Wed, 28 February 2018
(Jer.17:5-10; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:5; Lk.16:19-31)
“He is like a tree planted beside the waters,
that stretches out its roots to the stream.”
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.” For he shall be like the tree “that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” He shall never be “like a barren bush in the desert” or “like chaff which the wind drives away.” Never shall he know the “place of torment,” for “the heat when it comes” shall do him no harm. This man “follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners,” but rather “meditates on [God’s] law day and night.” His faith and his hope are the roots that stretch out to the living water of the living God who nourishes all by His Word and in His flesh.
Brothers and sisters, we must never “trust in human beings” as do the Pharisees, or be as the rich man who “seeks his strength in flesh,” “dressed in purple and linen and feast[ing] splendidly every day.” This earth itself holds not our food. Notice that it is to the Pharisees Jesus addresses His parable in our gospel today. How closely the rich man parallels these leaders of the people. The bounty of God’s wisdom is bestowed upon them, but they use it to feed their bellies rather than to shepherd those in need. They claim Abraham as their father and the Law of Moses as their guide, but they neither have the faith that makes Abraham the father of all, nor do they follow the instructions Moses conveys. Only in the flesh are they Abraham’s sons; and though they see him from the hell to which they come, they cannot touch him, they cannot reach past him to the Father in heaven, who gives Abraham his blessing. Dwelling but in their “father’s house” as the rich man who gorged himself on the pleasures of the flesh, they come not to the Father’s House on high, for their roots penetrate not to the living water that is found in faith, and now Lazarus cannot even “dip the tip of his finger in water to refresh [their] tongue.” Dead as the stone upon which the commandments were written do they become.
Notice, too, brothers and sisters, the connection between thoughts and actions, between faith and works, between the word and the flesh in our first reading, and present throughout Scripture: “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.” Only the Lord, who is Himself the living water, knows if His Word of life dwells in a man, and that faithful spirit is reflected directly in the just man’s deeds – for by these the Lord judges. And Jesus is the just man; He is the Word made flesh in whom the Spirit dwells, in whom all find life. He is the undying tree, one with the Father, whom all must imitate. His words are living water; His flesh is food we eat: He alone is perfect in word and deed, for in Him spirit and flesh meet. Let our hearts be set on Him, and we, too, shall be blessed; and we shall know that He is risen from the dead.
O LORD, let us be saved from torment
by walking in the way of your risen Son.
YHWH, let us not be wayward souls, separating ourselves from you and the nourishment you offer; for we shall but wilt and fade if we put our trust in the passing things of this earth – we shall but die if we fat our bellies and become bereft of your Spirit.
Jesus let us follow, LORD, for upon your will alone He set Himself. Your Word let us meditate upon both night and day that we shall remain in your presence always and walk ever in your ways. You reward the faithful soul with the blessings of your House but can only cast the wicked man far from your table of grace.
Let us not be rich in the things of this world nor turn our sights to what is evil. Upon your love let us set our sights, that our hearts might be purged of all insolence, of all sin against your goodness. And let us reach out a helping hand to those in need of your water, that all might have life this day in the Holy Spirit.
Tue, 27 February 2018
(Jer.18:18-20; Ps.31:5-6,14-17; Mt.20:17-28)
“Can you drink of the cup I am to drink of?”
Do you know what He asks, brothers and sisters? And do you know where it leads?
In our gospel today, Jesus is very deliberate in His instruction to His apostles. As He starts out “to go up to Jerusalem,” where the chief priests and scribes “will condemn Him to death” and the Romans crucify Him, He takes “the Twelve aside on the road” to speak clearly to them of the fate which awaits Him. (So objective are His words that He refers to Himself in the third person.) Of course, the apostles are yet far from understanding His message, as shown by their soon dissembling into jealous indignation regarding the question of the power and importance of each. And the Lord must teach them again that He has come “to give His own life as a ransom for many”; He “has come, not to be served by others, but to serve,” and that those who “aspire to [the] greatness” that is His must necessarily “serve the needs of all.”
We know that Peter is the first among equals “for whom it has been reserved by [the] Father,” as the Lord has indicated earlier, and not James or John – though both of these shall have prominent place in drinking of the cup of Christ: James as the first apostle martyred and John, the beloved, whose martyrdom shall be white, coming in the endurance of a long life – but all of us who seek to follow Jesus indeed share in the selfsame cross, and so shall receive of the selfsame blessings of Him who is raised up “on the third day.” All are called to drink of the cup of suffering and service in Jesus’ stead. We must be clear on this essential point of faith.
And does not Jeremiah’s persecution at the hands of the citizens of Jerusalem show that the cross of Christ extends even to the time before He had come in the flesh? Do not the words spoken against the prophet: “Let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word,” echo exactly the plottings of the Pharisees against Jesus, whom they repeatedly sought to entrap? And all this though He does “speak in their behalf, to turn away [the Father’s] wrath from them.” And David in our psalm chants the same refrain: “They consult together against me, plotting to take my life.”
Brothers and sisters, as it was for David and Jeremiah and Jesus, following in the ways of the Lord will bring us persecution. You may well ask, Must good be repaid with evil? but the Lord will answer, “Let it be for now.” For “from the clutches of [our] enemies and [our] persecutors” He rescues those who trust in Him. Take heart that the humbled shall be exalted as you drink deeply of His cup.
O LORD, though good be repaid with evil,
we shall rise on the third day
if we remain united to the sacrifice of your Son.
YHWH, though persecutions come, as they must, we trust ourselves into your hands knowing that your protection is with us, knowing that as your Son was raised on the third day, our suffering shall soon come to an end and we stand with you in your kingdom. Give us faith and strength in your abiding presence, despite the whisperings of the crowd.
The people plotted to take the life of your prophets and your Son. A pit is dug for all your faithful, LORD. But that pit is shallow as this passing world; only your eternity remains. And so, let us not fear as we drink the cup Jesus offers us, the cup He Himself drank upon the Cross; for as we lay down our lives in this world, sharing in the sacrifice of Christ, so we shall be blessed to know the glory to which you call all your faithful servants.
Our trust is in you, O LORD, for you are our God. Save us from the snares of the devil.
Mon, 26 February 2018
(Is.1:10,16-20; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mt.23:1-12)
“To him that goes the right way
I will show the salvation of God.”
“Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” For it is only following in the way of the Lord we shall be saved; for mere words, vain pretense, the Lord has no patience.
Indeed it is so, what Isaiah proclaims: “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow.” Forgiveness is offered forth generously by the Lord to the nation that goes astray. But we must be “willing, and obey” the word “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” If we “hate discipline and cast [His] words behind” our backs, if we but “recite [His] statutes” as the Pharisees whose “works are performed to be seen,” whose mouths profess the covenant but whose deeds are far from Him, how is it we shall find salvation? For the Lord is not blind and deaf as we to the heart of man; and unlike our own, His word is true, and His command must be followed – we must serve Him and our neighbor. We must humble ourselves in His sight if we hope to be exalted to His kingdom.
“Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” Over and over we hear from the mouth of the prophet and the psalmist and the Son Himself – the Lord has compassion on the poor and lowly, and we must do as He calls… we must be His arms and legs in this world. Unlike the Pharisees who “will not lift a finger” to carry even the lightest burden, whose “deeds are few,” we must take up the full weight of the cross. It is not “places of honor” and “marks of respect in public” for which we hunger; but when we teach and as we serve, our hearts must be set on the salvation of souls, which can only be accomplished by living the way of the Messiah, by following His example.
What has Jesus not done for us? What teaching has He left lacking flesh and blood? And so, rightly is He called “Rabbi”; and so, truly is He the only Son of the one Father in heaven. Brothers and sisters, we must go the way He leads – we must follow the humble path to the kingdom. In this our sins shall become “white as wool,” washed in the blood of the Lamb.
O LORD, let us be humble and just in your sight
that we might be saved from our sin
and enter your kingdom.
YHWH, our sins are red as crimson, but you would make them white as wool if we but listened to your Word and put it into practice. If our worship of you were genuine, then we would be truly blessed. But as it is we speak in vain when we call upon your Name. For who among us lives the way Jesus teaches, the way He walked? His chastisement let us treasure, that we might be saved from empty sacrifice.
There is so much pride within our hearts, O LORD, and in our words and actions. We desire to be exalted in the sight of others. Oh if it were but our desire to serve you! If we but sought to be humble and true, then you would raise us to be with you, in the heavenly kingdom.
O let us listen to you, LORD? Let us heed your command, your word of instruction. Let us do what is right and just in your sight and with our neighbor, and your cleansing grace we shall find.
Sun, 25 February 2018
(Dn.9:4-10; Ps.79:8-9,11,13,103:10; Lk.6:36-38)
“Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.”
It is a cry for forgiveness our psalmist makes to our compassionate God. “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past,” he begs, seeking release from sin’s prison for himself and his people. And Daniel does the same; acknowledging with full throat the sins of Judah and all Israel, he seeks the merciful hand of the Lord upon the people, interceding in their stead. Though he himself is an upright man, he cries out, “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil,” praying thus for the rebellious nation which has been scattered to “all countries” for their failure to heed the command of the Lord.
Well do our Old Testament figures embody Jesus’ teaching in our gospel, summed up simply: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” For they “do not judge” or “condemn” those individuals primarily responsible for the apostasy and so the destruction of the kingdom and the covenant, but rather seek earnestly to heal the rift that has come by giving generously of themselves and their love for God and others, in Christlike fashion standing in the breach. And so they earn the titles of prophet and psalmist of God; and so they foreshadow the heavenly compassion Jesus calls all His followers to pour forth in His name. (And so we can be assured their compassion has been “measured back” to them by the Lord.)
Jesus on the cross dies for the sins of all people, and this is His central call to all our souls: to imitate Him is our blessed goal. For insofar as we die for God and others, insofar as we lay down our lives in His truth, thus far we shall find His “compassion quickly come to us” and so live in the heavenly glory which is now His place. To us all He calls this day to pardon and forgive, for in doing so we shall find the reconciliation of the Lord even with our enemies, and secure for ourselves a room in His heavenly home.
He who knew no sin was made sin for our sake. He has humbled Himself to carry the sins of the nation… Let us, brothers and sisters, die with Christ on the cross, that all sin might be taken away in His Name.
O LORD, let us not turn away
from your Word to our souls
but be compassionate as you.
YHWH, you are a compassionate God calling us to your mercy and love. Forgive us all our transgressions against you that we might know your favor. Though we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, though we have rebelled against you and your command, refusing to listen to the Word of truth you utter in our midst, hear our cry for deliverance from the prison into which our sins have cast us. Save us in your love!
O LORD, if we do not judge we shall not be judged. If we do not condemn we shall not be condemned. If we but forgive others their transgressions against us, you will forgive our transgressions against you. And we shall return to your pasture.
Help us to give, O LORD, to give as you give, to give as your Son gives… to lay down our lives for the sake of others – to seek pardon for their sins. Jesus stands in the breach to reconcile us to you and one another; may we join Him in His mission of love.
Sat, 24 February 2018
(Gn.22:1-2,9-13,15-18; Ps.116:10,15-19; Rom.8:31-34; Mk.9:2-10)
“You shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,” the Lord instructs Abraham, calling him to sacrifice even as an animal his beloved child, upon whom God’s promise rests. To a mountain he is led, with his son carrying wood in tow.
And arriving at the place God had told him to go, “Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it… and took the knife to slaughter his son.” The angel comes to stay his hand, but Abraham is prepared to do as the Lord commands.
The Lord prevents Abraham from making this sacrifice because it is not his son who is to die; only the Lord’s Beloved could be offered as such a holocaust; only His Son is called upon to die. “Christ Jesus it is who died,” no one else, for only His death brings life.
And on Mount Tabor today we see the life that will come by the Lord’s sacrifice; already we glimpse the rays of heaven. Jesus is as engulfed in flames, holy fire of the most blessed holocaust; and – like the three young men in the furnace, like the bush before Moses on Mt. Horeb – by these flames He is not burned: by these flames His purity is made to shine.
How good indeed it is for these apostles to behold this blessed vision! In it we all find hope that the death of Christ is not for naught, and neither shall our own death be. For all who die in Christ, die as Christ, a death that brings only eternal life. And so, comprehending here the majesty to which we are called, all disciples of Jesus, all children of the God of Life, are strengthened for all trial.
God “did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all,” not because He loved Him not, but because He loves us all. And now “will He not also give us everything along with Him?” Will He now seek to condemn those whom He has justified at such a massive cost?
“It is God who acquits us,” brothers and sisters, by the death of His Son. And now “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of [all] His faithful ones”; do not be afraid to serve the Lord. For by your sacrifice, to a great height He will draw you, even as He has His Son, who “is at the right hand of God” this day. With Abraham, He “will bless you abundantly.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "White" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we join your Son in obedience
even unto death,
we shall be raised with Him.
YHWH, your Son has died to raise us all to new life; only His death could bear such fruit. And should we not therefore put faith in Him, Him whom you have declared your Beloved? Should we not thus come to a great love of you who have loved us so greatly? And would we not then come to glory, the same glory He shares with you this day?
A sign you give to us this day, dear LORD, a sign of your eternal glory, a glory that comes to us by the death of Jesus the Christ. And so, we should not be afraid of the death we must die, of the offering we must make of our lives in His Name. For as we are joined to Him in sacrifice, so will we be joined to Him in your heavenly kingdom.
O LORD, bring many souls, souls as countless as the stars, into the land you promise us and which you bring to fulfillment in the death of your Son. For this grace let us praise your Name forever in your House.
Fri, 23 February 2018
(Dt.26:16-19; Ps.119:1-2,4-5,7-8; Mt.5:43-48)
“You will be a people sacred to the Lord, your God.”
The promise made to the Israelites through Moses is also a command, and is fulfilled in the command of Jesus.
In our first reading Moses tells the people the Lord will raise them “high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations,” but makes it clear that this shall be so only as long as they “walk in His ways and observe His statutes, commandments, and decrees” – only if they “hearken to His voice.” For His law is as food to the body and light to the mind and must be observed carefully, “with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul,” to maintain the presence of God in our lives. If “He is to be [our] God,” we must do as He commands.
Thus our psalmist sings of the happiness of those “who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart.” Thus does he cry out in longing, “Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes!” for he knows in them is life. To “walk in the way of the Lord” is his joy.
And that joy is made complete, our life is made whole, by the new command of love Jesus imparts to our soul. The Lord fulfills the Law of Moses, which gave light to the people, by commanding us not to love only our “countryman” but all: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” Here is His challenge for us to “prove that [we] are sons of our heavenly Father,” to love as He loves, to know the greatness of His glory, therefore, in our very lives. If the psalmist cried out in such joy at the blessing found in following the Law of Moses, what indescribable joy is ours when we follow Jesus’ words. What greater call can we have than to “be made perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect”? What greater merit and blessing could there be? None. For He is Life itself, and here we are called to live with Him.
“His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust.” Nothing dims God’s holy light or stems the blessings He showers upon all. In absolute light, in absolute love, the Father dwells, in the heavenly kingdom; and if we can love as He loves, as Jesus has loved, we shall know such blessing. Love even those who hate you and you will be as the Father, who knows only love, and you will become sacred to Him – you will be saints in His kingdom.
O LORD, if we follow your way with our whole heart,
we shall come to where you are, in Heaven.
YHWH, what can we be but blessed if we heed your commands and walk in your way, for then we will be like you, who are most blessed of all? O to be a people sacred to you! O to love as you love!
What greater blessing can we know, O LORD, than to love as you love, to love all, even our enemies? What blessing it would be to know such absolute love, to live such absolute love – then we would be living with you; then we would be living in you. You shine like the sun upon all creatures… Let us live in your light this day.
Your Word is light to us, LORD; your commands are truth. And by them you would lead us to all truth, to all love – by them you would lead us to yourself. And your greatest command is to love our enemies, a command your Son embodies. Let us join with Him in keeping this Word and so live in your heavenly presence.
Thu, 22 February 2018
O disciple of John
and shepherd who drank deeply
of the cup of Christ’s suffering,
you who bore both
the burden of a long life
and the pain of a violent death
yet remained faithful
till the end –
pray that the fire into which we are cast
we may also endure
as the sacrifice of Jesus
and so find it fruitful,
and so find it blessed…
and so rejoice in the witness
we are granted to give
in the name of our Savior.
May the offering of our lives
join with your own and all the saints’
in rising as holy incense
to the throne of God
and serve as witness,
to the eyes that behold us,
of the Lord’s great power and love.
Thu, 22 February 2018
(Ez.18:21-28; Ps.130:1-8; Mt.5:20-26)
“Settle with your opponent while on your way to court with him.”
We are all on our way to court, brothers and sisters. The judgment of the Lord awaits us all on the Last Day, and the Last Day is upon us here at the end of the age. There is no time to lose; we must be “reconciled with [our] brother”; we must turn from sin today and find the Lord’s grace. “With the Lord is kindness and plenteous redemption; and He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities” – but “out of the depths” we must cry to Him “in supplication” to find His blessed forgiveness; and from sinful paths we must turn our feet to know His salvation.
“If a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” It is a great promise that comes to us through the prophet Ezekial, that none of our crimes shall be remembered by God when we return to Him. For the Lord does not “derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked,” He “rather rejoice[s] when he turns from his evil way that he may live”; for the Lord wishes life for us all, wishes Himself, who is Life, for every soul, and gives it freely, and quite naturally, when we follow His ways.
It is really rather simple: as when a wicked man turns to good things he is no longer wicked but good and so lives in the Lord, so “when a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.” Evil brings death, and righteousness and justice (goodness) brings life. The Lord desires life for us all and so He calls us to repentance, to repentance from even what might seem to our minds the smallest of sins – for so greatly does He wish life for us. And clearly does He know that which we cannot see, that death holds sway over us by every sin on our soul.
Let us avoid the fires of hell and the pains of purgatory, brothers and sisters. Let us call out to the Lord this day and find His “plenteous redemption” even as we turn from our sins. And there shall be no prison into which we are thrown, as we forgive one another, and the Lord forgives us, our sins.
O LORD, let us be released from all bondage to sin
that we might walk with you in righteousness
and so find life.
YHWH, forgiveness is with you, for it is your great desire to see us turn from our sin that you might have mercy on our souls. And if we do so, if we leave behind our wickedness – even our wicked thoughts and words – we shall find your goodness; you shall gather us into your arms. For then we shall be of goodness itself, and so, united with you.
But turning from the right path, what can we find but death in our separation from you, LORD? What can we know but condemnation in leaving you behind? For then you will not be with us, and without you there is no life.
O LORD, you are generous in redeeming us from all our iniquities. Let us follow your way as your Son does call, purging all hatred from our lives. Help us to be perfect as you are perfect – in love, in forgiveness, in grace… and we shall thus enter your kingdom, where only perfection exists. No evil in our hearts let us desire; cast all iniquity from us this day as we love even our enemy.
Wed, 21 February 2018
O Rock of the Church,
leader of God’s people
to whom the Father has revealed
the divinity of His Son
and on whom the Son has therefore
built His Church,
giving you the keys to the kingdom,
the power to bind and loose
both on earth and in Heaven,
that the ship you steer
might conquer all Satan’s power
by the power of the Spirit
with which you serve your brothers,
secure in the blessed protection
and guidance of the Lord –
pray the Church you do yet lead
shall fulfill the call
the Christ has placed
upon every soul
and that we shall come to our heavenly home
in the light of the Messiah.
Pray we shall indeed be strong
and give faithful witness to our Savior.
Wed, 21 February 2018
(1Pt.5:1-4; Ps.23:1-6; Mt.16:13-19)
“On this rock I will build my Church.”
And Simon’s name is changed to “Peter”, which means “Rock”, to signify that here is the chief shepherd of the Church, upon whom the Church on earth rests. It is he to whom Jesus gives “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Though all the apostles are given the power to bind and loose, it is Peter who leads – “a fellow elder” among all the elders and yet the one who speaks for all.
It is not by man’s decision that Peter is the Rock of the Church, but by the word of the Lord Himself. Just as “no mere man ha[d] revealed” to him that Jesus is “the Messiah… the Son of the living God,” so no mere man works through him today as our Pope guides the ship that is the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is led by the Church and its teachings we are guided “in right paths.” It is as we dwell in this “house of the Lord” that we are protected from all harm. “The Lord is my shepherd,” and the Shepherd of all, and into the hands of Peter and the apostles He places care for His flock.
How well this first among equals instructs his fellow shepherds today in his letter: “God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care.” How well does Peter answer the Lord’s call to strengthen his brothers, to see that His sheep are fed. The key pitfalls of “coercion” and “shameful profit” and “lording it over those assigned” to them, he warns them clearly against, and reminds them of “the unfading crown of glory” that awaits them. It is they who must give “courage” to the flock, they who anoint heads with oil to make the cup of the Church overflow, even here on earth… and as they are faithful, they are Christ’s own special children.
To those who still doubt the primacy of Peter and its absolute necessity, I invite you to read again Scripture and notice how often and always Peter speaks for the whole and acts for the whole body as he does today. It is to all the apostles Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” and though all may have faith, only one speaks up and answers in no uncertain terms. As he does at the first council at Jerusalem, as he did in coming to the Lord on the water, Peter speaks and leads in the power of the Spirit. The Church is one in Christ, and it has one rock it is set upon.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, as long as we remain in your House
we shall be secure,
for the faith of Peter will strengthen us.
YHWH, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven you entrust to Peter; he is the Rock upon which your Church is set, the chief Shepherd leading all the rest. Though your Son alone be the cornerstone, the true foundation of this House, it is into the hands of Peter you entrust your flock by his confession of faith.
You are at his side always, ever assisting him in leading the ewes with care. It is by your Spirit he rules this House, generously giving his life in union with Jesus, our Savior. And so, in verdant pastures your sheep make their home. In your presence we are blessed to remain by your grace upon our souls, dearest LORD.
O living God, bless this day all your bishops and priests, and especially the Holy Father. You indeed bless them by revealing yourself to them and strengthening them for the work they must accomplish. With them may we all walk in the footsteps of your Son, laying down our lives for all, that we might come to eternal rest in the glory of your kingdom.
Tue, 20 February 2018
O blessed reformer of the Church
who by a holy austerity
cleansed your soul
of the corruption of this world
and served by example
to lead others to a religious life –
teach us this day
of the chastising hand of God
and the suffering which leads
that in the will of the Lord
we might all be purged
of our dross
and come to the kingdom of Heaven.
Pray that we, too, might realize
and so benefit from
the blessing upon us
when our souls are lashed
that threaten sorrow,
for He does but wish to lift us
from the sinfulness of this passing earth
to the consolation of His presence.
Tue, 20 February 2018
(Jon.3:1-10; Ps.51:3-4,12-13,18-19; Lk.11:29-32)
“At the preaching of Jonah they reformed.”
Let us learn from the people of Ninevah, who heeded the message of repentance given Jonah. At Jonah’s cry they “believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” Even the king “laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes” in hopes of averting the destruction he knew God held in hand for his wayward city. He decrees that “every man shall turn from his evil way” and “call loudly to God.” Such utter repentance! Such turning from sin! And this from a pagan king and a pagan nation.
If Ninevah has so believed in God, if it has so recognized its sin before Him and turned so dramatically back to Him, pleading for His mercy, what should we not do, brothers and sisters, in this time of Lent set aside for the cleansing of our sins, we who have Jesus’ preaching now ringing in our ears and calling to our hearts? Indeed, we must again and continually cry out to God with David for His mercy to come upon us. Ever with “a contrite and humbled heart” we must sit before Him recognizing our sin. For always our sin is with us, however much we might be ignorant of our guilt as we live our lives in vain. “Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me,” must be our eternal plea, for we are in continual danger of going away from Him.
Let us not be afraid to humble ourselves before God and man. Let us seek nothing else but the wisdom of Christ, the call of the cross to our souls. In humility, in sackcloth and ashes, let us prostrate ourselves before the true king who will come at the judgment to discern the worth of all souls. Perhaps He will have mercy. Perhaps He will “withhold His blazing wrath.” Perhaps the punishment we deserve He may avert and “we shall not perish.” Upon the soul He finds His cross inscribed, He shall take pity, my friends.
O Lord, we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight. In your infinite mercy look upon our broken hearts, and help us to reform our lives. For you alone are God.
O LORD, your Son is greater than any prophet or king;
let us listen to Him as He calls us to repentance.
YHWH, let us be humble before you and your Word. Let us repent at the preaching of your holy ones. May your Son be a sign for us that we shall not forget – you are calling us to your kingdom, and to find our way there we must turn away from all sin.
O LORD, let us not fail to take this time to reform our lives; let us not be deaf and blind to the grace you offer forth to all men. May we know true contrition for the wrongs we have done – O let our hearts be circumcised! You desire to forgive us, if we would but leave off our evil ways.
We shall all indeed be destroyed if we do not heed your saving Word. May your prophets cry out the message of the Gospel, and may all your holy ones cover themselves in sackcloth and sit in the ashes… may all fast from the poisonous food this world offers. Then our spirits shall be renewed. Then no judgment will come upon us. Then we shall live forever with you.
Mon, 19 February 2018
(Is.55:10-11; Ps.34:4-7,16-19; Mt.6:7-15)
“Give us today our daily bread.”
Our daily bread comes from the mouth of God; it is His Word that nourishes us. His Word “water[s] the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats.” By His Word our spiritual lives are anointed with holiness; the breath of His mouth makes us whole, and so we become fruitful in His Name.
Yes, we are sharers in His Word; it is His Word the just speak in their time of need. “Crushed in spirit” before Him like holy seed, their cry comes to His ears and the rain He sends upon them saves them from all sin, “deliver[s] [them] from all fears.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, is true, and His words are true: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”; and so the Father is quick to hear when we enter into His Word and call upon His Name in all humility. It is this humility which makes us fertile earth, this trust in His will that lifts our faces toward His light, that we “may not blush with shame.” “Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy,” O sinner. “Glorify the Lord” and “extol His name,” for with you He shares His Spirit; in you He plants the Word that grows to eternal life.
Father in heaven, you alone are holy, and your Name is life to us. Let “your kingdom come,” let “your will be done,” for apart from you we wither and die. Make our earth your heaven; bring to us all the blessings you know we need to live ever in your light. Feed us with your bread, feed us with your Word – your Son is all the food we need. And for all “the wrong we have done,” as He has taught us, let us find our forgiveness by releasing from all bondage those who have done wrong to us, by loving our enemies. In the end we pray, O Lord, that temptation be taken from our path; though we treasure your chastising Hand, let us not falter anymore – “deliver us from the evil one” who lurks in this world seeking the ruin of our souls.
O Lord, our lives are in your hands. Our hearts are given life by you. In our prayer let us not imitate the vain words of the pagans, but let us join in the Spirit with your Son and become one in the Word with you. (Help me to remember your Name.)
(I witness here that however many times I speak the Lord’s Prayer, as however many times I attend Holy Mass, by the grace that comes through the Spirit, it is ever new and alive with the blessings that come from above. These words are a gift to us we must cherish in our souls.)
O LORD, may the grace of your forgiveness
flow upon us and through us
and so bear the fruit of salvation.
YHWH, your Word be upon us to bless us and nourish us this day that our words might be fruitful as your own. With your Son and by the words He has instructed us to pray, let us come to you and find your presence upon us, saving us from sin and leading us to your kingdom. From the grasp of the evil one let us be released as we call upon your Name.
How shall we be fed this day, O LORD, if not by your hand, if not by the Spirit you send forth from your holy throne? From on high you shower down upon us cleansing rain that we might be made whole and fruitful in your sight, that we might be as your Son on this earth, bringing your kingdom to bear on this plane. O let us be as your sons and daughters, shining your light in this dark place!
Hear us as we call to you, LORD. Deliver us from all distress and affliction. Let our poor souls be blessed by you that we might ever praise your holy Name. O Father in Heaven, let us be with you this day.
Sun, 18 February 2018
(Lv.19:1-2,11-18; Ps.19:8-10,15,Jn.6:63; Mt.25:31-46)
“As often as you did it for one of my least brothers,
you did it for me.”
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Such is the golden rule and the second of the greatest commandments, which is like unto the first: Love God. And the union of the two is made evident by Jesus in our gospel today; He makes clear that what we do to others we do to Him, and so to love God and neighbor become one and the same. So tied is the Lord to His creation by the incarnation of His Son.
And how blessed are all His commands to us, all of which are summed up in love, and all of which give us life. “Refreshing the soul… giving wisdom to the simple… rejoicing the heart… enlightening the eye… enduring forever” – such is the Word of God to the obedient soul. All He speaks is just and all He speaks is holy and brings life, for all He speaks is of the Spirit of love. And of that Spirit we must be, if we hope to attain to eternal life where He sits in glory.
“Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer,” is David’s prayer after extolling the virtues of the law of the Lord in his psalm today. And such should be our prayer. For if our hearts are set upon Him, and if our mouths speak truth, we can be assured that our actions will follow and we will please the Lord in all we do. For being of the Lord, we can only feed the hungry; seeking His will, we can only welcome Him and all His children into our lives. If we are founded upon this Rock, all will find in us the love of God.
For He is love, brothers and sisters, and all He asks of us is love. Love does “not steal.” Love does “not lie.” Love does “not defraud” or “curse the deaf” or “act dishonestly” in any way. In a word, if you are of love as He is love, “you shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.” And all are our brothers, even the least of these; the Lord has made this known. All are our neighbor and so none can “stand by idly when [his] neighbor’s life is at stake.” All are called by love to lend their hand, His hand, to others in need. For then we help Him.
Would we not help the Lord if we saw Him wanting? Is it not our desire to ease His pain? We have opportunity ever to do this in those around us. When we do, we fulfill His command and find life for our souls, for then we are holy as He.
O LORD, may your Word bring us to everlasting life;
let us be obedient to your call to compassion.
YHWH, let your Word be upon us that it might reprove us, that it might teach us and guide us in the way we should go… that it might refresh our souls. We know not the way we should walk but tend toward selfishness and sin. Speak to our hearts this day that our eyes might be opened and we be corrected and come to be holy like you.
Your Son tells us in no uncertain terms that condemnation awaits those who hate their brother, who turn their backs on their fellow man. He lets us know that in doing so we turn our backs on you, O LORD. And thus spurning your love and the practice of that love in our lives, what can we be but separated from you who are love and life?
But the righteous shall be blessed. This He tells us, too. If our hearts are set on fulfilling your commands and especially your command to love (which is all you command), then with you we shall ever dwell in eternal light and life. May all men listen to your Son and live as He does.
Sat, 17 February 2018
(Gn.9:8-15; Ps.25:4-9; 1Pt.3:18-22; Mk.1:12-15)
“I set my bow in the clouds
to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
In times past God made a covenant with Noah and his sons once they had come from the ark “that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings,” that they and those who would descend from them, indeed all races of men, should experience such devastation no more. And the sign of the rainbow He has given “for all ages to come,” that His covenant shall not be forgotten.
This promise is a reassuring one, even if not by water but by fire we know this earth shall yet be destroyed. But a greater promise than this certainly we have, one for which this covenant is but a shadow. For now we have “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.” Through His resurrection from the dead He now shines in the firmament more brightly than any rainbow, and indeed in Him all races of men meet again and find their hope, not only that they shall not be destroyed from the earth, but that they shall know everlasting salvation in heaven. Even “the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark,” have this word preached to them.
“The kingdom of God is at hand.” Yes, the salvation of the Lord has been set firmly in our hearts, even as the rainbow God set in the heavens. He has remembered His “love” and “compassion” which “are from of old” and in His “goodness” has fulfilled them in His only Son. Though Jesus has had to suffer death for our sakes, yet death is remembered no more as we gaze upon His resurrected form – as the bow after the rain, so does His glory shine after the death of this flesh. And though the flood “prefigured Baptism,” yet Baptism in the name of the Lord and into His death and resurrection is so much more, for “it is not a removal of dust from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience” with which we are blessed now.
And so, brothers and sisters, let us find the “life in the Spirit” to which our Savior, come from the desert of our sin, now leads us. Let us fix our eyes upon His resurrection glory, even as we experience the death of the body.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Miracle" (second half) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let your kindness and compassion
be fulfilled in our midst this day;
let us turn from our sins to walk with Jesus
on the way to you.
YHWH, your Son has come to suffer and die and be raised to new life that we might be led from our sinful state to union with you in Heaven. Truly, your kingdom has walked among us in the Person of Jesus; truly, your kingdom is now at hand. Like a bow in the clouds is His resurrection from the dead – let us keep our eyes fixed on Him that truly we shall enter your reign.
You are of compassion, LORD, and your love is from of old. It is this love you would share with the humble, and so you call us to follow in your ways. By repentance we shall come to you, and that we might receive this grace your Son cries out to our souls. Let us follow Him on the way of the Cross that the new day shall be ours.
Your promise of eternal life is our treasure, LORD, our hope in a fallen world. And you are faithful to your promise – in Jesus we shall never be destroyed.
Fri, 16 February 2018
O seven men
who lived as one
in service of the Lord
under the mantle of Our Lady,
you who left everything of this world,
all you bought and sold,
that you might discover the riches
to the mountain you went
to find perfection –
to the mountain let us come
to live with God.
Led by the prompting of our Lord and Lady,
let us, too, be fruitful on this plane,
founded in humility and love and poverty,
living as one in the Body of Christ,
freely giving our lives
and so knowing the blessing
of the virtues upon which you fed.
Pray for us through our Mother
that we too follow the call of her Son.
Direct download: Feb._17_Seven_Founders_of_the_Order_of_Servites.mp3
Category:Saints -- posted at: 3:00pm EST
Fri, 16 February 2018
(Is.58:9-14; Ps.86:1-6,11; Lk.5:27-32)
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“restorer of ruined homesteads.”
“Levi gave a great reception for Jesus in his house,” but it is Jesus who invites him, and all sinners, “to a change of heart” and to join Him in the home He makes for us all in heaven. As Levi (or Matthew) has done, so must we all: we must leave our “customs post,” that which roots us to this world – we must stand up and follow Him.
“You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” David makes his prayer in our psalm, coming to the Lord as one “afflicted and poor,” begging the Lord’s pity upon his soul. And there is confidence that his cry is answered, that his soul is gladdened; for the promise has been made through Isaiah that “He will renew [our] strength,” that we “shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” All that He has broken down in His anger against us and against our sins shall be raised up again: “The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up.” As we turn to Him and “call the sabbath a delight… not following [our] ways, seeking [our] own interests, or speaking with malice,” we shall indeed “delight in the Lord” and in His inheritance; He shall indeed “nourish [us] with the heritage of Jacob” – the food He gives us will far surpass the bread upon the table at Levi’s banquet. For it is upon His own Body we shall feed, and so find ourselves renewed in spirit and strengthened for the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord comes to invite all “sick people” to His healing grace. All who turn from their sins shall be acceptable to Him. And in His House they shall find a place, and be nourished well. “Even on the parched land” they shall find the water of life, for His grace extends to all places and all peoples. And with the bread we bestow on the hungry we ourselves shall be fed, for by this labor we shall unite with Him. “The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Let us find the mercy His words desire for us.
O LORD, help us to recognize our sin
and call upon you for healing,
that your House might be rebuilt.
YHWH, teach us to turn from our sin, from following our own ways, that we might follow your Son where He leads, that we might come to Him for healing this day. Let us come into your light and there remain.
You will renew us, LORD, if we do well, for it is your desire to share your mercy with us and make us as your own again. Though in ruins our lives stand, though all seem lost because of our sin, when we call out to you, you hear us and gladden our souls with your refreshing love.
When Jesus comes to us, O LORD – as He shall come to all to heal us of all illness – when He stands before us and invites us to follow Him, may we be as Matthew and leave all of this world behind and set our hearts on obedience to His voice. May we invite Him in to the table of our bodies and our souls that He might feed us always with His Word and with the Bread He is, and that we might thus feed others. O let us be nourished well and be as a watered garden!
Thu, 15 February 2018
(Is.58:1-9; Ps.51:3-6,18-19; Mt.9:14-15)
“Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!”
Brothers and sisters, in this day of fasting and penance, first we must “acknowledge [our] offense” as David in our psalm. We must cry out to our God: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” This is our leaven of truth. “A contrite spirit, a heart contrite and humbled” the Lord cannot resist. It is this heart the Lord answers; it is prayer of this soul He hears – to this “cry for help… He will say: Here I am!”
“When the day comes that the groom is taken away, then they will fast.” We “go in mourning” when Jesus is no longer in our midst. What does this then say of our fast? For though the Lord may be with us always in the power of the Spirit, yet He is physically taken from us now till the end of time. Our fast must therefore be a permanent condition all the while we walk this earth. And so true is this if we understand the Lord’s definition of a fast as revealed in our first reading from Isaiah: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly… sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked… and not turning your back on your own.” And what sense it makes that this be our fast now that Jesus is gone, for are we not His children here, called to carry out His mission in this world? Are not these the very things He instructs us to do in His stead for the least of His brothers who suffer now? On this earth here at the end of the age we should be engaged in fasting always.
And if we pray with a sincere heart, and if we do the will of the Lord in all things, what promise He makes to us: “Your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed… The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” All we ask shall be given us; all we seek we shall find in Him. And so, what shall our fasting be for us but pure joy, even as we become one with the Lord our God?
A blessed call is upon us now, one which makes our voices known to Him. Let us “remove from [our] midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” Let us denounce any “quarreling and fighting” that keeps us from Him, and see that His will is done in our lives. Then indeed He shall hear us; then by this death to sin we shall come to the glory of our God.
O LORD, what can we do but fast
now that your Son has been taken from us? –
let us do His work, stand in His stead,
laying down our lives for all in need.
YHWH, your Son has been taken from us, and so, on this day we fast. He no longer walks among us, and so we must be as His presence. We must free the oppressed and feed the hungry, doing the works He did while He was in our midst. And if we do this, we shall be pleasing in your sight, as He was, and so be blessed.
With a contrite heart let us come to you, O LORD, recognizing our faults and failures to serve you as we ought. Instead of laying down our lives in humble service of those in need of your Word and your Bread, we have spoken ill of our brother and been oppressors ourselves. And so, any offering we have made has been in vain. And so we have but served to separate ourselves from you and your compassion.
O LORD, let us not continue blind to our wickedness but seek each day to convert our hearts to your call to be as your Son and live His way of sacrifice for the sake of others.
Wed, 14 February 2018
(Dt.30:15-20; Ps.1:1-4,6,39:5; Lk.9:22-25)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
In our first reading, Moses makes clear the choice we all must face: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.” “By loving the Lord… heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him,” the Israelites will be blessed with “long life” in the Promised Land; they “will live and grow numerous” by “loving Him and walking in His ways.” This will be life for them. “If, however, [they] turn away [their] hearts and will not listen… [they] will certainly perish.” The promise to them will soon die if they walk “in the way of sinners.”
Life and death. The blessing and the curse. The just and the wicked. To the Israelites the promise that they would be “like a tree planted near running water” if they followed the commandments of the Lord referred quite literally, quite physically, to the blessing of long life and enjoying the fruits of the earth. It showed itself in the numbers of people in the nation and the land they were given to occupy. When they were cursed, their kingdom was torn down and the land taken away from them. They became “like chaff which the wind drives away” when they were forced into exile from the lands of Judah and Israel.
What is the land we must so treasure today, brothers and sisters? What place are we called to preserve by following in the way of the Lord? For now he “who gains the whole world” will likely “destroy himself in the process.” Now our sights, our hopes, can no longer be set on the physical universe. Jesus has come. The Son of Man walks in our midst. And His presence, His flesh, makes the heavenly homeland our desire – it is this which is now our Promised Land. It is the number born into this kingdom which now causes our hearts to rejoice. It is this blessing that now comes to him “who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”
And the Lord makes clear what “the way of the just” now entails. Our gospel tells us “Jesus said to all” – not just to His disciples, but to all who would find the blessing, would find life – “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps.” And His steps include enduring “many sufferings,” being “put to death” and then being “raised up on the third day.” Now it is death that leads to life. Now this world must be left behind. Now, though we love all – even our enemies – and everything upon it, we must leave the earth we have held so dear. The command is the same (to renounce all sin and love God), but now the prize is much greater, and so the way there much more narrow. But the Lord blesses our every step toward Him.
O LORD, let us remain in you and in your Son,
walking the way of His Cross
that we might not lose our souls
but gain the life of Heaven.
YHWH, may we find not only long life on the land but eternal life in your heavenly kingdom by our turning away from all sin and following your Son on the way of the Cross. Let us be dead to all the distractions of this wicked world that we might dwell with you alone.
Death comes to the wicked, LORD, death that spells the demise of his soul, of his life in you who are Life itself. And so, how shall he live anymore if apart from you? And so, what is his life then worth? It is indeed like chaff driven away by the wind.
But those who take their refuge in you, who meditate on your Word and the Word that is your Son, these you prosper in all they do, for all they do is in your will and so cannot but receive your blessing, the blessing of your living presence, LORD.
Let us choose this day to live in you and never to turn our backs to your call to love. Laying down our lives, O LORD, may we be carried by your angels.
Tue, 13 February 2018
O brothers in the faith
who brought that same faith
to the peoples
entrusted to your care,
who extended the reach of the Church,
gathering in lands
under her holy roof
and into her blessed arms…
faithful you were unto death
in proclaiming the word of God –
please pray that we, too,
shall be holy brothers of Christ,
offering our work, our lives,
for the sake of the nations
yet to be called
into His fold,
for the sake of peoples
unfamiliar with His Word,
that the heavenly kingdom
may come to fulfillment
and all be made one in God’s presence.
Tue, 13 February 2018
(Jl.2:12-18; Ps.51:3-6,12-14,17; 2Cor.5:20-6:2; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”
“We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” Paul exclaims; and the people of God today raise a cry, rending their hearts, begging His forgiveness… turning from their sins to find His healing grace.
The trumpet is blown in Zion; the people are gathered as one. Now “let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.” For now is the time of mourning, now is the time of prayer… now is the time to cry with David, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” For now as we “acknowledge [our] offense” we find how “gracious and merciful is He”; now “the joy of [His] salvation” returns to us as “a clean heart” He creates for us, as His Holy Spirit He instills in our souls. Yes, “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” And so let us cry out to our Lord: “Spare, O Lord, your people!”
The Lord will hear us, brothers and sisters; He will be quick to respond, as long as we are careful “not to receive the grace of God in vain.” As Jesus said to His disciples, so He says to us: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see.” Only such vanity will prevent our finding the “recompense from our heavenly Father.” Yes, we must give alms. Yes, we must pray. Yes, we must fast. But listen to the Lord’s instruction to “keep your deeds of mercy secret,” to “pray to your Father in private,” and to make sure “no one can see you are fasting but your Father who is hidden.” For then indeed “your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” for your sacrifice. But if your offering is one to impress the eyes of man, be sure the eyes of God do not look upon it and it shall find no blessing in His sight.
The time has come, the time of great mercy. As we call upon our God, “in the greatness of [His] compassion [He will] wipe out [our] offense.” In Jesus and in His sacrifice for our sin we might now “become the very holiness of God.” May we find now the Lord “stirred to concern for His land and [taking] pity on His people.” May we find His grace at work in our souls as now we give ourselves to Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Sackcloth Song" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you see what is hidden;
let there be in our hearts no sin
but only your heavenly presence.
YHWH, against you we have sinned, against you and your love. We have turned our backs to you and our guilt is with us always. But you are merciful and offer opportunity for repentance. You are good and kind and allow us to return to you. Help us to rend our hearts and weep in your presence, that we might know the healing touch of your forgiving hand.
Wash us thoroughly from our fault; let it no more be known in your sight, O LORD. Now is the acceptable time for repentance – in Jesus you will hear our pleas. O let His sacrifice be fruitful in your sight that we might be holy in Him this day!
And let our offering be acceptable to you as well. May our fasting and praying and almsgiving bring down your blessings upon us. Make us sincere, dear LORD, in our love for you and one another. Let us lay down our lives with your Son and know your presence in our souls. Spare us this day, O God; let us know the greatness of your mercy.
Mon, 12 February 2018
(Jas.1:12-18; Ps.94:12-15,18-19; Mk.8:14-21)
“He wills to bring us to birth with a word spoken in truth.”
But how deaf we are to His speaking.
The disciples exhibit a remarkable degree of ignorance in our gospel today. It would be comical were it not so usual, were it not such a defining trait of us humans. Preoccupied with their forgetfulness to bring bread for their journey, when the Lord mentions the word “yeast” in a chastising instruction, their minds go immediately to the bread they now lack by their negligence. Able to go no deeper than the surface of the words, and able not to see beyond their immediate concerns, they are as blind to the truth Jesus would teach them as so often we weak humans are. For those still struggling with the text at hand, Jesus is telling us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Has not the Lord shown this quite directly by feeding the thousands by virtue of a blessing spoken upon a few loaves?
Our hearts should not be set on the bread of this world as are the Pharisees’, whose yeast is a pride in self that rises to condemnation. It is pride that blinds us and concern for the body that produces ignorance. “Keep your eyes open!” the Lord commands. Do not let your minds be darkened by the cares of this world – the body is useless! It is the spirit that gives life. Open your hearts to the teaching of the Spirit, the great gift that Jesus imparts. “Happy the man whom you instruct, O Lord, whom by your law you teach,” our psalmist sings, and so should all blessed to hear the Word of the Lord join his chorus.
James tells us in our first reading that God does not tempt us to sin. “Rather the tug and lure of his own passion tempts every man”; only “genuine benefit comes from above, descending from the Father of the heavenly luminaries.” Do we seek His gifts that are worthwhile, or are our hearts fixed on things below? It may be hard to listen to His Word, to be brought to birth by His truth, but “happy the man who holds out to the end through trial!” “The crown of life awaits… those who love” the Lord, and He is near to sustain us as we climb.
Brothers and sisters, once the Spirit fell upon the apostles, no longer did they experience such ignorance. Is not the life-giving Word at work within us this very day? Then our eyes should be open to His light.
O LORD, help us to be humble before you,
that you might raise us up from our sin.
YHWH, should we not be as children before you? Is your Son not like a Child, O LORD? Is He not the humblest of all? O let us be like Him, and you!
Is there some other image in which we should be made, LORD, than your own? What of this world should beguile our soul? To whom should we aspire but our heavenly Father, and how shall we find you except through your Son? Does He not show us the way by His death on the Cross?
O LORD, let us not be deaf to your speaking to us in His words and actions, for He reveals to us who we must be. Help us to leave the example of the world behind, to abandon all hatred and jealousy, all the sinful pride and insatiable greed wrought into our fallen nature, and come to you even this day that we might be redeemed by your Son’s sacrifice and our sharing therein.
O help us to be humble, LORD, to find the humility only you know. With all our hearts let us serve you, and your glory will be ours.
Sun, 11 February 2018
(Jas.1:1-11; Ps.119:67-68,71-72,75-77; Mk.8:11-13)
“Count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial.”
How well James explicates the wisdom of the cross. First he encourages us to “realize that when [our] faith is tested this makes for endurance,” and then to “let endurance come to its perfection so that [we] may be fully mature and lacking in nothing.” This is the wisdom of our suffering on earth; this is the blessing of the cross.
It is the same wisdom our psalmist propounds when he sings, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” If the Word of the Lord and the promise He offers is “more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces” to us, then we must undergo many afflictions to prevent our going astray into the vain things of this world. For these flowers of the field droop and die under the scorching heat of the sun, but what is of the Lord lasts forever, and thus to join Him we must be trained to endure.
How different is the wisdom found in suffering beneath the cross; how different is this school from the one found in this world. The exact antithesis is our King to those who rule here in vainglorious power. For this King preaches death, and dies for us in humble poverty – this would be the shame of the one who finds his teaching in the seeking of riches and fame. And this is why the Pharisees cannot see Jesus and the sign He is before their eyes. Their minds are closed to the cross and its wisdom, for their hearts are set on the vain illusions of earthly life. But He is heavenly and all the sign we need; following in the shadow of His cross will lead us to all our hearts do seek.
Brothers and sisters, be not like the Pharisees, seeking some momentous occurrence to tantalize your eyes. The Word is within you, it is of you; and shouldering His cross you will find it growing all your life. Hold the wisdom of the cross, ask it in faith of the generous God who will give all to you, and find the beauty of His way as you are afflicted, and comforted again. The Lord chastises those whom He loves, and His love is pure joy, while those who would stray He leaves to die, following their sinful ways. Come to Him and His cross, and live.
O LORD, if we but lived lives of prayer in all humility,
never could we be separated from you
and always you would work through us.
YHWH, how shall our words and thoughts match those of your Son, who commands and the devils flee, whose heart is set always on your will… who sacrifices His life for our sakes? Help our unbelief, our lack of trust in you and in your power, that we might by your grace come to share in that power with Jesus, even as we share in His humility.
How can we live in your perfect innocence, LORD, we who are such a faithless lot, we who lack prayer in our heart? O how easily we are overcome! But you are our hope. You come down from the mountain, from the glory on high, to dwell with the likes of us and save us from the devil’s grasp, which has such a dire hold upon us and upon our children. Only by the grace of your presence will this generation be saved – leave us not till your work is accomplished.
Teach us, O LORD; give us your wisdom, that your peace might be ever in our souls and we might serve you with all our thoughts and words. Save us, dear God, from all darkness.
Sat, 10 February 2018
O lovely Lady who appeared to Bernadette,
Mary, Blessed Virgin and Mother of our Lord –
let our eyes, too, see your beauty
and hear your voice
calling us to pray for sinners,
calling us to come to you with our prayers
and to wash ourselves clean
in the water you provide
through Jesus your Son.
O Immaculate Conception,
so pure, so full of grace,
cleanse all our sickness from us;
let us be immersed
in the bath of purity
that washes us of sin,
that makes us whole
in the sight of God.
If we but had innocent hearts
we would see you,
we would remember the blessing you are
to all faithful souls…
O let us come to you
and find the grace we need this day.
Sat, 10 February 2018
(Lv.13:1-2,44-46; Ps.32:1-2,5,7,11; 1Cor.10:31-11:1; Mk.1:40-45)
“I said, ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’
and you took away the guilt of my sin.”
The leper in our gospel confesses his faults to the Lord when he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean,” for by these words he recognizes that “he is in fact unclean” – that he is a sick man in need of a physician. And Jesus takes away the guilt of his sin when He responds, “I do will it. Be made clean.” For by a mere word from His mouth we are purged.
That the sinner should cry out his guilt is evident even in the ancient Book of Leviticus; it gives specific instructions for the actions of the leper, whose sin has made him unclean: “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean.” Here is a graphic representation of the way we sinners should present ourselves to the Lord. Like the leper who cries to Jesus on his knees, we should never hide our sin from the Lord; our “guilt [should be] covered not.” For the Lord indeed sees all things – nothing is hidden from Him – so we fool only ourselves if we attempt to hide; and He can’t heal us of our affliction if we do not come into His light. We must come before Him in all humility for the poison upon our souls, and He will save us from our sin.
How sincere is the leper’s contrition to move the Lord to such immediate pity! How pitiable indeed he is, as to a final hope for cleansing waters he comes with head bowed to the earth, his years of suffering evident in his shaking voice. Whimpering like a dog he humbles himself before the Lord… and a tear we find in Jesus’ eye – inevitably He reflects our penitence in His grace. Let your heart break before Him! Bleed before the Lord who bleeds for you! Expose your sores to His eyes and His light shall cure them all.
Finally, brothers and sisters, let us indeed “be imitators” of Paul, “not seeking [our] own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved,” that people will keep “coming to [Jesus] from everywhere” to find the healing of their “sore of leprosy,” to discover salvation from their sins. For He does “will it” for everyone – the redemption of all He holds in His arms of sacrifice. Let all souls show themselves to His priests; let all confess their sins openly, that reconciliation with God and one another all may know. O Lord, take away the sin from my soul! (Thank you for the sacrament you leave with us.)
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Be Well" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, take away the guilt of our sin
and return us to your fold
that we might declare your glory to all.
YHWH, let us not dwell apart from you but forgive us our sins and let us return to your presence. Your Son leaves your side for a time to save us from our exile; may His sacrifice bring healing to all this day.
We are all unclean in your sight, O LORD; before you we come on our knees begging to be relieved of our guilt. Heal the sore upon our souls, which would spell our death – stretch out your hand and make us clean.
How merciful is your Son, LORD. How perfectly He reflects your compassion for the sinner. He is moved with pity at our contrition; He shares our tears as His own. O let all souls press upon Him for salvation!
And let us all reflect His love in all we do, giving glory to you in all things. Let our tongues follow the confession of our faults with praise of your goodness… Let us become as Jesus, LORD, laying down our lives that all might be saved and return to you.
Fri, 9 February 2018
O innocent soul,
pure as an angel,
meek as a lamb,
from slavery you were taken
to the house of God,
where freedom you found
in faith in the Lord –
pray for the freedom of all slaves
chained in soul or body,
that they shall be released
from the snares of this world
to walk at liberty with Jesus.
Pray His goodness reign
in all His children,
in all who would be
gentle as this Lamb;
may all those in need of His grace
hear His Word proclaimed,
and in His blood
And pray His Mother watch over
all who are near or far from Him,
till they enter His presence.
Fri, 9 February 2018
(1Kgs.12:26-32,13:33-34; Ps.106:4,6-7,19-22; Mk.8:1-10)
“Whoever desired it was consecrated
and became a priest of the high places.”
For this sin “the house of Jeroboam… was to be cut off and destroyed from the earth.” Not only will their king be so punished, but the whole Israelite nation will find the wrath of the Lord for such idolatrous action. Not learning from their forefathers, whom the Lord had a mind to wipe entirely from His book of life and the promise He had given Abraham, again “they exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.” Led by Jeroboam, who from selfish anxiety for the power the Lord had given him made two calves of gold and set them up for the people to worship – by the ministration of priests not chosen by God – they sinned grievously; as Solomon had done, they broke the most essential command to love God above all else. And this sin will stain the nation for perpetuity and lead in time to their exile.
Only those so ordained by God may serve at His temple. Only in the place He assigned is sacrifice and worship to be offered. And only He is to be worshiped and adored. No man, no king, can take any of this in his own hands. Trust in God and obedience to His will is necessary. All must go up to Jerusalem.
It is clear that our gospel today is a foreshadowing of the Mass, wherein Jesus’ Body is the bread we eat. After teaching the people at length, the Lord desires to share with them food that will nourish them for their journey home. But the disciples had but seven loaves of bread. Yet in an action foretelling the consecration of the Holy Eucharist, “taking the seven loaves He gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to His disciples to distribute.” And the leftovers of this miracle reach down to us this day; from “the seven wicker baskets” the disciples gathered after four thousand had eaten, we yet feed. And it is a wonderful paradox that the more we eat of the Lord’s blessed Body, the more there is for others to share.
But this feast is not eaten under every green tree. None can build high places and make priests for themselves. Only those ordained by Christ distribute His bread. And so we must come up to the Church He has founded to receive Him, the Church within whose walls His sacred body rests each day. Only this Temple is our Jerusalem.
O LORD, you provide us Bread
at the hands of your apostles;
let us worship in your House alone.
YHWH, why are we so inclined to exchange the glory you give us for the image of a grass-eating bullock? Why do we turn to the work of our own hands and worship the golden calves we make rather than you, the one true God? How shall we conquer our pride?
It is you who feed us, dearest LORD, your hand alone that provides for all our needs. You alone love your children, for you are a faithful Father. Yet we put our faith in molten idols.
Your wondrous deeds you have made plain to our eyes; your own Son you have sent into our midst. All we ask for He gives in His grace. He would teach us all we need to know… yet how soon we forget His presence among us. Help us, O LORD, to turn back to you.
All as one we assemble before you this day in your holy Church, dear God, and pray that by those you have ordained you will feed all your people with the Body and Blood of your only Son.
Thu, 8 February 2018
(1Kgs.11:29-32,12:19; Ps.81:9-15; Mk.7:31-37)
“My people heard not my voice,
and Israel obeyed me not;
so I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts.”
The Lord has said, “There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship an alien god,” but the people did not listen. Led by their corrupted king, “they walked according to their own counsels” and took to themselves the perverse gods worshiped by the nations of the world. And so it is that the prophet must remove his “new cloak” and tear it “into twelve pieces,” one for each of the tribes of Israel. How sad that the great kingdom which had so recently been united and so greatly been blessed by peace round about under the reign of the wise Solomon, now is to be torn asunder. Only a remnant will be left to David, out of respect for the Lord’s promise to him; and now, we are told: “Israel went into rebellion against David’s house to this day.”
“If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways…” The psalmist’s words come as a lament for the deafness of the nation. If they would but listen and turn to Him, their amazement would go “beyond all bounds,” as does that of the people who brought Jesus “a deaf man with a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him.” They, too, would exclaim, “He has done everything well! He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak!” For Israel is this deaf man. All of us are this man impeded in his speech. All need desperately to turn to Him, to have Him pray over us – to seek the words of His lips. And so all will know the blessing that comes thereby: “At once the man’s ears were opened; he was freed from the impediment, and began to speak plainly.”
Hear the voice of the Lord, brothers and sisters. Listen to it in the deep recesses of your heart. This voice comes to heal, like light to the very drums upon which the vibrations beat. Such purity could be yours. Such grace could be known in all the world, healing the rifts that divide nations and peoples, if all would but come to Jesus in the same faith as this deaf man and his friends. And then would we speak plainly of what the Lord has done. No deceit upon our lips, we would declare Him Lord… and the amazement at the peace He brings would extend to the corners of the world. Let your ears “be opened!” to His voice; with a soft heart turn to Jesus the Christ.
O LORD, you make the deaf hear and the mute speak;
heal our brokenness – let us worship you alone.
YHWH, open our ears that we might hear your voice calling us to worship you alone. Let us turn from strange gods and walking in our own ways and be obedient to you. We are deaf and we are dumb; may your Son touch us and pray over us that we might declare your glory to all. O let us be healed!
Why are our hearts so hardened against your loving embrace? Why do we turn so readily from the radiance of your face to look upon the corruption of this unholy place? You alone are LORD and God, your Son alone can save us – O let us heed your call, dear LORD! From our sin may He redeem us.
From rebellion let us come, we who are our own worst enemy. Save us from ourselves, dear God, and our disobedience. Take us far from the crowds and give us your attention, that somehow our hearts might open to your loving voice.
Wed, 7 February 2018
O innocent soul,
pure as an angel,
meek as a lamb,
from slavery you were taken
to the house of God,
where freedom you found
in faith in the Lord –
pray for the freedom of all slaves
chained in soul or body,
that they shall be released
from the snares of this world
to walk at liberty with Jesus.
Pray His goodness reign
in all His children,
in all who would be
gentle as this Lamb;
may all those in need of His grace
hear His Word proclaimed,
and in His blood
And pray His Mother watch over
all who are near or far from Him,
till they enter His presence.
Wed, 7 February 2018
O soldier for the Lord
and servant of the poor
who trusted in God alone
and gave your life
for those in need –
may we, too, become friends of the one Lord,
purified of all dross
by the trials we endure
and by doing His will
in this world.
His children let us become
as we care for the children
most in need,
those who seem abandoned
His hands and His heart
let us be,
that in such love
we shall be free
of all fear and separation
from the Father
and so dwell with those we serve
in the peace of Heaven.
Wed, 7 February 2018
(1Kgs.11:4-13; Ps.106:3-4,35-37,40; Mk.7:24-30)
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
Jesus speaks these words to a foreign woman, a pagan Greek, who “beg[s] Him to expel the demon from her daughter.” They seem harsh. Some may interpret them so. After all, in our gospel we find Jesus traveling to the northernmost part of Israel where “He retired to a certain house and wanted no one to recognize Him.” And here comes this foreign woman to beg at His table… Can He find no peace? But though the Lord may be weary, He is not angry. He but tells the truth: He has come for the lost sheep of Israel; it is only after He is gone that His followers will bring His salvation to the ends of the earth. First, “the sons of the household” must be fed. All in proper order. Notwithstanding this, the woman’s great faith prevails upon the Lord – and probably greatly heartens Him – and her prayer is answered.
It is in the application of the quote to King Solomon that it becomes harsh, for is this not what David’s son has done? Has he not taken the greatest of blessings the Lord has heaped upon or will heap upon any man, and turned them over to the devil? Solomon, the wisest and richest of all kings, “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and that unreservedly – and that without compunction. It is only for the sake of his father David that the Lord does not wrest all His gifts from him that very day. You say, “But didn’t David sin greatly in committing adultery and murder?” Yes, the servant of the Lord did sin. But this king humbled himself ever before his God. He repented with a whole heart, and did not return again to his sin. Solomon recognizes no sin. Scripture says nowhere he is sorry; his repentance is lacking. And his sin is of the most grievous, the most deeply rooted kind: he turns to worship of other gods. In his reign and by his leadership, the people “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons,” taking thus the very flesh and blood of the children of Israel and throwing it to the dogs.
For this “the Lord grew angry with His people, and abhorred His inheritance.” For they perform abhorrent acts under him who had become a most abhorrent king. This king who had received six hundred and sixty-six gold talents a year in regular payment showed himself comfortable with the mark of the beast unto whom he had turned his heart. “His foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” he preferred to the love of the Lord; and so it is he who is cast from the Lord’s presence.
Our psalm says of the Israelites, “They mingled with the nations and learned their works”; the great works of sin known in the darkness of this world became their own. But in our gospel it is a foreign woman who humbles herself before the True King. What of us, brothers and sisters? Where does our allegiance lie? For His Word does now travel to the ends of the earth; one can now no longer hide.
O LORD, cast the demons from our midst
that we might find a place in your kingdom.
YHWH, your chosen ones lose their blessing when they turn from you to the worship of demons; and those who were far from your favor have demons cast from themselves when they beg your grace at the feet of your Son. It is but a crumb from His table we need to find our salvation. May He turn His attention to our need.
The children of the promise lose their inheritance when they sacrifice their sons and daughters on altars built to the idols of the nations. Led by Solomon in their disobedience, they are deprived of the kingdom you bestowed on them. And now, by your great mercy, O LORD, those who had been enslaved to demons now may enter your presence and find your favor; those with whom your Chosen had mingled and so lost their way now have their inheritance blessed as they humble themselves before you. O let us be in their number!
Tue, 6 February 2018
(1Kgs.10:1-10; Ps.37:5-6,30-31,39-40; Mk.7:14-23)
“The mouth of the just man tells of wisdom
and his tongue utters what is right.”
Today in our readings we have a passage to illustrate the great extent of the wisdom and riches of King Solomon. “The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon’s fame, [comes] to test him with subtle questions.” She had not believed the report she’d heard of him, but having “witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom” in the answers he gave to every one of her questions – “nothing remained hidden from him that he could not explain to her” – and having seen “the palace he had built” and all the amenities that surrounded him… “she was breathless.” And rightly does this pagan queen attribute the blessings Solomon enjoys to the Lord, who “has made [him] king to carry out judgment and justice.”
How true it is that the Lord blesses him who holds “the law of God in his heart.” And rightly does David declare in our psalm that if we “commit to the Lord [our] way… He will make justice dawn for [us] like the light.” We shall shine “bright as the noonday,” bright as Solomon’s temple, if we “trust in Him.” If Solomon’s servants were happy, how much happier should we be to “stand before [the Lord] always and listen to [His] wisdom.” For having eaten at the table of such grace and glory, what could come from our mouths but the same? And what shall we be called then but wise men?
But the same mouth which utters wisdom may also utter evil. For though the good man from the treasure of his heart speaks only good, it is also so that “wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart” as well. Here one may find murderous plots and malicious intent. We shall find soon that Solomon’s heart will change and that what “emerges from within” him will bear little likeness to wisdom. And so, should we not all heed the Lord’s words of warning in our gospel today and take care what comes from within our hearts, that we ourselves are not rendered “impure”? Let the wisdom of the Lord and His holiness always issue forth from our hearts in all our words and actions. Then we shall know the blessings of the eternal King.
O LORD, make us pure;
make us wise according to your ways.
YHWH, what comes from our heart? Does it condemn us or show us wise? Do we trust in you and so commit our way in keeping with your own, or do we follow the wiles of this wicked world? We need all look within ourselves to see if you are present there.
Be with us, LORD; let us be blessed by you. It is from you we find anything of worth. At your hand we receive our food, and it is your mouth that teaches us. Help us to hear the words of your Son, the chastisement He brings to our souls. Let us eat this day of His Body and His Blood. Only this food will sustain us. Only His words give us life. Help us open our hearts to the wisdom He utters and so find our place at His table.
You are our salvation, LORD, delivering us from all evil. Let us speak of your glory to all with ears. May our lives be pleasing to you this day.
Mon, 5 February 2018
O proclaimers of the faith
even unto death,
death on a cross,
you who have followed
in the way of our Lord
loving your enemies
even as they killed you,
encouraging your brothers
even with your last breath –
may the blood you shed not be forgotten
by those of the nation in which you preached
and by all souls who seek God;
may it nourish the land
and bring it to bear much fruit
Pray that we who are so fearful here
may find the faith and courage
and so be blessed with the same grace
that imparts the peace of the kingdom.
Mon, 5 February 2018
(1Kgs.8:22-23,27-30; Ps.84:2-5,10-11; Mk.7:1-13)
“Can it indeed be that God dwells among men on earth?”
Well does Solomon do in stating, “If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built!” For though the Lord will heed Solomon’s prayer and “listen to the petitions of [His] servant and of [His] people Israel which they offer in this place,” He indeed will only “keep [His] covenant of kindness with [His] servants who are faithful to [Him] with their whole heart.” When they do as the Pharisees and “disregard God’s commandment and cling to what is human tradition,” when they hold fast only to the walls of the temple and neglect to keep His Word, the blessing He provides through the temple they built shall be removed from their midst – the walls themselves shall crumble (as even they do, not many generations from Solomon’s time).
The Pharisees indeed sin by clinging to the walls, by a scrupulous observance of care for the body even as the soul rots. They carefully wash hands and food and “cups and jugs and kettles” but forego the cleansing of their hearts within. And so they “nullify God’s word in favor of the traditions [they] have handed on”; they ornament the walls of the temple, but God is not within. They indeed fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: “This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me.”
Brothers and sisters, do we pray in truth? Do our “heart and [our] flesh cry out for the living God”? Can we say with our psalmist, “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord,” for His holy presence? If it is so that we treasure the Lord above all, then we shall be as “the sparrow [who] finds a home, and the swallow [who has] a nest in which she puts her young” – then we shall dwell happily in the house of God and He shall hear our prayers. For in truth the Lord Jesus has come to dwell among men on earth; the true Temple walks among us. No longer need we be separated from God or anxiously fear the loss of His presence. The temple walls and the traditions developed to protect us from uncertainty no longer must be clung to, for here are the temple walls in the flesh of Christ, and here is the cleansing we need in the shedding of His blood. And His Church now is alive in the Spirit of God and is moving everywhere. Let us enter its eternal walls and find true reverence there. In this place He shall answer all our prayers.
O LORD, we cry out to you:
let us look upon the face of your anointed
that we might be cleansed of our sin.
YHWH, make us faithful to your Word with our whole heart; let us worship you in spirit and in truth. Let us not merely cling to traditions men have devised, let us not set our sights on the walls of the temple but enter inside and there find you present in your Son. O let us dwell in your House forever!
Jesus is the Temple where you dwell, O LORD our God. For Him our souls thirst, for it is you, the living God, our hearts desire. And so, let us not be distracted by the gleam of the stones erected in your NAME. Let us find in these houses of prayer a place to offer you fitting sacrifice, a place where you indeed dwell and where you listen to our cries… But let us know all the while that even the highest heavens cannot contain you, that you transcend our thoughts and all the works of our hands.
Make us, O LORD, as your temple – in your presence let us remain.
Sun, 4 February 2018
O good child of God
who gave your life so willingly
for the sake of Christ
and so wore His holy blood
upon your robes,
you who were blessed
to remain ever faithful to the Lord
even as those around you
turned from His presence –
pray for us this day
that our lives too
may be holy and blessed
as your own,
that we too might give witness to the Lord
with the same pure love
you did so readily show.
Pray we shall be wed to the Spouse
you so intimately knew
and thus become one with Him
and all His saints in Heaven.
May our lives also be good,
may they also be godly,
and may we, too, stand as others fall.
Sun, 4 February 2018
(1Kgs.8:1-7,9-13; Ps.132:6-10; Mk.6:53-56)
“Let us enter into His dwelling,
let us worship at His footstool.”
“Advance, O Lord, to your resting place, you and the ark of your majesty.” Yes, in our first reading, “the elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes” come to bring the ark of the Lord into the temple Solomon has built in Jerusalem. “For the occasion [they] sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen too many to number or count.” When the ark was in its place in the holy of holies, “the Lord’s glory… filled the temple” in the form of a cloud. The Lord’s presence had come to rest in this “princely house.” But this shall not be a dwelling “where [He] may abide forever,” as Solomon says; for the eternal Temple is Jesus.
In our gospel “crowds scurried about the adjacent area and began to bring in the sick on bedrolls” when the Lord and His disciples tied up their boat in Genessaret. Here as everywhere He went “they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged Him to let them touch just the tassel of His cloak.” Mark tells us, “All who touched Him got well.” Here is the true Temple at work, a place where prayers are answered, where healing is known. As the ark was placed “beneath the wings of the cherubim in the sanctuary,” so the Father has the angels spread their wings over His Son, guarding and blessing His every step. As when the ark is brought in to the holy of holies, the Lord’s glory fills the temple, so when He comes to us, when we but touch Him, we are filled with His presence and made whole. As the Israelites crowded into the temple to offer sacrifice, so now all in need surround the Lord to share in the holy sacrifice of His Body and Blood.
Here is the Temple not made by human hands, brothers and sisters. Here is the Lord’s eternal dwelling place. Here is Jesus, the Son of God. In all the tabernacles of all the churches throughout the world He rests, His presence abides. Let us flock to Him. Let us receive Him into our hearts and bodies. Let us know His healing touch upon our souls. Let us pray with our psalmist, “May your priests be clothed with justice; let your faithful ones shout merrily for joy.” For here is His holy presence; here is the glory of the Lord. Here He hears our prayers as we call upon His Name and worship before Him each day. Here He enters in and makes His home with us, and so we, too, become temples of the Lord.
O LORD, may we but touch your Son and be healed,
your cloud of glory filling our souls.
YHWH, your Word has become flesh; the Law you inscribed on the two tablets of stone now walks among us in the Person of Jesus. Here is the true Temple, your dwelling where you abide forever. To Him should we come in praise and worship to find healing that we might rest with you.
O LORD, make us holy as He is holy; let us enter your sanctuary, the wings of your angels spread above us for protection. Yes, let us become as the Body of your Son as we partake of His Word and Sacrament here in your House. To your Temple let us come that we might be temples ourselves.
What should we not sacrifice to your glory? What should occupy us but finding your Presence in our midst? Should we not lay our sick souls at Jesus’ feet; should we not seek to enter His tabernacle? O let us enter your dwelling place and make our home in His flesh and blood!
Sat, 3 February 2018
(Jb.7:1-4,6-7; Ps.147:1-6; 1Cor.9:16-19,22-23; Mk.1:29-39)
“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.”
In our first reading, Job is about as brokenhearted as a man could be, beset entirely by the devil’s trials as he is. “Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” his complete loss of goods and family and his own health has come upon him. And so he seems to see his days “come to an end without hope.” More miserable a creature there could not be.
In our gospel we are told that “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever” and that the people of the town in which Jesus found Himself “brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons.” Surrounded is He with the afflictions man suffers, the weakness to which our fallen race is so prone. It seems that all are indeed “brokenhearted” and wounded; as Simon Peter says upon finding the Lord praying in a deserted place the next morning: “Everyone is looking for you.” All need so greatly the healing only He brings.
And He does heal all who come to Him. As even before His birth into this world He served to set Job free from the clutches of Satan and grant him a new life which was beyond his hope; as Simon’s mother-in-law “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up,” the fever fleeing His touch; as “He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and He drove out many demons” from those gathered at the door of the house where He stayed… so He continues “preaching and driving out demons,” not only throughout Galilee and all of Judea and all of Israel, but to this day to the ends of the earth through His holy Church.
Our Lord has become “a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.” Our weakness He has taken upon Himself to remove our weakness from us. Our diseases, our darkness, our sin… our “months of misery” He has borne that He might heal us of all infirmities – that He might bind up our broken hearts. Our salvation comes at the touch of His hand, at the breath of His mouth. Let us rise and walk with Him, for the Dawn has come and His grace-filled blood is upon us.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: ""This World of Sin" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, drive the demons from our souls,
heal our broken hearts,
that we might rise and offer you praise
all the days of our lives.
YHWH, has your Son not made Himself weak for our sakes? Has He not freely given His life to save us from sin? Does He not bind up our wounds and cast all demons from our midst? He heals the brokenhearted who cry out to Him – let us eagerly seek the touch of His hand.
We gather around your Son, O LORD, for He is the door that leads to your presence. Only He can save us from the misery of this dark world and redeem our troubled souls, and so let us praise your goodness to us as we draw near to Him.
We are all sick, LORD, all in the grip of a fever from which there seems no escape. The devil would have us believe the wickedness that surrounds us is eternal, but we know the night shall soon come to an end. Your light has already dawned upon us in the presence of your Son; let the grace of salvation be fulfilled in our midst.
Fri, 2 February 2018
O bringer of light
to many nations,
you who struggled on
for the souls placed in your care
that all might know the Christ
for whom you toiled,
to convert obstinate hearts –
may your zeal
inspire missionaries this day
to go forth selflessly
proclaiming the Gospel to all,
bearing witness to the Lord
in the cross they bear
in season and out of season;
whether producing much fruit
or being rejected,
may their hearts be set on the Word
and the love of God
for His children.
Pray especially those lands you led to Christ
will turn again
to the one true light.
Fri, 2 February 2018
O shepherd whom we invoke
for the healing of throats,
you who suffered torments
for the sake of the Name
and embraced death
as leader of His flock –
open our throats
to speak of Jesus,
to declare His goodness and glory,
the salvation that comes
only through Him.
Let us not fear
nor shrink from the threats
of the mighty
but stand fast
in the Lord’s healing grace,
confident that His every blessing
will keep us well
and on the path
that leads only to Heaven.
Pray all sickness flee from us
this day and forever.
Fri, 2 February 2018
(1Kgs.3:4-13; Ps.119:9-14; Mk.6:30-34)
“He began to teach them at great length.”
“Who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” Solomon asks in his plea to God for wisdom. And “upon disembarking Jesus saw a vast crowd” who “were like sheep without a shepherd,” our gospel tells us. The apostles have just “returned to Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and what they had taught,” how they had managed to enter into His mission, and now it is time for rest in a deserted place. But the crowds hasten on foot to fill that deserted place, and what can the Lord do but feed those who thirst so much for His presence and His word.
In our first reading Solomon reflects his father David’s humble obedience before God: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.” And so he makes the request for wisdom that so pleases the Lord. And so God grants his request: “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one equal to you,” and adds the greatest of riches and glory to it. Solomon it is who composes proverbs, who judges the most difficult of cases, who is able to answer any question – it is he who rules the great kingdom of Israel in peace. And all this he is able to do because his soul is as our psalmist’s today; he sings with him, “With all my heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commands,” and, “In the way of your decrees I rejoice, as much as in all riches.” But when the king strays, he shall lose the great promise which has been so marvelously revealed in his reign. He, too, shall show that he is but human.
Only the Lord teaches, brothers and sisters! Only the Lord is able to rule! All teaching and all governance come only from Him and not our own souls. As great as the wisdom of Solomon was, apart from the Lord it becomes nothing but vanity. For it is He who grants it to the king, according to his humble request. And it is He who can only take it back again, upon separation from Him.
Let us keep to His words, brothers and sisters. Let us remain under His Spirit’s tutelage, within the walls of Mother Church. Here we shall be taught. By His wisdom we shall come to know. In His Word we shall find the salvation of our souls. Come now to your Shepherd and hear His voice imparting the grace of wisdom, the food that sustains you, to your mind and heart. Enter into His call.
O LORD, teach your poor flock with your wisdom
that we might declare your Word to all.
YHWH, teach us at great length for we are as sheep without a shepherd, we are all as mere youths before you, children not knowing right from wrong. Only you give us an understanding heart; only by your Word are we instructed in the way we should go. How lost we would be without your command!
Show favor to your servants, LORD, for we wish to do your will. Your Son we follow to deserted places that He might satiate our thirsting souls. All the riches and glory of this world we would leave behind, if you would but give us your wisdom.
Within our hearts we treasure your promise – let us not sin against you! Let your Spirit be with us to guide us in all truth that we might accomplish your call. O may your Son feed us with His own Body and Blood! May we join our sacrifice to His and so find our lives acceptable in your sight, dearest LORD and God.
Thu, 1 February 2018
(Mal.3:1-4; Ps.24:7-10; Heb.2:14-18; Lk.2:22-40)
“Suddenly there will come to the temple
the Lord whom you seek.”
“And He will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord.” “To expiate the sins of the people” He has come – to bring us light. But to do this “He had to become like His brothers and sisters in every way”; He had to “share in blood and flesh” with us, and so share in our death, to overcome death and make us holy in the sight of God, that our lives might be like His: a true sacrifice to the Lord.
Hear in our gospel how many times is stated that when “Mary and Joseph [take] Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” this is done “just as it is written in the law of the Lord.” Because it says, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” His parents do so “in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” They “brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to Him”; they “fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord” before returning to Galilee to raise Him. Of what significance is this in this day and age when so many place themselves above the need to be obedient to the dictates of the Church and the Holy Spirit which speaks through her. Though the Lord Himself did all according to the way it is written, so many find no necessity for themselves to go to church on Sunday, to confess their sins, to give their tithe… and on. In their minds they need no “religion” to follow. Let them learn from the Lord and His obedience, and His humility, in the place where God is found.
And see what happens when this humble Child allows Himself to be brought into the temple of the Lord: light comes to His people. Simeon the prophet proclaims in joy, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples,” and declares his readiness for death. Anna the prophetess gives thanks to God and speaks “about the child to all who [are] awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” It is not to a street corner He comes to bring salvation; it is to the temple. There we await Him. There we find Him, in His Father’s house.
Finally, we must relate the pain His coming brings. Though leading to glory, for us as well as for Him, the performance of the Father’s will in all things is not easy. As “a sword will pierce” the Mother’s heart, so in our purgation, in our persecution as we turn from the darkness of this world to be purified for the next, there shall be suffering. But this suffering does lead to life. But our waiting shall be answered. The light is powerful that comes when we “lift up” the gates of our hearts “that the king of glory may come in,” but in Him we find all our hearts need. His is a perfect sacrifice.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, your Son has come into our midst
and united Himself to us;
may we be united to Him and become as your Temple.
YHWH, in the purification of your Son, we are purified. By His sacrifice, our sacrifice is made acceptable to you. Thank you for presenting Him to us this day, that indeed we might be saved, that indeed as He has become flesh and blood for us, we may become as His flesh and blood and be a holy offering to you.
O LORD, we must be purified if we are to come into your Temple, if we are to become as your Temple, according to your desire. And so let us be obedient to your Word, let us welcome Jesus into our hearts, that He might cleanse our troubled souls from any fear of death, that by His presence we might be refined for the kingdom of Heaven.
He is our hope. He is our joy. He is our very life, O LORD; let us remain faithful to His Cross. As the sword pierces our own hearts, let us be purged of sin that with Simeon and Anna we might rejoice in the light of your presence.