sunrise” we are found prepared, if even in the darkest times we hold His light, if our eyes are like “lamps… burning ready” and our “belts… fastened around [our] waists”… we have all that we need in this world.
Be ready, my brothers and sisters, for the joy is coming; it will not delay. That happiness of life in His presence we sense even now, we taste even this day in our mouths, will come soon to fulfillment in the reign of our God. And so, “those who receive the overflowing grace and gift of justice [will] live and reign through the one man, Jesus Christ,” for whom we await, in whom we take our refuge, whose name we praise, His saving word etched upon our souls and bleeding in our hearts. In all we do we wait for His coming. He alone is our desire, and we shall not be disappointed.
O LORD, let us be always ready to serve you;
let your grace reign in us
and we shall come to do your will.
YHWH, grace has come to us by the sacrifice of your Son and cleansed us of the disobedience of Adam. We are thus set free from sin and placed on the path to eternal life. And so, what should we do now but wait for Jesus’ return, when that grace shall be fulfilled and we shall come to dwell with Him in Heaven?
Truly has Jesus been obedient to your command. Truly has He achieved the conquering of death and the end of its reign for every man. Truly has His death brought us acquittal and life. And truly will He return, O LORD, to reward all His faithful servants; truly will He Himself be their food.
O let us be ready for His coming! Let our lamps be burning ever and our hearts prepared always to open when He knocks. Let us offer ourselves with Him as His Body, dear LORD, that to us quickly salvation shall come even in the dark night of this world.
Sun, 22 October 2017
(Rm.4:20-25; Lk.1:68-75; Lk.12:13-21)
“We should serve Him devoutly
and through all our days be holy in His sight.”
For “this very night your life shall be required of you.” Always and forever our faith is required of us, if we are to draw breath. Always and forever the Lord asks us what fruit we have produced. Always and forever we must be careful not to toil in vain, but to live according to His Word, believing in His promise. Else our lives will indeed be empty vessels.
Holiness befits His house. Adherence to His covenant is our call. Faith in the One who is “saving strength for us” is our necessity. We must indeed be as our father Abraham, who was “fully persuaded that God could do whatever He had promised,” whose “faith was credited to him as justice.” And if we have the same faith as Abraham, we will find the same justice, the same reward as he. “For our faith will be credited to us also if we believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Jesus “was handed over to death for our sins and raised up for our justification” and only faith in Him as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham will give us life.
Why do we turn to the things of this world and in them seek our fulfillment, and in them seek our rest, when they are so vain and when all the while Jesus calls to our souls to come to Him? Why is it we think that in the goods of this world we can find refuge, we can find strength? Why are we so blinded to believe that in them we can find our peace? “Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.” Here is the fruitless mantra of this materialistic world. Here is the epitome of our blindness to His will. Here is the belly seeking to take the place of the spirit.
Can we not see that it is only the spirit that gives life, that the flesh is of no avail, that the riches of this earth serve more as a distraction to finding the life and the peace we seek in the depths of our souls than to bringing a fulfillment of this most human of desires? This desire cannot be satisfied except in Christ. We must not be as “the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God,” or when these passing riches rot away or are taken from us, we will be left terribly empty. Rather, we should “avoid greed in all its forms” and dedicate ourselves to service of the Lord. Only in Him is life and peace made known, and only by holiness do we come there. At all times the Lord is calling to our soul; let us answer Him in faith.
O LORD, Jesus has died and been raised
for our salvation –
may we believe in Him and grow rich in your sight.
YHWH, let us not grow rich to ourselves, setting our hearts on the wealth of this passing world, but rather grow rich in your sight, in your gifts and graces. Let us have faith, first of all; this blessing let us most treasure.
You have sent your Son as Savior for us – what more could we ask of you? Here is the fulfillment of all our desires. And if we put our faith in Him who has died for our sins and been raised for our justification, if we serve Him devoutly all our days, it will indeed be credited to us as righteousness and great reward will be ours in Heaven. O LORD, let us know your mercy upon our souls!
Only in you our life is found, dearest LORD and God. Our every breath is in your hands and when we come to the end of our days, what hope shall we have but that you breathe into us new life? And so, let us store up wealth for you alone, the wealth of a faithful heart.
Sat, 21 October 2017
(Is.45:1,4-6; Ps.96:1,3-5,7-10; 1Thes.1:1-5b; Mt.22:15-21)
“I am the Lord and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.”
Oh brothers and sisters, how clear our Scripture today makes it that “great is the Lord and highly to be praised; awesome is He beyond all gods.” Indeed there is no other God. It is He who grasped the “right hand” of even the pagan king, Cyrus, “subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service.” The heart of this king and all kings and all lands are in His hands – He alone rules all nations! Do you see this? Do you understand that if He calls this foreigner by “name, giving [him] a title,” that there is none that is beyond His reach, that is not under His eye? By the Lord’s power this pagan has conquered the nations of the world. And why? Why does He arm him who knows Him not? “So that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none beside [Him].”
Our psalmist sings so well of the singular power of the Lord God: “All the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the Lord made the heavens.” Again I ask, do you see this? All nations recognize Him who made the heavens and the earth; even these “tremble before Him.” And so all are called to “tell His glory among the nations, among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” For all must be encouraged to “give the Lord the glory due His name”; all must be offered the honor of knowing the greatness of our God.
One of these nations who have come to knowledge of the one God we hear of in our second reading. Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers and sisters loved by God” for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gives thanks to God the Father that this Gentile people has come to faith in Him “with much conviction.” What has been proclaimed so long now bears fruit. For even the millennium before our psalmist had called the “families of nations” to “bring gifts, and enter His courts,” to “worship the Lord in holy attire.” None has ever been barred from adoring Him who is the One God and Father of all. But now the Gospel comes not “in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Now the word is anointed by Jesus’ blood. So now all nations indeed come before Him, giving “the Lord glory and praise.”
And when Jesus says, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” He does not remove anything from under God’s domain. For even the things of Caesar are in God’s hands (as is the coin between Jesus’ fingers today), as the Son makes clear in His words before Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (Jn.19:11). And, “the Lord is King” and King is His Son, and “He governs the peoples with equity.” Let all declare the glory of Him besides whom “there is no other.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The World Is a Work of Art (Made by the Hand of God)" (1st half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, all the earth belongs to you;
let us run in the way you command,
ever giving praise to the glory of your NAME.
YHWH, there is none beside you – you are the Most High God, the only God, the living God… and greatly should we praise you. We should worship you alone, for you alone are worthy of worship. O let us sing to you all the day long!
All the nations are in your hands, LORD and God; all kings run in the way you lead them. There is none above your power or beyond your reach – the world is at your command. As Jesus holds the coin of Caesar between His fingers, so all this earth is under your power, to be disposed with as you desire.
Send your Spirit into us, dearest LORD, O mighty God, that your power might come to us and conform us to your will, that we might labor each day for you and our poor work find your favor. Let us test you not, O LORD, but trust in your goodness toward us and be obedient to your Word.
Praise you for your glory, LORD! Let all souls give you due praise, that we might join with you who made us, that we might share in your surpassing glory.
Fri, 20 October 2017
(Rm.4:13,16-18; Ps.105:6-9,42-43; Lk.12:8-12)
“All depends on faith, everything is a grace.”
Faith is our father; it brings us to life for it makes us children of “the God who restores the dead to life and calls into being those things which had not been.” By faith we entrust ourselves into God’s hands and become as Abraham, who is “our father in the sight of God in whom he believed.” “Hoping against hope, Abraham believed and so became the father of many nations,” and insofar as we believe, we become his children before God. Indeed, it is through faith alone that we are born into His kingdom.
And having faith, we must acknowledge its presence in our lives by witnessing to the Son of God. If we are His disciples, as we must be, we will not hide His grace working in us but allow it to bear fruit in the profession of that faith before the world. And so, as we “come before synagogues, rulers, and authorities,” as we stand before the face of this generation, as we do anything in this world, we must “not worry about how to defend [ourselves] or what to say.” Jesus tells us, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment all that should be said.” And so by this trusting in Him we prove ourselves children of faith.
This is the manner in which I produce this writing. Trusting in Him as entirely as my faith allows, I am not concerned beforehand what I shall speak, what I shall write upon this page. In the measure that I am a child of grace, I prove it by my allowing Him to speak through me at this moment and in His way. This is what we must strive to do with all our work, in all our lives. All our lives are founded upon this faith, and the Lord calls us in an ever greater way to express that faith, to live that faith, by consecrating all we think and do to His will and desire. It is for us to but come into His presence, to remember He is here with us, and so to find His grace at work in our lives.
We must be prepared and be preparing ourselves always to stand before Him forever. As we place ourselves in His presence now, it is so that we die to ourselves and begin to live by His grace. More and more we must trust in that faith which joins us to Him and makes us children of the promise which “holds true for all Abraham’s descendants… for all who have his faith.” Faith alone will bring us to life, for faith alone brings us into the presence of Him who is life. Enter His grace, brothers and sisters, and find it working in your life.
O LORD, if we believe in you,
you will be with us.
YHWH, you restore the dead to life and call into being those things which had not been. And so, should we not put our faith in you? And so, should we not proclaim your glory before men? With a God such as you, what need we fear? O let us live in faith and so be blessed!
All indeed depends on faith, O LORD; it is our very life breath. Everything is a grace from you who bring all things into being, and we must acknowledge that grace at work in our lives in order to join ourselves to you and that grace, and so find life itself. Separated from you we shall but die, but as children of Abraham, as children of faith who believe in you and in your Son, we shall live forever.
You are faithful and true to your Covenant with your chosen ones. Let us trust in you, LORD, and in your Spirit’s movement in our lives.
Thu, 19 October 2017
(Rm.4:1-8; Ps.32:1-2,5,7,11; Lk.12:1-7)
“Happy is the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.”
All our sins shall be taken away by the Lord who watches over us and loves us, if we but believe.
We must lay bare our souls, brothers and sisters. We cannot hide from the eternal, piercing light of God. His hand is upon us at all times; His heart is open always for our entering in. It cannot be otherwise with the Lord of the universe, in whose sight “even the hairs of [our] head are counted.” And He who surrounds us desires but our love, desires but our faith, desires but that we come into His presence confessing our sins, and He will take them away. And we shall not be “cast into Gehenna” but drawn into His kingdom.
His kingdom is coming. Jesus sees it as He gazes out at the dense “crowd of thousands” gathering before Him. He sees the kingdom coming as men’s hearts turn to Him. And so He warns His disciples, who shall be the laborers to reap His harvest, “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” for if they should take pride in their mission, if they should find in their deeds “grounds for boasting” and so forget the favor of God by which all are justified, they shall indeed tempt the fires of Gehenna. “Everything you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight,” for the Lord hears “what you have whispered in locked rooms.” So, keep your hearts set on Him and His goodness, and the truth of the Gospel will be proclaimed to the world, and you shall save your immortal soul.
Jesus knows, too, that the faith of His disciples and their declaration of His Word to the world will bring persecution. He sees in this scene, too, the cross set before Him, and He knows those who follow Him shall share in it as well. And so He reassures His children that the Father is with them, that He treasures them even as He treasures His Son, and so the powers of this age will hold no reign over them, and that they should “not be afraid of those who kill the body and can do no more.”
Yes, our soul is in His hands. He has power to forgive and to protect, if we but come to Him as children, if we but come to Him in faith.
O LORD, all is known to you –
let us confess our sins, and we will be saved.
YHWH, of what can we boast, we who cannot forgive our own sins? Truly, we are in your hands, and so should fear you.
But in your kindness you readily forgive our transgressions; if we turn to you, our sins are wiped away. And so, there is nothing we need fear, LORD, as long as our desire is for you.
Help us to confess our faults that you might remove all our guilt. Inspire us to call upon your NAME, O LORD, and we shall rejoice in your blessings. If we but have faith in you, your justice will be upon us.
There is nothing of consequence we can accomplish on our own, nothing but sin. All the good that we do comes from you, and so, what cause have we to be proud? Let us not be false in our love for you, LORD, but even in the deep recesses of our hearts proclaim your glory continually. O may all men come to faith and be saved!
Wed, 18 October 2017
(Rm.3:21-30; Ps.130:1-7; Lk.11:47-54)
“This generation will have to account for the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world.”
And so shall it be with Christ’s own blood, the fulfillment of all the martyrs’ sacrifice; for these same scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus proclaims guilty of the prophets’ murders will indeed devise the murder of the Son of God. And they prove the truth of His words immediately by their manifestation of “fierce hostility to Him” and their thus giving birth to the plot to crucify Him.
Perhaps most appropriate for today, with regard to Paul’s epistle to the Romans, is the Lord’s admonishment of the lawyers: “You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not gained access, yet you have stopped those who wish to enter!” It is essentially the same message the Apostle teaches: “The justice of God has been manifested apart from the law… that justice of God which works through faith in Jesus Christ.” It is not through “observance of the law” that justification comes; the works of the law – circumcision, animal sacrifice, dietary rules – which address the body, are useless in this regard. God is Spirit and it is spiritual means He uses to redeem us – we must come in faith to Him. And those who would restrict faith by the imposition of these laws serve only to impede the working of the Spirit and His grace. Paul states the question succinctly: “Does God belong to the Jews alone? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles?” If He is God of all nations, it is not meet to impose Jewish religious practice upon those apart from Jewish tradition. But these protectors, or rather “possessors” and defilers of the law – defiling it by their greed in seizing it, their pride in assuming it as their own and not God’s – cannot accept that “it is the same God,” that the Gentiles are equal in grace with the Jews… and so to them this teaching is blasphemy.
At the root of the problem is the fact that these leaders are not as the psalmist in our readings today, who sings: “My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.” Nor do they cry “in supplication” “out of the depths” of their iniquity for God’s forgiveness. If they had been so disposed, they would have seen who stood before them, they would have recognized His coming, and they would have fallen to their knees and found His grace.
Let us not be so hardhearted, for indeed the blood of Jesus is upon the hands of all who sin, just as His salvation is upon all who repent and believe in Him. Water alone will not wash us clean; we must recognize the lack of love we have, and find His Spirit working in us.
O LORD, your justice is shown in your mercy,
which you offer to every faithful soul.
YHWH, we have all sinned and fallen short of your glory, and cannot by our own strength find our way back to you. We cannot justify ourselves but need the grace that comes to us through the blood of your Son to justify our souls, to set us right with you.
But what of those who fail to see they need your forgiveness, who fail to recognize that they, too, are sinners, that they have the blood of Jesus upon their hands? O LORD, how can these be justified? How can they come to faith in you if they do not listen to the One you have sent to draw us back to your presence? They shall but continue in the way of sinning, mounting up the blood of the prophets for judgment day.
Your Son offers His life for our sakes; freely He sacrifices Himself upon the Cross that we might be saved. Help us to turn to Him, O LORD, to see what we have done, repent, and be redeemed. You are the God of us all, and to all souls Jesus’ blood does call.
Mon, 16 October 2017
(Rm.1:16-25; Ps.19:2-5; Lk.11:37-41)
“They stultified themselves through speculating to no purpose,
and their senseless hearts were darkened.”
If these words do not refer to modern man most poignantly, then I imagine nothing can be said of anything. In ancient times, “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man, birds, beasts, and snakes” and bowed down to statues as if they were gods. The images man worships today are also the creations of his own hands, sometimes as physical as the idols worshiped before the time of Christ – who does not long to see his own image on one of our television sets, and who is held in greater esteem than those movie stars whom we have never met but know only of their image on a screen? – but perhaps most particularly they are the vain ideas, which reveal their utter absurdity to any mind with a modicum of common sense, but which are propounded as sacred by the elite thinkers of our day. Their numbers seem endless, and one wonders if man will rationalize himself out of existence, as perhaps he already has philosophically in the declaration that God is dead, and so often done in reality through movements such as Communism and Nazism.
Indeed, how relevant are all Paul’s words today: “They certainly had knowledge of God, yet they did not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks”; “they claimed to be wise, but turned into fools instead”; “they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies.” But “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the irreligious and perverse spirit of men who… hinder the truth.” “These men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” cannot but come to naught, for “day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge” – the Gospel goes forth “to the ends of the world” and Truth overwhelms all lies. As Jesus overturned the Pharisees who “cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but within… are filled with rapaciousness,” so shall the mind of modern man be shown for all its absurdity in the clear light of day.
Time. There is but time to wait. Time for the Word to go forth and to pray for the conversion of the nations, of all peoples. And there is hope, hope that men shall turn from their absurdity and their perversity to embrace the light of the Gospel and the true teaching of love it brings. We pray the senseless will find faith and be led thereby to salvation.
O LORD, openly your Word speaks to all men’s hearts,
calling them to salvation.
YHWH, how shall the senseless mind of man be redeemed? If it turns from you, the Creator of all, to give praise to senseless creatures, will it not be ever as blind as they? Trapped in its own contrivances, it shall never see the light of day or hear the Word of Truth. And so, to these faithless souls the Gospel will be so much foolishness, as in foolishness they die.
Your Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and is revealed in all Creation. But men who cannot see beyond the flesh quench the Spirit even as they engage in the destruction of their bodies. For the purity of your Creation they pervert, and so fail to stand in your holy light. O LORD, let us cleanse the inside of our cup that we might come to your glory!
Your eternal power and divinity help us to recognize, that filled with knowledge of you, O God, we may keep our hearts from being darkened by the false worship of this corrupted age.
Sun, 15 October 2017
(Rm.1:1-7; Ps.98:1-4; Lk.11:29-32)
“You have a greater than Jonah here.”
Greater than any prophet is He. Wiser than Solomon is the Lord who is the source of all wisdom. For it is He of whom the prophets speak; it is His promised coming “the Holy Scriptures record.” The fulfillment of prophets and kings is in our midst. Our high priest is with us offering the sacrifice of Himself. Let us thirst for Him as the Ninevites did for Jonah’s preaching and seek Him as the queen of the South for Solomon’s wisdom. Let us listen to His servant and apostle Paul as he proclaims the Gospel of God and come to “obedient faith” with all the Gentiles “who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Salvation is upon us as it is all nations.
If Jonah’s preaching was great, the Lord’s is the greater. If he converted thousands, Jesus turns millions to the love of God. If Solomon was wise, our Lord is so much the wiser. For though this great king spoke well of all things of the earth by the grace of God, the Christ comes now with the wisdom of the richness of heaven. And so now we are all “called to holiness, grace and peace.” It is these gifts which are imparted to us “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And by these blessings we become His children, greater indeed than any prophet or king of old.
Yes, the fulfillment has come. “The Lord has made His salvation known.” “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” His Word is brought forth even now, even this day to our hearts in the preaching of the Gospel that is Christ Jesus – “His resurrection from the dead” signals the redemption of all mankind. And so we celebrate. And so we “sing to the Lord a new song” as we, too, participate in His death and resurrection with the beloved apostle Paul, even as we come to the table set before us by His grace and holiness.
May that same “Spirit of holiness” which made Jesus “Son of God in power” now touch our souls and separate us from all that is unholy. May we respond in kind with the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching, that they might not condemn us on the last day for our lack of faith. May the wisdom which comes to us now by the grace poured forth from His lips sink into our hearts and find a place in our lives. For no greater than He shall we find; let us not be blind to this sign.
O LORD, how blessed are we to hear the Gospel! –
let us repent and reform our lives.
YHWH, you have made your salvation known in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Son. He indeed is our salvation, the very life of those who follow Him, who listen to His preaching and reform their lives – who join themselves to Him and to His Church. May we not be condemned for our deafness to His call but set our hearts on the wisdom that comes to us through Him and through His apostles, that indeed we might be saved and rejoice in your presence on the day of judgment. With Him let us be raised from the dead.
May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed to the ends of the earth that His Gospel might be the source of salvation for all souls. Let peoples come from the furthest corners of the world to hear that your promise has been fulfilled in your Son and the Spirit of holiness is now upon all who are obedient to His call. For this grace let us sing your praise, O LORD!
Sat, 14 October 2017
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Phil.4:12-14,19-20; Mt.22:1-14)
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines.”
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” It may be equated with “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” with “calves and fatted cattle ready to be eaten.” A great banquet is the kingdom of heaven!
But, of course, though we speak here of food and eating, we know that it is not this we should thus seek on this earth, for these things are but of the earth and are only used to help us understand the heavenly fruits which are ours in the kingdom of God. Paul makes this clear in his attitude toward food and the provisions that are of this world: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need,” and it truly matters not to him whether he is rich or poor in material things; all that matters is that we “can do all things in Him who strengthens” us – all that matter are the “glorious riches in Jesus Christ.” Food and feasting are but metaphors for the things that in this world are unseen.
However, it is so that “the feast is ready” even here on this earth. It is true that the Lord “spread[s] the table before” us even in this world, even “in the sight of [our] foes.” He does not leave us poor humans alone without real food to strengthen us for our journey. But this food is spiritual fare; His Body and Blood are not juicy and rich to our taste, to our bellies, but to our souls. This food nourishes the Spirit He has planted within us, and helps it ever to grow. Though real as our own flesh and our own blood, yet it truly is of heaven, and lends the glory of God to this bone of His bone.
“God will fully supply whatever you need,” brothers and sisters; have no fear of being in want and no anxiety to build up abundance on this earth. He indeed is beside you always, giving your soul blessed “repose.” Make it your aim to “dwell in the house of the Lord.” Then “on that day” He reveals His kingdom, you will “rejoice and be glad,” saying, “Behold, our God, to whom we looked to save us!” Then you will enter His presence forever. Prepare your soul for the wedding feast of heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Readiness Is All" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, prepare us well to come into your House,
to enter into eternal life with you,
our God and Savior.
YHWH, you spread the table before us, a feast of your kingdom. Rich food and choice wines are ours even this day in the Body and Blood of your Son. Let us offer you due praise and thanks for all your provisions for our journey to you.
And when we come finally into your kingdom, LORD, where death has been destroyed and we stand in the light of your presence, our hearts shall leap up in absolute joy… and we shall remain with you forever.
But let our wedding garment be prepared this day. O LORD, let us find the purity we need to stand in your presence and rejoice in your glory. For yet our hearts are not set wholly on you – forgive our continual rejection of your grace.
You are at our side, dear LORD; you bless and guide us as we walk this dark earth. Help us to cling to you in trust and faith, and our place beside you will be assured. Glory to you, O LORD!
Fri, 13 October 2017
(Jl.4:12-21; Ps.97:1-2,5-6,11-12; Lk.11:27-28)
“Near is the day of the Lord in the valley of decision.”
And so, “blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” For though “sun and moon are darkened and the stars withhold their brightness,” though “mountains melt like wax before the Lord,” “light dawns for the just,” and for them “the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk.” Yes, “the heavens and the earth quake, but the Lord is a refuge to His people.”
Are we His people? Are our hearts set upon Him? Are we blest as our Mother with keeping the word of God, of putting it into practice, of giving our yes to all His words, and His commands? Are these commands sweet as honey, are they the new wine we drink each day? From Him do we find our daily bread? Though we are in His Church and have the blessed breasts of this great Mother to nurse us, though we are here where the hills of the Lord “flow with [His] milk” – though we have at our hands the Body and Blood of the Lord and the true teaching, the Word of God, in our ears by His grace upon this House of God, do we truly appreciate these gifts He provides: do we eat and drink unto our salvation and keep His word as an ever flowing stream of life in our souls, at the heart of our beings? “The channels of Judah shall flow with water,” as now they do. Do we wash ourselves clean in that water that “issue[s] from the house of the Lord”? Are we prepared for the day of decision?
Let us rejoice in Him, brothers and sisters. “Be glad in the Lord, you just, and give thanks to His holy name.” With the psalmist let us raise our song and proclaim His justice to all the peoples. For what should we have but joy as we take refuge in His promise, as we come to the table of the New Covenant each day and share even now in the life He offers forth through His holy sacrifice. And let us pray to our Mother, Mary, that we shall be as she is, that we shall be so true to the Lord and serve as His handmaidens amongst the world. May she keep us close to the nourishing food the Church holds for all her children; and may our decision be as firm as hers as we give our unfailing yes to the Lord and so know His grace and blessing.
O LORD, if we but keep your Word,
we shall be blessed on the Day Jesus comes.
YHWH, you dwell on Zion, your holy mountain; may we dwell there with our Blessed Mother.
The mountains melt like wax before you, O LORD. The heavens and the earth quake, but you are a refuge to your people. Truly blessed are all who make their home in you, who do your will in this world. And so, as sun and moon are darkened, as this world you reduce to dust, may we be gathered into your arms, to the breast of our Mother.
Let the heavens proclaim your justice, LORD; let all holy souls give thanks to your NAME. For light dawns through the darkness for the upright of heart, and your children abide forever in your presence even as their enemies are destroyed.
Blessed let us be, O Holy LORD, to follow where your Son does lead, for He leads us only unto you. O may we hear and keep your Word! Blessed Mother, pray for us.
Thu, 12 October 2017
(Jl.1:13-15,2:1-2; Ps.9:2-3,6,8-9,16; Lk.11:15-26)
“It is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
a day of clouds and somberness!”
And we must be prepared. We must rend our hearts and not our garments. We must “spend the night in sackcloth,” repentant of our sins. We must “proclaim a fast” and “cry to the Lord,” “for near is the day of the Lord.”
The prophet Joel sounds this alarm several hundred years before Christ, and in truth it proclaims the coming of Christ. For it is His coming that separates the wicked from the just; it is He who “judges the world with justice” – it is by Him the names of the wicked are “blotted out forever and ever” and those who “declare all [His] wondrous deeds” find their salvation.
The day is coming and is already here, for the Lord declares in our gospel, “The man who is not with me is against me, and the man who does not gather with me scatters.” He makes clear the works of Satan, which do not bring healing but only sickness and death, and the works of “the finger of God,” which overpower and “cast out devils.” Here the judgment is come; here it begins. In the end it shall be fulfilled and the great divide between evil and good will be set for all eternity, but here and in this time the Word of Truth goes forth, calling all souls to leave behind all sin.
But, brothers and sisters, our fasting must be complete; our weeping, our repentance, must be genuine. We must turn entirely from our sins and make place only for the Lord Jesus Christ to live in the houses of our souls. If the Lord lives in us, there is no place for darkness. If the Lord is within us, no devil can dwell there. But if in hypocrisy we pretend a conversion, we expand the space for the devil’s dwelling in our homes. For the two are indeed mutually exclusive: the Lord has nothing to do with the devil, and the devil nothing to do with the Lord. And so if we hope to stand on the day when darkness covers the earth, “spreading over the mountains, like a people numerous and mighty”; if we hope to remain when the Lord returns with His myriad of angels to judge the earth and the thoughts of men’s hearts… we must enter His grace this day – we must now call upon His Name. There is no other way, my brothers and sisters. You must be with Him or against Him. The choice between life and death is presented before you; for the day of darkness is nigh. Choose His eternal light!
O LORD, your Day is at hand –
let us make room in our hearts only for you.
YHWH, your throne is set up for judgment; near is your Day. Soon you will come to destroy all the wicked, that in your presence the just might shine. Your Son you have sent to redeem the world, to call every soul from its sin, but failing repentance what shall happen to us on the great and terrible Day of His return?
Forever you are enthroned on high, O LORD, and who can approach your glory? What hope have we of uniting with you, of looking upon your face, we who have been so sinful? How shall we come into your House and there find eternal rest if we do not wholeheartedly accept the cleansing Word of your Son?
If there is any pretense in us, we shall not stand with Him. And so, O LORD, let us fast and pray for all devils to be cast from us that we might forever sing your praise.
Wed, 11 October 2017
(Mal.3:13-20; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:5; Lk.11:5-13)
“For you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
Both our psalm and first reading make clear the distinction between the blessed and the condemned: “The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes,” our psalmist declares. The wicked are “like chaff which the wind drives away,” while the just are “like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” Malachi proclaims the same. Where the Lord is healing rays of warmth to the just, for the wicked He comes “blazing like an oven… leaving them neither root nor branch.” For one, His fire is holy and life-giving; for the other, it destroys.
And what is the sign that we “fear the Lord and trust in His name”? Malachi speaks of “going about in penitential dress” and states, “They who fear the Lord spoke with one another, and the Lord listened attentively.” Our psalmist tells us the just “delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on His law day and night.” We must be repentant of our sins and come humbly before Him. We must recognize, as Jesus tells us, that we indeed are ones “with all [our] sins.” This is first. But most importantly we must trust in Him and turn to Him, and pray in His Name. For “the heavenly Father give[s] the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” He is not remiss in making them His own. He wishes all to be blessed and come before Him whole. But we must not fail to seek His will, to seek His way, to beg it of our God. We cannot be remiss in asking and seeking and knocking, for this persistence proves our love of Him and of His way, and by it we will find Him.
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing more important or more powerful than prayer. It is our way of coming to Him and becoming one with Him. It is at the heart of the distinction “between him who serves God, and him who does not serve Him.” For all that we do will come to naught if not done in His presence, and it is only by prayer we enter the presence of His holy light. First and always we must have faith, yes. First and always we must believe. But now and ever we must seek Him; forever we must ask His grace to come into our lives. And He will hear. He will “give [His] children good things.” So neglect not to remain in the presence of God and your reward will be assured, and you will know the blessed light of His face.
O LORD, give to us the Holy Spirit,
that in all things we might follow along the way
of your Son.
YHWH, we ask for your grace and mercy, your compassion upon our souls, that we might not be burned up with the wicked on your holy Day but stand blessed in the light of your face. Let us be healed of all sin and come to serve you with all our hearts, leaving behind all doubt of your glory and trusting in your goodness toward us. For you have made us and we are your own if we but have faith in you and come humbly before you with our petitions.
Yes, let us ask you for what we need, for all good things, those in accord with your will. If our hearts are set on serving you and others, what will you not give us? For then we will truly be your sons. But, O LORD, if we should turn our sights upon the advancement of our own name, seeking to prosper by doing evil, the wind shall indeed drive us away, and we shall perish in unholy fire.
Tue, 10 October 2017
(Jon.4:1-11; Ps.86:3-6,9-10,15; Lk.11:1-4)
“Your kingdom come.”
“You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish.” How beautifully Jonah speaks of God’s blessed compassion on His people. And how poorly he is able to accept and live that grace. The Lord’s forgiveness extends now to the ends of the earth; let us not be loathe to offer it unto all.
In our first reading, Jonah is angry with God for His mercy in forgiving Ninevah, the pagan empire and enemy of Israel. But the Lord teaches Jonah that He watches over these, too, not only Israel, signaling His universal call to salvation (which shall be fulfilled in the teaching of Christ). By comparing the city of Ninevah to the plant “that grew up over Jonah’s head, giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort,” the Lord instructs us that not only does He care for all nations, but indeed that all nations have a holy call, a blessed purpose, in which God Himself takes pleasure and comfort. He has raised all the nations and each is called as a member of His kingdom.
This word should give us great understanding of the graciousness of our God, and great joy in knowing that we are called by Him: “You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” We can join with David in his prayer, knowing that God will “attend to the sound of [our] pleading” even as He does this blessed king of Israel; even as He listens to His chosen people, so He listens now to us, for the walls of division have been cast asunder and His love now extends to all.
But we must not be as Jonah shows himself to be today. We must “forgive all who do us wrong” or the Lord will not hear our prayer to “subject us not to the trial.” If we harbor anger, it will mean our death; and the Lord will send “a burning east wind” and a sun to beat down upon us, too, to draw us from the hardness of our hearts and the condemnation we breathe in our souls. Our vision must be that of God, who sees that sinners “cannot distinguish their right hand from their left,” or as Jesus says from the cross, “They know not what they do.” And so we, too, must forgive.
Let us join in prayer today, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s kingdom may come to earth. Let us rejoice that His reign extends to all. For it is the Lord’s desire to “forgive us our sins,” and it is His will that all find refuge in the shade of His presence. And so we partake of “our daily bread” here in His Word and in His Sacrament; and so we live the kingdom of God.
O LORD, let our prayer rise up to you, the Most High,
who are merciful and kind and forgiving toward all
and hear us when we cry out to you.
YHWH, you are abounding in kindness toward all, a gracious and merciful God desiring to show clemency to sinners, to lead them from the death upon their souls to a holy life in you. For this what can we do but praise you? What can we do but say: let thy will be done!
But how often we keep your mercy from others, dear God; how often we expect it for ourselves yet refuse to share it with those who seek it from us. This is not your will. In this your kingdom does not come. For where forgiveness is withheld, your love does not exist; and where your love does not exist, you are not present.
Let us not die in desolation, O LORD, beneath a scorching wind and a burning sun. Open our hearts to share your compassion and we shall find relief from all the trials we bring upon ourselves by our lack of pity, by our condemnation of others.
Mon, 9 October 2017
(Jon.3:1-10; Ps.130:1-4,7-8; Lk.10:38-42)
“He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do them;
He did not carry it out.”
Ninevah is spared. Because “they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth,” because they repented of their sin and called “loudly to God,” He did not punish them for their iniquity but forgave them and withheld “His blazing wrath.” And so this pagan city finds God’s mercy through the preaching of Jonah.
We are all called to repent. We are all called to turn to the Lord and seek His forgiveness and grace to overcome and be spared of punishment for our falling short of His glory. Our psalm declares, “Let Israel wait for the Lord, for with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption.” And so to find His mercy we must have faith and we must be patient. We must be as Mary in our gospel today, seated at His feet, listening to His words. We cannot remove ourselves from this place and hope to find salvation for our souls any more than the Ninevites could have taken a break from their sitting in sackcloth and ashes to have a snack and yet hoped to find the forgiveness they so desperately needed. Our fast must be total, our obedience complete. Do you think Mary had a mind to rise as she listened to her Lord? Do you think she was distracted by anything? Certainly not. And we in our prayer and in our work and in our lives must find the commitment she embodies if we hope to know the grace of God truly working in our hearts.
Indeed, the Lord “will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.” Indeed, He hears the voice of all who cry to Him “out of the depths” of their sin. He will come and wash us clean; He will come and make us new. If we choose “the better portion,” we “shall not be deprived of it” and its reward. But it must be our whole hearts that turn to the Lord, that are set on His word… that heed His preaching as it comes with its grace to our ears.
If we are short of prophets today, listen more closely, brothers and sisters. If it is difficult to find the Word preached with the power and blessing of Jonah, open your Bibles and turn to your hearts. Sit still before Him in silence and He will fill your soul with His light. And fail not to come into His presence where the people gather for Mass. The Word shall indeed fill you; His Bread shall indeed nourish you. And your soul shall be saved according to your commitment to Christ.
O LORD, let our hearts be set on you
and your presence;
may our ears be open to hear your voice.
YHWH, let us turn to you with all our heart that we might find forgiveness of our sins and peace in your presence. If in sackcloth and ashes we cry out to you in repentance, you will look kindly upon our souls; if in silence we sit at your feet, what shall we not be taught? All is ours if we make ourselves your own.
O LORD, all nations you call to yourself. There is no one for whom you do not care, whom you would not save in your mercy. And so you send your prophets forth even to the ends of the earth, and so your Word goes out to all places and times – and so all who listen to your voice find redemption for their souls and enter your holy Temple.
Your ears listen for our voice calling out to you; your heart longs for us to set aside all things and worship you. O LORD, let your gracious will be done in all our lives that none shall perish in separation from you.
Sun, 8 October 2017
(Jon.1:1-2:1,11; Jon.2:2-5,7-8; Lk.10:25-37)
“A Samaritan who was journeying along came on him
and was moved to pity at the sight.”
First let me note that the book of Jonah is not a parable, not an imaginary story, as popular scholarship would have us believe. How do I know this? I have faith, yes, which those who would explain away any miracle of God so sorely lack; but I know it, too, by Scripture itself. For elsewhere the Lord compares Himself to Jonah, and states explicitly that the people of Ninevah – who had the faith to repent at the preaching of Jonah – will rise on the day of judgment and condemn those of Jesus’ time, and us, for our failure to repent at the words of the Son of God. It is not possible that imaginary people could condemn others’ souls (the very idea is absurd, of course, but such are our minds in this “enlightened” age), and this comparison would suggest that Jesus Himself is but imaginary, which seems not against the belief of the vain prophets of our day.
In today’s gospel we have a parable: The Good Samaritan. It begins as the universal story all parables are – “There was a man…” (“a man,” any man, every man), and its express purpose is to impart a lesson. And the lesson today is God’s universal love. The dreaded “Samaritan” represents nothing but faithlessness and sin to the Jewish mind, but Jesus demonstrates that it is sinners He calls – and that those thought of as sinners indeed often show the greatest faith. We see this not only in our gospel, but also in our reading from Jonah, for notice how quickly the pagan mariners turned to their gods, who are no-gods, to seek deliverance from the “breakers” and “billows” which pass over them. Indeed, it is they who arouse Jonah, who has fallen asleep in the despair of his separation from the will of God, to pray to his Lord. And what horror overwhelms them when they hear how he has disobeyed the Lord’s command – “How could you do such a thing!” Who has the faith here? Who convicts whom of sin?
Though Jonah is clearly different from Jesus in this his sin, he is like Him in a crucial way – he sacrifices his life for those in danger of death. Notice his words: “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, that it may quiet down for you.” And so it does when he is finally cast forth (after remarkable, faith-filled prayer by these pagans); and so also these men “offered sacrifice and made vows” to the Lord, coming it seems to faith in God following Jonah’s laying down of his life. And, of course, as Jesus will spend three days in the belly of the earth, so Jonah spends three days in the belly of the whale; and as the Lord will rise on the third day, so Jonah is “spewed upon the shore.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord heard Jonah’s prayer from “the midst of the netherworld,” “from the belly of the fish.” Do not doubt and test the Lord as the lawyer who seeks “to justify himself” in his pride. In your moments of darkness, come to the Lord as the humble servant He calls you to be, and He shall assuage your doubts, He shall be moved with pity looking upon you, and teach you of the love and compassion only He knows.
O LORD, how shall we be saved from the pit
into which we cast ourselves
if we do not have compassion for the plight of others?
YHWH, we have fallen into the pit, beaten and left for dead by robbers, by the demons, for our sin. The breakers and billows pass over us and we are doomed to drown in the dark of the deep.
But you are merciful, LORD, truly compassionate to all in need. And so you look upon our troubled state and send us help when we cry out to you – our prayer, even from the midst of the nether world, reaches your holy Temple, and you have pity on our poor souls. For this let us ever praise you!
And to what do you call us but to be compassionate as you, to love you and to show that love by loving our neighbor as ourselves. For we are all one in you and so if we are in you we will see that helping others we indeed help ourselves, and please you greatly by our love, by such awareness of our oneness in you. May all our being worship you, O LORD! Let us live your will of love and compassion.
Sat, 7 October 2017
(Is.5:1-7; Ps.80:9,12-16,19-20,Is.5:7; Phil.4:6-9; Mt.21:33-43)
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
“Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.” Of course, this “vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!” And so the Lord promises to “take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, [He] will make it a ruin.”
Jesus’ parable in our gospel today echoes precisely Isaiah’s “song”: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.” But now the prophecy is brought to fulfillment; now the rotten grapes come to maturity, and so the ruin of the vineyard will be complete. For in their rejection of the Son the hope of Israel is lost: none further has the Father to send them; herein they utterly spurn His love. How shall they be turned to producing good fruit if He who is the source of all goodness they destroy in their souls? There is nothing left but to remove the vineyard from them.
“A vine from Egypt [the Lord] transplanted; [He] drove away the nations and planted it.” But for its unfaithfulness He has “broken down its walls.” Indeed, in a scant few years after the crucifixion of the Messiah the temple in Jerusalem will be utterly destroyed – the worship upon which the faith of the Lord’s people is founded will be no more. And it shall not return. But even as this temple built by hands the Lord lays waste, He yet answers our psalmist’s plea to Him: “Look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted.” For as He destroys, so He builds; as Christ is killed, so His Church is planted. And it shall grow unto eternity.
The fulfillment of all prophecy, the New Jerusalem, is in our midst now. In the Catholic faith the worship at Jerusalem comes to maturity. And though many would see it removed – and perhaps by man’s reason one might say for its sins it should be – though many come in their presumption to build anew… there is no call from the Lord for any of this, and these man-made structures will also fall to ruin. What God builds now He builds on a foundation which lasts forever, against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail. Only on the day of judgment, only when the kingdom has come, will this House be needed no more – for then all that will be will be His Church.
So, “brothers and sisters, have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God.” Truly does the Lord’s “face shine upon us” in this holy Temple, and it shall not be moved. See that you not remove yourselves from it but “keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen” in its confines. Listen to His Word spoken to your hearts, and receive well the broken Bread of this holy sacrifice and the Blood of this heavenly vine. And bear fruit in His name.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Fatherless Children" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, restore this vine
that we might bear your fruit in peace.
YHWH, the vineyard you planted in Israel had to be broken down, the temple in Jerusalem destroyed, but the Church you have built in the blood of Christ shall endure till the end of time. Let us make our home in its confines.
The peace of the New Jerusalem is ours, O LORD, by the grace wrought by your Son; the New Covenant let us embrace that we might flourish as your vine. O let us bear fruit in your sight!
Break not down the walls of this House, LORD; let us not be disobedient to your call. Though we have killed Jesus on a cross, let us now turn back to you. For you will have mercy on your people and restore us in your love. Give us new life and we will call upon your Name, never forgetting your presence in our midst.
O LORD, may your House be built this day even unto the heavens; in your presence let us make our home, serving you faithfully at all times. The Body and Blood of your only Son as our food and drink, let us be grafted to your vine.
Fri, 6 October 2017
(Bar.4:5-12,27-29; Ps.69:33-37; Lk.10:17-24)
“He who has brought disaster upon you will,
in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”
That enduring joy which comes to us after this time of trial is our theme today. Not only does Baruch come to it in his exhortation for the people to “fear not” anymore but to turn to God and be glad, but it is David’s song as well: “You who seek God, may your hearts be merry!” he exclaims as he assures us that “God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah,” which were once “left desolate” “for the sins of [her] children.” Yes, as Baruch encourages Israel, “Fear not, my children; call out to God!” so David confirms that “the Lord hears the poor.” And from all their sins He shall save them.
And does not our gospel tell us the same. In it we are told that “Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit” and gave the Father “grateful praise,” saying, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children.” To His children, to the humble, to the poor, He reveals Himself. And what can those who are blessed so, to see “what many prophets and kings wished to see” – what can we do but rejoice in His Spirit? For He has given us “power to tread on snakes and scorpions and all the forces of the enemy, and nothing shall ever injure” us. For sin no longer holds sway in our lives as it once did when we turned in the hardness of our hearts from the face of God and so were “handed over” to our foes. Though once we “forsook the Eternal God,” we now return to Him; and so the “mourning and lament” suffered because of our sin now become joy in His eternal presence.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice so much in the fact that the devils are subject to you as that your names are inscribed in heaven.” We should rejoice not so much in the gift as in the giver, not so much in the power we have as in Him who gives the power. For great and wonderful as the overcoming of evil in this life certainly is, its entire purpose is to bring us into communion with the Lord in the New Jerusalem, in His heavenly kingdom. “Those who love His name shall inhabit it,” so let us join with Jesus in the Holy Spirit to praise the Name of the Father and the great blessing of life He imparts to us. And we shall find redemption from the punishment of our sins and rejoice as children in His presence forever. Amen.
O LORD, the Son has made you known,
and we may see Him, and we may hear Him –
let us turn from our sins!
YHWH, great mourning has come upon us because of our sins, but great hope we have in you who desire our salvation. Great joy is ours as we turn now from our sins and seek you ten times the more. You are ours as we come before you on our knees, and the joy you bring us will last forever.
O God, you are eternal, dwelling in unending light. And as that light comes to our eyes, what can we do but rejoice with your Son that your poor ones you bring to glory? In Heaven our names are written by your loving hand, in the blood of your merciful Son; all He has He has given to us, revealing even your presence, dear Father.
What power has Satan over your faithful ones, those whom you bless with your power and love? The Spirit has set us free from all bonds that we might walk with you, eternal LORD.
Thu, 5 October 2017
(Bar.1:15-22; Ps.79:1-5,8-9; Lk.10:13-16)
“We have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard His voice.”
Woe is upon us for our sin. We “have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed Him,” and so “the evils and the curse which the Lord enjoined upon Moses… cling to us even today.” And if we do not recognize our sin, as Baruch does so beautifully in our first reading today, if we do not admit our failure to “heed the voice of the Lord,” realizing and repenting of our going “after the devices of our own heart” rather than following in His holy way – if we do not accuse ourselves of “evil in the sight of the Lord,” He will accuse us on the day of the judgment, as He does with Chorazin and Bethsaida in our gospel… and the woe upon us then shall be interminable, as we are “hurled down to the realm of death” with the cursed Capernaum. But if we turn to Him, if we cry out to Him as does Baruch, as does our psalm this day, declaring the evil and destruction that has come upon us for our sin, that same “reproach of our neighbors” which has “laid Jerusalem in ruins” will be removed from us – the Lord will “remember not against us the iniquities of the past,” and we shall preserve our souls on the day of judgment.
“They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem”: great is the suffering which has come upon the Lord’s wayward children. It seems at times the Lord will be angry forever for the sins committed by the perverse heart of man. But we know that His “compassion [will] quickly come to us,” that His anger lasts but a moment, it is only for a time, and that He shall indeed “deliver us and pardon our sins.” This has He done in Jesus, in His sacrifice, and word of it now is preached to the nations. If we accept it, we save our souls from destruction, from eternal damnation; if we reject the word of the Gospel, we reject Jesus, and we reject Him who holds the world in His creating hand – and so what hope of life have we, who have cast Life aside so wantonly… and so “burn like fire” forever only can the wrath of the Lord, our God.
Let us reject sin while there is time. As His Word is still in our hearing, let us come to it and bare our souls before its truth “in sackcloth and ashes.” The condition of this world of sin does not change, and it mounts up its punishment for judgment day. Let us come out of the world, humbly professing our sin, and listen now to the voice that leads us to forgiveness and grace, to exaltation “to the skies,” standing at His side forever.
O LORD, let us not reject you!
but come rather on our knees seeking forgiveness.
YHWH, the gravity of our sin overwhelms us: our blood is poured out like water, our corpses given as food to the beasts of the earth. How shall we make amends for our wicked deeds if even the presence of your Son and His sacrifice do not move us to repentance? O save us from being hurled down to the realm of death! Let us not reject the Word come from Jesus.
O LORD, let us heed your voice. Though we have been disobedient, though the evils that fall upon us are but just punishment for turning our hearts from you, help us, please, to avoid the grave, to be preserved from the fire that is coming upon the earth. Remember not our iniquities; let them be of the past. Let your compassion come quickly to us to raise us from our lowly state. In sackcloth and ashes let us bow humbly before you that we might find pardon for your NAME’s sake.
Wed, 4 October 2017
(Neh.8:1-12; Ps.19:8-11; Lk.10:1-12)
“They understood the words that had been expounded to them.”
What a blessed day we hear of in our first reading. And what a blessed reception the Word of God finds in the hearing of the people! For “the whole people gathered as one man” and “listened attentively to the book of the law” of Moses as “Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion” and “read out of the book from daybreak until midday.” And we know that all the people indeed understood the wonder of what was read to their humble, obedient hearts, “for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.” They wept for the truth of these words, and for the fact that they as a people were so long without their instruction. The truth of God’s Word brought repentance to their hearts, as it should to all.
But ultimately the Word of God caused them, as all, “to celebrate with great joy.” Certainly this is its ultimate goal. For as David sings so well of in our psalm today: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.” And the rightness of this wisdom brings “rejoicing [to] the heart.” For as rich as the food and sweet the drinks the people were encouraged to consume that day as celebration of the glory of God, none could compare with the commands of the Lord, which “are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold; sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb.” This bread of life is that which sustains us.
And it is this bread of peace and life the Lord sends the disciples to bring to the cities before Him in our gospel today. He tells them that as they declare peace to any house or town along the way, “If there is a peaceable man there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.” And woe to those who do not welcome the reign of God these disciples bring in Jesus’ name. Indeed, we hear that “the fate of Sodom will be less severe than that of such a town.” If the Israelites were so open and welcoming to the Word of God read in their midst from the book of the law by Ezra the scribe, how much more welcoming should these people who have the emissaries of Christ Himself, sent to “cure the sick,” be to receive the reign of God at hand. And how much more should we be open to receive His Word, who now know of the Lord’s resurrection to glory and have the Holy Spirit in our midst by the authority given to His Church on earth. Brothers and sisters, we must hear and understand as well as they of Nehemiah’s time, else what hope have we for celebration in Christ’s glory? May His sweet words be in our ears and in our mouths, and so may we bleed with Him unto glory.
O LORD, your Word brings the sweetest tears
of blessed repentance.
YHWH, how sweet your Word should be to our ears, to our hearts – O how we should welcome it! Though it bring knowledge of our sin, that knowledge is sweet, for that knowledge brings us to repentance and refreshes our souls. Though we weep, though we cry for our transgressions, how sweet are our tears! For it is these tears, this turning from our sins, that brings us into your presence, that brings your reign into our midst.
O how we should welcome your Word, LORD! Once it came only through words in a book; once it had to be read aloud and interpreted for our simple hearts to understand. But now it comes in flesh and blood in your only Son and in the apostles He sends out to proclaim your glory among men.
Indeed, your reign, O God, is at hand. Your grace has come to us as a Man. And so let us rejoice this day, for it is thus made most holy.
Tue, 3 October 2017
(Neh.2:1-8; Ps.137:1-6; Lk.9:57-62)
“How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?”
Our home is in heaven. “The foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” the Lord tells him who would follow His way in our gospel today. Our home is in heaven, and only there do we find joy. And only finding our place there should possess our hearts.
We have a sign of the devotion we must have for the Lord and His Kingdom in our psalm and first reading. Even as the psalmist hangs up his harp and weeps “by the streams of Babylon” for his exile from Jerusalem – “May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy” – so, too, Nehemiah is most “sad at heart” for his separation from and the ruination of “the city where [his] ancestors are buried.” And as the king takes pity on his servant and sends Nehemiah to help rebuild Jerusalem, so, too, does the Lord look upon those who seek in ardent desire their true home with Him in heaven. He knows we are sad at our separation from the kingdom of God; He knows only there we shall find peace in our hearts, and so He calls us along the way He walks.
But also He warns that all else must be set aside if we are to discover that which our hearts desire. “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.” Does love for the New Jerusalem truly possess us as did love of the old for these exiles in Babylon? Do we, too, recognize our own exile, our own homelessness, and seek with all our souls only the song that is sung in the kingdom of God? Are we prepared to leave this land of exile, this foreign land in which we find ourselves, to come to Him to build with the wood He provides the new walls which will be our shelter and our place of worship even in this life? Or do we look back to this world of sin and find ourselves drawn into its sad state?
The Lord awaits the turning of all toward Him and His kingdom. He desires greatly our returning to His side. The thought of our heart to give up all for Him He confirms with His blessing and love. But we must be clear that this commitment is total, that nowhere else we shall find our joy but at His side in heaven.
O LORD, let us not be separated from you
but give all our lives to following in your way,
even to the Cross.
YHWH, let us set our hearts on you alone and our coming into your kingdom. Why should anything else possess our souls? Of what else should we sing? Should we not proclaim your glory with full voice and so find your reign upon us? We cannot make our home in any place but Heaven; help us to overcome the sadness of dwelling in this dark place, in this land of exile. Bring us quickly into your presence.
Your House let us rebuild, O LORD, your House and your City. Let your favoring hand be upon us this day as we seek to accomplish your will. All else let us be ready to leave behind in order to do your work upon this plane. For only in you will we find our joy – hear us as we pray to you.
Let us not be dead, O LORD, dead to your presence in our midst. Let our hearts burn with love for you! Let us remember your NAME forever.
Mon, 2 October 2017
(Zec.8:20-23; Ps.87:1-7,Zec.8:23; Lk.9:51-56)
“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”
God is with us, brothers and sisters. And though all upon earth turn their faces from Him now, though in ignorance they reject Him and our preaching of His Word – there shall come a day when all nations find their home in Him. In that day the Lord shall reign.
As Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem and His coming death at the hands of His own people, He passes through many towns and sends harbingers of His drawing nigh. In today’s gospel we read of the Samaritans’, the dreaded “half-breed” of Israelites, rejection of His presence among them: “The Samaritans would not welcome Him because He was on the way to Jerusalem.” And for this should they not be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah? request the sons of thunder, James and John. But it is “only to reprimand them” that Jesus makes answer to such an idea. Indeed, they reject the Son of God, but in this moment they certainly know not what they do. Should they be any different than the Jews who will offer Him up for crucifixion or the apostles who will abandon Him?
From the gospel we must take solace, brothers and sisters, when our words fall on deaf ears, when the Word of God seems not to take root in souls. We are only emissaries of His Word, and that Word will bear fruit only in His time. But, of course, at the same moment we mourn rejection, we must be buoyed by the vision delivered by Zechariah in our first reading and confirmed so wonderfully in our psalm, for in it is the Truth of the resurrection that follows the Lord’s crucifixion. We are told that “the inhabitants of one city shall approach those of another and say, “Come! Let us go to implore the favor of the Lord,” and that “in those days ten men of every nationality, speaking different tongues, shall take hold, yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” Not only will they hear the Word of God, they will beg its presence in their lives! For the Lord shall draw them inextricably to His mountain. “And of Zion they shall say: ‘One and all were born in her; and He who has established her is the Most High God.’”
Brothers and sisters, we dwell now in Zion; Holy Church is the New Jerusalem. And hearts shall turn to her with longing – she shall find her treasured place here at the end of the age. We need not fear or be anxious, for the day of the Lord shall come, when “all shall sing, in their festive dance: ‘My home is within you.’” Continue on to every town, bearing His love.
O LORD, all who desire the salvation wrought by Jesus
will be welcomed into your House.
YHWH, in Jerusalem let us make our home, in your holy Church. To this House all nations shall come, for it is here you dwell on earth. Heaven is indeed in our midst: you are with us. And it is for you the heart of every man longs – O let us be born into your kingdom!
Toward Jerusalem the face of your Son is set; it is always to this place He comes. Here He dies and here He is raised, and here He dwells unto eternity…. In His blood let us be reborn. In Him your glory is known among us, O LORD, for you have established Him forever as our Home.
Let us all come to Jesus in the New Jerusalem to implore your favor, O Most High God. And let us bring all souls to these gates, that in glory they might enter in and find their place in Him. His messengers let us be until the end of the age.
Sun, 1 October 2017
(Zec.8:1-8; Ps.102:16-23,29; Lk.9:46-50)
“The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in her streets.”
“Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also, says the Lord of hosts.” Sometimes we lose sight of the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes our faith fails because of the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves. Or sometimes our pride can be the obstruction, blinding our eyes to the presence of the Lord in our midst, speaking to us in the children who play all around us, who sit at His side… whose angels behold His face always. Sometimes we lose hope and the promise of eternal life escapes us.
But why? Do we not know that the Lord “has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer”? Have we not experienced His redeeming grace many times in our lives? Do we not believe Him when He tells His chosen ones: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice”? Why are we so forgetful of His love for us and distracted by our situation? For the Lord does “hear the groaning of the prisoners”; He does “release those doomed to die”; He does look down “from His holy height” and hear the prayers of us His lowly ones, if we but call out to Him.
“I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun, and from the land of the setting sun.” At the center of the universe shall we dwell, “within Jerusalem,” with the Lord. This is our promise. And this is our call – to bring others within those gates, to invite all His children to enter His holy presence. Not to look past them in blind ambition, but to set our hearts on serving Him by striving always and only to build up His kingdom even here on earth.
Jesus knows our thoughts, brothers and sisters. He knows how vain we can be in our ways. And so He sets a child before us. He shows us the lowliness we must know to enter the kingdom of heaven. And He presents us with a challenge to gather His children there. Indeed, heaven shall be filled with the laughter of children, but will we hear it – and will we find true reward by increasing it always in His Name? Let your heart not fail or despair of any circumstances, for “the children of [His] servants shall abide, and their posterity continue in [His] presence.” Ever maintain hope for the glory of Zion and see it rising in your midst.
O LORD, may we be as children before you
in your heavenly kingdom.
YHWH, gather your children together as one in your holy City of Jerusalem. In the peace of your presence let us dwell all our days. We are greatly troubled here upon this earth. Help us to turn and become as children that in innocence and humility before you we might remain. Hear us as we cry out and look down with pity upon our poor souls.
O LORD, let us be on your side; faithful and just make us, we pray. O let us serve you in holiness that when you appear in glory we may enter your company and not be kept from you by our foolish pride. You are our God; let us not be made blind to your presence.
O LORD, let us hear the sound of children playing in your streets, and let us be among them. If we could but humble ourselves, in your eyes we would find our place secure. Release those who are doomed to die; with you let us dwell forever.