Mon, 22 July 2019
(Ex.14:21-15:1; Ex.15:1,8-10,12,17; Mt.12:46-50)
“Thus the Lord saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.”
The Lord fought for the Israelites, His people. Working great wonders, He brought them forth from the land of Egypt. Indeed, “the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.” So great was His love for His chosen ones that He saved them in this miraculous fashion, casting their enemies into the sea. Them “the earth swallowed,” but His people crossed unharmed.
Here is the prefigurement of the Lord’s saving us from sin by His death and resurrection; through the waters of Baptism we now come to “the mountain of [the Lord’s] inheritance,” our enemies dying in that same water which saves us. In the dark of night, in the death of Christ, we enter the realm of the sea; at dawn we see our enemies lying dead on the shore. But it is no longer those who are related to the Lord by flesh and blood who are brought through the waters to His sanctuary. The chosen ones are no longer of a particular race. “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me.” It is a spiritual kingdom to which we are now called, and it is in the Spirit His children are now born.
Shocking this word must have been to the ears of those so used to judging the blessings of the Lord by bloodline. Here is the beginning of Christ’s teaching that any and all are called to the table of the Lord. How shocked even Peter was when directed to go to the Gentile people, when instructed to eat, as it were, of the unclean food (Acts 10:13-14). But the Lord makes all clean by His blood. His death and resurrection open the gates of heaven to all who would enter there. To anyone who would follow in His footsteps, the Lord leads on dry land to the promised glory. But do not think, as I so often hear, that there are no casualties in this new exodus. Do not hold so foolishly to the idea that the God of the Old Testament was harsh in His destruction of the Egyptian army but the God of the New effects no such punishment. See that the casualties in this battle suffer a fate worse than drowning in the sea: eternal condemnation awaits those who now harden their hearts against the word of Christ. The warfare is now spiritual rather than physical, and the judgment Jesus passes on the evil generation is now far worse than any before His time had come. As He Himself has said elsewhere, “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea, than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk.17:2).
We are brothers and sisters of the Lord, my friends, and so He saves us from the day of judgment. As long as we do His will, His blessing shall be ours. Let us rejoice this day in the justice of God, that He cares for all those who love Him, even as He casts their enemies into the sea.
O LORD, let us live according to your will
that we might be saved,
that we might be one with Jesus in Heaven
even as all our enemies perish.
YHWH, your servant Moses did your will; through Him you revealed your glory to the people, and they triumphed over their enemies. May we serve you as has Moses and so become brother and sister and mother to Jesus, and so become as your children.
May your Son extend His hands toward us and bless us with His sanctifying Word, that all sin may flee from our midst and we become as your chosen. Through the sea let us pass on dry ground, LORD, the water like a wall to our right and to our left. Through Baptism we are redeemed by the power of your hand; to Jesus let us be configured.
Horse and chariot you cast into the sea – it is not by our own strength we are saved. It is by the grace and blessing that come from you, LORD, and by our joining ourselves to your will.
In fear shall our enemies retreat from your glance, O LORD, for you fight for your lowly ones.
Fri, 19 July 2019
(Ex.12:37-42; Ps.136:1,10-15,23-24; Mt.12:14-21)
“All the Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord
throughout their generations.”
After four hundred and thirty years, as one man the Israelites left the land of Egypt. More than a million people all told were “rushed out of Egyptand had no opportunity even to prepare food for the journey.” And so the exodus from sin we all must make is here prefigured. And in thanks for such grace from the Lord, whose “mercy endures forever,” who “freed us from our foes,” we keep constant vigil. Knowing the manner of our first release from slavery, we watch now for His return.
“Many people followed Him and He cured them all.” All those who walk in the wake of the Lord know His saving power. For He is endowed with the Spirit of God; of Jesus, the prophet writes: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my loved one in whom I delight.” And so those who approach Him know the “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm” of God in the healing of all their ills. Yet mighty as is His work, so gentle is its coming forth. For it is not in great fanfare but rather great humility that Jesus has come into our midst to save us. Though His works are great, His person is meek. Much as the silent NAME shared with Moses, much as the “still, small voice” which spoke to Elijah, so is this WORD of God made flesh. “He will not contend or cry out, nor will His voice be heard in the streets.” For His is a voice which does not pass away with the dimming of its sound; His voice is not a clanging gong, empty of substance, but is filled to bursting with love and mercy, and goes forth in the silence of a pure heart. It is for this silence we listen. It is for His love we keep vigil.
“He sternly ordered them not to make public what He had done.” We must join Him in silence. In telling no one, all will know. It is by faith all is done. Indeed, our light shines forth from this quiet heart. Shshsh… (listen for the voice of God).
The Israelites moved at once from the land of bondage. The Lord has set us free now from our sins, brothers and sisters, and one day He will come again – He is knocking at the door even now – and take us to the presence of God. Are we watching for His coming? Are we ready to leave all behind? Do we follow Him with such abandon even this day? If we do, the word shall go forth from our lives. If we do, we make Him known, and so we can be sure, “In His Name, the Gentiles will find hope.” As we keep vigil for the Lord, His Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and shall lead all souls out of slavery to the mountain of God. Watch, and listen. The time is nigh.
O LORD, come to save us –
your mercy is our only hope.
YHWH, in your Son we find our hope for release from this place of slavery. His justice our hearts cherish, for in His justice is shown your mercy. O let us be prepared for departure from the land of Egypt, from bondage to sin and death; may every night be a night of vigil for Jesus’ return.
All at once you will take us from the darkness of this world into your presence, O holy LORD. You will stretch out your hand as you have done once and again, and lead us through the midst of the sea on dry ground. As Pharaoh and his force you drown in your mighty wrath, your children shall enter the Promised Land, freed from all their enemies.
May your Spirit be upon us as it is on your Son; come in silence to our hearts this day and assure our wounded souls of your salvation, which waits on the horizon.
Thu, 18 July 2019
(Ex.11:10-12:14; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Mt.12:1-8)
“The Son of Man is indeed the Lord of the sabbath.”
“There is something greater than the temple here,” greater than the Passover and all the feasts of the Lord, greater than the Law… for Jesus and His mercy subsume all these by His holy sacrifice, by His very presence amongst us. And now on the new sabbath day, the words of the psalmist are fulfilled: “The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as we offer now even daily the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – the Holy Eucharist – as each day becomes a “memorial feast” for us. Here we remember and partake of the Lamb “without blemish”; here the blood of the firstborn Son slaughtered for our sakes is applied to the temples our bodies become by its anointing, by our raising of the cup. And heeding Christ’s words to be on watch, we are made ever ready for flight from this world of sin and into the arms of our God.
It is an ominous night, that first Passover. The darkness upon the land, the cries of mothers for their firstborn sons foreshadows the horror of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and the piercing of our consciences which comes thereby. By His sacrifice we cry for our sins; but by this death are we released from bondage to that same sin. By it His mercy is poured upon us from age to age until the end of all time. For now the Passover is made complete; now the sacrifice is truly whole. And all of the old is made new as it is brought to fulfillment in the only Son.
“You have loosed my bonds,” O Lord. Each day you prepare my soul for flight from this world by the cup of thanksgiving, the sharing in your sacrifice, you offer to us each day at the hands of your priests. As it is raised and as we “call upon the name of the Lord,” you come to us with your merciful anointing, and all guilt we may have incurred is cleansed thereby. O Lord of the Sabbath, O Son of the Most High, O Temple of God and perfection of the Law, see the Lamb we eat at your Command; see the blood which marks our houses, and pass over us in the Day of Judgment – bring us freely into the celebration of your eternal feast in heaven.
As we come to the altar today, brothers and sisters, let us remember the merciful sacrifice the Lord has made for our blessed protection and fulfillment of the hunger we have for His presence. Freely let us partake now of His Body and Blood and so become one with Him who is Lord of all and master of our souls. And let us share His merciful love with the waiting world. Let us enter now the eternal Sabbath.
O LORD, feed us in our hunger;
your mercy be upon us this day –
free us from our slavery to sin and to our ways!
YHWH, your Son is the Temple where we are called to dwell, the Lamb of sacrifice of which we must partake. It is His blood that washes us clean of sin, that keeps us free from your executing judgment. With Him and in Him we shall not die, we shall not be condemned, but live forever to praise your NAME.
Our bonds you have loosed, O LORD; from all hunger and thirst you have saved us by the feast before us even this day, by the Body and Blood we receive at the hands of the priests you have ordained in Jesus’ Name. Perpetually we may now receive your graces. Forever we shall take up this Cup of salvation. Now that you have visited us with your mercy, what more could we need?
Thank you, LORD, for the sacrifice your Son has made for our sakes. By it may we leave this land of darkness and come to dwell with you.
Wed, 17 July 2019
(Ex.3:11-20; Ps.105:1,5,8-9,24-27; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
I AM has come and led His people “up out of the misery of Egypt,” up out of slavery. The heavy yoke of sin He breaks from our necks, and in its place we find His gentle presence.
How this world can make us weary! How the Israelites suffered under the iron hand of the Pharaoh. But the Lord says to them, “I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt.” And He says to us the same: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” To Moses as proof of His presence He even gives His NAME, the silent WORD – “YHWH” – which speaks volumes of His being here and everywhere always: “I AM WHO AM.” That gentle, all-present Spirit, that WORD that is Life, is made known to us now in Jesus, the WORD made flesh, He who is “gentle and humble of heart.” And so salvation is fulfilled: release from slavery ultimately comes in the gentle yoke of the Son of God. Let us place it upon our shoulders.
I repeat, this world can be burdensome. As it works its way into our hearts and souls, it brings terrible chains which bind us. As the culture of death which surrounds us in this land of exile finds inroads into our homes and penetrates our minds, it can bring a slavish weight to bear. But though the prince of this world and his subjects might harden their hearts against the emancipating Word of God, though they might refuse to allow us to worship our God freely and with all our beings and belongings… yet the Lord “remembers forever His covenant”; from age to age His word is true. And He shall not be lacking for “wondrous deeds,” “portents,” and “judgments” to assure His people’s freedom, to assure their coming gently and wholly into His sacred presence.
“I will stretch out my hand,” the Lord tells us. He will stretch forth His hand and break the yoke from our backs with a word from His mouth. And rest shall be ours. Eternal rest in His sacred presence, in the light of His holy face, is inevitably ours as we follow in His humble ways.
Come, brothers and sisters. Fear not Pharaoh. The evil upon us is passing away; only what is real, only what is of His Word – only I AM shall remain. Take His yoke upon you, and be led gently forth.
O LORD, by your NAME and by the Cross
we are unburdened of words,
unburdened of thoughts and fears –
let us walk with you!
YHWH, our burden you wish to remove, for our plight in this world you see, and take pity. And so, wondrous deeds you work in our midst, wondrous deeds in the sight of the nations, that all might know that you are God, in whom all find their rest.
Your NAME you gave to Moses, LORD, to reassure his heart and show yourself to Him. Knowing you, he could find faith in your goodness, in your eternal presence, and in your call upon his soul. And so, in peace he could face all the difficulties that lay before him; so he could face the king of Egypt without fear.
And your greatest gift you give to us, dear God, in the coming of your Son, in the complete revelation of your goodness He is to us. Does He not tell us that you are near, that you are always here to refresh our souls and make us whole? And so, the burden of His Cross is light upon our shoulders.
Tue, 16 July 2019
(Ex.3:1-6,9-12; Ps.103:1-4,6-8; Mt.11:25-27)
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him
in fire flaming out of a bush.”
The Lord appears to Moses. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,” reveals Himself on Horeb, the mountain of God. He comes to him who, as we are told elsewhere, is the humblest of men, calling him – much as He will later call Peter, James, and John from their nets to be fishers of men – from “leading the flock across the desert” to lead His people out of slavery, out of Egypt, through the desert and to the Promised Land.
In our gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father reveals Himself “to the merest children,” not to “the learned and the clever.” And so He has come here to Moses, a man whose speech is weak but whose heart is indeed humble as a child, to call him to be the greatest, most godly of men, and to this great task set before him. Like John the Baptist after him – who will be the greatest of men born of woman – he is entirely deferential to the Lord. Here he hides his face, “afraid to look at God,” and questions sincerely: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” Such as these the Lord calls; to such as these He reveals Himself. These are they “to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father.
“Merest children.” Only to these does the Lord reveal Himself. Only to those whose hearts are pure, who take no pride in themselves. In a word, “humble” must we be. “He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.” To them He will show that “the Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.” And as their lives are redeemed from destruction, they will “bless His holy name.” Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is filled, but only those who come as children before Him will know “all His benefits.” Only those who humble themselves before Him will be raised up to see His glory and live in the light of His presence.
O Jesus, we pray that you will reveal the Father to us. We pray that our hearts will be circumcised and that we will ever bow before the glory that is God. Bring the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to purge all our iniquity and prepare us to hear your voice, O Word of God. Call us forth to do your will and lead us ever to your holy mountain, that always we might be in your presence, that forever we might worship you in spirit and in truth, as merest children, as sons and daughters of your eternal light. May we never be consumed by sin or the vestiges of our pride, but be brought to life by the grace and power of God. Show us your face and let us indeed live in the light of its holy fire.
O LORD, you reveal yourself to us through your Son
that we might be saved from our sin.
YHWH, make us humble, humble as children; meek as Moses, innocent as your Son, we shall see your face. Reveal yourself to us, we pray, though we deserve not such kindness and mercy.
To your light let us come, to the fire burning in our midst, that fire ignited by Jesus, that we might see you, LORD, that indeed we might know you who look upon our misery, who desire so to save us from the slavery of sin. Lead us out of this desert to your holy mountain by the grace that comes to us only through your Son.
O dear Jesus, how can we stand in the presence of your Father, we who have become so corrupted by iniquity, we who are blinded by the evil upon our souls. Only you can make us as children again, pure and innocent in the sight of the LORD, pure and innocent as you are. Let us be united to you in all humility that we might come before the Father and praise His holy NAME.
Mon, 15 July 2019
(Ex.2:1-15; Ps.69:3,14,30-31,33-34; Mt.11:20-24)
“I drew him out of the water.”
Moses was drawn from “the watery depths” by Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his own mother. Into the river all male Hebrew children were ordered cast, but by the providential hand of God, this “Moses” is saved. And it is through him his people shall be drawn out from amongst the Egyptians and the slavery put upon them; and it is by the Law spoken through him that those who believe are kept from “the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold,” that one finds release from the bonds of sin.
But now Moses’ zealous concern for his people has caused him to slay an Egyptian, so now he must flee from the face of Pharaoh who seeks to kill him for his sin. And what irony is there that having fought one day for a Hebrew oppressed by an Egyptian, the next day he finds two Hebrews fighting! And what apparent lack of appreciation for his concern for their plight – he who has no fear of being enslaved, living in Pharaoh’s palace as he does – do the Hebrews show. How similar is this lack of appreciation to the cities which Jesus reproaches for “their failure to reform” at His preaching and at the miracles He has worked among them. Here is an even greater than Moses, the very Son of God, coming to heal them of all their ills and bring them eternal salvation, but they refuse even to turn from their sins that they might find such blessing. What hope is there for them? If the power of God cannot convince them, then indeed the flood shall overwhelm them and they “shall go down to the realm of death,” for they refuse to be drawn up out of their sins.
Oh that this not be said of us, brothers and sisters! We indeed have been drawn out of the water. Baptized by the Spirit who moves upon the waters and nourished at the breast of holy Mother Church, eating the Lord’s own Body and Blood and ever finding forgiveness for our sins by his priests’ commission, we have been graced with all we need to be led from the darkness of this world, from the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold. We must be ever mindful not to slip back into the watery mire of sin to which this world would draw us and lose the blessing the Lord has provided us to maintain us for the day of judgment. Great miracles the Lord has worked in us; great miracles He works for us this day. Let us never fail to reform our lives and conform ourselves to His grace. Our own death sentence has been removed, washed from us by the blood of Christ; let us not fall again into the swamp of sin, but ever rise to the glory of God.
O LORD, we would all go down to the realm of death
if it were not for the grace of Christ –
let us hear and heed His words and reform our lives.
YHWH, you call us to repentance that we might be raised from the abysmal swamp of sin. Your Son works His miracles in our midst to bring us to sackcloth and ashes. But are our hearts not hardened, even to His sacrifice? Then how shall we be saved from the watery depths?
Moses was drawn from the water to which he had been condemned by the whim of Pharaoh. Though but a child, he cried to you, LORD, and Pharaoh’s own daughter you sent to rescue him. Her heart you softened to the forsaken.
And now that we are afflicted and in pain, in exile from your presence because of the darkness of sin, will you not answer us if we call out to you, O LORD? Is your help not with those who seek you, who seek to be saved from your impending judgment by the reformation of their lives?
O let us turn from our sin, LORD! that we might be exalted to the skies.
Sun, 14 July 2019
(Ex.1:8-14,22; Ps.124:1-8; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.”
The Israelites lived and worked side by side with the Egyptians for some four hundred years; they had virtually become members of the same household. But jealousy overcame a “new king” of Egypt, who determined “to oppress them with forced labor,” hoping to break their will as well as their backs. But they only grew stronger because, as our psalm tells us so vividly, the Lord was with them. “Had not the Lord been with us… when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive.” And, quite literally, “then would the waters have overwhelmed” them, for it was commanded that their newborn males be thrown into the river. But the Lord was with them, and through all this oppression they only grew stronger.
The Israelites stand as an example for our own faith and its struggle with the world today. Jesus tells us in our gospel that peace shall not be found with the earth, and even those of our own flesh, by following His call. Indeed, He has come, “in short, to make a man’s enemies those of His own household.” How true this was for the first Christians, all of whom were Jews, and all of whom would find resistance and even persecution for following this way in which Jesus calls us. Division among the family must have been common. But it is no less true today that a man who truly seeks to follow the way of the Lord will meet with the same resistance, even from those who profess to be Catholic and Christian (even from within himself), because the same jealousy the Egyptians had toward the Israelites exists now, and always will, and the same fears the Jews had of Christ also will not easily pass away. The world is ever in opposition to the cross, yet knowing this, Jesus emphasizes that “he who will not take up his cross and come after [Him] is not worthy of [Him].” We are eternally called to turn from the world, in all its forms, and lay down our lives and our wills.
But we are not alone in this mission to overcome the sins of the world. As the Lord was with the Israelites, He is certainly with us. Following Him so closely, it cannot but be that He is near at our sides. And not only He and His Spirit but His people as well are present to us in this struggle we undertake. We do have brothers and sisters in the struggle; there are many who give us “a cup of cold water” along the way. Still the Lord is ever here to help us; still when the world seems to overwhelm us, we are “rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.” Still we grow stronger through all the oppression we endure. Let us praise the Lord for His saving power upon us. Let us continually recommit our lives to His mission on earth, placing Him even before family and friends, and in the losing of our lives we shall come to life and ever grow in His eternal light.
Strengthen us, O Lord,
under the burden of work we endure for you;
help us to carry our cross.
And may we multiply and spread in your Name.
O LORD, let us bring ourselves to naught
for the sake of Christ
and He will redeem us from every persecution.
YHWH, what division there is in this world! What oppression your disciples bear! Even from neighbors, even from those in their own households, persecution comes. But this should not trouble our souls: the Cross is to be expected. For certainly jealousy exists among the sons of men, and so, will there not be those jealous of the greatest gift of all? But through it all you are with us.
O help us to lose ourselves for your sake, dear LORD! Help us not to be afraid of such total dispossession. Let us treasure being bereft of all things of this world that we might truly find our place in Heaven. For our reward will not be wanting – all we do for you is greatly blessed. And so, if we give our very lives, will we not find the greatest blessing?
You free our souls from every snare; however much the waters rage they will not overwhelm us. For you are with us in our labor, LORD, and save us from all danger.
Fri, 12 July 2019
(Gn.49:29-32,50:15-24; Ps.105:1-4,6-7,33; Mt.10:24-33)
“Whoever acknowledges me before men
I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Joseph does well in acknowledging God before his brothers, as, refusing to take revenge on them, he states of his suffering that “God meant it for good.” He thus proves himself a servant of the Lord; realizing that “no pupil outranks his teacher, no slave his master,” he asks, “Can I take the place of God?” and so simultaneously accepts the scourgings that come with being a servant of his “father’s God.” Indeed, further applying the Lord’s words to the apostles in our gospel to Joseph, we know that it has been his proclaiming before the world, before Pharaoh himself, the dreams the Lord has spoken to him in the secret of his room that has brought Joseph to this position of eminence wherein he can so dutifully and kindly provide for “the survival of many people.” And so, as he prepares to die, as this sparrow falls – even as his father before him “drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was taken to his kindred” – it is with confidence the Lord will acknowledge him before the Father of all that his life ends, as well as with the faith that his children shall be blessed and come into the land promised them by Him who holds both body and soul in His all-powerful hands.
And what of our own witness? Have we the forgiveness of Joseph, which is the forgiveness of God? Do we “seek to serve Him constantly” and “proclaim all His wondrous deeds,” as our psalmist encourages us today? Are we true pupils of this great teacher, faithful to our call to live and to die in His light? Or are we afraid for the body and judging by the dictates of this earthly life?
These are questions we must ask ourselves each day, for each day and at every moment our souls are required of us, lest we die for want of the Bread which comes to us by His holy hands. The Lord holds our life’s breath in His hand and “every hair of [our] head has been counted” by Him, so indeed we should fear Him. But that fear is born and finds recompense in love; the fear that comes from the world and its power brings only death to our bodies and souls. Let us simply recognize the truth of His presence and His power to all we meet, to all for whom we are responsible, and our salvation and the blessing of our progeny will be assured. And so with confidence, with faith of the Holy Spirit, we shall die and come to life, this day, and in eternity.
Lord, make us true servants of your love;
and gather us into the bosom of Abraham
and into your sacred heart.
O LORD, let us become like our Teacher
and die on the Cross;
may we make His presence known
by laying down our lives.
YHWH, let us seek to serve you constantly, that we may be your chosen ones. Let us proclaim your NAME from the rooftops; then we shall live in your light and be blessed – then we shall die in your arms and be gathered into Heaven.
Why should we fear for the life of the body when you are ready to hear our prayers, our pleading for mercy. You watch over our every step for your heart is set upon us to save us from every evil, to keep us from the persecution of a sinful world. And we shall take rest in your presence, LORD, when our days are over.
Let us be as your Son, our Teacher. Let us follow His instructions and walk ever in His way. Then indeed we shall be blessed and have nothing to do but praise your NAME. Then indeed all our sins will be gone, and we shall enter the land you promise.
Thu, 11 July 2019
(Gn.46:1-7,28-30; Ps.37:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40; Mt.10:16-23)
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.”
We are as exiles in this world. Indeed, the Lord sends us forth “like sheep among wolves.” In Egypt must we dwell for a time, until we are prepared for the coming of Christ.
But here He meets us. Here He weeps over us and so enables us to face the death which is upon us, which indeed surrounds us in this foreign land. Even in our trials, in all our persecutions, He is there: He suffers with us, and we with Him. And His Spirit is very present to lead us; it burns in our hearts to guide us, giving us the words we must speak, assuring us that Jesus is with us in all we do.
As Israel sets forth for Egypt, he is fearful. But he calls upon the Lord in his sacrifices, and in vision once again God comes to him, providing His assurance, His continued blessing. David’s psalm speaks so well of the protection and blessing which is ours in this land of exile: “The Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever. The salvation of the just is from the Lord; He is their refuge in time of distress.” Yes, He is our refuge in this land where we walk as exiles, in this world which would persecute the Word of God, pursuing it to kill it, to destroy it. But it is even in Egypt that a great nation shall be made of Israel; here, even under slavery, the people of God shall multiply and prosper. And so it is with us who follow Jesus: here in this world of persecution we are refined and made whole, as individuals and as a people; here under the threat of death we come to life, for His gentle yoke is upon us, and in Him we find refuge and even joy in all our sufferings. By undergoing persecution in His Name, we draw so very close to Him; and laying down our lives we find the great love which is without end.
Jesus speaks to us; the Spirit is here with us. There is no need to fear. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” Have faith in the word He speaks to your hearts and be assured that He watches over you here in this land of exile, not only protecting you from the wolves that surround you, but even increasing your blessings all the while. Your home in heaven is assured; see that Jesus is alive now and dwelling with you and you shall be able to close your eyes in peace, knowing all your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, you will see again when the Lord brings you to the land of promise.
O LORD, bring us to the place
we will find your presence,
the place we will find your love.
YHWH, you go with us into Egypt; through the persecutions of this world you are with us to speak for us and bless us and increase our yield. We need not be afraid of the way you call us, for you indeed love what is right and so are with the just who reflect your goodness. Though the wicked be destroyed, the inheritance of your faithful ones lasts forever.
Nothing can separate us from you, LORD; nothing can take us out of your hand or from the land you promise your chosen. Even death we escape by your grace and mercy, by your secure protection.
Give us the wisdom we need this day, O LORD, and the innocence to make our way through this world remaining on the path you set for us. Even the powerful of this world you send to save us, for we are your favored sons.
Wed, 10 July 2019
(Gn.44:18-21,23-29,45:1-5; Ps.105:5,16-21; Mt.10:7-15)
“It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you.”
Remarkable words from the mouth of Joseph as the brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt stand dumbfounded before him, fearing indeed for their own lives. And indeed Joseph may have been justified to command the ending of their lives to avenge his treatment at their hands. But the Lord has looked with favor upon him who had been “bound with chains,” raising him up to be lord of Pharaoh’s house and “ruler of all his possessions,” and Joseph rightfully attributes such blessing to God and sees His hand at work in all this matter. Here is the great example of trust in God’s providential care. And Joseph has but a deep love for his brothers, and will now care for their lives and that of his father.
The same trust in God’s providence is asked of the disciples in our gospel. Jesus sends them forth with “no traveling bag, no change of shirt, no sandals, no walking staff,” telling them, “Provide yourselves with neither gold nor silver nor copper in your belts”: “the workman, after all, is worth his keep,” and God will always provide for those who serve Him.
Certainly a great lesson is in this for all of us. Do we have such trust in God? Joseph says that it is God who has, in effect, sold him into slavery that he might later be made a leader in Egypt and save his family from famine, this despite the fact that his own brothers have treated him with such disdain. Do we have such a blessed view of the trials which come our way? Can we see them as the hand of God working, and working for the good? Can we forgive so beautifully those by whom the trials come? Have we such vision that sees the hand of God at work in all things? “All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” Paul tells us elsewhere (Rm.8:28). Can we give all things which happen to us to God and trust that His will shall be done, is done, in them all?
Where is our trust? Is it in money and the things of this world? Do we think that these things will provide for us, will make us happy, will keep us satisfied – are these our gods? Or do we seek and accept the reign of God which the Lord tells us is at hand? Do we receive well His message of peace, His blessing of God’s love and care, or do we expel Him from our homes? And do we share His free gift with others?
There is great “famine on the land,” a famine of the hearing of God’s word and trusting in His hand. Let us come to the Son who has accepted scourging in the will of His Father and find all we need from Him who now sits on His throne. Believe that He does provide, and all will indeed be yours. And your trials will be turned to joy.
O LORD, you bring your peace to every house,
and so, too, do your disciples.
YHWH, it is you who provide for all we need, you and you alone. And if we but trust in you, all we need will be ours. If we but set our hearts on your holy will, your blessings will rest upon us – no trial will overcome us.
The blessing of peace your children bring to every house they enter, for you are with your disciples, O LORD and God, and work your will in all they say and do. May we freely give the blessing of peace you have so freely given to us. May every soul we meet be offered your peace and be encouraged to enter into your presence.
What need we more than this peace? What more than your presence can feed us? In all things you work toward good for those who trust in your providence. And in this we find our peace. In this we find release from every prison; every sin is forgiven. Let us but have faith that you are at our side at all times.
Tue, 9 July 2019
(Gn.41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24; Ps.33:2-3,10-11,18-19,22; Mt.10:1-7)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
In our gospel, Jesus commissions the twelve apostles to go forth after “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in order “to expel unclean spirits and cure sickness and disease of every kind” and bring His people into “the reign of God.” In our first reading, we see that “famine had gripped the whole world,” and the lost and hungry sheep of Israel, the sons of Jacob themselves come to Egypt and their forsaken brother Joseph to find food, to find healing for their ills. They have sinned terribly against Joseph, and against God, by selling their younger brother into slavery because of their jealousy of him. Now that God has favored him who was so forsaken, he stands above them with their very lives in his hands, holding not only their food as procurator of Egypt, but also with the power to cast them into prison, or to release them.
Do we see the similarity between Joseph and Jesus? Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Savior of the nation of Israel and, in the flesh, one of their own – their favored Son. And He who will be forsaken and sold to the Romans for crucifixion, He whose elder brothers will betray Him into the power of this world, is He who holds their, and our, very lives in His hands. It is when He opens His hands that they are fed; when He says the word, they, and we, are cast into prison – or released. By His word all demons are expelled and all infirmities healed. He indeed has every right to cast our souls into everlasting prison and torment; but, like Joseph, He takes pity on those who have wounded Him: like Joseph, we know that “He wept.”
But His weeping does not come automatically. Just as with Joseph, it is prompted by the repentance of His brothers, who have so despised him but now recognize their sin and bewail it to the Lord. His forgiveness and His healing – His salvation – come to those who in like manner “fear Him.” Upon these the Lord looks with pity. With these Jesus Himself cries. For these the Lord sends forth His apostles, to heal them and call them into the reign of God. As for the repentant, He will indeed “deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.” These lost sheep He will save.
And “the plan of the Lord stands forever”: it reaches to us this day. It is eternal, for all who fear Him, in whatever time or place. His word extends now to the ends of the earth, to the twelve tribes of Israel and beyond. Founded firmly in the Twelve (apostles), it now comes to the ears of all mankind. Let us repent even this day, brothers and sisters, be healed, and be fed by the hand of God.
O LORD, your reign is at hand,
at hand for all to touch…
for your holy will endures forever,
and calls us ever to enter in.
YHWH, your eyes are indeed on those who fear you; those who hope for your kindness, you do not disappoint. For you send Joseph to Egypt before his brothers to preserve the Nation from famine; and the apostles your Son sends forth to heal us of all our ills. Into your reign let us be gathered!
How lost we are, dear LORD, as we travel through this world. How much in need do we find ourselves, we who have strayed from your pasture, we who have separated ourselves from you by our sin. Because we are hard of heart and have condemned our brother, we find ourselves in desperate straits. And what hope do we have but to come to you? What can we do but turn to the Brother we have so harmed, begging for His mercy? And what can He do but look with pity upon us – what can He do but weep for our sakes? And so salvation comes to us. And so we bless you, LORD.
Mon, 8 July 2019
(Gn.32:23-33; Ps.17:1-3,6-8,15; Mt.9:32-38)
“You test my heart, searching it in the night.”
“You have contended with divine and human beings,” the angel says of Jacob; and so he receives his new name, Israel: “he strives with God”. Such striving with the Lord in this night which has set upon the earth is our lot in life. May we prevail upon Him as has Jacob.
As he is about to reenter the Promised Land after fourteen years away, fearful for what awaits – particularly in the face of the potential anger of his brother Esau, whose birthright and blessing he has assumed – Jacob sets himself apart from all things and alone prepares to confront the Lord. We are told he wrestles all the night with a “man,” for indeed as such does God appear to him through His messenger. In contending with the Lord, Jacob remains strong and earns the blessing of his new name. He is a worthy combatant in the struggle to know God in this life, and so, “on waking” the next morning, as he goes forth at dawn, he is “content” in God’s presence; he is prepared for any danger which lies before him. And reconciliation with Esau he shall find. And the father of the Israelites he has become.
How much easier it is for us to behold the face of God, to come to know Him whom our souls long to see, now that Christ has come. And yet the struggle goes on; it is not over, but rather finds a certain intensification through clarification in the shadow of the cross. We see in our gospel how Jesus Himself struggles. His children are “like sheep without a shepherd,” “lying prostrate from exhaustion,” and He must become exhausted as they, as He tours their towns, constantly teaching and preaching and healing all their infirmities – and all this while being accused of doing the work of “the prince of demons” by those in the role of leaders. The struggle Jesus undergoes is most evident in His entreaty to His disciples: “Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather His harvest.” Jesus desperately needs assistance.
The Lord shall find assistance in His apostles; they, too, shall carry the cross of Christ, laying down their lives for the building up of the Church. But all of us are indeed called under the cross; all of us are beckoned into the struggle for souls, the divine and human drama that is our lot in this world. But first we must be tested, as will be Peter and the apostles; for we must be tried in His holy fire to be purified of any “malice” and “deceit” which clings to us, and so be prepared to enter the struggle, to labor in the fields – to meet our destiny which lies in the heart of our Lord.
There we shall find comfort, but here the dark night is upon us as we strive with God to be made perfect in His sight. May the dawn break upon us and we go forth at His side.
O LORD, let us labor with your Son,
striving always for union with you.
YHWH, may we all be gathered into your arms, safe from all that could harm us. Help us to meet the test you set before us; enable us to meet with you, O mighty God. For how shall we come face to face with you if you do not bless us, if you do not give us the strength we need. Heal us this day of all infirmity, of all the disease that sin does bring, that waking from the dark night this world imposes, we shall be content in your presence.
You try us by fire, LORD, by holy fire that would purge us of all dross, of all sin that clings to our souls. Remove all doubt and fear from our hearts; hear us as we call to you. Do not leave us till we are blessed to bear your NAME.
Why should we question your goodness, LORD? Your goodness cannot but prevail. May we embrace the Son who walks among us, and be joined to you by His compassion.
Sun, 7 July 2019
(Gn.28:10-22; Ps.91:1-4,14-15; Mt.9:18-26)
“Know that I am with you;
I will protect you wherever you go.”
What the Lord says here to Jacob, He says indeed to all of us: He will protect us on our journey; let us but take refuge in Him. Our dearest Jesus is the abode of God, and in Him our souls are safe.
As Jacob sets forth alone from the land of Canaan, he fears that he shall not return to this place of His promised inheritance. But the Lord comes to him in a dream to stand “beside him” and assure him that the promise is firm: “I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” With these words of encouragement and the vision of heaven’s ladder still in his mind, Jacob cries out in “solemn wonder” of that place in which the Lord revealed Himself to His servant. He sets up a memorial stone, thereby to mark “God’s abode.”
Our psalm today sings of the Lord’s protection upon those who trust in Him. He answers our call in distress, rescues us from “the snare of the fowler,” and gives us refuge. Thus we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” abiding in His shadow, covered by His wings of blessed protection. “Because he clings to me, I will deliver him,” says our psalmist in the voice of the Lord; and indeed we know that trusting in Him is our salvation.
And in our gospel we discover where such refuge lies; we find Him who is the true house of God, and we are shown the faith which is necessary to make our home there. What Jesus says to the woman, He says to His whole Church: “Courage, daughter! Your faith has restored you to health.” Her great faith told her she needed but to “touch his cloak,” but to press up against the walls of the temple that is Christ to find healing. And the synagogue leader states simply and clearly his faith in the Lord: “My daughter has just died. Please come and lay your hand on her and she will come back to life.” Yes, indeed the protection of the Lord, the refuge and strength He is to us in our faith, reaches beyond the grave.
Our own journeys can be arduous, brothers and sisters. At times it can seem as if the Lord is leaving us, as if He is far away. Faith. Faith, brothers and sisters, will see us through all difficulties, even death. We are destined to rise with Him on the last day; we are blessed here now along the way. Jesus is the ladder which leads to heaven; He Himself is the House of God. With faith in Him and in His protection, let us climb with the angels to His abode.
Today in our hearts let us set up for Him a memorial stone, that we might remember His sacred presence. For now we do more than touch the tassel of His cloak; He enters us and we enter Him whole.
O LORD, we shall be raised up,
if we but trust in you.
YHWH, you are our refuge; help us to trust entirely in you. If we have but faith, we shall be saved from all disease and even death. We shall dwell with you forever. For you bless those who trust in you, who seek to do your holy will.
To Heaven let us come, dear LORD; send us your Son to carry us there. He is the ladder upon which we climb, aided by your angels. How shall we fly unto you if you do not reach down to us? If you do not call us, we cannot go forth. Without your protection we shall surely die. We have no hope but you.
You raise the daughter of the faithful man; you heal the hemorrhage of the poor woman. Into the Promised Land you guide your chosen child, Israel. You alone are awesome, O God. You alone save us from distress. Bring us into your House this day, for your House is a fortress where we take refuge and find our souls secure.
Fri, 5 July 2019
(Gn.27:1-5,15-29; Ps.135:1-6; Mt.9:14-17)
“Pour new wine into new wineskins,
and in that way both are preserved.”
“Jacob.” The name means “the supplanter”. Here he supplants his twin brother, Esau, whose name means “red earth”. Though born second, Jacob receives the blessing of the firstborn. Of what significance is this supplanting, is this blessing of Jacob, who is to be “Israel”, and from whom the twelve tribes shall proceed? Far more than some sibling rivalry, it shows the coming of the New Covenant of the spirit which shall supplant the Old of the flesh.
It is not the will of Isaac to bless Jacob; his love is for Esau – who before this time has forfeited his birthright to Jacob in order to feed his hungry belly. But Isaac is blind. He is blind because he, too, is a natural man, a man of the flesh seeking to feed his belly. And so the Lord inspires Rebekah to intercede, to see that His will is accomplished. Notice please the words of Isaac when Jacob comes to him dressed in the hairy skin of a beast and the clothes of Esau: “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s.” Indeed, the voice is of the spirit; the skin he feels is of the flesh. And the Word must go to the word, the Spirit to the spirit; and so it is Jacob who must receive the blessing, despite the will of Isaac.
And how is Isaac brought to do the Father’s will? He is deceived by his own preoccupation with the flesh, with the old wineskin. Upon eating his fill, and drinking his fill of the old wine, he is blinded further. And smelling the clothes of Esau he is inspired to pronounce his blessing. But what Esau possesses in his clothes, Jacob holds in his spirit – this fragrance is that which rises to the nostrils of the Lord. And it is His will which must be done. He chooses the spiritual man.
And in our gospel, too, we see the blindness of the natural man in his preoccupation with the flesh. John’s disciples, like the Pharisees – whose stomachs growl from fasts in which they find no blessing – looked jealously upon the disciples of Jesus, who do not have to endure the penance which is so tedious to these men removed from the Spirit. But in Jesus is the blessing of the Spirit, reflected in God’s choosing of Jacob, here fulfilled in the sight of men whose eyes need yet to be opened to its grace.
The new wine is of the Spirit of God, brothers and sisters; we drink it each day in the blood of Christ. Let it not be poured into skins that yet look upon the world with eyes of flesh; rather, be made new as it calls you to be, and preserve your soul unto heaven. It is the Spirit which gives life; the flesh is of no avail.
O LORD, may the new wine of the Spirit be upon us
to bless us, always.
YHWH, you have chosen Jacob for yourself; you do what you will. All goes well with Israel, for you have blessed him. The man of the Spirit is your favored Son, while the man of the flesh finds his birthright gone.
Into new wineskins let your blessings be poured, O holy LORD. Make us new in your presence this day that the blood shed by your Son may be our own. Let us drink of this New Covenant, anointed by your Spirit, and we shall live forever in your sight, blessed as Jesus with whom we become one.
Praise you, LORD, mighty God! Praised be to your holy NAME! For all is done in your will, despite our many shortcomings. You are great in Heaven and on earth and lead your chosen ones by your mercy. Let us not take refuge in the things of the flesh but rejoice ever in the Holy Spirit, even on this day of fasting.
Thu, 4 July 2019
(Gn.23:1-4,19,24:1-8,62-67; Ps.106:1-5; Mt.9:9-13)
“In his love for [Rebekah] Isaac found solace
after the death of his mother Sarah.”
And of this love Jacob shall be born; and from him shall come the twelve tribes of Israel, who shall people the earth as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.
Sarah had died and “Abraham had now reached a ripe old age.” Now conscious of his mortality, Abraham sets his sights firmly on his son and his coming progeny. Now with great resolve he sets to seek a wife for Isaac, telling his servant as he sends him to his people: the Lord “will send His messenger before you, and you will obtain a wife for my son there.” And Abraham’s faith in God’s promise is rewarded, as the servant is led directly to Rebekah. And how inspired is the meeting of Isaac and Rebekah. We are told they are both looking about for one another, and seem to recognize each other immediately, even from a great distance. Indeed, they are brought together by God to fulfill His promise to Abraham.
Notice in our gospel that Jesus seems to be looking around as well: “As Jesus moved about, He saw a man named Matthew at his post where taxes are collected.” Like Abraham, Jesus, too, is concerned for His progeny, for those who will follow Him – those who will bring His promise of salvation forth when He has returned to the Father. And He chooses Matthew as an apostle to follow Him. And notice Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call: “Matthew got up and followed Him.” It seems here, too, the love is mutual, that Matthew, too, has been looking about for the Lord, and that the two are drawn together by the Father to ensure the fulfillment of the covenant with His Son. And Jesus, who has just come from public forgiveness of sin, seems not so much to be speaking to the Pharisees’ complaining of His eating with sinners, as to Matthew, whom He’s calling to carry out His mission of teaching and healing, when He says: “I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.”
The word goes forth. The promise is sure. It comes to us even this day. The Lord provides for its care and will see it through to its fulfillment. In each one of us His salvation is at work even now. Brothers and sisters, mourn not so much for the sin which troubles your heart as you accept the Lord’s solace and rejoice in His mercy. With the psalmist, say to the Lord: “Visit me with your saving help, that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones.” Amen.
O LORD, call our sinful souls into your loving arms,
that in death we may be comforted.
YHWH, how good you are to your inheritance; how you favor your people with your blessing. How you watch over us and lead us to the accomplishment of your will, to finding prosperity in your presence. We are but weak and sinful men, and yet you call us to sit at table with your Son in the kingdom, yet you call us to be your disciples and carry your Word forth. O let your mercy indeed go forth to the ends of the earth!
Help us, O LORD, to observe what is right, to do always what is just in your sight. Help us ever to follow in your way and be obedient to your command. For what is your command to us but love itself; where does it lead but to your side? We are sick, desolate and alone, but you would heal us by your grace. And so you send your only Son to serve your will, to make us as your holy Bride.
Wed, 3 July 2019
(Gn.22:1-19; Ps.115:1-6,8-9; Mt.9:1-8)
“God put Abraham to the test.”
And so is his faith in the living God made known. And so we see to what faith and obedience we are called. All that we hold back from the Lord, all that is due our God – and our neighbor – we must give without hesitation at the voice of His command.
In Leviticus 5, a ram is prescribed as the sacrifice for those who have withheld their tithe, who have shorted the Lord of His due offering. And the same is prescribed for those who cheat their neighbor of what is justly theirs. It is a ram Abraham finally offers “in place of his son,” to satisfy the sacrifice called for by the Lord. And what the Lord teaches us in this passage is that, really, what is due to Him is beyond our ability to pay. Not only are our children in His hands (and any other blessings), but our very lives as well are His – all comes to us only as a gift of His love. And His greatest gift shall be His only Son, whom He shall offer without reservation, not withholding Him from such sacrifice on the cross, that what is due Him may be fulfilled by Him, since it is beyond our ability to do so.
Isaac carried the wood of his own sacrifice to “the place of which God had told [Abraham]” to travel. He is as the unknowing sheep led to his own slaughter and is a sign of the Christ who will carry the wood of His own cross, without a word, to His own crucifixion. How can we understand all this? What a test it puts us to! Abraham prepares to slaughter the son of the promise; by the Father’s will Jesus is nailed to a cross like the worst of criminals… How can the mind of man fathom the workings and will of God? The question seems overwhelming but the answer is simple – and it is but that we trust in Him and in His love.
In our gospel, “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of the people in “His own town,” He was moved to forgive the sins of the paralytic; and in the same breath, by the same power, to heal him. The scribes were indignant at His presumption to forgive sins. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” Jesus asks, putting them to the test before revealing to them the authority given Him. And are not their thoughts like our own? Are not their doubts and questions and, indeed, presumptions not like our own hesitation and refusal to come to faith in God and trust in His will and His love? Are not their fears like our own in coming to the foot of the cross and partaking of His blood?
Our psalm makes clear that our God is a loving God, not one of wood or metal, and it is life He desires for His children. Jesus makes clear God’s desire for us to be healed, to be whole in His sight – and His beneficence in “giving such authority to men” to effect this desire (particularly in the Sacrament of Confession); we must not think He is otherwise, and we must be prepared to give Him our very lives. For how else shall we come to life but by giving all to Him who holds all in His loving hands? Have faith and trust in Him, brothers and sisters, and obey His command. It brings only life.
O LORD, your Son has authority to forgive men’s sins,
for it is by the blood of His sacrifice
we are redeemed.
YHWH, you put us to the test to see if our faith is strong, to see if we really love you above all things and truly trust in your providence. For your providence can be trusted; your love cannot be denied. You have given us your only Son in sacrifice, and so we are free from all cares, all sin, in this life. O let us stand up and walk with you in the steps of Jesus your Son!
We shall not die. This is what you wish to teach us, LORD. You hold our lives in your hand and you shall not let go. And so, we need not turn to idols of silver and gold, lifeless objects with no breath in them; we need but trust in your unending love and we shall be blessed through all generations.
Heal us, O LORD, of all the evil that is within us, all the fear and all the blindness to your will. Let us give you praise for your grace among us and, ready to sacrifice all to you, have faith in your abundant love.
Mon, 1 July 2019
(Gn.19:15-29; Ps.26:2-3,9-12; Mt.8:23-27)
“Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”
“The Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah,” and “without warning a violent storm came up on the lake, and the boat began to be swamped by the waves.” The Lord saved Lot from the destruction of Sodom, and Jesus calmed the winds and the sea, saving the disciples; but how little faith either showed in His power.
Lot seems oblivious to the annihilation about to be wrought by God, hesitating to flee even at the urging of angels. Indeed, he is brought from that place only by force and “by the Lord’s mercy,” by all appearances deserving to be swept away with the others in their sin. Then upon being carried the greater part of the way, he is too tired to complete the salvation the Lord has begun. And as for the apostles, they quickly dissemble at the threat of the elements, forgetting entirely in whose hands all these forces rest. Indeed, where Lot fails in proper fear for his own protection, the disciples are filled too greatly with concern for their mortal lives. Neither has the holiness or faith necessary for eternal glory.
“Gather not my soul with those of sinners,” we should all cry out to the Lord, for indeed we all fall short of the glory of God; and if it were not for His mercy and protection, all would die in their sins. But He has the power to save us, and the kindness besides. Only let us not presume upon His mercy, nor fail to stand strong in His grace and faith. We have one greater than Abraham watching over us and interceding for us with God; let us no longer question His will for us or wonder who it is that controls the wind and the sea, the earth and the fire. Now we should know clearly that these obey Him, and that we must do the same.
Brothers and sisters, can we say to the Lord with David: “Test my soul and try my heart”? Are we prepared to expose ourselves to His refining fire? Would we “walk in integrity” with this son of Jesse, crying out to the Lord, “Redeem me, and have pity on me.” If we come to Him and lay our lives before Him, He will certainly enter in and preserve us from all distress. His voice shall resound about us and within us, calming the wind and the waves contending in our hearts. Remember that He has the power. Remember that He, only He, is alive. And by His grace He will save our lives.
O LORD, if we have faith, you will save us –
however dark things may seem,
your Word and your light are near.
YHWH, how little faith we have. Even when your angel is with us, even with your Son in our boat, we doubt and fear. We cannot trust. We cannot be strong in the face of temptation, before the traps of the evil one. It is because we are concerned for our flesh that we fail to recognize the Spirit is all that matters, that we fail to realize you can do all things…. O help us to believe in you!
Though we are weak and sinful, you reach out your hand to save us; you do all you can to bring us to safe haven, LORD. Yet there are those among us who, even while fleeing the destruction of this world, turn back to what is being abandoned and are destroyed. Why? Why are we so foolish? Why have we such attachments to what can only harm us? Why should we care for the things of this life?
Your life awaits us, LORD. Let us come quickly to the kingdom, trusting in you.
Sun, 30 June 2019
(Gn.18:16-33; Ps.103:1-4,8-11; Mt.8:18-22)
“While the two men walked on farther toward Sodom,
the Lord remained standing before Abraham.”
“Then Abraham drew nearer to Him…”
A marvelous scene. First, as Abraham walks along with the Lord, we hear the Lord’s thoughts. The Lord wishes to share His plans with him, not to act apart from His blessed one. He tells Abraham of the imminent destruction of Sodom, knowing he will be concerned for his kinsman, Lot. The Lord then stops and stands still, granting Abraham opportunity to speak. In great humility, but with the strength provided by God, he petitions the Lord. And the Lord is pleased to hear him. He is pleased that Abraham recognizes the justice of God, and He is satisfied with his fear in approaching Him: “I am but dust and ashes!” exclaims Abraham, and comes to each question with trepidation, pausing in silence before each to hear in that silence the Lord calling him to ask further. The Lord hears and answers his prayer to spare Lot.
Evident in this scene is the psalmist’s words: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord.” How patient and kind and forbearing. How He desires that we draw near to Him and share in His will. And how forgiving is He: “He pardons all your iniquities… He redeems your life from destruction.” For Lot He shall spare from that evil land; indeed, to all who repent He shows His favor. His promise is sure.
But we must come to Him in the humility of Abraham. We must not approach Him as does the scribe in our gospel, proclaiming so boldly and so foolishly his willingness to follow Jesus, yet knowing nothing of the glory of God and what following Him entails. Nor must we come so shakily as the disciple who makes excuses. Upon hearing of the difficulties, he attempts to put off following Christ for a time… There is but one time with God, and it is present, and it is now. We must come to Him in humility and find the strength His grace provides as He draws us to Himself.
There is a time to speak, brothers and sisters – a time to speak and a manner of speaking. It is not right to speak until the Lord stops to listen. We must wait on Him and His grace. One does not burst into the court of a king unannounced proclaiming his loyalty to Him who sits on the throne. One waits until called and then pours out one’s heart, trusting in the compassion of the Lord.
It is His desire to share with us all His works. It is His pleasure to hear our good prayers. But let us realize to whom we speak and come in true faith and humility; and He will hear and answer all our petitions, and we will become sharers in His promised glory.
O LORD, in the Day of Judgment
you will spare those who walk with your Son.
YHWH, how kind and merciful you are, for you stop to listen to our prayers; you desire to share with us your plans. What are we but dust and ashes? And yet you make us your own sons and shower your blessings upon us. Be so kind as to answer our call to save all those in need.
Your Son you send to us, LORD, to walk among us and lead us to you, our Father in Heaven. And so, all things of this earth we must leave behind if we are to walk in His way, if we are to rest with you in the heavenly kingdom.
But we are weak, dear God, so weak and so blind. We know not what it is you ask of us, and are afraid to come to your side. Draw us unto you, LORD, in your kindness; in your compassion help us to approach you with our plea. Without your help we shall not find the salvation you wish to share with us poor creatures. Without your grace we cannot follow your Son.
Wed, 26 June 2019
(Gn.16:1-12,15-16; Ps.106:1-5; Mt.7:21-29)
“Anyone who hears my words but does not put them into practice
is like the foolish man who built his house on sandy ground.”
The Lord hears our words and answers our cries, but He is not so interested in these as in our listening to His voice and remaining obedient to Him. His desire is that we always strive to do His will; the recounting of our own deeds rings empty in His ears.
It is ten years since the Lord’s call and promise to Abram. Abram and Sarai grow old and the word of the Lord has not been fulfilled. Sarai thinks to resolve the problem, taking matters in her own hands, and Abram, faltering in his faith and failing to turn to the Lord for guidance, instead “heeded Sarai’s request” to take Hagar as his concubine. And oh what shaky ground Abram would stand upon now! Oh what turmoil would be wrought by his failure to withstand the torrents that come with time! For now the lashing of the winds would only increase; now his sin would bear a son who would be “a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone,” indeed in continual war with his kinsmen. And when the son of the promise does finally come, his children will be subject to the yoke of the descendants of the son of this “Egyptian maid-servant.” Four hundred years they themselves will become slaves to her offspring. And persecution shall follow them through the desert and even into the Promised Land. Though yet blessed, they will not come to the fulfillment of the peace of God; only in the New Jerusalem founded in Jesus’ blood will the law given as their guide and the promise of the ages be fulfilled in God’s sight.
How empty our psalm rings today, for we are reminded by Abram’s fault that we do not “do always what is just”; we remember our own failures to patiently wait on the word of the Lord – we have now in mind our own lack of obedience in hearing and following His command. We see the tangled web we weave when we take matters of our life into our own soiled hands.
But this it is necessary to remember: by our own wills nothing is accomplished. We can do nothing except by God. And let us expect no recompense for that which has its beginning and end in the Lord. Our house will be founded firmly only by silent obedience to the authoritative teaching of Christ.
Jesus, forgive us all our wanderings in the thoughts of our own hearts. Redeem all of mankind in your blood; conform us to the will of God. Hear our cry. Make us silent before you. We are your unworthy servants.
O LORD, if we have you, we have everything,
and so shall stand;
without you we have nothing, and can only be destroyed –
it is by your blessing we live and prosper.
YHWH, if you build our house, it is blessed, it is set solidly on rock. But if we fail to hear and heed your voice, taking matters into our own corrupted hands, there is little hope for our salvation. We cannot be saved if we do not listen to the Word your Son brings us, for only He speaks with authority.
How difficult it is, LORD, not to listen to ourselves, not to be led astray by what seems right to our own minds. Your promise is with us always, and it is sure. Yet we cannot wait for its fulfillment, we cannot trust in your providence – even Abraham lacked faith that you would give him a son, and so he went in to his wife’s handmaid.
And our sins do not lack consequence, dear LORD; you do not fail to punish those who go astray. And so Ishmael will stand in opposition to all his kin; and so we are continually threatened by the fruits of our sin. Yet you hear our plaintive cry.
Tue, 25 June 2019
(Gn.15:1-12,17-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mt.7:15-20)
“Abram put his faith in the Lord,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.”
In our gospel today, Jesus teaches us, “You can tell a tree by its fruit.” And what can we tell of Abram but that he is a bountiful tree, faithful and strong. Indeed, in his faith is his goodness, and in his children, who reach down even unto this day, his blessed fruit is known.
What holy, gentle conversation the Lord has with Abram, coming to him in visions to speak to his soul, to thus nourish this tree which He has planted upon the earth. And how faithful Abram is, patiently awaiting the growth which comes from God. Here, my friends, is the Lord’s relationship with man exemplified. This is how we should be with our God… seeking the Lord, asking Him the questions which are upon our hearts, believing Him as He speaks to us – as He surely does. For such is our God to us: coming to us in our fears, reassuring our souls, remaining ever faithful to us as He brings to maturity the fruit He has planted in our spirit. No doubt we should have of His blessing. His promise is sure.
And so with our psalmist we should celebrate; we should “glory in His holy name.” For we are “descendants of Abraham,” partakers of the faith brought to fulfillment in Jesus, fruit of the tree of life. And the Lord “remembers forever His covenant.” This grace we have been given shall never leave us; the life within us shall remain. And in our days, through our time, as we partake of our daily bread, the Lord continually speaks to us and blesses us, bringing our fruit to maturity as we progress and grow in His Name. And we shall look upon our children’s children. Our own trees shall indeed bear fruit in His light. We must but remain faithful to Him; we must but keep diligent as Abram who, though “birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,” stayed by his holy sacrifice.
We shall see the false prophets of our age come to naught; we shall see these trees “cut down and thrown into the fire.” And we will see and know the rebirth of true doctrine: our Church we will witness in all its heavenly glory. “Fear not!” the Lord says to Abram, and so He speaks to us. Our descendants shall be numerous as the stars. With all the children of God we shall rejoice. Keep faith in your hearts.
O LORD, how fruitful indeed is Abraham,
whose spiritual children surpass
the many nations born of his loins.
YHWH, let us be fruitful in your sight. Come to us and reassure us of your presence with us, of your blessing upon our souls, that we might enter into the Covenant you made with Abraham and be fruitful in faith as he. O let our descendants be as the stars in the sky.
O LORD, make us as your chosen ones, serving you constantly on this earth, and we shall rejoice forever in the glory of your kingdom with all your saints in light. Steadfast let us be in doing your will, in keeping the wolves at bay. May the sacrifice we offer be holy, and we be acceptable in your sight.
Your voice make known to us, LORD; let us hear and answer your call. A faith so simple and profound provide your disciples – make us as children before you. And as we seek you so, let us find you.... May the blood of your Son course through our veins, and so we bear fruit all our days in your holy NAME.
Mon, 24 June 2019
(Gn.13:2,5-18; Ps.15:1-5; Mt.7:6,12-14;)
“How narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road,
and how few there are who find it!”
In our first reading today, the way Abram walks with God is contrasted with the path Lot chooses for himself. Though the road seems wide and clear, this gate leads to damnation, and indeed, as our gospel states, is one which is chosen by the traveler himself; whereas the narrow path is one which is found in God.
Lot and Abram could no longer dwell together; their possessions were too great and the tensions were too high among their servants. Taking “no reproach against his neighbor,” acting as the just soul spoken of in our psalm, “Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife between you and me,’” and put the whole land at his disposal, offering to take what remained. So “Lot looked about,” Scripture tells us, to see what pleased his eyes, and then “chose for himself,” again the words of Scripture, that broad expanse of land which he thought would be fruitful for his needs. And where does this decision he takes by the sight of his own eyes lead him? To the depraved, to the reprobate, to the dogs and swine – to the infamous land of Sodom, whose people “were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord.” To such we are led by our senses.
Once Lot is gone, how is Abram led to his destination – are his feet led by his own eyes as well? No, the Lord comes to Him as guide. It is He who tells him to “set forth and walk about in the land.” It is again God and his faith which serve as his light. And what promise there is by way of this path! But what difficulties one must face to attain it.
When Abram arrived at his destination, “he built an altar to the Lord.” (In what contrast is this altar to the unholy sacrifices offered at Sodom.) The altar of Abram signifies both the faith of this just man and the sacrifice necessary to walk with God and find the life to which He leads us. We know that Abram’s path will be particularly rough, as will be that of his descendants. There will be slavery and wandering in the desert, and once come into the land of promise, it shall not remain with them. Indeed, it is only we now in the Spirit following the coming of Christ for whom that promise is fulfilled. And yet do we struggle. And yet every day must we examine our conscience and reform our lives to prepare ourselves to enter that gate which is so narrow. No sin will it accept. No foolish pride can exist in our hearts if we hope to enter life.
The way is rough, but what blessed protection the Lord gives by His guidance; and we “shall never be disturbed” by the trials of this world but come thereby to the sure promise of heaven.
O LORD, the wide road of the world
leads to damnation;
the narrow gate of the Cross of Christ
takes us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us be just, as Abraham, and as faithful to your Word. Not by our own eyes let us set forth, but led by your command. Your narrow way let us follow, the way that leads to life.
The just man thinks only the truth in his heart, and does not slander his fellow man. He is a man of peace who takes up no reproach against his neighbor but gives him preference of place. This is what it means to treat others as we would be treated, for when we give others such deference (as Abraham does for Lot), you, O LORD, defer to us… and we are truly blessed. For no one is as just as you.
Let us come to know your justice, LORD, and we shall be kept from the dogs and swine. Through the narrow gate let us enter and not the gate that is clear and wide, and we shall be preserved from all evil – for you will be at our side. And though the Cross does enter into our lives, it only serves to bless us with passage into your Promised Land.
Fri, 21 June 2019
(2Cor.12:1-10; Ps.34:8-13; Mt.6:24-34)
“Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”
The call to treasure in heaven continues.
What care we for the things of this earth? What is money, what are food and clothing to us? Indeed, they must not be our concern. And what matter to us is our bereavement of these things and other like afflictions which the world may inflict upon us. We are called to be like Paul and be “content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress,” yes, even to boast about such weaknesses in the flesh, because we know that when the world attacks us, Jesus comes to save us. “In weakness power reaches perfection,” for when we are afflicted we share in the very “power of Christ,” which is all we can depend on in such times, and which comes to us without fail. Thus even our persecutions become cause for rejoicing and proclaiming with David, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
There is a weakness we should avoid, however. The beatings which come to us from outside us are indeed an opportunity for celebration; but the weakness of being distracted by the cares of the flesh and its pleasures is not to be ours. The Lord speaks lovingly to such weakness in us in our gospel today, gently calling us away from such preoccupation, for He knows, and states quite clearly, that such distractions will keep us from the gates of heaven. “You cannot give yourself to God and money.” We cannot be divided in this way. Our hearts must be set on the holiness of God, trusting even the needs of the flesh to His care, in order to come to vision of heaven – in order to know Christ the Lord and the Father to whom He leads us. Jesus is not concerned for these things and neither should we be. Whether we have or not and in what measure should not matter. We must find the vision of the Lord which rejoices even in our utter bereavement of all things of the earth. Indeed, we cannot come to heaven until we die. “Running after these things” will only kill the life of Christ in us; it is death to such concern which will bring us the true life of heaven.
All that we need will be given us, brothers and sisters, if we set our hearts on Christ. The Lord is not blind to our needs. He sees all and is ever near to assist us in all our troubles. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” We shall “want for no good thing” if we but seek His face. Readiness for heaven must now be with us.
O LORD, how weak we are
as we struggle in this world,
the Cross placed upon our backs –
but O the power of your grace at work within us!
YHWH, what a blessing it is to share in the sufferings of your Son, for then we share in His glory – it is then He is with us; it is then your angel watches over us.
What need we fear of the persecutions of this world if you are at our side? And if we put our trust in you, will you not provide? What is food and what is clothing, what are all the riches of this earth but things that pass with the dawning day? But you do not pass away. You hold all these things in your hand. And so, if in our weakness we find ourselves in need of assistance, you are ready to help us. Indeed, this is your great pleasure, O holy LORD.
Help us to depend on your grace, LORD, for nothing can come to us except as a gift from your loving heart. We shall indeed prosper on this earth and come quickly to the glory of Heaven, if we but take our refuge in you, if we but learn to trust in your care. Thank you for your goodness, which is always with us.
Thu, 20 June 2019
(2Cor.11:18,21-30; Ps.34:2-7,18; Mt.6:19-23)
“Store up heavenly treasure, which neither moths nor rust corrode
nor thieves break in and steal.”
It is clear where Paul’s treasure lies, and where it does not lie. In the litany of the sufferings and afflictions he has endured as a “minister of Christ,” we understand without question his utter lack of concern for the things of this world. How could it be otherwise with one who sacrifices himself so completely, readily bearing “labors” and “beatings” at every turn? He gives not only all his possessions, but his very body for the cause of the gospel. This is where his treasure lies – in Jesus and in His word – and he lays down all of this earth to see that blessed Word planted in the souls of all and grow to eternal life. Beatings and stoning and hunger are as nothing to him; it is “anxiety for all the churches” which causes him the greatest pain.
And now, though the moths and rust of this world could not touch him and he remained untroubled by the thieves who waylay ships at sea, there is another kind of thief who is attempting to break in and steal, to steal that about which he is concerned the most. False prophets have come along to influence his flock, and this corruption of the Word he cannot bear; so in this emotional diatribe he in effect calls on the Lord to open the eyes of the churches.
And it is not only those at Corinth who need to be roused from their stupor of nodding approval to the voices of all who come speaking high-sounding words in God’s Name: we today and everywhere must heed the call to be on guard against the thieves who would break into our souls. How strong and knowledgeable must we be in our faith, now with a history of Church teaching behind us – but how weak we often are.
Paul’s words were as caustic salve healing the wounds of his people. I pray they may be so now in calling us to right Church teaching. Each day we hear from those preaching the comfort to be taken in earthly treasure as they bow toward the god of this world – let us stand with eyes of holy light and speak of the unfading glory of heaven. On this may our hearts be set and on the word of Jesus, that all our afflictions will be as so much dust blown away by the wind, by the Spirit of Truth. In Him let us take our refuge.
O LORD, the darkness of this world is deep indeed;
but we are not overcome by it,
for we do not live in it but in the light of Christ.
YHWH, let our light not be darkness; let us not set our hearts on the things of this world but on the things of Heaven. Attached to this earth we would perish in sin – let us be aflame with the Spirit.
Why should we care if we must be beaten, if the threats of thieves surround our souls? The dangers of the world are as nothing, for what can they take from us but this mortal flesh? Our affliction comes only in seeing others fall into sin; our only fear is for their immortal souls, and our own. O LORD, let all stay close to you.
May all your children extol your NAME in the heavenly kingdom. May we all shine forth your light, even now while here on this dying earth. Let its corruptibility not touch us, LORD, as we set our hearts on doing your will. Be the light that shines in our eyes and our minds and we shall never go astray but through all trials increase in faith and come at last to eternal joy in your presence.
Wed, 19 June 2019
(2Cor.11:1-11; Ps.111:1-4,7-8; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
And what we need is to be holy as He is holy. And it is this we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. We simply seek to be like Him, and that all obstacles to holiness be removed from us. And like a loving father He meets our needs.
And Paul is a father to the community at Corinth; he loves them “with the jealousy of God Himself.” He has given them in marriage to Christ and is solicitous that the wedding chamber not be corrupted by false doctrine. “Super apostles” have come among them who “win a hearing by the sheer multiplication of words,” rattling on like empty wind and taking money from Paul’s children for the sound and the fury they bring. But they signify nothing by all their skill; they are but ravenous wolves amidst the flock.
Paul says of himself, “I may be unskilled in speech but I know that I am not lacking in knowledge”; and how his words echo Christ’s own, that we should not get lost in mere words. And how like a father knowing and caring for the needs of his children is Paul. In our psalm, too, is reflected the Father’s “gracious and merciful” nature which Paul shows to the Corinthians: “Sure are all His precepts… wrought in truth and equity.” This knowledge of God is what must be conveyed, and it is this Paul offers the people.
And like a caring father who provides sacrificially for his children, Paul refuses to take return from them for his work: his work among them is a labor of love for which he seeks no recompense. By this they must learn how freely God gives to those who seek Him and be purged of their notion that it is those whom they pay, and greatly, who care for them. Indeed, the Father knows always what we need, and gives it freely to those who simply come as repentant children. He exacts no cost and requires no dramatics to receive His presence and His love.
Forgive my folly here, but why do you turn to the icons and idols of this glamorous age to find the peace you seek, when in His Church the Father waits to answer all your needs? Do not be led astray by the powerful-seeming images which surround us in this day; come to the Lord of all, and before Him in silence kneel and pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.”
O LORD, you know what we need
and provide our food, the Bread He is,
through the apostles.
YHWH, let us not be seduced by our pride – it is not by our own words and our own will we shall come to Heaven. It is you who must inspire us; we must but be your humble servants. Then great deeds will be accomplished in us, for it will be your work alone that we do.
You, O LORD, are faithful and just to all who call upon you in truth, to all who have faith in your enduring love. Those who share your mercy with others are blessed with freedom from all cares, for in your mercy the evil one finds no place. Let all souls pray to you and know that you desire to give us all we need.
You are not blind, O LORD, to our plight; we know nothing of which you are unaware. And so let us not reach out our hands to the fruit of disobedience – let us not seek in ourselves or in those around us the glory that comes only from you. Then we shall remain in your Garden forever, doing the work for which you made us. Then we shall be wed to your Son.
Tue, 18 June 2019
(2Cor.9:6-11; Ps.112:1-4,9; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“Keep your deeds of mercy secret,
and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
In the ground, hidden and secret, the seed is planted. From the womb of the earth it sprouts, and gives its yield. We plant the seed; God provides the seed. And it is through His power that anything which we plant grows and increases. So it is with our generous acts, as well as our prayer and fasting.
“Happy the man who fears the Lord… His generosity shall endure forever.” For “He who supplies seed for the sower and bread for the eater will provide in abundance; He will multiply the seed you sow and increase your generous yield.” Trusting in Him, we shall know His blessings; and greater blessings than these shall we know and shall others know, who praise God for the gifts He provides. Wonderful it is to behold God’s ever-increasing generosity; more wonderful yet to participate in it. It is a fountain welling up to eternal life, in which we are cleansed and made of light.
But let us take to heart the warning of the Lord this day: “Be on guard against performing religious acts for others to see.” The world does not see God, it cannot know God. Thus God is termed “hidden” and “secret.” And though we are to make God known to the world, we cannot do so unless we exist where He is. In the recesses of our heart, in the quiet, we shall find Him. In the center of our being we must place Him. Closing the doors of our rooms, entering the stillness of our souls… kneeling there we shall find Him. And He shall hear us, and He shall reward us with the blessing of answered prayer, of fruitful yield in His Name. If we do not remain with Him there in secret – even in the midst of the city, even among the distractions of this world – all our actions will be in vain. It does us no good to gain the whole world and lose our souls; and all our good deeds are empty show without Him who is goodness at their core.
“He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” Let us know the blessing of bearing fruit in God. Let us give generously, knowing that for all the good we do, the Lord will provide yet more seed for us to sow, and we shall reap in abundance His heavenly blessings. If we do all without fanfare, but quietly, humbly, secretly trusting all to His care – the blessing of His presence we shall keep with us, and we shall see our works and our prayers bear fruit in the kingdom of God.
May God bless all humble souls with His bounty.
May He reveal Himself to their hearts.
O LORD, let us give all we have,
and give always from the heart,
and we will be giving with you…
and you will increase our yield.
YHWH, let us cheerfully give to you all we have; all we have is from you and so it is but justice that we place all in your hands. You will multiply our offering if in sincerity we sacrifice it to you.
In secret let us keep our deeds of mercy; hidden in the depths of our soul, let them grow by your Spirit. In the stillness you reside, and so, there we shall find you. There you shall hear and bless our prayers. O LORD, let our prayers rise up to you!
Help us to trust in you, dear God, and in your generous love. You wish to bless us with all that is good but cannot do so unless we believe in your goodness, unless we reflect your grace and mercy in our lives. We are called to live with you and remain with you. Let the light of faith dawn upon us this day.
Then we shall fear nothing; then we shall live in awe of your presence, LORD. Your glory dwelling in us and shining through us, we shall be greatly blessed. Then we shall give freely to all!
Mon, 17 June 2019
(2Cor.8:1-9; Ps.146:2,5-9; Mt.5:43-48)
“Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.”
Our psalm today begins with praise of God and the proclamation of the happiness of those “whose hope is in the Lord,” for it is He who “gives food to the hungry” and “raises up those that were bowed down.” Freeing captives, giving sight to the blind, protecting strangers… such is our God and Father. And in our gospel Jesus tells us, “You are sons of your heavenly Father,” and “you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be His image, doing the things He does.
Paul presents Jesus, the only Son of the Father, as our model in generosity. In his gentle reminder he states: “For your sake He made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty.” He also presents to us the Macedonians, whose “overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity.” And Jesus makes clear that our generosity, our “sharing in the service” of God, must extend beyond our friends. The Father makes no distinction – “His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust” – and so we are challenged “to know the grace of God” completely by giving our love to all, even as Christ’s arms are open to everyone as He hangs on the cross.
How is it that poverty produces such generosity? And how can we share in both with our God? The poverty of which the Apostle speaks and which Jesus exemplifies and calls us to follow is the emptying of self of all which is our own, and in the very act of emptying, of giving, is generosity itself. Whether it be a man of riches handing over his money or a man of great love performing acts of kindness, he who has is divesting himself of that which he has to enrich another. We remember that when the woman touched the hem of His garment, Jesus perceived power had gone forth from Him (Mk.5:30). Here is that emptying of love to heal the other. And on the cross, of course, Jesus emptied Himself completely… and so He died.
Should we be afraid, brothers and sisters, of sharing so completely in Jesus’ love? Do we think that if we give to others, we will have nothing remaining for ourselves? Is Jesus hanging on the cross the end of the story? No, brothers and sisters, we should not be afraid. We must see, indeed, that the more we give, whether of money or of love, the more we are bound to receive. Do you think that God does not see your generosity? Do you not realize that He rewards those who are His children? Do you think Christ still hangs on the cross?
Come to the holiness of God, brothers and sisters; there is no greater grace on earth. Give of yourselves entirely, love even your enemies, and you shall know in ineffable wonder the surpassing love of God for all. Such is our call and our joy.
O LORD, let us be perfect as you are perfect,
loving as Jesus on the Cross –
we will not know you otherwise.
YHWH, how shall we be made perfect as you are perfect; how shall we love as Jesus on the Cross? You alone are generous in giving. You are only of love. Help us to be unsparing as you who have given us your only Son.
It is you who provide seed, you who provide bread. We can produce no nourishment for our lives or the lives of others by our own hands. All is yours, but you will give abundantly to those who seek to love as you. All we need we will have, O LORD, and more, if we empty ourselves of all we own.
O make us ready to give all over to you, to love as you do! Let us not be afraid to share our very lives even with those who would kill us. To them let us give more freely, for they need your love all the more. You cannot but help love all those in need, LORD, to feed the hungry, to give sight to the blind, to set captives free… and we who hope in you, what else can we do but reflect your eternal glory?
Sun, 16 June 2019
(2Cor.6:1-10; Ps.98:1-4; Mt.5:38-42)
“When a person strikes you on the right cheek,
turn and offer him the other.”
“Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” Alleluia! And how do we know the salvation of the Lord except by the cross. This is our joy. These “difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots”; the “hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings” – these crosses bring us immeasurable joy, for through them we share in the suffering of Christ and so also in His resurrection glory. Thus the Lord can encourage us not to seek to avoid such suffering; thus He instructs us to be prepared to suffer over and above that which comes to us – for He knows that as we give of ourselves in this ready way, as we lay down our lives without hesitation, we shall find ourselves in the hand of God, we shall come quickly to join Him in heaven. With Paul, we must “present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials,” and His salvation will be made known in us. And we will rejoice with Paul in all our sorrows. And we will be able to exclaim with him, “We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!” For the fullness of Christ will reside with us.
Give. Give, and do not count the cost. How hard it is for us to freely give of our possessions, much less of our very lives. Are we ready to “give to the man who begs” from us? Are we prepared to care for others’ needs? Or do we hold tightly to our possessions, calling them our own? And what of the possession of our pride and the protection of ourselves from injury? What of our judgment of others? Are we ready to give these up so completely? Can we turn the other cheek to those who do us wrong, offering the pain to God and finding great comfort there, or do we need to strike back against the offending party, exacting the retribution due us according to the law? Do we indeed live by the law, or have we transcended the law: do we now live by the Law of love? Are we a new creation in Christ?
It is not easy to lay down our lives in such a way as Christ calls us. The world ever mocks the absurdity of this sacrifice. But we who are in Jesus should know the absolute truth of Paul’s words and Jesus’ instruction. If we are to be Christians, we must know the joy and freedom that come from suffering all with Him who is our salvation. He is all that matters. If we have Him, we have all things. Come to this truth, brothers and sisters; leave behind the fears wrought by attachment to the things of this world. This world is of sin, anyway. As we lose our possessions for Him, He gives us all the more. As the body dies, the spirit comes to life. What the devil would take from us, let us give him, for he cannot touch the life that is Christ: our souls are in the hand of God. And, as with Job, all will be restored to us, and more, in the day of the Lord. So, “wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left,” let us learn always to turn the other cheek to our persecutors.
O LORD, grant us the grace to endure all trials
in patience and with love,
that we may give witness to your salvation at work in us.
YHWH, your salvation has come to us, and it comes in the form of a Cross; in the suffering and death of your Son we are set free to rejoice in you. Though we seem to have nothing, though we be beaten and robbed, yet Jesus is with us, and with Him everything is ours. O let us accept the salvation that He brings this day! Let us be patient amid all trials and we will know your presence among us.
Help us, dear LORD, to walk with your Son on the way of the Cross. He is struck repeatedly; He is stripped and forced to carry the burden of our sin. We beg you not to turn your back on us, though we have turned our backs on Him. Help us to do what we are unable to do – to give witness to the truth and love of the Christ… to endure all as He has done.
O to be disciples of Him who saves us! O to know His holy innocence and unending life! O to sing with joy to you, dear God, in the unbreakable Spirit of your Son.
Fri, 14 June 2019
(2Cor.5:14-21; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mt.5:33-37)
“The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction
that since one died for all, all died.”
How strong is Paul’s “yes” for the Lord. With what ardor does he cry out: “The old order is passed away; now all is new!” How purely he is led in the Spirit to call to our very souls, “In Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” He has no need to swear by earth or heaven of his conviction that Jesus died for our salvation. He is indeed a new creation and can but speak of that which he knows to the depths of his soul; driven by the miracle of his own reconciliation to God, he desires naturally – by the supernatural grace at work within him – to draw others to “become the very holiness of God.”
Paul sings out with our psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being bless His holy name.” He cries out with David: “He pardons all your iniquities, He heals all your ills.” This is the truth which impels him, which he cannot but preach – that our sins are forgiven in Christ the Lord and we need but to come to Him to be raised up to new life. This is His ministry of reconciliation; this is the message entrusted to him… and he must appeal for God’s holy will to be accomplished in us.
Let me join in his shout, let me state so unequivocally – let us all be convicted with Paul of the love God has for us, of the death He has died for us… of the new life we have in Him. Yes, let us indeed shout it from the rooftops, let us cry it out for all to hear. Many are on the path to destruction, many are dying in their transgressions; all are inclined to the condemnation the devil has wrought in our lives, and all must be encouraged, all must hear the exhortation to turn from their sins. May we give our “yes” firmly to God and our “no” firmly to the devil, that others might know in our very lives of the holiness of God and the glory to which He calls us.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord”: this the world must know. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us”: this the sinful heart wallowing in the darkness of doubt must hear. The blood of Christ must be shown to all. Let us not hesitate to speak the great truth of God’s salvation through Christ the Son. Let us not fail to live His new life every day of our lives.
The Lord calls. The sound of His voice is unmistakable. All our sin is dead in Him; through Him we are raised to life. May this Word go forth to the ends of the earth, and may we help carry it there.
O LORD, by Jesus’ grace let us be reconciled to you –
let us say Yes to Him and No to the world.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you. Let us be a new creation through Christ your Son and give our ‘yes’ ever to your will. Sure of soul let us be, of the salvation you bring in Jesus and His messengers. He has died for our sakes that we might be raised with Him. O let our transgressions be far from us this day!
What kindness you show to your wayward sons, O LORD. None of us has been found worthy of your kingdom, but in Jesus all our sins you wash away that we might stand in your presence. May all hear the call of the Apostle to our souls and be reconciled to you in Jesus’ Name. May all know the grace and mercy you offer freely forth.
Make us simple and make us sure; let us in all things do your will, giving our ‘yes’ to you and our ‘no’ firmly to the evil one. Then to Heaven we will come, LORD, to dwell with you upon your throne – O let us enter the New Jerusalem as your sons and daughters impelled only by your love.
Thu, 13 June 2019
(2Cor.4:7-15; Ps.116:10-11,15-18; Mt.5:27-32)
“While we live we are constantly being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake,
so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh.”
In our gospel we continue to see how the grace of Jesus supersedes the Law of Moses. Yesterday we were told not only must we not murder, but that we must not even be angry with or speak ill of another. Today Jesus tells us the commandment against adultery applies even to our eyes, to our thoughts, and that God allows no divorce… And of what does Jesus speak but that which Paul tells us as well – that our bodies, our sinful flesh, must die in order for the glory of God contained therein to shine. Jesus makes this graphically apparent when He speaks of gouging out our eye and cutting off our hand: the body must provide no hindrance to entering the reign of God, and so it must die; sin must indeed be rooted out of us.
“In earthen vessels” we are, weak and mortal, subject to the afflictions of time. The trials of this world therefore do not escape us and indeed are necessary for us to overcome, to purify, our mortal flesh. We must be chastised. We must suffer. But we do not suffer in vain. “We are persecuted but never abandoned; we are struck down but never destroyed.” The trials of this earth have no ultimate hold over us; in fact, they do not lead to death but to life. Why? Solely because it is “the dying of Jesus” we carry in our bodies; entirely because we unite our suffering to Christ’s, it becomes redemptive and not destructive. “We have that Spirit of faith,” and that Spirit of faith is life to us even in our greatest afflictions; and that Spirit of faith turns the deaths we undergo to new life. How? By our overcoming of these deaths and thereby giving death to sin.
A man is addicted to alcohol – this is a temptation and an affliction for him. By the power of Christ and faith in His Name, he puts down the bottle. Who can measure the grace at work in him? Who can capture the life he now knows? And we all have our addictions, be they anger or lust or greed or whatever, and they all must be overcome. And as we overcome them, what freedom do we find. For in this we thwart the devil’s plan to bring us to destruction by the weakness of the flesh. He does not like to see our faith in Jesus spawning such resurrections. And neither does the world like to see a man make progress in God. So the afflictions will be doubled; the world and the devil will attack our weak human vessels all the more. But “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones”; and the more we set aside the sins of the flesh, the more He will bless us – the greater He will preserve us from evil.
He that is in us is far greater than he that is in the world, brothers and sisters. And the more the devil tempts us, the stronger only do we become, because the God of life holds even this purveyor of death in His all-powerful hand. We must but have faith and we will find life; through all our afflictions we will rejoice.
O LORD, all must be sacrificed
for the sake of the kingdom,
and in the death of this mortal flesh we shall find life.
YHWH, how sweet is the death of your faithful ones who unite themselves to the dying of your Son! How blessed is the fruit of such sacrifice! For not only is life revealed in the flesh of those who die for the sake of Jesus, but also in those to whom such witness speaks. And so, indeed, let our bodies die, our earthen vessels be broken, that our spirits might live forever with you in Heaven.
O LORD, despite the afflictions that come, though we are indeed delivered to death, yet we shall pay our vows in the presence of all your people; yet we shall remain faithful to our call to serve you by laying down our lives. For we are not adulterers and we wish for no lover but you alone. May we be wed to your Son in His sacrifice that we might be wed to Him in glory!
All our bonds you loose, O LORD, when we are prepared to die, when we hold to nothing of this sinful life. And so we shall not despair nor be destroyed even as we bleed for you and the love of our neighbor.
Wed, 12 June 2019
(2Cor.3:15-4:1,3-6; Ps.85:9-14; Mt.5:20-26)
“See the splendor of the gospel showing forth the glory of Christ.”
Today the gospel is preached: Jesus, the image of God, has come among us, “glory dwelling in our land,” and removed the veil from our understanding so that now we “are being transformed from glory to glory into His very image by the Lord who is the Spirit.” The words of life are spoken by the Lord; the Holy Spirit comes amongst us as light to illumine our minds and lead us beyond the bounds of the law to the kingdom of God itself. And we must live in that light, we must make it our own, becoming children of the light of the Spirit of God, “that we in turn might make known the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.” He has indeed come amongst us, salvation is at hand, and we must become perfect as the Father is perfect, as Jesus who is the pure reflection of the Father is perfect – we must allow the Spirit to remove any taint of darkness from our souls.
Jesus tells us, “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Here He means that the law may lead us out of Egypt, it may serve to release us from the bonds of this world of sin, but this guard we have while treading this earth is not enough to bring us into the promised land, into the heavenly kingdom to which we are called. And as long as we concern ourselves only with fulfilling the minimal requirements of the law (not to murder, not to commit adultery…), we will continue to suffer; we will remain unfulfilled. Jesus calls us to greater than that: He calls us into His very light of perfection in the presence of the Father. This call is implanted upon the soul of each one of us, and as long as we ignore it, as long as we veil our minds to the depth and the breadth of this call to perfection with Christ… as long as we say, “Well, I haven’t killed anyone,” and stop there… so long we will remain unsatisfied, so long will the fires burn – so long will we be in prison paying the last penny.
Jesus is calling you now, brothers and sisters; Paul and all the true preachers of Holy Church are calling you now to remove the veil from your eyes, to come into the Lord’s light – to cease to make excuses for your sins, however small they may seem – to seek perfection in Christ… to find the kingdom of God. The Spirit will aid you in your journey; He will be with you every step of your walk on the way of perfection, be assured of this. The Lord does not call us to Himself and then leave us alone to struggle vainly. He is with us through all our trials. But we must come to Him and live in His light of purity, and shine that light for others to see.
O LORD, your kingdom comes
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
who purges us of sin
and makes us shine with His radiance.
YHWH, your glory shines now in our midst in the face of Christ, and He calls us to that same glory by the Spirit that is within us. Let your light shine in the darkness of this world; let us make known your glory by our words and actions.
In the way of salvation we walk, insofar as we follow the commands of your Son and His love. He calls us to dwell with you, O LORD, to reconcile with one another and be perfect as you are perfect – to find our holiness fulfilled. We fall short as long as we limit ourselves to the principles of the law; your glory is far beyond the basics of the law, and it is to your glory and your love Jesus calls us.
What a gift is ours in Christ! Union with you, dear Father in Heaven! Let us not be blinded by the god of the present age, by unbelieving minds, but let the veil be lifted from our faces to gaze upon the glory of your Son and so be transformed into that glory by the Spirit upon us. Alleluia!
Tue, 11 June 2019
(2Cor.3:4-11; Ps.99:5-9; Mt.5:17-19)
“Not the smallest letter of the law,
not the smallest part of a letter,
shall be done away with until it all comes true.”
Jesus comes to fulfill the law and the prophets. The law watches over us while we are here in this world. It guards us and puts to death the sin that is inherent in our earthly nature. There is great glory in this blessed protection, as is witnessed in our psalm today – “Holy is the Lord, our God” – because it acquaints us with God’s justice and, as said, watches vigilantly over us to maintain our standing in the presence of God. But the law does not bring us to the fullness of God’s love; it does not bring us into the heavenly kingdom and “the glory that endures.” Moses brings the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan, but he does not cross over with them. He looks out over the Promised Land from his place on the mountaintop, but does not enter therein. It is Joshua who leads the people into the land promised through Moses (as even he does in today’s Office of Readings). And so it is Jesus who brings us to the heavenly kingdom by His law of love.
In speaking elsewhere of the glory of love (1Cor.13:8), Paul tells us that prophecy shall fail and tongues shall cease but love is eternal, favored well beyond any other gift. Prophecies speak of earthly matters and the law is for our earthly nature, but love speaks of God and heaven. We must be very careful to heed the words of Christ and realize that as long as we are in this world and subject to the sin that our flesh brings, the law has a prominent place in our lives and cannot be jettisoned prematurely – as many advocate by their lack of diligence to its precepts, presuming heaven before its time – yet we must always remember that it is the glory of heaven and not of earth to which Jesus calls us, and that there the law will be fulfilled; there we shall be made perfect in the light of God.
The law is “destined to pass away” only insofar as it is fulfilled, and therefore it never really passes away but is subsumed by a greater law. Let us continue to glory in the chastising hand of God and in the service of purification the law provides us. Let us come by its means to the flesh of Christ, and by the grace of God enter fully into Him.
Jesus is our Promised Land, brothers and sisters; with the law as our guide, but above all with faith in our hearts, let us come into His holy, eternal, loving presence. We have the manna of the Eucharist to share this day; tomorrow we shall feast in fullness on the Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ.
O LORD, your commands must be fulfilled
or they shall remain, along with our sin.
YHWH, you are holy and your glory surpasses all that is of heaven and earth. Though we are your creation and you are present to us, though you are with us even in the law you gave to Moses, and though we need your law to purge us of all evil, to put to death the deeds of the flesh… yet in such death we are not fulfilled. We must come to join you in your glory; we must find life in you.
And so, O holy LORD, your Son walks among us, not to destroy the law or contradict the prophets who call us from our wayward path, but to fulfill their voice by the very presence of the Word. Now your holiness has taken flesh, and so at your mountain we can worship in Spirit and in truth. Now we may enter your kingdom.
It is in Jesus we are saved from the death the law brings; it is through Him we find the ministry of the Spirit and so the glory that passes not away. This glory is your very presence speaking to us and shining upon us, dear LORD. O let us call upon your NAME and dwell with you forever!
Mon, 10 June 2019
(2Cor.1:18-22; Ps.119:129-133,135; Mt.5:13-16)
“God is the one who firmly establishes us.”
“Light of the world” and “salt of the earth” – this is what we are by the power of God. It is by Him we are “set on a hill” to give “light to all in the house”; it is we who preserve the integrity of creation. It is a holy call and a demanding one, and we should not waver in our resolve to follow the Lord and fulfill His work and His will; for it is indeed His will that we show His goodness before the eyes of men, and so “He who anointed us and sealed us” will always strengthen us for our task – by Him who holds the entire world in His palm, our own work will be made light.
But heed the words of our readings: we must always give our “yes” to God. Having put our hand to the plow, we cannot turn back. In fact, we should say with the psalmist, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands”; so great should be our love for God and for His life-giving words that ever do we thirst more greatly for the love and the light He brings us through our walking in them. His discipline is redeeming and freeing; and as we drink in its light, as we find ourselves becoming one with Him and with His Son who has shown us clearly and completely the way of perfection, we become the light He is. And we cannot but shine that same light to others, directing them to Him who establishes all holy souls in His blessed kingdom.
What joy should be ours as we find ourselves becoming one with God as His children of light. What absolute exhilaration is evident in Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians, as well as in our psalm. The source of such excitement is his firmness in faith; the Spirit is speaking in his heart and he is not afraid. Indeed, he takes his very life, his daily bread, in proclaiming it.
Have we such faith in our hearts, or have we somehow gone flat? Can we proclaim our unwavering trust in the Lord, or is our light still shaded by doubts and fears? If our love for God is true and our love for one another is real, we shall be firmly established – our light shall go forth.
Let us pray to Him that from the light of His words we shall not be distracted. The light of His presence is all that matters. Shine forth His light to the world.
O LORD, may the Spirit of Truth be with us
to guide us by His holy light.
YHWH, your promises have been fulfilled in Jesus and in Him you firmly establish our place before you, the Holy Spirit in our hearts. You call us to be salt and light to this world, to be the disciples of your Son. Help us to be steadfast in that call, that the light of the Spirit might go out to the ends of the earth.
We are anointed with the Christ and have His life within us. He it is who walks before us, making our footsteps firm. We must follow in His way and give our ‘yes’ entirely to you. O LORD, let us not waver in our weakness but ever keep your commands and so radiate your goodness to all men. Make our witness sure and true; let us ever remain in the light of your presence.
O LORD, let all praise be given to you from hearts filled with your glory. With open mouth let us ever yearn for your Word. In wonder let us stand before you, worshiping ever in your kingdom as your holy children. Let your countenance shine on your servants; transform us into your light.
Sun, 9 June 2019
(2Cor.1:1-7; Ps.34:2-9; Mt.5:1-12)
“Blessed are those persecuted for holiness’ sake;
the reign of God is theirs.”
Here is the core teaching of our faith. Here are the beatitudes, the call to sweet humility which flows like blessed honey from the lips of our Savior. And that teaching is that the humbled shall be exalted, that those who mourn and sorrow for the lack of love we find in this tainted world and who strive to bring that love to the hard heart of man shall be blessed, are blessed, for they share in the sufferings of Christ, who wept for the sins of His people, who, looking out upon them from the cross cried: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why has this world made in the image of Christ turned so against Him, and when shall it return to the love of God? And we who cry with Christ, even for our enemies, even for the most despicable criminal, we shall know the joy He finds – like the repentant thief, we shall be this day with Him in paradise.
“Just as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the consolation,” St. Paul so concisely states. One can hear him brimming with joy as he speaks of the comfort we find in the Lord in all our afflictions, and the grace of sharing that consolation with others. This is our great possession. This is the kingdom of God within us: to see through all trouble and affliction, to conquer it in Jesus’ Name – to find such strength even while here on earth to overcome all evil and come to heaven. “Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you… Be glad and rejoice.” How marvelously the Lord exhorts us to come to the glory of heaven, to overcome the dark with light. For light it is where we dwell, and this light is unconquerable.
Let us make room for Him in our hearts, brothers and sisters; let us give place to Him in our lives. Let us even in the simplest ways show heaven’s glory here on earth. If we are lowly and we are true, our light cannot help but shine. And for those who seek it our lamps will shine, and we shall illumine one another. Let sweet humility be your treasure and the Lord’s peace your goal in life.
The angel of the Lord is around us to save us. Nothing of this earth shall touch us. Let us lay down our lives to destroy death’s bonds.
O LORD, it is the cross of suffering with Christ
that brings us great joy.
YHWH, blessed are we when persecuted because of our love for you, because of our desire to be as your Son, for enduring all the sufferings this world brings we find great joy in your presence. You console the afflicted who call out to you, for you are the refuge of all who suffer for your sake.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy; let us be made whole in your Son. If we must sorrow and mourn to be conformed to your Son, to be purged of all sin and join Him in your kingdom, let it be so. Let us take our strength in you; in you we find refuge. Reward in Heaven is all we desire – to you let us come by way of the Cross of your only Son.
Bless you, LORD, for the goodness you show to us, for the joy you bring us in our suffering for you. You deliver us from every danger, and so we stand firm in hope, consoled by the promise in the words of Jesus. Let us remain ever blessed as we set our hearts on serving you.
Fri, 7 June 2019
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.
Thu, 6 June 2019
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.
Wed, 5 June 2019
(Acts 22:30,23:6-11; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Jn.17:20-26)
“I set the Lord ever before me;
with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
Yes, “the Lord appeared at Paul’s side” at night, in prison, after his testimony and the near riot it caused in Jerusalem. He comes to encourage him, to strengthen him for further trials; and through all Paul shall remain strong.
“Keep me, O God, for in you, I take refuge,” David prays, and sings of the confidence his heart and soul find in the Lord, his “allotted portion and cup… who hold[s] fast [his] lot.” He knows deep in his spirit that the Lord “will not abandon [his] soul to the netherworld, nor will [He] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption.” And certainly, the same faith Paul exhibits; the same trust in the Lord, Paul holds in his own spirit. He, too, is not disturbed, though he finds himself “on trial now because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
And whence comes such confidence? How can a man so attacked, a man so beaten and cursed, be so without fear? Does not Jesus answer this question in His prayer to the Father, which we are all blessed to hear? Here He prays that we be one in Him even as He is one with the Father. Here He asks that our “unity may be complete.” And if our unity is complete with the Father and with the Son, as well as with one another, what, brothers and sisters, have we to fear? If the love of God which the Father “bore [the Son] before the world began” is in our hearts now, what can disturb them? “That your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them” is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for us all – and do you think the Father does not listen, does not answer His Son? He would have us in His company where He is, gazing upon His glory – and this is where Paul dwells. And so he cannot be moved.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The Spirit brings us now that of which David sings, that which Paul knows, that all might know the glory of God, that all might be one in Him, and so, safe from all harm. As Jesus is resurrected from the dead, so shall we all be. What have we to fear? We must but set Him before us always.
O Lord, let your love live in us
that we might make your Name known
with faith and courage.
YHWH, in you we take our refuge, and so we pray that you keep us ever close by – with you at our right hand we shall not be disturbed. Please answer your Son’s prayer that we be in His company where He is, with you in eternal glory. You will not abandon our souls to the nether world, and so, encourage us as you have Paul, with your presence at our side. In your Spirit may we find confidence to bear witness before all.
Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and with Himself He would bring us to your glorious presence. What need we fear with His power upon us? Why should we be afraid when His Spirit is with us, showering on us your love? In you we should but rejoice for the eternal protection you give us in your holy NAME. To life we shall come even this day, O LORD, for we have believed in your Son and so share in the glory of His resurrection.
Tue, 4 June 2019
(Acts 20:28-38; Ps.68:29-30,33-36; Jn.17:11-19)
“O Father most holy,
protect them with the name you have given me.”
In our gospel today Jesus prays to the Father, “who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens,” to “guard [His disciples] from the evil one.” And the parallels continue between His and Paul’s parting words, as the Apostle warns his own disciples, “When I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock,” and therefore exhorts them to “be on guard.”
It is the Lord’s earnest desire of the Father that we His disciples “be consecrated in truth.” If truth be with us, if the Holy Spirit He promises to send be ours, the “careful watch” Jesus has kept “as long as [He] was with [us]” will continue. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the elders of Ephesus to “shepherd the Church of God, which He has acquired at the price of His own blood” – blood the Lord is about to shed in our gospel – will be realized, and His apostles will become themselves those who care for the safety of the people of God. “I consecrate myself for their sakes now,” Jesus says, offering Himself, His blood, as sacrifice for the Church; and Paul commends his disciples to this same Lord, “to that gracious word of His which can enlarge [them], and give [them] a share among all who are consecrated to Him.” In His name all are saved.
“Awesome in His sanctuary is God, the God of Israel; He gives power and strength to His people.” David sings mightily of the majesty of God, whose “voice resounds, the voice of power,” and calling all to “confess the power of God!” indicates how we share in that great power. In declaring of the Father, with Jesus and with Scripture, “Your word is truth,” that truth in essence becomes our own; we are thereby consecrated to it. And so Paul can exhort those he has placed in positions of power: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard,” for he knows as long as (like Paul) they do not “set [their] hearts on anyone’s silver or gold,” as long as they work tirelessly to “help the weak,” to serve the Church, they shall indeed be sharing in the power and authority of God.
Brothers and sisters, we “do not belong to the world” but to God and to His truth. His Spirit is with us to guide us and protect us here on our journey through death to life. As we humble ourselves in prayer before Him, He hears and answers all our needs. Remain in Him this day.
O LORD, shepherd your flock in the truth;
keep all falsehood from us.
YHWH, let us be consecrated in your Word, in your Word of truth, that we might share in your might and power, that we might be protected by your Name. As your Son sends His apostles forth, so these apostles send others forth, all sharing in the power that comes from you by the Spirit upon your Church. May we all be one with your Son as He is one with you, and so may we all do your will despite the persecutions of this world.
We do not belong to the world, O LORD, but to the One who has left this world to come to you in your kingdom. Help us to follow where He leads by your power from on high. Your Spirit fall upon us this day to give us strength to accomplish the work you set before us. From your sanctuary come to us and with us here remain, that we shall never turn from you along this narrow way. From generation to generation let your Word go forth till all your children are consecrated in your truth.
Mon, 3 June 2019
(Acts 20:17-27; Ps.68:10-11,20-21,33; Jn.17:1-11)
“Father, the hour has come!
Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you.”
A day of departures. A day of final words and commendations. Paul bids farewell to the leaders of Ephesus, declaring his faithfulness to them; and Jesus prays to the Father in the hearing of the disciples, calling the Lord’s blessing upon them.
“The Holy Spirit has been warning me from city to city that chains and hardships await me,” Paul confesses as he makes his way to Jerusalem; Jesus now has the cross directly before His eyes, having supped for the last time with His disciples. “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private,” Paul reminds his disciples; while Jesus states to His Father: “I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world.” “I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety,” Paul declares; “I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” Jesus says to the Father. And as Paul hopes, “If only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace” – not caring for his own life or any suffering ahead – Jesus’ only concern as He moves toward His own death and His return to the “glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world began” is that the Father will bless His disciples, for, as He says, “It is in them that I have been glorified.” These who remain in the world, as has Paul, are those who bring His glory forth, even as Jesus has revealed the glory of the Father.
The hour of death has come but “God, who is our salvation… controls the passageways of death” because He “bears our burdens.” The Lord Jesus Christ has borne, and will bear, all the temptations the devil can mount – the greatest of these illusions being death – and has conquered them all. And now His disciples follow in His footsteps, like Paul, who has “served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that came [his] way.” By this sacrifice the Lord “restored the land when it languished,” and now all are called to “repentance before God and… faith in our Lord Jesus” to know that redemption. This life that comes from His death is the glory of the Lord that goes now forth.
O LORD, we must leave this world to come to you,
but you control the passageways of death –
let all be done in your Name.
YHWH, what do you desire of us but sincere repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus? We glorify you by glorifying Him, by keeping faith in Him and witnessing His Gospel to all. May we ever preach the kingdom as has the Apostle Paul and so complete our mission here in union with your Son.
O may we come to eternal life! May we truly know you and your Son. May we share in your glory as He has prayed. O LORD our God, may we make your Name known to all, never shrinking from your call upon our souls, and leave this place blessed by you. Keep us ever in your truth and love until the day we join you in Heaven.
The hour has come, O LORD. Your Son has been glorified by you, returning to the glory He had from before time began. And now in us He seeks to be glorified, to continue the work of eternal life here on this earth. Death is not far from any of us; may we die in you and so be freed from all the chains of this world.
Sun, 2 June 2019
(Acts 19:1-8; Ps.68:2-7,33; Jn.16:29-33)
“You will suffer in the world.
But take courage! I have overcome the world.”
“An hour is coming – has indeed already come – when you will be scattered and each will go his way, leaving me quite alone.” Yet the Father is always with Jesus, even as He faces His imminent execution, and Jesus is with us by the power of the Spirit through all the trials we face.
“In me you may find peace,” the Lord assures us, bearing out the words of David’s psalm: “The father of orphans and defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; He leads forth prisoners to prosperity.” Such the Father does for the Son, who is brought from being utterly forsaken and alone upon the cross to the absolute fruitfulness and glory of heaven; and so the Son does for His sons, as from His place in the kingdom He delivers us the same grace of salvation and prosperity in His name.
In the Lord Jesus, Paul finds his peace and his inspiration, fearlessly defending the Gospel in all synagogues “with persuasive arguments”; and this same fire of the Holy Spirit he imparts to the disciples by Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and by laying his hands on them. In these, as in us all to this day, God’s grace and power go forth: “The Holy Spirit came down on them and they began to speak in tongues and utter prophecies.” More than just repentance for sins, this Baptism in the Spirit prepares all to do the work of the Lord despite any difficulties in the world. It convinces us of the divinity of Christ and causes us to declare in truth to our Lord, “There is no need for anyone to ask you questions. We do indeed believe you came from God.” And it enables us to prove such complete faith and trust in the One the Father has sent.
When the Baptism of the Lord comes upon us, God’s “enemies are scattered”; all doubt and fear are driven from us “as smoke is driven away… as wax melts before the fire.” And though we need be refined in the crucible that is our earthly life, yet at every moment God is near to preserve the grace and peace He has planted in our souls, to see that our faith does grow.
Lord, be with us always. Send your Spirit forth.
Let the ends of the earth be convinced of your loving presence
and the salvation it brings to all hearts.
O LORD, let us be baptized in the Name of Jesus
and receive the Holy Spirit
that even in this world we shall live in your peace.
YHWH, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, our enemies are scattered, driven away like smoke, and we conquer the world. His fire burns up every evil and we can but rejoice in your presence, singing praise to your Name. O let that holy fire be upon us even this day!
In the world there are indeed many troubles, many temptations which would cause us to be scattered, separated from you. But Jesus has indeed overcome the world, O LORD; by His death He has put to death all the wiles of the devil, and so in Him we may take great strength. Through belief in Him the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us.
Dearest LORD, let us not be scattered but indeed by your Word upon us scatter all those who hate you. Help us fearlessly defend your kingdom that all poor souls might make their home with you.
Fri, 31 May 2019
(Acts 18:23-28; Ps.47:2-3,8-10; Jn.16:23-28)
“He went about establishing from the Scriptures
that Jesus is the Messiah.”
In our gospel today, Jesus again assures the disciples, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name,” He tells them of the time when He will no longer speak to them “in veiled language,” but “shall tell [them] about the Father in plain speech.” A most fascinating quote is His statement, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” So great is our oneness with Jesus because we “have believed that [He] came from God,” that now as He returns to the Father, we go there with Him; and since we are thus with the Father through Him, He need not ask for us of the Father, but we ask ourselves. When Jesus declares, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me,” He is telling us that we are indeed one with Him in the Father’s love, and so, of course, the Father hears all our prayers.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Apollos, who was “a man full of spiritual fervor. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus.” His love for the Lord is most evident in His “express[ing] himself fearlessly in the synagogue,” in his “vigorous” preaching of Jesus as the Messiah. He also shows himself to be a humble man, very acquiescent to Priscilla and Aquila, who “took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” As strong as he was, and as much as “he greatly strengthened those who through God’s favor had become believers,” he was very willing to learn of his weakness. And so he becomes a model of faith and of the oneness with God we find in the Spirit through the love of Christ. And so his words are like prayers which never fall short of the glory of God. And so the Father answers all he has in his heart.
“He is supreme,” brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus now sits on the throne of God in the highest heavens. And we who believe in Him become one with Him, and so, one with the Father of all. And thus do we find all our prayers answered; thus do we find all our work blessed. Thus do we find ourselves moving as one with the will of God by the love the Father shares with all of us through our faith in His Son. As great as Apollos and Paul and all the apostles are, we can be, if we but believe that Jesus is God and so share in the Father’s love, and so hear the Holy Spirit speaking plainly to our hearts.
O LORD, Jesus is your Christ;
He reigns with you over all the nations –
thank you for sending Him to us
that we might be united to you.
YHWH, you are King of all the earth, reigning in highest Heaven, and Jesus is the Messiah you send, one with you and born for us that we might be one with both of you through the power of the Holy Spirit. As your Son returns to you, He brings us with Himself; insofar as we love Him and believe in Him, you love us and so unite us with yourself. What can we say of so great a gift but, Alleluia! Praise you, LORD!
May the Name of your Son be preached with zeal to all towns, to every soul that longs for salvation, that none shall be left without instruction but all realize the glory to which we are called in you. With you, O Most High God, may we be joined by the grace found in your Son.
All we desire may we ask for this day in the Name of your Son. And so, O LORD, all shall be as you desire – all will be gathered together as your children.
Tue, 28 May 2019
(Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps.148:1-2,11-14,Is.6:3; Jn.16:12-15)
“It is He ‘who gives’ to all life and ‘breath’ and everything else.”
“His majesty is above earth and heaven,” brothers and sisters. And so our psalmist today encourages all in the heavens and all on earth to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” “From one stock He made every nation of mankind to dwell on the face of the earth,” and it is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And so should we, “His faithful ones,” not offer Him praise?
Brothers, be not ignorant as the men of Athens who thought “the God who made the world and ‘all that is in it,’ the Lord of heaven and earth,” as “something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of man’s genius and his art.” Could man with all his intelligence make the sun or wind? Then how can it be that he might contrive the Creator of these? Such groping in darkness for the God who is “not really far from any of us” shall not be tolerated forever. For the time has come to turn on the lamp which lights the room and let all shadows flee. He who is going to “judge the world with justice” is among us now; it is He whom God “has endorsed in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead.” And it is faith in Him to which we must come.
Jesus promises the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide [them] to all truth.” It is He who “will not speak on His own, but will speak only what He hears.” He receives from Jesus, who possesses “all that the Father has,” all that He announces to us. And Paul is His mouthpiece today, speaking not what he has invented by his erudite learning and fanciful imagining, but rather proclaiming the truth he hears the Spirit inspiring in his soul and burning in his heart.
We shall not get to heaven on stairs we make with our soiled hands; they cannot but crumble under the pressure of time and the weight of truth. Only by obedience to the Spirit who inspires all, shall all find the presence of the “God Unknown” to hearts of stone and minds as fleeting as a wisp of smoke. “He calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives,” for their scoffing at truth shall bring them alone to a dark room, where there shall be no breath of the Spirit. But we who know all wisdom comes from God, living in its light are made His children.
O LORD, may we know your glory in the Word
announced to us by the Spirit Jesus sends.
YHWH, the light of wisdom you alone shine by the Spirit of Truth come through your Son. You are exalted above earth and Heaven, and we cannot approach you by our minds or the work of our hands – only by faith will we come to know your surpassing glory.
O LORD, let your glory be announced to all that all might praise you in whom we live and move and have our being, that all might thus come to know themselves by realizing we are your offspring. If we do not see you, how blind we remain to everything, hopelessly groping in the dark for truth and light. We cannot make truth, we cannot make you, for it is you who have made us.
May we heed your call to reform our lives, dear LORD, that we might come to understanding, that guided by the Spirit we might come to faith in you and praise your Name forever with all your children in the heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 27 May 2019
(Acts 16:22-34; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Jn.16:5-11)
“Immediately all the doors flew open
and everyone’s chains were pulled loose.”
“Your right hand saves me,” David sings unto the Lord this day in our psalm. Mighty indeed is His power, and so we should “worship at [His] holy temple, and give thanks to [His] name,” for He has “built up strength within [us]”; by the power of the Holy Spirit He has set us free from our prisons, from the chains of sin.
“When I called you, you answered me,” David sings. And how the Lord answers Paul and Silas as they call unto Him in song of their own. “After receiving many lashes they were thrown into prison, and the jailer… put them in maximum security, going so far as to chain their feet to a stake.” Yet what do we find these apostles doing in the deep of the night? – “praying and singing hymns to God as their fellow prisoners listened.” And God hears their prayers; they bring “a severe earthquake [which] suddenly shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations” and setting all those inside free of their chains.
Can we have a clearer sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power than this? Well, yes, because as wondrous as earthquakes are, the truest sign of the Spirit came this night when the jailer “and his whole household were baptized.” The earthquake and the flying open of prison doors may have opened his heart to hearing the word of God, but his wholehearted acceptance of “his newfound faith in God” is the Spirit’s great work. For what is of greater importance, the stone and steel of a prison cell shaken and cast to the ground, or the salvation of the eternal soul of man?
The Lord Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as Advocate to plead our cause and prove us right about our faith in the One who saves from sin. In justice and in truth He goes to the Father, and from His exalted throne He sends forth the Paraclete to prove His presence with us still; and by the grace and power of the Holy Trinity at work in our midst, “the prince of this world has been condemned” and the prison he built to contain us destroyed.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.” Let us sing to Him, brothers and sisters. Let us join with David and Silas and Paul, and all the redeemed of the Lord, and “joyfully celebrate with [our] whole family,” with all the children of our God, our everlasting faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit. From prison we have been released; with the Savior we are risen. His Spirit is upon us now.
O LORD, may we believe in your Son
and so be saved from our sin,
entering your House with songs of praise.
YHWH, you have saved us from certain death, death at our own hands because of our sins. To our very foundation you have shaken us and served to make us new men. May all be baptized in your Name!
Send your Spirit forth, O LORD, to shake this place in which we dwell, that we might be released from our prisons, from dwelling in our self-made hell. The chains of this world are easily broken by your power come from above; let us turn quickly from our sin and acknowledge your power and might, and we shall be saved – we and all our household.
No fear let us have of the world’s efforts to chain your Word, O God. Despite all, let us sing your praise, knowing the devil has been condemned, and the Spirit will never die in us. And whatever darkness may surround us this day shall soon pass, and with your angels we shall sing your praise in your eternal kingdom.
Sun, 26 May 2019
(Acts 16:11-15; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.15:26-16:4)
“You must bear witness.”
The Spirit will come and call to your hearts to speak of the name of Jesus and His salvation. As He prompts you, you must speak the truth in love, you must go as He calls – you must bear witness. And sometimes the word you speak, and you yourself, will be accepted with the faith and great hospitality as known in Lydia (who is said to be “one who listened,” for “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying,” and who generously invited Paul and his companions, foreigners traveling to distant lands, to “come and stay at [her] house”); and other times those who “know neither the Father nor [the Son]” will “expel you from synagogues,” will cast you violently from their midst, and “anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” It does not matter. The Word must go forth, in season and out.
How few true witnesses there seem to be today, for in the time and place in which I stand certainly the Word of God is out of season. False witnesses with strange gospels abound, but the tongue of the apostles is tied, and what is spoken seems to land upon deaf ears. Those who have no conception of the Holy Spirit and so know neither Father nor Son are emboldened to speak as messengers of Jesus, though the Jesus they know is not the Christ and what they speak but serves to lead the sheep astray. And where is His Church? Will no one stand to speak of His love?
Today instead of “sing[ing] for joy upon [our] couches… the high praises of God… in our throats,” the houses in which we dwell seem to swallow our souls, and we are left mute in the face of destruction. And it is hard to say that our faith is shaken, for who can find any faith at all? Neither persecution nor glad acceptance do we find, for we speak no word to challenge the world.
Let us pray to the Lord, brothers and sisters, that He will send laborers forth, that even in this time of lethargy upon His Church, new life is beginning to grow. For until the end of time the Word must go forth; before then it shall not have reached its goal. However well the devil may fool us into complacency, we must know that it is always time to preach the Word, for ever will hearts be seeking Him – and ever hands seek to destroy Him. “The Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” This call to the humble must be heard by all.
O LORD, let us stand strong in doing your will,
praising your Name, come what may.
YHWH, help us to go forth in the Name of your Son, to speak His Word to the world, to bear witness to truth as He has. For though we be persecuted and even killed for serving you, there will be those who will listen and be saved.
Ready our hearts for what may come, O LORD, that we shall not fear in the hour of darkness, on the day the power of the evil one asserts itself. Help us to realize his power is as nothing and those who do his bidding shall pass like the fading grass. Only those who hear and heed your voice will stand on the last Day.
The faithful will rejoice in you, LORD, and sing a new song to your glory come into our midst by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We shall praise you forever in your eternal House. Even now in prayer we come to dwell with you.
Fri, 24 May 2019
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps.100:1-3,5; Jn.15:18-21)
“I chose you out of the world.”
What is the world but heartache and sin; from this the Lord would release us.
Jesus tells His disciples: “You do not belong to the world,” and yet, as is most evident in the journeys of Paul, to all the world do the apostles go. The Master tells them, “You [will] find that the world hates you”; even so, they preach to a world which has no respect for the name they proclaim, who “know nothing of Him who sent” them. The inevitable persecution they do not fear, the death their work brings they do not flee, but face all in complete readiness.
Indeed, Paul is our example of the commitment we all must have to doing the Lord’s will in this world. With great fervor he travels from land to land and, praise God, “through all this, the congregations grew stronger in faith and daily increased in numbers.” He transmits the Lord’s Gospel message to all waiting ears and perseveres through all trials. For there are those throughout this earth who will listen to the Word that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are,” and that Jesus is His Son – and Paul cannot help but strain forward to find these hearts which long to “come before Him with joyful song.” So great is Paul’s desire to bring the word of the Lord to those who have never heard it before that he must be restrained by the Holy Spirit. Twice today in our first reading he is prevented from entering and preaching to lands for which it is not time, finally being called in a vision to those who awaited him. Paul and the apostles’ readiness to do the Lord’s will is related clearly in Luke’s statement, “After the vision, we immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the Good News there.”
We must go where we are called and move as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus the Christ. Into the world He leads us all to bring His light forth. Though never of the world, we must encourage all the world to “sing joyfully to the Lord,” to “serve the Lord with gladness.” By our words and by our lives we must show that we are “His people, the flock He tends,” and others will be drawn from the clutches of a world that hates the truth and into the protecting arms of God.
O LORD, let your Word go forth to all the world
that all might be saved from the world
and come to you.
YHWH, should we not rejoice that the world hates us, that it persecutes us and the Word we speak, for does this not show that we are of Jesus, that we are one with Him in following in His way? And is this not the path by which fruit is born, fruit that will last unto Heaven? Is this not the way souls are saved and come to rejoice in your kingdom?
Help us to remember this, LORD, to remember and desire only to do your will, to follow in the way Jesus leads and bring His Word, His Spirit, to the ends of the earth. Make your apostles as zealous as Paul to bring the Gospel to all who are open to receive salvation, to know the blessing of being your children.
May all souls be grafted onto the tree of your Chosen people. Let your Church increase in faith and numbers, LORD, until the return of your Son.
Thu, 23 May 2019
(Acts 15:22-31; Ps.57:8-12; Jn.15:12-17)
“There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Do not Judas and Silas fulfill the Lord’s command to “love one another”; do not they lay down their lives for the Lord when they bring word “to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” of the apostles’ decision regarding those who have “upset [them] with their discussions and disturbed [their] peace of mind”? Do they not carry the love of the Lord in their persons as well as in the letter in their hands?
And are these not made friends of the Lord even as the apostles and elders, even as those who come to them? Jesus says to His disciples in our gospel, “I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” And now in the same way these disciples “go forth and bear fruit” as the Lord has commanded by making known to the children of the nations “the decision of the Holy Spirit,” the whole Truth of God’s love, thus drawing them into the friendship of Christ.
The apostles and elders, who call themselves “brothers” of those of Gentile origin, “have unanimously resolved to choose representatives and send them” to witness of the Lord’s love for them; Paul and Barnabas are called by the apostles, those “who have dedicated themselves to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ” – there is left no doubt of the strength of the decision that is made and the authority by which it comes. And so “there was great delight at the encouragement [the letter] gave,” for it and those who read it hold indeed the love of God, the absolute truth of the Holy Spirit, by whose power they have been freed from the burdens being imposed upon them and brought into the fold and friendship, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
“I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, I will chant your praises among the nations.” With David, the Gentile disciples “sing and chant praise” to the living God who is “exalted above the heavens” and “above all the earth.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon them now by the love that has been laid down before them, and now they too are called to lay down their lives in the Lord’s love, as are we all, that friends of Jesus, sons of the Father, may ever be drawn into His holy fold.
O LORD, your love is all we need –
help us to worship you with our very lives.
YHWH, let us all live in your love and rejoice in the blessing of the Holy Spirit; let us dwell with you in the glory that is above all the earth. Obedient to your Word, to the rightful authority of your Church, we follow in the way of the Spirit and find ourselves as friends of your Son.
You do not make the way difficult for us, but quite simple. You simply call us all to love. To lay down our lives for one another, even as Jesus has done, may seem impossible to our corrupted hearts – but in you all is made very easy, for your yourself are love. O LORD, help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son and so bear the fruit of eternal love.
It is clear, dear God, that you desire all to share in your great blessings. You long to give us all we ask for. You wish for us peace of mind and heart, and you know this is found only in doing your will, for your will is only love. Let us heed your command to love, and so chant your praises in the kingdom.
Wed, 22 May 2019
(Acts 15:7-21; Ps.96:1-3,10; Jn.15:9-11)
“We are saved by the favor of the Lord Jesus.”
We are told of the Council of Jerusalem, convened to determine if the Gentiles need be subject to circumcision and the Mosaic Law, “After much discussion, Peter took the floor,” and that after he had finished speaking, “the whole assembly fell silent.” What is there to say after the Rock of the Church has spoken? And how marvelously his declaration mirrors Jesus’ own simple command to His disciples, “Live on in my love.”
I am certain that before he stood to speak in the midst of the din of argument that pervaded this first assembly of God’s people, Peter heard the words of Jesus speaking to his heart: “Simon, son of John, feed my sheep.” He remembers his call and the Spirit the Lord has placed upon him as keeper of the keys of heaven. He remembers, too, the vision the Savior of mankind brought to his mind, instructing him not to discriminate in his sharing of the Word of God. He therefore reminds his brothers that God “reads the hearts of men,” and particularly of how “He showed His approval [of the Gentiles] by granting the Holy Spirit to them,” just as He had done to those gathered in this assembly. God “made no distinction… but purified their hearts by means of faith also.” And would they then place undue burden upon what God has wrought by His own hand?
Yes, Peter in his pronouncement sings of the “new song” of the Lord and by doing so encourages all to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” He hereby “announce[s] His salvation,” that His glory might be told “among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” Here he demonstrates how the Lord “governs the peoples with equity.” The righteous judgment that James makes, now shared in harmony by all assembled, is none other than the judgment Peter has proclaimed – which is none other than Jesus’ own word for all to keep the commandment to live in the Father’s love that all our “joy may be complete,” that all may be gathered into the Father’s kingdom.
Scripture says of the House the Father builds here on earth, of Jerusalem, His Church: “From its ruins I will rebuild it and set it up again, so that all the rest of mankind and all the nations that bear my name may seek out the Lord.” What was the house of David now shelters all the nations – the old Jerusalem has become the new City of Peace held in God’s own hand, His Holy Spirit breathing upon its members and giving them life. By the favor of Christ has this been accomplished; let no man shorten the arm of the Lord.
O LORD, may all peoples be saved
by the love your Son bears to us.
YHWH, it is by faith you have purified our hearts, and it is to love you call us. It is by the Spirit we are saved and drawn into your holy kingdom.
O let the favors of your Son be upon us, dear God! His love beat in our hearts and course through our veins. Yes, let us live in His love and so remain in your joy forever.
Your commandments are not burdensome, O LORD, but lead only to freedom, absolute freedom in the light of your presence. Help us not to take unnecessary burdens upon our shoulders, burdens that would keep us from you and your love. Let us never quench your Spirit at work in our lives.
Work your wonders in our midst, dear LORD, and may we cooperate fully with them, that forever we might sing your praise and bless your holy Name with all our brothers and sisters. In faith may all souls seek your face, and so find it by your grace.
Tue, 21 May 2019
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.
Mon, 20 May 2019
(Acts 14:19-28; Ps.145:10-13,21; Jn.14:27-31)
“We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.”
“With this instruction” Paul and Barnabas “gave their disciples reassurances, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith.” Their apostolic journey has been a witness that the road to the Lord is wrought with difficulties, but that it bears great fruit. These apostles are pursued from towns in which they have preached by those who would destroy them and their word. Paul is stoned, seemingly unto death. But their trials do not dissuade these apostles from retracing their steps through the very towns from which they have been ejected and installing elders, priests, in each one, “commend[ing] them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” And so they arrived again at the place “where they had first been commended to the favor of God for the task they had now completed.” Now they are able to relate in joy “all that God had helped them accomplish, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles,” perhaps the greatest feat of the growing Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Of course, Jesus’ words to His disciples are the same as Paul’s: “‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you,” Jesus says, and adds, “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” For the peace Jesus gives is deeper and abides eternally; it remains through any trial of the world for it is not dependent on the consolations that come from earthly things. And so He can assure them, “Do not be distressed or fearful.” He can freely invite them into the peace He possesses and to which He returns, as He retraces His steps back to the Father from whom He has come, whence He had first been commended to the favor of God for His mission. He knows they will suffer, even as He is about to suffer death at the hands of “the Prince of this world.” But He knows the devil’s power “has no hold” on Him, and would have us know Satan has no power over us either. For we are with Jesus; we are with the Father in heaven. And though we be as Paul in his persecutions, though we be stoned and “dragged… out of town” and left for dead, the Lord’s angels will surround us as Paul’s disciples surrounded him – as they come to Jesus in the tomb – and like Paul, and like our Lord, “before long” we shall get up and return to our call; and ultimately we shall rise from the dead to eternal life with Jesus, coming to the home He now prepares.
“I go away for a while and I come back to you,” Jesus assures His disciples, and asks them to be joyful that He returns to the greatness of the Father, whose “dominion endures through all generations.” And so, brothers and sisters, may our “mouth[s] speak the praise of the Lord” all our days; “may all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” Let us do as He commands and “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom and speak of [His] might,” and that power will enable us to endure all things, and we shall be brought at last into His reign.
O Lord, though it mean we must die,
let us be obedient to your command,
that we might enter your reign.
YHWH, let us discourse of the glory of your kingdom; let us carry your Word to the ends of the earth. Let us not fear the trials that must come to all who enter your reign but hold the peace Jesus offers ever in our hearts. Let us, too, come to you in Heaven.
Though we be stoned and left for dead, we shall rise up again, for you, O LORD, are with your disciples, surrounding them with your grace and protection. As Paul returned even to the towns from which he had been cast out, so let us be ready to enter every battle this world presents, knowing the power you give us is greater than any of this earth, for it overcomes even the Prince of darkness.
Let us give you thanks, O LORD, in all the works we do and so make known to all men your glory.
Sun, 19 May 2019
(Acts 14:5-18; Ps.115:1-4,15-16; Jn.14:21-26)
“May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
“Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” Thus are we blessed, by keeping the word of the Lord. Thus we know His love, for thus we accept the love He offers by His instruction and by His presence.
It is this blessing of “the living God, ‘the one who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them’” that Paul and Barnabas would bring to the hearts of the Gentiles to whom they preach. It is in the name of Jesus, Paul brings healing to the lame man who “used to sit crippled, never having walked in his life.” Indeed, the same healing he would bring to all the pagans before him who also have been crippled all their lives by the folly of worshiping “idols [that] are silver and gold, the handiwork of men” and the products of human imagination. Never have they walked in the true light of the Lord. In fact, their limitations are most evident in their desire to sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul themselves, as Zeus and Hermes; “even the priest of the temple of Zeus… wished to offer sacrifice to them,” and Barnabas and Paul must shout at them “frantically”: “We are bringing you the Good News that will convert you from just such follies as these”!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory” is our psalmist’s refrain today, and the same is exclaimed by Barnabas and Paul: “We are only men, human like you.” Worship the living God! is their exhortation. And Jesus Himself speaks in the same humility and with the same deference to the Father: “The word you hear is not mine, it comes from the Father who sent me.” All comes from the Father and must return to Him; and so we are all encouraged to make our home with Him alone.
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.” He wills to love all, to bless all, to make His home with all. To find our homes with Him, to know the blessed love the living God has for all His creatures, we must listen to the instruction of His Son, to the Holy Spirit the Father now sends in His name, and to the ones who are sent to preach the truth of the living God. May the light of His face shine upon you.
O LORD, let us keep your commands
and so live in your surpassing love.
YHWH, you come to all who love your Son and keep the Word He imparts to us. It is this Word that brings us love, and all who cherish love, cherish it, and so find your presence. May you be revealed to all souls in your only Son.
Help all wayward people to turn from vain worship to know you, O living and true God. May all your creatures give you due praise, turning resolutely from the work of their hands. Glory abides with you alone; may we find that glory by obedience to your call to love.
Let us dwell with you, O LORD; come, we pray, to dwell in us. Help us indeed to keep your commands, which are but life for our souls. Your Spirit be with us this day to lead us to all truth in your Son’s Name, that we might do your will in strength, proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all men. O let us rise from the dust to live in your Heaven!
Fri, 17 May 2019
(Acts 13:44-52; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.14:7-14)
“I have made you a light to the nations,
a means of salvation to the ends of the earth.”
In the preaching of Paul today is fulfilled the words of our psalm, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” Rejected by the Jews to whom he comes, he “now turn[s] to the Gentiles,” and – fulfilling the words of our psalm which read, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands, break into song; sing praise” – our first reading tells us “the Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and responded to the word of the Lord with praise.” Thus does the light of the Lord’s salvation go out to the ends of the earth.
And our gospel makes clear just how salvation comes to all. First Jesus declares with wonderful clarity the oneness of the Son and the Father. When asked by Philip, “Show us the Father,” Jesus responds, “After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?” Notice that Philip’s request refers to the Father but Jesus’ response refers to the Son, as if to ask of one is to ask of the other. The Lord then states the truth of His oneness with the living God in plain terms: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” There is no separation here, and all that Jesus does is done by the Father, so the living Lord of the universe is at work in absolute fashion through the Son’s words and works. In Him the Father’s will of love, His desire to save His children from sin and death, is accomplished.
But more than this is made evident of the working of salvation, for the Word must reach to the ends of the earth. How is this accomplished? The Lord again declares with absolute clarity the oneness now of Himself and His disciples. In order “to glorify the Father in the Son,” He makes them the solemn promise, “The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.” And the oneness of Jesus and His disciples is made more poignant in His definitive statement: “Anything you ask me in my name I will do.” Who does these works of the Lord? Who brings His salvation forth? We do the works, do we not? We are those still on this earth with flesh and bone and voices. Yet He says “I will do” them to show how He works through us in all we do, to reveal our oneness with Him and the Father.
Our first reading tells us, “Almost the entire city gathered to hear the word of God” when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch in Pisidia. In this simple line is shown both that the salvation of the Lord is going forth to all, and that it is occurring through His disciples. For it is indeed “the word of God” that Paul the apostle speaks and not his own, and this Word is irresistible in its truth and love to all hearts open to hear the voice of Him who speaks, for this Word brings only joy.
O LORD, looking upon your Son we see you;
when others look at us may they see Jesus.
YHWH, you live in your Son, accomplishing your works, and He in His turn works through us. What grace and blessing you grant all your disciples, that we might share in your very life and work! Alleluia!
And this grace and blessing extends to all throughout the earth; all may know the salvation wrought in men by the only Son. And so, what can we do but sing to you in joy, for your light is with us even in the persecution your Word brings.
O let us be one with you, dear God, even as Jesus is one with you. To your side let us, too, come; this is your will now that you have revealed yourself to us in your Son. May we say in truth, He is in us and so we in you. No separation let us know from your surpassing glory.
I pray, O LORD, even the words on this page be spoken not of myself but by you, that your work be accomplished in this poor servant.
Thu, 16 May 2019
(Acts 13:26-33; Ps.2:6-11; Jn.14:1-6)
“You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.”
This same verse appearing in both our first reading and our psalm is spoken also by Jesus in our gospel when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me,” for such is the Son begotten of the Father.
How comforting are Jesus’ words in our gospel, and how enlightening Paul’s speech. The disciples’ hearts are troubled at the Lord’s speaking of His imminent departure; that He must die begins to sink in to them. But the only Son tells them, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” and, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you.” Not only this, He also promises, “I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” The words come like a river of peace, like a wind of love breathing upon them, and upon us. And the same message is spoken by Paul to “the children of the family of Abraham and [all] others who reverence our God.” His is “this message of salvation,” that though the rulers condemned Him to death and “laid Him in a tomb,” “yet God raised [Jesus] from the dead.” And now His witnesses, those to whom He appeared thereafter, declare the Good News of His resurrection, and our own. “The words of the prophets which we read sabbath after sabbath” and “what God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, in raising up Jesus.” This is the word Paul brings to the waiting ears of his Jewish brothers, and which should be heard by us all.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” brothers and sisters. The Lord is near and is calling us to His home. Even as we speak He is preparing a place for us. The death that you experience day to day is passing away, and all that will be known is the truth, the life of God the Father. The Lord declares, “I myself have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain,” and Jesus is that King for all ages and all peoples. With His truth He shatters kings, and so death itself, “like an earthen dish”; He takes “the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for [His] possession.” He has died, but He is risen, and now all must “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice before Him.” There is no breaking in to the place He prepares for us to dwell.
The devil has been defeated by the Son begotten of the Father; his house has come crumbling down. We need but follow the way Jesus is to find our home in the New Jerusalem. Death no longer holds dominion, for the Son is now come.
O LORD, you have begotten Jesus
and raised Him from the grave we have made
that we might be saved,
that we might dwell with you forever – Alleluia!
YHWH, may we come to you through Jesus your Son; may we follow in His way, for His way is truth and leads to life, and leads to you. O may we be resurrected from the dead with Him that we might come to new life with you who are Life itself.
Let us not be troubled, LORD, by the death Jesus had to die, and the death we too must know. What is this world and the things of this world in comparison with you? What can this world do to us if we have Jesus as our guide? For He shatters the powers of evil like an earthen dish and raises all the faithful from the tomb. Let us come to the dwelling He prepares for us in your heavenly kingdom.
Though He has died, He has been raised, and we shall be raised with Him, all according to your will, Father God. And on Zion we shall find our home with your eternal King.
Wed, 15 May 2019
(Acts 13:13-35; Ps.89:2-3,21-22,25,27; Jn.13:16-20)
“He who accepts anyone I send accepts me,
and in accepting me accepts Him who sent me.”
And who is this Jesus who sends apostles like Paul forth traveling from Syria to Cyprus to Asia Minor? Who is He of whom Paul rises to speak in this distant synagogue? Two quotes I offer for your consideration. First is the Baptist’s declaration, “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals”(Lk.3:16). The second is the mere statement of fact that He “washed the feet of the disciples.” And so with two questions I will tell you who He is: Tell me, who is worthy to unfasten His sandals? Then tell me, whose feet does He not wash? Mary washed His feet with her tears and her hair and knew herself nothing but unworthy to touch Him (Lk.7:38). Jesus stoops to cleanse the feet of even Judas, His betraying apostle, who will kiss Him on the cheek, but to whom He shall turn the other one. He heals lepers; children come to Him – none is beyond His humble reach. Yet this man with the towel around His waist is none other than the Son of God.
The Israelites awaited His coming. Hundreds of years they expected Him. Paul tells us that “God testified, ‘I have found David son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart who will fulfill my every wish,” and in this Son of David the Father’s every wish is indeed fulfilled. Here is the “Savior for Israel.” It is of this Christ the Lord speaks when He says, “With my holy oil I have anointed Him, that my hand may be always with Him, and that my arm may make Him strong.” And He in turn says of the Lord, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior.” So obedient is Jesus to the Father that there is none for whom He will not die; for all He shall drink the cup the Father offers, that the whole world might know the Father’s love. Here is the great “I AM”, “the fulfillment of Scripture,” the WORD made flesh, the image of the living God: Jesus, Son of David, Son of God – God Himself dwelling among us. And as He was Chosen, so He now chooses, instructing men to go forth.
Do “you know all these things”? Do you see who He is and hear the words He speaks? Then “blest will you be if you put them into practice.” For in humble service of the Name of God, with Him you shall “be exalted.” Bring forth His message of love.
O LORD, obedience to the Church
is obedience to your Son,
and obedience to your Son is obedience to you –
may we all be as faithful as Jesus.
YHWH, may we be men after your own heart, men formed in the image of Jesus and so reflecting your glory – may we be worthy to be called your sons. O let us never raise our heel against you but ever put into practice your humble love.
O LORD, you call us to serve as you called David; you anoint us with oil even as your only Son. Let us, too, be sons of David, calling you our God, our Rock, our Father – in the image of Jesus let us indeed be formed.
None is worthy to unfasten the sandals of our Savior. None of your poor creatures could even touch your Son. Yet He comes to wash our feet, to touch us with your merciful love. Help us, O LORD, to imitate Him; help us to reveal your glory in the service we show one another. Help us ever to declare your faithfulness, made known in your only Son.
Tue, 14 May 2019
(Acts 12:24-13:5; Ps.67:2-6,8; Jn.12:44-50)
“Set apart Barnabas and Saul for me,
to do the work for which I have called them.”
These words came to the Church at Antioch “while they were engaged in the liturgy of the Lord and fasting”; spoken by the Holy Spirit, they show how intimately the Church and her apostles are connected to the Lord Jesus and His Father.
In John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims, “The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to speak.” Jesus is sent by the Father. He is the image of the Father: “Whoever looks on me is seeing Him who sent me.” In the same way, Barnabas and Saul are “sent forth by the Holy Spirit” through the ministry of the Church, who “imposed hands on them and sent them off” to proclaim the word of God. Jesus is sent by the Father. Jesus speaks in the Holy Spirit the words of everlasting life. Hearing these words His children, His Church, go forth to the ends of the earth. There is absolute unity in the Church and all its members, as long as we are as obedient as Jesus, our Head, who declares, “Whatever I say is spoken just as He instructed”; as long as we are as faithful to the Spirit’s prompting as Jesus is to the Father’s will, we shall reflect His glory as He reflects the Father.
And what is the glory of the Son of God but to bring light to this dark world: “I have come to the world as its light, to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the dark.” The words He speaks, the instruction He offers and the sacrifice He makes, indeed bring spirit and life to those who listen and obey. He is true when He says He has not come to condemn but to save, for the world is already condemned by its sin and His words would bring it to life. And so, if we reject His words, we reject the lifeline He provides, and what hope can there be for us? If instead of asking that “He let His face shine upon us” and celebrating in joy the salvation that comes “among all nations” – if we do not seek the holy light of God, where else shall we find eternal life? “His commandment means eternal life”; all other words lead to destruction. We must follow the Lord and His way.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious to us that we are called even as Barnabas and Saul and the first Christians in the city of Antioch. The Spirit of God remains upon the Church, and He would send us forth in Jesus’ name to do the work and will of the Father. Do not reject His call upon your soul; put faith in Jesus and in Him who sent Him, and the Spirit will lead you forth.
O LORD, you speak through your Son
and call His apostles to proclaim your Word
to the ends of the earth – Alleluia!
YHWH, send us forth in the Holy Spirit; in the Name of your Son let us preach to the nations. Let us be a reflection of Him as He is the pure reflection of you. He brings your light to us by His presence among us – may we be His presence in this world that your light might shine unto all.
In your Son we see you, O LORD. Though you are hidden from all human eyes, Jesus gives us new vision. He indeed is Light itself and looking upon Him we see anew: our minds are illumined to look upon you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia!
For this great gift let us praise you, LORD. By this great blessing to us you are made known. Help us to declare to all what you reveal to us, to make you known even to the ends of the world. Your salvation come to all nations.
By faith in your Son we are saved and brought into your presence. Your Spirit be with us even this day to accomplish your mission.
Sun, 12 May 2019
(Acts 11:1-18; Ps.41:3,42:2-3,43:3-4; Jn.10:1-10 or Jn.10:11-18)
“God has granted life-giving repentance even to the Gentiles.”
In his vision Peter sees “an object like a big canvas… lowered down to [him] from the sky by its four corners.” Upon it he discerns “four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.” Like Noah’s ark it seems to contain all the animals upon it. But these animals he sees are not for the good Jew to eat: they are unclean. And so Peter protests when instructed to “slaughter, then eat.” But he is assured (and three times), “What God has purified you are not to call unclean,” even as “the canvas with everything in it was drawn up again into the sky.”
What is this shepherd to do – he who has been told by the Lord, “Feed my sheep”? When the uncircumcised come to him seeking salvation, how can he turn away? And so, as the canvas which came from the sky and returned to the sky, we learn that everything comes from God and returns to Him, and He calls whom He will. And so the Gentile man whose home Peter enters by the Spirit’s direction is “saved, and all [his] household.” “As [Peter] began to address them the Holy Spirit came upon them,” for they, too, “believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, even these thirst for God “as the hind [who] longs for the running waters,” and so are led to the Lord’s “holy mountain, to His dwelling place”; even these “go in to the altar of God.” For these unclean creatures are made as the pure and obedient sheep of Israel, heeding the Good Shepherd’s voice. Here are “the other sheep that do not belong to this fold” of which Jesus speaks, whom He leads, too, by His loving word.
All that He calls shall come to Him who lays down His life for the sake of the fold, by whom all “have life and have it to the full.” All living creatures are His own, for it is He who is the living God; and all who live, live for Him and through Him alone. The Son has come from the Father that we might know Him as He knows Him, and so that we might indeed have life. As good sheep let us follow in His way, and lead those behind us also to salvation. Let us all “go and behold the face of God” as we turn from anything that makes us unclean in His sight and listen for His voice leading our pure hearts.
O LORD, open the gate that we might enter in
and dwell in your presence.
YHWH, let all hear and heed the voice of your Son, who is the true Shepherd leading repentant souls to salvation. Send your apostles into every house that all might hear the call of Jesus, be purged in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and come to dwell in your House, beholding your holy face.
Let us be led forth by the Christ to your mountain, O God. Make us one flock in Him, all as your blessed children. O let us be as sheep slaughtered for your table, joining your Son on the altar of sacrifice; by His voice let us be cut to the heart and in our repentance become a holy offering to you.
False prophets keep far from us, dear LORD, those who work but for pay, who care nothing for your flock. In the Spirit send forth disciples to lead to running water those who thirst for you, O living God.
Fri, 10 May 2019
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; Jn.6:16-21)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him,
upon those who hope for His kindness.”
As the apostles set out to cross the lake, “it was dark, and Jesus had still not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.” As they struggled to row and keep afloat, “they sighted Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.” They had not expected their prayers for assistance and their wishes that Jesus was with them to be answered so remarkably, and so they must have wondered if He was a ghost. But He assures them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (And these eternal words of comfort and peace come to rest upon His Church.) The disciples of the Lord now were ready “to take Him into the boat, but suddenly it came aground on the shore they had been approaching.” He is with you, brothers and sisters, be assured, and will bring you to the home you seek, despite the storms you may face.
In our first reading, the eyes of the widows must have been looking to the Lord, wishing that He were with them to provide for them. In this case, “the Twelve assembled the community of disciples,” and though they do not enter the boat themselves, do not “wait on the tables” to address the tumult that had arisen between the factions, they provide what is needed to calm the winds and see this boat ashore by laying hands on “deeply spiritual and prudent” men chosen from their own. And so, “the word of God continued to spread” through the apostles’ concentration “on prayer and [their] ministry,” “while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.” So the widows are fed as the Word is spread; so the boat comes aground on the land it approaches.
Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters. In all things He is there, working. He ministers to us always as the head of His Church through the hands and hearts and voices of all His disciples. And each to his own call, and this ship shall find its port assured. And all shall sing His praises as they see in us and we know in Him that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” His eyes are upon us. Do not be afraid.
O LORD, let us live and act
as if we believe in your Son;
let us do the things He has done.
YHWH, you have loosed our bonds and raised us from death by the sacrifice of your Son, and in His Name all are now saved from their sins and consecrated to you. Help us to believe the words He speaks, to be of the Spirit and life and not the flesh. O let us come to you!
O LORD, let our faith not be shaken by the demands of your Son, by the challenge He offers us to believe and so come to life in His Name. Let your Church flourish and grow in fear of you and the consolation of the Spirit. Yes, let all be converted to love of you and serve to do your will in this world, till all come to dwell eternally in your kingdom.
This day we take up the cup of salvation and declare your praise, O LORD. This day let us fulfill our vows to you, that in your sight our death might be blessed and we be raised to life with you.
Thu, 9 May 2019
(Acts 9:1-20; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Jn.6:52-59)
“My flesh is real food and my blood real drink.”
And “the man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.”
The truth is simply stated to those who wonder at His words today in our gospel. As the Israelites in the desert asked, “What is this?” when presented with manna as their food, so now the Jews say, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” For those who do not believe, it is impossible; but for those who believe, it is the gift of God.
Here is the Bread of Life in our midst, as real as the Light which shone around Saul and knocked him off his horse; as real as the voice which spoke aloud to his soul. This bread and wine on the table of the Lord, this great grace upon His altar of sacrifice, is indeed that which feeds us, that which sustains us – that which makes Him most present to us. Our first reading says of Saul that “his strength returned to him after he had taken food.” For three days he had fasted in darkness, experiencing the absolute blindness of his life as persecutor of the Church. Then Ananias laid his hands on him and he recovered his sight. Then he was baptized. Then he could come to the table of the Lord our God and gain the strength “to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.” Yes, the Scripture refers in fact but to ordinary food, but indeed it indicates the “real food” Saul shall soon come to know and find his spirit through.
“The man who feeds on me will have life because of me.” He will become one with the Son as He is with the Father. And he, too, the Lord will be speaking of when He asks, “Why are you persecuting me?” By this Bread we become so one with our God, and with Him we suffer for His Name. “I myself shall indicate to him how much he will have to suffer for my name,” Jesus says to Ananias. And so the disciple is convinced that this man who has done nothing but harm to God’s holy people is truly being called to come to the Lord of all. It is through such suffering that discipleship comes, as it is through His sacrifice we have this food upon our table.
Eat His Body, dear brothers and sisters. Drink His Blood. Let us share together this day this gift of oneness with our God. And let us be strong; and let us bleed with Him upon the cross, to bring His Name to all. “The fidelity of the Lord endures forever,” and He shall never leave us orphaned. He shall feed us forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread that is your Son,
that we might have strength to do your will.
YHWH, how shall we come to see that your Son is the Bread of Life and we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life in us, to be united with Him as He is to you? We have scales upon our eyes and upon our hearts – how shall they fall away and our souls open to receive your Word? Send your disciples forth to lay their hands on all blinded men.
There are those still who persecute your Church, thinking they are acting in your Name, O LORD. There are many who cannot but harden their hearts to your gracious gift to them. Help all souls to accept your Son and see that it is His Body that acts in your Name. Help all come to the table of sacrifice and eat His flesh and drink His blood, that they too might proclaim Jesus as your Son.
From our horses we all need to fall; your light we need to shine about us. Let us hear your voice, O LORD, and be obedient to its commands, and so live in your presence forever.
Wed, 8 May 2019
(Acts 8:26-40; Ps.66:1,8-9,16-17,20; Jn.6:44-51)
“No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
How evident it is in our first reading that the Father draws all believers unto Himself. For though it is clear that the Ethiopian eunuch is in search of God, has a desire for God, and welcomes God – He is coming from pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is reading Holy Scripture, and “invite[s] Philip to get in and sit down beside him” – which is necessary for belief as well, it is most certain that the Lord is leading him to Himself. The angel of the Lord directs Philip to the Ethiopian. The Spirit specifically instructs him to approach his carriage, and then inspires His disciple to speak to the eunuch of the Word of God and lead him into the waters of baptism (snatching him away immediately upon the completion of his task).
Also evident in our first reading is Jesus’ quotation of the prophets: “They shall all be taught by God.” For indeed it is God that, through Philip, enlightens the Ethiopian eunuch regarding the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah, and all of Scripture, “telling him the good news of Jesus.” It is “not that anyone has seen the Father,” for the Father is not visible to our human vision. But the Father has sent the Son, “the one who is from God,” and “He has seen the Father,” and He knows Him. And now through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son sends His disciples forth as His own flesh and blood, with the same Spirit that inspires Him, to reveal the Father’s love to a waiting world.
“The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” We are those who have heard His Word, who have been instructed in His way, and who have received His Body and His Blood. And so, having eaten “the bread that comes down from heaven,” we indeed become flesh of His flesh, bone of His bone. Wed we are to the Son of Man by the power of His Word and the blessing of His Sacrament. We have responded to the Lord’s call; He who draws all to Himself and to the Father has become our “living bread,” our life-giving water. And now at His command we must draw all men to the Son, who brings all to the Father.
The Light of the world shines in our midst, and we are drawn as moths to this flame, to Him who “is deprived of His life on earth.” And though we die in our turn as this Sheep who “was led to the slaughter,” yet “of His posterity,” and so our own, all the world will speak… and be drawn to Him who has been lifted up from the earth upon a cross, to Him who dwells with the Father in heaven.
O LORD, your Son is the living Bread
come down from Heaven;
let us seek Him and listen to Him,
and rejoice in Him.
YHWH, let us be taught by you; let us be drawn to you and receive the Bread that is your Son. Let us be baptized in His Name, with you and the Holy Spirit, and so let us come to eternal life in your kingdom. May all souls praise you for your goodness toward us!
What can we do but rejoice when we hear your voice speaking to us in the depths of our souls, when your Word is revealed to our ears and our hearts – when Jesus stands before us in the flesh and offers Himself to us for our salvation? And so, let all indeed come to Him, and so to you, LORD, and loudly sound your praise.
You stand before us in the flesh of your Son, O LORD our God, and this Good News goes forward by the power of the Holy Spirit upon His Church. We who eat the Bread He offers become His Body; let your Word now extend from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
Tue, 7 May 2019
(Acts 8:1-8; Ps.66:1-7; Jn.6:35-40)
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
And why should there be such exultant joy among all the peoples of the earth? What should cause all men to “shout joyfully to God”? It is Jesus’ profession that “everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.” Nothing but life everlasting can bring such absolute joy, and we have the assurance from the Lord’s own lips that He “shall lose nothing of what [the Father] has given” Him, that all who come to Him He “will raise up on the last day.” Alleluia! Let us come to Him.
How evident the universal call of the Lord is in our first reading. Upon the persecution which follows the death of Stephen, Philip, a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian “goes down to the town of Samaria” – where the Jews intermarried with the pagans of the land – “and there proclaimed the Messiah.” And we are told that “without exception, the crowds that heard Philip and saw the miracles he performed attended closely to what he had to say” and that “the rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch.” Here we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to the woman at the well, that all who worship Him will worship in spirit and in truth and not in any particular place; here we see the realization of the Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan, that all men truly are our neighbors. For now all are called into His holy fold. All now come to know the glory of the Lord. And, of course, he who leads the persecution against the growing Christian community, he who “entered house after house, dragged men and women out, and threw them into jail”… this same Saul we hear of today will soon become the great Apostle Paul, who travels to all the nations of the world converting waiting souls.
Yes, brothers and sisters, “He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot.” As the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, so now all God’s children pass through holy Baptism and have the way made straight before them. “The glory of His name” is upon us all, upon all who believe in His Son, and now we who were “paralytics or cripples” – who were unable to move for not having heard of His Name or who had had our limbs disjointed for having forgotten His Law – all, Gentile or Jew, are now welcomed into the Father’s eternal home. For “no one who comes will [the Son] reject.” In Him all find their dwelling, and so what should we do but “rejoice in Him” and “proclaim His glorious praise”?
O LORD, let us be raised with your Son
on the last Day – Alleluia!
YHWH, O how persecution brings great joy! For even as the disciples are hunted down and thrown into prison, many go out to new lands to proclaim the kingdom of God to waiting souls, souls who welcome the Word with shouts of joy. And, of course, it is looking upon Jesus on the Cross and believing in Him that brings us to eternal life. Alleluia! May the Word of God go out to the ends of the earth and all souls sing for joy at their salvation.
Jesus has assured us that He will lose nothing of what you, Father, have given Him; no one who comes to Him will He reject, but He will gather all your faithful children into your eternal presence. Let us but long to look upon Him whom you have sent. Let us but set our hearts on the love that passes not away. Let us but come to Him to find your surpassing glory, and all our sickness will be taken away, and we shall never thirst again.
Mon, 6 May 2019
(Acts 7:51-8:1; Ps.31:3-4,6-8,17,21; Jn.6:30-35)
“No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry,
no one who believes in me shall thirst again.”
“I myself am the bread of life,” Jesus declares, and it is in this Bread we take refuge. It is by this Bread we are fed.
Do you think that Stephen is at all hungry as he lives again the trial, way of the cross, and crucifixion of the Lord in our first reading today? No, even in this time, and perhaps especially in this sacrifice, the Lord feeds him with Bread from heaven. Even as he is stoned to death, the Lord God hides him “in the shelter of [His] presence from the plottings of men.”
Yes, in our first reading we have Jesus again chastising the elders and indeed all the people for their betrayal and murder of the Word of God. Here we have again Jesus being dragged “out of the city” and killed at the hands of those “who received the law through the ministry of angels [but] have not observed it.” And here again we have forgiveness offered with His last breath. Here is the persecuted Church found in the person of Stephen; here is Jesus. Recall Jesus’ words to Saul upon his conversion: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”(Acts 22:7)? And here is that same Saul overseeing this first “act of killing,” this first martyrdom of the Body of Christ.
But all the while Jesus is there, not only in the persecution, but quite evidently in His glory. “I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand,” Stephen exclaims. And notice that it is not until this moment, not until they hear this declaration – despite their “shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears” – that the people are moved “as one man” to destroy that voice. Stephen’s chastisement “stung [them] to the heart” and made them “ground their teeth in anger,” but it is this Truth of the presence of the Lord which they simply cannot stand. And what is the significance of Stephen’s vision being the impetus for his own death? It does bring his stoning, but simultaneously it prepares him for such martyrdom, for now truly the Lord is with him. Before this he would not have been able to bear so completely this cross. And without this Bread he would not have been killed.
“God’s bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” That bread of life is in Stephen’s trust in the Lord and in his echoing the words of David’s psalm, which are Jesus’ own: “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” For even as he dies, he is most alive. It is this same faith we need, brothers and sisters, and we shall never be hungry, and we shall never be without the Lord, but shall declare His love and His truth to all, happy to be called His own. The Lord’s “face shine[s] upon [His] servant[s],” and they always have the Bread they need.
O LORD, give us the Bread from Heaven, your Son,
to be with us even unto death,
and help us to proclaim His Name.
YHWH, into your hands let us commend our spirit, and we will be protected. Though stones rain down upon our heads, vision of you will light our way, and we shall come into your presence. At your right hand with Jesus let us stand.
In your Son let us take our refuge, O LORD, in Him and in His Cross. Let us be as He was, revealing His image to this fallen world. Let us proclaim the truth in His Name, let us accept the persecution it brings… and let us forgive those who kill us, those who would destroy your Word this day.
Jesus is our Bread from Heaven; it is in His flesh we find our home. Let us be His Body in this world, crucified and rising on high. O LORD, O faithful God, out trust is in you alone, and in your Son – in our lives let your will be done.
Sun, 5 May 2019
(Acts 6:8-15; Ps.119:1,23-24,26-27,29-30; Jn.6:22-29)
“This is the work of God:
have faith in the One whom He sent.”
It is this faith that moves Stephen; it is this work upon which he sets his heart. And so he was unmoved when “the people, the elders, and the scribes… confronted him, seized him, and led him off to the Sanhedrin” and “brought in false witnesses” against him. Surely the words of our psalm are fulfilled in him as they had been in the Lord: “Though princes meet and talk against me, your servant meditates on your statutes.” Thus it is that throughout his persecution, “Stephen’s face seemed like that of an angel” – through it all it is the voice of the Lord to which he listens. And one wonders if the members of the Sanhedrin had not “stared at him [so] intently” because they had seen that face of an angel not long before in the One whom they had crucified, the One who stood before them like a sheep before its shearers. And this one, too, they would sacrifice.
“You should not be working for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you.” It is this food, which those who persecute him cannot see, that Stephen eats. If he were seeking to get his “fill of the loaves” which satisfy the stomach, he would not suffer the trial upon him, and not in such peace. Only Jesus gives this food, brothers and sisters. It is nourishment the world cannot touch, and to it there is no end. We need eat nothing else to sustain ourselves.
“Yes, your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.” O Lord, what voice can compare with thine own? What word can stand where yours is spoken? For yours is “the way of truth,” and the truth cannot be shaken, cannot be changed over time. It is not subject to the corrupting forces present in our flesh; it is of the spirit. And so, in the Spirit let us be, called before your throne. Though we stand accused before the tribunals of this barren land, may your food be ever within us to sustain us – in your presence ever let us rest.
On this unshakable foundation we shall remain, even as the world passes away.
O LORD, let us have faith in your Son
and your work shall be done in us.
YHWH, let us meditate always on you and your wondrous deeds; let us eat of the food of the Spirit that passes not away, that we might come to dwell with you forever. We should not be concerned with the things of the body, with filling our bellies or even with whether we live or die. Like Stephen we should face all persecution with the patience of an angel, knowing you are at our side. And then we shall never die.
O LORD, if only it were eternal life upon which our hearts were set, then we would be truly blessed. Then we would have all we need, for then we would have you dwelling in our souls. You are Life itself, dear LORD, and this is what Jesus would give to us. This is what all His disciples preach, for they, too, would share what has been given them.
Teach us your ways, dear God; let us walk in your truth. And all wisdom will be ours, and we too will witness to your Holy One.
Fri, 3 May 2019
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; Jn.6:16-21)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him,
upon those who hope for His kindness.”
As the apostles set out to cross the lake, “it was dark, and Jesus had still not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.” As they struggled to row and keep afloat, “they sighted Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.” They had not expected their prayers for assistance and their wishes that Jesus was with them to be answered so remarkably, and so they must have wondered if He was a ghost. But He assures them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (And these eternal words of comfort and peace come to rest upon His Church.) The disciples of the Lord now were ready “to take Him into the boat, but suddenly it came aground on the shore they had been approaching.” He is with you, brothers and sisters, be assured, and will bring you to the home you seek, despite the storms you may face.
In our first reading, the eyes of the widows must have been looking to the Lord, wishing that He were with them to provide for them. In this case, “the Twelve assembled the community of disciples,” and though they do not enter the boat themselves, do not “wait on the tables” to address the tumult that had arisen between the factions, they provide what is needed to calm the winds and see this boat ashore by laying hands on “deeply spiritual and prudent” men chosen from their own. And so, “the word of God continued to spread” through the apostles’ concentration “on prayer and [their] ministry,” “while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased.” So the widows are fed as the Word is spread; so the boat comes aground on the land it approaches.
Jesus is with us, brothers and sisters. In all things He is there, working. He ministers to us always as the head of His Church through the hands and hearts and voices of all His disciples. And each to his own call, and this ship shall find its port assured. And all shall sing His praises as they see in us and we know in Him that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” His eyes are upon us. Do not be afraid.
O LORD, give us our bread this day,
that we might come with your Son
to the farther shore.
YHWH, from death you deliver us; you preserve us in spite of famine. By your own hand you feed us, through your apostles; and them you watch over always as they guide your boat. And so we need not fear – we should but praise your faithful care for our souls, and bodies.
Your Son comes to us across the waters, O LORD, walking steadily though the sea be rough. He is unafraid of the trials and tribulations of this world, caring only that our lives are preserved, seeking always to bring us to our home in you.
O let your Word go forth, dear God, bless those who serve as the ministers of your Church. Our hope in your kindness shall not be disappointed… All shall hear of the blessings upon those who put their trust in you. May all answer that call.
Wed, 1 May 2019
(Acts 5:27-33; Ps.34:2,7,9,17-20; Jn.3:31-36)
“The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God;
He does not ration His gift of the Spirit.”
And thus it is that Peter and the apostles, sent by the Lord to speak His words, can boldly proclaim to the Sanhedrin’s chastisement for continuing “to teach about that name”: “Better for us to obey God than men!” In no way do they ration the Spirit as they testify that God “has raised up Jesus whom [they] put to death,” that it is “He whom God has exalted at His right hand as ruler and savior,” that He is “to bring repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” The praise of God and of His Son is “ever in [their] mouth,” for indeed they know the happiness of “the man who takes refuge in Him.”
And they know, too, the folly of those who deny the Truth of God’s presence in Jesus the Christ. For as He Himself says to Nicodemus in our gospel, “Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God,” and as David states in his psalm, “The Lord confronts evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth,” so the blessed Rock and his fellow apostles convey to the high priest and the Sanhedrin as they are persecuted by their hands. Their declaration that not only do they testify to Jesus as the Messiah but “so too does the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those that obey Him,” is a clear indictment of those to whom they speak, those who are deaf to the Spirit’s words. And it is for this implication that they lack the truth that the Sanhedrin “were stung to fury and wanted to kill them.”
But it is they who shall be killed. It is their rule which shall not last, which shall be overcome by the Just One and the Spirit of Truth upon Him and His own. It is Peter, who speaks for all the apostles, who shall lead the New Jerusalem, the holy Church of God. Such chastisement the leaders cannot bear, save perhaps for Nicodemus; the testimony of “the One who comes from heaven” they cannot accept, and so they fail to “certif[y] that God is truthful.” What then shall be left to them?
Brothers and sisters, though the just man find himself “brokenhearted,” “crushed in spirit,” and with many “troubles,” know that “out of them all the Lord delivers him.” And He shall deliver you, if you but speak His truth. Find strength in the witness of the apostles, in the saints and martyrs of all the ages, and in the Lord Himself. He is with the one He sends and so will bless him as he speaks the truth without fear. “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to Him,” and He, in turn, gives to those whom the Spirit inspires. Trust in Him with all your lives.
O LORD, by your risen Son
the evil are confronted and the just lifted up –
let your Spirit be upon us.
YHWH, your Spirit is upon the one who believes in your only Son, for He is from Heaven and so the Spirit is upon Him. Let us be as He is; let us live and speak the truth, despite all threats of persecution, knowing well that you will save us as we cry out to you and for you.
O LORD, let us never disobey you or your Son. For what life can he have who turns from your will? How can the Spirit rest upon him? Let us not be afraid to admit our guilt, that we have put to death our Savior and are responsible for His blood, and so let that blood pour over us for the forgiveness of sins as we repent of what we have done.
Let our hearts not be hardened, LORD, by the chastisement of your Son and those who follow Him. Let us accept their testimony, let us thirst for such truth. For only this will bring us from our earthly bonds to new life in your kingdom – let your Spirit be upon the brokenhearted to carry them to your presence.
Tue, 30 April 2019
(Acts 5:17-26; Ps.34:2-9; Jn.3:16-21)
“He who acts in truth comes into the light,
to make clear that his deeds are done in God.”
Jesus is “the light [that] came into the world,” and “happy the man who takes refuge in Him.” None shall fear anymore who love the Lord, for He shall answer all his cries. And newness of life shall be ours.
The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, “arrested the apostles and threw them into public jail.” They attempt to hide the truth in darkness, to kill the light of the Spirit. “During the night, however, an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the jail [and] led them forth,” telling them to preach again in the temple “about this new life.” And so, “they went into the temple at dawn and resumed their teaching.” Do you see the resurrection at work here, brothers and sisters? Do you see how the Word is rescued from the darkness of night, from the prison into which the world would cast it, and brought into the clear light of dawn? The Truth cannot be chained and death shall never overcome life.
And what do the apostles preach but the words Jesus whispers into the waiting ears of Nicodemus in the middle of the night – bringing him, too, out of the darkness into the Lord’s marvelous light: “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” Eternal life! This is the Word come from God through His only Son begotten in love for us all. The high priest and the Sadducees would hide this; but here one of the leaders listens. He does not question anymore how this can be. And so the seed of eternal life is planted in his heart.
That seed must be planted in all hearts, and so the apostles repeatedly return to preaching, unafraid of the consequences. For how clearly it has been shown them that “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” How well they believe their own words, that in Jesus is found eternal life. In their hearts burns the faith, and so, openly they speak. And though they shall see just how much “men loved darkness rather than light,” yet they shall seek the salvation of all: unto death they shall stand in the light of truth, confident in the resurrection to follow.
May all believe “in the name of God’s only Son” and thus avoid condemnation. May all stand confidently in the Light of the new day, for the darkness of sin and death is banished when we call upon His Name.
O LORD, by faith in your Son and His resurrection,
may we be freed from all condemnation
and come into your light.
YHWH, in the morning light the apostles preach in the temple of the new life found in Jesus, your Son. From the prison of darkness they would rescue all souls, as they themselves have been rescued. Your angel delivers all who love you from death and fear; may our souls glory in the salvation found in your only Son.
That we might not die you sent Jesus into the world as the Light that conquers all darkness, and those who believe in Him come into the light and so find eternal life. There is no power that can chain or imprison your Word, O LORD, for it is your will that it go out to the ends of the earth.
May the Name of Jesus be proclaimed to all men that all who seek the salvation of their souls, all who would be released from their afflictions, might find the freedom of your sons and daughters and do all in you and in your light, O LORD our God.
Mon, 29 April 2019
(Acts 4:32-37; Ps.93:1-2,5; Jn.3:7-15)
“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind.”
This oneness is itself of heaven, is itself the sign that they are “begotten of the Spirit.” And this oneness is reflected in a very real manner in the fact that “none of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common.” This sharing of goods, of “lay[ing] them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to everyone according to his need,” is but an earthly thing. It is easy to see; it is easy to know, for it deals indeed with the things of the earth. But if like Nicodemus this earthly matter is beyond our comprehension, if we say such living as one on this plane is impossible, how far short we will fall of understanding the oneness that exists on the heavenly plane. For do you not see that one not only reflects the other, but in fact leads to the other? How can one be as the wind which “blows where it will,” how can one’s origin and destination be said to be unknown if one is unduly placed, indeed rooted, in the houses, in the property of this earth? And so Barnabas is indeed a “son of encouragement,” because by selling his entire farm and laying the money derived therewith at the apostles’ feet he is saying: I no longer live here on earth. My home is in heaven.
How tied we can be to earthly things. How blinded by them. And yet they can be a means to heaven, if one gives them to the Lord. For then already here in this world we will begin to see and know the life of heaven. Even now the Spirit shall move within us and our eyes will be opened to see “that all who believe may have eternal life” in Jesus. Yes, by the giving up of our goods, by dying to self in this real way, we may transcend this earthly plane.
“Holiness befits your house, O Lord, for length of days.” Do you not understand this matter, brothers and sisters? Do you not see that you are called here on earth during your limited length of days to live as though in heaven? Do you not know that it is but this which will lead to the unlimited number of days lived in holiness in heaven? Do not think that one is somehow separated from the other, as if heaven can be kept apart, as if its power is not all-encompassing. Here you must begin; even here you must find yourself on that eternal road. For such has Jesus been lifted up, to show you the emptiness of your earthly self. To such oneness with Him and His disciples does He call you – to be a child of heaven. Let us walk together in the Spirit of the Lord and love one another with the love that comes only from God.
O LORD, let us be as the wind,
moved by your holy will alone.
YHWH, in Heaven with you we find our home, not in the things of this earth. And so as we give the things of this earth over to you and your apostles, we draw closer to you and your kingdom. Help us to be born of you, to have life in you and in your Spirit, and not put trust in any possession.
You are King, O LORD, in splendor robed, and holiness alone befits your House. Thus, if we would dwell with you, we must indeed be holy. And to be holy we must be purified of any attachment to this world. As Jesus is lifted up on the Cross, we must be lifted up with Him; as He stands empty of all things, so must we be, if we are to be ready for Heaven – if we are to be raised in glory with Him.
It is in the resurrection of Jesus we take our life, dear God, but to find His resurrection we must first die; to dwell with you in Heaven we must lay down our lives. O may we live here as His disciples!
Sun, 28 April 2019
(Acts 4:23-31; Ps.2:1-9; Jn.3:1-8)
“No one can see the rule of God
unless he is begotten from above.”
“Princes conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed,” we are told in our psalm as well as our first reading. But their rule shall be shattered “like an earthen dish” by the power of the Spirit and God’s anointed One, to whom He gives “the nations as an inheritance.” And in the Book of Acts we see the apostles begin to collect such inheritance “in the name of Jesus,” the “holy Servant” of the Sovereign Lord, the King He has set up “on Zion, [His] holy mountain.” All stream to Him upon seeing the “cures and signs and wonders” worked through them by the Holy Spirit.
In our gospel, it is these undeniable signs of God’s presence which lead a member of the princes who will crucify the Christ to seek understanding from Jesus. And how sad is the question Nicodemus whispers in the night to our Lord: “How can a man be born again once he is old?” It is sad not only because of the futility of his interpretation to “return to his mother’s womb,” but mainly because this is all he can see. He is so of the flesh he cannot understand anything but the flesh; and this sense extends even to the Pharisees’ grasp of the law, which has become as an empty shell void of meaning – bereft of the Spirit as they are. There is hope Nicodemus will hear the words of Jesus; there is possibility other leaders of the people will come to life. But first they will have to leave their vain pursuits behind.
“The wind blows where it will… but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.” So it is with the disciples as by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit “the place where they were gathered shook as they prayed”; and so, filled within with the Holy Spirit they “continued to speak God’s word with confidence.” They are born from above. They have new life in the name of Jesus. All their lives are sacrificed with Him to the will of God. And so the princes have no power over them, but to make them rejoice at the persecution they find at their empty hands.
“You must all be begotten from above,” brothers and sisters. None is to be left behind with the carcasses that gather beneath the eagles’ circling flight. Take refuge in the Lord of Life; be born now in His Spirit.
O LORD, may the house we are in
be shaken by the Holy Spirit, that in Jesus’ Name
we might proclaim the truth before kings.
YHWH, let us be born of the Spirit, let us take life in the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit come through your only Son. In His hands is the inheritance of the nations; in Him all take refuge. Through Him and through His blood we find the strength to proclaim your praise in the face of persecution. Be with us in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Though the Gentiles rage and the kings of this earth conspire against your anointed One and all His children, their violence is in vain because you, O LORD, protect your chosen and give them power over every evil. By a word they are saved; by speaking your Name and declaring your glory, great signs and wonders are worked at their hands, for they are new creatures who take life in you.
O let us be born from above, begotten by your Spirit, O God!
Fri, 26 April 2019
(Acts 4:13-21; Ps.118:1,14-21; Mk.16:9-15)
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the good news to all creation.”
How faithfully Peter and John accomplish the Lord’s command, and with what strength, so much so that our first reading tells us, “The priests and elders were amazed as they observed [their] self-assurance” – for these “were uneducated men of no standing.” “How can this be?” they must have queried inside. “Then they recognized these men as having been with Jesus.” And so the answer had come: it is from Him all power derives. In His Spirit all God’s disciples “declare the works of the Lord.”
And how wonderfully silenced the leaders of the people are: “When they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them, they could think of nothing to say.” For the works of the Lord speak for themselves, and the power of the Spirit cannot be denied. And though these priests of the Old Covenant attempt to silence the glory of God, telling Peter and John “that under no circumstances were they to speak the name of Jesus or teach about Him,” these first of apostles declare confidently, “We cannot help speaking of what we have heard and seen.” Indeed, “a remarkable show of power [takes] place in them.”
And what have they heard and seen? Our gospel tells us: “Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week.” From Mary Magdalene, to whom He first appeared, “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her.” And the same “good news” is announced to them by the two disciples who had sojourned to Emmaus. And though “they refused to believe it,” and though when “Jesus was revealed to the Eleven,” when they saw His risen presence for themselves, He chastised them “for their disbelief and their stubbornness” – though the doubt from human corruption still clings to them, it shall no longer be so (as evidenced by Peter and John) when Pentecost has come. In the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, the Word shall be preached and believed in strength and power.
“The right hand of the Lord has struck with power.” “The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just” has come now in fullness to all His children who hear and see and declare that the Lord is risen. “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior,” sing all the redeemed. As the psalmist “give[s] thanks to the Lord” and the people who had witnessed the great work wrought through the apostles “were praising God for what had happened,” so joy is unbounded for all who enter the “gates of justice” and know in their bones the power of the Spirit at work through the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Brothers and sisters, let your joy be known by all; declare the good news to all the earth, that light may come to a world in darkness.
O LORD, let the Good News of your Son’s resurrection
be proclaimed to all believing souls.
YHWH, your right hand has struck with power, and what can we do but declare the glory of your risen Son by the Spirit that is now upon us? Though we be uneducated men of no standing in this world, yet you make us instruments of your salvation as we proclaim what we have heard and seen and believed – Jesus is indeed raised from the dead and in His Name all souls are raised with Him.
And so, let us enter your House and praise your glory, O LORD our God. Let us not stand outside the gates doubting the Word that comes to us or even persecuting the bearers of such Good News. Let us believe! Let us believe because it is Truth, undeniable, standing before us in the light of day and burning in our hearts.
May all who seek your kingdom be delivered from death and come to you in joy, LORD, by the power of the Spirit Jesus imparts to us.
Thu, 25 April 2019
(Acts 4:1-12; Ps.118:1-2,4,22-27; Jn.21:1-14)
“Jesus is ‘the stone rejected by you the builders
which has become the cornerstone.’”
What Peter has proclaimed to the people, he now proclaims even more boldly to their leaders: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.” Jesus, whom they crucified, is the Messiah. And the same quote Jesus offered the Pharisees after making it clear to them they would lose dominion over God’s vineyard – over His people, over His Church – Peter invokes before the high-priestly class today… for here standing before them is the new authority on earth.
And so, here the Church is gathered, under Peter and the apostles. This day of preaching in Jesus’ name by the power of the Holy Spirit has brought about five thousand children to God, and there shall be no stopping the power of the Word which goes forth to draw in all believers. On the Church goes “proclaiming the resurrection of the dead in the person of Jesus.”
Our gospel today is the perfect parallel to our first reading, and reveals just from where the power of the apostles’ preaching comes. First, it shows Peter as the clear leader. He says among the seven – the number of fullness – disciples assembled: “I am going out to fish.” And they reply: “We will join you.” All night they toil in vain. Why? Because they lack the cornerstone who comes to them in the morning. (Notice in our first reading Peter and John are put in jail for the night to await their trial in the morning. But, ironically, this night is less of a prison than the one spent toiling in vain on the sea… for this day they have been most fruitful; for by this time they have been anointed by the Spirit.)
In the morning Jesus stands upon the shore and instructs them where to cast their net, much as He did when first He called His fishermen apostles. And like that morning, their catch is overwhelming. John cries, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumps into the water to swim to His Jesus as the others tow the net and fish behind him. Once all have come to land, it is Peter who goes “aboard and haul[s] ashore the net loaded with sizable fish” and drops it at the Lord’s feet. But it is the single fish Jesus has prepared which is most important, with which they must begin their feast. For Jesus is that fish Himself, the cornerstone upon whom the tallest of buildings stands. And see how He feeds them as at the Eucharistic table: “Jesus came over, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” Here the Bread of Life is distributed to those who shall impart it to all others.
One hundred and fifty-three (the number of Hail Marys in a full Rosary, pre-Mysteries of Light) fish are gathered by the disciples in a net beyond the point of breaking. Five thousand men are drawn into the fold by Peter and John’s fearless speaking. God’s Church is here built up on the cornerstone that is Jesus; and so we exclaim with our psalmist today: “O Lord, grant salvation! O Lord, grant prosperity! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light.” Amen.
O LORD, by the resurrection of your Son
and the power of the Holy Spirit upon His apostles
may your Church be filled to overflowing
with believing souls.
YHWH, the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone of your Church, and we are built upon Him and upon the Rock He has set in place as the first of His apostles. From the hands of the leaders of the Jews divine power has been wrested, for now Peter is your high priest and John your scribe. Now only in the Name of Jesus is salvation to be won, and all who come to Him and eat at His table enter into your House.
This is the day you, LORD, have made. Let us rejoice in the blessings now upon us in your Son. For now we are raised from the dead; now we share in His glory… now we know your merciful love and are given strength to do your work in this world.
On the flesh of your Son let us feed, O LORD; His Body let us be. Led by Peter may we come to Him who waits for us upon the shore – in the morning light let us praise your glory!
Wed, 24 April 2019
(Acts 3:11-26; Ps.8:2,5-9; Lk.24:35-48)
“In His name, penance for the remission of sins
is to be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
And so Peter begins the preaching at the temple: “When God raised up His servant, He sent Him to you first to bless you by turning you from your evil ways,” he announces clearly to the Jews, those first to hear of the Savior, Jesus. And again he speaks boldly and repeatedly of their sin: “You disowned the Holy and Just One… You put to death the Author of life,” for it is absolutely essential that they recognize their guilt if they are to find their salvation. How can they repent of what they do not see? How can “a season of refreshment be granted” through Jesus if they do not know that they are despoiled? And brothers and sisters, it is certainly no different for us. We must recognize our own complicity in the Lord’s death or we shall have no place with Him in life. Hear the message of His apostle: “Reform your lives! Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!” If you have nothing to reform, how are you a hearer of the Good News? And if your repentance falls short of knowing the blood of Christ upon your hands, how ineffective it will be.
“All the prophets… have announced the events of these days.” “God has brought to fulfillment by this means what He announced long ago: that His Messiah would suffer.” What Peter proclaims, Jesus confirms in His own teaching to the disciples, “It is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,” as “He opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures.” What must be has been, and now is – Jesus has died and risen. “Look at my hands and my feet; it is really I,” He says to His incredulous apostles. And so in “flesh and bones” the Truth has become known, and this same flesh we eat each day.
The disciples same “sheer joy and wonder” we should share, brothers and sisters. For what is theirs is ours, too. Though “out of ignorance” we crucified Him, in grace we now know Him. And so should we not cry out, “O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth!” Should His blessed care for this sinful man not make us incredulous with joy? For though man is guilty of the Lord’s own death, yet He has “made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.” How little we deserve the Messiah, now glorified in heaven, to be with us; but oh how generous He is. No “power or holiness of our own” has brought us to life – it is His forgiveness that has made us whole.
O LORD, let us proclaim the Name of your risen Son
to all men.
YHWH, how wonderful is the Name of your Son throughout all the earth, for by it all men are healed – all are raised up from their sin and made whole again. With what wonder we should look upon Him risen from the dead; and with what faith we should believe in Him.
O LORD, in the Name of Jesus let penance for the remission of sins be preached to all nations. Beginning at Jerusalem and going forth to the ends of the earth, let it be known that the Messiah has suffered and died and been raised on the third day. May all souls be taught by the apostles you send forth – may we come to understanding of the Scriptures and turn from our sin.
O let us all rejoice in the newness of life He brings! the season of refreshment upon us in His Name. O LORD, let us reform our lives and turn to you that with Him whom you have glorified we might be one.
Tue, 23 April 2019
(Acts 3:1-10; Ps.105:1-9; Lk.24:13-35)
“The Lord is risen! It is true!”
And how it is proven this day! The two disciples find their “hearts burning inside” as He “explain[s] the Scriptures” to them on the road to Emmaus, and then they come “to know Him in the breaking of bread.” “The Eleven and the rest of the company” of disciples rejoice in Jerusalem because “He has appeared to Simon.” And the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate is pulled up by Peter “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean,” and he goes “into the temple with [Peter and John] – walking, jumping about, and praising God.” “Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!”
Brothers and sisters, the Church is as this crippled beggar at the temple gate; it is as these confused disciples sojourning for answers to their deepest questions and fears – it is the whole company assembled and astounded and declaring with joy the truth of God’s presence among us. To the beggar the Lord says with Peter, “Look at us!” To those on the road to Emmaus He says, “How slow you are to believe!” And to all He appears in the breaking of the bread. The beggar He heals; in the seeker He instills faith; and to us all He leaves His Blessed Sacrament, the greatest proof of His presence.
“Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.” And as great as His healing may be, as wonderful as His teaching is, the greatest of these is the table He sets before us and the Body and Blood with which He nourishes us. Here is His love most known, here where we “give thanks to the Lord” and “invoke His name.” For in this we are healed, in this His teaching is made real – until the end of time this shall stand as proof of His presence… in this is ever declared, “The Lord is risen!”
“He remembers His covenant which He made binding for a thousand generations.” Never shall this blessing leave us, brothers and sisters. Always we have His Word at work within us, and always we share His Body and His Blood. Here He remains “powerful in word and deed in the eyes of God and all the people.” Let us not fail to declare all He has done for us; let us never be afraid to proclaim His truth. For then all shall be “struck with astonishment”; then all shall know the Risen Lord.
O LORD, in our astonishment let us rejoice
at Jesus’ risen presence among us.
YHWH, your Son has been raised and for this we praise you, for it means our salvation – we who were once crippled by sin, by His death and resurrection are made whole again, and so the words of your prophets are fulfilled. May we recognize Him each day in the breaking of the Bread, and may we live with Him now and forever.
O LORD, let us invoke the Name of your only Son and we shall know His salvation, we shall know the grace and mercy that pour forth from His sacrifice. He had to suffer and die at the hands of His own people that His people and all who would come to Him might be saved from their sin. For this blessing He has imparted to us let us dance and sing on this holy day.
Jesus is the One who sets all men free; dear LORD, let us know His risen presence in our midst this very hour and always.
Mon, 22 April 2019
(Acts 2:36-41; Ps.33:4-5,18-20,22; Jn.20:11-18)
“Let the whole house of Israel know beyond any doubt
that God has made both Lord and Messiah
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Brothers and sisters, we are all as Mary Magdalene who “stood weeping beside the tomb,” and like the Jews who were “deeply shaken” by the words of Peter. Though it is to the Chosen people “that the promise was made,” it extends “to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls.” To all sinners, to all who ask His apostles, “What are we to do, brothers?” the Lord responds: “Reform and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven”; indeed, then we “shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – then our eyes shall be opened to His presence among us as we turn to Him in tears.
“She turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there,” this greatest of sinners become most faithful disciple. And as He speaks the name of her who cares only for Him – “Mary!” – so He calls “each one” of us who come to Him in our desperation by name; so He cares for all sinners who love Him and seek Him with all their heart. And the same joy that she has known shall also be ours; we shall declare, “I have seen the Lord!” to all who wait to hear of Him.
“Save yourselves from this generation which has gone astray,” Peter urges his fellow Jews on Pentecost day, and “some three thousand” accepted his message and were baptized. Here is where the Church begins to grow, here among those who crucified the Lord – here among His own brothers in the flesh. And though the message is primarily to them this day, indeed it is for all who would be grafted to this tree of life, to this race of whom Jesus is come. For, indeed, it is so that all are sinners, that all bear the guilt of His crucifixion; and so to all who hear His call for repentance, forgiveness may come, and the Spirit follow.
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him… to deliver them from death.” What was sung of under the Old Covenant is even more true today; and so let what was true of those faithful under the Old be so with us now. Let it be that “our soul waits for the Lord.” Let us declare, “Upright is the word of the Lord,” and the Word in its fullness shall be ours, and the tears we cry shall be answered quickly by our Lord and Savior who calls us each by name.
O LORD, let us ascend to where your Son is,
far from this world of sin,
even to your side.
YHWH, baptized in tears we cry out to you that we might see your only Son, that we might know He is risen from the dead and sits now at your right hand. Leave us not alone in this world with our sins and weakness, but let your Word please strengthen us; in your mercy deliver us from death.
We have crucified the Holy One; we have killed our Lord. The Messiah has come to save us from our sins, to reunite us with you, O God, and we have turned away from Him and laid Him in a tomb. And what are we to do now? What can save us now that our very life we have murdered?
O LORD, let us be truly repentant of our sins and baptized in the Name of the One you have raised from the dead. To Him let us cling this day, to Him who has ascended on high. In Jesus may we be blessed to make our home, freed from the darkness of the tomb.
Sun, 21 April 2019
(Acts 2:14,22-33; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Mt.28:8-15)
“You will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.”
“It was impossible that death should keep its hold on Him.” And so “the paths of life” we now walk; “joy in [His] presence” is ours – “in confidence” we abide forever. For God has “raised Him up again,” this Jesus, our Lord. Let us be witnesses of His truth to the ends of the earth. Like Peter, our Holy Father, let us be faithful to the Word at work within us.
As the women “ran to carry the good news to [Jesus’] disciples” that He, the Lord, was no longer in the tomb, in the belly of this earth, the guards ran to the chief priests, who concocted a lie. See how the ways diverge between truth and lie. And see today the power with which Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, stands up even amongst those who had Jesus crucified, and proclaims the truth of the risen Lord. And God is with Him. He has heard the Lord’s words: “Peace!” and “Do not be afraid!” He knows full well that his soul will never be abandoned to the netherworld; he has life at work in him, the life that comes from “the resurrection of the Messiah.” And so he witnesses in strength, as do our popes to this day.
Let us “live on in hope,” brothers and sisters, “half-overjoyed and half-fearful,” though only with the fear of God which overwhelms our souls, and He will be before us always, speaking words of peace; and we will see Him walking in the places He was wont to walk on earth… and we will see Him walking everywhere we walk. For by our side will He be constantly in the power of the Spirit to lead and guide us always unto Life, the life that is already with us and will never leave us.
The Lord is risen, alleluia! The powers of death and hell shall never touch us, for in Him alone do we “take refuge,” He alone is our “allotted portion and cup” – in Him alone do we believe, and so we “shall not be disturbed” even by the darkness of night. The Light has dawned; in Him let our souls rejoice.
O LORD, let us take refuge in your Son,
who was not abandoned to the nether world
but lives and goes before us this day.
YHWH, in your Son we find the path to life, the path upon which the Spirit guides us. In His resurrection we are preserved from death and take eternal refuge. Nothing shall disturb us now that Jesus has been raised from the dead, for death no longer has power over us. Let us have but faith in Him and in His reassuring presence among us.
O LORD our God, our hope is in you and in the One who sits upon your throne. He is the Son of David who has conquered death and in whom there is no corruption. And if we believe that He is the One, to the grave we shall not come. For in Him we enter life.
The lies of this world let us leave far behind, O LORD. In truth alone let us make our home and the Spirit of Truth will be upon us to free us from death’s bitter pangs. He has died that we might live; let us find our peace in Him.
Tue, 16 April 2019
(Is.50:4-9; Ps.69:8-10,21-22,31,33-34; Mt.26:14-25)
“The Son of Man is departing, as Scripture says of Him.”
Of Him in Scripture we read, “Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” Even as death approaches, even as His betrayer goes forth (perhaps especially at this dark time), He sets His face “like flint” to confront those who oppose Him, those who would destroy Him. In His own voice He speaks to us in the first reading and the psalm of His trial and His resolve: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard,” though “they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” And He stands alone before such blasphemy – “I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none.”
Though only one of the Twelve betrays Him, all abandon Him in His brokenness; none stands by His side as He “bear[s] insult” in the Name of God. But the Father does not desert Him: “See, the Lord God is my help.” “For the Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” And when He cries from the cross, it is not His fate He bemoans, but our own, whose dark separation from God He takes upon Himself as our guilt He bears.
Yes, He must depart in this way; He must suffer at our hands. But that it is written so, and that by this our souls are made whole, in no way nullifies that we have sinned – sin remains the evil it is. As for Judas, yet it would have been “better for him if he had never been born,” for the fires of hell are real; and as for the souls who abandon Him, as for all His disciples, it is only through similar darkness that we shall come back to His light.
Tears will fill our eyes as we look upon Him whom we have pierced. Yet, fear not, for the Lord hears the cry of the “lowly ones… who seek God”; and Scripture speaks just as faithfully of the third day.
O LORD, zeal for your House consumes your Son,
and so He is betrayed by one of His own
for thirty pieces of silver.
YHWH, your Son is betrayed by one who sits at table with Him, and by all He will be abandoned, left alone to die upon a cross. Yet He goes as you call Him; freely He accomplishes your will, with complete faith in your protection, with the strength found only in your love. O help us to be as He is! to bear all with patience, to so freely offer our backs for beating and our faces for spitting upon.
O how shall we go from putting gall in His food to being fed at His table in the kingdom if you do not help us, O LORD our God? We have no hope if you have no mercy on our poor souls. Let us find the strength He takes in you.
Only one of the Twelve betrays Him, only one hands Him over for crucifixion, but we all line the path He must tread – we are all cause for His shame. Dear LORD, in His sacrifice may we find freedom from such sin.
Mon, 15 April 2019
(Is.49:1-6; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; Jn.13:21-33,36-38)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
The Lord is with His servant, with Israel, with Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Son of God: “From my mother’s womb you are my strength… O God, you have taught me from my youth.” And to this “sharp-edged sword” the Lord had concealed “in the shadow of His arm,” to this “polished arrow” He has hidden in His quiver, God says: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” He who was called from birth, given His name in His mother’s womb, prepared before all the ages, now comes to reveal the glory of God.
And how is it “the Son of Man [is] glorified and God is glorified in Him”? We see in our gospel the moment the glorification begins; we see in our gospel the path by which it comes. At table at the Last Supper Jesus grows “deeply troubled,” for the time of His betrayal has come. Judas eats the morsel of food dipped in the dish and “immediately after, Satan entered his heart.” Then, “no sooner had Judas eaten the morsel than he went out,” and, we are told, “It was night.” And immediately upon Judas’ leaving, the Lord proclaims His glorification has begun.
Here begins the Passion. Here begins the first of the three days Jesus will spend in the belly of the earth. How unlike the days the Servant spent in His mother’s womb these days shall be! And yet it is precisely these days and in this way that what God has prepared for Him and for all creation shall come to its fulfillment. Now shall the arrow be sharpened fully and shot forth to pierce all men’s hearts with truth – even as the nails pierce His hands and the sword His side. Through the depths of such absolute darkness, light shall shine forth, and this light shall in time reach to the ends of the world.
Now the time has come. Now all shall abandon Him. Now by the Suffering Servant shall all be saved.
O LORD, make us glorious in your sight,
even as your Son has been glorified by His sacrifice.
YHWH, now the darkness falls upon your Son and He is prepared to be glorified. In the death He must endure He will be revealed as the light of the world. Though we cannot follow Him now, let us soon follow where He leads. Help us, dear God, to lay down our lives with Him that we might come to Heaven.
He has been hidden for all ages, concealed in the shadow of your arm, LORD; but now this arrow is shot forth, this sword unveiled for all eyes to see. Now is the time for all to be justified by His holy sacrifice. O let us join with Him! Let us not fear the darkness which sets upon this corrupted earth but suffer its betrayal with the patience of the Son of Man.