Wed, 16 January 2019
(Heb.3:7-14; Ps.95:6-11; Mk.1:40-45)
“Today, if you should hear His voice,
harden not your hearts.”
Today we see Jesus continuing His healing ministry, and we see how it becomes “no longer possible for [Him] to enter a town openly” because of the public proclamation of His wondrous and powerful works. We see also how, though “He stayed in desert places… people kept coming to Him from all sides,” for His work must be accomplished. But we see most particularly the way we must come to Him to find our own healing.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us,” David sings, calling all to their proper place before God. And this the leper in our gospel does today, indicating indeed to all the attitude we must have toward Jesus, the place we must find at His feet. With soft hearts we must come before our Lord in tears for the sin upon our souls. Not like those in the Egyptian desert can we be, those who “saw [His] works for forty years” yet “tested and tried” Him constantly. This generation indeed He “loathed” in His anger, calling them “a people of erring heart” who “know not [His] ways.” On the contrary, our hearts must burn with a tender love of God and one another as we approach the Lord in the desert where He waits to save us from our sin. He will match any tenderness of our own. “Moved with pity” we shall find Him, ready to gather our broken spirits into His arms.
“Take care, my brothers, lest any of you have an evil and unfaithful spirit and fall away from the living God.” See that your hearts are never “hardened by the deceit of sin.” It is always “today” and the Lord is always calling to your soul, always requiring your life from you – always offering His love to you. Offer your own in return, that you shall not be cast from His presence, that you shall not be ostracized like this leper from the community, but remain ever in His holy fold as “the flock He guides” with His gentle hand… and finally that you might “enter into His rest.” He calls you to healing at His hand; hear and answer on your knees.
O LORD, make our hearts soft and our spirits loving,
as your Son;
let us bow down to Him.
YHWH, let us not be of erring and unfaithful heart but let our love match your own and that of your Son, for He looks on our poor condition with pity and reaches out His hand to heal us of our sin, of our weakness before you. Why should we harden our hearts against Him when all He wishes is to save us? Let us accept and treasure such blessing which comes only from you.
So blind we can easily become, O LORD, so blind to your presence among us and your works done for us. So easily we are led astray; so easily we become deaf to your Word speaking to our hearts. O let our hearts not be hardened! but let us come humbly before you to worship you and call on your holy NAME. This is what brings life to our souls. In this worship alone do we find our rest.
O LORD, set us free from all pride, from all failure to remember your presence before us…. Be not angry with your wayward children but gather us into your loving arms.
Tue, 15 January 2019
(Heb.2:14-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mk.1:29-39)
“Since He Himself was tested through what He suffered,
He is able to help those who are tempted.”
And help them He does. Die for us He must. Each healing is a move of love which takes His life as sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus died on the cross for us, yes. He opened His arms and let His healing blood pour forth for all “the children of Abraham,” all those of faith. But His whole life, and especially His ministry of preaching and healing, is a dying, is a robbing of “the devil, the prince of death, of his power.” We see clearly in our gospel today how Jesus “free[s] those who through fear of death had been slaves their whole life long,” how He lays down His life for “the whole town [which] was gathered outside the door” of “the house of Simon and Andrew.” After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a debilitating fever, He cures all who press upon Him, all “who were variously afflicted”; from them “the demons He expelled.”
And in these cures, in these expulsions of demons, do we not see our “merciful and faithful high priest” who has come “to expiate the sins of the people” at work in “blood and flesh,” dying for the nation’s salvation? Has the Lord not equated such healing with salvation, declaring there is no difference between forgiving sins and saying “be well” to the troubled soul (Mk.2:9)? And do not these demons desire to cry out that He is the Christ even as He gouges the life from them as He Himself dies? Does their rule not escape them now with every word of the Spirit He speaks? But He does “not permit the demons to speak,” for they would reveal who He is only that He might be tempted to become ruler on earth of these people who would certainly seek to crown Him king. But the salvation He brings rises beyond this dying life, and the Son of God has no relations with the prince of darkness and his lying rule.
And so our Lord “went into [the] synagogues preaching the good news and expelling demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” So He went forth robbing the devil of His reign, suffering and dying all the while, all the way to the cross, where His ministry is accomplished. And we, brothers and sisters, do we not continue His ministry to this day? Has the Lord not left the dying to us now – a cross upon each of His disciples’ backs to fill up what is yet lacking in His sacrifice? Is this not the great gift He gives us? And in His steps, by the apostles’ instruction, in union with His Church, do you walk through the suffering and darkness of this world to the Lord’s eternal light? For your sake has He died. So “seek to serve Him constantly” as He does you.
O LORD, in flesh and blood your Son has come
to drive all demons away from us
and save us from the power of death.
YHWH, your Son has come to heal us, to cast all our sin far from us, releasing us from all power of the devil. Death itself He conquers for our sakes, suffering all the weakness of our human condition that He might free us from its bonds. He has made Himself captive to flesh and blood that we might fly unto the kingdom with Him. And so, let us glorify His Name!
O LORD, how your Son lays down His life as He walks among us, taking our sickness upon Himself. How much He suffers as we come to Him to find our healing – how brokenhearted He is to witness our travail. But He does not turn from His mission or rest in His accomplishments; on He goes from place to place, redeeming all who come to Him. And this path leads inevitably to the Cross, to His death and our freedom from all sin. Let us praise Him for the sacrifice He makes, for His offering His life for our sakes.
Mon, 14 January 2019
(Heb.2:5-12; Ps.8:2,5-9; Mk.1:21-28)
“A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority!”
Thus do the people exclaim at the power of the word which issues forth from the mouth of Christ, into whose hands “all things” have been subjected. The devils see Him and shriek: “I know who you are – the holy one of God!” They know Him and they fear Him, for He has indeed “come to destroy” them and whatever authority they seemed to have. He it is who has come to return man to his rightful “rule over the works of [God’s] hands.” God has “crowned [man] with glory and honor, and put all things under his feet”; and though “at present we do not see all things thus subjected” because of man’s sin, because he has subjected himself to the works of the devil, yet Jesus has come to bring “many sons the glory,” to reveal in His own person the power of God present in all mankind.
And how does the Lord Jesus Christ destroy the devils? How does He redeem man from their clutches, from their possession? By suffering. By dying. Yes, even now we “see Jesus crowned with glory and honor” – the glory and honor to which we are all called – “because He suffered death.” By suffering death He conquered death, and thus any power the devil wielded by its weight upon our souls. And we are free! The devils are cast from us because He has walked among us; He has come into the synagogue and “taught with authority.” And so the pride of the devil is broken, and we see the angels’ place as servants to man as we see the dignity to which men are called in this Son of Man.
And the Lord “is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.” Though by our weakness, by our sinfulness, our disobedience, certainly we merit shame – and so, rightly does David cry to God, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” – yet He does care for us, He is mindful of us… He suffers and dies for us, taking our shame upon Himself in His only Son. And what the Lord has earned we should not spurn, but treasure the grace that is ours through our Brother’s sacrifice. Let us put ourselves under His authority that His authority might be our own, and the devil shall be gone.
O LORD, all things are under the authority of your Son,
who came to save us from all evil.
YHWH, what authority is upon your Son! Your own authority, your own glory. He has power over all the earth, and the unclean spirits are subject to His command. There is nothing outside his rule, for His rule is your own.
And through your Son, and through His suffering, this rule, this glory, becomes our own. Since He has come as our Brother, we become your sons with Him. And so, great authority you place upon your children, LORD, upon the men you call forth; for you call us to share in the work of your Son and in His consecration.
Greater than the angels is Jesus, our Savior. O LORD, only He leads us to your glory this day. May we know the blessing that is ours through the Holy One of God and listen to His teaching. Let all men to the ends of the earth hear of His fame and believe in Him, that all might praise Him in the great assembly.
Sun, 13 January 2019
(Heb.1:1-6; Ps.97:1-2,6-7,9; Mk.1:14-20)
“This is the time of fulfillment.”
Brothers and sisters, no longer does God speak to us “in fragmentary and varied ways”; this is “the final age,” in which “He has spoken to us through His Son, whom He has made heir of all things and through whom He first created the universe.” With full voice does He make Himself known now, for “this Son is the reflection of the Father’s being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word.” Jesus is the Christ, and in Him the will of God is fulfilled.
And is it any wonder the disciples “immediately abandoned their nets and became His followers,” that at once they joined Him in “proclaiming the good news of God”? For here is the One they have been waiting for, the voice they have been longing to hear, and what can they do but heed His call to join in speaking the very Word of God? James and John even “abandoned their father Zebedee,” a good man, for the greatest of men, the Son of Man, God Himself, had come to them: their hearts could not resist for here indeed was the pure reflection of their Father in heaven, whom even Zebedee desired above all. (With his blessing we can presume they go, the “nets in order” they leave behind.)
O brothers and sisters, do you know who this is has come into your midst? Do you realize who has joined your race? This Jesus whom the Father deems His Son sits at “the right hand of the Majesty in heaven,” “far superior to the angels,” far superior to all creation, for indeed all creation has come to be through Him, who is one in being with the Father. Here is the heart of our creed, this Jesus, this Christ, who is God Himself, and yet also Man with us. Of His Son the Father says, “Let all the angels of God worship Him,” and indeed “all gods are prostrate before Him.” He is “the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods,” who are no gods at all, unable to stand before the glory of His majesty.
And so should we not bow down to Him? Should we not follow when He calls, “Come after me”? Do we not wish to join with Him who is our salvation, who has “cleansed us from our sins,” on the way that leads to “the reign of God”? Yes, the kingdom of God has come to us in the Person of Jesus the Son; there is nothing more to wait upon. The time has come. Let us now follow Him.
O LORD, let us worship your Son in His glory;
let us follow Him unreservedly this day.
YHWH, let us abandon all things to follow your Son; with the angels let us bow down and worship Him. For He is the pure reflection of your Being all our hearts have been hoping to see, and so let us answer His call for our lives.
O LORD, you are the Most High over all the earth and your Son has joined you at your right hand. His glory is far above anything of Heaven or earth, for His glory is your own – and that glory He would bring to each of us, if we would but turn from our sins and set our hearts on His reign. O let us worship Him!
Speak to us this day, O LORD, through your only Son; call us to His side that we might do your will and rejoice in your glory. Let us not be deaf to His powerful Word but be transformed by its proclamation and find the time of fulfillment at hand. Alleluia!
Fri, 11 January 2019
(1Jn.5:14-21; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.3:22-30)
“The Son of God has come and has given us discernment
to recognize the One who is true.”
John’s disciples had difficulty recognizing “the One who is true.” They saw everyone “flocking to Him” and away from their master, so they came to their master questioning. But John was forthright: “I am not the Messiah,” he said, “I am sent before Him.” And now that He has come, the Baptist’s joy is complete.
Brothers and sisters, “we know that we belong to God, while the whole world is under the evil one.” “We are in the One who is true.” Jesus has brought us to such knowledge. And this knowledge, this reality of the eternal life of God, should make us rejoice with our psalmist. It should make our lives ones of thanksgiving in which we “praise His name in the festive dance” and “with timbrel and harp.” For, yes, “the Lord loves His people” and we are His faithful who “exult in glory.” Let us “be glad in [our] maker.”
The world is under sin, and there is deadly sin which destroys the soul lurking in the world. The devil is real as well, and will not simply go away. And though only God can cast him away ultimately, we can pray against much of his work in this world, “petition[ing] God,” interceding for our brothers who falter in sin that is not deadly… and finding their release through the grace of God. With this “confidence in God: that He hears us whenever we ask for anything according to His will,” we have a great gift and a great strength in this dark world – we can bring light to it, the light of the only Son. But we must always be as “the body” He adorns “with victory.” We must have the same attitude as the Lord’s “best man,” and say with the Baptist, “He must increase while I must decrease.” We must find our joy in Him and not in our works or in our pride. He is all and He is true, and He leads us to the kingdom in His baptism in water and the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, we must see the grace we have in our midst. Jesus is ours.
O LORD, let us remain in you
and rejoice at the coming of your Son.
YHWH, in Baptism we are begotten by you and protected from all sin and selfishness. Let what you have begun in us become complete – let all sin be taken from us that we might rejoice forever in your presence.
O LORD, let our joy be complete. Now that your Son has come and drawn us into His flesh and blood, now that He has cleansed us from our sins and made us whole again, let us decrease as He increases within us, until He is all in all in us… until we exult in the glory of your kingdom.
O LORD, let all your children praise your holy NAME and sing of the grace upon all the lowly ones of God. O true God, let us be your own, born again in your Son, in the Spirit upon Him. And we shall be ready even to die with Him that we might find new life in Him with all our brothers and sisters.
Save us from sin, dear LORD, and let us live in your glory.
Thu, 10 January 2019
(1Jn.5:5-13; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Lk.5:12-16)
“Whoever possesses the Son possesses life.”
What does our psalmist mean when he sings: “He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat He fills you,” but that we are in Christ? What are those “borders” but the flesh of Christ? What is this wheat but the manna, the Sacrament of His Body He gives us to feed upon during our earthly journey? And this word which “runs swiftly,” what is it but the Spirit which enlivens the Body of Christ, which brings the flesh of Christ to life? And why should we not “glorify the Lord,” the God of life, who provides His Son and His Spirit, who makes the world and all that is in it, who calls us to believe, as the human beings we are, in the name of the Son, that we might find all three who testify to truth and “are of one accord”?
It is through the Son we come to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in God the Father, we believe “the testimony He has given on His own Son’s behalf,” and we find the eternal life that is thus ours through the Son. May the Spirit run quickly to us and teach us and guide us along the way of God.
In our gospel Jesus heals a leper. He reaches out His hand “to touch him” and so draws him into Himself, into the borders of His holy flesh, and he is made whole. He wills it so, that the bars of all our gates be strengthened, that all enter into Him – that we be healed, whole in Him, and that our children, the fruit of our own bodies be blessed by their truly being begotten therefore of Him. If we are in Him, so will our children be, so will all the works we perform. But we must come as the leper, “bowed down to the ground.” We, too, must see Jesus and be moved to humble ourselves before His loving glory. In faith we, too, must desire His touch upon our flesh, to be released from all sin, to be made whole again. And we must do as He instructs us through the power of the Spirit; then we shall find life with the Father in heaven.
If it is remarkable that the Son of God would draw the leprous man into His sacred flesh and make him His own, it is perhaps more remarkable that He would do the same for us poor sinners – that being possessed by Him, we possess Him, and so we enter life by the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, let all men know
that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
and eternal life to all who believe in Him.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth and the touch of your hand, we are healed of all our ills; your Son has come to save us. He is all we need to find eternal life – let Him live within us.
You testify, O LORD, by the word of the Spirit that Jesus is your beloved Son and we should believe in Him. Your testimony let us embrace in faith that the life you desire for us we may know.
Your Word of truth runs swiftly, LORD, and brings peace to our gates and borders. Our very flesh is anointed in your Son – in Him your Spirit is upon us. And we are blessed as your children; we are made whole in your sight. Let your Word run to all the world, that all might know of the glory you bring us in Jesus your only Son, in the water upon Him and in His sacrificial blood. In faith let all bow down before Him, seeking a word from His mouth and the touch of His hand.
Wed, 9 January 2019
(1Jn.4:19-5:4; Ps.72:1-2,11,14-15,17; Lk.4:14-22)
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today the Son has come into our midst. Today He has “unrolled the scroll” of the Word of God and read aloud the words written of Him for all to hear. Today the WORD is brought to life. As “appealing” as is the discourse which flows forth from His gracious lips, so much greater is the Spirit that is upon Him. For by that Spirit and in His sacred flesh He shall “bring glad tidings to the poor… proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners.” In word and deed He “announce[s] a year of favor from the Lord.” In Him all time comes together. In Him it is all one moment. And this moment reveals the love of God.
And by the Son we are begotten, by His love: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.” And so, children we become with the one Child most blessed. And if we are all one child born of the love of God and His Word, what can we do but love one another? Does one not love his own flesh and bone? And so, “whoever loves God must also love his brother,” for his brother is of him as he is of God and both are His children in love, born of the flesh of the one Christ.
“In Him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” It is not for the few He has come, but for all. For God is the Father of all and the Son possesses and reveals all that is of the Father. “All nations shall proclaim His happiness,” for all peoples shall find their happiness in Him alone, who is love and which love is itself our happiness and our hope.
Speak to us, Lord Jesus. Work through us, dear God. Let your Commandment of love be fulfilled in us. Let our love be fixed on God and let us love our brother. May we hear the words you speak in our midst today. May your Spirit make us children of the Father.
O LORD, Jesus is the Christ;
your Spirit is upon Him and He has come to save us –
let us declare His praise.
YHWH, your Word is fulfilled in Jesus and in the Spirit upon Him. Glad tidings the poor hear from His blessed lips, and we who are blind may now see your glorious presence in our midst. From our prisons let us be released, that we might love as Jesus loves.
If we remain in your Son, we will be able to keep your commands and so be blessed forever. You will give us power to conquer the world, to conquer the world even as He has done. O LORD, in Him may our lives be governed with justice, that our mouths might bless you all our days.
O LORD, if we keep our eyes and ears and hearts fixed on Jesus, we will know your love and be able to share in that love. Truly we will love you and our brother, and every blessing will be ours by the grace upon your Son. Your Name be praised by the tongues of men for all the goodness He brings us
Tue, 8 January 2019
(1Jn.4:11-18; Ps.72:1-2,10,12-13; Mk.6:45-52)
“If we love one another, God dwells in us,
and His love is brought to perfection in us.”
Jesus has just fed the five thousand men with the five loaves and two fish. He has performed a great miracle before the eyes of His disciples and through their hands. Yet “their minds were completely closed to the meaning of the events,” and when He comes walking toward them on the water in the middle of the night as their boat is tossed about by a storm, they are “terrified.” They are afraid because they are not yet perfect. John tells us in his first letter, a letter of love: “Love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid” and “perfect love casts out all fear.” The disciples will not be perfect, will remain afraid, until after the death and resurrection of the Lord, and, really, until Pentecost, when the Spirit falls upon them. As John states, “The way we know we remain in Him and He in us is that He has given us of His Spirit.”
His Spirit is the Spirit of love and He, our Lord Jesus, is Himself love. John follows both the clauses, “If we love one another” and “When anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,” with the statement that God dwells in us. Jesus and love are equated as the Spirit and love are equated above. Why? Because “God is love” and both Jesus and the Spirit are God, and so are love.
Brothers and sisters, our love must be brought to perfection, and it is “brought to perfection in this: that we should have confidence on the day of judgment” – that we should have no fear of the punishment we deserve, that we know fully of His love. Jesus takes a step to preparing the disciples against the judgment, against fear and for love, by walking toward them on the water. He means to teach them that they should not be afraid of the wind and the waves which rock our boat in this world, nor should they be afraid of His miraculous, overwhelmingly loving presence. Let us learn what Jesus would teach the disciples: “Do not be afraid!” “For He shall rescue the poor man when he cries out.” He is love and He will save us. Let our minds open to His presence as we love one another, and let that love be brought to absolute perfection in us. May His Spirit be with you.
O LORD, your Son has come among us as a Man –
how can we recognize His glory in our midst;
how can we love as He has loved?
YHWH, why should we be afraid of your love, of your glory among us? Why would we rather remain in darkness than come into your light? Why can we not believe that your Son has walked among us and that He invites us to become one with you? How can our hearts bear such blessing?
O LORD, cast all the fear from us; let us not shrink from your presence, from your overwhelming love, but welcome it in our hearts with gratitude and a return of love to you and others. Let it be our desire to be saved and so glorify Jesus’ coming into our midst. Let Him enter our boat this day, and with Him let us remain.
Dwell within us, O LORD God. Dwell within us and rule over us with your justice and love. Hear us as we cry out to you; have pity on our afflicted souls. Speak to us: “Do not be afraid!” and open our eyes to your eternal protection.
Mon, 7 January 2019
(1Jn.4:7-10, Ps.72:1-4,7-8,11; Mk.6:34-44)
“Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace,
till the moon be no more.”
Our psalm (of Solomon, the king of peace and wisdom) relates the infinite justice of God, He who “defend[s] the afflicted among the people” and “save[s] the children of the poor.” Such is the judgment of our God, who “rule[s] from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth”: His perfect justice He showers upon all.
And how is this justice effected? It is already evident from what we have said, from what our psalmist has sung of His Name, and our letter from John leaves no question – “God is love.” His ultimate justice and love have been “revealed in our midst in this way: He sent His only Son to the world that we might have life through Him.” In sending Jesus “as an offering for our sins,” His perfect love and perfect justice meet and kiss and become one. He bleeds for us, and so our sins are forgiven.
And what clearer proof that we all “have life through Him” is shown in our gospel, in which Jesus feeds the masses. First He teaches them with the Word “at great length.” Having pity on them, He feeds their souls with Truth. But His pity does not end there – His concern extends to the physical as well as the spiritual… for He knows all our weakness, and He feeds the peoples’ bodies as well as their souls.
What a beautiful picture this is: the people “neatly arranged like flower beds,” Jesus raising the bread to heaven and pronouncing the blessing, the disciples distributing it, and Jesus Himself dividing the fish among them. All eat and all are satisfied. Here is a picture of the Lord’s justice and love. And this scene we enact each day at Mass, listening to His Word, His teaching, and then eating the bread of life He distributes among us. May the Lord be praised!
And what have we to do to receive this bread of life but heed the words John offers and “love one another.” For “love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.” And this knowledge we find in our love is that His justice is true and endures forever in the perfect peace His presence brings. Let us have faith forever.
O LORD, you sent your Son
to shepherd all afflicted and fainting souls;
may we be nourished by His love.
YHWH, you send your Son to rule over us with His love, to feed us with His own Body and Blood. May justice flower in His day and all the ends of the earth be blessed with His peace. And let us love as He has loved; let us lay down our lives for one another.
O LORD, upon your holy mountain let us take our rest, our souls arranged like flower beds, our hearts yielding to your Word. May your rule be made complete even in this deserted place where men are as sheep without a shepherd. To this place let your Son come and make it as your eternal home. Give us something to eat this day, LORD, by the hand of Jesus and His apostles, or we shall faint for weariness, or we shall starve to death.
It is only your love which sustains us, LORD, only our being joined to you. May we eat our fill of your goodness, and never be apart from your reign.
Sun, 6 January 2019
(1Jn.3:22-4:6; Ps.2:7-8,10-11; Mt.4:12-17,23-25)
“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh
belongs to God.”
And for every spirit that acknowledges Him, He answers all prayers: “Whatever we ask we shall receive at God’s hands.” “Ask of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance…” And so, when “they carried to [Jesus] all those afflicted with various diseases and racked with pain,” He heard this prayer made in faith, made in the belief that He could do this, and as Matthew so simply and wonderfully states, “He cured them all.” They had listened to His preaching: “Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They accepted it, humbly, taking no offense at His words and His actions – but believing in Him. And so He could perform such wonders for them, He whose spirit is true; and so “on those who inhabit a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
And now we should “give heed” and “take warning”; now we should “put the spirits to the test to see if they belong to God.” Now we must clearly acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and know what John tells us, “There is in you One greater than there is in the world,” and follow that Spirit within us. Are we “keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight”? Do we “remain in Him”? He is never far away and He will hear all of our prayers and cure us of all ills, if we but believe in Him, if we but heed His teaching – if we reform our lives. We show our belief in Him when we follow His commandments, and we follow His commandments when we reform our lives. Thus we prove that we speak His language; in our love we reveal His Spirit in us.
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten you.’” Even in our psalm are spoken the words of the Father to Jesus; and they are spoken to us, if we believe that He is the Christ. This is the salvation the Father offers; it is for us to accept it and live it. For a greater gift we cannot expect, more love He could not show – this is His Son, this is God… believe in Him. There is nothing else you need seek.
O LORD, all those who seek the truth
come to your Son,
and you make them your children.
YHWH, we shall be healed of every ill; all darkness will be banished from our midst, if we turn from our sins, if we seek to reform our lives – if we believe in the Name of your Son, that He has come in the flesh and is our Savior. And then our every prayer shall be answered, for we shall be living in your love.
It is not of the world we are to be, O LORD, not of the darkness of this place. For the world does not recognize that Jesus has come, nor has it ears to hear Him. But our ears are attuned to His voice and the truth He speaks to our heart. Let us not be deceived by those who would deny the truth, those who would speak against what is plainly before them. Let us hold fast to the teaching of your Son and His apostles, and we shall have power to overcome all such evil by His love.
Give us all we ask of you, LORD; give us a world remade in your image.
Fri, 4 January 2019
(1Jn.3:11-21; Ps.100:1-5; Jn.1:43-51)
“We should love one another.”
In our gospel, “first [Jesus] came upon Philip” – whose name means “love” – and invited him to follow Him. Love brought with him one in whom “there is no guile,” and he (Nathanael) declared openly to the Lord: “You are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” And so we must all be of love, and be without deceit. We must all “know that the Lord is God; He made us, His we are; His people, the flock He tends.” The Lord must find us all at peace “under the fig tree” with consciences that have “nothing to charge us with.” And great things wrought by the hand of God we shall see before our eyes.
“The Lord is good,” and we must be like Him. The Lord is of love, and loving as He does we pass “from death to life”: “The way we came to understand love was that He laid down His life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers.” How well John speaks of the love all need in our first reading today. Here is the voice of a man, an apostle in the Spirit of Christ, who loves “in deed and in truth,” and since he does “not merely talk about it,” but lives it, his words are alive with that truth. Love. This is “the message [we] heard from the beginning.” This laying down our lives is our guiding light leading us to the eternal life of heaven.
And so we should “serve the Lord with gladness.” We should “come before Him with joyful song.” We should declare openly that He is God, as our love leads us to do. His “kindness endures forever”; yes, His love is for eternity, and we must come to share in that great gift of love. “The man who does not love is among the living dead,” but he who loves lives forever. The world will hate us because it is not of love; but all the more we should be encouraged to love, to die to the hatred the world brings and find our place in peace under our fig tree with the Lord who is love itself.
Let us love and be of love, brothers and sisters, and we shall live forever with our Lord and the angels of heaven.
O LORD, let us pass
from the death wrought by this world
to life with you in Heaven.
YHWH, may our consciences be clear before you; may we be of love and so be of you who are love. May we be without guile, seeking only you and the peace you bring to our souls. Then we shall praise you in joy forever, for then we will be your own.
O LORD, let us be true to our call to love you and one another. Let it not be only in words that we love but in truth, with our very lives. If we do not act as your Son, how can we call you ‘Father’; how will we know you at all? You dwell in ineffable light with the angels of Heaven, and only by love do we come to that light, only by laying down our lives as Jesus.
LORD, let us know your goodness in our lives that we might enter your gates with thanksgiving for all the blessings we share with your saints. In freedom may we bless your Name, you who look upon us with kindness. To your side let us be guided by our desire to love.
Thu, 3 January 2019
(1Jn.3:7-10; Ps.98:1,3,7-9; Jn.1:35-42)
“When Jesus turned around and noticed them following Him,
He asked them, ‘What are you looking for?’”
Brothers and sisters, what Jesus asks the first two disciples He asks each of us who follow in their wake. What do we seek? Why are we following Him? What is it we hope to find at the place where He stays?
David makes clear in our psalm that the Son of God, “His holy arm,” has been revealed in our midst – in “wondrous deeds” He “comes to rule the earth.” “The world and those who dwell in it” should resound with joy. Him whom John the Baptist points out in no uncertainty is with us now. There is no other whom we should follow. And so we do. And so we come to Him each day, to receive our daily bread. Seeing where He lodges, we come to stay with Him.
But what does the Lord see when He looks upon us? Does He stay with us? When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, He “looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John; your name shall be Cephas (which is rendered Peter).’” Jesus upon looking at Peter sees the Rock on which He will build His Church. Peter’s holiness, the strength he has in God and for God, is evident to the Lord. Jesus knows what Peter seeks, and both have found what they are looking for. Is it upon our hearts as well to find the holiness of heaven, to become one with the Son of God?
“The man who acts in holiness is holy indeed, even as the Son is holy,” but “the man who sins belongs to the devil.” Holiness or sin? Jesus or the devil? The choice is clear, and must be evident in our lives. “No one begotten of God acts sinfully” and “no one whose actions are unholy belongs to God.” The first letter of John, our first reading, could not more simply state our call in the Lord: to be holy, not to sin… to love our brothers and sisters well – to be as Jesus, the Son most holy.
Jesus will turn and see us; His eyes are upon us now. What does He see as He looks upon your heart? What is your answer to His question, “What are you looking for?” Let His dwelling be all you seek.
O LORD, let us follow your Son to where He lives,
in holiness with you.
YHWH, let us stay with you and with your Son. May He turn and look upon us with kindness, with pity for our frail condition. O let this Lamb take our sins from us that we might no longer be in the grip of the devil but come to eternal life in your House!
The Messiah you have sent is in our midst this day; let us come to the altar to receive Him, to receive His holy sacrifice and become one with Him. Only thus shall we be made holy; only with Him will we find true justice and so rejoice in your presence, O LORD. O let us be ruled by Him!
Make us your children, dear LORD. Make us as your only Son. May Jesus be with us this day and we with Him that we might become holy indeed. Never let us act sinfully but ever love as you love, as your Son loves us. Let us seek your love alone and so be founded upon true Rock, in your House.
Wed, 2 January 2019
(1Jn.2:29-3:6; Ps.98:1,3-6; Jn.1:29-34)
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“This is God’s chosen One.” This is He upon whom “the Spirit descend[s]” – who takes away our sins and makes us pure by His own baptism “with the Holy Spirit.” He who walks with Him walks in holiness, for “everyone who acts in holiness has been begotten by Him” – we have become “children of God” because we have now the grace of the only Son.
Listen to the manner in which the Baptist “sing[s] joyfully before the King, the Lord” in our gospel today: “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from the sky, and it came to rest on Him.” How like music, like “the harp and melodious song,” is his witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. His exclamation of Jesus as the holy Lamb of God, offered as a sacrifice pure and undefiled, resounds to the ends of the earth more eloquently and with greater power than “the trumpets and the sound of the horn” of which David sings in our psalm. Here is the voice proclaiming the Truth, the message our ears have so longed to hear.
“The very reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel,” and “the reason [Jesus] revealed Himself was to take away sins” – all this for our salvation. Yes, brothers and sisters, “in Him there is nothing sinful.” And we must be like Him. Insofar as we sin, we have “not seen Him or known Him.” Insofar as a man “keeps himself pure, as He is pure,” he is His child, knowing Him most intimately, and may exclaim in wonder with John the evangelist: “What love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!”
All sin and struggle with sin all the while they are on earth. There are many times when we must admit that we do not see Him or know Him in order for Him to be revealed in our lives, in order for us to find His blessed purity. We must confess our sins that we might sing His praise. But all the while the Son is with us, the Lamb intercedes to remove our sins. And always we must look to Him whom the Baptist proclaimed to be “what we are,” to become “like Him” when His light comes to its fullness and His Spirit is all we know.
O LORD, your saving power, your Lamb,
has come to take away the sin of the world –
may all nations rejoice in such blessing.
YHWH, Jesus is your Chosen One, your only Son, the pure reflection of your Being… and we must be like Him. We must be pure as He is pure, as you are pure, as the Spirit that comes from Him and descends upon us is pure. O let us truly be pure! Let us truly be your children.
O LORD, Jesus has come to take away all sin from us. This is the mission, the work He has from you. It is for John to declare the coming of the Lamb of God, and it is for this Lamb to die for our sins. Let all be accomplished in your will. As John has made the Christ known and He has been crucified for our sakes, so let us find the purification from sin you desire for us that we might be united to you.
All the earth has seen your saving power, O LORD. Let all souls recognize that power in our midst and remain in Him who brings it.
Tue, 1 January 2019
(1Jn.2:22-28; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.1:19-28)
“Remain in the Son and in the Father.”
In our gospel John the Baptist tells the priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees, “There is… one who is to come after me – the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten.” This Messiah has come, “The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice,” David proclaims in our psalm, and continues to invite us to sing praise of Him. It is the anointing that comes from Jesus that John, in our first reading, encourages us to hold on to, for it is true and leads invariably to the Father of all.
We must come to the Father; we must find ourselves in the presence of all truth, in the hands of our Creator, who loves us beyond all telling. And the way to the presence of the Father, in whom we find our true home, is Jesus the Christ. He is the Son and the only one who can lead us to the Father, for He and the Father are inextricably one. We cannot deny the Sonship of Jesus, His oneness with the Father – that He is the Christ, upon whom all true anointing rests – and come to know God. Jesus is the means the Father provides to come to Him; it is through Him alone we find the promise of eternal life. We must “remain in Him,” that we may “not retreat in shame at His coming.”
Those who do not believe in Jesus, who do not recognize Him as the only Son and so only way to the Father, are not to be persecuted – but they are not to be believed. Jesus is all. Those who know Him know this; they indeed have His anointing in their hearts. This “anointing teaches [us] about all things and is true.” It is this knowledge of His salvation, of His glory, which John instructs us to remember: His Word grows in our hearts. But again, this Word is not a weapon for the persecution and destruction of others – it is the means for the manifestation of light.
Remain in Jesus, brothers and sisters, and eternal life with the Father will be assured you.
O LORD, help us always
to proclaim Jesus as the Christ.
YHWH, we must indeed acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, as your only Son, as God Himself, and rejoice that your saving power has come to us through Him. And His anointing will rest upon us, the Holy Spirit will be with us to guide us in all things – we will be one with you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John has prepared His way and in the sight of the nations His glory has been revealed. None can deny His divinity, except he be a liar. And to these we must not listen, LORD, but only to the teaching of your Church. For upon your apostles rests the anointing that is from above, and if we are to find our way to eternal life, no other voice should we heed.
John has indeed cried out the way we all must follow if we are to meet your Son and so you, Father. O LORD, let us listen to the Spirit that is upon him.
Sun, 30 December 2018
(1Jn.2:18-21; Ps.96:1-2,11-13; Jn.1:1-18)
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
And we must dwell with Him, remaining in His light, walking in His way. “Through Him all things came into being,” and we who have come into being by Him, “who believe in His name,” must “become children of God.”
In our first reading, John warns against the antichrists who come in this “final hour” to lead astray all those not founded in truth. Elsewhere he warns against anyone who does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as the Christ come among us. Certainly there are more than a few antichrists today, looking to distract believers from “the Holy One.” But as John says, “All knowledge is yours”: if we believe in Jesus, we have the truth written within us. Yet we must beware of faltering, for “no lie has anything in common with the truth.” Remain in His Church.
Our psalm of David encourages us to “exult before the Lord,” to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” And well we should this holy day to know of the Christ that has come “to rule the world with justice.” The Word has become flesh and left His flesh and His Spirit with the Church He has founded on the apostles – great is the joy of those who find their home there.
And in our gospel we hear John’s beautiful and clear explication of the divinity of Jesus, the Word ever in God’s presence from the beginning, the Word that is “God.” There are pseudo-religious that change the evangelist’s words to say that the Word was “a god”; such is the work of the antichrists spoken of by Paul. For only in the clear recognition of Jesus as “God the only Son,” only in the unequivocal proclamation of His divinity – that He is God – is salvation found. For this is Truth, Truth brings light, and the light has no discourse with the darkness of lies.
Come to Him who has come unto you, brothers and sisters. Seeing Him you see God and know God. And knowing God you “know the truth” and so exult in the joy of His presence in His Word, in His Sacraments, in His Church… in His love. Praised be the Lord and His dwelling among us.
O LORD, you have revealed yourself to us
in the presence of your only Son –
let us live in the truth that He is God.
YHWH, thank you for the truth you have given us, the glory you have revealed through your only Son. Your Word has become flesh and so your very light shines now in our midst – may we embrace Him and His love.
Though surrounded by the darkness of lies, we find our way to your truth, O LORD, by your Son and the Holy Spirit with whom we are anointed through Him. Now we know the truth and are gifted with all knowledge therefore – let us exult in the gift of life you provide.
Whoever does not acknowledge your Son does not know you, Father, and does not have the Holy Spirit. Let us know well Him whom you have sent and bless His Name among ourselves. Praise and glory belong to Him alone for He alone reveals your glory. O let this light shine in the hearts of all men, of all who would rejoice in your presence.
Fri, 28 December 2018
(1Jn.2:3-11; Ps.96:1-3,5-6,11; Lk.2:22-35)
“The way we can be sure we are in union with Him
is if one who claims to abide in Him
conducts himself just as He did.”
“The darkness is over and the real light begins to shine,” and we must live in that light.
“My eyes have witnessed your saving deed displayed for all peoples to see,” declares Simeon in his prophecy over the Christ child. “In accord with the dictate in the law of the Lord,” though He Himself is God, Mary and Joseph dutifully bring Jesus to the temple to be “consecrated to the Lord” as every first-born male must. And there the “just and pious” Simeon who so patiently “awaited the consolation of Israel,” the coming of “the Anointed of the Lord,” takes the child “in his arms” and blesses God for His gift, His mercy.
Learn from these the attitude all must have. In their faithful observance of the commands of God and the inspiration of the Spirit, they fulfill His Word. And so light dawns for us and we know of its presence in our midst. Now we must continue to “announce His salvation, day after day tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” Our deeds must mirror His deeds; His light, “a revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of [His] people Israel,” we must shine. The sign has come; the new commandment which has been of old must now be realized in each of us. As a sword has pierced the heart of the Blessed Mother, so it shall pierce the heart of everyone who unites himself to the Blessed Child, who follows in the steps of our blessed Lord.
“The thoughts of many hearts [shall] be laid bare.” There will be no hiding from this light that has come. If you think you can claim to know Him “without keeping His commandments,” without conducting yourself “just as He did,” you must know that your lie will be exposed. “The man who continues in the light is the one who loves his brother.” Only this will save you, for only love is of light; hatred is only of darkness, and in the Lord there is no darkness.
Let us join with Simeon in proclaiming His salvation. Let us join with David in singing of the “splendor and majesty” of the Lord. “Praise and grandeur are in His sanctuary.” And let us do this principally with our very lives, becoming as the temple of God who is presented to us this day.
O LORD, let the light of your Son
be revealed to our eyes, and in our actions.
YHWH, your light be revealed in us this day as it was revealed in your Son to the eyes of Simeon. May Jesus live in us and we shine His glory forth, that your Word may indeed be fulfilled in all our lives.
We are in darkness, LORD. As we keep not your Word, your Law, your command to love, we stray from right paths and become blind to your presence. If we do not live your presence, if we do not do your will, how can we claim to be of you? How can we say we are your disciples if we do not do the things your Son has done?
Take us from the shadows, LORD, and reveal to our eyes the presence of Christ in our midst. Dispel all the dark of hatred and doubt and error by this unending light you shine upon us. And let us truly be transformed by the light of our Savior that we might announce His salvation every day of our lives until our last breath on this earth. Then let us live with you forever.
Sun, 23 December 2018
(2Sm.7:1-5,8-12,14,16; Ps.89:2-5,27,29; Lk.1:67-79)
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever.”
The Lord builds a house for us; He is that House.
“Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations,” the Lord promises David, and accomplishes His word by Himself entering the line of the king. Thus “He has visited and ransomed His people. He has raised a horn of saving strength for us in the house of David His servant” in the Person of Jesus the Christ. And so we shall find “freedom from [our] sins” and “the kindness of our God” shall remain upon us.
“To guide our feet into the way of peace,” Jesus has come. To bring “salvation from our enemies and from the hands of all our foes,” He stands among us. Zechariah’s joy at the birth of John, his son, is really the joy in the coming one, for whom John but “prepare[s] straight paths.” The Spirit inspires this old priest to sing primarily of the fulfillment of the promise long held by his people, the promise of Abraham, the promise of David – the promise of finding fulfillment as God’s chosen ones, held in His hand, in His temple, in His house, and protected from all harm while worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. This Jesus accomplishes.
And so, “we should serve Him devoutly, and through all our days, be holy in His sight,” for no greater gift have we than this opportunity for holiness in the one true Son of God and in the House He establishes. Should not the Church be our home? Has not the Lord provided for the building of its walls? Has He not provided His own flesh and blood to be spread upon its altar? Has He not “fix[ed] a place for [His] people Israel… that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance”? Has He not said, “My kindness is established forever,” and “in heaven… confirmed [His] faithfulness”? And should we not enter His house, enter His heaven, and praise His holy Name?
Here we stand, with His Word, with His Body and Blood. Here we have His teaching and His food. What more need we? And this day the Child who is the House of God approaches. Are we ready now for His coming?
O LORD, guide our feet in the way of peace;
fulfill your promise and make us your sons.
YHWH, we sit in darkness waiting for the coming of your Son; open our eyes to see His light and our mouths to sing of His glory. Let us enter into His way of peace. Deliver us from the enemy, O LORD, from the sin upon our souls.
How shall we be made free of our sins, LORD, except that you come to us and fulfill your Covenant with us, that you shall be our Father and we your children? And how shall you accomplish this except by the birth of your Son in our midst? We would have remained ever blind and dumb had Jesus not come to open our eyes and loose our tongues, had you not had such mercy on our souls.
A House you established for David, a place we all may dwell. And the birth of this House is upon us now. May we enter in and serve Him, LORD, that with Him we might stand firm forever.
Fri, 21 December 2018
(1Sm.1:24-28; 1Sm.2:1,4-8; Lk.1:46-56)
“His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear Him.”
The Magnificat of Mary mirrors but, if I may say, far surpasses the Canticle of Hannah in beauty, in wonder, in grace… even as the perfection of the Son she bears far exceeds the blessing of the prophet Samuel. As Jesus brings to fulfillment the greatness of all who came before Him, so Mary’s song expresses that perfection in the light of the same divine mercy.
Mercy indeed is infused in each line she utters under the power of the Spirit. Mercy and truth, a love completely open to the blessings of God is hers and is revealed in the words which fall like cleansing rain from her immaculate lips. She is blessed, she knows, and she shall be called blessed; for the truth, the Word of God, cannot be hidden, must be raised to meet the eyes and ears of all who seek His grace. For “the hungry He [gives] every good thing,” and the lowly He raises “to high places.” She is “His servant in her lowliness” and the joy of such blessing she cannot help but proclaim with all her being.
Hannah brings the child she has conceived in answer to her prayer, through the intercession of Eli – by the grace of God – and dedicates him to the Lord, leaving him at the temple. She, too, “exults in the Lord” for the fact that, in the Lord’s will, “the barren wife bears seven sons”; for she who was thought sterile has borne the great man of God, Samuel. Mary, in her grateful appreciation for the blessing upon her, will not need to leave her child at the temple, for He has been conceived entirely of the Holy Spirit and is Himself the Temple of the Lord, wholly dedicated to the will of the Father from before the inception of time.
As the ancient Israelites found the direction and guidance of God through the ministry of Samuel, as by him they were led to serve the Lord their God, so now in this the end of the age we have Jesus, the perfect light of guidance through the grace and mercy of God, to lead us to the total service of the Lord that Mary embodies so well. God is “mighty,” brothers and sisters; “holy is His name.” Let us rejoice in Him who “has upheld Israel His servant, ever mindful of His mercy,” and let us make that same blessed mercy the leaven that lifts us unto heaven. To Him let us sing our song of praise.
O LORD, Mary you have blessed
with your very presence,
and so she has become the Temple in which you dwell –
may we all become as your Temple.
YHWH, to the humble you show your mercy; you raise them up to dwell with you. Our Mother Mary is the humblest of our race, and so she is at your side forever in Heaven. O may we be blessed as she!
Hannah, too, you blessed, O LORD, she who had borne no children. Samuel, the man of God, you gave to her, for she had promised to give him to you. But the Son of Mary who could give to you, for He is with you always? Let us be with Him this very day, that we might remain in your Temple.
O LORD, the proud and the mighty you tear down that they might know they are of the earth. But the meek and humble you raise to high places, even to your presence. Let us leave behind all the riches of this world; help us to escape the trap they are to us, the death they spell to our souls, that with the lowly we might dwell, in your eternal kingdom. O let your servants live!
Thu, 20 December 2018
(Sgs.2:8-14 or Zep.3:14-18; Ps.33:1-3,11-12,20-21; Lk.1:39-45)
“Let me see you, let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” – she who comes bearing the Christ child, she whose very voice magnifies the presence of the Lord. Listen to the witness of Elizabeth: “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy.” Mary carries the Son of God not only in her womb, but in her soul; the Spirit working within her serves to inspire him who shall go before the Lord, and so she paves the road the forerunner of Jesus shall tread.
How one are mother and child! Never so evident has it been than in this passage from Holy Scripture. For Mary’s voice carries the very presence of Jesus, and Elizabeth’s ears convey that presence to her child. Here is that relationship of love depicted in our reading from the Song of Songs exemplified most clearly; here is the oneness of lover and beloved. And the loveliness of the lover becomes the loveliness of the beloved; the blessing of the Child becomes the blessing of the Mother – and in this love the earth brings forth its fruit.
“The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.” “The Lord, your God, is in your midst,” and He blesses all with His presence. He calls to your soul to come forth and know His love. “Springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills,” He hastens to your side. He visits you. He visits you, speaking to your heart, calling you to arise and join Him. As Mary visits Elizabeth, “proceeding in haste into the hill country,” to bring her Son to the son of Elizabeth and so producing joy in this unborn child’s heart – so she brings her sweet Jesus to us this day, her voice speaking of His glory to the ears of Mother Church.
And so she becomes our Mother; and so she becomes our lover, for she bears the great lover of all souls to wed Himself to us as He is so perfectly wed to her. His sweetness comes to us through His “beautiful one,” causing our hearts to rejoice at the sound of her voice and leading us to sing songs of praise to His holy name. Let us raise the joyful shout to our God!
O LORD, in joy with Mary,
help us to bring Jesus to every waiting soul.
YHWH, should we not rejoice at the coming of your Son? He comes to us across the hills in the womb of His Mother: should His approach not fill us with expectation and wonder, with joy in the Holy Spirit? And should we not cry out that joy with the Baptist and his mother?
She who secluded herself for five months is now in her sixth, and now your Son comes to her. And what has lain dormant within her womb springs to life at the sound of the voice of His Mother. O LORD, are we not just so in need of your Spirit to awaken in us the love that has been dormant these many days? Do we not begin to doubt your gifts to us as we long to see them fulfilled, as we sit this day in darkness? And will you not come to us in your Son, in His Mother who carries Him to our side – she who is your perfect Bride?
You desire to rejoice over us, O dearest LORD and God, and so our misfortunes you take away, and so the darkness of winter you dispel. Even we who are aged in sin you find beautiful. May our loveliness match your own. May our voice be pleasing to you.
Wed, 19 December 2018
(Is.7:10-14; Ps.24:1-7,10; Lk.1:26-38)
“Blessed are you among women.”
“The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name Him Immanuel because ‘God is with us.’” “The virgin’s name was Mary.” And she has given birth to the Savior.
“Who may stand in His holy place?” King David sings in our psalm. “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?” Clearly Jesus is He. But as clear is that we are all called to be as He, and that she has been, she who is so like Him – she that is indeed His Mother. It is she who “seeks the face of the God of Jacob,” she “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain…” and so she “receive[s] a blessing from the Lord,” the greatest blessing: the Son of God.
Fearful is she in her great humility in the awesome presence of the Lord. Questioning is she in the perfect innocence of her consecrated virginity. But obedient only is she as she hears of the answer to her devout prayer for the pregnancy of her kinswoman, and so assumes the role most native to her, the one she has promised to fulfill: “the maidservant of the Lord.”
O glorious Virgin Mary! You who worship so perfectly, so completely, the One who owns “the earth and its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it,” and so bring that very fullness to us all, teach us to be like Jesus your Son, whom you imitate so absolutely, so naturally. Teach us to be as He who is flesh of your flesh. Be our Mother as well, that we might be brother and sister and mother to the Lord. Aid us in giving our total consent to the will of God. “O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you.” Pray He be with us now, too.
“With that the angel left.” Upon receiving her wholehearted acceptance of her call, his mission is finished, and so he goes. Brothers and sisters, may the angel leave our presence so satisfied that the call of the Lord for our lives will be so well answered. Take heart that “nothing is impossible with God” and that as blessed as she is, so blessed does the Lord call you to be – if you but say yes to His word burning in your soul and lay down your life as has the Mother of God. Give the Lord your “yes” this day.
O LORD, may the Blessed Virgin Mother of your Son
pray for us this day that we shall be pure as she,
and so, able to stand in your presence.
YHWH, she whom you call to be Mother of your Son is indeed sinless in your sight. Because her heart is clean, she can accept your Word and give birth to our Savior. O may we be of her race! May we with all our souls seek your face and so find the blessing that is upon her. O let us know your only Son in our midst!
The blessing you give us we could not imagine – it is beyond our ability to conceive. Yet, LORD, you come to us; you prepare a Virgin from among us that your Son might be with us and so we with you for all ages. O let all be done according to your will! Let us all follow the obedient path of our dear Mother. Let us be her children, O LORD, and so your own.
O Mother of our Lord, blessed among women, most blessed of our race, pray for us this dark day that we will hear the Word of God spoken to our hearts. Pray our hearts be pure as your own, that they might receive our Creator.
Tue, 18 December 2018
(Jgs.13:2-7,24-25; Ps.71:3-6,8,16-17; Lk.1:5-25)
“From my mother’s womb you are my strength.”
How the above line from our psalm is reflected both in Samson and in John, and how parallel are the lives of these two great men. Of John it is said, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb”; of Samson, “This boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb” and “The Spirit of the Lord began to be with him.” The birth of both is announced by an angel of the Lord. Both will be born of women who were barren. Both will be nazirites, who shall “never drink wine or strong drink,” and whose head “no razor shall touch.” Both come for the deliverance of the people, though Samson only from “the power of the Philistines” while John comes to “prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed,” that we might have eternal salvation.
Of course, Jesus, too, will have His birth announced by the angel of the Lord; He will be born of a woman from whom it seems no child could come – a consecrated virgin – and this of the Holy Spirit, who is with Him even before time. His is a new testament, however, signified by His birth of a woman of youth and not old age. Though hailed by the old, He brings the newness of God into our midst. His birth fulfills all the births and words and wisdom of the prophets and judges and kings of the Old Testament.
But, returning to our psalm and its universal call in the voice of Christ (words which apply to all in their quest for God), we should remember today that for all, God is our “rock of refuge” on whom we “depend from birth.” “You have taught me from my youth,” the psalmist declares to the Lord, and so it should be true with us all that from the womb “till the present [we] proclaim [His] wondrous deeds.” He works in all our lives, brothers and sisters; He has brought us all to birth and is acting now, His Spirit upon us, to see that we are born into His kingdom.
The great figures of the Old Testament, and especially John, are models from whom we can all learn, holy men whom we can certainly admire. But as our Lord has stated clearly, none of those born of woman can compare with those born into the kingdom of heaven. And so, let us take our strength for our journey from His prophets and from His Word; from His Spirit let us receive what we need in this life for our journey to His paradise. As strong as were Samson and John, so much stronger can we now be by His Body and His Blood, our holy food on this earth, and by His Spirit upon us.
O LORD, it is you who give us life
and make us strong –
your Spirit be with us.
YHWH, your power is upon the mothers of both Samson and John, and so upon their sons. They are born by your will to bring deliverance to the people. As they trusted in you from the womb, so let us be blessed to know you, LORD; let us be blessed to do your will.
Strength we should all take in you, O LORD, for you teach us from our youth to this day: the moment we turn to you, you come to us, and from our souls you would never take your leave. O let us trust in you, that in our lives your works might be done.
How hard it is for our wounded hearts to believe the glory you bring into our midst, dear LORD. Your presence is overwhelming to us and so difficult to bear. But you would make it easy, if we had but faith. Turn our hearts to the call to serve you, that we might be ready to receive you. O let us speak in your Name!
Mon, 17 December 2018
(Jer.23:5-8; Ps.72:1,7,12-13,18-19; Mt.1:18-24)
“He will save His people from their sins.”
Each of our readings today mentions the salvation of our Lord. The above quote is from our gospel; our psalm states, “The lives of the poor He shall save”; and in our first reading it says, “In His days Judah shall be saved.” The very name “Jesus” – as given to Joseph by the angel of the Lord – means “God saves”. The great God of the universe, the living God who has brought us all to birth, comes among us, “is with us” (“Emmanuel”) to save us, to redeem us, to bring us back to our “own land”… to be again with the Father.
And this “righteous shoot to David,” this king who “shall reign and govern wisely,” who “shall do what is right and just in the land,” is born from above, not below. As the angel also tells Joseph, “It is by the Holy Spirit that [Mary] has conceived this child.” The Virgin is with child! Alleluia! A greater sign, a more complete love from the Father we could not imagine. And so we sing with our psalmist: “Blessed forever be His glorious name; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.” Indeed, all nations, not only Judah, shall be saved by this Blessed Child.
“The days are coming,” brothers and sisters, and are already here. The Lord walks among us. The Child has been born, and is being born in each of us; and as a people He comes to us. Mary “bore a son”; Joseph named Him “Jesus”, as instructed, and Jesus He is – His salvation has come forth. You must receive Him into your home with the Mother who bore Him. You must have faith that He is from above. Let Joseph be your model in care for the Savior, and He shall care for you for all eternity. Like Mary, nourish the Lord every day of your life.
His love is growing in us all. His presence is becoming known. The promised of the ages dwells with us with His justice, and His kingdom is being built as we speak. No more will our sins condemn us. No more will we hide our faces from the Lord. We shall be free once more, and this time forever, for the Lord has heard the cry of the poor.
O LORD, since your Son is with us,
we may now make our home in you –
praise you for your justice!
YHWH, your Son saves us from our sins. For this you have sent Him among us; for this He has been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary – it is for this He has been born a Man. O let be accomplished that for which He has come!
From Egypt you rescued your enslaved sons. From the land of the North you brought them back to their home. From all sin you now deliver all men, beginning with the Jew. O LORD, you hear us when we cry out – let us cry out to you that this day we might be saved. Let us welcome your Son into our home, that in Him we might find our eternal union with you.
O LORD, let the earth be filled with your glory! This is your will, this is your desire… this is the goal to which all your Creation is straining. Speak to us this day that we might know the way you would lead us, and let us follow the angel’s word to freedom in the reign of Jesus.
Sun, 16 December 2018
(Gn.49:2,8-10; Ps.72:3-4,7-8,17; Mt.1:1-17)
“May He rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Since “the scepter shall never depart from Judah,” the reign of Jesus, His descendant, His fulfillment, is without end – He is King forever. And so, “tribute is brought to Him, and He receives the peoples’ homage,” which is in itself their salvation.
Who is this Lion of Judah, fulfillment of Jacob’s prophetic blessing of his son? What sort of king have we? It is in the words of our psalm we find His kingship revealed: “He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save the children of the poor.” For Jesus, though fierce as a lion in His judgment – for there is nothing untrue in Him – reveals primarily the love of God the king must embody. In His reign, “the mountains shall yield peace for the people, and the hills justice.” First is the love He brings to this generation; second, its complement, justice.
And of what worth is the “family record of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham,” we find in our gospel today? Be not overly bored by it, my brothers and sisters, for in its mundaneness it holds the key to our salvation. For it reveals how very real Jesus is, that He is part of our human family; and should this not make us rejoice, that the Son of God is also Son of Man? And though the forty-two or so names may not be familiar to our ears, we should know at least that there are all kinds in this family tree of Jesus, from great men and women of faith humble before their God, to wicked kings and a prostitute. There is thus hope for us all.
Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the promised son of Abraham, and son of David, the king who sits on the throne forever. It was of Mary He was born, and Mary’s husband was Joseph. And since husband and wife are one – and though there’s was only a spiritual communion, it is in the spiritual communion unity is truly found – we trace His line through this humble man. And we pray we shall enter into communion with the Lord ourselves and live in the reign of this King in whom “all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed.”
Today we praise our brother in the flesh and pray to be made one in His Spirit. May He indeed rule over all.
O LORD, because your Son judges justly,
peace shall reign to the ends of the earth –
for this He has come among us.
YHWH, your Son rules over all; from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth His rule extends, for He has been born into our midst, He has become part of our generation, and so all in our midst, every generation, is under His reign. Alleluia!
All the tribes of the earth should rejoice in Him, O LORD. Though David’s Son and so of your Chosen people, yet your prophets have foretold that every people shall bow down before Him, even as all David’s sons. This Lion of Judah shall govern all with justice, shall bring peace to all who call upon His Name. Alleluia, LORD! For this grace we thank you.
Truly the Name of Jesus shall remain as long as the sun – forever His Name shall be blessed in our midst. For He has come among us to save us; He is indeed one of us and brings divine blessings in His wake. O LORD, in every heart let Him reign!
Fri, 14 December 2018
(Sir.48:1-4,9-11; Ps.80:2-4,15-16,18-19; Mt.17:10-13)
“Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.”
Elijah has come, to “restore everything.” The word has fallen like fire from heaven to prepare a path for the Lord to tread. The Baptist has cried out as a voice in the wilderness for us to make our hearts ready for the coming of the Lord.
But, sadly, “they did not recognize him and they did as they pleased with him.” They rejected the voice crying to them and attempted to cover over the way the word had cleared before them. He who came “to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob,” was himself turned back; and they cast him into prison and beheaded the great prophet.
Yet the way remains open to us. He whom the prophet hailed has come into our midst, and His presence cannot be taken away – even to the end of the age (which is upon us). And we must join with our psalmist today in calling upon Him to “come to save us,” to “look down from heaven, and see,” to “take care of this vine” planted by His right hand. “Give us new life, and we will call upon your name,” must be our prayer, especially in this Advent season, for we must awaken and enliven the path to God the Baptist has served to blaze in our hearts. We must know now Him whom he has hailed.
And, yes, with this Elijah and with the Son of Man, we too will suffer at the hands of those who would silence the Word, who would extinguish the fire set upon the earth. But the fire is eternal and its light and power cannot be dimmed, much less extinguished. It will purify those who seek the face of God and destroy those who turn from Him. It cannot be otherwise. Now that the Lord has come, His angels wait in expectation to purge the world. Once more only the prophet Elijah will appear and the flaming furnace his words prepare will be fulfilled in God’s eternity by the return of the Son of Man. In absolute glory the Lord will reign.
O LORD, Elijah has come
and the way of the Cross has been prepared;
your Son is now present to save us.
YHWH, rouse your power and come to save us; purge us in the fire your Son has set upon the face of the earth. The Baptist has come in the spirit of Elijah – the way of the Savior is now prepared in our midst.
But we must walk this way of fire; we must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, if we are to walk in the way of your Son. If our hearts are to be turned to you, LORD, we must have faith in the One to come.
And this path is one of persecution; it is one that reduces us to straits. For nothing unholy can enter your presence, and so we must be prepared along the narrow way. O LORD, make us strong in following you this day!
The Son of Man is now among us, He who has suffered and died for our sake. May the fire of the Spirit He sends, LORD, make us ready to share in His death, and so His glory.
Thu, 13 December 2018
(Is.48:17-19; Ps.1:1-4,6,Jn.8:12; Mt.11:16-19)
“Time will prove where wisdom lies.”
No doubt it lies with God. It lies with the Son of Man, come for our salvation.
“I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.” Is it not our essential call to obey His Word, to listen for His voice and follow in His way? Are they not happy who hear the Word of God and keep it? Is this not wisdom, to walk in the way of our Creator, with the One who loves us above all? Does not all our misery stem from disobedience to His sacred commandments? Do we not in this way of our own making not simply lose all love in our hearts? Does this not bring our death?
If we would but follow the Lord, our “prosperity would be like a river,” no doubt. Our “descendants would be like the sand,” for “like a tree planted near running water” we would flourish with the wisdom which comes from the font of life which is the Lord, and one would we become with all the children of His eternal kingdom.
We cannot expect the Lord to dance to the tune we pipe or wail to the dirge we sing. It is the height of foolishness for the creature to attempt to impose its will on the Creator. But such is our pride, the source of our wickedness. And so, deaf, blind, and empty are we when we seek to turn the order of the universe back upon our God. For “like chaff which the wind drives away” our own foolish counsels can all but come to naught. The branch cannot grow apart from the vine, nor can the tree bear fruit without the water which gives it life.
“Happy the man who… delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.” For then the nourishing waters are upon him; then the light of wisdom fills him – then he shall bear fruit a hundredfold and never taste of death. For the Hand of God will be upon him to lead him to the eternal kingdom, where His wisdom will be proven true.
O LORD, let us follow your Wisdom, your Word,
your way to eternal life.
YHWH, let us follow in your way, in the way you call us to walk. Let us not follow in the way of the wicked, the way which vanishes, but walk with you, meditating on your Word, and we will come to life, to life everlasting with you.
If we do not listen to your Word, what fools we are, O LORD! If we seek our own designs and to impose them upon you – what greater foolishness can there be? O let us recognize you as God and not ourselves! And may obedience to your voice be our salvation.
John appeared neither eating nor drinking to show us the path of sacrifice that leads to you, that enables us to overcome this world and find your kingdom. Jesus ate and drank for He is of your kingdom and calls all to your table on high. O let us witness to your Wisdom at work in all things! a wisdom we cannot gainsay or deny, a wisdom we must accept to find its light. There in your Wisdom let us make our home, dear LORD, and we shall prosper unto eternity.
Wed, 12 December 2018
(Is.41:13-20; Ps.145:1,8-13; Mt.11:11-15)
“I will make you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged.”
A “worm” and a “maggot” are we. We are “the afflicted and the needy [who] seek water in vain, [our] tongues… parched with thirst.” But holding our right hand, the Lord speaks to us: “Fear not, I will help you.” “I will open up rivers on the bare heights… I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.” And has not John the Baptizer come, into the desert, into the wilderness, and there poured the water of God’s compassion upon us for the forgiveness of sins?
Lush trees now grow in the desert: we who were once empty are now filled with God’s grace. And yes, “the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” For all these wonders accomplished in our midst are but to “make known to men [His] might and the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom.” Indeed, we now “thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff,” but all this is done in His power.
And how then do we understand Jesus’ words: “From John the Baptizer’s time until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force”? We know that John spoke boldly in the name of God; unafraid of his oppressors, he called all to repentance. We should all learn from the power of God he displayed in crying out in the wilderness. We know also that at the time Jesus spoke the above words, John was imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, suffering genuinely the violence of this generation. We know Jesus Himself will be crucified. We know all the apostles (save John) will be martyred for the faith – all His children suffer under the weight of the cross imposed by the violent of this world.
But we know also that this very cross is the means God has chosen to most poignantly reveal His powerful hand at work. For the nails which fix our hands to the wood have no power over us, and so by the humble acceptance of the violence of this age we do most dramatically destroy, crush into dust, the mountains of this world. And we upon whom the greatest violence is inflicted indeed effect the greater violence upon our oppressors, for by this sacrifice wickedness is destroyed and the righteous enter the kingdom of heaven. Let us act with such strength from God, brothers and sisters, for the sake of the kingdom.
O LORD, let there be springs of water
in the desert of this world,
that we poor souls might not die
but enter into your kingdom.
YHWH, Elijah has come as a threshing sledge preparing the way for your Son – and now all souls may enter your kingdom!
To the desert of our lives you have brought your water, O LORD. We who were parched and lifeless have heard the Baptist’s call to repentance and known the grace that comes to us thereby. Your Son, your very Son has come among us and opened the gates of Heaven; in His sacrifice you show your great compassion, and now this tree of life flourishes in our midst.
To the Cross we must all be nailed, dear LORD; all the evil in us must die. But what blessing such violence brings! For joining ourselves to your Son’s sacrifice, the glorious splendor of your reign is revealed to our eyes.
Though we must die, LORD, you live in us and remain in us until the end of time. And so for such grace we bless you; so this day we heed your Son’s voice. Let us be washed clean in the water from His side and come quickly to eternal life.
Tue, 11 December 2018
(Is.40:25-31; Ps.103:1-4,8,10; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
How we do become “weary and find life burdensome.” How we can “faint and grow weary,” “stagger and fall” from the burden of sin and our inherent weakness. But oh how “He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak He makes vigor abound.” For indeed He is the creator of the universe – “by His great might and the strength of His power” all things come to be – and His Son is the redeemer of our souls. “The Lord is the eternal God” and “they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles’ wings.” Trust in Him who “pardons all your iniquities” and “heals all your ills.”
What a promise Jesus holds forth for those who come to His “gentle and humble” heart: “Your souls will find rest.” We know that the great St. Augustine has told us that only in God do our souls find rest. How we wander aimlessly in trackless wastes seeking comfort for our souls, rest for our weary bodies, taking refuge in the various attractions of the world and the vain promise they hold. How late in life all of us come to the fulfilling promise of Jesus, for any time spent apart from Him is but wasted.
And thank the Lord that He is “merciful and gracious.” Thank Him that “not according to our sins does He deal with us.” For what hope would we have then? But this great God who has no equal, who holds the world in His hand, “redeems your life from destruction, He crowns you with kindness and compassion” despite your sins, if you but come to Him as He calls.
How patiently Jesus waits for each of us, this only Son of God, this image of the Father and embodiment of His love. How gracious He is toward us poor creatures. Will you not take His “yoke upon your shoulders and learn” from Him? Will you not find refreshment from all your sins and forgiveness of all your crimes? Will you continue to turn your face away from Him who watches over all and weigh yourself down with anxiety? Or will you come to Him, your only hope? Take the light burden of His gracious Word upon your souls and do His will in this world.
O LORD, how shall your compassion come
to dwell in our hearts,
and your strength renew our own? –
let us be blessed in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, you make our burden light by the Cross of your only Son. He takes our sins upon Himself and carries them away, and we need but turn to Him and walk with Him to find rest for our souls.
How great is your announcement to us, O LORD; how great your blessing! For you who are Creator of Heaven and earth promise your own strength to those who believe in you, who turn to your grace and mercy. Our sins you remember not, our iniquities you pardon; and finding no condemnation at your hands, we are free to soar as with eagles’ wings – for what punishment can there be if it comes not from you?
O LORD, for all your benefits let all men bless you and your holy NAME. Let us come this day to your only Son and share the blessings upon Him. He will carry our burden in this world and so our yoke will be light. Deep in our souls let us know your compassion, and we shall soar on your heights.
Mon, 10 December 2018
(Is.40:1-11; Ps.96:1-3,10-13,Is.40:10; Mt.18:12-14)
“Like a shepherd He feeds His flock;
in His arms He gathers His lambs.”
His is the voice which “speak[s] tenderly to Jerusalem.” It is He who “give[s] comfort to [His] people.” For “it is no part of [the] heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.”
Like a shepherd He leads us. With great concern He watches over His flock, careful that none is led astray. And diligent is He in finding the one who “wanders away.” This is indeed “good news.” These are indeed “glad tidings,” which make even “the trees of the forest exult.” For He cares about each one of the many of His creatures, and shall bring all back to Him by the sound of His gentle voice.
And of His sweet voice we must cry out. “Sing to the Lord; bless His name; announce His salvation day after day.” For all the earth must know that “He shall rule the world with justice and His peoples with constancy.” And so “a voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!” May all hearts be ready to meet Him. When “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low… then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together.” O that that glorious day might come!
“Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” And so He stands behind us, whispering into our ears of the way we should walk. And so He calls to our hearts, carrying us “in His bosom” with care. And so His eternal presence ever comes to our tired bodies, our fading souls, and gives them life, and brings them back from their straying paths upon this dying earth. And so it is that all “exult before the Lord, for He comes; He comes to rule the earth.”
It is only in His eternity that we shall find a home, brothers and sisters. And into these arms He now gathers us. And with His food He now feeds us. Let us partake of His presence in Word and in Sacrament as we await His coming.
O LORD, we praise you
for the merciful justice and peace
you have brought into our midst
through your Son Jesus.
YHWH, truth has sprung out of the earth, for justice has looked down from Heaven and our redemption has come – Jesus has been born among us. He is the holy way, the way that leads to the splendor and glory of your kingdom. He is as the stream in the desert that cleanses our souls of all sins and so prepares us to dance and sing with Him in your eternal presence. We who were lame now leap like a stag for the blessing we have received from our Savior; yes, we have been forgiven, and are now crowned with everlasting joy.
O let your splendor come to us this day, dearest LORD and God. May we hear these blessed words from the mouth of your Son: “Your sins are forgiven.” O let us rise and walk with Him to our heavenly homeland! The parched land cries out to you; let your water pour down upon us that in the power of the Holy Spirit we might blossom forth with His gifts. Strengthened by such grace let us do your holy will in all things.
Sun, 9 December 2018
(Is.35:1-10; Ps.85:9-14,Is.35:4; Lk.5:17-26)
“A highway will be there, called the holy way.”
Jesus is the highway; holy is He! He is the stream that “will burst forth in the desert.” It is He who “strengthen[s] the hands that are feeble [and] make[s] firm the knees that are weak,” that they might walk along His way. It is He who forgives sins. For “no one unclean may pass over” the safe path He makes in the wilderness of this world, and He wishes to “give His benefits” to all of faith. “Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.”
“Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing,” prophesies Isaiah. And Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “Get up! Take your mat with you and return to your house.” And what did the man do? “He picked up the mat he had been lying on and went home praising God.” “We have seen incredible things today!” the crowd exclaims in awe, for the great vision of the prophet Isaiah has come to pass before their eyes: before them is being set the path to paradise.
“Hear what the Lord proclaims,” brothers and sisters: “Justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps.” Along His holy way “the redeemed will walk. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” All those forgiven their sins will enter their homes praising God. Yes, the “desert and the parched land… will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” We once paralyzed in our sin, by His hand, by His word, along His holy way, shall walk once again.
He has come. “Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.” In Him “kindness and truth… meet, justice and peace… kiss.” In Him we are made whole by the breath of His mouth, by the words from His lips. And now we have “a journey to make.” Now there is a way to walk. Let us remain upon this highway. Let us preserve the healing He has brought to our bones. Let us now live in faith with our Lord.
O LORD, tear down the mountains of pride
and fill in the valleys of fear
that we might come to you on straight paths.
YHWH, how shall our flesh see your salvation? How shall we come to your glory, we poor, miserable creatures? Only because you call us to redemption. Only because you desire us to share in your heavenly majesty. And only if we make straight the way for your Son to come into our hearts.
O LORD, let us ever increase in knowledge of what is good and lasting, that we might be made pure and blameless for the day of Christ, that we might become as He is, blessed to be called your sons. O let us give glory and praise to you for such a blessing!
Restore our fortunes, dear God; may we who have been separated from you and sent into exile be brought back to your holy City, to your mountain. As on royal thrones let us be borne aloft to gaze upon your splendor and glory, O King of all the nations. Great things you have indeed done for us, for now our weeping is turned to joy and we enter your presence bearing great fruit. Alleluia!
Thu, 6 December 2018
(Is.29:17-24; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Mt.9:27-31)
“The eyes of the blind shall see.”
O “that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple.” That out of “gloom and darkness” I might be taken, and come “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” That I could feel His hands touch my eyes, that I might have the faith to believe they shall be open to His glory…
Brothers and sisters, we are blind. All of us. All of us lack understanding. All of us falter in faith. For who among us is there that gazes continually upon the Lord’s presence? Who among us has entered His glory? Who among us possesses no arrogance and has “nothing to be ashamed of”? If yet we toil upon this earth, groaning as we await the redemption of our bodies, then yet do we continue in a measure blind. Yet do we seek His face. And if yet seeking “to see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living,” then yet have we to find it in its fullness; and so, yet do our eyes lack of the light that is the Lord, our salvation.
But certainly we are not without hope. Most certainly His hand is upon us even now. Most certainly His presence comes to us each and every day. Clearly His light shines in our midst in the Sacrament we receive and in the Word we hear, and so we can with confidence heed the exhortation of the psalm of David: “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” For He comes, and we know this. We are catching up to Him, and this is our joy. Yes, today do we know we shall see Him, for our eyes do glimpse Him even now.
In the meantime, brothers and sisters, as we wait, as the light that has dawned upon the world rises to our eyes, as He comes to fill our vision, let us strive to avoid speaking any word which “condemns a man.” Let us know that indeed we “err in spirit” and need the Lord’s light to guide us, and we shall become free of that which blinds us. And we shall be the lowly who are raised to His presence.
O LORD, let us gaze upon your loveliness always!
YHWH, take us out of gloom and darkness that we might gaze upon your face; save us this day from all evil that into your Temple we may come. You are our very light, O LORD – let our eyes be filled with vision of your presence.
O LORD, let us never cease pursuing you till we catch up with you and you turn to us to heal us. So far short of your glory do we fall, so far short. Yet you draw us forth as you walk on ahead of us; yet if we keep calling out to you, you shall answer. Never let our hearts be discouraged as we seek the light of your face.
O LORD, let us keep your NAME holy; in awe let us reverence you always. Let us remember your love for us and the understanding your Spirit brings. O let our minds be filled with your light as we wait steadfastly for you to come!
Open our ears, O LORD; open our eyes. Cast from our midst all arrogance, all condemnation from our tongues. Let us not be condemned ourselves but come to contemplate your glory forever.
Wed, 5 December 2018
(Is.26:1-6; Ps.118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27; Mt.7:21,24-27)
“Trust in the Lord forever!
For the Lord is an eternal rock.”
Sand or rock? Upon which do we build our house? If we “take refuge in the Lord” and enter “the gates of justice,” we shall find salvation in the Lord’s kingdom; if we “trust in man” and “princes,” we shall be leveled with the dust – our house shall collapse and we be “completely ruined.”
The choice is set before us. “Those in high places” will be humbled to the ground; those who find refuge in the empty things of this world will find no protection on the day of His coming. But for the “nation of firm purpose,” which “comes in the name of the Lord,” “He sets up walls and ramparts to protect.” And they shall “give thanks to the Lord” as they enter the gates of His holy city.
Jesus states clearly, “Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” will enter His kingdom: the one “who hears my words and puts them into practice” is he who is wise. And the putting into practice is key. Jesus has come in the flesh, and flesh there must be to our deeds. He is real, and we must be as real as He in our love. Otherwise we deny Him. We deny His coming if we do not live His way. God is not across the ocean or in the sky; He walks upon this earth now and must be in our lives. Only this will bring us strength. Only this will enable us to stand when the torrents come and the winds blow and buffet our house – for these have no power over those who are set in the Hand of God, who do His bidding.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk.11:28). We cannot but think of these challenging words from our Lord, referring greatly to the Mother of God – whose service to the Lord we particularly celebrate in these days of preparation – and cannot but hope to abide by them and become the handmaiden Mary has shown herself to be, that the eternal blessings of God might be ours as well. In Him let us trust. In Him let our faith be set. And let us do His will.
O LORD, let us dwell in your House,
built on the Rock that is you.
YHWH, how shall our city be strong if we do not trust in you? How shall we stand on your Day if we are not your children, if we have not done your will in this world? How can we enter your House and there dwell in peace if we have not the key to your kingdom, if we live not as your Son?
O LORD, we shall but fall to the dust and be trampled underfoot if we have only words to offer you. If we have lived our lives in vain, then we have built our house on sand, and it shall but collapse when you stand before us on your holy Day. There is no hope for those who do not come to your Son and put His words into practice.
But for those who trust in you and serve you, the gates of justice open up and they enter in and dwell in your presence – these stand strong whatever may come for they stand with you who are the eternal Rock, the foundation that cannot be shaken. Let us enter your House and give thanks to you, O LORD, for you are our Savior and in you we take our refuge.
Tue, 4 December 2018
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Mt.15:29-37)
“The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.”
And He will heal us. And He will lead us. And He will feed us.
Jesus went up onto a mountainside along the Sea of Galilee and sat down to teach and to heal. The sick were laid at His feet. Isaiah says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.” This mountain is the Lord. It is Jesus who reaches out His hand to heal those lying at His feet. It is Jesus who raises the bread for blessing and gives all to eat. And it is He who “will destroy death forever.” “This is the Lord for whom we looked.”
And it is through His Church Jesus works; through the blessing of the priest who raises the bread and the cup, Jesus gives us His Body and Blood – this is our “feast of rich food and choice wines” envisioned by Isaiah. It is He who forgives our sins, He who removes “the reproach of His people,” wiping away “the tears from all faces” in the confessional. He anoints us with the oil of the Spirit in Baptism; He joins us as one in holy Matrimony… He shepherds us with the Word of His teaching, leading us “in right paths,” “beside restful waters,” to “dwell in the house of the Lord” forever.
“Let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!” If “only goodness and kindness” follow us all our days, what have we to do but rejoice? If we have a Lord who looks with such pity upon our hunger, what need we fear? If it is He who “spread[s] the table” before us, even here in this world, “in the sight of [our] foes,” where sin besets us… what can we lack? If “cripples, the deformed, the blind, the mute, and many others” were healed of their maladies, what sickness of ours is beyond His redemption?
In this world we “walk in the dark valley.” In this world we hunger. Here “the veil that veils all peoples” is upon us. But here, too, He is with us to refresh our souls and feed us with His Body and Blood in the New Jerusalem.
O LORD, feed us on the holy mountain
which is your Son
with His own Body and Blood.
YHWH, you are He for whom we have looked, and you come to us in your only Son, who gives to us His Body and His Blood that we might feast upon your presence even in this world. Let us not be afraid but remember that you are with us.
How glorious is your kingdom, LORD, where all are made well, where all are fed by your hand. Though we have so little to offer, you take it and bless it and multiply it that we might have an abundance. And so, even in the valley of death through which we must pass, you are with us to guide us, for your Son has gone there before us.
On your mountain let us make our home, O LORD our God; in the Word and Bread your Son offers let us take our refuge. He is the mountain on which we must dwell – in Him all death is dispelled and we are made whole in your sight. Let us remain ever on this mountain.
Mon, 3 December 2018
(Is.11:1-10; Ps.72:1,7-8,12-13,17; Lk.10:21-24)
“The earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord,
as water covers the sea.”
And so, “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
The vision is sure: “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb… the lion shall eat hay like the ox… the child shall lay his hand on the adder’s lair,” for all shall live as one in the Spirit of the Lord. “Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace” – such is the vision to which all hearts aspire.
Jesus is the fullness of that peace. And so He says to His disciples, “Blest are the eyes that see what you see,” for what “prophets and kings wished to see,” what Isaiah prophesies for us today, is present there before them.
And He is present before us. But we can only see and hear Him if we are as “merest children,” else His presence will be hidden from our eyes. He wishes to reveal Himself, desires to lead us to the Father whom He alone knows, to whom He alone can lead us – but to find such fullness of vision, to gaze upon the face of God, to be filled with His wisdom and knowledge as is His Son, we must first fear Him, as He does, and seek to abide by the words and the commands that come to us by “the breath of His lips.” All must be slain that is wicked in us, and His justice and faithfulness shall be ours.
“May His name be blessed forever; as long as the sun His name shall remain,” for He Himself is light, and indeed His dwelling is glorious. With judgment and justice He is endowed, and in the light of His wisdom and grace we stand eternally blessed. But are our eyes open to Him?
Now should we pray for the Lord’s light to fill us, for His knowledge to cover us, that our eyes may be open to see Him, that we shall not miss Him as He comes.
O Lord, prepare our hearts to see you,
and the blessing of your presence, your peace,
O LORD, open our eyes and ears
to your glorious presence among us.
YHWH, your Son is our justice; our hope for peace is in Him – open our eyes to see His presence, to see your presence among us.
Upon Jesus your favor rests, O LORD, and that favor you would share with all of us; that favor He would share with us if we would but turn to Him with the heart of a child. May we be truly humble, O LORD, truly loving and truly kind, that your justice might be upon us for good, and to your salvation, to your holy mountain, we shall be called.
In awe of you let us stand, LORD, our eyes and ears filled with your glory alone. O how shall we bear such blessing? How shall we come to know such surpassing peace? How shall we come to stand in your presence and live in your perfection? Only if your Son reveals to us your glory; only if we are sustained by His grace will we be filled with knowledge of you, our only God.
Sun, 2 December 2018
(Is.2:1-5 or Is.4:2-6; Ps.122:1-9; Mt.8:5-11
I shall treat of both first readings)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”
For it shall come. “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain…. All nations shall stream toward it,” and there the Lord will give judgment. And His judgment will cause the banishment of war, for all shall be one in Him, and to all He shall grant “shelter and protection,” by night and by day.
The coming peace and unity all find on the holy mountain of Jerusalem prophesied by Isaiah is signaled in our gospel passage today as the Gentile centurion approaches Jesus with a request made in great faith. His surpassing faith prompts the Lord to reveal the truth of the coming kingdom: “Many will come from the east and the west and will find a place at the banquet in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” For it is faith that brings us to Him and to His blessings.
Certainly the serving boy for whom the centurion intercedes receives healing from the Lord; and certainly all those who “go up to the house of the Lord” in faith shall themselves be gratefully received. I pray we all remain in Zion, remain in “her place of assembly,” and so find refuge from “storm and rain” and from the “heat of day.” The New Jerusalem we know is the Catholic Church, is the faith handed down by Jesus through His apostles and blessed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know that within these walls we shall always find peace and protection, and we pray for all to stream toward the truth and the glory found in this House. There all shall find cleansing from their sins; “with a blast of searing judgment,” the Lord has created this Virgin Bride. So, “let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
As Jesus remarks to His followers, “I have never found this much faith in Israel,” He is calling them to an increase in their faith. He calls us, too, brothers and sisters, to act more readily upon His commands. Let us not fall short in our service to Him, and the peace of Jerusalem shall just as readily be ours.
O LORD, may all souls come to your holy mountain
and find there a home of peace.
YHWH, peace reigns in your House, and all those of faith find a place there. From every corner of the earth, men shall stream toward Jerusalem, where you dwell, where you teach the nations. Draw all souls into Holy Church.
You are the refuge and protection for all who are purged from their sin; all who come to you for cleansing of the blood from their hands find in you a place of peace and forgiveness, LORD. May all swords be beaten into plowshares – the war come from men’s hearts be banished forever.
All nations you call, O LORD, and all those of faith you accept into your kingdom. Let us be obedient in serving you that we might find your peace within our hearts and dwell on your holy mountain forever.
Fri, 30 November 2018
(Rv.22:1-7; Ps.95:1-7,Rv.21:20; Lk.21:34-36)
“Remember, I am coming soon!”
And when He comes what blessings there shall be for those who have been faithful to Him. They shall eat of “the trees of life which produce fruit twelve times a year,” which grow either side of “the river of life-giving water, clear as crystal” flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Healed entirely shall they be by the medicine of their leaves.
Then, brothers and sisters, if we wish to eat of this blessed, holy fruit, let us not now “become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares.” For the bitter fruit of this earth will only poison our souls with sin and so prevent our tasting the food of the heavenly kingdom. “Nothing deserving a curse shall be found there,” so let us remove all of this world’s bitterness from our tongues.
Oh my dear brethren, the promise is great for those who “serve Him faithfully,” who “acclaim the Rock of our salvation,” the Lord, the “great God,” and Jesus Christ His Son. Listen to what our blessed brother John imparts to us today, for “these words are trustworthy and true,” and oh so beautiful: “They shall see Him face to face and bear His name on their foreheads. The night shall be no more. They will need no light from lamps or the sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever.” Do you hear these words? Does the promise take root in your hearts? Oh let your heart be upon His light! Let the glory of His face be all you aspire to, for it is not far from you.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us.” For “the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, has sent His angel to show His servants what must happen very soon.” Let us listen to His words. “Happy the man who heeds the prophetic message of this book!” who eats the Bread God provides. His dawn is on the horizon.
O LORD, come;
send your Son a second time
and let us enter your kingdom.
YHWH, that we might be able to stand secure before your Son on His coming Day, that great and terrible day that leads to the eternal kingdom! O that we might eat the fruit of the crystal river that flows from your throne and that of the Lamb, that heals us of all our illness and enables us to live forever! O that we might stand in your holy light, that we might look upon your face, your NAME written on our foreheads! O that we might forever reign with you!
O LORD, let us sing your praise even this day that we might come to sing your praise always in your kingdom. Let us bow down in our worship and kneel before you who have made us. You are our God, you alone; let our hearts not be set on any of the things of this world but on you who have made them all, that we might transcend this earth and all its emptiness and come quickly into your presence. O let us heed your Word this day and ever serve you faithfully. Glory to you, O LORD our God!
Wed, 28 November 2018
(Rv.18:1-2,21-23,19:1-3,9; Ps.100:2-5; Lk.21:20-28)
“These indeed will be days of retribution,
when all that is written must be fulfilled.”
The destruction of the world and the coming of the kingdom is our clear theme today. It is what is written. It is what must be fulfilled.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” that “dwelling place for demons,” cries out an angel by whose authority and glory “all the earth was lighted up.” He calls down the destruction of the evil empire that is the city of this world. And the “assembly in heaven” sing loudly, “He has condemned the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her harlotry,” exulting in the salvation and glory and might of the One God, whose “judgments are true and just!” For though “the blood of His servants… was shed by her hand,” “the great city” is “hurled… into the sea” like “a huge millstone,” “cast down” with such “violence” that it shall never rise again. And so, “happy are they who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lord,” who sing “Alleluia!” to the great and wonderful presence of our God in the kingdom that is to come.
And in our gospel Jesus warns of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and of the final destruction of the earth. Yes, “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles.” Indeed its “devastation is near,” a mere thirty-five years from the death of the Lord. But the devastation of Jerusalem will last beyond its destruction by Rome, by the whore of Babylon, around 70 A.D. – it will continue “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” until the nations’ drinking of the cup of evil to its dregs, and the consequent end of this world brought about by the mighty hand of God. And so the blood of His servants continues to be shed, even as the kingdom is on the horizon.
“Those in the heart of the city must escape it.” Here is a grave warning. You must rise from the mire of the sin into which the world leads you. For “the powers in the heavens will be shaken”; the walls of the city will be torn down, and you will be exposed and alone. “Flee to the mountains” of holiness; take refuge in “the country,” where the Lord pastures His sheep. Do not give yourself to the ways of this world or the mark of the beast – lust not for the gold in its hands. For she is “a cage for every filthy and disgusting bird”; though the appearance may be otherwise, though the cage may be gilded, the horror within shall be revealed in the last days.
Brothers and sisters, we must find ourselves standing with those who “sing joyfully to the Lord,” who “enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise.” On the last day we must not fear “the roaring of the sea and the waves” because of our complicity with evil, but “stand up straight and raise our heads,” ready for our ransom to come at the hands of our Lord. Let His goodness which “endures forever” be fulfilled in our souls. (With arms open upon the cross, we shall find our song.)
O LORD, as the great city of this earth
is destroyed by fire,
let us be welcomed into your kingdom by your Son.
YHWH, in you and in your Son our ransom is near at hand, ransom from this world of corruption, ransom to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Your saints have shed their blood at the hands of the great harlot, but never again shall she sing her mocking song – all evil will be silenced before you as you gather your sheep into your arms.
Though by the nations your people be trampled, though great signs come in a bloodstained sky and a roaring sea… though it seem like the end has come upon us, it is only the beginning of your reign to come. O LORD, may we let this world pass away in its iniquity as we join ourselves to you!
Into your gates with thanksgiving let us come, O LORD; in your courts let us praise your NAME. Let us raise our heads to see your Son coming, even as the earth and its wickedness pass entirely away.
Tue, 27 November 2018
(Rv.15:1-4; Ps.98:1-3,7-9,Rv.15:13; Lk.21:12-19)
“By patient endurance you will save your lives.”
Jesus tells His disciples bluntly: “People will manhandle and persecute you.” Some will be “put to death” as they are “brought to give witness on account of” His name – “All will hate you because of me.” Yet in their witness He promises to provide “words and a wisdom” to serve as an impenetrable defense against their enemies… and in the end, after persevering through all suffering, eternal life shall be theirs.
John’s vision in our first reading reveals the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise. Even as “seven angels holding the seven final plagues” of “God’s wrath” stand ready to cast these culminating tribulations upon the earth, the Evangelist sees “those who had won victory over the beast and its image” – over the illusory power of the evil one – “holding the harps used in worshiping God,” and singing “the song of the Lamb” who was slain but now lives forever: “Mighty and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, O King of the nations!… You alone are holy.”
Brothers and sisters, let us “sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wondrous deeds; His right hand has won victory for Him, His holy arm.” Yes, “the Lord has made His salvation known,” and as those who stand “on the sea of glass” give praise to God with harps in hand, so does “the sea and what fills it resound,” so do “the rivers clap their hands, [and] the mountains shout with them for joy.” Let us join their holy song “before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to rule the earth”; His everlasting “justice” is upon us. And though we may have to suffer for a time in this world of darkness and sin, where light is shunned by the sons of men, yet even in our persecutions this eternal joy should take hold of our souls so that we know not the suffering from the rejoicing – for both are done in His name, and soon the former shall pass away.
Indeed, the song of the Lord is already upon our lips; we wait now only for its eternal resonance before His throne.
O LORD, let your will be done in us
and our souls be saved,
that we might praise you forever.
YHWH, let your song of praise be on our lips for the salvation you have wrought in our midst. With the Lamb let us come into your heavenly kingdom. Through all persecution let us endure with your Word within us.
What is our suffering in this life, O LORD, when the eternal life of Heaven awaits us and comes to us even this day. We shall rejoice with the rivers and mountains and all the earth, for we shall win victory with your Son over the devil and his illusions – that battle is being won even as we speak.
Be with us, LORD, this day, this hour; every hour we toil on this plane, let us toil only with you and for you. And we shall have nothing to fear at the death of the body or our being dragged before the rulers of this age. For we shall never die! For you who are life never die and our home is in you.
Praise you, O LORD our God! Do your mighty works in our midst and we shall glory in your holy NAME forever.
Mon, 26 November 2018
(Rv.14:14-19; Ps.96:10-13; Lk.21:5-11)
“Use your sickle and cut down the harvest,
for now is the time to reap.”
Brothers and sisters, you will “hear of wars and insurrections,” and “there will be great earthquakes, plagues, and famines in various places, and in the sky fearful omens and great signs.” “These things are bound to happen first, but the end does not follow immediately.” The end does not follow immediately from the signs, so do not set your hearts upon them – “take care not to be misled” by those whose seed has no root and so jumps up at any indication of travail. There has been travail throughout human history and the end, which is upon us every moment now, will only be fulfilled at the angels’ cry. When this will be, be assured you do not know.
In John’s vision, at the first angel’s cry “the one sitting on the cloud wielded his sickle over all the earth and reaped the earth’s harvest.” At a second angel’s cry another “wielded his sickle over the earth and gathered the grapes of the earth… [and] threw them into the huge winepress of God’s wrath.” And so the end comes. But does John see the future only, the past or the present as well… or a time that exists quite apart from our own? And even the angels did not know the time had come until they obediently acted upon the word of their God. And would you yet listen to the anxious rantings of those without eyes, those whose vision does not approach the heavenly reality?
The Lord “shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with His constancy” when “He comes to rule the earth.” This you can know even now; of this you can be assured. But when “the heavens [shall] be glad and the earth rejoice… [and] the sea and what fills it resound,” none can say – this word is in His mouth alone, and when the Mighty One shall pronounce it is known to His Heart alone. He has spoken once at the coming of Christ, but when He shall speak finally cannot be ascertained; it is but for us to be prepared for that Day. For He will come again, we know, and the angels’ sickles shall be sharp, and separate with certainty the wheat from the chaff. The time of harvest is at hand.
(In the harvest of the wheat and the grapes of the earth at the end of the age is made perfect this Body and Blood of Christ we eat and drink from our altar today. The saints’ flesh and blood become the Lord’s own.)
O LORD, when harvest time comes,
let us not be fearful but rejoice
in the return of your Son.
YHWH, you rule the world with justice and in the end your justice will be known. There will not be left a stone on another as you reap the harvest you have sown and cast the unrighteous into the winepress of your wrath.
Those who love you, LORD, shall rejoice at your coming, at the return of your only Son and all His angels with Him. They shall rejoice that the end has come and your justice will be fully known. And you shall gather them into your barns.
But those who are not your own, LORD, will not be able to endure that day, for they will be anxious and afraid at the glory that comes to rule the earth. Turn all hearts from the empty illusion of this passing world and set them on your kingdom which passes not away but is fulfilled in the judgment of your Son on the Day of His return. Let us not fear the violence coming upon the land but look to the peace that follows.
Sun, 25 November 2018
(Rv.14:1-5; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.21:1-4)
“They are pure and follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
Here is answered most definitively the question David sings: “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” In John’s vision, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God “was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him were the hundred and forty-four thousand who had His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” Here are they who are worthy to stand with the perfect and pure One, for their “hands are sinless, [their] heart is clean”: “on their lips no deceit has been found; they are indeed without flaw.” And so they “receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God [their] savior.” The greatest blessing of all is theirs – remaining in His presence forever.
And these holy ones play the thunderous song of praise “on their harps,” “singing a new hymn before the throne in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders.” They indeed have found their place as firstfruits of the kingdom of heaven, singing a hymn no one else could learn. And again, it is their purity, their perfection in the sight of God, that brings them to this holy place. All they have given over to the Lamb, and so He makes them like Himself.
And in our gospel we see in the simple widow indication of the spirit necessary to enter God’s presence. She holds nothing back from the Lord, but gives “every penny she ha[s] to live on.” Yes, brothers and sisters, every penny must be paid; all we have and all we are must be given to Him. If we are like this widow and like the holy ones who stand before the throne and give all while here on the face of the earth, we shall come quickly to heaven and find our place in His presence prepared. If not, the purgatorial flames await to take away any flaw in our soul, to remove any selfishness from our hearts – to bring us then to give up all that we yet have to Him, that with Him we might truly be. But the saints tell us these flames are not pleasant. In fact, they say they are much the same as the fires of hell, though they shall come to an end.
So let us here and now offer all we have to the Lord; let us seek to serve Him with all our lives, that we might by His grace avoid the cleansing fire and come immediately before Him. Only those in absolute purity follow Him and stand in His place.
O LORD, come;
send your Son a second time
and let us enter your kingdom.
YHWH, that we might be able to stand secure before your Son on His coming Day, that great and terrible day that leads to the eternal kingdom! O that we might eat the fruit of the crystal river that flows from your throne and that of the Lamb, that heals us of all our illness and enables us to live forever! O that we might stand in your holy light, that we might look upon your face, your NAME written on our foreheads! O that we might forever reign with you!
O LORD, let us sing your praise even this day that we might come to sing your praise always in your kingdom. Let us bow down in our worship and kneel before you who have made us. You are our God, you alone; let our hearts not be set on any of the things of this world but on you who have made them all, that we might transcend this earth and all its emptiness and come quickly into your presence. O let us heed your Word this day and ever serve you faithfully. Glory to you, O LORD our God!
Fri, 23 November 2018
(Rv.11:4-12; Ps.144:1,2,9-10; Lk.20:27-40)
“After three and a half days,
the breath of life which comes from God
returned to them.”
And these his two witnesses “went up in a cloud as their enemies looked on” “in sheer terror.” For it seemed they had “conquer[ed] and kill[ed]” the Lord’s prophets. Their corpses had lain “in the streets of the great city, which has the symbolic name ‘Sodom’ or ‘Egypt,’ where also their Lord was crucified.” Fire had “come out of the mouths of these witnesses to devour their enemies,” but now it seemed the truth had been overcome and sin and death had won the day. And so “the earth’s inhabitants gloat[ed] over them and in their merriment exchange[d] gifts.” But their death, as with the death of the Lord, was not to last, was only to show the absolute power of the God of life.
And fire comes from Jesus’ mouth today to silence the evil conjurings of the enemies of life. His word is truth and cannot be answered, cannot be gainsaid by even the most unbelieving mind. And what He tells all today is that “the dead rise again,” that death has no dominion in the kingdom of the living God. The Lord is “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” and these fathers of the faith along with the prophets and saints of any and all time “are alive for Him,” for He is but Life: in His reign all His children “become like angels and are no longer liable to death. Sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God.” This truth cannot be denied, will not be conquered.
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.” It is He who is “my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me.” As He was with His only Son, giving Him victory in every battle and final victory over death; as He was with His witnesses who devoured their enemies’ lies and rose from the dust after three and a half days; so He is with all who put their trust in Him, enabling them to conquer all doubt and fear, all surrounding sin and death. For Jesus crucified sits now at the right hand of God, and His witnesses with Him; and all who take their refuge in His power, though they die, cannot but rise to life. Yes, they will hear “a voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here!’” and will again have the breath of life. Alleluia!
(Note on “three and a half days”: more than its obvious similarity to the three days the Lord spent “in the heart of the earth” (Mt.12:40) may be an allusion to His approximately thirty-five years spent on this earth (which is half the span of a human life – “seventy is the sum of our years” (Ps.90:10)), itself a kind of death for Him.)
O LORD, let us be set free from death;
raised from the grave,
may we praise your NAME forever
with your angels and your saints.
YHWH, what need we fear if you are with us, you who hold even death in your hand? If we serve as your witnesses, we will be united to you who are life; and even though we die, in the sight of our enemies, in the sight of the devil and death itself, we shall be raised up to Heaven on a cloud. You are our refuge!
With you as our stronghold, LORD, with you as our God, we shall indeed gain victory over all the forces of evil – nothing shall keep us from you who desire our presence in your kingdom.
Make us as your Son who has died and been raised; make us sons of the resurrection, like angels, no longer subject to death. This is our hope, O LORD; this is our desire… Let us not wait long for Jesus’ return.
Then we shall be one in your presence, your holy children, O Most High God. Then we shall celebrate forever your glory in Heaven, all our enemies cast far away.
Thu, 22 November 2018
(Rv.10:8-11; Ps.119:14,24,72,103,111,131; Lk.19:45-48)
“I gasp with open mouth
in my yearning for your commands.”
In our first reading, John is told to “take the open scroll from the hand of the angel” and to “eat it.” In his mouth “it tasted as sweet as honey.” And now he who has eaten of the blessed word of God “must prophesy,” must speak the words upon the scroll, despite the sour stomach, the persecutions, it will inevitably bring.
In our gospel we hear that “the entire populace was listening to [Jesus] and hanging on His words” as He taught daily in the temple. The Lord has cleansed the temple of the impure forces at work within it, and for this and for His speaking the irresistible words of Truth He shall know the sour stomach of persecution – the cross is now quite close on the horizon as the leaders of the people seek “a way to destroy Him.”
O Lord, “how sweet to my palate are your promises, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” “The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” “Your decrees are my delight,” “the joy of my heart,” and despite the cross I find in consuming and then having to proclaim them, I shall not cease to eat of your glorious presence. Day to day you come to me. Moment to moment you whisper in my ear. You speak to my heart your wondrous promises, instilling faith and hope in my soul, and I shall not turn back from loving you. May all “peoples, nations, languages, and kings” know of your greatness; may all embrace the inheritance you offer by the death of sin in our lives.
Open your mouth, brothers and sisters, and He will fill it. He will feed you with the food that comes without cost; the sweet Bread of Heaven shall be yours. Even at His altars and from His pulpits it is today offered forth. Eat, and it will bring life to your soul, life that lasts beyond the destruction of the world.
O LORD, let us listen devoutly to your Word
that we might be cleansed of sin
and made whole in your sight.
YHWH, your words are sweeter to us than honey, and your NAME the sweetest Word of all. Speak to our soul this very day; let us hear your truth in our heart, though it bring persecution and trial.
As your Son let us be, O LORD, unafraid of the Cross which comes from doing your will. Let our concern be to cleanse your Temple, to make your House a house of prayer, though it bring the body’s destruction.
We are in your Temple, O LORD, and you call us to eat of your words and partake of your Son’s Body and Blood. This gives life to our very spirits, a life that does not pass away. Be our inheritance, all that we desire in this land.
LORD, we are unworthy to proclaim your words, to receive them in our souls and speak them to the world. How can we prophesy in your holy NAME? Let your Son be with us every step of the way; may His blood strengthen our service.
Wed, 21 November 2018
(Rv.5:1-10; Ps.149:1-6,9,Rv.5:10; Lk.19:41-44)
“Do not weep. The Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has won the right by His victory
to open the scroll with its seven seals.”
“Jesus wept over” Jerusalem “because [she] failed to recognize the time of [her] visitation”; and so she will be destroyed, and so her enemies will “leave not a stone on a stone within” her walls. And John “wept bitterly because no one could be found to open or examine the scroll” “in the right hand of the One who sat on the throne.” The scroll “had writing on both sides and was sealed with seven seals.” How wonderful it must be! But “who is worthy to open” it?
The tears of both will be appeased, both by the One. For whom does John see appear at the throne of God but “a Lamb standing, a Lamb that had been slain” – Jesus, our Savior! who is on His way even in our gospel today to conquer death, to receive the wounds John witnesses, that by His blood He may purchase for God “men of every race and tongue, of every people and nation”… that He might take the destruction of Jerusalem upon Himself and thus redeem her from annihilation. Because of His sacrifice, He is able to read the wisdom of the ages to all waiting hearts, for that wisdom is known only in such dying, only in His redeeming love.
And so, let us join with the elders who fall “down before the Lamb.” Let our prayer unite with “the prayers of God’s holy people,” which rise up like “aromatic spices” before the throne of the One on high. Let us sing the new hymn unto the Lamb who was slain for our sins and so saved us from all tears. “Sing to the Lord a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful.” Weep no more but “let the high praises of God be in [your] throats” and “praise His name in the festive dance.”
How great is our God! How profound is the revelation of His wonders in our midst! What joy do we find in His blood! His wounds bring us victory over death, and we reign now in the New Jerusalem as priests in the service of our King, joining ourselves ever to His sacrifice, finding ever the wisdom only He brings.
O LORD, offering the sacrifice of your only Son,
we become priests in your Temple;
this blood we shed He makes holy by His love.
YHWH, you have made us a kingdom of priests who offer continually to you the blood of your Son in our holy prayer.
O LORD, it is we who have slaughtered Jesus, your Lamb, we who by our blindness have caused Him to be pressed hard from every side, not a stone left on a stone in this holiest Temple… Yet by His willing acceptance of our sins He washes clean the blood upon our unholy hands and redeems our souls from destruction. By His blessed sacrifice He makes us holy, as holy becomes the sacrifice we make.
O how can we fathom your love for us, dear LORD? How can we plumb the depths of your Son’s sacrifice? We are left with nothing but high praises for you in our throat!
O LORD, let us exult in your glory this day, in the glory that is ours by the wounds upon your Lamb. Make us a nation of priests offering always this living sacrifice in your NAME. Let us ever praise you and the One who was slain – save us from all sin!
Tue, 20 November 2018
(Rv.4:1-11; Ps.150:1-6,Rv.4:8; Lk.19:11-28)
“O Lord our God, you are worthy
to receive glory and honor and power.”
“A man of noble birth went to a faraway country to become its king.” And of this faraway country and of its king, whom “everything that has breath” should praise, John has vision today.
“Above me there was an open door to heaven”; and a “trumpetlike voice” called the great Evangelist, “Come up here and I will show you what must take place in time to come.” And so, “caught up in ecstasy” he sees the “One whose appearance ha[s] a gemlike sparkle,” the Lord of all, seated upon His throne. And on twenty-four thrones surrounding this King he sees the elders, “clothed in white” with “crowns of gold on their heads,” sharing in their Master’s Kingship. And the four living creatures are at the center, singing, “without pause”: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!” And ever do the elders worship Him and join in the song of praise which rises continually to the One through whom all things “came to be.”
“Praise the Lord in His sanctuary… praise Him for His sovereign majesty,” for He reigns justly over all and is indeed worthy of all praise. “With the blast of the trumpet… with lyre and harp… with clanging cymbals” – with every instrument that is placed in our hands, with all the talents He provides here as we wait for His return, we must join in the song of the angels and the saints in the heavenly kingdom and praise His holy Name. For He will seek “to learn what profit each [has] made” when He returns to us from His journey. He will “send for the servants to whom He [has] given” His possessions, and call them to account in His love. Will our deeds then praise “His mighty deeds”?
Glorious is the kingdom of the Lord, and blessed are they who join Him in such marvelous glory. These He puts in charge of His cities; with these He shares His crown and His throne. And everywhere He has a right to reap, for only He does so in love – and there is nowhere He has not sown. All are invited into His radiant presence: to all He gives gifts that will bring them there. And but for their employment does He wait, that they might learn to praise His glory.
Follow Him as He continues “with His ascent to Jerusalem,” and the cross He meets in this city will lead you to the light of paradise.
O LORD, let us rejoice in serving you all our days,
and praise you forever in your kingdom.
YHWH, let all your creatures give you praise: by your will we came to be and were made. We are in your hands; by all that is at our hands may we give you glory and honor and praise. May we know the blessing of praising you with full voice.
Before you let us bow, O God; before you let us throw down our crowns. All we have is from you alone – let us return it to you with great profit. May your glory be multiplied in us and we enter your holy City with joy. Holy are you and worthy of all our praise, and by our praise we enter your glory.
Who are we, O LORD, that you place talents in our hands? Who are we that you would put a crown upon our heads? Are we to be even as your Son, our King and Savior? Is His reward to be our own? For this gift we could not praise you enough, and so we shall praise you forever.
Mon, 19 November 2018
(Rv.3:1-6,14-22; Ps.15:2-5,Rv.3:21; Lk.19:1-10)
“Today salvation has come to this house.”
To two of His houses, two of His seven churches, does the Lord speak today, calling them both to repentance, that they might know the salvation Zacchaeus has found.
In no uncertain terms does the Lord call the churches in Sardis and Laodicea, chastising both dearly, telling the first: “I know the reputation you have of being alive, when in fact you are dead!” and the second (who think themselves “so rich and secure that [they] want for nothing”): “How wretched you are, how pitiable and poor, how blind and naked!” In Sardis there are only “a few persons who have not soiled their garments”; and the Laodiceans, who are “neither hot nor cold,” are promised by the Lord, “I will spew you out of my mouth!”
All the unfaithful, all those who have lost their fervor and who pride themselves on their own works shall be spewed from the Lord’s mouth, shall be cast from His presence. All He calls to “wake-up,” to “repent,” to “buy white garments in which to be clothed, if the shame of [their] nakedness is to be covered.” All He summons to rouse themselves in sharpest and truest of words, for “whoever is dear to [Him] [He] reprove[s] and chastise[s]” – for He knows that only by the jettisoning of our sin will we find the salvation He so dearly desires for each of our lives.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord “stand[s] knocking at the door. If anyone hears [Him] calling and opens the door, [He] will enter his house.” And He will sup with him, and He will sit him on His own throne. Listen to the promise our Lord makes: “The victor shall go clothed in light. I will never erase his name from the book of the living, but will acknowledge him in the presence of my Father and His angels.” And see how the promise is fulfilled in Zacchaeus, who in his great fervor “climbed a sycamore tree which was along Jesus’ route, in order to see Him”; who in his great generosity promised “to give half of [his] belongings” to the poor – and who has had the Lord in to sup in his home and has heard the blessed words spoken over him: “Today salvation has come to this house.”
And so, strive with all you have to be as “he who walks blamelessly and does justice, who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue.” Let His chastisement bear blessed fruit in your life; turn from your sin… and you too will know the victory the Lord Himself has won for all faithful souls.
O LORD, save us from our sin
by your chastising Word,
that we might walk in white before you.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your Word: let us repent of all our sin that we might enter in and sup with your Son.
Do we not have ears, O LORD, and should we not have hearts set on you and the doing of your will? And yet, are we not lacking in zeal, are we not pitiable and poor in accomplishing your work? Are we not dead? Have we not soiled our garments instead of purifying our souls to receive your blessings? O how shall we turn from our sin to your Son’s presence among us?
Save us, O LORD, from the thought that we are safe and secure, from putting our faith in the riches we amass in this world. Let us know and remember the only true riches are of the Spirit and come to us only by your grace. And only by your grace do they remain.
Make our hearts blameless, dear LORD; cover over our nakedness with your white garments, and we shall rejoice in your glory.
Sun, 18 November 2018
(Rv.1:1-4,2:1-5; Ps.1:1-4,6,Rv.2:7; Lk.18:35-43)
“Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.”
A blind man sat begging by the side of the road. “Hearing a crowd go by the man asked, ‘What is that?’” And he was told that “Jesus drew near,” that all he could possibly ask for was upon him – and so he begged with the greatest sincerity he could muster.
And as the end of the Church year approaches, we hear from the Lord’s beloved “servant John” “the revelation God gave to Jesus Christ”; he “bears witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” telling us truly that “the appointed time is near,” that He “who is and who was and who is to come” is passing by the way. It is time to call out to Him, and know His healing touch.
To the church in Ephesus specifically, the Lord instructs His apostle to speak today, to commend the disciples there on their “patient endurance” and their lack of tolerance for “wicked men,” and to call them back to their “early love… the heights from which [they] have fallen”; thus do they need to “repent,” to call out themselves to the Lord for renewal of their innocent hearts and their burning love for God. You see, all have their own reason to call out to Jesus as He passes by.
What need have you to call upon the Lord’s Name as He passes by here at the end of days? Do you walk at every point in “the way of the just,” or are you somehow blind to His presence, or are you in some way cold in your love? Or have you any of innumerable other sins that keep you from His kingdom? Be careful. The time is indeed short, and we are indeed sinners – and Jesus is indeed still passing by to heal us. Do not be afraid to cry out to Him, to leave “the company of the insolent” and find His redeeming graces. Let the light of faith burn in your soul that you might know “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven lampstands of gold.” His holy light is coming now upon the earth, and you must join yourself to it.
“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
O LORD, heal us of all our sin
that we might walk in the way of your Son.
YHWH, grant us vision to see the appointed time is near and Jesus is passing by to heal us of our blindness, to return us to our early love. And let us not be afraid to cry out to Him.
Bring us healing, Lord Jesus, for you have come from the Father and pass through our midst this day. To us you bring His surpassing love; may we join ourselves to it and follow you along your way.
You speak to us by your Spirit, LORD; you inspire your apostles with your Word. You teach us of the way to you, and that with all our heart we should walk it. Help us to meditate on your Law day and night; ever let us dwell in your light.
Make us always fruitful, LORD, as we delight in serving you. Let our hearts cry out in joy for the blessings you bestow on faithful souls. Make us your own and let us enter your glory.
Fri, 16 November 2018
(3Jn.5-8; Ps.112:1-6; Lk.18:1-8)
“When the Son of Man comes,
will He find any faith on the earth?”
So beset by weakness are we on this earth, brothers and sisters. So doubtful, so fearful… so seemingly without help, alone. And so our faith does falter, and so we do fall. And we wonder, “Where is God?”
But the Son asks us today where we are. He emphasizes “the necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Why should we think that God does not listen to us? If the corrupt judge can give justice to the widow who begs him constantly for her “rights against [her] opponent,” “will not God then do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night?” Do we make Jesus a liar by failing to believe in the Lord’s “swift justice”? Is this corrupt judge more reliable than He?
And listen to what John writes to Gaius. He says to him, “You demonstrate fidelity by all that you do for the brothers.” He has “testified to [his] love before the church” by caring for its members. And John now asks this beloved disciple to support those who pass through his neighborhood carrying the message of the Gospel to the nations, to “help them continue on their journey.” And we can be assured that this child of God does continue to demonstrate his generosity, that “he is gracious and merciful and just” toward his brothers in their need. And if this man “dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright,” shall the Lord Himself then leave us alone when we call out to Him in our need?
Why are we of such little faith? Why do we so easily falter in our trust of the Lord’s protection, of His grace at work upon our souls and His providential hand in our lives? If weak human beings can give aid to those in distress, cannot God? Are not all “wealth and riches… in His house”; does He not hold all the world and all our souls in His loving hand? Then why should we be afraid? Why should we think He does not answer our prayer? It is not because He is not listening that we have not the good we desire – this lack is from our lack of faith.
Brothers and sisters, be encouraged by the Lord today to never give up hope, to never give up our petitions to the Lord. He does not need to be worn down, but is ready at every moment to help us. Seek but to believe in Him.