Mon, 24 September 2018
(Prv.21:1-6,10-13; Ps.119:1,27,30,34-35,44; Lk.8:19-21)
“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God
and act upon it.”
Our readings today are filled throughout with one line pearls of wisdom culminating with Jesus’ above instruction in our brief gospel. And though each individual proverb or paean to the command of the Lord seems a separate entity distinct from the others which surround it, in fact, all speak of the same sword of truth that separates the way of the wicked from that of the just. In even thousands of proverbs there is but one word – that we must be hearers and doers of the word of God.
“Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases Him, He directs it.” Oh that such blessed obedience could be all our own! Oh that we would follow Him so perfectly, for “happy are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord”; and they become as His only Son. “To do what is right and just” must be our constant aim, our eternal prayer. “Lead me in the path of your commands,” we must beg of our God, for in it alone we know the light of His grace; in His way alone we find all our “delight.” Only in observing His decrees, walking in His love, do we become brother and sister and mother to the Christ.
For the wicked shall not enter His embrace, shall not be counted among His family. “Haughty eyes and a proud heart” the Lord will not countenance, for “the tillage of the wicked is sin” and with sin the Holy One has no relation. Thus we may be certain “there is One who brings down the wicked to ruin.” As grandiose as his plots may seem and as adamantly as he may pursue them with “a lying tongue,” he is but “chasing a bubble over deadly snares” and shall be caught in the trap he himself has laid.
“When the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge”; he draws ever closer to the light of the Lord as he drinks in His Word. Let us be as those who “meditate on [the Lord’s] wondrous deeds.” Let us beg Him with our psalmist: “Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.” When Jesus speaks let us be quick to listen and follow in His way, that truly we may become His blessed family, one in the Church modeled by the Mother of God.
O LORD, open our ears to hear your Word
and walk in your way.
YHWH, if we are haughty of eye and proud of heart, how can we know you and become one with you? You are holy and only those who strive for holiness walk in your way. Help us, LORD, to be as your Son and follow always your blessed commands.
O LORD, let our hearts ever be directed by your hand; let our obedience be such that we simply go as your guide led ever by your Spirit. In your Son there was no question as to what should be done or whether He should do good or ill – He did nothing of His own will but only yours. Help us to be perfect as He in living your Word, in embodying your truth. Then we shall be brothers to Him, for then you shall be our Father.
Let us be made in your image, LORD, doing what is right and just in all things. Your law of love let us observe – let us thirst for your wisdom and knowledge. Nothing let us desire but to be one with you and your only Son. Then we shall be blessed as His Mother.
Sun, 23 September 2018
(Prv.3:27-34; Ps.15:1-5; Lk.8:16-18)
“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
but the dwelling of the just He blesses.”
Light fills the house of him “who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue,” for he who does these things is as light itself, having no part with darkness. He knows that “to the Lord the perverse man is an abomination,” and so he “env[ies] not the lawless man and choose[s] none of his ways” but chooses always the way of God and so finds the “friendship” of the Lord which is with “the upright,” which is as light shining upon him and through him.
As for the wicked, “he who has not will lose even the little he thinks he has,” for the Lord is not with him; and all he has gained by “usury” and by “bribe[s] against the innocent” shall be revealed in all its emptiness on the day the Lord shines His encompassing light – he will indeed be left with nothing, for nothing he truly has. He who has “plot[ted]… evil against his neighbor” and “quarrel[led]… with a man without cause” will never be able to stand in the light of the Lord, for he has made his home in darkness, and in darkness he shall remain. Certainly this “reprobate is despised” by the Lord, for his rebellion puts him in opposition to the kingdom of God.
And so we must “take heed, therefore, how [we] hear” the Lord’s instruction, for His instruction is as light itself and brings the light of salvation to the receptive soul. This light we must make our own and place it “on a lampstand so that whoever comes in” – whoever approaches the house in which we dwell – “can see it” and can share in it freely. All shade of sin must be removed from our souls so that without hindrance and without hesitation our light will shine forth and all will know the abiding love of the Lord. “He who does these things shall never be disturbed.” He who does these things, who reflects the Lord’s justice and love all his days, cannot but be blessed by the Lord, for he himself becomes His own.
“When He is dealing with the arrogant, He is stern, but to the humble He shows kindness.” And so, having his deeds “brought to light” is as a curse for the wicked, but to the just it means eternal blessing.
O LORD, all is known in your holy light:
help us to do good and avoid evil.
YHWH, let us walk blamelessly before you; in innocence let us dwell. Let us not turn to the paths of the wicked but remain ever in your light, walking always in your way. Then we shall be blessed with your presence.
LORD, all shall be exposed in your holy light; from you none can hide. And so, let us not be afraid to do your will with confidence, with faith in your protection and guidance. Let us not shy away from shining your light with our very lives, for in this way we shall be kept from straying.
Those who stray, O LORD, you condemn. Those whose hearts are hardened against you walk the path to perdition, and so as long as they continue to travel in sin, their destruction is assured. For darkness has no place in your kingdom of light, and those who proudly persist in their sin cannot but be cast from your presence. But let us do no harm; let us honor you by thinking and speaking only truth and remaining ever humble before you.
Fri, 21 September 2018
(1Cor.15:35-37,42-49; Ps.56:10-14; Lk.8:4-15)
“Just as we resemble the man from earth,
so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
It is not difficult to recognize our earthly bodies. They are with us always, and make themselves known in the “weakness” that befalls us. Adam’s sin is upon us his children and reminds us always that we are human, of the earth.
But as we know this body of the earth so “subject to decay,” so “ignoble” in itself, so we should know the “spiritual body [that] comes up” as this “natural body is put down” by us. Here is the meaning of Jesus’ teaching that we must lay down our lives, that we must die to this world to be raised up in His presence. For the earthly form we know so well by the weakness and sin inherent in its confines we must set aside, not nourish in its passions, that ever the Spirit might take shape in our lives… that we might take on the likeness of Christ. And so even our corrupted nature may bring growth and fruit of great significance when we sow it in the ground, when we place it back whence it has come. In this death is life.
“A farmer went out to sow some seed.” This farmer is, of course, Jesus, the spiritual Man who casts seed of the Spirit for all waiting hearts to receive and nourish to growth as a “full-blown plant” in the Father’s light. If we heed the Word He proclaims to us with exclamation, if we become ourselves as “the seed sown on good ground,” given rebirth in the Gospel of Christ, resurrection of our weakened form we will know; even now it shall begin to mature within us. But if we are empty as “those on the footpath” or rootless as “those on rocky ground” or stifled as “the seed fallen among briars,” how then shall we escape the natural body and its corruption and reach up to the kingdom of heaven? It cannot but be that we shall die – and in this death there will be no resurrection to life.
O brothers and sisters, let us be as David, who declares in faith, “Now I know that God is with me” and asks with such confidence, “What can flesh do against me?” How indeed can the flesh hold us down, pressed to the earth though it may be, if we have God’s Word in us growing so surely? In God let us “trust without fear,” and on the day of full growth, when this “earth formed from dust” has died completely and the Man of Spirit has His kingdom revealed, we shall rejoice with David and sing: “You have rescued me from death… that I may walk before God in the land of the living.” Then the Spirit so real we shall know.
O LORD, let your Word take root in our hearts
and grow unto your heavenly kingdom.
YHWH, let your Word be firmly planted in our hearts; let us bear fruit unto Heaven. Let us be raised with your only Son and walk in the light of your presence. Let us be men of the Spirit.
Your Son comes casting seed upon this earth, dearest LORD. He seeks to plant your Spirit within our souls. O let us have ears to hear His Word! Let us have hearts open to His call. Why should we wish to die in sin? Why would we be subject to decay as our natural bodies? Should we not rather put on the body of Jesus and be thus spiritual men? O may we bear the likeness of the Man from Heaven!
Let us have no fear, LORD, as we grow with Jesus; let the flesh hold no sway against our coming to you. Help us to lay down our bodies that our spirits may rise and we may make our home in your eternal light. Open our eyes in your presence.
Wed, 19 September 2018
(1Cor.15:1-11; Ps.118:1-2,16-17,28; Lk.7:36-50)
“I am the least of the apostles.”
Brothers and sisters, “little is forgiven the one whose love is small.” And it is in the sweet tears of repentance that we discover the love held in the merciful heart of the Lord.
Paul speaks the truth of himself when he claims that he does “not even deserve the name” of apostle because he has “persecuted the Church of God.” “But through the favor of God” he has “worked harder than all the others,” preaching the Gospel of the Lord. As small as he is and as undeserving as he is, so great is the Lord’s blessing upon him. In the measure he recognizes his sin, the Lord pours His grace into him, and through him to others.
And what grace pours forth through the woman in our gospel today! In her we see our own encounter with the Lord. Here is she who is “known in town to be a sinner” standing and kneeling in tears before her God. And the Lord knows well “who and what sort of woman this is that touches Him – that she is a sinner,” and He knows well, too, her repentant heart. While the others at table see neither their own sin nor the woman’s repentance, He allows Himself to be touched by both (her sin and her repentance) – it is for just such a moment as this He has come. And how well the Lord speaks the truth in His detailed description of the woman’s repentance; how well we see His love reflected in her… and how blest is she to hear these words for which every heart does long: “Your sins are forgiven.” And how her tears increase at this word come forth from the mouth of the Holy One. And so, while the others argue blindly among themselves, He reaches out His hand, touches her face, and whispers to her soul: “Your faith has been your salvation. Now go in peace.”
“O my God, I extol you… You have been my savior.” Indeed, your “mercy endures forever,” and now I know that “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” This is the song the woman must sing; this is the song of St. Paul. This is the song of every soul redeemed by the love of the Lord. So let us all “stand firm” in the Gospel preached to us by those who have seen Him, from Peter to this wretched Paul; we “are being saved by it at this very moment if we retain it” in its purity. And here is the Word simply put: “That Christ died for our sins in accord with the Scriptures; that He was buried and, in accord with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” What grace is ours, we the least, we poor sinners – we who know the greatness of His love.
O LORD, let us have faith in your Son
and in His sacrifice for our sins;
on our knees in love let us come to Him,
and we shall find His mercy.
YHWH, how can we see you if tears of repentance do not fill our eyes? How will your mercy be known to us if we do not come on our knees before your Son? If we love but little we shall be forgiven little, and our sins will continue to blind our eyes.
Have mercy on us, O LORD, we are all burdened with debt we cannot repay. But you hear our prayers, you have pity on our poor, sinful souls, and you reach out your hand to touch our hearts, to relieve the burden we carry by the sacrifice of your Son. Thank you, LORD. We praise you for your love.
Let us welcome you into our homes; let us receive Jesus into our very hearts. In our spirits take up your residence, LORD, by our faith in Him and in His death and resurrection. For us He died and was buried; for us He rose on the third day. Let us never forget His enduring mercy – in great humility let us embrace your love.
Tue, 18 September 2018
(1Cor.12:31-13:13; Ps.33:2-5,12,22; Lk.7:31-35)
“We piped you a tune but you did not dance;
we sang you a dirge but you did not wail.”
“Like children squatting in the city squares and calling to their playmates,” seeking to have them comply with their own selfish will, so are “the men of today” according to our Lord. And so is their song not “a noisy gong”? Do they not lack of love? Could they be more “rude,” more impatient and unkind, than to declare of John the Baptizer, “He is mad!” and of the Son of Man, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard”? Could they any more “rejoice in what is wrong,” utterly shutting out the truth?
And why? Why is it they do so lack of love? Why are they so ungodly? Is it not that they fail to realize and state with the Apostle Paul: “Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect”? Is it not because they trust in their own minds that they do not come to the wisdom of God?
And what is “God’s wisdom”? It is what Paul speaks of so well today: God is love, and without God we are worth nothing. Yes, God is love. Love is the heart of the Law even as God is the heart of the Law, and without the heart the body is useless. But knowing God is love, hearing it repeated over and over, is not sufficient for our salvation. Certainly, “of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.” The Lord ever pours forth His grace, His love upon all His creatures – but how do we come to have that love, how do we come to accept it? Again, the key is in Paul’s statement, “My knowledge is imperfect now.” It is in understanding that, even though “we put childish ways aside,” yet “we see indistinctly.” It is in the realization that we are not God, that we need God and His love; in a word, it is in repentance. Genuine repentance is the attitude that brings us to the love of God. And the need for it is constant!
I think there is a kind of divine equation to our relationship with the Lord: the more we recognize our misery, the more He shares His mercy; the more we acknowledge our lack of His wisdom and love, the more He fills our desire for them. Marvelous is the justice of God!
Brothers and sisters, “give thanks to the Lord on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant His praises.” It is ours to “speak with human tongues and angelic as well”; we must employ “the gift of prophecy,” “feed the poor,” and be ready to “hand over [our] body to be burned.” But all we do must be driven by His will, must be founded in His love. Our song must be set in His holy key and reflect His eternal harmony, or we have nothing to fill our emptiness.
O LORD, let us accept your Word and your way;
let us live in your love and praise you all the day.
YHWH, if we have not love, what good are we, for then we are not of you? If we are proud what can we be but condemned for our anger and judgment? If we seek to control you, where can such foolishness lead us but to separation from you and your love; and so, what shall we do but die in emptiness?
O LORD, what fools we are to trust in our own knowledge, in our own ways, when you lay the way to Heaven before us. You send your Son to lead us home, and we tell Him He knows not of what He speaks; we seek even to instruct Him of the way He should better walk. And so to what utter foolishness does our knowledge lead – what blindness is upon our souls!
We must love as you love, as your Son has shown us, dearest LORD. Patient and kind make us this day, humble before you that we might see how much we need you to find our way. To your kingdom let us come, praising you for your glory, living in your unending love.
Mon, 17 September 2018
(1Cor.12:12-14,27-31; Ps.100:1-5; Lk.7:11-17)
“A great prophet has risen among us.”
A great prophet, yes, and so much more; for here is He who is Himself the “one body” upon whom the “one Spirit” rests, and in whom all find their home.
“The body is one and has many members; but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ.” Christ is all things: He is apostle sent by the Father, prophet speaking for God, teacher instructing all on the narrow path that leads to heaven, miracle worker raising the dead, healer of body and soul causing the deaf to hear and the blind to see, assistant washing the feet of His disciples, administrator apportioning the gifts and graces which are His own, and speaker in tongues upon whom the flame of the Spirit eternally rests and whose Word goes forth to all nations. We are not all apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, and speakers in tongues – but He is. He is all these things for He is whole; He is the only Son of God, and we are “His people, the sheep of His flock” who share in His power according to our baptism in His Name.
And so should we not “sing joyfully to the Lord” for the Savior who has been raised from among us? Should not all “lands,” all members of His blessed body “serve the Lord with gladness,” that all might tend to the glory of God? In our gospel “a considerable crowd of townsfolk were with” the widow, and “a large crowd accompanied” Jesus. These met at “the gate of the town” called Nain. When the Lord raised the son of the widow from the dead, “fear seized them all and they began to praise God.” Is not this scene of celebration like that which should encompass the body of Christ? Should not such joy in recognition of the greatness of God course through all our veins, strengthening all our muscles? For we know more than they. We know this Man is more than a prophet – we know it is the Messiah who is among us. And so, let us “enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise” as we “set [our] hearts on the greater gifts” at work within us now as members of the body of the only Son.
Alleluia! He raises us all from the dead to speak in the power of the Spirit.
O LORD, let us be raised from the dead to live in you,
ever praising your NAME.
YHWH, in your Son we approach the gates of Heaven; as His Body we become your own. Sheep of your flock let us ever be – let us enter the New Jerusalem.
O LORD, raise us from our litter, from the bed of death to which sin has brought us. The hand of your Son touch us this day, His voice let us hear speaking to our ears, that we might be filled with your Spirit and rise from our graves to praise you, to give witness to your glory dwelling in our land.
Alive in you let us ever be, O LORD. The blood of your Son let course through our veins. In His Body let us make our home, as His very members. Then we shall remember you; then we shall enter your courts with praise and ever give thanks to your holy NAME.
Let us do your will, O LORD, your work on this earth. As Jesus your Son, let us live out our days, bringing His Word and His teaching to everyone.
Sun, 16 September 2018
(1Cor.11:17-26,33; Ps.40:7-10,17,1Cor.11:26; Lk.7:1-10)
“Just give the order and my servant will be cured.”
By a word from His mouth what cannot be done? For those who have faith this is all that is needed.
Listen, brothers and sisters, to the centurion’s explication of “the meaning of an order”: “I say to one, ‘On your way,’ and off he goes; to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Do you see faith at work? Do you understand the power of a word? And if a mere centurion in the Roman army possesses such power and gains such loyalty by his commands, do you think the Lord’s words shall fall short or His servants be found lacking in obedience?
“I am not worthy to have you enter my house” are the words the centurion speaks to Jesus before our quote for the day, and they are of course the phrase we utter just before we receive the Lord in Holy Communion. That same sacrament of Communion is described for us by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians; he tells us of the Christ’s words and actions upon its institution “on the night in which He was betrayed.” “This is my body,” Jesus says; and, in Paul’s phrasing, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” And so do we partake of the Lord’s Body and Blood even as we remember His sacrifice for our sins; and so, like the centurion’s servant, we are healed of our ills.
Yet there are “divisions among [us]” regarding this central sacrament of our faith. Perhaps “there may even have to be factions among [us] for the tried and true to stand out clearly.” But the Lord is never pleased with a lack of faith. And if He decries the lack of “faith among the Israelites,” what is His thought on Christians who cannot believe in His presence in the Sacrament? Does the Lord not also have “soldiers under His command” like the centurion? Do they not also carry out His orders? Or is the word He gives them not powerful enough to carry out His will? Is it somehow impossible for the Lord to make himself present as He has promised by the intercession of His apostles, His priests – even as by the intercession of the Jewish elders the centurion gained his request from the Christ? Does your faith not fall short if you thus limit the power of God, of His Word, of the power given His apostles? “I received from the Lord what I handed on to you,” Paul states succinctly as he speaks to his disciples of the Lord’s Supper. And this meal shall last till the end of time; and it shall ever feed us body and soul with the presence of Christ.
“Behold, I come,” says the Lord. To do the Father’s will is the Son’s “delight” and the delight of all who follow Him. In body He comes and in body He remains, upon our altars and in His sons. This “justice” we “announce in the vast assembly”; we do “not restrain [our] lips.” For His faithfulness to us, we His slaves and soldiers well know; and for such love we can but proclaim: “The Lord be glorified”! For by a word from His mouth uttered through His priest – “This is my body” – He is in our midst.
O LORD, in faith let us come to you
to receive the Body and Blood of your Son,
and so find the new life He brings.
YHWH, your Son comes to us and gives us His own Body and Blood that we might partake of Him and so find our salvation in union with you. But have we the faith to see Him here in our midst; and have we the love to receive Him into our hearts?
The flesh can be such a distraction for us, O LORD; it can leave us quite blind. As we seek to feed our bellies, our souls can be greatly deprived. And so, do we not lose you by our lack of faith?
In your Word let us trust, dear LORD, not in the matter at our hands. Our hearts be set upon your grace, upon the sacrifice of your Son, that we might come to dwell in your House. O let us offer our bodies in union with His and we shall become sons as He, doing your will alone and so knowing your blessing.
Let us lay down our lives in faith, O LORD, declaring your glory to all with ears. Let our very lives be made in your image, in the image of your only Son. Let us become as He is as we eat His Body and drink His Blood.
Fri, 14 September 2018
(1Cor.10:14-22; Ps.116:12-13,17-18; Lk.6:43-49)
“Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ?”
The Body and Blood of Christ we have upon our altar and in the Word of His teaching. It is these which set a firm foundation within ourselves, these by which we bear fruit in His Name – these by which we come to be as He is.
Paul tells the Corinthians today “to shun the worship of idols,” not because they are real, for they are not, but because these sacrifices are made “to demons and not to God” and we, as sons and daughters of a jealous God, “cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons” nor “partake of the table of the Lord and likewise the table of demons.” As “a good tree does not produce decayed fruit any more than a decayed tree produces good fruit,” so evil has no place with good and demons no place in the house of God. Partaking of this table is like building a “house on the ground without any foundation” and will only serve to weaken and eventually destroy our faith in the Lord.
And so we should have no share in the things of the world or in the decayed fruit which such mammon bears. This unholy food and drink is but to be vomited out in the sickness it produces. And calling upon the name of the powers of the earth and the air will but cause us to choke in an unholy fear. We must “call upon the name of the Lord” and upon His Name alone build our home. It is “the cup of salvation [we must] take up” and drink of the blood that is sanctified by the sacrifice of our Lord and God. And what does our psalmist mean when he sings, “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people” but that, as Jesus Himself instructs us in our gospel, we must “put into practice” the promises we make unto God. Else our words are empty; else our words are evil, for else our words will bear no fruit and our worship will be in vain.
A great call have we, brothers and sisters: to be like the Lord. And this call is within our reach. His Body and Blood are upon our table; His words are ringing in our ears. We have but to eat; we have but to listen… we have but to accept these gifts and do His will, and even the torrents of death shall not shake our souls. For we shall be as “the man, who, in building a house, dug deeply and laid the foundation on a rock”; we shall stand solidly with unshakable trust in the eternal Lord. For Him we shall have become by sharing in His sacrifice.
O LORD, let us put your Word into practice,
living as your only Son,
sharing in His Body and Blood.
YHWH, let us dig deep and make our foundation in you, in your Word and in your Body and Blood, and we shall bear fruit unto your kingdom, and our house shall stand strong on your holy Day. Let us shun entirely the table of the wicked; let us not partake of the food of demons. Our hearts be set only upon you, and all sin will be purged from our midst.
If we act in evil, LORD, what are we but evil? But if we act in goodness, we shall be made good by you. Let us praise you each day for your goodness and your grace that we might be sharers in your glory, that we might be members of your Body. The cup of salvation let us take up each morning and live all our days wedded in the blood of the Lamb.
What a gift you give us, LORD, in holy Mass; your own presence in the flesh and blood of your Son. In your Word and in your food let us build our home, and we shall become holy as you.
Wed, 12 September 2018
(1Cor.8:1-7,11-13; Ps.139:1-3,13-14,23-24; Lk.6:27-38)
“The measure you measure with will be measured back to you.”
And what is your measuring stick, brother? Is it the ruler of this earth, limited by eyes of flesh? Or is it the yardstick of heaven, which reaches unto the Lord’s side and finds us in His sight? Do you toil on this plane alone, or do you climb the mountain where He sits, where He teaches? Do your ears hear only of the debits and credits recorded in the book of this world; or are they open to the word the Lord speaks, and the generous outpouring of His grace?
In our first reading Paul states: “‘Knowledge’ inflates, but love upbuilds.” What he means is that our knowledge of earthly things can do little but inflate our pride, and thinking that this is true knowledge makes us blind. The “knowledge” that we should seek is the love of God, which comes from God and teaches us all things. “If anyone loves God, that man is known by Him,” and living thus in His sight, in His light, we see all with heavenly vision. With this wisdom we understand that “there is no God but one” and that “an idol is really nothing”: all the idols man makes upon this earth are empty and vain, and all the teaching which comes from such has no resonance, falls short of truth.
Yet we are called to be patient with the weakness of others, with their failures in faith. We must “not be an occasion of sin” for others but always be prepared to pardon and love even those who hate us. For if someone does violence to us, what do we teach these who cannot measure beyond earthly passion if we do them violence in return? If we answer with violence, what language do we speak but that of the world? But we are called to converse with heavenly tongues, even with the word of our Lord, and cannot rightly be called His sons if we do not do so. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” And you are thus but saying that you are a child of the earth and not heaven, living in the flesh and not the spirit.
“Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb,” is David’s song of joy to God. He gives thanks that he is “fearfully, wonderfully made.” And if made by God should we not reflect God and the love He has revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Should we not be as His Son? And so, should we not with David call upon the Lord to “probe” us and to “know [our] heart” and our “thoughts,” that He might straighten out our “crooked” ways and set us on the path His love prepares? Do we not desire the overflowing joy He brings? Then we must measure as He, with the heavenly yardstick that reaches up to where the Trinity is.
O LORD, if we could but learn to love as you,
how blessed we would be!
YHWH, let us learn your lesson of love, your perfect knowledge, by putting into practice love of all, even our worst enemies. If we repay evil with good, then we shall be like you; then we shall know as you know, that nothing surpasses love.
LORD, you know all things for you see all things, even the hidden matters of the heart. Nothing is hidden from your eye but all is bathed in your wonderful light. But we shall not find that light or your knowledge if we do not love, and love without measure. All remains dark for those lacking love.
Let us but be concerned for our brother’s welfare, LORD, that he shall not sin, that he shall turn from his sin to find you. And so, let us not judge, let us not condemn, or we shall not show him your holy face and he will never come to you – and we will not know you either. Let us rejoice to turn the other cheek, to give to all who would take from us, to be compassionate even toward those who hurt us. For then we will know you and your love.
Tue, 11 September 2018
(1Cor.7:25-31; Ps.45:11-12,14-17; Lk.6:20-26)
“The world as we know it is passing away.”
And so, “hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father’s house,” for the King is calling you from this passing world to the heavenly marriage feast – “He is your Lord, and you must worship Him.” This call is for every chosen soul, for who is the Lord’s virgin daughter, who is His Bride but the Church? It is she who is called, even as the Virgin Mother who has preceded her to heaven, and each of our souls must be wed to Him alone. And we who leave all behind to follow Him “shall be filled” and “shall laugh” on the Day of our marriage, for “the reign of God” will be ours.
It is not in this world we take our “consolation” – how sad those who do so. For the riches of this world will rust and rot, and its laughter shall prove so hollow. Thus Paul instructs the wise: “Buyers should conduct themselves as though they owned nothing,” for in truth they have nothing at all: of what worth is that which does not last? Only an illusion are the temporary pleasures and vain accolades of this dying earth. The trials we find are all that should cause us to “rejoice and exult, for [our] reward shall be great in heaven” if we endure our exile well.
To those who consider marriage, Paul gives the instruction: “[You] will have trials in this life, and these I should like to spare you.” Certainly marriage is not sinful, and is even a fruitful sacrament, but even this which can be such a blessing is but passing in the eyes of God. And the attachment we find to our spouse, again, though blessed by the Lord, is a union that is also passing – one which must be ultimately left as well. Since only our marriage to the living God is that which endures, Paul in his wisdom offers this word: “Those with wives should live as though they had none”; for this beauty, too, shall fade, and it is not in it we are called to make our home.
Yes, “the time is short,” brothers and sisters. The time is always short because time itself is passing – only eternity remains. And so, set not your hearts on the fading things of this life. The Lord who has died now prepares a place for you in His heavenly kingdom. And “all glorious is the King’s daughter as she enters; her raiment is threaded with spun gold.” So, to His palace be “borne in with gladness and joy”… join now the song of all His saints in our heavenly homeland.
O LORD, let us turn from the things of this world
and set our hearts on your kingdom,
which passes not away.
YHWH, help us to remember that this world is passing away, that we should thus be attached to nothing of this world, and certainly not make our home in it, seeking the riches it offers. Help us to set our hearts on you and seek you alone, forgetting all that is not of you. For we wish to enter your kingdom, to sing your praises with all your saints, but how shall we come there if fattened on the fruits of this earth?
LORD, your Apostle’s counsel is a very wise one – to make use of the things of this world as if we were not using them at all, always with an eye to their temporal nature, that they are indeed passing away. For if we remember this world is passing, we shall better remember you who are eternal. You are all that matters.
You are all that matters, LORD, and so let us cry out for your presence, hungering for your kingdom. Let us give up all of this world that we might find you present to us, and make our home in your palace forever.
Mon, 10 September 2018
(1Cor.6:1-11; Ps.149:1-6,9; Lk.6:12-19)
“You have been washed, consecrated, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Yes, “power went out from Him which cured all.” And as all were “healed of their diseases” and “those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured” by His touch, so we, too, are made whole in His sight; so we now become His holy children of light. For “the unholy will not fall heir to the kingdom of God,” and His kingdom being the desire of our hearts, we come with “the whole crowd… trying to touch Him,” trying to reach His presence upon the mountain of God.
And He calls His apostles; He selects the Twelve. And the power to teach and to heal He bestows upon them and upon their descendants. His wisdom and His grace He imparts upon those to whom His Father leads Him; and this same power rests upon all those baptized in His name into His Spirit. And so, as these Twelve who are the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem sit in judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel, so it is that the redeemed of the Lord are, as Paul tells us, “to judge angels.” Yes, “the believers will judge the world.” This power which is the Lord’s alone He gives to all in the world to come, for all are to be infused with His wisdom, and His love.
And so are we not therefore “up to deciding everyday affairs”? “If the judgment of the world is to be [ours], are we to be thought unworthy of judging in minor matters?” And not only in cases “between one member of the Church and another,” but in all the details of our lives. If we are to judge with the wisdom and grace of God in heaven, we must here be able to see clearly the right from the wrong, or we have not His Spirit upon us – or we stand in opposition to His Truth and to His Church. “Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sodomites, thieves, misers, or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit God’s kingdom.” If your conscience tells you otherwise and you do these things or fail to condemn these things, you are sadly misinformed; and rather than judge the nations with the Lord and His apostles, you shall be judged by them.
Come only unto His Word, brothers and sisters; come only unto His Hand. And you shall be cleansed of all evil and be made able to stand here in this world as in His kingdom. And you shall sing His “praise in the assembly of the faithful” and with them “exult in glory” before your “maker” and “king.” “This is the glory of all His faithful”; His holy song is sung by all the redeemed.
O LORD, your power is upon your apostles
and all your holy people;
for this grace let us praise your NAME.
YHWH, who can judge but those who are like you, those who are holy, those washed clean in the blood of your Son with the power of your Spirit upon them? No sinner can judge, for no sinner can see; he is blinded by his sin and immersed in selfishness, and so, how can he be just?
O LORD, anoint us as you have the apostles, with your Spirit, with your blessing, with the blood of your Son. Let healing graces pour forth from our souls as we walk the way He has shown. Then all shall rejoice at His coming, all shall exult in your glory, as all are judged fairly in your sight.
We are but poor creatures, LORD, and yet by your grace you make us as yourself, you call us to you… even to judge angels with you. Certainly it is never we who judge but you; we can only give our wills over to you and allow you to work for our good. For only you are good, and so only by you are we made good and able to do anything at all. Let us be your faithful disciples even this day.
Sun, 9 September 2018
(1Cor.5:1-8; Ps.5:5-7,9,12; Lk.6:6-11)
“Let us celebrate the feast not with the old yeast,
that of corruption and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
For indeed, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed”; indeed, the new Sabbath has come. And on the Day of the Lord only goodness remains.
“Get rid of the old yeast to make of yourselves fresh dough,” Paul commands the Corinthians as he chastises them for their “boasting” and self-satisfaction even while tolerating a professed sinner in their midst. He writes here to insist that they should be “grieving and getting rid of the offender,” both for the sake of the community and that the sinful man’s “spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” For, as David makes quite evident in his psalm, God “delight[s] not in wickedness; no evil remains with [Him].” And as for the vain pride of the community: “the arrogant may not stand in [His] sight.”
It is not an unkind exaggeration to say that the Lord “hate[s] all evildoers.” The sharp line dividing evil and good Jesus would make clear as He confronts the scribes and Pharisees in the synagogue on the sabbath, “a man whose right hand was withered” standing before Him: “I ask you,” He says, “is it lawful to do good on the sabbath – or evil? To preserve life – or destroy it?” Then He heals the man, much to the chagrin of the scribes and Pharisees who deem this unlawful work for the day. But in the Lord’s House and on His Day good is always and only done – and certainly this healing is a blessed act. And since only the good remain in His House, just as the man who is “living with his own father’s wife” will be purged from the Corinthian community at Paul’s urging, so by the word of our Lord Jesus Christ these false leaders who harbor such distrust and jealousy will be cast from within the walls of the Lord’s Church; for “the bloodthirsty and deceitful the Lord abhors,” and indeed the blood of the Son is upon their hearts, and will be upon their hands.
But we, brothers and sisters, we have the new feast, the new Sabbath before us now. We come now into His House to eat His Body and drink His Blood. Each day, in fact, we may celebrate the greatness of God’s glory and the grace of His presence in our midst. And so, let us celebrate with a pure spirit, with His cleansing blood upon our hearts, that our goodness may be preserved and we who “love [His] name” and “take refuge in [Him]” may “be glad and exult forever.”
O LORD, why is man’s heart so set against you?
YHWH, the arrogant cannot stand before you, those who have the desire for evil in their hearts and blood upon their hands. How can they begin to know your undying love, those who would condemn even the Son of Man?
Should not the broken and sinful man always stretch his hand out to you? Is your arm somehow shortened in its merciful reach? Should we think that you, O LORD and God, are somehow limited in the dispensing of your grace? Will not Jesus show us otherwise as He stretches His arms out on the Cross?
And what shall save those who do not accept His embrace, who would rather embrace this corrupt and wicked generation? Condemnation shall be pronounced over the rebellious soul, unless he repents of his evil. O LORD, let us eat only the bread of sincerity and truth; let us desire only your goodness upon all. O let us embrace your Son!
Thu, 6 September 2018
(1Cor.4:1-5; Ps.37:3-6,27-28,39-40; Lk.5:33-39)
“The salvation of the just is from the Lord.”
“For the Lord loves what is right, and forsakes not His faithful ones.” And so He comes. He comes bearing a new garment; He comes with the blood of a New Covenant, His own blood, to wash us clean and make us whole as He is. Drinking this new wine indeed we are made holy.
It is not as “John’s disciples” or as “the disciples of the Pharisees” we shall find our salvation – only as disciples of the Son of God, only by “commit[ting] to the Lord [our] way” will “justice dawn for us like the light.” And that His way, His covenant, is whole we see in His teaching that “no one tears a piece from a new coat to patch an old one,” for this indeed “will only tear the new coat, and the piece taken from it will not match the old.” What foolishness this would be. No, the New Covenant founded in the blood of Jesus Christ, though absolutely in accord with the Old, is whole unto itself and serves to redeem and fulfill the covenant that has come before. One cannot take pieces of it as it might suit one’s judgment – it must be received entire as grace from the Lord. Then, “bright as the noonday shall be your vindication,” and feast with the bridegroom you shall.
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord is the one to judge,” and His Word must be accepted in full. Only “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the intentions of hearts,” for only His eyes see all things. And so, do not attempt to judge for yourselves the worth of a person or even yourself. Paul says, “I do not even pass judgment on myself,” not because he is innocent, but because God alone knows his heart. And as we cannot judge one another, so we cannot (as James has said elsewhere – 4:11) judge the Law of God. We must simply live under His Law, seeking to obey the Word of His covenant. We must only make it our concern to “turn from evil and do good, that [we] may abide forever.” For when the Lord comes again, when the New Covenant is fulfilled in our midst, “at that time, everyone will receive his praise from God.”
Neither praise nor condemnation from the mouth of man has worth. Trust not in this. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” Commit yourself entirely to His Word and Blood, and a new skin to receive His grace you shall find.
O LORD, let us put ourselves entirely in your hands,
and we shall be made new and holy in your sight.
YHWH, you are our salvation, you alone. How shall we be clothed in the white wedding garment of purity, how shall we enter your kingdom and feast at your table, if you do not save us, if you do not deliver us from the evil of the world and the evil in our souls. Let us give ourselves to you whole and entire, that new we may be made in your presence.
You declare men holy, LORD, for you alone judge hearts. We cannot see, we cannot know who is just in your sight, for our vision in limited to the surface of things – all we see are acts, but you know the intentions of hearts, the thoughts of man and what he truly desires… and so you alone know who is worthy of your blessings.
Make us worthy, O LORD, to rejoice at your table, to drink wine in your kingdom, to have the blood of your Son upon us to wash us clean in this world. Make our skins new, our souls new, to receive the grace you impart to your faithful disciples.
Wed, 5 September 2018
(1Cor.3:18-23; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.5:1-11)
“Amazement at the catch they had made
seized him and all his shipmates.”
What a truly remarkable scene! Here upon the call of the apostles, the first of apostles, Simon Peter, “fell at the knees of Jesus.” Here in his barque, boats once desolate now suddenly fill to bursting with fish flopping about everywhere, unable to be contained… This is a painting for the ages, this blessed moment! It is this image which drives the Church forth, filling the barque of Peter with blessed, saved souls. “From now on you will be catching men,” the Lord says to His Rock – and so the Church is called, on this sunlit day.
Yes, “the Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” And how wonderfully that fullness that is the Lord’s is revealed in these boats continually filled “until they nearly sank,” and how clearly these abundant fish represent we who dwell in God’s world. Even literally our psalm is fulfilled: “He founded it upon the seas,” David sings; and as He founded the world, so here He finds the Church, His renewal of the world, here upon the Sea of Galilee. Here He sends out His call to those who “stand in His holy place”; and through His apostles all will find the strength and purity to “ascend the mountain of the Lord.” Here is the faith firmly rooted, here in the barque of Peter. The race that “seeks the face of the God of Jacob” shall find Him now, shall see Him even as clearly as Peter looking up at Him from here at His knees on this marvelous day.
“All things are yours,” Paul declares, “and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” Indeed, the fullness of heaven and earth are at our hands through Jesus and the ministry of His apostles. All the apostles are ours, the world is ours, life and death are ours, the present and the future… Why? Because we are in Christ, in the boat in which He sits, surrounding our leader on his knees – all is ours because we leave everything to become His followers.
After the Lord’s resurrection this scene shall repeat itself, and so the call be fulfilled. Here it begins though, here in “nets [that] were at their breaking point,” here in boats that are filled – here in one man falling to his knees, all come before the Lord of all.
O LORD, it is only by your power anything is done –
make us holy by your Word.
YHWH, upon our knees let us come to you; in the way of your Son let us follow, and in Him and in His Church, all shall be ours. What can we lack if united to you? What is not ours if your abundance we know?
O LORD, all the world and all those who dwell in it are in your hands. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the soul of every man you hold. And to your Son you give all. And to your Church you give the same. For those who follow Jesus, who leave all behind for the kingdom’s sake, shall know your abundant blessings even this day.
To what of this earth should we hold, LORD? What is of worth apart from you? Let us know nothing but your Son, the Christ, and we shall ascend your holy mountain, and become holy as you. This alone should be our goal, the desire of our heart must be to be united to you.
Praise you for all your blessings, LORD! But praise you most for calling us through your only Son to dwell in your Church, where you reside.
Tue, 4 September 2018
(1Cor.3:1-9; Ps.33:12-15,20-21; Lk.4:38-44)
“To other towns I must announce the Good News of the reign of God,
because that is why I was sent.”
“And He continued to preach in the synagogues of Judea.” And He continues to preach to all hearts through His blessed apostles, and His Church continues to grow. To the ends of the earth the kingdom progresses, and we each have a hand in its rising.
Yes, “he who plants and he who waters work to the same end,” but “neither he who plants nor he who waters is of any special account, only God, who gives the growth.” As Paul has said to the Corinthians: “Who is Apollos? And who is Paul? Simply ministers through whom you became believers, each of them doing only what the Lord assigned him.” As great as the work of any apostle may be, yet it is God alone through whom progress is made. He alone causes “His cultivation, His building” to grow; it is yet Jesus who announces salvation in any of our lives.
Indeed, no matter how big our work, it is God who accomplishes all – but also no matter how small. For all are called. And even as Paul and Apollos plant and water by their great gift of preaching, so we are told of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law that once Jesus had cast the fever from her, “she got up immediately and waited on them,” entirely ready to perform her work for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God. As with the sick the Lord “laid hands on each of them and cured them,” and as He taught with authority, so all in their way are invited to offer their service to the only God and thus become built into His kingdom. It is God who builds the House, but indeed “we are God’s co-workers” and must cooperate with His grace.
And how we should know Him and His working among us and through us! The demons declared, “You are the Son of God!” for they “knew that He was the Messiah” – they knew well He who had come to destroy them. Why is it we whom He has come to build up do not know Him just as well, or even more? Truly it is “He who fashioned the heart of each [of us], He who knows all [our] works”; it is He “who is our help and our shield,” and “in Him our hearts [should] rejoice” – and through Him we should accomplish all. Do we know His presence with us so well? Do we rejoice in Him and do His works and become His work…? Brothers and sisters, let it be indeed that the Good News is announced clearly to all through the Lord working upon our soul.
O LORD, in your holy NAME let us trust,
and we shall be healed of all our ills
and grow unto the kingdom.
YHWH, let your Word go forth through your people this day; to the ends of the earth let your Son travel, bringing the Good News of your reign to every soul through your Church and especially her apostles.
You dwell in Heaven, O LORD, far above our mortal ways, and we take life and do our work only through you who call us. Let us be your co-workers, branches of the vine that is your Son, and your Church shall be built up in truth, in the power that is only upon Him.
Let all be healed of their infirmities, LORD, that all might indeed serve you well; raise us from our bed of pain, release us from the grasp of the devil, and we shall work for you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Let all be done as you will and all shall rejoice in your glory.
It is you who have made us, LORD; we are but your poor creatures. But with the blood of your Son coursing through our veins we rise above this dying flesh and make our home in the Spirit. Let us grow in your House this day.
Mon, 3 September 2018
(1Cor.2:10-16; Ps.145:8-14,17; Lk.4:31-37)
“We have the mind of Christ.”
The demon has been cast from us and we see the Lord as He is: “Good to all and compassionate toward all His works.” “The glorious splendor of [His] kingdom” is before our eyes, and it is this which gives us light. We have bowed ourselves down before Him, the demon has thrown us “to the ground before everyone’s eyes,” and we have found that “the Lord lifts up those who are falling.” No longer “the natural man” who finds “what is taught by the Spirit of God” complete “absurdity,” filled with His Spirit we now “recognize the gifts He has given us.” And in these gifts we rejoice, for we have become as He is.
“The Lord is faithful in all His words and holy in all His works,” and so what should we who are His works do but “discourse of the glory of His kingdom and speak of His might,” brothers and sisters? Should not all our words and all our works give Him due glory? How can we do otherwise, knowing now how “gracious and merciful” God is and that His “kingdom is a kingdom for all ages”? “All generations” must be called into His holy presence.
“He commands the unclean spirits with authority and power, and they leave.” Here is the Good News in action; here is the glory of God come among us. All the evil that possesses the soul of man is cast out by a word from His Son’s mouth. And so is paved the way to the kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, embrace the Spirit of God at work in the world. Put on the mind of Christ. “The Spirit we have received is not the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit,” and so should we not teach as we have been taught? If indeed the light of the Lord is upon us illumining our minds and hearts, is it not but just that we should be compelled to impart that same Spirit to others that they might not be in darkness but might also be able to “appraise everything” “in a spiritual way,” that they too might know “the mind of the Lord”?
Devils, be gone! Be silenced before the Son of God! All the evil of the world shall be struck and destroyed by the all-powerful Word of God. All His children sharply shine His saving light.
O LORD, let us have your Spirit within us,
that our speech may be as your Son’s.
YHWH, let us be your children of light, with your Spirit within us. The mind of Christ let us put on, and we shall understand all things and be found in your presence.
Your Son speaks with authority, LORD, for He speaks your NAME in every word. His word casts all demons from our midst, for what evil can stand before your Spirit?
O LORD, let us speak of your glory to all souls, tell the nations of your might. Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages; your dominion shall not pass away.
Holy are you, LORD, and no one can know you who does not seek your holiness. But you bless with great gifts those who love you and praise your NAME – your wisdom you grant to the spiritual man.
Let us listen to your voice calling to our souls. Let all darkness and sin be cast from our hearts. O let us be faithful to your Word! and we shall find ourselves in your kingdom on high.
Sun, 2 September 2018
(1Cor.2:1-5; Ps.119:97-102; Lk.4:16-30)
“Your faith rests not on the wisdom of men
but on the power of God.”
Paul comes to the Corinthians with preaching that has “none of the persuasive force of ‘wise’ argumentation, but the convincing power of the Spirit,” and with them he determines to “speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Similarly, when “Jesus came to Nazareth where He had been reared,” in the synagogue He simply read the passage from Isaiah which prophesies the coming Messiah, sat down before the eyes of all, and stated, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” I AM here. I AM He. This is the day of salvation. Period. And here even at the beginning of His ministry we see how the crucifixion is already near, as His townspeople attempt to kill Him for the truth He speaks.
Upon what is this simple wisdom, this power of the Lord, based but the Word of God? The psalmist, whose “meditation all the day” is the law of the Lord, declares in truth and in joy: “Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies.” It grants him “more understanding than all [his] teachers” and “more discernment than the elders,” because all genuine wisdom comes from the Word spoken by the mouth of God and not through human learning. We have seen that Scripture is the foundation of the teaching of Jesus Himself, who is the Word of God made flesh. Yes, He speaks much more through “the appealing discourse which came from His lips.” Yes, there is oral tradition as well (for the Word of God is living and active); but on Scripture He begins His instruction, and continually He refers to the Word. Whether rejecting the devil’s temptations, rebuking the Pharisees and scribes, or enlightening the people – as He tries to do today by referring to Elijah’s having to go to Zarephath and Elisha’s healing only the Syrian, to show how prophets are not accepted in their native place – the Lord’s words are founded in the Word of God, in Scripture.
And, of course, an integral part of that Word is the suffering the Christ must undergo. But notice that even as the people intend “to hurl Him over the edge” of the hill of Nazareth, just as directly as He has spoken truth to them, so directly and with the power of God He “went straight through their midst and walked away.” For the Word is as a sword which pierces all the dark limits of the world, and even through death it shall lead all to salvation.
Brothers and sisters, let your faith rest on this Word that is Christ found in Scripture and living in the Church, for the Spirit does not die with the devices of the human mind. This Spirit holds eternal life.
O LORD, open our eyes that we might see and know
the blessing you bring us by your Son’s Cross.
YHWH, let us follow your Word and your way, the way of your only Son, the way of the Cross that leads to life. Of Christ crucified let us speak; with all our lives let us give witness to Him. Then we shall be obedient to your Word as He – then we shall make your wisdom our own.
O LORD, let us meditate on the Word that comes to us in Scripture, that comes walking among us in your Son. All the day let our hearts be set on the illumination your Word brings. Though in the Word we are chastised for our sins, though it lead us along a narrow path; if we observe your precepts and follow in the way of the Christ, you shall guard our steps and keep us from every evil. For then we shall be wiser than all our foes, wiser than any other soul, for then your Spirit will be with us; His power will be upon us.
May the Word of Truth come from our Savior’s mouth and lived in His very flesh help us to walk straight through the midst of our enemies and come to you.
Fri, 31 August 2018
(1Cor.1:26-31; Ps.33:12-13,18-21; Mt.25:14-30)
“He called in His servants and handed His funds over to them
according to each man’s abilities.”
All comes from the hand of God. Yes. Do you see this? God it is who provides any talent you possess on this earth and “God it is who has given you life in Christ Jesus.” Not yourself. It is not from you any power comes. God has proven His power by choosing “the lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing,” and making them strong. This is you. You are nothing; and yet you have all things in God.
Brothers and sisters, “mankind can do no boasting before God.” How could they? It is He who looks down from heaven and “sees all mankind”; it is He who chooses “His own inheritance.” It is He who places in our hands the “silver pieces” we employ on this earth – and it is He who expects us to use well that which we have been given. To Him we must answer for all things. And if we are “industrious and reliable” in our service, it is He who will declare, “Since you were dependable in a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs.” On earth as it is in heaven… If our work is done well here, it shall lead to the greater fruits, and we shall “share [our] Master’s joy!” But it is always His joy to which we come and not our own.
God is all things to us. “He has made [Jesus] our wisdom, and also our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption.” All that we have is from Him, and without Him we could not live. And should you be resentful of so great a gift? Should you return the gift of Himself He lays before you on your table? Or should you not rather take it up, make it your own, and by it produce fruit according to the abilities He has shared with you? This is all He expects of you: that the graces He shares with you, you share with others.
“In His holy name we trust.” Yes, “our soul waits for the Lord” and “in Him our hearts rejoice.” For He does not fail us. What He gives He does not take back: it is we who reject His love; it is He who increases the yield within us. “Brothers, you are among those who are called,” and so be among “those who hope for His kindness.” For His kindness shall but enrich you each day as you make His will your own and find your “boast in the Lord.” Praise Him for His gifts and for His grace, for by His grace the gifts He provides become eternally fruitful in our lives. Alleluia!
O LORD, enrich us with your blessings
as we serve you humbly in this world.
YHWH, let us trust in your NAME and in your NAME alone. How can we trust in ourselves or in the riches of this world when all this is but dust? But in your hands this dust we are becomes as gold, for we become as you who are so far above this world.
O make us your own, dear LORD! Help us to look to you, to wait for you, to trust in you for all things. May our tongues praise your NAME and our hands work in your service, and then, O how we shall be blessed! For truly you will be with us, and we with you.
Into your joy let us come, O LORD, the joy that surpasses any joy of this earth, the grace that passes not away. Let us boast in you, that you are great and do marvelous things for those who trust in you, those who know your love. From death let us be delivered – into your House let us come.
O LORD, increase your yield in us; we are but instruments of your holy love, your poor children whom you raise from the dust.
Thu, 30 August 2018
(1Cor.1:17-25; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,10-11; Mt.25:1-13)
“The world did not come to know Him through its ‘wisdom’.”
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and thwart the cleverness of the clever,” says the Lord God. And in its place we find the Gospel, “the message of the cross,” which is “complete absurdity to those who are headed to ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation it is the power of God.” It is this wisdom which saves us, even as the wisdom of the world falls to dust.
The wisdom of the world tells us to take our rest, to find our pleasure in the things of this life; the wisdom of God instructs us to “keep [our] eyes open” for the coming of the kingdom of God, wherein we shall find eternal rest. The wisdom of the world has only the torch to offer; like the foolish bridesmaids, it brings no oil for its lamp, for it can see nothing beyond its eyes – its immediate physical concerns are its preoccupation. The wisdom of God knows that all depends on the oil of the lamp, and so it calls us to find our souls in the Word of God, which is a flask whose contents never recede but rather increase with use and preserve the soul’s burning brightly before its Creator. The wisdom of the world is “wordy,” is empty rambling with no foundation in truth; God’s wisdom is founded in silence, pregnant with the power and authority of all ages.
“The Lord brings to naught the plans of nations; He foils the designs of peoples.” What can stand that is not rooted in Him? What has purpose that is not spoken by His mouth? Apart from Him nothing comes to be or lasts. And does not the Lord thwart the ideas of the human mind most perfectly in the crucifixion of His Christ? Making “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” turns the vain strivings of men upside down and exposes them in all their emptiness. Here is my Word, He says; here is my Love. To this sacrifice does He call us all, that we might celebrate at His wedding feast and not be barred outside in the cold world. For indeed all that is of the world comes to nothing, “but the plan of the Lord stands forever; the design of His heart, through all generations.” And it is His design that we become children of light, shining forever in the light of His wisdom, not burning to ashes in the deceit of our hearts.
In the cross all our empty words fall to naught as we are confronted with the truth of our sin and the love of our God. Thus our eyes are opened. May they remain so, fixed on this lamp which shines in the darkness of the night. By no other means will we come to know God and the meaning of our lives.
O LORD, let our eyes be open
with the light of your wisdom
that we might see your coming in the Cross of Christ.
YHWH, the plans of the nations you bring to naught to show all souls where wisdom lies: it rests with you and in the Cross of your Son, for the light of our minds is dim indeed without your Word to feed it.
How can we even speak of you, LORD, you who are beyond the realm of our words? We cannot determine whence we have come and do not know when our end shall be fulfilled… and so, how can we know anything? All we know is what you tell us through your Son in the love He offers.
Jesus has died for our sins. This is all we need to know, LORD, for such knowledge, such faith, will bring us to your doorstep; and by the light of the Spirit we shall be able to enter in – to enter into your presence and so come to know all things by your grace and mercy.
Dead are we apart from you, LORD, dead in our sin and in the emptiness of our minds. But the blood of your Son enlivens our souls that we might come to know the wisdom beyond all ages in His salvation. O may we be wed to you!
Wed, 29 August 2018
(1Cor.1:1-9; Ps.145:1-7; Mt.24:42-51)
“He will strengthen you to the end,
so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Brothers and sisters, “you lack no spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Lord provides all you need, generously and faithfully. You “have been consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be a holy people” and so “have been richly endowed [by God] with every gift,” that you might fulfill the call He places upon your soul, that by His grace you might indeed be holy. And so you should realize “the favor He has bestowed on you in Christ Jesus” and “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” to gain all the blessings the Lord God is ready to pour forth upon you.
Brothers and sisters, “keep a watchful eye and [do] not allow [your] house to be broken into.” “Be prepared” for the Lord’s coming. Let His every gift be at work in you, that readiness will ever be yours. Do not think as the foolish and worthless servant, “My master is a long time in coming,” and turn thus away from His light, sagging into the world’s darkness. Such a thought brings only death and the punishment of the Lord. For never is He long in coming. Always is He present to us; ever is His Spirit here within us when we remain faithful to Him. He it is who is of life and light – it is we who grow blind to His grace and are slow to come to His eternal presence. Forsake not His gifts, which sustain us at all times.
Here is cause for rejoicing. Here is the reason David sings, “Every day I will bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever” (revealing thus the newness of life which is ever upon us): “God is faithful, and it was He who called [us] to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” No more than this need we know. For this reason “generation after generation praises [His] works” and “publish[es] the fame of [His] abundant goodness.” It is this which brings His praise to our throats. For indeed in His grace He has called us to be as His only Son, and of course He is faithful to His call. And so by faithfulness all is ours in the Lord, and on that Day His blessings shall be full. Remaining in His light, growing in His gifts and favors, there shall be no “wailing then and grinding of teeth” for our souls – no, “happy that servant whom His master discovers at work on His return!”
O LORD, let us be prepared and waiting
for your coming Day.
YHWH, strengthen us to the end that we might be blameless on the Day your Son returns; make us your servants, faithful and true, praising you ever for your goodness to us, and we shall be ready on the Day of His revelation.
LORD, great are you and highly to be praised, for you provide all the gifts we need as we await Jesus’ coming. You give us speech and knowledge, and consecrate us in the Name of your Son. May we be like Him whom you sent for our salvation, that with favor you might ever look upon our lives.
As your Apostle has borne witness to your glory, LORD, so let us proclaim your greatness this day, that from generation to generation your NAME might be known and all souls be prepared for your coming Day. Let us serve you with diligence and with love, never forgetting that He whom we serve loves us more than we could ever return, remembering always that you are the Most High God who has created us in your image, in the image of your only Son.
Tue, 28 August 2018
(2Thes.3:6-10,16-18; Ps.128:1-2,4-5; Mt.23:27-32)
“You shall eat the fruit of your handiwork.”
“Anyone who would not work should not eat” was the rule laid down by Paul among the Thessalonians. A man must earn his bread. And as on earth, so in heaven. For who shall come to the fruits of the kingdom if they are not as Paul, who has labored “to the point of exhaustion” for the sake of the reign of God? This is the “straight path” laid down for us by all the apostles: in the Lord’s name we must walk “day and night.” It is work which produces fruit.
And what fruit will the scribes and Pharisees know? Their work is to “erect tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the saints,” those who have been murdered by their forefathers. Yet they join these “in shedding the prophets’ blood,” thus making the tombs they erect all the more vain; yes, they shall “fill up the vessel measured off by [their] forefathers” by crucifying the Christ, the only Son of God. And this work they do shall have its fruit as well – it shall lead their souls to the gates of hell, where only the same blood they shed will save them.
We will be judged according to our deeds, brothers and sisters. All is seen by God who looks upon the heart and whose eyes are everywhere. Let not your works be empty, or just so empty will be your heart, will be your place in the reign to come. Each day our souls are required of us; ever the Lord seeks fruit upon our tree. So, if you wish to “see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life,” if you long to know always the blessing of God, then “walk in His ways.” “Fear the Lord” who holds your life in His hands and do as He commands. Then “happy shall you be, and favored”; then the fruits of the kingdom you shall taste even here. And even the death you die and the blood you shed shall not remove this favor – by it “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” will be fulfilled in you. Amen.
O LORD, let us work for the life found in your Son,
and not His death and so our own.
YHWH, let us be blessed to walk in your way, to follow wherever you lead – to do your work in this world till the end of our days. Then we shall be truly happy, for then our fruit shall bring us unto Heaven.
O LORD, let us be your fruit; let us be your handiwork, made in your image, living as your Son. If we can but imitate Jesus, laying down our lives as all your prophets and apostles have done, then we shall join their ranks in the Body of Christ in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Your kingdom come, LORD. All vanity, all emptiness of heart and mind and soul and body take from us – let us be filled with your holy presence. Your kingdom within us let us know and live, breathing your Holy Spirit, bleeding as your Son… our spirits one with you and your love.
Why should we be without you, LORD, when you live at our very hearts?
Mon, 27 August 2018
(2Thes.2:1-3,14-17; Ps.96:10-13; Mt.23:23-26)
“He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with His constancy.”
“Brothers, stand firm.” Be not “easily agitated or terrified” “on the question of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him.” This should not preoccupy your thoughts because this is not in your mind to know or your hands to control. The day and the hour are with God alone. Rather, you should pray that the Lord will strengthen your hearts “for every good work and word.” This is what is in your power, and effectively accomplishing the Lord’s will thus, all fear will be removed from your souls.
Brothers and sisters, be not like the scribes and Pharisees, the “blind guides” who “strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!” Distracted by the details, they inevitably neglect “the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and good faith” – those for which the Lord calls us above all to be concerned. And so their vision and their actions are not whole, and they are not holy. Failing to see as God sees and to do as God does, they indeed become blind guides frittering the life of the Lord away in anxiety for external matters. Let this not be the fate of your soul.
Children, know of a certain that “our Lord Jesus Christ Himself… loved us and in His mercy gave us eternal consolation and hope.” We must make this hope our own. For “the Lord is King. He has made the world firm, not to be moved,” and we must be as immovable as He in our faith and in our work. We should not doubt that “He governs the peoples with equity,” that in fairness all are looked upon in His sight, and so, that if we strive to do His will with all our hearts He will indeed bless us.
Friends, we should know that, though not complete, though He does not stand before us in final judgment yet, still it is so that “the day of the Lord is here,” in our midst today. His rule has always been and has come to us in this place. And what we do now leads only to that day – the kingdom should be growing within us at all times. If we know not His justice and His constancy at work in our days, then indeed we have reason to fear and should heed the Lord’s rebuke. But if we strive with Him for holiness, any fear itself will be holy and lead us only to the joy that makes “the heavens… glad and the earth rejoice.” For each day we rejoice with them in the presence of our God.
O LORD, make us constant as you
in doing good works,
in dispensing justice and mercy according to your Word
– and have mercy upon our own souls.
YHWH, it is you who judge the earth, who come to rule all the world; your justice you bring to every man’s soul, preparing him for your Day. And there is no need for us to fear if we are striving to do your will. Rather, we should rejoice at your glorious coming!
O LORD, let us set our souls each day on your Word and your work, and your love and mercy shall meet us where we are and bring us soon to where you live. Even should we have to endure chastisement as the Pharisees, what should this bring us but a holy joy? For by such words of truth you make us in your image, if we but listen and respond in kind.
All the world shall rejoice at your coming, dear God; let us not be blind to such wonder and glory but set our hearts on that Day, cleansing our souls of every stain of sin by your grace and mercy, by your surpassing justice. Let no woe be on us in your Day but only your consolation, only the joy of your salvation, which you offer forth even this day.
Sun, 26 August 2018
(2Thes.1:1-5,11-12; Ps.96:1-5; Mt.23:13-22)
“Which is more important, the offering
or the altar which makes the offering sacred?”
The Pharisees in their blindness taught: “If a man swears by the altar it means nothing, but if he swears by the gift on the altar he is obligated.” Indeed, “How blind [they] are!” For what do they do but exalt that which is secondary beyond that which is primary? What do they do but invert logic?
And what is the significance of their blindness? Why does it bring them “an evil day”? What the Pharisees essentially do in their thinking and their teaching is place the created ahead of the Creator, themselves before their God. For we are the gift upon the altar and the Lord Jesus the altar that receives and consumes our offering. It is He who makes us holy, and not we Him; it is we “who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” and not vice-versa. He is above; we are below. The divine order of things must not be skewed. Yes, “the Lord made the heavens” and we who dwell below the heavens, and we must bow down before Him and praise His name.
“Awesome is He, beyond all gods.” Above every created thing He stands, He towers, for all these things, including our souls, are in His almighty hands. “All the gods of the nations are things of naught,” idols of so much dust and sand, devised alone by human hands and serving to inflate the pride of those who make them. These we must leave aside. Our false ideas we must abandon. To Him alone must we come.
“Tell His glory among the nations,” brothers and sisters, “for great is the Lord and highly to be praised.” It is He who is “seated on [the] throne” of heaven, He alone who merits our songs of praise. So let our song rise up to Him from our place upon His altar; let our offering be acceptable in His sight. Let us pray “that our God may make [us] worthy of His call, and fulfill by His power every honest intention and work of faith,” that “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [us] and [we] in Him, in accord with the gracious gift of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” May He make us holy.
O LORD, let us sing of your salvation
as we strive to put you before all things
and grow constantly in your love.
YHWH, you are seated on the throne of Heaven, far above all gods – you alone are worthy of our praise, for you alone are holy. All things of this world let us leave behind to find your glory.
LORD, bless our work and make us worthy of your call; in faith let us endure every persecution and trial and be fruitful in your sight, that we might be found in your kingdom. There is nothing but you that we should desire – may you alone be praised by all the ends of the earth.
How shall we lose our blindness, LORD, and come to see that you are all in all? How shall we learn to put you first at all times, always remembering your holy NAME? How might we be blessed to announce your salvation in all we think, say, and do?
By you alone let us live our lives, O LORD and God, striving to do your will in all things by the grace of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we shall know you and find you; through His Cross we shall come to your kingdom.
Fri, 24 August 2018
(Ez.43:1-7; Ps.85:9-14; Mt.23:1-12)
“The temple was filled with the glory of the Lord.”
Certainly the vision of Ezekiel is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus and His founding the Church, the New Jerusalem, here amongst us. In this Temple He has “set the soles of [His] feet”; here He “dwell[s] among the Israelites forever.” For though the temple in Jerusalem shall be restored, it shall again be destroyed, and forever. In the Catholic Church now does His presence remain. Through it and through its teaching “the earth [has] shone with His glory.”
“Truth shall spring out of the earth”: Jesus is born in our midst and walks among us; “justice shall look down from heaven”: through Him the light of God shines upon us, bringing salvation to all souls. And it is in His Church truth and justice remain, “glory dwelling in our land.”
And “like the roaring of many waters” is His teaching, which comes with power, which comes with authority. And this teaching He leaves in the apostles’ hands. As “the Pharisees have succeeded Moses as teachers” and Jesus has succeeded these, so do the apostles succeed Jesus; thus we must “do everything and observe everything they tell us” – the Spirit is upon the Church, which does not teach in error despite the sins of its members. These must be respected; it is upon these, and so upon Jesus’ teaching, the Catholic faith is founded.
And what if some refused to enter into this Temple and share in His glory present in His Church? What if they did not share the wholeness of His thought or receive His precious Body and Blood, offered each day in the New Jerusalem? Their eyes would be as blind and their vision as limited as those who quote our gospel today to prove that the Church should not call its priests “Father”. They would not be able to see that what Jesus teaches His disciples in telling them to avoid “marks of respect in public and of being called ‘Rabbi’” is to avoid having themselves inflated with pride. If these blind souls were correct, then no one could be called “teacher” either, for this is more the word the Lord wishes us to avoid. And they would have to condemn Paul for calling himself “father” of the Church in Corinth (1Cor.4:15). Such absurdity ensues when one has not the wholeness of Truth, but looks only on appearances.
Brothers and sisters, where would we be without the teaching of the apostles? In a word, we wouldn’t have Jesus. It is from Him their teaching comes, bringing His glory to the ends of the earth. In this Temple let us dwell, His Word and Sacrament sustaining our lives.
O LORD, your Son has humbled Himself
to walk among us;
the soles of His feet are set in this Temple, your Church
– may we follow in His steps.
YHWH, let us humble ourselves that we might be exalted in glory with you. You humble yourself to come among us as a Man; let us be as your only Son and so gain the favors of Heaven. Here in your Church make your home, in the soul of every believer.
And, LORD, let us have a reverent respect for those you place in position of authority, especially here in your Church. They carry your power through the Word of your Son, becoming as His body and blood with the teaching of the Spirit He breathes upon them. We cannot disobey their teaching without disobeying you, and so let us be faithful to your apostles. Then we shall come to know your surpassing glory.
What you revealed to Ezekiel help us to know and live this day – your glory here in your Temple bring to its fulfillment, we pray. In your kindness you come to us, Truth walking in our midst. The justice and peace of your Son let us find as we follow in His way of salvation.
Wed, 22 August 2018
(Ez.36:23-28; Ps.51:12-15,18-19,Ez.36:25; Mt.22:1-14)
“Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”
The Lord desires to “prove the holiness of [His] great name,” which has been “profaned among the nations” by the children of Israel. And so He determines to “gather [them] from all the foreign lands,” to bring them back from their exile from His sight, and bless them again upon their “own land.” He will “cleanse [them] from all [their] impurities… a new heart and… a new spirit within” them, and they shall be “careful to observe [His] decrees”: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
But when the time comes for the reign of God to be fulfilled in their midst, when all is prepared and they are invited to the “wedding banquet for His Son”… when indeed the Lord would wed the Israelites to Himself by the grace and blessing of the Messiah – they refuse the call. “Come to the feast,” He cries out; eat your fill of my delights. But they make excuses and even kill those by whom the invitation comes (laying hands even on the only Son). And so the chosen city having rejected His offer, the Lord tells His servants to “go out into the byroads and invite to the wedding anyone [they] come upon.” So do the apostles preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth; so are all now called to the wedding feast. But will all be prepared?
To “the chief priests and elders of the people” Jesus addresses His parable of the wedding banquet today, for it is these who refuse to hear Him – it is they who reject the call of the Lord. And so, indeed, to the nations does His voice go; the Gentiles now hear the call. And we, we who though founded firmly upon the rock of Judaism are in such great number of Gentile races, do we heed the call of the Lord and prepare our hearts to receive His food? We are now the chosen city and the banquet table is now spread before us each day: His Body and Blood is the greatest food of which we could ever hope to partake. But have we the wedding garment necessary to remain in His banquet hall, in His Church, or do we wander in ignorance of the gift and graces before us?
Brothers and sisters, we must pray not to be cast from the Lord’s holy presence. We must seek the purity of heart we need to receive His blessing, to partake of the food of His altar and grow in His grace. We shall only avoid being thrown “out into the night” if we nurture the light that is with us and prepare well to meet our Jesus. Only then will the Holy Spirit here remain.
O LORD, made pure in Jesus’ cleansing blood
may we rejoice with Him in your kingdom.
YHWH, you invite us to your wedding banquet, you call us to the feast prepared by your own hands, for you would wed yourself to us, making us your own holy children. But we must turn from our sins; with contrite hearts only can we approach your table and feed upon the Body of your Son. How shall we find our heavenly homeland if not cleansed in His blood? How shall we celebrate your glory if not renewed by your Spirit?
O LORD, bring us back to our own land, that with you we might dwell for eternity. Your light and your love make our own; you alone let us worship. Into your Temple let us come, that we might feast upon your Word, and upon your Son’s Body and Blood. Then what would we be but your children? What would we be but one with you?
A white wedding garment of purity provide for our souls, dear LORD, that we might not be cast from your presence but glory in you forevermore.
Tue, 21 August 2018
(Ez.34:1-11; Ps.23:1-6; Mt.20:1-16)
“I myself will look after and tend my sheep.”
How grateful we should be that “the Lord is [our] shepherd,” for with Him we want for nothing. Indeed, our “cup overflows” and “only goodness and kindness follow [us] all the days of [our] life”; for it is He who watches over our every step, and He is only goodness, He is only kindness – His mercy endures forever.
How the Lord’s hand contrasts with the false shepherds’ of the house of Israel. These “pastured themselves and did not pasture [the Lord’s] sheep.” They “fed off their milk, wor[e] their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings,” but the sheep they allowed to be “scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.” But where these shepherds “lorded it over [the sheep of Israel] harshly and brutally,” the Lord Himself is “generous.” Though under them the sheep “were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts,” the Lord, the owner of the vineyard, the Good Shepherd, goes forth at all times of day seeking every straying sheep, gathering all into His fold and seeing that we have wages enough to feed each of our families.
And whether the laborer works many hours or few, yet he is provided all his needs. Here, of course, is notice that the Gentiles, who come late to salvation history, enter the kingdom before the Jews, who have always been in the Lord’s house. Here is word that the generosity of our God extends to all, that His loving arms will not be shortened. And we may learn, too, from the response of the workers to the owner’s questioning why they have been “idle all day” – “No one has hired us” – that the Lord looks upon the heart and pays us not so much for the work accomplished but for the intention of our will. For these would have worked all day had they earlier been approached.
“In verdant pastures He gives me repose.” In the Lord’s loving arms we all find our home. Had He not come Himself to shepherd us, still we would be wandering alone. But as it is we work now in His vineyard, sharing in the very blood of the Son. As it is we are well cared for by a Father whose generosity knows no bounds. He whose mercy alone could redeem us has come with His staff to guide us on the “right paths” that lead to His kingdom. And so we say, gratefully, “Thank you, Jesus, for your kindness.”
O LORD, thank you for your generosity in saving us;
your Son is the true Shepherd, the Shepherd of love –
pasture us well this day in Him.
YHWH, because you are our Shepherd, we are well cared for; we have all we need for the day. If our desire is to do your will, to work for you in your vineyard, you will reward us well. For it is your desire but to see your children safe in your House, and to achieve this goal you are diligent in seeking us out.
To this end, you send your own Son to take on our flesh and blood; He becomes one of us that we might become one with you, LORD, fed by His Body and Blood. He shepherds us into your kingdom with great care.
O let us work for you, LORD, day in and day out! Let our hearts not be set on the wage we receive but on doing your will. For if we are with you in your vineyard, though the sun beat down on us, we shall be at peace. Nothing can disturb the soul set on serving you – our cup overflows with the wonder of your presence.
Let us be blessed to be gathered into your pasture, LORD, with all our brothers and sisters.
Mon, 20 August 2018
(Ez.28:1-10; Dt.32:26-28,30,35-36,39; Mt.19:23-30)
“Only with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom of God.”
Yes, “close at hand is the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them!” – those like the prince of Tyre who are “haughty of heart, and say, ‘A god am I! I occupy a godly throne in the heart of the sea!’” What condemnation they mount up for themselves, those who by their “great wisdom applied to [their] trading… have heaped up [their] riches,” for “the most barbarous of nations… shall draw their swords… [and] run them through [their] splendid apparel.” These shall be “thrust down to the pit, there to die a bloodied corpse in the heart of the sea.” How else shall they learn that they “are a man, not a god”? How else might they find the humility necessary for the kingdom of heaven?
It is tragic how riches and power turn men’s hearts away from truth, making them “a people devoid of reason, having no understanding.” For what do such as these say of their state but, “Our own hand won the victory; the Lord had nothing to do with it,” thus blinding themselves to the fact that all comes only from God? And so the Lord’s warning against those inflated by the riches of this world; and so “it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” For how their swollen pride makes it impossible to squeeze through the gates which admit only the humblest of children.
Brothers and sisters, store not up for yourselves a heap of riches which serve but to block the light of the Sun of God. Use not “your wisdom and your intelligence… [to make] riches for yourself.” This is not the proper end for the gifts God gives, and will serve only to bring the destruction of your haughty soul, along with the riches themselves. If you desire to “inherit everlasting life,” it is upon this your heart, your wisdom, your desire for riches, must be set. For the heavenly riches from the hand of God do not fail and cannot be run through by the sword of the nations; and in this kingdom “the last shall come first.”
O LORD, it is those who keep nothing for themselves
to whom you give everything,
including eternal life.
YHWH, how can a man whose heart is set on the things of this world come to the riches of Heaven? How can he who thinks himself a god know the God who rules over all? Only if we give up the riches of this world, only if we humble ourselves as servants, will we come to know you and so enter into your reign. Otherwise, we shall be trampled into dust.
You are life, LORD; you alone possess everlasting life, for the world and all it contains are in your hands – our very breath is your own. And so, how can we speak against you, how can we exalt ourselves above you, and expect to live, and expect to thrive? It is death we court by our insolent pride, not life. It is our condemnation we embrace by turning away from you.
O LORD, help us to give up the things of this world, entrusting all into your hands, for then you will care for our lives here, and share with us the life of Heaven.
Sun, 19 August 2018
(Ez.24:15-24; Dt.32:18-21; Mt.19:16-22)
“Son of man, by a sudden blow
I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes,
but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears.”
A striking similarity there is between our first reading and our gospel: as Ezekial’s wife dies, and so his most valuable treasure is taken from him by the Lord, so the rich young man is told by Jesus, “Go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor,” thus calling him to give up his treasure. But an ironic contrast also exists: Ezekial is asked by the Lord not to mourn his loss, though custom and conscience and righteousness would inform him otherwise, while the young man goes away in sadness when really he should be rejoicing that the Christ is calling him to follow Him. For the death of a loved one we should rightfully weep – for here is a life taken from us – but our possessions, what are they?
And more so should we weep when it is our sins which have caused our loss to befall us, as is the case with the Israelites. The Lord teaches them that He shall remove Jerusalem and its temple from their sight, for they have forgotten God and “angered [Him] with their vain idols,” and so He is “filled with loathing… toward His sons and daughters.” But will they cry out to Him for the loss their sin has brought about? Will they turn and seek Him in prayer and fasting? No. He tells them, “You shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.” The hardness of their hearts shall keep their tongues from crying out, and so they shall not find the grace of God.
And oh the sad fate of the rich, who likewise are prevented from entering the realm of God, in this case by their wealth of possessions. These vain things should mean no more than the dust of the earth, and when called from them and the anxiety they produce, what should one do but rejoice to approach the gates of heaven? But rather than this, the soul is made sad. It is a twisted world which only the grace of God can remedy. But who of this “fickle race” will come to the font of life and drink in the Word of salvation? Who will mourn in earnest the loss of life granted by God and have no care for the dead things of our earthly existence? And who shall continue the wicked twisting?
O LORD, we should mourn the loss of our souls,
our hearts turning away from you,
not the loss of our possessions.
YHWH, why should we weep over the loss of our possessions, the vain things of this earth, these riches which keep us from knowing your face? Should we not rather rejoice when you call us from them to walk in your way? All we should care for is the life you give to our soul and that of our neighbor; all we need is to worship you.
Yet we rot away in our sins, LORD, mourning not the loss of your light in our midst as we embrace darkness and death itself. What hope is there for such a fickle race, sons and daughters who forget their God and turn rather to vain idols? What can you do but destroy those who desecrate your sanctuary?
We are your children, LORD, and you call us close to you, desiring but to share your goodness with us. O let our hearts be set on your love for us and following in your way. Turn not your face away from us but let us return to you.
Fri, 17 August 2018
(Ez.18:1-10,13,30-32; Ps.51:12-15,18-19; Mt.19:13-15)
“Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”
“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me,” David cries out in his psalm. Ezekial speaks of the same cleansing needed to find the life of God. And Jesus amongst the children reveals the purity to which we are all called.
“Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you,” the Lord exhorts us through his prophet today. Through Ezekial it is revealed that we are judged “each one according to his ways” – the sinner according to his sin and the virtuous according to his “right and just” acts. And the sinner “because he practiced all these abominations… shall surely die,” while the just “shall surely live.” This is the Word of the Lord God.
But the Word continues. Ezekial also reveals that the Lord God “takes no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” that it is His desire that all should live. And so he cries out, “Return and live!” for the Lord is a forgiving God and will indeed wash clean all who turn from their sin.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” Here is the truth of our Lord: He does not desire to cast us “out from [His] presence,” but wishes us to come as children before Him, to know His love, to discover the kingdom of God which belongs to “such as these”… for these are as He is – humble as Jesus, the Child of God. Marvelously our sins He shall wash away, and we shall live! We shall know “the joy of [His] salvation” as children in His sight.
O Lord, we pray that “sinners shall return to you.” We pray that none shall die. We pray that you take our own lives and let them witness what it is to be a virtuous child of God. In your hands may our hearts be: “a willing spirit sustain in me.” Lay your hands upon our heads before you leave this place; let all our sin be cast away.
O LORD, make for us a new heart and a new spirit,
that we might be as children in your kingdom.
YHWH, make us pure and innocent as children before you that we might not be judged guilty of sin, that we might not be deserving of death. Lay your hands upon our head, and make us clean.
You judge every soul according to his deeds, LORD, but you are merciful to those who turn from their sin. Indeed, you desire the death of no one and so long for our hearts to turn to you. May we be truly contrite and humble; may we sincerely desire to return to you, and so reform our ways.
To each man you give a soul, O LORD, a free will to decide his fate. If he goes along the way you direct him, worshiping you alone and loving others as you do, he shall indeed be saved and live with you forever. But if in pride he casts aside your words of instruction, worshiping gods that are not you and despising his neighbor… he cannot but die.
O LORD, take away all our empty pride, and let us come to you as a child.
Thu, 16 August 2018
(Ez.16:1-15,60,63 or Ez.16:59-63; Is.12:1-6; Mt.19:3-12)
“I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl,
and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you.”
Ezekial first “make[s] known to Jerusalem her abominations,” telling the people, “You were thrown out on the ground as something loathsome, the day you were born.” And though by the Lord’s blessing they “grew and developed”; and though when they were “old enough for love” He “spread the corner of [His] cloak over [them]”; and though when He “swore an oath to [them] and entered into a covenant with [them]” they became His, the recipient of all the bride’s gifts and graces – “You were adorned with gold and silver; your garments were of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. Fine flour, honey, and oil were your food” – yet they took the beauty with which the Lord had endowed them, and turned to harlotry. The wisdom of the Lord, His laws and decrees with which He favored no other people, which were the source of their glory, they spurned in favor of the wickedness of the nations.
The hardness of the hearts of the Israelites we find well illustrated in our gospel today; their attitude toward the marriage covenant reveals their level of faithfulness to the Word of the Lord. A covenant is made binding for all generations, yet the Lord relates the truth to those who question Him: “Because of your stubbornness Moses let you divorce your wives.” Never was it meant to be so. This promise, this sacrament Paul later tells us mirrors the love of God for His Church, was ever meant to be lasting. But how weak is the faith and the love of even His chosen, causing even the disciples to marvel at all that is asked of them.
But the covenant the Lord made with His people in their immaturity, the marriage He called them to when they were but profligate children, He now comes to make everlasting through the grace brought by His only Son. He forgets us not in our sin and weakness; He remembers our humble origins.
Now may we “be utterly silenced for shame when [He] pardon[s] all [we] have done”; now may we declare, “God indeed is my savior” and rely entirely upon His strength and the word from His mouth. “Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!” and He comes now to wed you to Himself forever.
O LORD, let your Covenant with us never be broken;
may we be wed to you forever.
YHWH, if anyone ever had the right to divorce his wife, you have the right to separate us from yourself. For how unfaithful we have been! How profligate have been our actions against you who took us from the ground, from the gutter, and gathered us to yourself… washing us clean of our sin, of the blood upon our hands, and clothing us as a queen before your majesty. How foolish we have been, and yet you show us mercy.
Indeed, we are utterly silenced for shame at your grace at work in our lives, at the gifts you bestow on your rebellious child. O LORD, to yourself once again you take us, and for this what can we do but shout with exultation? We do not deserve your faithfulness toward us, yet you renew your Covenant with us in Jesus our Bridegroom; and even greater are the blessings now as we return to you. In His blood let us be washed, and clothed in His wedding garment.
Wed, 15 August 2018
(Ez.12:1-12; Ps.78:7,56-59,61-62; Mt.18:21-19:1)
“As captives they shall go into exile.”
“The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden and set out in darkness, going through a hole he has dug in the wall, and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.” O the woe of the “rebellious house”! How their sins eat away at their souls like hands digging holes in a wall; how they must hide their faces from the light of day and from the Lord’s glorious face. Into what hell they cast themselves with no means of escape, their burden too heavy to bear.
The house of Israel “turned back and were faithless like their fathers,” and so the Lord “surrendered His strength into captivity, His glory into the hands of the foe.” And just such a fate awaits all who are hardened by sin, who have no forgiveness in their hearts. For all owe the Lord “a huge amount” and all have “no way of paying it”; and so all deserve to be sold into slavery. Only the mercy of God preserves us from such a fate. But can a heart know mercy which shows none? Can a soul receive forgiveness if it continues in sin? Does not this house remain in exile from its God? And what shall become of the one who spurns the love of God as does the wretched servant? Shall he not be like him whom “the master handed… over to the torturers until he paid back all that he owed’?
There is only woe for the soul so set in opposition to the loving will of God. There is only banishment from His sight. As the Lord “was enraged and utterly rejected Israel,” His chosen children whom He had loved and blessed and forgiven so much, so all shall die in their sin who refuse to turn to Him... for there is no place for the evil with the good.
From darkness let us come, brothers and sisters. Exile from the Lord let us avoid. May we, too, learn from Ezekial’s sign and open our eyes to the danger upon us. On our knees let us come to our confessor, who has been instructed by his Master to forgive “seventy times seven times,” and so wash ourselves clean of our rebellion – and then share the same with others. To the Lord let us return.
O LORD, save us from the captivity
wrought by our sin;
let your mercy and love work in and through us.
YHWH, how shall we avoid exile from you and from your holy face? For we are a rebellious house, blind to your mercy. And if we are blind to your mercy, if we cannot hear you calling us back to you through your prophets, through the Word that comes to us by your Son, how can we find anything but condemnation and exile? Into prison we shall be cast to pay for all our sins if your Son’s love we fail to recognize in our midst.
It cannot but be that as we reject you, as we rouse your jealousy by our vain idols, by the false love we so desire with our faithless hearts, you cannot but reject us – do you not respect our wills, dear LORD? And if we choose not to share the mercy you offer to our barren souls, if we have not love in our hearts for others in need of that same mercy… how can that mercy be said to be ours? If we harden our hearts against you and your love, we build the prison in which we find ourselves.
O LORD, release us from such hell to dwell with you and our brothers in your House.
Mon, 13 August 2018
(Ez.2:8-3:4; Ps.119:14,24,72,103,111,131; Mt.18:1-5,10,12-14)
“How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
And is there a sweeter promise or a sweeter teaching than that which Jesus gives today in our gospel? In answer to the disciples’ question, “‘Who is of greatest importance in the kingdom of God?’ He called a little child over and stood him in their midst and said ... ‘Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly reign.’” And He goes on to assure them that none of His children is forgotten by the Father – each He searches out diligently. Always they shall behold the absolute sweetness of His countenance... forever they shall look on His presence. O to be as that innocent child in the Lord Jesus’ arms!
“Yes, your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.” O Lord, “I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands.” Let us be as your prophet Ezekial, to whom you bring the written scroll and command, “Open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.” Let us “eat what is before [us]”; let us “eat this scroll.” Let us consume your words and commands and “feed [our] belly and fill [our] stomach” with your teaching and your promises. For all your words are “sweet as honey in [the] mouth.” All that comes from you is grace and peace and joy. And though the words may be sour in our stomach, though we may have to declare “lamentation and wailing and woe!” to those who turn from your law – though suffering may indeed follow in accomplishing your will, yet the sweet knowledge that all comes from your hand shall sustain us; we shall never forget your blessing.
Nothing is sweeter, nothing is more wonderful, than fulfilling the word of God in our lives. Nothing is greater than coming to His table to eat. And now this Word made flesh is in our midst, and of its sweetness we daily partake. Of His presence we cannot receive enough; to His love there are no bounds. And children before Him we constantly become as we ever consume His promises, listening to His Word and eating and drinking His Body and Blood. And so, let us rejoice as we receive from the “hand stretched out to [us].”
O LORD, fulfill your promise, we pray,
and let all your children enter your reign.
YHWH, how sweet to my taste are your commands, are your words to our souls, for they are life to us – you save us by your prophecy.
You would have us be as humble as you, LORD, and so you call us to be as children. O let our eyes and our mouths open wide to receive the glorious food you offer, and in faith we shall come into your kingdom.
And if it should cause us pain to speak in your NAME, to live our lives according to your Son’s example – to follow in the way of the Cross, LORD – of what concern should this be to us? If we must proclaim your message of lamentation and wailing and woe that others might be saved from straying and be gathered into your fold, this too should be sweet to us; indeed, we should gasp with open mouth to aid the salvation of your little ones. Then our own salvation will be assured.
O LORD, let us be your disciples; let us share in your Son’s Cross, in the Word He is and shares with us… O let your will be done and let all enter your presence!
Sun, 12 August 2018
(Ez.1:2-5,24-28; Ps.148:1-2,11-14; Mt.17:22-27)
“His majesty is above earth and heaven.”
Gleaming like gold or silver, shining forth like burning fire, splendorous as “the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day” – “such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” given the prophet Ezekial. And this is but His likeness; nothing could describe the glory of the One who has beneath His feet the four living creatures whose wings beat “like the roaring of mighty waters, like the voice of the Almighty.” These eyes cannot see God.
But His only Son we can see, for He whose greatness is as the Lord’s own has deigned to walk amongst us in human form. Though His place is at the throne of the Almighty God, though His glory is itself exalted above earth and heaven, yet the Son of God becomes also the Son of Man. And not only does He walk in our skin, but even dies for our sin. How humble is our glorious God!
And though He Himself is the Temple of God, though it is by His hands only the temple on earth has been built, yet He does not presume exemption from paying tax to those who are but its caretakers. For He subjects Himself entirely to our laws, as well as to our scourges. (And notice that the coin Peter will find in the mouth of the fish is “twice the temple tax,” to pay simultaneously for himself and Jesus. Thus is Peter equated with the Lord in the exemption of sonship, in authority over the temple – for it is he who shall be at the helm of the new Temple.)
The disciples are “overwhelmed with grief” at hearing of their Lord’s coming crucifixion. They have known the glory of God so wonderfully as wedding guests, as the best men of the bridegroom – as the blessed disciples of the Son – and now the thought of His dying is beyond their comprehension. (So much so that they do not even hear that “He will be raised up on the third day.”) They want to maintain the glory they have known, which is indeed heavenly. But Jesus’ humbling of Himself is not complete, as neither is His glory. Remain on this earth He cannot, but must return to the right hand of the Father. And the only way to this fulfillment of glory is through the cross – only this will bring Him to resurrection, and bring us all from our sin.
“Praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” Let all that lives and that breathes praise our Savior, Jesus. For it is He who brings us to the majesty of our Father.
O LORD, your Son is the Temple in which we worship;
He is our heavenly King –
may we offer our lives with Him this day.
YHWH, your majesty is above earth and Heaven, far beyond our comprehension; Ezekiel’s vision gives us but a glimpse of your surpassing glory. Our eyes could not look upon the perfect wonder of your presence.
But to us you send your Son, LORD, for Him we may look upon. And looking at Him on the Cross we see the Temple of Heaven open up for us; our vision is cleansed and we know thus the glory that is with Him, that He is your Son, and that it is He who leads us to your throne. And so, your majesty becomes our own.
Indeed, we cannot fathom this great gift you grant to your children, LORD; we cannot say how unworthy we are of your presence. And yet, by His humility, by His uniting Himself to us, we become as the Temple your Son is – we find His Spirit upon us. In your Church you make your home, making us as your sons. Your praise resound from the ends of the earth; on the third day may we too be raised.
Fri, 10 August 2018
(Hb.1:12-2:4; Ps.9:8-13; Mt.17:14-20)
“They trust in you who cherish your name,
for you forsake not those who seek you, O Lord.”
“Why could we not expel it?” the disciples asked Jesus regarding the boy so severely possessed by a demon. “‘Because you have so little trust,’ He told them.”
Brothers and sisters, is it the Lord who “delays”? Is it He who fails to cast wickedness and misery from our midst? Or is it not rather we who fail in faith? We complain and ask, When will the Lord act? but is the Lord not quick to act, as He does in our gospel today, whenever we call upon Him in truth? Does He not give us the power to do all in His Name? Does He somehow withhold His grace?
Certainly not. “He has not forgotten the cry of the afflicted,” and it is eternally true that “the just man, because of his faith, shall live.” The wicked man shall not “keep brandishing his sword to slay peoples without mercy”; and of the fool who “sacrifices to his net” for the fish that come through it – failing to see the God who provides all things and who alone deserves our trust… how long shall such vanity last? It shall disappear with the coming dawn.
“The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.” He who is here in our midst is coming to us, and we know “He judges the world with justice; He governs the peoples with equity.” And His time is soon fulfilled. But how we must trust in Him! How our faith must be purified! How our hearts must be taken from the empty things of this world and our eyes set entirely on the Lord. Only this will save us; and this is what He teaches.
Trust in Him and in His Name;
it is only He who saves us.
He forsakes not His children.
O LORD, let us but trust in you and you will heal us
and bring us to your glory.
YHWH, let us cherish your NAME; let us trust in you entirely and in the power and grace upon your Son. Then we shall be wanting for nothing. Then we shall be healed. Then the same power will be with us, to do all things in your NAME.
Wandering so blindly we see nothing but what is before our eyes, LORD, and so we sacrifice and burn incense to the vain things of this earth. We cannot see that there is no power in the things at our hands but that all power and all glory and our salvation are with you alone. And so we stumble along, falling into water and into fire, into sin and death.
O LORD, let us not be overwhelmed by the devil and his snares, by the empty things of this dark world. Let us make you our stronghold; let us put all faith in you and praise your NAME without ceasing. You shall remember us and answer our prayer, and come quickly to heal us. No longer let us be an unbelieving lot – let us come on our knees to you.
Wed, 8 August 2018
(Jer.31:31-34; Ps.51:12-15,18-19; Mt.16:13-23)
“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.”
Do not the days come to pass, is not this promise made through Jeremiah fulfilled, when the Lord declares to Peter, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it”? Does Jesus not hereby wrest the covenant from the hands of the leaders of the Jews and thus make His people anew, here founding His New Covenant and His new Church upon Peter and the apostles? Does not all that has been declared to the Chosen now come to pass in the Christ and in those who follow Him? Are we not, as it were, true and complete Jews, basking in the light of the Messiah?
And what is it this New Covenant is like? The Lord says, “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Indeed, all shall “know the Lord.” And how shall this come about? Is this not the answer to David’s heartfelt prayer when drowning in the midst of sin: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me”? Is it not by His cleansing us of all our transgressions that He shall “remember [our] sin no more”? Is it not in this way our hearts are prepared to receive Him, and He comes to make His home with us? Is this not why Jesus has come?
“Your Holy Spirit take not from me,” David cries out, and his “heart contrite and humbled” the Lord responds to. For upon Peter and His Church He places His Holy Spirit, never to be removed, and all who dwell within this House shall indeed never be “cast... from [His] presence.” Later He shall breathe upon the apostles; later the Spirit shall fall mightily on them. Now He is still teaching them to make “God’s standards” their own; now He is still making room for His love in their hearts. But still, here is the declaration that His Church shall be, and shall grow unto eternity.
May we all take refuge within the blessed walls formed by the Lord’s hands, anointed by His Spirit. May our hearts all be set upon Him. And His power shall be in our hands; and we will be His own... and the New Covenant of love will be known.
O LORD, write your NAME upon our hearts,
that we might be made holy like you.
YHWH, write your NAME upon our hearts, that we shall never forget you. Let us be blessed to remain in your Church, faithful ever to your New Covenant.
Your promise fulfill among us, LORD, in our obedience to Peter and all your apostles. I pray we shall learn to judge by your standards, and not according to our selfish concern.
Reveal to us your Word and your Way, LORD, and let us follow Him to the end. Though we must travel through Jerusalem, may our joining in your Son’s sacrifice but serve to make us holy in your sight.
Take not your Spirit from our hearts, LORD; never let us be separated from you. But be pleased with our humility, and remember our sins no more.
The joy of your salvation shall be ours, if we build our house upon your Rock. O LORD, day to day may we be released from all bonds, washed ever in the blood of the Messiah.
Tue, 7 August 2018
(Jer.31:1-7; Jer.31:10-13; Mt.15:21-28)
“Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings.”
In our first reading Jeremiah prophesies the restoration of “all the tribes of Israel” to the grace and “age-old love” of their Lord and God. The Lord promises His virgin daughter Israel: “Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.” He will “turn their mourning into joy” as this “remnant of Israel” returns to the holy heights of Mount Zion, as he “gathers them together” as His chosen once again.
And in our gospel the Lord makes clear it is for the lost children of Israel He has come. Here in the mission of the Christ, Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled. But more than the restoration of the nation of Israel do we hear of today. What we find is that not these alone shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings, but indeed all the nations shall find Him whom their hearts desire. And it is this Canaanite woman who leads the way for all Gentile people to receive the grace and favor of the One God.
On her knees she comes, crawling like a dog, this mother of all us not born of Jewish blood, to be grafted to the kingdom’s tree. Here is a sign of the humility we all must have. And when rebuffed she does not answer, “Who are you?” and leave in anger, but drops further on her face, pleading for “the leavings that fall from [the] masters’ tables.” And so she shows the Lord the “great faith” even we Gentiles can exhibit; and so she wins a hearing not only for herself but all people of foreign nations who, like Ruth, are able to say in truth: May your God be my God (see Ru.1:16). And so her daughter finds the healing touch of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, the promise given the people of Israel is now for all of us to share, if we have but faith – if we but have the love of God burning in our hearts. And so, “rise up, let us go to Zion, to the Lord, our God” and “enjoy the fruits” He offers forth for all His many sheep. This Canaanite woman came “shouting after” Him and found the ear of the God of the universe; let us now “shout with joy for Jacob” and with Jacob, as we celebrate the glory of the Lord here present in our midst.
O LORD, gather us all into your arms.
YHWH, you restore the fortunes of Jacob; his house you rebuild and your blessings he finds. Jesus has indeed come to the lost sheep of Israel, for they are your chosen sons and daughters. You have loved them from of old and your mercy remains upon them.
But if we come on our knees before you, LORD, we who are but dogs, perhaps the leavings of your table we may find, and so share in your blessings with the chosen ones. Faith is open to men of all nations, and it is this alone that will enable us to enter your House.
O let us rise up and go to Zion! Let us climb the heights of your mountain and fall at the feet of your Son. His mercy He cannot withhold from any who beg of Him. As a Shepherd guide us, O LORD, that we might find rest in you, that we might be fruitful in your NAME and come to praise you in the joy of your kingdom.
Mon, 6 August 2018
(Jer.30:1-2,12-15,18-22; Ps.102:16-23,29; Mt.14:22-36)
“His assembly before me shall stand firm.”
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are fulfilled in the Apostle Peter and in the Church, for upon this Rock we have our firm foundation.
“The Lord looked down from His holy height, from heaven He beheld the earth”; and when the time had come, He sent His only Son. And that Son, in all His wisdom, chooses those who would follow Him, making certain thereby that indeed “the children of [His] servants shall abide, and their posterity shall continue in [the Father’s] presence,” thus fulfilling the word of the Lord: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Yes, Jeremiah declares of the New Jerusalem, the “city [that] shall be rebuilt upon [the] hill”: “His leader shall be one of his own, and his rulers shall come from his kin.” Jesus is of our kind, a man like each of the Lord’s children, and so is the apostle He chooses – and all who likewise follow. All bishops and priests, all the descendants of Peter and the apostles in the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the flesh of Christ, all come from our midst and are our very brothers. And the Church is ruled by them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of our gospel today we find Jesus much as He was the night before choosing His apostles – “He went up on the mountain to pray, remaining there alone as evening drew on.” John the Baptist has been killed and the time has come now for our Lord’s mission to increase, and so He prepares Himself for this next step in His ministry. And so it becomes His primary concern to be sure that when the time comes for Him to die, His successor shall be readied. And so the test and teaching He brings His Rock, Peter.
“When I summon him, he shall approach me; how else should one take the deadly risk of approaching me? says the Lord.” Again Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled, for Peter does not come to Jesus on his own, but first states, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you across the water,” and waits for the Lord to exclaim: “Come!” And what happens now, what miracle? “Peter got out of the boat and began walking on the water, moving toward Jesus.” Yes, our Rock walks miraculously with the Lord! Then why does he begin to sink? you say. It is the Lord’s will to teach our leader, and all of us, of our dependence on Him alone and our need to cry out, “Lord, save me!” (Oh how sweet and instructive are the words Jesus whispers loudly into the apostle’s ears – “Why did you falter?”)
O may the Lord ever bless His Church with the firmness of faith found only in Him! May we ever stand in His presence, unshaken by the winds of the world and our own human weakness. Yes, may we be His children.
O LORD, let us stand in assembly before you,
healed of all our wounds.
YHWH, make us your people that you may be our God. Call us to you, for how shall we approach your majesty except at your invitation? If we have not word from you, surely we shall sink in the sea, for our hearts are terribly afraid of the winds of this world and the prospect of your punishment. But trusting in you, we may follow Peter walking on the water; we may become as your children by the grace of your Son.
How great is your mercy toward us, dearest LORD, for you hear us as we cry out to you; from the darkness of this prison you release our souls. Even in the night you come to us, well aware of the troubles we encounter in doing your will. Great pity you have for us as you look down from your holy height, and to the heights of Mount Zion you would draw us, that we might join your Son in prayer and praise of your NAME. By you alone shall we be glorified, and remain in your presence always.
Fri, 3 August 2018
(Jer.26:11-16,24; Ps.69:14-16,30-31,33-34; Mt.14:1-12)
“In truth it was the Lord who sent me to you,
to speak all these things for you to hear.”
Jeremiah speaks to the people in the Lord’s name, even as he is threatened with death: “Reform your ways and your deeds; listen to the voice of the Lord your God, so that the Lord will repent of the evil with which He threatens you,” he declares at his trial – he does not hide the truth. And the words of David’s psalm are proven genuine: “His own who are in bonds He spurns not”; for the prophet’s words find a hearing in the people, and Ahikam advocates for his release.
It is the truth which John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets, comes to declare most boldly. Even from Herod’s dungeon this voice crying in the wilderness continues to proclaim the sinfulness of the king’s taking his own sister-in-law to wife, repeatedly telling him, “It is not right for you to live with her.” He, too, does not back down in the face of trials, in the dark of prison, and he, too, is released from bonds – though bonds of a different kind. He, too, is “rescued from [his] foes, and from the watery depths… The pit [does not] close its mouth over [him].” For though he be beheaded, though death at the hands of his persecutor he does not escape, yet it is his message which lives and has power, power shown now in the presence of the Truth walking the earth in the Person of Jesus Christ – a power which causes the evil king to shake in his boots at the voice which still comes to his ears. Indeed, John yet lives. In Jesus he makes his home.
“I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.” For all His “lowly ones” He sees; all who “seek God” are known to Him. And these shall be released from all bonds of this earth, even as they speak His truth.
The party shall soon be over, the dance of the daughter of lust come to an end. And who shall stand justified then? Who shall hear His soothing words? And who shall be condemned? Turn to Him in your hearts this day. Listen to His voice.
O LORD, save us from the dungeon of death;
lift us from the mire of this corrupted world –
let us repent that we might praise you.
YHWH, it is you who are our secure protection, you who save us even from death, you who raise our heads in the joy of your presence. And so, what need we fear? Let the wicked of this world tremble before your voice, but let us be blessed to dwell with you in your kingdom.
O LORD, though your prophets and disciples be cast into dungeons, though they be beheaded for your NAME’s sake, though the princes of this world call for the death of those who proclaim your truth to their unyielding hearts… yet you are there to protect your own, for your power is beyond any creature crawling upon this desolate earth.
And so we take refuge in you, LORD; and so we stand strong in the face of our persecutors. For we shall not die at their hands but live in your presence, as your saints do even this day. Give us the strength we need to place our trust entirely in you and in your Son, for we know even as we die with Him we shall live with Him forever.
Thu, 2 August 2018
(Jer.26:1-9; Ps.69:5,8-10,14; Mt.13:54-58)
“No prophet is without honor,
except in his native place, indeed in his own house.”
How consonant are our readings today, speaking all of the persecution the prophet of God must bear in bringing the truth to His people. (Indeed I had thought to refer to the incident in our gospel before having even come to it, while still reading the words from Jeremiah, for elsewhere in the gospels the same quote of Jesus written above causes His people to lead Him to the brow of a hill, intending to throw Him down.)
As Jesus was rejected when He “went to His native place and spent His time teaching in their synagogue,” so when Jeremiah is obedient to the Lord’s command to “stand in the court of the house of the Lord and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord … all the people gathered about [him],” not to “listen and turn back, each from his evil way,” but to join with “the priests and prophets [who] laid hold of him, crying, ‘You must be put to death!’” And David bemoans the same treatment in our psalm: “I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons,” as for the sake of the Lord he “bear[s] insult.”
What does the prophet come to do; what does Jesus speak to His people but truth? They themselves recognize that He has great “wisdom and miraculous powers.” With these He would save their very lives; His sword of truth would incise every cancerous growth of sin from their souls – He would heal them with the Word of God. In fact, it is their health He is so zealous to effect. But “because zeal for [the Lord’s] house consumes [Him]… the insults of those who blaspheme [God] fall upon [Him].” As they do upon Jeremiah. As they do upon David… As they do upon every faithful prophet of God.
Those who “disobey [God], not living according to the law [He] placed before [them] and not listening to the words of [His] servants the prophets,” do not wish to hear of their sin: foolishly, they would be left to die in their rebellion. And so they kill the prophet, attempting vainly to destroy His message. And it must be those of the Lord’s own house that reject His word, that kill the Christ, for it is only they who know His voice speaking in their heart.
“This city shall be desolate and deserted.” Hear these words, brothers and sisters. Let them sink deeply into your ears and take root in your hearts. Be not afraid of the death that must come to this earthen vessel. Nor reject the word because it comes from one who is your own brother. It is this sword of truth alone that will save you.
O LORD, your Son’s own brothers surrounded Him
and condemned Him to death –
forgive us, LORD, and let us be faithful as He.
YHWH, why are our hearts so set against your will that we would persecute your prophets and kill your only Son? Why are we so stubborn in our rejection of your love, of your chastising word that would bring us to your holy presence? It should be your temple in which we desire to dwell, and yet we seek to build our own.
O holy LORD, take the blasphemy from our lips, the anger and hatred from our hands and tongue. Let us see and recognize that you are God and treasure the wisdom you bring to us. Let us not turn our backs or raise our hands against you, but rather bear the insult of those who suffer for the sake of your NAME.
You look upon our zeal for you and for your house, LORD, and so hear us as we cry to you. Protect us well from the devastation of this fallen race, that we might accomplish your will and come to stand with you in Heaven. In your House alone let us seek to dwell.
Wed, 1 August 2018
(Jer.18:1-6; Ps.146:1-6; Mt.13:47-53)
“Like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
“I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel.” According to the Lord’s words Jeremiah goes, and a marvelous sign is provided him. For there in the hands of the potter and in his work, he sees the Lord huddled over His creation. And what in particular does he witness in this vision: “Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.” Are we not indeed like this clay in the potter’s hands? Does He not send His only Son to remake us in His image? And so, should we not be as pliable as clay in the holy hands of our Lord and God?
And are we not as those caught in the net of the fishermen who, having “collected all sorts of things… put what was worthwhile into containers. [But] what was useless they threw away.” Yes, at the end of the world “angels will go out and separate the wicked from the just,” and then the hand of the Lord will be at work in its fullness. So, while there is yet time, let us do all we can to be remade in God’s image, that we might avoid “the fiery furnace” – let us not be hardened in our sin. For once cast in this kiln, what shall they do but “wail and grind their teeth”?
Brothers and sisters, do you not see that it is the Lord “who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them”? It is the Lord who holds all in His holy hands, and does what He will with the universe. And so, should you not take refuge in Him? “Put not your trust in princes, in men, in whom there is no salvation.” What is man who “when his spirit departs he returns to the earth”? When God removes His breath from man, indeed he becomes as nothing but clay in a potter’s hands. But “happy he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord, his God.” For the one who trusts in Him, He shall remake in His own eternal image; upon this clay His breath shall remain. And so his soul shall ever “praise the Lord.”
O LORD, all is in your hands;
may our hands and our hearts
be conformed to your own.
YHWH, we are indeed as clay in your holy hands; you can make of us what you will. And so we pray you make us in the image of your Son, that we will be gathered into your kingdom and not cast aside.
We are but dust, O LORD, except that you breathe upon us. And should you take your Spirit from us, to dust we would return. Yet we fail to recognize your power and glory and put our trust in the dust of this earth, in the things you have created. It is you who have made the heavens and the earth and all that dwell in them. It is you who hold the life breath of all men. O let us worship you alone and seek to be remade in your image! Then to eternal life we shall come.
The fiery furnace awaits the wicked; let us not forget that you will separate the evil from the good at the end of the age. May your angels’ hands be upon us this day, preparing our souls for the end of the world, forming us by your grace as your blessed children. Praise you, LORD!
Tue, 31 July 2018
(Jer.15:10,16-21; Ps.59:2-4,10-11,17-18; Mt.13:44-46)
“If you repent, so that I restore you,
in my presence you shall stand.”
The Lord called Jeremiah even from before he was formed in his mother’s womb, but it seems he falls short of fulfilling that call, for the Lord says to His prophet today, “If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece.” Indeed it seemed that Christ’s words in His parable today – “The reign of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field” – had been realized in Jeremiah, who declares, “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became the joy and the happiness of my heart.” Yet it seems the prophet struggles to heed the Lord’s instruction to “put up for sale all he had,” to give up all else to receive fully the gift of God’s gracious presence.
Jeremiah complains to God, “Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” And what is this pain but the persecution he continually finds as “a man of strife and contention to all the land”? The Lord has called him to be a continual sign of contradiction toward His rebellious house, and the difficulties of this cross he must bear move the prophet toward despair.
What is the “vile” matter of which Jeremiah must “repent” to become “a solid wall of brass” in his mission for God? It is, I believe, the “indignation” he says he has toward his fellow people, who, though evil in the sight of God, must be borne with patience, according to the Lord’s call. It is his failure to be as really only Christ is – able to forgive His persecutors even as He stands nailed to the cross. Jeremiah must accept his weakness and trials, as does Paul later, but struggles greatly in this time before the coming of the Son.
Yet the Lord promises to “free [him] from the hand of the wicked, and rescue [him] from the grasp of the violent.” Yet the Lord is with him to answer his prayer when he cries out as has David, “Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; from my adversaries defend me.” And yet he will know what David proclaims: “You have been my stronghold, my refuge in the day of distress.” For whoever cries out to Him from the cross, the Lord hears; and to him He brings the greatest treasure of all – His own presence within him.
(If you would find this “pearl” of greatest value, brothers and sisters, in a word, learn to love thy enemy.)
O LORD, you will defend us if we but trust in you;
why do we not make you our pearl of great price?
YHWH, you free us from the hand of the wicked, the grasp of the violent, for you are our refuge, our stronghold; and so, what need we fear? Let us trust in you and bear our Cross in joy.
LORD, if we are to be your disciples, your prophets – your light – we cannot be less than you are. If with anger or indignation we speak to your people, how can it be you who are calling them to repentance? We must first repent ourselves of any vile matter that may be polluting our souls, and then we can serve as your image in this world. Help us to set aside all sin and attachment to sin that we might find you at work in our lives.
O LORD, it is you who are the pearl of great price and so we should treasure above all our service of you and the persecution it necessarily brings. Would we be other than you were among us? Should we lay down our cross? Never, I pray. Rather, let us freely lay down our lives that we might find them in you.
Mon, 30 July 2018
(Jer.14:17-22; Ps.79:8-9,11,13; Mt.13:36-43)
“Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.”
If the prophet’s “eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of [his] people, over her incurable wound,” how many more tears will there be “at the end of the world” when the “weeds are collected and burned”? For in our first reading Jeremiah sees “those slain by the sword” and “those consumed by hunger,” suffering enough to bring tears – but this “blow” struck by the Lord is not one which “cannot be healed.” “A time of healing” shall indeed come as the nation is brought back from exile only seventy years after its being taken; and soon Jesus shall come to “free [all] those doomed to death,” to set prisoners free… to make permanent the compassionate deliverance of the Lord God. But at the end of the age, when Jesus comes again and finally, the sentence that is passed against those who have sinned shall have no means of repeal; the death upon souls shall be everlasting.
In our gospel today Jesus speaks in plain terms as He explains “the parable of the weeds in the field.” This is no mere fable but the delineation of the harvest time that shall come upon all. To heaven or to hell all shall go, and there shall be no more changing: no more opportunity for redemption for those set upon evil, and no more faltering into wickedness for those set upon good. Great shall be the eternal gifts showered upon the blessed, but what of the wailing then… what of the wailing?
“We have sinned against you.” “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness.” We pray you shall “remember your covenant with us,” and from all our sin set us free. “Deliver us and pardon our sins” and we “will give thanks to you forever; through all generations we will declare your praise.” Keep us safe from your judgment on the Last Day. Do not “cast [us] off completely,” but raise our lowly hearts unto your kingdom.
O LORD, we are doomed to death for our sin,
but Jesus comes to save us from the fiery furnace
that we might shine your light forever in the kingdom.
YHWH, remember not against us the iniquities of the past but let us be purged of all sin, that we might shine with you in your kingdom. For the glory of your NAME forgive our wickedness and let us share your glory in your holy Day.
You are right to punish us, LORD, and to condemn us if we harden our hearts on the day of judgment. But we beg you to hear the sighing of the prisoners and free those doomed to death. Make us as the sheep of your pasture and we will give thanks to you forever.
Our very lives are dependent on you, LORD our God. We cannot eat or breathe except that you feed us, except that you give life to our souls. If you remove your providential hand, we cannot but be destroyed, we cannot but perish in our sins. But you are our Savior – let your will be accomplished among us and let us be redeemed! Save us from the fiery furnace and let us stand as citizens of your kingdom, Father of us all.
Sun, 29 July 2018
(Jer.13:1-11; Dt.32:18-21; Mt.13:31-35)
“You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you.
You forgot the God who gave you birth.”
So Moses says of the people he led through the desert. So Jeremiah is told of the Lord’s chosen at the time of the Babylonian exile. So it is with those who are deaf to Jesus’ parables. And so we, too, forget the Lord whenever we turn from Him in sin.
So close were the Lord’s children to Him and His blessings: “As close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord.” The God of earth and heaven calls them “my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.” He has set them aside to be His own, to make them holy in the eyes of the world. “But they did not listen.” But they did not remain faithful. Going after “strange gods to serve and adore them,” they showed themselves to be “sons with no loyalty in them.” And so they became “rotted, good for nothing.”
How sad is sin. “What a fickle race [we] are.” For all we need the Lord provides, yet we “walk in the stubbornness of [our] hearts” a path away from Him, apart from His love. And now Jesus “announce[s] what has lain hidden since the creation of the world.” In parables He speaks of the kingdom of God. But how many hearts are closed to His teaching? How many “refuse to obey [His] words?” And should the Lord not therefore be “filled with loathing and anger toward His sons and daughters”?
The kingdom of heaven cannot grow in us if we separate ourselves from Jesus. As Israel and Judah were cast off, so shall we be, if we do not heed His commands. Following the “vain idols” of the nations will not bring us to His kingdom, but only make us abominable in His sight. And what horror to lose His blessing, to turn our renown and beauty to an everlasting curse.
It need not be so. To Him we can return, with open ears and understanding hearts and light thus filling our eyes. Remaining ever in His presence, remembering His Name, He who has planted us as seed “in His field,” He who has given birth to new life within us, will see that each day we grow. And on the last Day we shall be formed in His image.
O LORD, your Son announces the kingdom of God;
let us listen to His voice and turn from our disloyalty,
that we might enter His reign.
YHWH, you are hidden within Creation and so within us; from the beginning you are with us, though we be blind to your presence. But your Son comes to reveal your glory, your blessing upon our souls. You are our very life – let us not turn away from your love.
To the Word of your Son let us listen, LORD, that the humble seed He is might be planted well within our hearts and so grow unto eternity, and we might come to dwell with you. Let us rise with Him who has died for us, who has taken upon Himself the rottenness of our sin and stubborn pride.
We are good for nothing, LORD. Having provoked you with our disloyalty, what can we be but cut off from your grace and the light of your holy face. Yet you come to speak to our souls and call us home to you, if we would but listen. O let us heed your word of chastisement wherein is your call; let us understand the wisdom so hidden from our limited vision. May we learn our lesson well and so come to dwell in Heaven.
Fri, 27 July 2018
(Jer.7:1-11; Ps.84:2-6,8,11; Mt.13:24-30)
“Reform your ways and your deeds,
so that I may remain with you in this place.”
We hear again today of the failure of “the temple of the Lord” and its sacrifices to bring the Israelites to the eternal presence of God. For though the Lord “sowed good seed in His field,” though He made His temple a house of prayer, it has become “a den of thieves” in the eyes of His chosen. And the Lord “see[s] what is being done.” And because they “steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, [and] burn incense to Baal,” the Israelites break the covenant upon which the temple is founded, and it can but fall to ruin. The Lord spells out what they must do to preserve the integrity of His temple: “If each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm…” but though He repeatedly warns them of what it takes to maintain His presence in their midst, yet they repeatedly turn from His blessings and the words the prophets offer. Unable to “thoroughly reform [their] ways and [their] deeds,” they cannot but lose the temple.
But, again, there is hope. For what has not been preserved on earth shall be made permanent in heaven. Though “an enemy came and sowed weeds through His wheat,” and though in this world they are not rooted out from our midst – though our worship fall short of the Lord’s eternal glory, yet Jesus comes to perfect God’s will in us, drawing us to the Temple not made by human hands… and with Him the weeds are no more. Yes, because of our sin we lose His blessing; but by His grace our worship is made whole in His sight.
“My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” In the heart of Jesus I would dwell; in His flesh we find the Temple. And His Temple we become as we eat His Body and drink His Blood. As we follow this Word made flesh, we are redeemed and our home with God blessed permanently. And so in truth and with His love welling up in our souls, we cry with our psalmist: “I had rather live at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked”; and so, “happy” indeed we are. Praise the Lord for His eternal goodness, for in Him “even the sparrow finds a home.”
O LORD, the weeds are bundled for burning,
for sin cannot stand in your sight;
only the pure of heart enter your House.
YHWH, be with us in this place; gather us as wheat into your barn. Make our bodies the temple of your Spirit, that we shall be pleasing to you and so with you remain.
There are weeds among your wheat, LORD, and there are sins that prick our hearts and move to separate us from you and your love, and your presence with us. O let us reform our ways and our deeds! that our lives may find your blessing and we dwell forever in your holy Temple.
Our heart and our flesh cry out to you, O living God, that we might live in your sight, that we might be as your own precious children united in heart and flesh with you. Even in this land let us be with you; let this land become as Heaven by your Body and Blood among us, by our joining ourselves in joy with you… by the reform of our lives according to your Word.
Thu, 26 July 2018
(Jer.3:14-17; Jer.31:10-13; Mt.13:18-23)
“At that time they will call Jerusalem the Lord’s throne;
there all nations will be gathered together
to honor the name of the Lord at Jerusalem.”
I would like today to focus the attention particularly of the Lord’s chosen race on the following prophecy of the great Jeremiah: “They will in those days no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord!’ or miss it, or make another.” For I must in obedience to the Spirit of Truth ask the question: If the temple of the Lord has been destroyed, how is it Judaism can be said to yet exist? With the discontinuance of the sacrifices, does the heart of the Mosaic Law not undergo a certain transformation? To the point: Does the sacrifice of Christ not supplant – even as it fulfills, perfectly – the Old Covenant? Is His blood poured upon the altar now and sprinkled upon all our souls, is it not this which gives birth to the New Jerusalem, where “they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings”?
And does not the destruction of the temple so soon after the death of Him who prophesied it in tears not substantiate His claim as the Temple not built by human hands? And does the fact that the ancient walls have remained in ruins for some two thousand years not indicate its permanent end? Would the Lord really wish it to be built again? And do you think He would leave you alone for so long a time? Has He not come?
My brothers, my sisters, should not he who has the deepest “roots” be the strongest tree reaching to the greatest heights? Is He not? And should you not be as this quintessential Jew, suffering for the sake of all at the hands of those who breathe condemnation? (Here is a message to those who would take the Lord’s justice in their violent hands – you shall not escape condemnation for your sin. Whatever good may seem to result from your prideful persecution, though His chosen may turn at your threat, yet your sin will be remembered.)
“Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion.” This word is for all who understand “the message about God’s reign” Jesus comes to sow in receptive hearts. And so, “hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on distant coasts” to all God’s “rebellious children,” to all who yet walk “in their hardhearted wickedness” – for all may now “become fruitful in the land.” (And you, brother Catholic, do you know the blessing that is upon you; do you see that you stand in the New Jerusalem?) But still the chosen are called first of all; still the Lord waits for those most blessed, to pour His new graces upon them.
Let no man’s soul be choked by “worldly anxiety”; let all come now to the Lord’s glorious throne, here in the heavenly Jerusalem.
O LORD, let us not falter along the way
but come streaming to your blessings.
YHWH, how shall we bear a fruitful yield, we who have been so rebellious? Have we not choked your Word off from our souls; are we not today void of the roots of your kingdom? Yet you remain as a Shepherd who cares for His flock, you continue in your love for us, and so you call us back to the land set aside for our flourishing – you ransom us from our sin that your City we might enter with dancing.
Open our ears to hear the Word of your Son. Open our hearts to receive your grace. Let us be planted in good soil, in the flesh of Jesus; let us be as the New Jerusalem. In the Temple of His Body let us make our home, all hardness of heart taken from us. O LORD, let us again be blessed to be your children, washed clean by the blood of the Christ.
These waters from Heaven fall upon our souls that indeed we might grow and produce an abundant harvest in your NAME, O LORD.
Wed, 25 July 2018
(Jer.2:1-3,7-8,12-13; Ps.36:6-11; Mt.13:10-17)
“They look but do not see,
they listen but do not hear or understand.”
Oh how “sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of His harvest.” And oh how they loved the Lord “as a bride,” following Him so closely. But oh how they have forgotten “the devotion of their youth” and turned from Him. For when He “brought [them] into the garden lands to eat its goodly fruits,” they did not seek Him from whom all their blessings flowed, but rather “entered and defiled [His] land,” and “made [His] heritage loathsome.” So blindly “they have forsaken [the Lord], the source of living waters [and] have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” And so, how empty of life they have become.
And so Jesus echoes Isaiah’s prophecy upon the people today, declaring it now fulfilled: “Listen as you will, you shall not understand, look intently as you will, you shall not see.” Though the Son of God stand before them, though their blessing is complete in their midst, strain as they might they cannot see what is so obvious – for “sluggish indeed is this people’s heart.” Too long have they turned their sights away from Him, and now what shall refresh their vision?
Should they not sing with David of the Lord’s glory – “How precious is your kindness, O God!” Should they not “take refuge in the shadow of [His] wings?” Does He not spread them above them this day? In Jesus should they not “have their fill of the prime gifts of [His] house”; does the Lord not “give them to drink” from this “delightful stream”? Then why are their mouths closed to receiving this precious gift offered upon His altar? Is He not the holy sacrifice of the covenant renewed? Is it not so that in drinking His blood all find life? Is He not the source of living water?
O Lord, “with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.” Awaken our hearts to see your face; let us “turn back to [you]” that you may “heal [us].” For you are Light and Life itself, and all our blessings flow from you and from your Body and Blood offered for our sakes. In your Son may we find again our home; may our hearts be open to understand your love present in our midst.
O LORD, let us be blessed
to hear your word of forgiveness,
we who have blinded ourselves to your good gifts.
YHWH, you are the fountain of life, the source of living water; in you we find all blessings. You provide for all our needs, planting us in a garden land filled with good fruits. You make us as your holy Bride – such is your love for your faithful child.
But we are not faithful to you, O LORD. We do not drink from the fountain of living water but dig for ourselves broken cisterns, the creation of our soiled hands, of our wayward hearts and minds. And so our soul languishes in a foreign land.
How shall you heal our blindness, LORD? How shall our ears open to your Word? How shall we return to you and find again your blessing? Your kindness knows no bounds and so you send your Son among us. To His teaching let us be obedient; let our hearts open before Him that we might be redeemed.
How blessed are we to have the living God in our midst, His face shining upon us, His voice speaking to our hearts… O LORD, take not your Son from us, but let us be healed by His presence.
Mon, 23 July 2018
(Mic.7:14-15,18-20; Ps.85:2-8; Mt.12:46-50)
“Then extending His hands to His disciples, He said,
‘There are my mother and my brothers.’”
The Lord’s blessing rests upon all who worship Him in spirit and in truth, and it comes to us primarily through the forgiveness of our sins. For the Lord extends His hands to His disciples first of all to “cast into the depths of the sea all our sins.” This is His principal work, He whose name means “God saves.” And by such compassion poured upon us, by His “treading underfoot our guilt,” we are drawn into His holy fold; we become “the flock of His inheritance” by the death that brings us life.
“Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of His inheritance?” Who indeed is like Jesus? For He dies and we live. He washes us clean of sin, and we become His children. Though we deserve His “burning anger,” He abandons not us but “[His] displeasure against us.” He “does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency,” a clemency that not only forgives but redeems – for Jesus also extends His hands to His disciples to gather them into the Father’s arms.
“You have favored, O Lord, your land; you have restored the well-being of Jacob. You have forgiven the guilt of your people; you have covered all their sins.” How shall we thank you, Lord, who “grant us our salvation”? How shall we praise you, Lord, whose “kindness” has made us your own? “Shall not your people rejoice in you?” Will we not sing of your glory forever? Will we not stand in your presence and serve you for all ages to come? “You have withdrawn all your wrath.” You “will again have compassion on us.” In you we take refuge always, as your blessed daughters and sons.
O Mother in heaven, pray for us,
that children of the Lord we shall ever remain,
doing the will of the Father as thou hast done.
O LORD, could you be kinder
than to make us your own flesh and blood?
YHWH, shepherd your people; make us as your Son’s brothers and sisters – make us as His Mother. Forgive us our sins that we might be gathered into your outstretched arms.
How kind you are to us, dear LORD, how compassionate. Who could imagine such a love as makes us one with God Himself? Who could have believed you would send your only Son, your very self, into our midst to save us and make us your inheritance? Your kindness is unsurpassable – no greater gift could we find.
Be not angry with us for our sins this day, O LORD, but grant us your mercy as you do for all your children who turn to you. Make us your disciples, truly brothers and sisters of Jesus, one with the Blessed Mother and all the saints. Into your kingdom let us come; let us pasture on your holy mountain.
How blessed are we when your anger is passed, dear LORD. Let us be your flock, living in your peace even this day.
Sun, 22 July 2018
(Mic.6:1-4,6-8; Ps.50:5-6,8-9,16-17,21,23; Mt.12:38-42)
“The Lord has a plea against His people,
and He enters into trial with Israel.”
“God Himself is the judge,” brothers and sisters. And so He declares: “Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” All are brought before His throne, and all must “present [their] plea” in His presence.
And what shall we say on that Day? Will you “come before Him with holocausts, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil?” Hear His word to His people: it is not these the Lord desires. It is not the sacrifices offered in the temple built by human hands the Lord seeks of His chosen ones. The temple He has destroyed, and with it the vain works of the flesh. It is now the Lord’s desire that you but “walk humbly with your God.” And so He promises: “To Him that goes the right way I will show the saving power of God,” and proclaims, “He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me.”
Oh how we should praise Him! He who is “greater than Jonah” and “greater than Solomon.” Oh how we should repent and reform our lives at His preaching! Oh how we should walk in the light of His wisdom! But are we not too often like those who offer vain sacrifice and seek to have our eyes impressed by some extraordinary sign? The sign stands before us. But all too often we are as faithless and blind as the scribes and Pharisees in our gospel today.
What a terrible thought that we might be condemned for our lack of faith by the “citizens of Nineveh” and “the queen of the South,” who needed so little, really, to believe in the greatness of the Lord. Has He not “brought [us] up from the land of Egypt”? Has He not released us from “the place of slavery”? Why do we so soon forget what the ancients knew by much less? Is not Jesus in our midst this day?
Let us not be blind to His presence, and let us not offer our sacrifice unworthily. For here before us stands the Lord of all; into our souls and bodies we receive Him by Word and by Sacrament. All He asks of us is our faith. And will we believe Him? Or is our worship only on the tongue and not burning in our heart? Let Him not find you faithless this day.
O LORD, teach us your way of humility;
let us seek only to be as you.
YHWH, how can we seek a sign from you when it is we who should be offering a sign to you, and more than a sign – our very lives. For your Son comes to us bringing salvation to our souls and teaching us the way to find it; should we not repent of our sin, rend our hearts before Him, and praise you for your mercy this day?
But we have not faith, LORD, and so we come only with vain sacrifices, mere words on our lips and a heart seeking our own will to be done. We would create you – but it is you who have created us! You have created us and you would redeem us, and so you enter into trial with us to see if we shall merit your love. Bring our sins up before our eyes, that by your grace we might turn from them and walk humbly with you.
Why should we even need your Son to be buried in the earth, LORD? Should our faith not recognize you before us without such a sign? Ah, but we are blind, so blind. Discipline us in your love that we might reform our lives and find the way to you.
Fri, 20 July 2018
(Mic.2:1-5; Ps.10:1-4,7-8,12,14; Mt.12:14-21)
“When the Pharisees were outside
they began to plot against Jesus
to find a way to destroy Him.”
Is it not of these David sings when he declares, “He lurks in ambush near the villages; in hiding he murders the innocent; his eyes spy upon the unfortunate”? And though He withdraw from them this day, though He will silently subject Himself to torture and death at their hands, be assured that the Lord is “planning against this race an evil from which [they] shall not withdraw [their] necks.”
“Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches.” And what greater woe can there be than for the one who plots disaster upon the head of the Chosen One? These are they who would “cheat [the] owner of his house, a man of his inheritance”; for here is the One of whom Isaiah prophesies in the name of the Lord: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my loved one in whom I delight.” Yet by “cursing, guile, and deceit” these would steal the inheritance of the only Son. But the Lord shall not “stand aloof” forever, and over these soon “shall be sung… a plaintive chant: ‘Our ruin is complete, our fields are portioned out among our captors.’” What the Lord has promised He has accomplished in wresting the House of God from the disobedient and placing it in the hands of His children of light.
Now the Lord does “proclaim justice to the Gentiles.” And we who suffer with Him, we “the afflicted, who are caught in the devices the wicked has contrived,” rejoice in the knowledge that “judgment is made victorious” in Him – “on [Him] the unfortunate man depends,” and his fortunes are made prosperous as the Lord’s own.
“‘There is no God,’ sums up his thoughts,” the evil one who turns from the Lord. But the One they kill is God Himself, whose patient endurance of their crown of thorns shall bring the wicked to ruin. Caught in their own snares, “misery and sorrow” shall be theirs forever, even as the Lord and His anointed find release from the plots of men and are gathered into the kingdom of heaven.
The beast is slain by a word from His mouth, opened on that Day; though silent now His redeeming Word goes forth to the ends of the earth, setting free all suffering prisoners.
O LORD, we find our hope in you,
for you save the poor and afflicted soul
even as you destroy his wicked tormentors.
YHWH, look upon the afflicted who are pursued as was your Son; you see our misery and sorrow – save us from the plottings of men.
The greedy and deceitful you will thwart, O LORD. The violent you will destroy. You will save your poor ones who cry out to you; the plans of the wicked will not succeed.
Though your Son is captured by their snares, though the hands of men take hold of His body and nail it to the Cross, they will find, O LORD, they cannot touch His Spirit, and that Spirit will bring them to ruin.
On the third day He rises from the dead, LORD, and so we shall rise with Him. Though trodden down and deprived of our earthly possessions, yet forever we shall live in the riches of Heaven.
Silently let your Word go forth now, LORD, calling all to repentance and healing. All you give opportunity to turn to you – crush us not till we know your mercy upon our souls.
Thu, 19 July 2018
(Is.38:1-8,21-22; Is.38:10-12,16-17; Mt.12:1-8)
“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall
and prayed to the Lord.”
“When Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: ‘Thus says the Lord: Put your house in order, for you are about to die.’” When the Jewish race was about to perish for lack of love, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the Pharisees and declared, “It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.” And if they heed not His word, they indeed shall die.
But will what occurred “in those days” with the king of Judah recur with these leaders of the Jews? Will they, too, turn their face to the wall and cry out to the Lord? For there is a greater threat than “the hand of the king of Assyria” upon their race now. Here is a greater threat than death. The condemnation they cast so freely upon “innocent men” now begins to overshadow their souls.
“To the gates of the netherworld I shall be consigned for the rest of my years,” Hezekiah cries out; and indeed his fears shall be realized in these. For they “shall see no more the Lord in the land of the living” if they refuse to see Him here as He stands before them. They shall know no longer the mercy that sustains all life if they harden their hearts to Him who holds that mercy in His flesh and blood.
The Lord seeks to open their eyes and their hearts to the power and love of God. By their own Scripture and history and law He proves their judgment wrong, asking, “Have you not read what David did when he and his men were hungry…? Have you not read in the law how the priests on temple duty can break the sabbath without incurring guilt?” But yet would they condemn King David and the temple priests, placing their own judgment over the law of the love of God.
I fear for them, brothers and sisters, as for all who are obstinate of heart. For here are the chosen of God. Here are those graced with the Lord’s promise. But what shall become of their blessing if they reject the Promise when He stands before them? What shall become of those who turn the grace of God to empty wind? Oh how their bones shall rot! Oh how the fears of Hezekiah shall be fulfilled! Oh that they could hear the words the Lord speaks to His repentant king: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.” Oh that they would know the mercy of God.
To Him may all come, for He who stops the sun and moves it back upon its course indeed holds all in His loving hands. The Temple of the Lord is here.
O LORD, you raise us up from death,
from condemnation for our sins,
for you are the LORD our God.
YHWH, have mercy on our poor, judgmental souls, for we have come close to death because of our sins, for the lack of mercy we have shown. But you are not like us, for you have pity on those who cry out to you, on those who hunger for your food – hear us as we cry to you this day for your forgiveness upon our souls, that even this day we might live in your sight.
Our sins would have cut off our life, LORD; our disobedience but brings us to the nether world. But Jesus is Son of Man and God like you and He walks amongst us as your mercy, seeking to redeem our fallen souls from the grave we have made by our transgressions. And He brings us new life.
O LORD, let the days be turned back that we might make amends for our past sins, that we might have years to reform our lives and set our house in order for your Son’s return. If you had not mercy upon us, we would already be dead, doomed by our disobedience. But remember us and make us faithful and wholehearted in your sight; feed us with the Bread of life.
Wed, 18 July 2018
(Is.26:7-9,12,16-19; Ps.102:13-21; Mt.11:28-30)
“The Lord looked down from His holy height,
from heaven He beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
Yes, “we cried out in anguish under [His] chastising. As a woman about to give birth… we conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to wind.” Empty were our works; dead in sin were we. But the Lord took pity on His people. Though “oppressed by [His] punishment” and as prisoners in chains, the time arrived for Him to “arise and have mercy on Zion.” And so He sent His Son.
“My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you.” Because even in death His faithful set their hearts on Him and make Him the “desire of [their] souls,” He comes. “He has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer.” Though afflicted by sin, the Lord looks upon our tears; and His heart breaks with ours, and the light walks among us… and Jesus comes. And Jesus comes.
Hear the words of our Lord: “Your souls will find rest.” He promises us His peace. Though heavy burdened with the weight of this dark world, He is here to save us. How do we find such peace? How do we find release from the prison in which we are confined? Heed His instruction; “take [His] yoke upon your shoulders and learn from [Him].” And what is this yoke in which you will find your freedom? It is nothing else but the cross.
The Lord has looked down from heaven; He has sent His Son forth from His throne. And what does He come bearing “to release those doomed to die”? Yes, it is a cross He carries. Our sins and our pain He takes upon Himself. Only through this instrument of salvation, only through the flesh of Christ fastened to the wood – only by the nails which pierce His hands and feet are we brought life. For He cries with us in anguish: He dies with us in pain. And the Lord’s pity is realized, the mercy of God fulfilled… and washed are we in this blood from sin, and our cry thus taken away.
And we must do the same as He. We must die, too. We must unite ourselves to His cross, and let Him take all pain from our souls. And so we shall be whole. And so the cry shall be no more. And so we shall never die. “Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust,” for your “corpses shall arise.”
O LORD, we were doomed to die
but you heard our cry
and sent your Son to save us by His Cross –
let us share in His mercy this day.
YHWH, have mercy on Zion, on your children who cry out to you in the night, in the night that is our life in this world. Regard the prayer of your poor ones; look down from your holy height and have pity on us. Send your Son to save us from our pain, from our sin, by the grace of the Cross He bears.
We have given birth to wind, O LORD. In vanity we have lived our lives. But we look to you to redeem us from such emptiness, from the darkness which besets our hearts. You bring peace to us; your Son grants us the salvation we could not achieve on our own. O let us take up His gentle yoke that we might find rest for our souls.
Thank you for your mercy, Jesus, for coming among us in gentleness and humility and carrying our burden of pride away. Let us come to you now, as you call us; let us find the refreshment you offer in your Cross. Upon our shoulders let us take your light burden, that we might know your judgment is removed from us in the sacrifice you have made.
Tue, 17 July 2018
(Is.10:5-7,13-16; Ps.94:5-10,14-15; Mt.11:25-27)
“Shall He who instructs nations not chastise,
He who teaches men knowledge?”
Again we learn the basic teaching of the Lord: The exalted are humbled and the humbled exalted. In our first reading “the Lord of hosts” promises to “send among His fat ones leanness” – condemning Assyria for the pride it takes in its “own power”; and in our gospel Jesus “offer[s] praise” to His “Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” declaring, “What you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children.” “Judgment shall again be with justice,” for the Lord shall raise those who have been “trample[d] down” even as He topples the pride of the wicked.
Assyria boasts, “I am shrewd” and proclaims itself “a giant.” But truly he is a fool who exalts himself above the power of the Lord and does not see that all things are done only in Him. Yes, with what wisdom Isaiah speaks when he questions: “Will the axe boast against him who hews with it?” and, could a rod “sway him who lifts it, or a staff him who is not wood”? How clearly he exposes the foolishness of the vain boasting of those who are mighty in their own eyes.
And how well his lesson leads to Jesus’ own. “Everything has been given over to [Jesus] by [His] Father”: all power is in our Lord’s hands. And when He states, “No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son – and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him,” what is He saying but that no one comes to the Father, no one receives any blessing of the Father’s power and love, unless He humbles himself before Jesus who is the Chosen One? Nothing of God can anyone know, nothing of His power can we share – no salvation is found at all unless we come to Him as a child.
“Shall He who formed the ear not hear? Or He who formed the eye not see?” Do you believe your vision greater than His own? “Understand, you senseless ones among the people; and, you fools, when will you be wise.” For though these puffed-up souls “murder” “the fatherless” with their tongue, though “widow and stranger they slay” in their wicked deceit, the truth shall not escape them: justice shall indeed come. And as “the upright of heart… follow it” – follow the Lord of all to eternal glory – for those who take pride in their own power, “instead of His glory there will be kindling like the kindling of fire.” Know this, you who are slow to believe.
O LORD, let us be as your children,
doing your will in all humility.
YHWH, what greater knowledge can we have than to know you who know all things? Of what worth is our wisdom apart from you and your blessing? Vainly we toil upon this earth, seeking our own gain and falling into wickedness – reveal yourself to us that we might be raised from our blindness. Else we shall surely die.
Trusting in our own power, what a fateful path we tread, O LORD, for then we walk further and further from you, and so further and further from true light. In darkness we can but end, putting our faith thus in creatures. But if we turn to you, our Creator, and recognize your power over us, then we shall be blessed by your love, for then we shall enter your presence. Then we shall be doing your will and sharing in your wisdom, and so finding your light.
From all our wickedness let us turn, O LORD, by the grace of your chastisement, and let us be as children before you, obedient to your Word and so sharing in your life.
Mon, 16 July 2018
(Is.7:1-9; Ps.48:2-9; Mt.11:20-24)
“Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!”
“Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail.” For “great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God” and “renowned is He as a stronghold.” But the faithless shall be as the rebellious nations which came against the Lord and His anointed: these “shall not stand” but “shall be crushed.” Though “the kings assemble, [though] they come on together” against the “city of the great King,” they shall be seized with “quaking,” with “anguish, like a woman’s in labor.” They shall be “stunned, terrified, routed.”
And so Jesus proclaims His rebuke of Capernaum and the other “towns where most of His miracles had been worked.” So His severe reproach echoes to all faithless hearts, hearts which have refused His mercy, who have turned from His wonders: “I assure you, it will go easier for Sodom than for you on the day of judgment.” Sodom was burned with fire. There is no city greater known for sin than this profligate place which sought even the rape of the angels. And so, what shall be the fate of those who turn now from the preaching of Jesus, from His holy presence among us? What shall become indeed of the baptized who reject the grace at work in their souls? One can only shudder to think of the horrors built up by such turning away, by such “failure to reform.”
O Lord, how often I have turned from you; how little of your grace I have treasured in my soul. How little faith have I. And so, how I fear your mighty hand, your perfect, absolute light. Who shall stand in the purity of your love? Who can know your holiness? My heart condemns me of my sin; “in sackcloth and ashes” I come before you, seeking the strength found only in your touch. Send me not “down to the realm of death” but lift this faithless soul to your side. Let me fear no attack of the world. Enable me to stand in your light.
O LORD, make us your House, faithful and true,
that we might find your protection and glory.
YHWH, let us be your House, your holy City, faithful to you and so finding your secure protection and your blessing unto Heaven. Help us to reform our lives that we might be made entirely in your image.
Great are you, O LORD, and worthy of all our praise and worship. You alone are God and to you alone should we be devoted. It is you in whom we find our hope, you who are our stronghold. With you as our God, all our enemies flee before us, for it is you who fight for us against all the evils of this world.
For your miracles let us praise you, LORD; let us never be blind to your hand at work in our midst. Let us not be as ungrateful sons failing to recognize your goodness to us and the provisions you make for our inheritance. Let us rather be as your only Son, turning always to you and to the fulfillment of your will. Then we shall be like Him in your kingdom, seated with all your angels and saints around your holy throne. You alone are our King; let our enemies tremble before you.
Sun, 15 July 2018
(Is.1:10-17; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!”
Elsewhere in Scripture we read, “The Lord chastises those whom He loves” (Heb.12:6), and this truth is made evident in our readings today. The Lord commands us through the prophecy of Isaiah, “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” Our psalm continues the same theme, declaring again in the voice of God, “You hate discipline and cast my words behind you.” And the lesson is fulfilled in Jesus’ own admonishment: “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.”
How difficult for many to hear Jesus’ words: “My mission is to spread, not peace, but division.” How in conflict with their image of a pleasant Jesus placed so neatly in a politically proper box. How they would anesthetize themselves against the suffering of the cross. But the same Spirit who speaks through Isaiah, proclaiming, “Hear the word of the Lord, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!” is He who speaks through the Son, who Himself condemns the towns that do not receive His preaching and presence to a worse fate than these infamous cities. Our Lord is no less offended by “worthless offerings” and “octaves with wickedness.” He is no more deaf to our disobedience or blind to our sin. In fact, as He is the fulfillment of the love of God in the forgiveness and grace He offers all, so He is the fulfillment of God’s justice in the ultimate judgment of every soul.
“I will correct you by drawing [your sins] up before your eyes,” the Lord declares through our psalmist. And does not Jesus call the Pharisees “a brood of vipers” (Mt.12:34)? Does He not call Peter “Satan” (Mt.16:23)? Does He not open all our eyes to the sin upon our souls to save us from final damnation? If He did not do this, could He say He loves us? Is it not by this cross placed firmly upon our backs that we rise from the sin weighing down our hearts? Otherwise, would we not drown in sorrow?
Brothers and sisters, do not try to ration away your cross by vain supposition. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who would convince you there remains no place for the wood, for the blood. The world is ever and more a place of sin, and the devil ceases not to lead souls to perdition. Be warned by the Lord of all. Stand chastised in His love. Wash yourselves clean of all pride and vanity; be not as he who “brings himself to ruin.” You are called to be the Lord’s image in the world; and the Word made flesh ends His life on earth fixed to a cross. Accept His gift of love.
O LORD, let us be brought to nothing for you;
let all the sin within us die
that we might be your disciples.
YHWH, let us welcome you and your Word and those who bring it to us. Though your Word is hard, it is our means of salvation, for only the Son’s Cross leads to life; only your chastisement will break our hardened hearts. O let us love you above all others!
We are sinful, LORD, pretending a love that is empty and false. And so, what do we merit but condemnation for our turning our hearts from you? No better than the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah, our house is full of wickedness, our hands full of blood. We do all but to please ourselves; our sacrifices are but to feed our bellies, and so are no sacrifice at all. Bring our sins up before our eyes! that we might see and turn away from them.
Your sword, O LORD, your sword alone will separate us from our sinful deeds. Your Word alone will save our souls. Let us cherish your discipline as once we treasured the vain things of this world. The word of your prophets let us desire that we might receive a prophet’s reward.
Fri, 13 July 2018
(Is.6:1-8; Ps.93:1-2,5; Mt.10:24-33)
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,’
they cried one to the other.
‘All the earth is filled with His glory.’”
Hear the angels’ song. It is their praise, which fills the heavens like fragrant incense, that our psalmist proclaims: “The Lord is king, in splendor robed; robed is the Lord and girt about with strength.” Exalted is the majesty of the Father in heaven, upon whom no eye can gaze, and so of His Son. And rightly does the prophet Isaiah – “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” – fear having seen “the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of His garment filling the temple.”
And should we not fear Him, too? Should we not fear the glorious Son in whose light we dwell and in whose steps we follow? Do we realize His Majesty? Do we somehow presume to outrank our teacher, or are we as the pupil who is “glad to become like his teacher, the slave like his master”? If humbled before the Lord of all, we shall fear nothing of this world. Fearing Him who “can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna,” any power of the devil becomes as nothing in our sight. For we know our God holds every “single sparrow” in His Hand, and we “are worth more than a flock of sparrows.”
The Lord sends “one of the seraphim” to touch the lips of the prophet with an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.” (So holy is the Lord that even the angels cannot touch His fire with their hands.) And so Isaiah’s “wickedness is removed, [his] sin purged.” And so he is sent, in turn, to proclaim the Word of God. First he must be purified; first we all must be purged of sin, for indeed “holiness befits [His] house” – holiness alone may stand in His presence, and only the tongue cleansed of stain can “speak in the light” the truth of our God. And as the prophet speaks, as the psalmist sings, so are we sent to proclaim the glory of “the King, the Lord of hosts.”
“Your throne stands firm from of old; from everlasting you are, O Lord.” You alone are holy. What can we pray but that the earth be filled with your glory, but that we shall enter your house and praise your name all the days we are blessed with life? Make us holy as thou art.
O LORD, you are the Almighty God
and we are your sons;
and so, how blessed we are to die with Jesus.
YHWH, holiness befits your house and only those who are holy enter there. And it is only you who can make us holy, for you alone are holy. O Jesus, acknowledge us before your Father; let us never be disowned.
O LORD, let our lips be cleansed that we might sing your praise and so be found worthy to join your choir of angels in Heaven. Send your angel to touch our lips with a coal from the fire of your altar; let your Holy Spirit descend upon us to sanctify our souls. How else shall we look upon you? How else shall we become as you are?
Your house is filled with your glory, LORD, with the smoke rising from your holy altar. Let our prayers be offered on that altar, our very lives be immolated with your Son that as incense they may rise before you. O let us proclaim your glory from the housetops and die with you in that same glory. Praise to you, our Creator and Redeemer, and our Sanctifier! Holy are you, O LORD!
Thu, 12 July 2018
(Hos.14:2-10; Ps.51:3-4,8-9,12-14,17; Mt.10:16-23)
“O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”
Hosea instructs the Israelites, “Take with you words, and return to the Lord,” and this David does in his psalm of sorrow. In “sincerity of heart” he begs the Lord’s forgiveness for his sin and finds that the Lord creates “a clean heart” for him. “In [Him] the orphan finds compassion,” and so the humbled king receives the Lord’s cleansing grace.
Because the Lord does “forgive all iniquity, and receive[s] what is good,” so we find that Hosea’s prophecy – “He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots” – is fulfilled in His Church today. We indeed “blossom like the vine”: the vine of Christ covers the earth. And though “straight are the paths of the Lord,” though Jesus’ blunt words to His disciples – “You will be hated by all on account of me” – are realized in all who are “brought to trial before rulers and kings, to give witness before them and the Gentiles”… though persecution, the cross, be an inevitable part of every Christian’s life, yet through it all the Church is strengthened, growing “like a verdant cypress tree.” For always it is the Lord who strengthens us; always it is “the Spirit of [our] Father… speaking in [us].” It is He who opens our lips; it is His praise we proclaim with all our words, and so what can He do but bless us? We “say no more, ‘our god,’ to the work of our hands,” and so no more do we sin. Taking refuge in the love of God, “because of [Him we] bear fruit.”
“Your Holy Spirit take not from me,” O Lord. “A willing spirit sustain in me,” that your wrath might ever be “turned away,” that I might forever be purified by your grace – that the pangs I suffer never be the result of my sin but rather the blessing of sharing your cross in this world. Come, O Son of Man, and find your sheep suffering all for you. Your Word keep upon our souls.
O LORD, cleanse our hearts of sin
that you might speak through us,
that we might do your work in this world.
YHWH, wash us clean of all our sins this day that our tongues might freely praise your NAME and declare your glory to all the world, that we might be ready even to die for you. You are our salvation; you are our very life. It is only by you we bear fruit – without you we would certainly die. And so, a clean heart create in us that we might be your faithful disciples.
Speak in us this day, O LORD; in our lives let your will be done. And as we blossom by your favor let us never forget that it is by your love alone we grow. If we perform good works, it is only by your grace, for truly we deserved death for our sins but your compassion has made us new again and prepared us for our service.
The work of our hands shall not save us, LORD, but only you and your love. Let us not be distracted by the gleam of the stones, even of the temple, but set our hearts and desires on you alone. Truly you hold our lives in your hands – let us have your wisdom to guide us, that we might never again turn away but ever recognize you as our Savior.
Wed, 11 July 2018
(Hos.11:1,3-4,8-9; Ps.80:2-4,15-16; Mt.10:7-15)
“I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you.”
And He comes to us as do the disciples today, blessing each home as He enters. And “if the home is deserving, [His] blessing will descend upon it. If it is not, [His] blessing will return” to Him. Be careful to receive the blessing of the Lord, for if you reject Him, He will leave you, shaking the dust from His feet, and “it will go easier for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than it will” for you.
In days past the Lord loved Israel as “a child,” drawing him “with human cords, with bands of love.” And though “they did not know that He was their healer,” though they rejected Him, His “pity [was] stirred” and He did “not give vent to [His] blazing anger.” He withheld His “flames” of wrath and offered them forgiveness. Thus Jesus is sent into our midst. For we, as Israel, have sinned. All have spurned the love of God and gone astray. But here comes the Holy One to heal us once again.
But now if we should reject Him, now if we should spurn His Son present to us, how shall we be saved? What more can the Lord God do to draw us home to His loving arms. The Lord has heard the psalmist’s plea to “look down from heaven and see,” to “take care of this vine, and protect what [His] right hand has planted.” He comes to His children wholly offering Himself for their sakes. Like the apostles, like His saints who come without money or goods but possessing everything they need and giving all this blessing freely to any who would receive it, so the Lord comes to us this day – and do we receive Him?
There is nothing more the Lord can do to save our souls: He has died for us. He has given all He has freely for our redemption. His Son walks amongst us. Enter His reign today. Accept His blessing. The day of judgment is not far from you.
O LORD, save us from the fires of hell;
obedient to your call,
let us come into your kingdom.
YHWH, let your peace be upon this House, upon your Church, upon all souls. Let none reject the grace you give as a gift to your children. Truly you love us and forgive us our sins – let us accept your healing this day.
You send forth apostles to spread your Word, to bring salvation, to bring your healing to all souls, LORD. You look upon us with pity and provide for our care, despite our failure to recognize your presence. Our sins you would remember no more, your love you would plant as a seed in the heart of our home, in our very spirits… Let us be your faithful children and cherish your reign over us!
How shall we be made worthy to be citizens of Heaven? How shall we find your blessing upon our town, upon our poor houses? Let us provide for those you send forth to serve, LORD; then we shall be welcoming you. And let us go forth ourselves as you call. Let us place our trust entirely in you and in your Word of truth, and so find all things provided for. In your House let us make our home.
Tue, 10 July 2018
(Hos.10:1-3,7-8,12; Ps.105:2-7; Mt.10:1-7)
“Jesus sent these men on mission as the Twelve.”
And in these men the Lord founds His Church, choosing “first Simon, now known as Peter,” as the Rock upon whom the Building rests, and in like fashion all the twelve apostles, upon whom He places His Spirit. And so the foundation is set. And so none can separate themselves from these and their teaching, for in them and in this Church, Jesus Himself resides. It is in their place the bishops stand; it is through these, priests are ordained. In His holy Catholic Church we find the New Jerusalem.
The Lord chose Abraham and his son Isaac, and placed His blessings upon the twelve tribes of Jacob and their descendants. He does not remove this blessing, does not break His covenant. And the Lord set up in Jerusalem His place of worship. This, too, does not change. Regardless of how corrupt the priests or kings may have been throughout the history of Israel and Judah, these remain His chosen people, and here is His temple. And when another would rise up to take the place of what God had anointed, as typified by Jeroboam’s setting up the golden calf in Samaria that the people might worship there and so not go up to Jerusalem, this pride the Lord curses. In our first reading He vows, “The king of Samaria shall disappear, like foam upon the waters. The high places of Aven [Iniquity] shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars.” Yes, “God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars” for “their heart is false.” It is not these upon whom His Spirit rests.
Brothers and sisters, “it is time to seek the Lord,” to come into the House His hands have made – not a separate Church set up apart from His covenants but standing in fulfillment of them with the coming of Jesus as the Christ and Messiah – and realize that “the reign of God is at hand.” Here in His New Jerusalem you shall find His presence; here you shall hear His teaching transmitted through the apostles and receive the Bread of His sacrifice at their holy hands. Know that “He, the Lord, is our God” and “throughout the earth His judgments prevail.” “Glory in His holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord,” for now He has come to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now through His apostles, through those who “seek to serve Him constantly,” He gathers all into the New Jerusalem – upon this House His favor remains.
O LORD, open our mouths
that we might speak of your glory,
you who are the living God.
YHWH, you send your apostles forth to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to gather them into the New Jerusalem, your Holy Catholic Church. Here are the pillars of your Church, here the foundation. In these Twelve you send out, the promise to Abraham is fulfilled – here are the twelve sons who will do your will.
All false gods you will destroy, LORD; all unholy altars shall be torn down. And every nation that turns from you and the call of your apostles will not enter into your reign but cry to the mountains and hills to fall upon themselves.
Save all faithful souls from such woe, O LORD. Let us see your hand at work in our midst, that we might praise your NAME. Cast all evil from our hearts, heal us of every disease, that we might be whole in your sight and so enter freely into your fold. Into your reign let us come, into the House founded on your apostles. In Spirit and truth let us worship you on your holy mountain.
Mon, 9 July 2018
(Hos.8:4-7,11-13; Ps.115:3-10; Mt.9:32-38)
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.
Their idols are silver and gold, the handiwork of men.”
In Israel, the people have turned from worship of the living God and “with their silver and gold they made idols for themselves, to their own destruction.” As the golden “calf of Samaria” is “destined for the flames,” so they “shall be like them, everyone who trusts in them.” So empty are the lives of those who worship wood and stone, and to inevitable destruction do they come. That which we make rots; only what is made by God endures.
How the Lord Jesus contrasts with the false and empty gods worshiped by the nations: where they are dead, He is alive. He alone is able to see and hear and smell and feel. He alone walks the earth with a heart that is “moved with pity.” He alone reveals the living God and enables us thereby to see and hear and smell and feel. He alone gives us strength to walk this earth and do His work. Their gods are mute – “they have mouths but they speak not.” But He takes the “mute who was possessed by a demon” and enables him to speak. It is He who gives us our souls, who renews our spirit.
“Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” the crowds exclaim as they witness the glory of God in their midst. It is as if they shout, “God is alive!” and come to faith in His presence. For here He breathes upon them; here His heart beats in their hearing. In Jesus all see the wonders of the Father in heaven come to earth and made real before their eyes. Such is God’s will – to bring heaven to earth. Such is His great grace – to send us His only Son. And what can we do but rejoice at the works of the Lord; what can we do but join Him in such labor?
“He shall remember their guilt and punish their sins,” those who harden their hearts against Him and trust in the wisdom of their own minds and the works of their own hands. For only the works wrought by His hands, through His living Spirit, are genuine, are true – are alive. All else dies. So let us leave off any empty sacrifice, any false worship not accomplished in the House of God. There is but one God and one Church through which He works, and only by what He has established will we know the grace and freedom of the living Lord of all. Only in Jesus’ Body and Blood do we find the life that yields lasting grain.
O LORD, open our mouths
that we might speak of your glory,
you who are the living God.
YHWH, open our mouths that we might sing your praise, and never again call upon false gods. Your Spirit alone dwell in us this day, and we shall again be your blessed children.
O LORD, how could we be so fooled as to worship wood and stone, or other more modern images made by our own hands? What we see on the TV screen is not real, yet we give it precedence over living souls. Our desire is set on such empty illusions, on such dead matter, and so we die of hunger far from you. And so we lie prostrate from exhaustion, from chasing the vain contrivances of our corrupted minds.
But you come to save us, LORD, from such empty worship of these no-gods, from these pursuits which sap our strength, which but blind our eyes and leave us without tongues for speaking the truth. You send laborers forth to relieve our dying spirits; you come into our midst each day to feed us with Jesus’ Body and Blood, that we might not fade away in our vanity but be revived by His sacred presence. Let us stand and walk with you who are life itself!
Sun, 8 July 2018
(Hos.2:16-18,21-22; Ps.145:2-9; Mt.9:18-26)
“When the crowd had been put out
He entered and took her by the hand,
and the little girl got up.”
How like Hosea’s prophecy today is the Lord’s raising of Jairus’ daughter in our gospel. For the Lord speaks through His prophet, saying, “I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart,” and Jesus does this when He puts the crowd out of the house before whispering to the little girl to arise. And as the Lord declares in our first reading, “I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy,” so Jesus takes the hand of the child, wedding His Spirit unto her own; and so, as the redemption is promised Israel in her again calling the Lord, “My husband,” so Jairus’ daughter stands and walks in the light of Christ.
“She shall respond there as in the days of her youth,” it is said of the Lord’s chosen nation. With the faith of a child all shall be raised. And as the Savior covers the “woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for twelve [full] years” with the edge of His cloak, taking her into His wedding chamber and so immediately healing her flow of blood, so Jesus would make us all His own; so in His grace and love He would enter all our souls and make us one with Him. And so would all find themselves “restored… to health,” His blood alone coursing through our veins.
“I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord,” our God declares. And knowing the Lord, being wed unto Him in the depths of our hearts where He speaks, promising us His love, what can we do but “praise [His] name forever and ever” with David His king? What can we do but “speak of the splendor of [His] glorious majesty and tell of [His] wonderful works”? For “great is the Lord and highly to be praised,” and His Spirit wed to our own we are overwhelmed by the glory of His presence and cannot help but declare our love for Him who has loved us above all.
Listen to His voice, brothers and sisters; let Him enter your hearts and make you His own. And you shall be raised from the death of sin unto His glorious majesty. Yes, may news of His grace circulate among all; let us “publish the fame of [His] abundant goodness and joyfully sing of [His] justice,” for He speaks now to our souls.
O LORD, speak to our hearts
that we might rise in faith with your Son,
and so praise your glory.
YHWH, you come to us in quiet places and whisper in our ear to rise and be with you. Our souls you wed to your Spirit that we might live forever in you. Let us remain faithful to your glorious presence in our midst; with courage let us come to you to be healed.
You are merciful, LORD, and desire our good. You would see us well and walking with you. And so you call to our hearts to worship you, to make your love our sole desire.
Cover us, O LORD, with your kindness; show your compassion to our souls. And we shall rise up and praise your NAME – one with you we will extol your glory forever. For what greater gift could we find than you yourself abiding in our heart?
Let us hear your voice calling us, LORD, in the quiet, in the silence of your presence. Cast all distractions from our minds. You alone let us know and desire, and we shall find ourselves at peace in your presence. Let all the world know your abundant goodness toward your children.
Fri, 6 July 2018
(Amos 9:11-15; Ps.85:9,11-14; Mt.9:14-17)
“I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel.”
Of the city of David, the Lord promises, “I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old.” Beautiful imagery is given indeed through the prophet Amos to illustrate the renewal of the land now fallen: “The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it.” Indeed, in His great grace the Lord vows, “Never again shall they be plucked from the land I have given them.” And so we have prophecy of the New Jerusalem.
Our psalm continues such prophecy of the kingdom to come, declaring, “He proclaims peace to His people, and to His faithful ones… The Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” Justice and truth shall be known in fullness, even as salvation walks “along the way of His steps.”
And these steps have been trodden in our midst. Jesus is coming and has come, bringing in Himself the new wine of the New Jerusalem, which courses like a river through all this City’s streets. Indeed His Blood flows in our veins now. Indeed we become the new wineskins that hold His abundant goodness, and so are lifted to the kingdom of heaven. John’s disciples do not yet understand. If the Lord’s own followers have difficulty seeing, it should not be surprising that those who have yet to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit yet find themselves preoccupied with the stipulations of a law that is passing away, a law – so embodied by the Pharisees – which is to be subsumed by the greater Law of love Jesus comes bleeding to bring into our midst.
But they shall. There can be little doubt that these followers of John and his baptism will come, with the Lord’s own disciples, and be washed in the blood that makes all things new. There is certainty that these, as even some Pharisees, shall “drink the wine” of the New Covenant, even as we do this day.
Brothers and sisters, this new wine is upon our altars even this day; before us is set the Blood that washes all clean. It is for our restoration the Lord provides this feast. Let us not refrain from partaking what He has died to bring into our midst, but let us be indeed the new wineskins filled with His Word and His Blood, and declare His salvation unto the nations.
O LORD, the wine of your Son’s blood renews us;
may we be open to receive the blessings
He pours upon us.
YHWH, you are our salvation; in your Son’s flesh let us take our refuge, of His blood let us partake. It is in Him we find our peace, in Him that our house, our own flesh, is rebuilt, redeemed for the kingdom to come, for the New Jerusalem. It is in His walking the earth that truth is known; in Him justice flows down from the heavens. In His skin let us make our home.
Your promise is great, O LORD, the promise of eternal life, the promise of bearing your NAME and so being as you are. In Jesus we see that promise before our eyes – send your Spirit to fulfill that promise in our poor lives.
O LORD, let us be rebuilt; raise us up from our ruins. It is at your hand we find our food – only by your grace do we live at all. And so, let us return to you and walk with your Son along the way of salvation. And so, let us be wed to you as your faithful ones. In you we place our hope; by you let us be made new.
Thu, 5 July 2018
(Amos 8:4-6,9-12; Ps.119:2,10,20,30,40,131,Mt.4:46; Mt.9:9-13)
“Many tax collectors and those known as sinners
came to join Jesus and His disciples at dinner.”
It is just such as these that Amos prophesies against in our first reading; it is sinners such as Matthew whom he addresses when he declares, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” For the apostle the Lord calls today is a tax collector, one of those famous for extorting money from his fellow Jews even while standing in the stead of their occupiers, the Romans. And so are he and his kind not like those who can’t wait for an end to the Lord’s sabbath that they might “fix their scales for cheating,” greedily proclaiming, “Even the refuse of the wheat we will sell”? And so is it any wonder the Pharisees complained, “What reason can the Teacher have for eating with tax collectors and those who disregard the law?”
Our psalm itself supports the importance of following the law of the Lord, stating, “Happy are they who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart.” And so, how unhappy, how lacking in God’s blessing must Matthew be to live apart from His word. And so, are not the Pharisees correct in their assessment that such as he deserve but condemnation?
They are correct. It cannot be denied. But what they cannot see is that they are just as guilty. What they do not understand, as these others do, is that before their eyes the Lord’s prophecy through Amos is being realized: “I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight,” our God makes known – and it is the sinners they condemn who are the ones who “mourn as for an only son”; it is they who now “gasp with open mouth in [their] yearning for [the Lord’s] commands”… it is they who recognize the famine “for hearing the word of the Lord” that is upon the earth and upon their souls, and turn to the Son who feeds the hungry even as He joins them at table. What these Pharisees do not see is that the justice of the Lord is not the judgment in their hearts, else all, including themselves, would be condemned.
Brothers and sisters, open your eyes to the emptiness of your soul and come to His table this day with open mouth and open heart to hear His Word and receive His Body and Blood. For it is repentant sinners such as you whom the Lord feeds quite freely.
O LORD, in the darkness of our midday,
your Son has made the sacrifice for our sins;
and so now you but desire our merciful love,
that we should long to be as Him.
YHWH, how shall we live unless you feed us with the bread of your Word? We die as in a desert when you withhold your mercy from our souls. Come to our table this day and give us the food we need to live eternally – give us your very self!
Is there not a famine upon the land, O LORD? Are we not without the light of your guidance? Do we not turn from your commands to love of gain and so lose our souls in sin? How the earth is covered in darkness!
Have mercy on us, dear God, have mercy. Open our hearts to listen to your voice of instruction; let us thirst for the words of your mouth as we abandon our wicked posts. If we seek you, we shall find you – let us set our hearts on your love.
It is your great desire to forgive our sins, to save us by your mercy, LORD. You search us out to gather us to your table. On the flesh of your Son let us feast this day. Let us be found by your grace in the kingdom of Heaven.
Wed, 4 July 2018
(Amos 7:10-17; Ps.19:8-11; Mt.9:1-8)
“The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
Amos says of himself in our first reading: “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people, Israel.” And so he can say, “Now hear the word of the Lord!” And so he can speak for God. And so he can reveal the Lord’s will to the people, calling them to return to His presence.
Like the prophets is the law, of which David, another shepherd called by God – himself to be king – sings today in our psalm: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” As the prophets’ chastisement would bring healing to those who listen and obey the word of the Lord they impart, so the law of God is meant to bring a “fear of the Lord [which] is pure, enduring forever,” so it, too, would bring blessed healing to the wayward child, “rejoicing the heart” and “enlightening the eye.”
But the people did not listen to the prophets; they refused to obey the law of the Lord. His words they cast aside, unable to swallow them, unable to make them an enduring part of their lives. Like a cloud which passes, so ephemeral, so abstract and therefore unknown they would too often become. And so the Father sent His Son.
“Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven,” Jesus says to the “paralyzed man lying on a mat”; and this word He has come to make real in all our hearing – to all He brings forgiveness for their straying hearts. Even the stiff necks of the scribes the Lord would bring healing. The sins of the past He comes to wash away, advocating to the Father for us that we knew not what we were doing before His arrival, and come now He has to make real for us God’s presence in our midst, to take away our ignorance of the Father’s love… to enable us to stand up and walk “toward [our] home.”
Indeed, “a feeling of awe” should come over us as it did over the crowd that witnessed Jesus’ power, for the same authority resides with us now in His Church – He has not left His people abandoned. And so, come to the Lord and confess your sins, for the Lord in His grace gave “such authority to men” to act in His stead as does Christ. And now find the courage and conviction to live your life led by the Incarnate Word of God. May your soul be in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
O LORD, your Word be in our hearts and upon our lips
that we might be saved from death.
YHWH, in ancient times you gave authority to ordinary men to speak in your NAME. Simple shepherds you called to prophesy against Israel and serve you as king. In the fullness of time you sent your Son with the power to forgive men’s sins, to heal us of all our ills. And now your authority rests in your Son’s apostles, those whom He sends forth to forgive and feed your flock. May all souls come to your Church to receive grace from on high!
Who will listen to your Word, O LORD, and turn away from his sin? Who will be refreshed by your Law and find the enlightening of his eye? Who treasures the sweetness of your chastisement, who knows the mercy bleeding in the heart of Jesus…? Who of this fallen race would stand and walk with Him toward our home in Heaven?
Give us courage, dear God, that you are with us and you care for all your sons. From our exile let us be taken, that we might be held in your Hand.
Tue, 3 July 2018
(Amos 5:14-15,21-24; Ps.50:7-13,16-17,23; Mt.8:28-34)
“Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you.”
The chastising continues in our readings today. Against the people’s vain sacrifices and “noisy songs,” both Amos and our psalmist speak in the Lord’s name. In need of healing as the two men “possessed by demons” do we find ourselves in the sight of God.
“Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?” comes the warning from the Lord. And is it not a word we who pray must keep constantly in our hearts? For how easy it is to fall into empty worship; how readily do we begin to offer mere lip service to our God, when it is our very souls He demands. And not for His sake does He instruct us to “let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream” – to put into practice the words we speak. He commands us to “seek good and not evil,” for “then truly will the Lord, the God of hosts, be with [us] as [we] claim.”
Indeed we claim His presence in our lives; we presume His blessing upon us as we attend Mass and read His words, each day receiving His Body and Blood and hearing His instruction. But continually we must check ourselves, for blindly do we fall into separation from the Lord, even in His house, and so may hear from His mouth: “I hate, I spurn your feasts… I take no pleasure in your solemnities.”
At these times we must come “out of the tombs” as do the demoniacs today. We must cry out to the Lord as we realize our sin. And He will be faithful to us. As He healed even these, He will cast the devils from us, too, and quickly. But first we must realize that His “are the world and its fullness,” that He needs nothing from us. First we must see that all our sacrifices do Him no good – only us. Then He “will have pity,” when we have humbled ourselves. Then He will gather us into His fold, when our hearts are set on His justice.
Let the devil be cast from your mocking lips; accept the chastising Word of God, and new life at His feet you may find, possessed of the breath of His Spirit. Then will your offerings find favor in His eyes.
O LORD, come to us and stay with us
and let us stay with you,
sharing your goodness with all,
your healing graces upon all souls.
YHWH, you are God and need nothing from us; justice alone you seek of our lives. To be as you are is your desire for us, and so you rebuke us in our wickedness.
Cast the devils from our heart, O LORD; let us never dwell in vain pride, for then we should live as if in a tomb, separated far from you and your love. Then we should know your justice.
Help us to come rightly before you and beg your mercy, LORD, to bow before your majesty. If we but recognized your greatness, your glory in our midst, and desired your rule over our wayward hearts… quickly you would come to save us – with a word from your mouth we would be redeemed.
Our words are empty, dear LORD, and our worship vain, except when you bless us with your presence, except when you take pity on our sinful state. Let your discipline bring us back to you; let us find ourselves at your feet, clothed and in our right minds. By your hand let us be fed this day – we beg you to stay with us at all times!
Sun, 1 July 2018
(Amos 2:6-10,13-16; Ps.50:16-23; Mt.8:18-22)
“Consider this, you who forget God,
lest I rend you and there be no one to rescue you.”
What we should realize from our readings today is that the Word of the Lord is severe. Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, etc. – His chastising hand is upon us in the words He speaks to our sinful hearts. He does not nod and smile as we walk our errant ways, but calls us onto the strait path He treads.
In our first reading and psalm the Lord recounts the sins of the people, “drawing them up before [their] eyes”; and for their crimes He declares, “I will not revoke my word” – they shall not escape His punishing hand. They who “sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals,” who “trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth,” will themselves be “crush[ed]… into the ground as a wagon crushes when laden with sheaves.” The sheaves of their sins are indeed heavy, and will duly lie upon their backs. Those, too, who are thieves and adulterers, who give their mouths “free rein for evil” and “harness [their] tongue for deceit,” will not their fate be the same? And you, brothers and sisters, “when you do these things, shall [the Lord] be deaf to it?” He is not evil as yourselves, and so cannot stomach your iniquity.
And do you think with Jesus you will be able to continue in your sin? Because He bears your sins upon His shoulders, because He is crushed to the ground for your sakes, do you find thereby the right to go on sinning? Do you somehow believe the way of Christ is easier than that presented through Amos? Listen to His demand: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” This He says to a seemingly willing disciple who desires to remain with his family a while, not to a notorious dictator or a profligate heathen. And do you still wish to follow Him who “has nowhere to lay His head,” Him whom the world wishes dead – Him who will be whipped and beaten and crucified for the sins of mankind? This is your fate. This is your fate, O Christian. In it will you find your joy?
The Lord has come to rescue us, indeed to exalt us on high, “and to him that goes the right way [He] will show the salvation of God.” But your sins are not forgotten by Him who sees all things; they are no light matter in His sight. And following Him is not an easy road, for He is God.
O LORD, help us to leave the sin of the world behind
and follow you wholeheartedly, lest we die.
YHWH, how can we follow you when your way is so severe and we are such sinners? Who among us does not betray your Word; who among us is innocent of crimes? Only you are without stain, without attachment to this sinful plane – the rest of us have wickedness dwelling in our hearts
Yet you call us, LORD, to follow you; yet you desire us to be where you are, to live as you do. And so, what can we do but beg your forgiveness? What can we do but thank you for bringing our sins up before our eyes? What can we do but praise you for the grace you provide?
Let our mouth not speak evil, LORD; let us not walk in the way of sinners. Let us be obedient to your word of truth, to your blessed call to our souls… and make haste to follow along your way. We cannot trust in our own strength, lest we die – let us trust in your mercy and goodness alone, and follow along the way of your salvation. Then we shall be sinners no more, crushed by the weight of our guilt, but your light burden we shall bear, your Son’s redeeming Cross.
Fri, 29 June 2018
(Lam.2:2,10-14,18-19; Ps.74:1-7,19-21; Mt.8:5-17)
“It was our infirmities He bore,
our sufferings He endured.”
And oh how deep are those sufferings; “great as the sea is [our] downfall.” And graphically are they seen in the destruction of Jerusalem; sharply they pierce the flesh of the Son.
Yes, the Lord “has torn down in His anger the fortresses of daughter Judah… On the ground in silence sit the old men of daughter Zion; they strew dust on their heads and gird themselves with sackcloth. The maidens of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground.” And the children and infants “faint away like the wounded in the streets of the city, and breathe their last in their mothers’ arms.” And so the prophet Jeremiah is “worn out from weeping”; and so his “gall is poured out on the ground because of the downfall of the daughter of [his] people.”
And is this weeping not Jesus’ own? Does He not shed tears over Jerusalem for the suffering it has known, and its suffering to come? Does He not indeed die for our sins? Listen to the description of the destruction of the holy city offered by our psalmist today: “With chisel and hammer they hack at all the paneling of the sanctuary.” Are these not the blows Jesus suffered; are they not the nails which pierced His hands and feet and side? “They set your sanctuary on fire; the place where your name abides they have razed and destroyed.” Is not Jesus the Temple of the living God, crucified by the hands of lust and greed and jealousy? Have we not done such violence to our Lord? And has He not endured all for our salvation?
Let the priest and all the children note the cause of such destruction of God’s chosen ones, the suffering of His only Son. Is it not the prophets who proclaimed “false and specious visions,” who “did not lay bare [the people’s] guilt, to avert [their] fate”? And note the Lord’s own words and attitude toward those who follow Him, to the children of Israel who press upon Him: “The natural heirs of the kingdom will be driven out into the dark. Wailing will be heard there and grinding of teeth.” Does Jesus fail to show those in His care the narrow gate? And so should we continue to coddle faithless hearts unto their destruction?
He indeed bears all our infirmities, all the sickness our sin has wrought. But we must indeed see ourselves as the centurion’s servant boy, “in bed paralyzed, suffering painfully,” to find His word of healing. We must come with the faith of the centurion to know His saving touch. For destruction indeed awaits the land, and so we must cry out to Him, “Turn your steps toward the utter ruins; toward all the damage the enemy has done in your sanctuary,” if we hope to be redeemed by His blood.
O LORD, only Jesus could heal our ills,
only He could bear our suffering, for our guilt is great –
only He could take it away.
YHWH, how dire is the condition of your city this day; your people waste away on its streets, and none is there to help them. Should we not call upon you; and would you not be faithful in carrying away our afflictions, in saving us from the destruction that surrounds us because of our sin? We lie paralyzed before you; lift us up from our bed of pain.
Does not death surround us this day, O LORD? Is there not little hope among your people – are not the walls of our city torn down? Yet your Son would bear all our suffering; our infirmities He would take away. Let us come to Him for healing. Let us cry out to you for grace, for you are faithful to all sincere prayers… Look upon us in our desolate state.
O LORD, the sanctuary has been torn down – your Son has been crucified in our midst. But we know this death He endures with us will bring us new life if we but pour out our hearts like water in your presence. O let us come to your banquet in the kingdom!
Wed, 27 June 2018
(2Kgs.24:8-17; Ps.79:1-5,8,9; Mt.7:21-29)
“The rains fell, the torrents came,
the winds blew and lashed against his house.
It collapsed under all this and was completely ruined.”
Yes, “the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege,” and “Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother, his ministers, officers, and functionaries, surrendered to the king of Babylon, who… took him captive… None were left among the people of the land except the poor”; and these, too, shall soon be struck.
Yes, the nations “have defiled [the Lord’s] holy temple, they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.” And why has such destruction come? Our first reading tells us simply of Jehoiachin, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his forebears had done”; and now finally the day of reckoning has come. And now the nations “have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury them.” Now does the Lord’s “jealousy burn like fire.”
And what shall be left when that fire is passed? Who shall stand on that day of reckoning that shall come to all souls, to peoples of all nations? Will you stand before the Lord and recount the great deeds you have done before Him who holds all the world in His holy hand? Will you attempt to justify yourself before Him who justifies all? Will your heart truly be set upon such vain pursuit? Truly then the Lord will “declare to [you] solemnly, ‘Out of my sight, you evildoers’”; for all you have done will be as a grain of sand in His sight, and that grain will be blown from His hand for your lack of humility, for your pride before whom none can stand.
How shall it be then that your house be “solidly set on rock”? How will you avoid the fate of His chosen city Jerusalem? If it has been destroyed, do you not think that you, too, are liable to be struck from His sight? Or do you find yourself perfect? You must cry out as our psalmist, “Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.” You must heed the words of Christ and consider yourselves unworthy servants (Lk.17:10), unfit as you are to stand before His eyes, to dwell in His light. Then He may have pity on your wretched soul. Then He might make you strong. Your tongue silent before His majesty, there will be hope that you shall remain.
Remember, brothers and sisters, this is He who “taught with authority” before whom you stand. Do not lose the awe of His presence. And perhaps the great collapse of your house will not be necessary; perhaps you shall find His great love which washes away all sin. Let the rains He sends but be cleansing. Endure them gracefully.
O LORD, the gold of the temple does not endure,
but only a humble soul set on your will.
YHWH, let us do your will, that we might stand humbly before you on the Day of judgment.
You cannot help but judge, dear LORD; you cannot help but condemn the pride and wickedness of an evil heart and a vain life. You would give us food to stand strong, your command that gives life indeed… but we would follow our own ways, and so, how can we end but removed from your sight?
You make us as temples, LORD, temples of your Holy Spirit feeding on the Body and Blood of your Son… but how faithful are we to the call to be as your Son, to listen to His words and the guidance of the Spirit – are we truly obedient to your will for our lives?
If we are not humble, LORD, then we know you not. If we expect return for works done in your NAME, then we understand not the great blessing of being your sons, and how unworthy we are to carry out your will.
O LORD, come back to us and help us because of the glory of your NAME. Let us make our home in you and in your Temple, and so find strength in you on the Day you return.
Tue, 26 June 2018
(2Kgs.22:8-13,23:1-3; Ps.119:33-37,40; Mt.7:15-20)
“Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I take delight.”
The people of Judah and Jerusalem have been unfaithful to God and to the covenant made with Him, and so the time of their exile draws near: soon this remaining tribe of Israel shall join the others in being cast from their promised land. But today we hear of a faithful king, Josiah, who makes a kind of final effort, a final sign of faithfulness among the people, as he seeks to restore what has been so sorely lost by the nation.
King Josiah recognizes that Judah has sinned against God and so lost His blessing; and this truth is brought home to him in the clear light of “the book of the law,” which has been uncovered in the temple of the Lord, dusted off of its many years of neglect, and read in his hearing. Hearing the commands of the Lord, the Word which gives life to its hearer, the king tears his garments in penitence for what has been lacking to the kingdom, and declares: “The anger of the Lord has been set furiously ablaze against us because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.” To his great credit he seeks now to fulfill these stipulations, making “a covenant before the Lord that they would follow Him and observe His ordinances, statutes, and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant which were written in the book.” The covenant made through Moses he looks to restore.
“And all the people stood as participants in the covenant”; a measure of the blessing does return to God’s chosen as they “turn away [their] eyes from what is vain” and find life in the ways of the Lord. Here is a final harvest of good fruit before the tree turns rotten and so must be uprooted from the Lord’s sight.
Brothers and sisters, it is adherence to the Word of God which gives all life; it is faithfulness to His call that is our bread of life. If we do not remain in Him and walk in “the way of His statutes,” we are no better than the “false prophets” who are but “wolves on the prowl” and shall be burned in the fires of Gehenna. If we are faithless how shall our tree grow? And if no growth, then no God have we, and we shall but rot.
In His light let us remain, seeking the nourishment of His Word and the Bread we break and offer at His altar. And we shall need fear no exile from the Promised Land, from the Temple that is our risen Christ… We shall be led ever in the way of Truth and grow each day unto Life.
O LORD, renew your Covenant within us,
that we might bear good fruit in your presence.
YHWH, if we but followed your Word and your way, heeding the commands you give us for the nourishment of our souls, then would we bear fruit unto eternal life; then would all be well with our lives. But in disobedience we turn from you to follow our own desires, and so cast from your sight we can only be.
Forgive us, LORD, the sins upon our hands and upon our hearts; let your wrath not blaze against us – save us from the fire! Help us to renew this day our commitment to you and to your Word of truth, that your love might return to us and feed us well. O let us return to you!
So blind we have been, so deaf to your Word, O holy LORD. And so, holiness has escaped us. Let us no longer be led astray by false notions conceived in the corruption of sin but repent entirely of our hypocrisy. Let us but serve you and not our selfishness, and you will bless us once again and we will remain standing strong in your Temple, as your chosen people in light. May your Word take root within our hearts and grow unto eternal life.
Mon, 25 June 2018
(2Kgs.19:9-11,14-21,31-36; Ps.48:2-4,9-11; Mt.7:6,12-14)
“I will shield and save this city for my own sake,
and for the sake of my servant David.”
Brothers and sisters, “renowned is He as a stronghold,” the Lord our God. And faithfully does He watch over His chosen one.
Our psalmist proclaims, “Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God.” He extols the glory of Mount Zion, of Jerusalem, “the city of the great King,” for the blessings of God upon it. Here is His temple and so here it is we “ponder [His] kindness”; here it is we take refuge, finding “the narrow gate” that leads to Him and to His salvation.
In our first reading today the Lord gives evidence of the way in which He protects His children; He reveals that He will not “give what is holy to dogs or toss [His] pearls before swine.” The king of Assyria has indeed “laid waste the nations and their lands,” including the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He has acted with seemingly invincible power, and now he has come to the Lord’s chosen city to destroy it as well. And though this Jerusalem, where His temple does dwell, and the chosen tribes of Judah (through whom His Savior shall come) shall not be protected forever… though this earthly tent shall so soon be ransacked and taken into exile itself, today the Lord shows how His promise, His covenant with them, will never be taken away. Though the temple’s walls be one day destroyed, His spiritual kingdom, His New Jerusalem is eternally blessed in heaven.
Hezekiah indeed “enter[s] through the narrow gate” of prayer. Taking the threatening letter from Sennacherib in his hand, “he [goes] up to the temple of the Lord, and spreading it out before Him, he pray[s] in the Lord’s presence.” He calls out, “O Lord, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” And the Lord listens. He takes pity on His “virgin daughter Zion… for out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors.” And by the hand of the Lord the king of Assyria is turned back.
Brothers and sisters, “Jerusalem will not be handed over” to the king of this world. Upon His Church His blessed protection remains. Through Judah and David, the king whose city is Jerusalem, Jesus has come – the Lord’s promise is fulfilled and the remnant now does thrive. Here is the Temple not made by human hands; here is the narrow gate through whom all must enter paradise… here is “the joy of all the earth,” God’s “holy mountain” in our midst; and on His heights and in these walls, we are shielded and saved forever.
O LORD, if we enter through the narrow gate,
we shall come into your presence,
and you shall always fight for us.
YHWH, how shall we find our way to your holy City, on which your protection rests, which shall always be saved from the violence of this world? No kingdom can conquer your Church; in her let us make our home.
On your holy mountain, the fairest of heights, let us find our place, O LORD. To your Temple let us come, stretching out our arms in prayer. And you shall listen to our pleas, and your help will be with us quickly – you will be our stronghold. And so, we will praise you forever, for you teach us the way that leads to your House; in your heavenly kingdom we shall ever remain.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy, as all your children are holy. Let us be as those who walk the narrow path to you, who find joy in the difficulties present there. Dwelling in faith we shall not fear the threats of the mighty, for you who are above all are our shield and guide.
Sun, 24 June 2018
(2Kgs.17:5-8,13-15,18; Ps.60:3-5,7,12-13; Mt.7:1-5)
“In His great anger against Israel,
the Lord put them away out of His sight.”
Jesus instructs His disciples today, “If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment.” In other words, “Judge not and you shall not be judged.” Here is the prerequisite not only for avoiding judgment and condemnation at the hand of God, but also for assisting and healing others, as is our call. If we wish to serve as Christians and remove the speck of sin from others’ eyes that they might see in the clear light of the Lord Jesus Christ, first it is certainly necessary that we ourselves see so clearly, that we come to the Lord and have our great sin removed from our souls. Otherwise our desire to help others in their frailty will indeed but turn to judgment of them; first we must recognize the great sinners we ourselves are – and so, that we cannot judge another – before we can find the grace from God to bring Jesus’ mercy to others. God alone judges, brothers and sisters, for God alone is good, God alone is pure… the Lord Jesus alone is free from every speck of sin.
And God will judge. Believe this. He will send His apostles and prophets forth to bring remission of sins – He has sent His Son to die on the cross that we might be cleansed in His blood – but failing the acceptance and embracing of the call of the Lord, indeed what hope have we of salvation? There is but His righteous judgment remaining for our souls; there is but His chastising Hand to be placed upon us.
That God does judge, that He does cast sinful man from His sight, is made evident in exemplary fashion in the fate of our ancestors, the Israelites. “Because the Israelites sinned against the Lord, their God,” He cast them into exile at the hand of their enemies. “The Lord warned Israel… by every prophet and seer, ‘Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes’”; He sought to turn them from their sins by those whom He had touched, but “they did not listen… They rejected His statutes, the covenant which He had made with their fathers, and the warnings, which He had given them.” And so, His pure eye unable to look upon them anymore, He removed them from before Himself.
“O God, you have rejected us and broken down our defenses,” David cries, and begs the Lord’s return to the Israelites’ ranks… And how often this must be our prayer because of our foolishness in the sight of the Lord. Brothers and sisters, we have a greater covenant now with the Lord than did the ancient Israelites, for we have a greater than David or Moses or Abraham with us now. And more demanding is He of our purity, of our virtue before Him. For what threatens us now is not mere exile, but the fires of hell; what awaits those who turn from Him now is eternal damnation, and so let us remain faithful to our God. Indeed let us remove the log from our eye that we “will see clearly to take the speck from [our] brother’s eye” and so effect the building up of the kingdom of God. The time is now upon us; let us do all we can to remain in His sight.
O LORD, remove us not from your sight
but remove the plank from our eye.
YHWH, judgment is yours alone and it is eminently fair. Where we would condemn out of hand, you are merciful, and cast us from your sight only when we persist in our sin. Help us to see as you see, and to be as you are, that we might remain before you and help others to return to your presence.
We are outcasts, LORD, for our sins against you, for our failure to heed your blessed commands. You would save us from such fate as would separate us from you, and so you tell us of the path to tread. But we do not listen. And so we invite your wrath upon our souls; and so, how can we help others?
Save us this day, O LORD, from ourselves and from all our enemies. Let us listen to your voice and so enter into your love and the light of your presence. In your land let us dwell, in the land of Heaven, and there let us stay… and to this place let us draw others who seek you in the forgiveness of their transgressions and the following of your way. We have sinned against you, but gather us back into your arms, we pray.
Fri, 22 June 2018
(2Chr.24:17-25; Ps.89:4-5,29-34; Mt.6:24-34)
“Because you have abandoned the Lord,
He has abandoned you.”
How quickly Joash the king of Judah, who so recently had restored true worship in the temple at Jerusalem, “transgress[es] the Lord’s commands.” After Jehoiada the priest died, the people “forsook the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols.” And so, “wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem.” So great is their apostasy that not only would they “not listen to [the prophets’] warnings” when they were sent “to convert them to the Lord,” but when Zechariah the son of Jehoiada stood up in their midst to call them back to the Lord, “they stoned him to death in the Lord’s temple.” And so the central place of worship becomes a place of murder.
How truly Jesus speaks in today’s gospel: “No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other.” How clearly we see the hatred of God at work in Judah as she embraces false and empty gods. And so Judah becomes like her profligate sister in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. She who is set aside to preserve the temple and the holy city of Jerusalem, who is given yet a share in the inheritance promised David, turns boldly from her call and blessing to despise that which is most her own. And now does her hatred grow. And though she may escape the chastising hand of God a longer time than her sister, God’s promise: “If [David’s] sons forsake my law and walk not according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and keep not my commands, I will punish their crime with a rod and their guilt with stripes,” will not be set aside forever, and they shall follow their sister into exile.
Brothers and sisters, we must choose the master we shall serve: if the world and its spirit, then you court God’s condemnation; if the Lord, then remain faithful with your whole heart and follow His Son unto heaven. It is to heaven He desires your soul to come, but you must trust in Him and remain faithful to His call. For if you leave Him, He cannot but leave you; but if you hold fast to His love, He can do nothing but bless you.
Today Jesus, the Son of the Father in heaven, stands up to warn you against the traps of this world and call you into full, living worship of the One God. Will you enter into His love?
O LORD, in your House alone let us make our home,
and so find your kingship over us,
and so find your blessing forever.
YHWH, how kind your words to us are; how reassuring you would be. But do we listen to you; indeed, can we hear you at all? O heavenly Father, you know all that we need, and so would provide for us all things if we but followed in your way – but who among us has any faith?
O LORD, do we not rather fret over the passing things of this earth? Do our hearts not turn quickly to false gods, abandoning you and true worship to feed our bellies, to save the flesh? And what can we be but destroyed like the grass of the field if we have no more sense, no more faith, no more love for you than a lifeless statue? Woe to us as we turn from you, for you are our very life, and without your Spirit quickly we die… quickly we die.
Let us seek holiness, LORD, let this be our goal, our call, our only desire. Let us hope for you alone and for your heavenly kingdom, and we shall be blessed, and we shall remain in your House forever.
Thu, 21 June 2018
(2Kgs.11:1-4,9-18,20; Ps.132:11-14,17-18; Mt.6:19-23)
“The eye is the lamp of the body.
If your eye is good, your body will be filled with light;
if your eye is bad, your body will be in darkness.”
And “how deep the darkness” is upon Athaliah. For her eye is evil, her “light is darkness,” as so desperately she seeks to “lay up for [herself] an earthly treasure” by unjust and murderous means. Seeing that her son, the king of Judah, has died, she attempts to hold on to his crown by killing all the rightful heirs to his throne, caring more for the things which “moth and rust corrode” than for the righteousness of God. And she succeeds, though only briefly, as, true to the words of our gospel today, “thieves break in and steal” the kingship she has herself stolen away. And how great is her woe upon seeing all she has so anxiously and vainly sought removed from under her sight. How deep indeed is her darkness, deeper than the death she is about to endure.
In our psalm today we are reminded of the promise the Lord has made with David, king of all Israel: “If your sons keep my covenant and the decrees which I teach them, their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.” For in Zion the Lord vows to “place a lamp for [His] anointed,” and declares that upon His chosen one His “crown shall shine.” This crown, this lamp, is for all the Lord’s children to receive, to shine forth in His holy presence. All who keep to His ways shall know such blessing. But, clearly, those who turn away lose the light the Lord deems to give to us as followers of His One Light, Jesus Christ. And however boldly or by whatever anxious means we attempt to hold on to it, it shall be removed from us like the passing day. Only remaining in Him are we saved.
In our first reading the people, led by Jehoiada the priest of God, renew the covenant “by which they would be the Lord’s people.” Terribly they have fallen from it and its grace and seek to regain what has now, and so often, been lost. Continually, in fact, the Israelites fell away from the Lord’s command and so were abandoned to their sins – thus necessitating the coming of Christ – but continually the Lord returns them to the light when they return to Him, until finally Jesus does come.
Let us not be as the Israelites have been, brothers and sisters, so easily led into darkness and error, so easily seeking to look upon the evil of this earth. The Lord has come now to lead us away from just such things and give us a light that never fades. It is for us to remain with Him. Let your eye be sound, and so let His wisdom shine through you, O blessed one.
O LORD, let us shine like your Son
in your heavenly kingdom.
YHWH, upon what are our hearts set? Are they set on you and the doing of your will? Do we seek indeed your kingdom? Or do we look to gain whatever we can of earthly treasure, and so set ourselves in opposition to your law of love? You alone are King; your Son alone is the rightful heir to all. Let us place Him upon the throne of our hearts and rejoice at your presence there.
How evil man can be, O LORD, how blind and desperate in his selfishness. Into such grave darkness can we fall when we set our hearts on the things of this world. But how vain power and riches are; how quickly they come to an end, for these are not ours but yours alone, and they return to you at the end of the day. And so, if we would hold to them, we would find ourselves fighting you… and that is a battle we cannot win.
O LORD, have mercy on your people! Take not your light from our midst – make us your very dwelling place. Let your light shine forth from all your children as they set their hearts on Heaven.
Wed, 20 June 2018
(Sir.48:1-14; Ps.97:1-7,12; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our psalm sings of the greatness of our God; in our first reading we hear of how this greatness was revealed in the prophets Elijah and Elisha; and in the Lord’s Prayer we call for this greatness to be present in our midst.
“Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes round about,” our psalmist declares in praise of God. “His lightnings illumine the world.” How great indeed is He: “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” Nothing stands before His glance, for “justice and judgment are the foundation of His throne,” and this world is held in His all-powerful Hand.
And how well this greatness is brought to bear by His holy prophets. We are told, “Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.” The consuming power of the Lord is indeed revealed in him, for “by God’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire.” He “brought a dead man back to life from the nether world, by the will of the Lord… sent kings down to destruction,” and finally was “taken aloft in a whirlwind, in a chariot with fiery horses.” How the Lord blesses His holy ones! How He reveals His greatness in them! And of Elisha it is said, “Nothing was beyond his power… In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds.”
There is no end to the power the Lord provides to His children, for there is no end to His power, and this power He would share with all. Thus does the Lord encourage us to call upon the majesty of God our Father to be with us, to feed us each day, that His Name might indeed be praised, that His holiness might be revealed in His chosen ones. And to avoid His wrath, and to share in His power, what must we do? What is the central call of this all-powerful, all-holy Lord? Forgiveness. His grace is power, and grace and mercy we must share with all to share that power which has no end.
Trust in Him who holds you in His Hand, brothers and sisters. And His mighty Hand you shall see at work in the course of your day, and the fire of His grace shall pour upon your soul.
O LORD, let your power be upon us,
the power of your merciful love.
YHWH, you are all-good and all-powerful, and those who share your goodness share in your power. Let your kingdom come upon us; there let us dwell with you. We pray to be forgiven all our sins that your Spirit might be with us.
But we know, O LORD, for your Son has taught us, that if we are to come into your presence and share in your power and wonder, first we must forgive our neighbor – even our enemy we must love. Those who sin against us indeed become as our enemies, but your mercy we must share with them if we are to know your grace at work in our souls. Separated from you, all die, but in your light all are brought to life: let all souls come into your kingdom.
Let thy holy will be done, O LORD, in all your prophets, in all your disciples. Your power, your love, make known in all who bear your NAME. What should we fear if you are with us? Let your Word be spoken through us and His blood course through our veins. Let all peoples see your glory.
Tue, 19 June 2018
(2Kgs.2:1,6-14; Ps.31:20-21,24-25; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“As they walked on conversing,
a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
Jesus instructs us in our gospel, “Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private.” This prescription the holy prophet Elijah fulfills in our first reading when he miraculously crosses the Jordan River and enters the wilderness, out of the sight of the prophets who remain standing on its other side. Elisha, too, he would have remain apart, but this holy man determines to stay with his father in faith. And so as their prayer becomes secret, as their conversation of God becomes hidden and private, even then Elijah is taken in flames of holy fire from the sight of men; even then he ascends to heaven. And though so otherworldly, the eyes of Elisha witness the hand of God lifting the prophet from our midst.
Brothers and sisters, can you see that this is as what happens with us when we pray to God in our private rooms? David in his psalm declares, “How great is the goodness, O Lord, which you have in store for those who fear you, and which, toward those who take refuge in you, you show in the sight of men.” When we “hide… in the shelter of [His] presence… screen[ed]… within [His] abode,” He reveals Himself to us in His glorious might, He lifts us up to heaven where He dwells. As He blesses those who keep their alms secret and repays those whose fasting is hidden, so He anoints the prayers of His children who find Him in the recesses of their hearts. From this wilderness, from this desert place, He lifts us to see the encompassing shining of holy light.
The quiet place is within your soul; the kingdom of heaven is within you. Converse with the Lord quite readily, quite faithfully, in this hidden place, and all shall be revealed to your eyes. Stay with Him; do not leave His side, and all your requests shall be filled in His blessed generosity. And His cloak He shall place upon you, His cross He shall lay across your shoulders, and the great blessings of heaven will be your own.
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!
The Lord keeps those who are constant.”
And all humble souls He raises
to the throne of God.
O LORD, let us hide ourselves in you,
that you might carry us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us enter into your presence hidden within us; into this wilderness let us come that we might meet with you and you might bless us, and take us to Heaven. Hear our prayer this day.
LORD, you alone are our refuge, you alone are our glory and our peace – you are our only desire. Let us not seek the approval of this world or the praise it may give, but look always only to serve you, to love you, with all our might… and let all our might be only of you. Let it be you who work miracles in our life.
Take all we have, LORD; we ask nothing in return but to be with you. Quietly let us come to you who dwell in the purest silence, apart from all the vain distractions of this world.
You are quite above this dreadful place, though you come to dwell with us even here. In you let us transcend all the emptiness that surrounds us, even as we walk with you. O LORD, let us never leave your side that we might come to be where you are.
Mon, 18 June 2018
(1Kgs.21:17-29; Ps.51:3-6,11,16; Mt.5:43-48)
“Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.”
We have hope, brothers and sisters; we have hope that the very depths of our sin and depravity against the Lord shall be forgiven, and we shall be made new, washed in His blood. For the Lord “sends His rain on the just and the unjust,” and this He proves today in our readings.
The Lord forgives David his “blood-guilt,” he who has committed the dual sins of adultery and murder; and Ahab, too, of whom it is said, “No one gave himself to the doing of evil in the sight of the Lord as did Ahab,” finds a measure of His mercy. Indeed, if there is reconciliation of these sinners with the Lord God, then even we must have hope of the Lord’s grace at work within us.
The Lord is He who loves even His enemies, whose “sun rises on the bad and the good” alike, whose arm is not shortened, whose love knows no bounds – for has He not gone so far as to die on the cross as a common criminal, as the worst of sinners, to redeem all from their sins? But to receive such grace and mercy how must we come to Him?
It is clear both in our first reading and in David’s great psalm that forgiveness is not obtained in a casual manner. To find it, we must imitate our sinners in their repentance as we have mirrored them in our sin. For Ahab when he heard the condemnation of the Lord upon his house “tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh”; he did not hesitate to “acknowledge [his] offense” before the Lord and all the people. And recognizing that his “sin is before [him] always,” David comes begging the Lord, “Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt,” seeking the compassion he knows only God holds. And this trust in His mercy the Lord sees; this declaration of sin the Lord hears. It is because Ahab “humbled himself before [Him]” and because David proclaimed openly his guilt that God has mercy on their lives. And we must join them just so in our own repentance to find that same mercy and kindness.
More than this, brothers and sisters. To more than this are we called now, my friends. For like the Lord Himself we are commanded to be – to show such mercy as He. The blood of Christ now outpoured, and it having poured upon our souls, we must now see that it is shared with all. We do that by shedding our own blood, by sharing that same love with everyone, indeed even with our enemies, as with us the Lord has done. And so our freedom from sin is made complete in His heavenly presence.
O LORD, is it not only fair
that we should love our enemies
since you have loved us
who have done such evil in your sight,
even having your Son die for our sins?
YHWH, free us all from bloodguilt, for we are all guilty of shedding your Son’s blood; we are all sinners in your sight. Yet you love us, and offer forth your forgiveness as we repent before you – though we have been your enemies, you make us your friends. Help us to receive such grace from you, and to share it with others.
Your mercy pour upon us, LORD; each day let us come to you and find your cleansing rain. For continually our hearts turn from you… sinners we remain, and your healing grace ever we need to come into your presence and find your all-encompassing love. Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy!
And let us answer your call to show your love and mercy in our lives. The light you impart to us let us shine upon all souls. O what a great grace you offer us, LORD! to be as you are, to love as you do – to be perfect even as you. Let us find such grace at work in us; let it be all we desire.
Sun, 17 June 2018
(1Kgs.21:1-16; Ps.5:2-3,5-7; Mt.5:38-42)
“I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.”
How divergent are the paths of Jezebel and Jesus. This Queen of Israel, wife of Ahab, holds the philosophy that if someone won’t give you what you ask for, take it by force; whereas the Lord says if someone wishes to take something from you, give it and more.
Here are the way of the world and the way of heaven in stark contrast. When as a petulant child Ahab refuses to eat after not getting what he wants, his wife plots the death of Naboth to obtain the king’s desired land. She truly is among “the bloodthirsty and the deceitful the Lord abhors.” Jesus and those who follow Him are they whom the Lord loves. Far from stoning the righteous man to death, they themselves are the righteous who shed blood freely at the hands of their enemies. Both the wicked Jezebel and the just Jesus go beyond the old law: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth.” She takes an eye and a tooth when none has been taken from her, going thus below the law; but Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to injury,” going thus above the law. Where He fulfills the law in love, she makes a mockery of God.
We hear these mutually exclusive paths spoken of even literally today. Jesus instructs His disciples: “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him two miles,” encouraging His followers on the same way of suffering He models for all – a way revealed most clearly in His carrying of the cross to the hill of Golgotha; and our first reading tells us that “on hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it,” walking quite a different path of blood.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious that God “delight[s] not in wickedness; no evil man remains with [Him].” He indeed “destroy[s] all who speak falsehood” – the justice of God they shall not escape. But let it be equally obvious that we must follow the Lord’s words in turning the other cheek. His are not mere platitudes but necessary instructions for finding the way to God He Himself walks. If we do not walk where He has walked, how can we come to the place He now is? Do not think you will come to heaven along an easy path, much less a wicked one. You will obtain the vineyard of heaven only by drinking the blood of Christ where you are, only by laying down your very life here in this world.
O LORD, let us leave behind
all the wickedness of this world
and join in your Son’s holy sacrifice of love.
YHWH, let us leave the way of the wicked far behind and walk only in the path you mark out for us. In your Son’s blood let us make our home, that there shall be no blood upon our hands.
Let us lay down our lives with your Son, turning the other cheek to those who would harm us, to those who would slap us in the face. Yours is the way of forgiveness and love, of sacrifice in the name of goodness, in your NAME, O God.
Keep us from the path of the world, LORD, for it is one of evil, of use and abuse of neighbor, of the shedding of his blood, the blood of the righteous Man. O let us not have Jesus’ blood on our hands!
LORD, we are all sinners, but if we turn to you, you save us from such sin as would condemn our souls. But if we harden our hearts against your love, if we seek only our own gain, and at others’ expense, choosing to remain blind to your Son’s Cross of sacrifice, which is our only hope of salvation… we can only be destroyed. Help us to give all to others, to answer your call to love.
Fri, 15 June 2018
(1Kgs.19:19-21; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-10; Mt.5:33-37)
“I will follow you.”
Elisha gives His yes to Elijah, and so to God. He “kiss[es] [his] father and mother good-bye” and weds himself to the prophet who has thrown “his cloak over him.” And he shall not turn back, shall not fall short of giving his entire self to the service of God, and so shall be greatly blessed. All he leaves behind. His very livelihood he slaughters, and gives these twelve oxen “to his people to eat.” For he shall not return to work for them anymore.
“You are my inheritance, O Lord,” David sings; “my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.” All his soul trusts in the Lord in whom he “take[s] refuge,” and what more does the Lord’s king need? “My heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence”: all his being finds peace in the presence of God, for all his being is set upon Him.
So it is, brothers and sisters, that to the extent we give ourselves to God, to the degree that we give our yes to the Lord, even so will we find our place secure. For making our home in heaven with Him, there is nothing to keep us from His grace. All else falls short of His glory. Heaven and earth shall pass away, and the hairs on our heads are numbered: only the New Jerusalem is lasting; only heaven is secure, for only in heaven is God.
We must be with Him. We must give ourselves to Him. Why should anything less hold sway in our lives? Why should we hesitate to follow Him with our whole heart? For there is nothing else that has importance – heaven is all that matters, and giving our lives to this place which is all life, how protected we are from “the evil one” who would dilute our love of God. And how certain our yes to our God is a no to this adversarial devil.
Honor your mother and father, children; give to all the love that is due. But give to God your very soul; let your spirit rest in Him alone, and you will be blessed forevermore.
O LORD, let us follow you unreservedly
and know your presence at our side.
YHWH, let us give you our ‘yes’ even as your Blessed Mother, even as Elisha, even as all your faithful disciples. Let us give all things over to you and follow your way unreservedly. In your truth let us ever remain, not wavering or turning back to what we have left behind. In you let us make our home and we will dwell in Heaven.
What do we need but you at our side? For what should we be concerned but serving your will? For as we take refuge in you, as we set our hearts on your work and your will, nothing can disturb us – in complete confidence our soul abides. For you are all, O LORD; you are all and everything, and nothing exists apart from you. And so, if we have you, everything is ours. Let us but give our trust to you.
And we shall never die if we trust our lives into your hands. You shall be our food and drink, and we shall sit at your table forever… O LORD, we give you our ‘yes’ this day.
Thu, 14 June 2018
(1Kgs.19:9,11-16; Ps.27:7-9,13-14; Mt.5:27-32)
“Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”
“Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me,” David sings in our psalm; and it is the presence of the Lord that is made known to Elijah in our first reading. And that same presence stands most openly before us in the teaching of Jesus in our gospel.
Elijah comes to the mountain of God to find shelter against the persecutions of his own people, for as he says, “I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” He alone holds the word of God, and so with what zealousness his life is sought. God promises to show Himself to His lone prophet, but neither in the “strong and heavy wind” nor in “the earthquake” nor in “the fire,” which come before Elijah with great power as he stands upon the mountain, does the prophet find God. By none of these is he moved. But in “a tiny whispering sound” the presence of the Most High God is made known (“it is not by sword or spear…” 1Sm.17:47); it is this still, small voice that instills the fear of the Lord in his pierced soul and causes him to “hid[e] his face in his cloak and [go and stand] at the entrance of the cave,” now seeking shelter from the power of God.
And is not this quiet Word made known in fullness today in the presence of Jesus, He who came “humble and mounted on an ass” (Mt. 21:5)? Does His simple teaching, do His gentle words not rend our hearts in twain? Here is the power of strong wind, earthquake, and fire all together in the voice of the Son of a carpenter; here in this unassuming flesh is God Himself made known.
And what does He teach us? And how difficult is it to hear! How we must cower at His words as they reach into our heart! For He tells us that our glance must seek God alone, that our heart must speak, our actions must reveal, His love only. Else what can we do with our eye but to “gouge it out and throw it away”? What can we do with our hand but “cut it off and throw it away” if it will not do the will of the Lord? For all else is waste, and to pursue in blindness the mere pleasures of the flesh, to look upon the vanity of the world with longing, will but bring us to Gehenna – this the gentle Lord would prevent with all His might, with even His death upon a cross.
Do not turn your look upon the sins of this degenerate age. Do not throw in your lot with those “who have forsaken [the Lord’s] covenant, torn down [His] altars, and put the prophets to the sword.” “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the Lord,” and you “shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living” – and you shall be wed in truth to Him who is all love, and you shall be called to anoint kings and prophets, to do the will of the Father in fullness as His holy children.
O LORD, let us be pure of heart,
that we might see you, that we might know you,
that we might be in your presence and do your will.
YHWH, how can we bear your Word reaching down into our souls; how can we stand in your presence? Though you come to us in gentleness and humility, your loving word is severe to hearts full of sin as our own. And so we hide our faces from your radiant presence.
Let us not be afraid, O LORD, to heed your Word and do your will; change our hearts that they might be pure as your own. Let us not look with lust upon the tempting objects of this world or reach our hand out to them or run to find them… In peace and in calm let us remain in your presence, your Word ministering to our poor souls. Let us desire only to be like you, dear God, and to dwell in your presence.
O LORD, you will take us to your kingdom after this earthly life is spent, if we spend it in your service. Keep us close to you all our days, protect us from the attacks of the devil, and we indeed shall come to see the glory of your transcendent kingdom. O let us be subject to you and your gentle, saving Word this day!
Wed, 13 June 2018
(1Kgs.18:41-46; Ps.65:2,10-13; Mt.5:20-26)
“You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.”
“There is the sound of a heavy rain.” The Lord is speaking. The Lord is teaching. Jesus is revealing the strait path of holiness that leads to the Father, and His words and His Person come like a fruitful rain upon a drought-stricken land.
O Lord, “thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.” By your speaking, by your teaching… by your bleeding on the cross for us “you have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with a rich harvest.” But will we receive these rains? Will we accept His chastisements which lead to life, which are the only way to the kingdom of God?
Here are the Lord’s words, the commands of His mouth: “Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; any man who uses abusive language toward his brother shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and if he holds him in contempt he risks the fires of Gehenna.” To what extent has He increased the prescriptions of the law! For He calls us to a holiness that surpasses the holiness of the law. He calls us to the kingdom of God, and great rains are needed to foster its life. And so He demands that we “be reconciled with [our] brother”; and so He warns us to “settle with [our] opponent.” For we are on our way to His holy court, and not even the smallest sin will stand there.
The eyes of Elijah see but “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” It is but the shadows the prophets knew as “the sky grew dark with clouds and wind.” But it was enough to recognize the coming presence of the Lord that would relieve the drought upon the land, upon the nation of Israel. We, brothers and sisters, are those upon whom “a heavy rain fell,” for now Christ has come; now He calls to us in Person from the cross and from His throne in heaven. If you wish to come to where He is, you must go where He has been: the cross is the heavy rain which brings the sweet smelling flower of heaven.
“God’s watercourses are filled” and “rejoicing clothes the hills.” Listen to His words now. Be obedient to His command. It is the driving rain which breaks up the ground and prepares the soul for holiness.
O LORD, send your rain upon us to soften our hearts;
let us be perfect as you
by your chastising Word of love.
YHWH, release us from judgment, we pray. Send upon us your driving rain, to cleanse our souls of all harsh words and anger. How shall we stand before your throne if here we cannot forgive, for how shall we ourselves be forgiven our grave sins if our hearts are hardened? O send your rain, LORD! Send your rain, and let our hearts be open to receive it well.
Your Word is as a chastising rain to our souls, O LORD; it is the strong words from your mouth that serve to cleanse us from our sin and soften the ground of our hearts to receive your grace and blessings. If we have not your mercy within us, we are dead, for then there is no remedy for our sin. Speak to us; instruct us in your ways, and let us be obedient to your command, to your chastisement that brings new life from this poor land.
O LORD, subject us not to the trial; lead us not before your tribunal. For we have nothing to pay our debt and so cannot stand before you. Only your mercy will save us on that day. Let us have your mercy within us now, and share it with others.
Tue, 12 June 2018
(1Kgs.18:20-39; Ps.16:1-2,4-5,8,11; Mt.5:17-19)
“If the Lord is God, follow Him;
if Baal, follow him.”
Today “the only surviving prophet of the Lord” comes to reveal to the people that “the Lord is God!” Elijah seeks to open the Israelites’ eyes to the presence of God, to bring them “back to their senses.” And how evident it becomes that “they multiply their sorrows who court other gods,” and that those “who set the Lord ever before” themselves are able to declare with David in faith: “With Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
The great futility, the absolute emptiness of following false gods is shown in clear focus in the four hundred and fifty “prophets” who “hopped around the altar” and “called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, ‘Answer us, Baal!’” How well our first reading summarizes the response of gods who are no gods: “But there was no sound, and no one answering.” After “Elijah taunted them: ‘Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened,’” they compounded their worship to utter absurdity as they “called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.”
From this exercise of futile worship Elijah calls the people, saying simply, “Come here to me.” And they move from this macabre circus scene over to the altar of the Lord the prophet prepares. And here the power of the Lord is unveiled beyond doubt to open the wayward hearts of God’s chosen ones. Water upon water is poured upon the evening sacrifice, but the Lord’s fire comes at the word of Elijah and consumes all.
“Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel.” Let it be understood that your law must be followed and not the wicked contrivances of the human heart. Let be known the truth of your Son’s words: “Whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God. Whoever fulfills and teaches these commands shall be great in the kingdom of God.” For we shall only know the “fullness of joys in your presence” if we keep to your way, following Him who has come “to fulfill” “the law and the prophets.” Let us never “court other gods” but with your humble king call out ever, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, all your Law is holy for you alone are holy
and lead us only into your presence –
praise you, O LORD our God!
YHWH, you alone are God indeed; you alone should we worship – your NAME alone should we call upon to answer all our needs. And your Law we should keep with all our hearts if we hope to gain a hearing from you.
We are so blind, O LORD, blind to your presence, blind to your power, blind to your love for us and the care you provide in your Word. We seek to make our own way, to worship a god of our own making, and so we fall away from you who hold our very lives in your hands. Send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to awaken us to your glory and your love here in our midst this day, that we might turn to true worship, worship of you who alone are worthy of our praise.
O LORD, let your Word be fulfilled in us; let us keep your commands perfectly, following in the way of your only Son, who is the fulfillment of your Word. Yes, you alone are God and He alone is the way to you – let us live in your truth.
Mon, 11 June 2018
(1Kgs.17:7-16; Ps.4:2-5,7-8; Mt.5:13-16)
“The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”
Again today we see in our readings that the Lord provides for His children’s needs, that indeed He is with us until the end of the age – yes, “the Lord does wonders for His faithful one.”
As “the brook where Elijah was hiding ran dry,” the Lord instructed him to go to Zarephath of Sidon, a pagan territory, saying, “I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” Elijah is obedient and the Lord is faithful to His word, for just “as he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there.” (Indeed, how wonderful it is to see the word of the Lord fulfilled!) Elijah does not hide the Lord’s prophecy from his benefactress, and she, too, believes the word the Lord has spoken. And so she and her son and the prophet were “able to eat for a year” from a jar that was all but empty.
Brothers and sisters, our psalmist David sings in joy to the Lord today, “O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!” And how certain it is that He gives light to those who seek Him, those who have faith in Him. For “when [we] call… [He] relieve[s] [us]… in distress… [and] put[s] gladness into [our] heart[s], more than when grain and wine abound.” For the light of the Lord is greater than the bread we eat; it is His love alone which provides all and alone brings joy to our souls.
And we are called to share in that light, to be “the light of the world.” It is into us He places His light and then invites us to “set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house”: “Your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father.” As He is Light, we must be light; as He provides for the needs of all, we must provide for the needs of all. And we must believe that, as “the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah,” just so the light He gives our lives shall not dim and the salt which draws it forth shall not lose its savor – we must believe that He indeed will provide for us, even to His second coming. And it shall be so. His love shall ever grow and this Bread be shared more and more with those He calls out of the world. Though famine be upon the land, He feeds us with the finest wheat, and calls us to feed others.
O LORD, let your light shine upon us and through us –
let us have faith in you
and see your work accomplished in our lives.
YHWH, let the light of your countenance shine upon us, and let that same light shine through us to illumine the world, to give light to all who see us. You alone provide for us; you alone feed us; and you alone make our lives of worth – let it be you we bring to others.
If our salt be not of you, O LORD, what good will it be and what good can it do? Apart from you and the light of your love, we are useless, fit for the trash. But if we keep our eyes fixed on you and your holy light, if we call to you in our distress and have faith in the care you take for the souls of those who love you, then we shall be made whole in your sight and ready to serve your will.
What water can we find upon this earth, LORD, for it is dry and lifeless. Our spirits sag and the darkness threatens to overcome us. Let us not be of the darkness; let us not give in to its threats. Let us remember you and in you place our trust, and there shall be food and water in abundance, and we will see your hand at work even in our own lives. Praise you for your goodness!
Sun, 10 June 2018
(1Kgs.17:1-6; Ps.121:1-8; Mt.5:1-12)
“My help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
It is He whom we seek when we “lift up [our] eyes toward the mountains.” And what do we find but that “the Lord is [our] guardian; the Lord is [our] shade; He is beside [us] at [our] right hand.”
Does the Lord not watch over those who trust in Him? Take Elijah for your example. He is led into exile under the stars, separated far from his people, yet he finds “the sun shall not harm [him] by day, nor the moon by night.” He finds, in fact, his needs are met in a most marvelous way, for “ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the stream.” At the Lord’s command even these birds of the air serve to provide the needs of those who take refuge in Him. And His refreshing waters are always at our side.
Brothers and sisters, what do we see when we lift our eyes to the mountain? Do we not see the Lord sitting, teaching us His way? Are our hearts not nourished by His Word and our souls refreshed by His Bread? He speaks to us only truth, assuring us that “blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs.” He tells us what we indeed find as we live our lives under His wings. If our refuge were the world, how could sorrow and lowliness bring us blessing? Would our hunger and thirst not then be for the riches of this world, and we find ourselves fatted thereby for the day of slaughter? But being “single-hearted” and with a “hunger and thirst for holiness,” we find ourselves more than satisfied; we find that we “shall see God.” What more need has the devout soul than to dwell in the light of the Lord?
“The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever”; He shall not “suffer your foot to slip,” for “He neither slumbers nor sleeps” but is ever diligent in the protection He provides His holy ones. And so what should you do but “be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.” As long as you remain with Him, He shall watch over you; and to His blessings there is no end, for all is held in His sacred hands and His desire is always to shower His mercy upon your soul.
O LORD, as we give ourselves over to your Word
and His way of the Cross,
you bless us and bring us into your kingdom.
YHWH, you watch over all our ways; you guard and guide and bless our days. Ever at our side you wait, to feed us with all we need. How blessed indeed we are to have you as our God. There is none who provides as you do.
And so, let us continue on your way, LORD; lead us each day to the place we should be. In your will all is accomplished well – let us be ever at your side.
Though we mourn and though we weep, though we hunger and thirst for your love… though we suffer in this world for holiness’ sake, you answer all our desires, O LORD our God.
And so, let us be as your prophets of old, trusting only in your hand, needing nothing but your presence with us and the promised reward of Heaven. For nothing can harm us if you are there, and with you we already taste the kingdom.
Fri, 8 June 2018
(2Tm.4:1-8; Ps.71:8-9,14-17,22; Mk.12:38-44)
“Put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist,
fulfill your ministry.”
In final words to his blessed disciple, Paul exhorts Timothy with all the strength he is able to muster “to preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient – correcting, reproving, appealing – constantly teaching and never losing patience.” He even invokes “the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead,” to emphasize the seriousness of his charge. Clearly the end approaches for Paul. He himself states: “The time of my dissolution is near” – and so it is with great urgency he desires his preaching task to go forth, for Timothy’s own sake, that he might share the “merited crown” that awaits his father in the faith, and for all who look “for [the Lord’s] appearing with eager longing.”
Paul sees as he draws nigh to the Day of the Lord what has perhaps never been known so clearly as today, that “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears.” He prophecies so well what is true of every age but is magnified so greatly in the dark time in which we live: “They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables.” More have died in war in the last century than in all the rest of human history; and the martyrs’ blood has never mounted as high to heaven as in this atheistic age wherein all hearts turn away from true doctrine to enshrine the workings of their own hands and minds. (May the smoke of Satan be blown from the confines of the Church and the devil’s veil of illusion be lifted from all minds!)
But we must not be as the scribes “who like to parade around in their robes and accept marks of respect in public, front seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.” The prideful adulation that sparks the unholy fire of the cults so prevalent in our glamorous time is not what must call to our hearts or be the leaven for our souls. We must but praise the Lord! With our psalmist we must sing to our Lord and our God, “the Holy One of Israel”: “My mouth shall be filled with your praise, with your glory day by day.” We must “give [Him] thanks with music on the lyre,” with our body’s every fiber.
Brothers and sisters, we must “always hope and praise [God] ever more and more.” Ever we are called to draw closer to the Lord. We have not yet been as the widow who “gave from her want, all that she had to live on”; we have not yet been “poured out like a libation” as has Paul; we have not yet shed blood with Jesus on the cross. We cannot yet say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”; for there is much race yet to be run and to the end our faith must endure and grow ever stronger day to day. Indeed our ministry must be fulfilled, all our strength spent in witness to the Word of Truth.
O LORD, send us true teachers of the faith,
that we might be so faithful ourselves,
pouring out our lives for your sake.
YHWH, to you let us turn in faith; instruct us ever in your way. Let your truth alone be taught by all who stand in your place. Laying down their lives for your flock, may they find their blessing on your Day.
And let us all lay down our lives with them; O LORD, let all men sing your praise. For none is released from your call to preach, to live the faith all our days.
Soon your Son shall return; let our eyes be up and looking for His coming. Let us desire to unite with you and so give all we have toward that end. We may not have much to give, LORD, but if we place all at your service, you will multiply our good works and make us worthy to stand with you.
O LORD, keep us from those who lead souls astray by their words and by their actions. To Jesus indeed let us look, and to His faithful disciples, to find the way we should walk. If we are diligent in following you, if we are humble and speak the truth, you will bless us and all we do, and join our song to that of your saints. May Jesus teach us this day.
Wed, 6 June 2018
(2Tm.2:8-15; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14; Mk.12:28-34)
“Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior.”
Brothers and sisters, “Remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, was raised from the dead.” He is our Lord. He is our God. He is our Savior who speaks only truth. Listen to Him and walk in His way, “following a straight course in preaching the truth.”
After Jesus proclaims the greatest of all commandments today, finally, “no one ha[s] the courage to ask Him any more questions.” Finally the traps cease to be set to catch Jesus in His speech and the leaders of the people “stop disputing about mere words.” For who can argue with the Son of God when He makes known the clear path to God, when He exposes the heart of the law and the prophets in absolute terms? Only silence can follow such Truth. No vain utterance can stand in the face of such Love.
For the command is love, and Jesus is love – and this Paul has come to preach, “even to the point of being thrown into chains.” His only concern is for “those whom God has chosen, in order that they may obtain the salvation to be found in Christ Jesus.” For this he preaches the Gospel unto death, that all might hear and know of the love of God… and should we not join him? Should the Church not be a speaker of the truth in love, “a workman who has no cause to be ashamed”? Should she cower to declare Christ Jesus risen from the dead and fear offending those on the path to destruction? Should she stand by idly as false gospels are preached and docile lambs are led to the teeth of wolves in sheep’s clothing? Does she not care for the flock as does Paul, as does Paul exhort Timothy? Should it not be she who “guides the humble to justice” and “teaches the humble His way”?
Brothers and sisters, “there is no chaining the word of God!” and there is no place for falsehood to stand in its light. God is love and we must love others. We do not love by nodding as others fall into error – this is not our call in the Lord. We must teach the truth with Jesus our Lord with “heart,” “mind,” “soul,” and “strength,” His Spirit of love and truth upon us. Then will all lies fall silent. Then will light shine. Then will His love be known and all come to the “eternal glory” He holds.
O LORD, teach us your way of love
that humbly we might walk in it
and teach it with strength to others.
YHWH, Jesus is the true teacher of the faith, for He is risen from the dead – He is your Son, O God! Who can dispute with His wisdom? Who can question His knowledge, who compare with His holiness? None there is beside Him, yet send us true teachers to speak in His Name.
We are prone to go astray, dear LORD, to wander from your love, which is life itself to us. We do indeed tend to forget why we’re here and fall easily into sin. O send forth your preachers to remind us of your love, to remind us of the sacrifice your Son has made for us, and that He is risen from the dead. For if we forget not that He is raised for our sakes, will not your love remain in our hearts; will we not conquer sin and death and live with you in love of one another? Then let your Word come to us and make His home in us, that humbly we might worship you all the days of our life.
O LORD, let us be faithful to your Word at work within us and live in your love. May all our being bless your NAME!
Tue, 5 June 2018
(2Tm.1:1-3,6-12; Ps.123:1-2; Mk.12:18-27)
“He has robbed death of its power
and has brought life and immortality into clear light
through the Gospel.”
It is this Gospel which Paul exhorts his “dear child” Timothy to serve, to preach and to teach “with the strength which comes from God, bear[ing] [his] share of the hardship which the Gospel entails.” Paul has suffered for the sake of the Gospel – and suffers “present hardships” till the end – and he would see his favored disciple carry on in his way. And so he encourages him: “The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit but rather one that makes us strong, loving, and wise.” For of the life Christ brings the world must know, and who shall preach it if we don’t? And so, through his letter Paul calls us all to be as he is, “an apostle of Christ Jesus sent to proclaim the promise of life in Him.”
Does Jesus not bear well His hardships today in our gospel? Does He not stand strong and speak of life everlasting even before those who “hold there is no resurrection”? The Sadducees question Him: “At the resurrection, when they all come back to life, whose wife will she be” – she who has married so many? Again a trap is laid, and again it is shown so futile, for what word can stand before the word of God. And that Word answers simply and directly: “When people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like angels in heaven.” These Sadducees “fail to understand Scripture or the power of God,” and so they are terribly blind in their mistaken thinking, which sees nothing beyond the present time. (Yet the present, too, they do not understand, for they do not recognize Him who stands before them.)
Brothers and sisters, we are called to live like the angels of heaven, and not only to live such, but to preach this life as our Savior has done, as Paul has done, as Timothy. We must keep “our eyes on the Lord, our God,” “confident that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to [us] until that Day” when we join Him who is “enthroned in heaven.” And so let us “stir into flame the gift of God”; let us speak His Word of life without fear for the hardships the Gospel entails. The Light that lasts forever has come into our midst, and before Him death has no dominion.
O LORD, through all the trials of this world,
bring us to the light of Heaven.
YHWH, God of the living, let our eyes be ever upon you, let us ever remember you whom we serve… and let us ever serve you with strength and dedication, knowing it is through you we are brought to new birth and made immortal as you. O let us live with you now and forever!
Why should we be afraid, LORD, of any challenge to our faith? Why should we turn away from our call to worship in your NAME? Why should we hesitate to proclaim your glory and the grace you bring us by your Son’s death and resurrection? His sacrifice means life to us, and to turn from His Cross would spell our death. May we serve Him and His Gospel in confidence all our days and so come to the place He prepares for us in Heaven.
All your angels and saints live forever in your holy presence, their eyes ever upon you and their voices ever praising your NAME. May we share with them in your holy life even as we toil for you on this plane.
Mon, 4 June 2018
(2Pt.3:12-15,17-18; Ps.90:2-4,10,14,16; Mk.12:13-17)
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
but give to God what is God’s.”
“Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent after Jesus to catch Him in His speech.” These “two groups” seem to come one from God and the other from Caesar. But their devious plotting shows the only party present of God is Jesus Himself.
And to whom do we belong? Peter makes it abundantly clear in his letter today where our allegiance should lie. He exhorts us to “look for the coming of the day of God and try to hasten it!” We must not set our hearts on things below but on things above, where God dwells; for “the heavens will be destroyed in flames and the elements will melt away in a blaze.” It is “new heavens and a new earth” we must await, where “the justice of God will reside.”
What is of Caesar will return to the earth, just as God “turn[s] man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men.’” (For where is Caesar today? And where is the coin that was in their hands?) But the Lord is “from everlasting to everlasting”; “a thousand years in [His] sight are as yesterday… or as a watch of the night.” For He exists “before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world were brought forth.” These indeed He created; and these are destroyed by His hand.
Brothers and sisters, as our years “pass quickly and we drift away,” let us listen to Jesus, who indeed “teach[es] God’s way of life sincerely.” Let us listen to His servant Peter, who tells us, “Be on your guard lest you be led astray by the error of the wicked.” The wicked surround us here on this earth, but even here our hearts must be set on God and we must “be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in His sight.” Here we must pray that the Lord will “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness,” that when He comes we shall know His glory… but also that even in these decaying earthen vessels we shall find His grace and see His work accomplished. “Glory be to Him now and to the day of eternity!” May He make us His own.
O LORD, let your eternal kingdom dawn upon us,
even as the kingdom of this world passes away.
YHWH, make us your own; let us come into your kingdom. On this barren earth let us not make our home, in princes and kings let us never trust – to you alone may we give our allegiance, waiting ever for your Day.
O LORD, our lives are but passing on this plane, but you are everlasting. Though we wither and die, though all we see shall be consumed by fire, with you we shall live, and rejoice eternally. And so, let us not set our hearts on the riches and glory this world holds in its grasping hands; let us give all over to you with praise.
The Day draws near, O LORD, we know, when your Son will return and bring with Him new heavens and a new earth. O let us hasten this Day by our prayers, let us prepare for it by our actions… let us never fear His coming because of our attachment to sin but give up all the darkness, the evil surrounding us and inviting us in, and wait in purity with our eyes to the heavens for our salvation to be fulfilled.
Come, Lord Jesus, and draw us into the Father’s kingdom.
Sun, 3 June 2018
(2Pt.1:2-7; Ps.91:1-2,14-16; Mk.12:1-12)
“I will deliver him and glorify him;
with length of life I will gratify him
and will show him my salvation.”
So the Lord speaks of us through prophecy of His only Son. So the Lord seeks to accomplish in everyone who “acknowledges [His] name.” So indeed He has sent “the Son whom He loved” for our salvation. So He prays with Peter, the Rock of His Church, “May grace be yours and peace in abundance through your knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.” For “by His own glory and power… He has bestowed on us the great and precious things He promised, so that through these [we] who have fled a world corrupted by lust might become sharers of the divine nature.”
Brothers and sisters, “that divine power of His has freely bestowed on us everything necessary for a life of genuine piety through knowledge of Him.” He has come into this world, He has entered the vineyard despite the threat of death, and has indeed been “beat[en],” “treated shamefully,” and “killed,” all that He might found His Church among us; and His grace is for us “marvelous to behold.” Should we not then “make every effort” to employ the gifts He provides by the Holy Spirit and the Church He has made? Should gift not build upon gift so that in this house of ours we grow from the foundation of faith unto the divine love of all?
Let us not be like those tenant farmers who acted out of jealousy, who could only say of the Son: “Here is the one who will inherit everything. Come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance will be ours.” For the Lord has indeed “come and destroy[ed]” these faithless servants “and turn[ed] His vineyard over to others.” We are those others. And we “inherit everything” with the Son if we “say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Yes, brothers and sisters, it is we who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Let us be most conscientious in our work in His name; let us be ever ready to provide Him “His share of produce from the vineyard.” For the vineyard is all His, and we are all His, and He is with all of us and with all we do and are – and He will deliver us and glorify us in the eternal life to which He has come to lead us. In His Son is our salvation.
O LORD, on your Son we find our blessed foundation; in Him let us grow to perfection,
to union with you.
YHWH, your Son who was rejected by man, who was despised and put to shame and to a painful death, be the foundation of our lives – let our hearts be set upon Him alone that we might become sharers of His divine nature, as is your will.
Let us build our house on faith in you, O LORD, and grow in every virtue by increasing knowledge of your power and participation in your great love, till we come to rest with you in your eternal kingdom. That kingdom you build upon this earth this day, both in the hearts of all believers and in the Church you ordain to bear your NAME, to produce fruit by your grace. Let us remain ever in this House, in this vineyard you plant, that our houses may be like your own.
O LORD, take our souls unto yourself as we give all things over to you who are the source and deserving recipient of all good things… O let us dwell in your holy House in your surpassing peace all the days of our poor lives, and so become holy as you.
Fri, 1 June 2018
(Jd.17,20-25; Ps.63:2-6; Mk.11:27-33)
“Welcome the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
which leads to eternal life.”
“As [Jesus] was walking in the temple precincts the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached Him.” They come to Him who is the true Temple here in the place where He teaches, but they do not come “praying in the Holy Spirit” or “persever[ing] in God’s love.” Their questions rather are those which hold condemnation. If they had come seeking truth, they would be able to speak truth when asked by Him of John’s baptism. But, far from seeking the grace of God, they desire only political advantage. And so they think among themselves, “If we say…” and “Can we say…” instead of simply baring their souls before Him who could save them. And so, answering, “We do not know,” indeed do they close themselves off from knowledge of the “authority” and “power” given to Jesus the Christ.
This cannot be our faith, brothers and sisters. Our faith must be as that sung of so beautifully by David in our psalm today: “O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” With all our beings we must strive to know Him whom our soul loves. Knowing our own emptiness apart from Him who is Truth, we indeed turn our “[gaze] toward [Him] in the sanctuary,” we indeed long for His love and mercy. And instead of speaking ill against Him or looking to condemn Him, rather we bless Him with all our souls, singing with His servant David: “Lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name… and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.”
The baptism of John was divine and Jesus is its divine fulfillment. He is the “One who can protect [us] from a fall and make [us] stand unblemished and exultant in the presence of His glory” if we but say, “Glory be to this only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” His indeed are “majesty” and “might”; He indeed “correct[s] those who are confused” and “snatch[es] others from the fire.” He has rescued us from sin and poured the water of the Holy Spirit upon us to slake our thirst for Him. And so, “as with the riches of a banquet shall [our] soul be satisfied.” By the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, heaven is now ours.
O LORD, keep us from falling into our pride;
let us not be separated from you.
YHWH, how shall we stand unblemished and exultant in your presence? For all glory and majesty are yours, and what are we but sinful men? Take the stain from our hands and from our clothing. Only by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will we be made ready to stand before you; only by His grace can we bless your holy NAME.
O let our lips praise you, dear God! May our souls be satisfied as with the riches of a banquet, the banquet of your eternal kingdom. Let us not doubt the glory you would share with us through our Baptism into your only Son. Let us know that He has come from you and would take us to you this day.
O LORD, we gaze toward you in the sanctuary – our hearts long to join with you on high. Thank you for making your presence known to us even on this plane, and help us to persevere in your love each day.
Thu, 31 May 2018
(1Pt.4:7-13; Ps.96:10-13; Mk.11:11-26)
“The consummation of all is close at hand.
Therefore, do not be perturbed;
remain calm so that you will be able to pray.”
As at the time Jesus walks the earth the end of the Israelite nation is at hand – a consummation signified in “the fig tree withered to its roots” at His command, a consummation that will be fulfilled in the crucifixion of the Messiah but whose coming is already evident in the fact that the temple has been turned into “a den of thieves” – so at the time of Peter’s writing, that end is about to be realized in the destruction of the temple. And more than this, the “trial by fire” occurring in the midst of the disciples refers greatly to the death of this world we face in becoming Christians, to the persecution faced by all His children and felt most genuinely at the hands of the Romans.
But as all around is cast into the sea at the command of the Lord, we should not fear. This is the time to “put [our] trust in God,” to pray in faith, to put [our] gifts at the service of one another” and “let [our] love for one another be constant.” Rather than be sad, we must “rejoice instead, insofar as [we] share Christ’s sufferings.” For it should be our joy to see the temple cleansed, to have our hearts purified of all that is not holy – to witness the power of the hand of God at work. “For He governs the peoples with equity” as “He comes to rule the earth,” so indeed “the heavens [should] be glad and the earth rejoice.”
“In all of you God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ.” His “house is to be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We are His House now; we hold His promise – and we come to His glory as we share in the trials He has known. If the end is close at hand, if the world is already dead, if the devil’s illusions are about to fade… what can this bring us but joy to know the Truth is about to be revealed and all His faithful ones are about to be gathered into His kingdom? Remain steadfast in love and prayer, and “a multitude of sins” shall indeed be covered; and the new life which has sprung from the withered roots of the fig tree shall soon be fulfilled in your sight.
O LORD, drive all evil from our midst
that we might not wither to our roots.
YHWH, you come to rule the earth with justice, to cast out all evildoers that your House might indeed be a house of prayer. And though such purgation bring suffering to our souls (for who is without sin?), uniting our trials to the sufferings of Christ and remaining true to His Word, we are indeed purged of all sin and made ready for the kingdom.
O let us love this day! Let us place ourselves at the service of one another, freely sharing the gifts we have by the grace of your Son. It is in Him we find our home, in Him we know our salvation, and so let His chastisement be upon us for good, O LORD, as we seek to join Him in your eternal glory.
All the earth shall rejoice at the coming of Jesus; the heavens shall sing praise at such wonder. For though the consummation of all be close at hand, O God, all who put their trust in you shall be remade in His image. Alleluia!
Tue, 29 May 2018
(1Pt.1:18-25; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Mk.10:32-45)
“The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve –
to give His life in ransom for the many.”
As Jesus and His apostles make their “way up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes,” He tells them that these elders of the people “will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit at Him, flog Him, and finally kill Him.” He then adds, “But three days later He will rise.” Here is the Gospel in short. Here is “the living and enduring Word of God,” the “indestructible seed” which brings us to life by our “faith and hope” centered upon it. Yes, “by Christ’s blood” we “were delivered from the futile way of life” that sin wrought in us; this blood is “the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb chosen before the world’s foundation and revealed for [our] sake in these last days.” Christ has died, Christ is risen, and in Him we come to life again.
And we must “drink the cup” He drinks; we must “be baptized in the same bath of pain.” There is no other way to His glory. Our lives on this earth must be joined in sacrifice with Him. Never are we to “lord it over” others; but always we “must serve the rest.” So Jesus instructs His apostles in this most weighty moment filled with “wonderment” and “fear,” as He stands at the precipice of His sacrifice. And Peter tells us the same when He counsels us to “love one another constantly from the heart.” Jesus’ blood is the greatest love and it is in this river we must swim; in this ocean we shall be cleansed – “by obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brother,” the Lord’s principal apostle declares to all his faithful readers.
“He has proclaimed His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel,” and all these are summed up in the blood of the Lamb of God. “Swiftly runs His word” to all who seek redemption from God; swiftly it comes to pierce our hearts. And though by it we ourselves bleed with Him, by it “He has granted peace in [our] borders” – through Jesus we are “believers in… the God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory,” and His same glory is ours as we die with Him now. Let this Word be inscribed upon your heart.
O LORD, your Son is the Word spoken by your mouth
that comes quickly to save us;
may we share in the cup He raises to His blessed lips.
YHWH, we are purified by the Word your Son speaks to us, by the Gospel preached in His Name – by His death and resurrection, which you desire us to share. Let His blood be upon us for good this day, that we might be thoroughly cleansed of our sins and come to serve you and one another.
Our faith and our hope are in you, LORD; all our desire is to join you in glory. The blessing of your way be known to us – let us walk the path to Jerusalem with your Son. For if we die with Him, if we lay down our lives in service of one another for your sake, then we shall live with you, saved from the death that comes upon all flesh.
Our lives are passing as the grass of the field; this you know, O LORD. But your Son has come to redeem our souls, to raise us from the dust that we might sit with Him in your kingdom. Let your will be done and we come by the drinking of His cup to the heavenly Jerusalem.
Mon, 28 May 2018
(1Pt.1:10-16; Ps.98:1-4; Mk.10:28-31)
“Set all your hope on the gift to be conferred on you
when Jesus Christ appears.”
“The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.” That “which the prophets carefully searched out and examined” but was hidden from their eyes, that into which “angels long to search” is now indeed made known “by those who preach the Gospel to you, in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” Yes, “the divine favor which was destined to be [ours],” “the sufferings destined for Christ and the glories that would follow” spoken of in all Scripture by the Spirit of Christ, are now come into our midst; and it is these we wait to see fulfilled.
And as we await our salvation we must “become holy… after the likeness of the holy one who called” us. As we stay, we must share in His sufferings to find His glory. “Obedient sons” of the one Father, we must pattern ourselves after His only Son. “The desires that once shaped [us] in [our] ignorance” must be absolutely abandoned as we become holy as He.
And the same Peter who instructs us in the salvation prepared for us from all ages and the holiness which alone befits it, exclaims to Jesus in our gospel today, “We have put aside everything to follow you!” as if to plead, “Have we done enough?” And the Lord assures him all that he gives up for the kingdom’s sake shall return to him a hundredfold, and “in the age to come” he shall have “everlasting life.” For indeed, as the Lord has been, so the apostles have followed, and in these same steps we must walk – to this same cross we must come.
Here we stand at the end of salvation history, as the last in a long line of the children of God. But first we can be with the Spirit as our guide and conformed to the sufferings of Christ. Being at the end of this line we have the benefit of all the prophecy and teaching that has prepared this time; greater fullness of truth is ours than at any time before. And so, more so are we called to be like our Savior; impossible is it become for us to hide in ignorance. “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God,” the light of Christ has been cast upon all hearts, and to continue in sin becomes yet a greater torture – for our eyes are so much less blind. Now must the earth become obedient to His voice, calling so clearly in its soul; condemnation awaits otherwise. Now the simple word of truth spoken by God at the heart of Scripture must be our sure guide: “Be holy, for I am holy,” and our expectations will soon be fulfilled in Him.
O LORD, your Son has come
and now sends forth the Spirit;
let us put all aside to follow Him in holiness of life.
YHWH, your salvation you have made known to us; what the prophets declared has become so in our midst – your Son has walked among us and died for us that we might be saved. O let your salvation be fulfilled this day!
O LORD, make us holy as you are holy, that we might be where you are. Help us to walk the path to glory by fully embracing the Cross your Son provides. Help us gladly to give up all things that we might find all things anew in your presence.
What of this earth matters, O LORD? What is there we should put before our love for you? For all things are in your holy hands and only by you is anything blessed. And so, let us give ourselves to you who are holy, and you will make all things holy for us.
Thank you, O LORD, for your kindness toward us. Thank you for the blood your Son has shed. Thank you for making your love known to us, for now by your grace this love we may share. Open our eyes and our hearts to the glory of your way, and let us walk that way with Jesus.
Sun, 27 May 2018
(1Pt.1:3-9; Ps.111:1-2,5-6,9-10; Mk.10:17-27)
“Go and sell what you have and give to the poor;
you will then have treasure in heaven.”
“You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials,” for even if you are not a rich man with “many possessions” to give up, all that you have that is of the world must die before you will find “birth to an imperishable inheritance incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you.” You can have no pride, you can have no greed, you can have no lust in your heart if you are to find the kingdom of God. Your faith must be like “fire-tried gold” whose “genuineness [will] lead to praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ appears.”
Jesus’ question to the rich young man: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” is, I think, often misunderstood. The Lord is not saying not to call Him good because that title is reserved only for God, for He is God and deserves every title of praise we can utter. Rather, He is testing the young man, who kneels at this moment at His feet, to find out if he truly recognizes that He is “good”, that He is the Son of God.
This is borne out by the Lord’s response as to what the young man should do “to share in everlasting life.” Jesus first lists only the latter commandments, which refer to love of neighbor, which the young man rightfully states he has kept well. “Then Jesus looked at him with love and told him,” in essence, of his need to keep the first three commandments, those which refer to love of God, in a more complete fashion. For what is He telling him in our quote above but to have no false gods, to love the Lord with heart, mind, soul, and strength – and how is this accomplished but in His instruction: “Come and follow me”? As we give up the idols which spring from the earth, as all our possessions and our trust in them are taken from us, we find the “birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” By such death we follow Him unto heaven.
Brothers and sisters, “there is cause for rejoicing here,” for on this strait path, through this “needle’s eye,” we are “achieving faith’s goal, [our] salvation.” Let us “give thanks to the Lord with all [our] heart in the company and assembly of the just.” Let us “rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory” because God “has sent deliverance to His people; He has ratified His covenant forever.” And “He will ever be mindful of His covenant” – always He will be at our side by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to the “salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days.” Endure now the sadness and distress of the death of this life, and find therein the fulfilling of your hope for the treasures of heaven.
O LORD, you make possible
even the salvation of our souls;
let us give up all things to follow you to everlasting life.
YHWH, we praise you, for with you all things are possible, even the salvation of our souls and our coming into your eternal presence. And so, whatever we suffer here brings us only joy, for all things bring us to your kingdom.
O LORD, may we be truly consecrated to you, thoroughly confirmed in your covenant with us, that the new birth you grant through the resurrection of your Son might be fulfilled and we come to dwell with you forever in Heaven. Let nothing of this passing earth stand in our way; let nothing obstruct our worship of you, that we may be truly happy and rejoice all our days in you.
Help us, dear God, to give up all our possessions, to desire to hold to nothing but you. Take all that is not of you from our souls and bodies – let our hearts be set on your surpassing glory.
What trial can sadden us, LORD, if our love is for you? You redeem us from all evil and give new life to our mortal frame. For such grace let us ever praise you.
Fri, 25 May 2018
(Jas.5:13-20; Ps.141:1-3,8; Mk.10:13-16)
“Let my prayer come like incense before you;
the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.”
“The fervent petition of a holy man is powerful indeed.” For indeed Elijah “prayed earnestly” and “no rain fell on the land for three years and six months.” Then “when he prayed again, the sky burst forth with rain.” And now greater things are accomplished by prayer, especially of “the elders of the Church,” our priests, who, in union with Jesus the Lord, “reclaim the one who is ill” and bring “forgiveness” to the sinful soul. Redemption itself is at our hands through the Anointing of the Sick and Confession, and all the other blessed sacraments. And prayer by all souls is a constant guard and reclaimer of lives gone astray.
And in our gospel it is made clear what our disposition should be when we pray, when we come to Jesus. The Lord encourages the little children to come to Him and states unequivocally: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter into it.” We must always come to Him as children – with faith, in innocence, of truth – if we hope to gain a hearing in His sight, brothers and sisters. If when we call upon Him we do not have the pure faith of a child, how can we expect to communicate with Him who dwells in absolute light? If our prayer and our song fall short of the love and joy of innocent praise, then we fall short of reaching Him. But if in such innocence and with such faith and of such truth we come to Him, know that He will treat us just as the children who come to Him today: “He embraced them and blessed them, placing His hands on them.” Yes, then His holy hand will be upon our lives, and His great power we will find at work within us and through us.
“Toward you, O Lord, my eyes are turned.”
Please “hearken to my voice when I call upon you.”
“In you I take refuge; strip me not of life,”
but make me as your child of light.
Our prayer comes like incense before the Lord when it is united with the sacrifice of the Son. Anointed by the Lamb’s blood, all our cries rise unto the Father of Life.
O LORD, as a child let us come to you,
in trusting prayer,
and you will hear and answer us.
YHWH, how powerful prayer is! For it unites us to you and to your great power; it makes us as your children. Let our prayer be sincere, that we might find your gentle embrace.
There is nothing we need fear, dear LORD, if we but turn to you. If we ask, you will give, and cure us indeed of every ill. And so, let us pray for one another in your NAME, desire the salvation of all souls by your grace, and the blessing of your Son’s Cross will reign here on earth and bring us soon to Heaven. Let your will be done and your kingdom come.
Let us pray especially for your priests and the special power you give them to forgive men’s sins and make your presence known among us. In your sacraments we take our refuge, LORD; let them always be celebrated in accord with your Word.
Let our prayer come like incense before you, O LORD; may it be acceptable in your sight. Let it always come from an innocent heart.
Thu, 24 May 2018
(Jas.5:9-12; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mk.10:1-12)
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.”
And we must be like Him.
James makes clear that we must “not grumble against one another,” nor swear on earth, any oath at all,” but rather simply speak “in the name of the Lord”: “Let it be ‘yes’ if you mean yes or ‘no’ if you mean no. In this way you will not incur condemnation.” And as a sign of the endurance we must have to find the Lord’s blessing, he reminds us of “the steadfastness of Job” and “what the Lord, who is compassionate and merciful, did in the end.”
“As your models in suffering hardships and in patience, brothers, take the prophets.” And, of course, Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets, and His suffering in silent servitude the sentence of crucifixion is the fulfillment of their endurance of persecution. And in our gospel today, does He not give example of the patience we all must hold and the clarity with which we all must speak? For when the Pharisees “ask Jesus whether it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife,” how do they intend their question but “as a test”? But the Lord does not take offense at their temptation; He simply answers them, clearly and to the point: “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one.” And lest there be any doubt that He is saying no to divorce, He continues, “They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined.” And even when “the disciples beg[i]n to question Him about this” again later, He remains patient and gives direct answer: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
The question would seem a simple one and the answer easy to understand, but is it not this question that is at the heart of man’s disobedience, of his grumbling against God? Is it not this answer man seeks most to change, thus leading to his greatest sins, and really to the destruction of society? Yet the Lord’s love is greater than our profligacy, and as the father so readily forgave the prodigal son, so He waits for us to turn to Him – to His presence, to His truth. As David sings of God: “He redeems your life from destruction, He crowns you with kindness and compassion”; and so He longs to “put our transgressions from us” “as far as the east is from the west.” Indeed Jesus “pardons all [our] iniquities, He heals all our ills” – for this has the Savior come. And if we but bless Him for “all His benefits” and share in His love in our relationships with others, we shall find the merciful Lord enabling our endurance of all on this earth and making firm our place with Him in heaven.
O LORD, man and woman are one
and are brought together in your will;
in our covenants let us reflect your mercy
YHWH, give us your patience in enduring all things. You are kind and merciful; let us be like you. Help us to practice your compassion in our marriages and in all our relationships – let us be ready as you to forgive. Yes, let all our sins be put far from us.
If we endure with you, O LORD, shall we not be blessed? If with you we practice patience and kindness when put to the test, will we not share in your reward? Let us be so joined to you, LORD, that we may indeed be called your Body in this world.
O my LORD, let us never be divorced from love of one another or love of you. Let our covenants be sure as your own; for you have promised to be with us even till the end of the age, and so, should we abandon one another? Would this not be an abandonment of you?
Let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, O LORD, and let us therefore live forever in your eternal Word, in the truth and love only you hold.
Wed, 23 May 2018
(Jas.5:1-6; Ps.49:14-20,Mt.5:3; Mk.9:41-50)
“You lived in wanton luxury on the earth;
you fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.”
“You rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries,” James warns all those who trust in their wealth. For though they were “contented with their lot,” to find which they “condemned, even killed, the just man,” yet “like sheep they are herded into the netherworld,” where “quickly their form is consumed.” “Your wealth has rotted, your fine wardrobe has grown moth-eaten, your silver and gold have corroded” – all these things in which the fool has trusted will not only die of themselves but also “devour [his] flesh like a fire,” for so greatly has he placed his heart upon them that with their destruction he is also destroyed.
“See what you have stored up for yourselves against the last days.” The rich man fattens himself for “Gehenna, where ‘the worm dies not and the fire is never extinguished.’” Thus does Jesus call us to repentance in such severe terms, for lacking of it indeed how “quickly [our] form is consumed.” It is not the body which matters, or this earth; heaven is all that matters, and so our souls. Therefore, it is indeed better to cut off hand or foot or tear out one’s eye than to “enter Gehenna with its unquenchable fire.” For what are these things, what are all the riches of the world, in comparison with the kingdom of God and its eternal riches? Do not, therefore, be led astray by your earthly passions; store up treasures for heaven.
“The shouts of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” “The wages you withheld from the farmhands who harvested your fields” are known to God. And as “it would be better if anyone who leads astray one of these simple believers were to be plunged in the sea with a great millstone fastened around his neck,” so much better would be your fate than to suffer eternally the fires of hell. For what shall your unjust wealth benefit you there? From whom shall you steal among your fellow prisoners in chains?
“The netherworld is their palace,” those who grow rich on the backs of the poor and oppressed of this world. For ultimately “death is their shepherd, and the upright rule over them.” They “shall never more see light”; but peace shall reign in the hearts of all God’s children.
O LORD, let us not be plunged in the sea
or herded into the nether world,
but let us set our hearts and minds on you
and so find life everlasting.
YHWH, let us be poor, poor in spirit, poor to this world and its deadly passions. Let us put no hope in the riches that rot, or we shall rot with them. Let us seek, rather, the riches of your kingdom by giving our poor cup of water for the upbuilding of your Church.
Take from us, LORD, all that keeps us from you. Let us not steal or walk in the paths of the unrighteous or look with lust upon anything or anyone. Take hand or foot or eye from us instead; keep us from all sin. Let our salt not rot, our lives not be worthless, but let us bear fruit in your NAME.
LORD, our God, take especially from us our foolish pride, our belief that we can do anything of ourselves. O let us not trust in ourselves or in the things of this world but only in you and help rather than hurt the just man you bless in your holy will. Let all souls be led to your kingdom.
Tue, 22 May 2018
(Jas. 4:13-17; Ps.49:2-3,6-11,Mt.5:3; Mk.9:38-40)
“Anyone who is not against us is with us.”
And whoever is not with the Lord is against Him. There are only two ways by which a man may walk. We choose to place our lives in the hands of God, or we worship the things of this earth.
Indeed, anyone who “perform[s] a miracle in [His] name” is with Him, for a tree is known by its fruit. If indeed we commend our lives into the care of the Lord, saying, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that,” then we shall find His blessing at work within us, and we shall be His children, doing His will. And demons shall be expelled at our words. And we shall never “fear in evil days when [our] wicked ensnarers ring [us] round.”
But if instead we “make arrogant and pretentious claims,” boasting reprehensibly of the profits this earth shall bring us by the power of our own hands, we are in utter danger of the destruction we think can never touch us. For “in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God.” If we “have no idea what kind of life will be [ours] tomorrow” – and who knows the turns this earth does take? – what can we do at all by our own wills? We are, in fact, utterly dependent upon God for each breath we draw, and He may withdraw such life from us at any moment.
What fool is there among you who “trust[s] in [his] wealth”? Who are they for whom “the abundance of their riches is their boast”? Have you no eyes in your head? Is there no sense in your mind? “Hearken, all who dwell in the world, of lowly birth or high degree, rich and poor alike,” and from all lands and of all times – it is in Jesus alone that you find strength to draw your next breath; it is He alone who brings light to your eyes. Your riches will rot. Even prophecies will cease. There will not be a stone here left upon another. Consecrate yourself now to the Lord of all and begin to find His grace at work within you. And each day renew the power of God at work in you for that day. In His name do all things, and you shall be with Him, and He shall not leave you.
O LORD, let us be for you,
living perfectly in your will.
YHWH, let us be with you; let us give our lives to you, doing your work in accord with your will and not following the vain path our own desires mark out for us. Let us be your own; let us be your own, your disciples in this world.
How can we do anything if you do not bless it, LORD? Where shall we end if apart from you? For we indeed are as vapor that quickly vanishes, and empty are all our plans. But with you and in your NAME, miracles we can perform. Great works we may accomplish if in humility we follow your way; for you are great and all powerful, and we become as you are when we walk with you.
O LORD, we do not know what tomorrow may bring. Even this day is a mystery to us. Let us but place this day into your hands, and tomorrow will care for itself in your will. Let us not die seeking the vain riches of this earth but come to life by your saving grace.
Mon, 21 May 2018
(Jas.4:1-10; Ps.55:7-11,23; Mk.9:30-37)
“In the city I see violence and strife;
day and night they prowl about upon its walls.”
The violence this world holds is known most poignantly, of course, in “the Son of Man… [being] delivered into the hands of men who… put Him to death,” but exists most pervasively and fundamentally in our own bodies, insofar as they are conformed to the spirit of the world. For as James asks so pointedly, “Where do the conflicts and disputes among you originate? Is it not your inner cravings that make war within your members?” It is indeed the evil desire in our bones, the “envy,” the “love of the world [that] is enmity to God” which causes us to “quarrel and fight,” which is the source of all sin, and so death, and so war.
That “the spirit He has implanted in us tends toward jealousy” is evident even in the apostles, whom we find in today’s gospel “arguing about who was the most important.” Even these, who have yet to receive the “greater gift” – the Holy Spirit of God who serves to cleanse His children of the evil in them – even these are divided by the cravings that make war in our members. Even these contribute to the crucifixion of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, if you would “find shelter from the violent storm and the tempest” at work in you and about you, you must “cast your care upon the Lord, and He will support you.” “Submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight.” “Purify your hearts” of all that is not in conformity with the Spirit of God and you will find safe haven from the violence of this world and the violence of your own hearts. For “never will He permit the just man to be disturbed.”
And both James and the Lord teach what it is to be just, what it is to excel before God. If you desire the goodness of the Lord, rend your hearts; “be humbled in the sight of God and He will raise you on high.” You cannot raise yourself, for you are but dust; and dust you must be if you desire holiness in the presence of the Most High: “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain the last one of all and the servant of all,” as is Jesus, the suffering Son crucified for the sins of each of us.
Brothers and sisters, let our hearts be so docile as to welcome His children openly – as His humble children we ourselves must be. For then we shall welcome Him; for then we shall be sons of the Father, free from sin and so no longer subject to the violence known in the city that is this world of sin. May our own members and all the members of the Church be cleansed of all strife by the power of the Holy Spirit.
O LORD, help us to be humble before you,
that you might raise us up from our sin.
YHWH, should we not be as children before you? Is your Son not like a Child, O LORD? Is He not the humblest of all? O let us be like Him, and you!
Is there some other image in which we should be made, LORD, than your own? What of this world should beguile our soul? To whom should we aspire but our heavenly Father, and how shall we find you except through your Son? Does He not show us the way by His death on the Cross?
O LORD, let us not be deaf to your speaking to us in His words and actions, for He reveals to us who we must be. Help us to leave the example of the world behind, to abandon all hatred and jealousy, all the sinful pride and insatiable greed wrought into our fallen nature, and come to you even this day that we might be redeemed by your Son’s sacrifice and our sharing therein.
O help us to be humble, LORD, to find the humility only you know. With all our hearts let us serve you, and your glory will be ours.
Sun, 20 May 2018
(Jas.3:13-18; Ps.19:8-10,15; Mk.9:14-29)
“The command of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eye.”
What is the wisdom of which James speaks in our first reading but this enlightening of the eye and the mind by following the command of the Lord? It is the words and the wisdom of Jesus, reflected clearly in the Lord’s own life, James relates to the waiting ear this day. What does he instruct but to practice “a humility filled with good sense” and to “cultivate peace,” not to “nurse bitter jealousy in [our] hearts” but to “refrain from arrogant and false claims against the truth”? We must be as “innocent” as the Lamb of God, and as forgiving. Then we will realize that “the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple,” for “wisdom from above” will then fill us, and lead us by its sacred light.
How clear the command of the Lord is in our gospel, and how powerfully it enlightens the eye. As He comes down from the mountain where He has been transfigured before His principal apostles, “a large crowd… on catching sight of Jesus” is immediately “overcome with awe. They [run] up to greet Him.” Being presented with the boy possessed by a spirit that often “throws him into the fire and into water,” Jesus “reprimanded the unclean spirit by saying to him, ‘Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: Get out of him and never enter him again!’” And the boy is healed; he is freed from bondage to the devil, and now in his right mind, he can see.
Though perhaps not always so dramatic, every command of the Lord casts out just such darkness which pervades our souls. Coming in faith before Him as the father who trusts in God and in His Son, the same healing do we know. Following His words, our eyes and ears are opened, too, and we discover that indeed “the law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” So, brothers and sisters, let us pray with David today: “Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer,” that we might remain ever in His enduring purity and light.
O LORD, if we but lived lives of prayer in all humility,
never could we be separated from you
and always you would work through us.
YHWH, how shall our words and thoughts match those of your Son, who commands and the devils flee, whose heart is set always on your will… who sacrifices His life for our sakes? Help our unbelief, our lack of trust in you and in your power, that we might by your grace come to share in that power with Jesus, even as we share in His humility.
How can we live in your perfect innocence, LORD, we who are such a faithless lot, we who lack prayer in our heart? O how easily we are overcome! But you are our hope. You come down from the mountain, from the glory on high, to dwell with the likes of us and save us from the devil’s grasp, which has such a dire hold upon us and upon our children. Only by the grace of your presence will this generation be saved – leave us not till your work is accomplished.
Teach us, O LORD; give us your wisdom, that your peace might be ever in our souls and we might serve you with all our thoughts and words. Save us, dear God, from all darkness.
Fri, 18 May 2018
(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, 17 May 2018
(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, 16 May 2018
(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, 15 May 2018
(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, 14 May 2018
(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.
Fri, 11 May 2018
(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.
Thu, 10 May 2018
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps.47:2-8; Jn.16:20-23)
“Go on speaking and do not be silenced,
for I am with you.”
As Paul continues his missionary journey, his fears are calmed by the Lord, who assures him: “No one will attack you or harm you,” though he be in Corinth, whose infamous immorality is illustrated in the riotous behavior of the Jews in its court, and to which the court “paid no attention at all.” And the Lord is true to His word, protecting Paul throughout his year-and-a-half stay, and keeping him even from having to defend himself from charges in today’s first reading.
In our gospel Jesus reassures the disciples at the Last Supper, as He is about to leave them and their hearts begin to be troubled: “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.” And though there remains ever a measure of grief in our hearts as we labor in this world, our bodies apart from the fullness of the grace of heaven, yet we know that Jesus’ promise has indeed been kept in His sending His Spirit upon the apostles from His heavenly kingdom. It is, of course, this Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and protects Paul, making his missionary work fruitful, for he does all having been baptized by the fire of Christ. And, of course, the disciples to whom Jesus speaks today will soon have no more fear, for Pentecost is not far from them.
Pentecost is not far from any of us, brothers and sisters. The promised Spirit is come into the world to answer all questions, to calm all our anxieties. As we wait these nine days to celebrate this great feast of the Church, as we prepare again to enter into its birth in the Spirit of God, let us be assured that the Lord’s promise remains: “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.”
No one can take from us the promised joy we now hold in our hearts and which is renewed in this season. As Paul is emboldened even through his most difficult trials, as the apostles rejoice at their persecutions for Jesus’ sake, so we should know that the Lord “brings people under us, nations under our feet”; and so, as powerful as the world may seem in all its brazen immorality, yet we are assured that “He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob