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.
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.
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.
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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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.