Sun, 17 March 2019
(Dn.9:4-10; Ps.79:8-9,11,13,103:10; Lk.6:36-38)
“Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.”
It is a cry for forgiveness our psalmist makes to our compassionate God. “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past,” he begs, seeking release from sin’s prison for himself and his people. And Daniel does the same; acknowledging with full throat the sins of Judah and all Israel, he seeks the merciful hand of the Lord upon the people, interceding in their stead. Though he himself is an upright man, he cries out, “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil,” praying thus for the rebellious nation which has been scattered to “all countries” for their failure to heed the command of the Lord.
Well do our Old Testament figures embody Jesus’ teaching in our gospel, summed up simply: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” For they “do not judge” or “condemn” those individuals primarily responsible for the apostasy and so the destruction of the kingdom and the covenant, but rather seek earnestly to heal the rift that has come by giving generously of themselves and their love for God and others, in Christlike fashion standing in the breach. And so they earn the titles of prophet and psalmist of God; and so they foreshadow the heavenly compassion Jesus calls all His followers to pour forth in His name. (And so we can be assured their compassion has been “measured back” to them by the Lord.)
Jesus on the cross dies for the sins of all people, and this is His central call to all our souls: to imitate Him is our blessed goal. For insofar as we die for God and others, insofar as we lay down our lives in His truth, thus far we shall find His “compassion quickly come to us” and so live in the heavenly glory which is now His place. To us all He calls this day to pardon and forgive, for in doing so we shall find the reconciliation of the Lord even with our enemies, and secure for ourselves a room in His heavenly home.
He who knew no sin was made sin for our sake. He has humbled Himself to carry the sins of the nation… Let us, brothers and sisters, die with Christ on the cross, that all sin might be taken away in His Name.
O LORD, let us not turn away
from your Word to our souls
but be compassionate as you.
YHWH, you are a compassionate God calling us to your mercy and love. Forgive us all our transgressions against you that we might know your favor. Though we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, though we have rebelled against you and your command, refusing to listen to the Word of truth you utter in our midst, hear our cry for deliverance from the prison into which our sins have cast us. Save us in your love!
O LORD, if we do not judge we shall not be judged. If we do not condemn we shall not be condemned. If we but forgive others their transgressions against us, you will forgive our transgressions against you. And we shall return to your pasture.
Help us to give, O LORD, to give as you give, to give as your Son gives… to lay down our lives for the sake of others – to seek pardon for their sins. Jesus stands in the breach to reconcile us to you and one another; may we join Him in His mission of love.
Fri, 15 March 2019
(Dt.26:16-19; Ps.119:1-2,4-5,7-8; Mt.5:43-48)
“You will be a people sacred to the Lord, your God.”
The promise made to the Israelites through Moses is also a command, and is fulfilled in the command of Jesus.
In our first reading Moses tells the people the Lord will raise them “high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations,” but makes it clear that this shall be so only as long as they “walk in His ways and observe His statutes, commandments, and decrees” – only if they “hearken to His voice.” For His law is as food to the body and light to the mind and must be observed carefully, “with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul,” to maintain the presence of God in our lives. If “He is to be [our] God,” we must do as He commands.
Thus our psalmist sings of the happiness of those “who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart.” Thus does he cry out in longing, “Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes!” for he knows in them is life. To “walk in the way of the Lord” is his joy.
And that joy is made complete, our life is made whole, by the new command of love Jesus imparts to our soul. The Lord fulfills the Law of Moses, which gave light to the people, by commanding us not to love only our “countryman” but all: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” Here is His challenge for us to “prove that [we] are sons of our heavenly Father,” to love as He loves, to know the greatness of His glory, therefore, in our very lives. If the psalmist cried out in such joy at the blessing found in following the Law of Moses, what indescribable joy is ours when we follow Jesus’ words. What greater call can we have than to “be made perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect”? What greater merit and blessing could there be? None. For He is Life itself, and here we are called to live with Him.
“His sun rises on the bad and the good, He rains on the just and the unjust.” Nothing dims God’s holy light or stems the blessings He showers upon all. In absolute light, in absolute love, the Father dwells, in the heavenly kingdom; and if we can love as He loves, as Jesus has loved, we shall know such blessing. Love even those who hate you and you will be as the Father, who knows only love, and you will become sacred to Him – you will be saints in His kingdom.
O LORD, if we follow your way with our whole heart,
we shall come to where you are, in Heaven.
YHWH, what can we be but blessed if we heed your commands and walk in your way, for then we will be like you, who are most blessed of all? O to be a people sacred to you! O to love as you love!
What greater blessing can we know, O LORD, than to love as you love, to love all, even our enemies? What blessing it would be to know such absolute love, to live such absolute love – then we would be living with you; then we would be living in you. You shine like the sun upon all creatures… Let us live in your light this day.
Your Word is light to us, LORD; your commands are truth. And by them you would lead us to all truth, to all love – by them you would lead us to yourself. And your greatest command is to love our enemies, a command your Son embodies. Let us join with Him in keeping this Word and so live in your heavenly presence.
Thu, 14 March 2019
(Ez.18:21-28; Ps.130:1-8; Mt.5:20-26)
“Settle with your opponent while on your way to court with him.”
We are all on our way to court, brothers and sisters. The judgment of the Lord awaits us all on the Last Day, and the Last Day is upon us here at the end of the age. There is no time to lose; we must be “reconciled with [our] brother”; we must turn from sin today and find the Lord’s grace. “With the Lord is kindness and plenteous redemption; and He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities” – but “out of the depths” we must cry to Him “in supplication” to find His blessed forgiveness; and from sinful paths we must turn our feet to know His salvation.
“If a wicked man, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” It is a great promise that comes to us through the prophet Ezekial, that none of our crimes shall be remembered by God when we return to Him. For the Lord does not “derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked,” He “rather rejoice[s] when he turns from his evil way that he may live”; for the Lord wishes life for us all, wishes Himself, who is Life, for every soul, and gives it freely, and quite naturally, when we follow His ways.
It is really rather simple: as when a wicked man turns to good things he is no longer wicked but good and so lives in the Lord, so “when a virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.” Evil brings death, and righteousness and justice (goodness) brings life. The Lord desires life for us all and so He calls us to repentance, to repentance from even what might seem to our minds the smallest of sins – for so greatly does He wish life for us. And clearly does He know that which we cannot see, that death holds sway over us by every sin on our soul.
Let us avoid the fires of hell and the pains of purgatory, brothers and sisters. Let us call out to the Lord this day and find His “plenteous redemption” even as we turn from our sins. And there shall be no prison into which we are thrown, as we forgive one another, and the Lord forgives us, our sins.
O LORD, let us be released from all bondage to sin
that we might walk with you in righteousness
and so find life.
YHWH, forgiveness is with you, for it is your great desire to see us turn from our sin that you might have mercy on our souls. And if we do so, if we leave behind our wickedness – even our wicked thoughts and words – we shall find your goodness; you shall gather us into your arms. For then we shall be of goodness itself, and so, united with you.
But turning from the right path, what can we find but death in our separation from you, LORD? What can we know but condemnation in leaving you behind? For then you will not be with us, and without you there is no life.
O LORD, you are generous in redeeming us from all our iniquities. Let us follow your way as your Son does call, purging all hatred from our lives. Help us to be perfect as you are perfect – in love, in forgiveness, in grace… and we shall thus enter your kingdom, where only perfection exists. No evil in our hearts let us desire; cast all iniquity from us this day as we love even our enemy.
Wed, 13 March 2019
(Est.C:12,14-16,23-25; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Mt.7:7-12)
“My Lord, our King, you alone are God.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.”
In our gospel we have today a few of our Lord’s most famous words: “Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” Jesus encourages us to faithfulness in prayer, assuring all that our “heavenly Father [will] give good things to anyone who asks Him.” How beautiful are His words, and how true.
And how well Queen Esther illustrates the faithful prayer of one who has “recourse to the Lord.” She comes to the Lord in all humility as an obedient child before her father and opens her heart before God with a sincere plea for her fellow Jews, threatened with extinction by the enemy. She says of her forefathers, proclaiming herself a daughter of Abraham, “You fulfilled all your promises to them,” and comes now seeking the same answer from the “King of gods and Ruler of every power.” Such prayer for salvation before the God she recognizes “know[s] all things” cannot but be answered by the loving Father. He will give her the food she desires.
In our psalm we hear David’s song of thanksgiving for the prayers the Lord has been faithful in answering for him: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth,” thus proving the truth of Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples, and indicating that Esther will also find answer to her prayer – and so, that we all should have assurance of God’s loving desire to heed all our sincere pleas. David, too, acknowledges the greatness of God: “You have made great above all things your name and your promise,” and so comes to the place where the “kindness and [the] truth” of the Lord will be known to him. And his faith in the Lord’s promise to be with him and hear him lasts for perpetuity: “The Lord will complete what He has done for me.”
Praise the Lord, who answers all prayers. Praise the loving God who knows all things. It is in His heart to feed us with the best of wheat, and this He does each day for those who “worship at [His] holy temple and give thanks to [His] name.” “Forsake not the work of your hands,” dear Lord. Be with us always to hear our humble prayers, that we might witness always your loving faithfulness to all who call upon you in truth.
O LORD, forsake us not, for we are your children
and have no one but you to help us;
thank you for your mercy.
YHWH, you readily give good things to those who ask them of you, for it is your will to give what is good to all. You are goodness itself and would share yourself with all your children if they but desired your presence in their lives. Let us turn to you and call upon your Name with faith that you hear all our prayers.
We need but seek you, LORD, and your hand at work in our days. We need but a tiny seed of faith, and you will nourish us with your Word and see that we are protected from our enemies and have all we need to live forever with you. In your kingdom we shall find our home if we but knock upon its door.
Your Name let us ever praise, O LORD our God, and we shall remain in your truth, and we shall remain in your light, ever growing unto your heavenly presence. We would need fear nothing at all if we but trusted in you and the love you hold for all your people. Your kindness be upon us this day as we raise our hearts to you.
Tue, 12 March 2019
(Jon.3:1-10; Ps.51:3-4,12-13,18-19; Lk.11:29-32)
“At the preaching of Jonah they reformed.”
Let us learn from the people of Ninevah, who heeded the message of repentance given Jonah. At Jonah’s cry they “believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” Even the king “laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes” in hopes of averting the destruction he knew God held in hand for his wayward city. He decrees that “every man shall turn from his evil way” and “call loudly to God.” Such utter repentance! Such turning from sin! And this from a pagan king and a pagan nation.
If Ninevah has so believed in God, if it has so recognized its sin before Him and turned so dramatically back to Him, pleading for His mercy, what should we not do, brothers and sisters, in this time of Lent set aside for the cleansing of our sins, we who have Jesus’ preaching now ringing in our ears and calling to our hearts? Indeed, we must again and continually cry out to God with David for His mercy to come upon us. Ever with “a contrite and humbled heart” we must sit before Him recognizing our sin. For always our sin is with us, however much we might be ignorant of our guilt as we live our lives in vain. “Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me,” must be our eternal plea, for we are in continual danger of going away from Him.
Let us not be afraid to humble ourselves before God and man. Let us seek nothing else but the wisdom of Christ, the call of the cross to our souls. In humility, in sackcloth and ashes, let us prostrate ourselves before the true king who will come at the judgment to discern the worth of all souls. Perhaps He will have mercy. Perhaps He will “withhold His blazing wrath.” Perhaps the punishment we deserve He may avert and “we shall not perish.” Upon the soul He finds His cross inscribed, He shall take pity, my friends.
O Lord, we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight. In your infinite mercy look upon our broken hearts, and help us to reform our lives. For you alone are God.
O LORD, your Son is greater than any prophet or king;
let us listen to Him as He calls us to repentance.
YHWH, let us be humble before you and your Word. Let us repent at the preaching of your holy ones. May your Son be a sign for us that we shall not forget – you are calling us to your kingdom, and to find our way there we must turn away from all sin.
O LORD, let us not fail to take this time to reform our lives; let us not be deaf and blind to the grace you offer forth to all men. May we know true contrition for the wrongs we have done – O let our hearts be circumcised! You desire to forgive us, if we would but leave off our evil ways.
We shall all indeed be destroyed if we do not heed your saving Word. May your prophets cry out the message of the Gospel, and may all your holy ones cover themselves in sackcloth and sit in the ashes… may all fast from the poisonous food this world offers. Then our spirits shall be renewed. Then no judgment will come upon us. Then we shall live forever with you.
Mon, 11 March 2019
(Is.55:10-11; Ps.34:4-7,16-19; Mt.6:7-15)
“Give us today our daily bread.”
Our daily bread comes from the mouth of God; it is His Word that nourishes us. His Word “water[s] the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats.” By His Word our spiritual lives are anointed with holiness; the breath of His mouth makes us whole, and so we become fruitful in His Name.
Yes, we are sharers in His Word; it is His Word the just speak in their time of need. “Crushed in spirit” before Him like holy seed, their cry comes to His ears and the rain He sends upon them saves them from all sin, “deliver[s] [them] from all fears.” Jesus, the Word made flesh, is true, and His words are true: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”; and so the Father is quick to hear when we enter into His Word and call upon His Name in all humility. It is this humility which makes us fertile earth, this trust in His will that lifts our faces toward His light, that we “may not blush with shame.” “Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy,” O sinner. “Glorify the Lord” and “extol His name,” for with you He shares His Spirit; in you He plants the Word that grows to eternal life.
Father in heaven, you alone are holy, and your Name is life to us. Let “your kingdom come,” let “your will be done,” for apart from you we wither and die. Make our earth your heaven; bring to us all the blessings you know we need to live ever in your light. Feed us with your bread, feed us with your Word – your Son is all the food we need. And for all “the wrong we have done,” as He has taught us, let us find our forgiveness by releasing from all bondage those who have done wrong to us, by loving our enemies. In the end we pray, O Lord, that temptation be taken from our path; though we treasure your chastising Hand, let us not falter anymore – “deliver us from the evil one” who lurks in this world seeking the ruin of our souls.
O Lord, our lives are in your hands. Our hearts are given life by you. In our prayer let us not imitate the vain words of the pagans, but let us join in the Spirit with your Son and become one in the Word with you. (Help me to remember your Name.)
(I witness here that however many times I speak the Lord’s Prayer, as however many times I attend Holy Mass, by the grace that comes through the Spirit, it is ever new and alive with the blessings that come from above. These words are a gift to us we must cherish in our souls.)
O LORD, may the grace of your forgiveness
flow upon us and through us
and so bear the fruit of salvation.
YHWH, your Word be upon us to bless us and nourish us this day that our words might be fruitful as your own. With your Son and by the words He has instructed us to pray, let us come to you and find your presence upon us, saving us from sin and leading us to your kingdom. From the grasp of the evil one let us be released as we call upon your Name.
How shall we be fed this day, O LORD, if not by your hand, if not by the Spirit you send forth from your holy throne? From on high you shower down upon us cleansing rain that we might be made whole and fruitful in your sight, that we might be as your Son on this earth, bringing your kingdom to bear on this plane. O let us be as your sons and daughters, shining your light in this dark place!
Hear us as we call to you, LORD. Deliver us from all distress and affliction. Let our poor souls be blessed by you that we might ever praise your holy Name. O Father in Heaven, let us be with you this day.
Sun, 10 March 2019
(Lv.19:1-2,11-18; Ps.19:8-10,15,Jn.6:63; Mt.25:31-46)
“As often as you did it for one of my least brothers,
you did it for me.”
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Such is the golden rule and the second of the greatest commandments, which is like unto the first: Love God. And the union of the two is made evident by Jesus in our gospel today; He makes clear that what we do to others we do to Him, and so to love God and neighbor become one and the same. So tied is the Lord to His creation by the incarnation of His Son.
And how blessed are all His commands to us, all of which are summed up in love, and all of which give us life. “Refreshing the soul… giving wisdom to the simple… rejoicing the heart… enlightening the eye… enduring forever” – such is the Word of God to the obedient soul. All He speaks is just and all He speaks is holy and brings life, for all He speaks is of the Spirit of love. And of that Spirit we must be, if we hope to attain to eternal life where He sits in glory.
“Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and redeemer,” is David’s prayer after extolling the virtues of the law of the Lord in his psalm today. And such should be our prayer. For if our hearts are set upon Him, and if our mouths speak truth, we can be assured that our actions will follow and we will please the Lord in all we do. For being of the Lord, we can only feed the hungry; seeking His will, we can only welcome Him and all His children into our lives. If we are founded upon this Rock, all will find in us the love of God.
For He is love, brothers and sisters, and all He asks of us is love. Love does “not steal.” Love does “not lie.” Love does “not defraud” or “curse the deaf” or “act dishonestly” in any way. In a word, if you are of love as He is love, “you shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.” And all are our brothers, even the least of these; the Lord has made this known. All are our neighbor and so none can “stand by idly when [his] neighbor’s life is at stake.” All are called by love to lend their hand, His hand, to others in need. For then we help Him.
Would we not help the Lord if we saw Him wanting? Is it not our desire to ease His pain? We have opportunity ever to do this in those around us. When we do, we fulfill His command and find life for our souls, for then we are holy as He.
O LORD, may your Word bring us to everlasting life;
let us be obedient to your call to compassion.
YHWH, let your Word be upon us that it might reprove us, that it might teach us and guide us in the way we should go… that it might refresh our souls. We know not the way we should walk but tend toward selfishness and sin. Speak to our hearts this day that our eyes might be opened and we be corrected and come to be holy like you.
Your Son tells us in no uncertain terms that condemnation awaits those who hate their brother, who turn their backs on their fellow man. He lets us know that in doing so we turn our backs on you, O LORD. And thus spurning your love and the practice of that love in our lives, what can we be but separated from you who are love and life?
But the righteous shall be blessed. This He tells us, too. If our hearts are set on fulfilling your commands and especially your command to love (which is all you command), then with you we shall ever dwell in eternal light and life. May all men listen to your Son and live as He does.
Fri, 8 March 2019
(Is.58:9-14; Ps.86:1-6,11; Lk.5:27-32)
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“restorer of ruined homesteads.”
“Levi gave a great reception for Jesus in his house,” but it is Jesus who invites him, and all sinners, “to a change of heart” and to join Him in the home He makes for us all in heaven. As Levi (or Matthew) has done, so must we all: we must leave our “customs post,” that which roots us to this world – we must stand up and follow Him.
“You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.” David makes his prayer in our psalm, coming to the Lord as one “afflicted and poor,” begging the Lord’s pity upon his soul. And there is confidence that his cry is answered, that his soul is gladdened; for the promise has been made through Isaiah that “He will renew [our] strength,” that we “shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.” All that He has broken down in His anger against us and against our sins shall be raised up again: “The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up.” As we turn to Him and “call the sabbath a delight… not following [our] ways, seeking [our] own interests, or speaking with malice,” we shall indeed “delight in the Lord” and in His inheritance; He shall indeed “nourish [us] with the heritage of Jacob” – the food He gives us will far surpass the bread upon the table at Levi’s banquet. For it is upon His own Body we shall feed, and so find ourselves renewed in spirit and strengthened for the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord comes to invite all “sick people” to His healing grace. All who turn from their sins shall be acceptable to Him. And in His House they shall find a place, and be nourished well. “Even on the parched land” they shall find the water of life, for His grace extends to all places and all peoples. And with the bread we bestow on the hungry we ourselves shall be fed, for by this labor we shall unite with Him. “The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Let us find the mercy His words desire for us.
O LORD, help us to recognize our sin
and call upon you for healing,
that your House might be rebuilt.
YHWH, teach us to turn from our sin, from following our own ways, that we might follow your Son where He leads, that we might come to Him for healing this day. Let us come into your light and there remain.
You will renew us, LORD, if we do well, for it is your desire to share your mercy with us and make us as your own again. Though in ruins our lives stand, though all seem lost because of our sin, when we call out to you, you hear us and gladden our souls with your refreshing love.
When Jesus comes to us, O LORD – as He shall come to all to heal us of all illness – when He stands before us and invites us to follow Him, may we be as Matthew and leave all of this world behind and set our hearts on obedience to His voice. May we invite Him in to the table of our bodies and our souls that He might feed us always with His Word and with the Bread He is, and that we might thus feed others. O let us be nourished well and be as a watered garden!
Thu, 7 March 2019
(Is.58:1-9; Ps.51:3-6,18-19; Mt.9:14-15)
“Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!”
Brothers and sisters, in this day of fasting and penance, first we must “acknowledge [our] offense” as David in our psalm. We must cry out to our God: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” This is our leaven of truth. “A contrite spirit, a heart contrite and humbled” the Lord cannot resist. It is this heart the Lord answers; it is prayer of this soul He hears – to this “cry for help… He will say: Here I am!”
“When the day comes that the groom is taken away, then they will fast.” We “go in mourning” when Jesus is no longer in our midst. What does this then say of our fast? For though the Lord may be with us always in the power of the Spirit, yet He is physically taken from us now till the end of time. Our fast must therefore be a permanent condition all the while we walk this earth. And so true is this if we understand the Lord’s definition of a fast as revealed in our first reading from Isaiah: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly… sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked… and not turning your back on your own.” And what sense it makes that this be our fast now that Jesus is gone, for are we not His children here, called to carry out His mission in this world? Are not these the very things He instructs us to do in His stead for the least of His brothers who suffer now? On this earth here at the end of the age we should be engaged in fasting always.
And if we pray with a sincere heart, and if we do the will of the Lord in all things, what promise He makes to us: “Your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed… The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” All we ask shall be given us; all we seek we shall find in Him. And so, what shall our fasting be for us but pure joy, even as we become one with the Lord our God?
A blessed call is upon us now, one which makes our voices known to Him. Let us “remove from [our] midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.” Let us denounce any “quarreling and fighting” that keeps us from Him, and see that His will is done in our lives. Then indeed He shall hear us; then by this death to sin we shall come to the glory of our God.
O LORD, what can we do but fast
now that your Son has been taken from us? –
let us do His work, stand in His stead,
laying down our lives for all in need.
YHWH, your Son has been taken from us, and so, on this day we fast. He no longer walks among us, and so we must be as His presence. We must free the oppressed and feed the hungry, doing the works He did while He was in our midst. And if we do this, we shall be pleasing in your sight, as He was, and so be blessed.
With a contrite heart let us come to you, O LORD, recognizing our faults and failures to serve you as we ought. Instead of laying down our lives in humble service of those in need of your Word and your Bread, we have spoken ill of our brother and been oppressors ourselves. And so, any offering we have made has been in vain. And so we have but served to separate ourselves from you and your compassion.
O LORD, let us not continue blind to our wickedness but seek each day to convert our hearts to your call to be as your Son and live His way of sacrifice for the sake of others.
Wed, 6 March 2019
(Dt.30:15-20; Ps.1:1-4,6,39:5; Lk.9:22-25)
“The Lord watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.”
In our first reading, Moses makes clear the choice we all must face: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.” “By loving the Lord… heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him,” the Israelites will be blessed with “long life” in the Promised Land; they “will live and grow numerous” by “loving Him and walking in His ways.” This will be life for them. “If, however, [they] turn away [their] hearts and will not listen… [they] will certainly perish.” The promise to them will soon die if they walk “in the way of sinners.”
Life and death. The blessing and the curse. The just and the wicked. To the Israelites the promise that they would be “like a tree planted near running water” if they followed the commandments of the Lord referred quite literally, quite physically, to the blessing of long life and enjoying the fruits of the earth. It showed itself in the numbers of people in the nation and the land they were given to occupy. When they were cursed, their kingdom was torn down and the land taken away from them. They became “like chaff which the wind drives away” when they were forced into exile from the lands of Judah and Israel.
What is the land we must so treasure today, brothers and sisters? What place are we called to preserve by following in the way of the Lord? For now he “who gains the whole world” will likely “destroy himself in the process.” Now our sights, our hopes, can no longer be set on the physical universe. Jesus has come. The Son of Man walks in our midst. And His presence, His flesh, makes the heavenly homeland our desire – it is this which is now our Promised Land. It is the number born into this kingdom which now causes our hearts to rejoice. It is this blessing that now comes to him “who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.”
And the Lord makes clear what “the way of the just” now entails. Our gospel tells us “Jesus said to all” – not just to His disciples, but to all who would find the blessing, would find life – “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps.” And His steps include enduring “many sufferings,” being “put to death” and then being “raised up on the third day.” Now it is death that leads to life. Now this world must be left behind. Now, though we love all – even our enemies – and everything upon it, we must leave the earth we have held so dear. The command is the same (to renounce all sin and love God), but now the prize is much greater, and so the way there much more narrow. But the Lord blesses our every step toward Him.
O LORD, let us remain in you and in your Son,
walking the way of His Cross
that we might not lose our souls
but gain the life of Heaven.
YHWH, may we find not only long life on the land but eternal life in your heavenly kingdom by our turning away from all sin and following your Son on the way of the Cross. Let us be dead to all the distractions of this wicked world that we might dwell with you alone.
Death comes to the wicked, LORD, death that spells the demise of his soul, of his life in you who are Life itself. And so, how shall he live anymore if apart from you? And so, what is his life then worth? It is indeed like chaff driven away by the wind.
But those who take their refuge in you, who meditate on your Word and the Word that is your Son, these you prosper in all they do, for all they do is in your will and so cannot but receive your blessing, the blessing of your living presence, LORD.
Let us choose this day to live in you and never to turn our backs to your call to love. Laying down our lives, O LORD, may we be carried by your angels.
Mon, 4 March 2019
(Sir.35:1-12; Ps.50:5-8,14,23; Mk.10:28-31)
“The just man’s sacrifice is most pleasing,
nor will it ever be forgotten.”
Peter is moved today to voice his fear that all that he and his fellow apostles have offered, even their very lives, will not be enough to secure the kingdom of God. But Jesus reassures all who serve Him: “I give you my word, there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children or property, for me and for the Gospel who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as many… and persecution besides – and in the age to come, everlasting life.” None should fear that their sacrifice will be wasted, “for the Lord is one who always repays,” and repays in full, multiplying whatever gifts we offer beyond our expectations.
“But offer no bribes, these He does not accept!” You will never be able to extort graces from the Lord, and so should always come without expectation of return. Make all your sacrifices as “freewill gifts,” for only that which is given “generously” and “in a spirit of joy” does He smile upon. Bring your gifts to the altar expecting nothing but the cross, in this find your return, and the glory of the resurrection shall indeed be yours. You must learn from those whom the Lord rebukes, though their “holocausts are before [Him] always” – only “he that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies” the Lord, and so you must find joy in your cross.
Oh how “the just man’s offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High.” “He who observes the commandments” and “gives alms,” he who performs “works of charity,” who “refrain[s] from evil” and “avoid[s] injustice”… oh how this man “pleases the Lord”! For his life is as a “sacrifice of praise,” an offering of peace and an atonement for sin, which cannot but reach to the throne of God. Yes, “to him that goes the right way [the Lord] will show the salvation of God.” Of this you can be assured.
O LORD, the more we give you our lives,
the more we are blessed,
for the more we are of you.
YHWH, what is it you desire from us but to be generous as you are, to share all your gifts with others? None is more generous than you; none could give a greater number of blessings here on this earth and in the heavenly kingdom. Yet, do we trust in you and in your generosity, in the great wealth that only you possess?
All things are in your hands, O LORD. Let us learn this simple lesson. All things are in your hands and you give them freely and abundantly to those who serve you faithfully. Though there be a cross we must bear in this world, how light it is made by the graces you pour upon us, by the love you share with all your disciples.
And so, let us give alms, let us be just, and let us do all with a cheerful countenance; and we shall reflect your glory in this world and carry even now your presence in our souls. LORD, to the end let us follow in your way and offer ever a sacrifice of praise, and your blessings will be forever upon us.
Sun, 3 March 2019
(Sir.17:19-27; Ps.32:1-2,5-7,11; Mk.10:17-27)
“Jesus fixed His gaze on them and said,
‘For man it is impossible but not for God.’”
With these incisive words and particularly with this intent look, Jesus “encourages those who are losing hope.” His disciples are “completely overwhelmed” at His statement: “It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” and to keep them from falling into despair at the impossibility of such a proposition, He seeks to teach them that “with God all things are possible.” For truly none can be saved but by the grace of God.
“As Jesus was setting out on a journey a man came running up, knelt down before Him and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to share in everlasting life?’” How like “the penitent [for whom] He provides a way back” is this man on his knees before the Lord today. And even after the Lord seems to rebuff his advance, how he persists, begging further word from the Master with the reply to Jesus’ listing of certain commandments, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my childhood.” Please tell me more, he seems to cry out. And so “Jesus looked at him with love,” a love that is beyond the bounds of this world and beyond the bounds of the law – a love that makes all things possible, even the attainment of the kingdom of God, even for us wretched sinners. “How great the mercy of the Lord, His forgiveness of those who return to Him!” “Happy is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered”; for among the dead we would be if not for His divine mercy.
But oh “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” Though wrought with the Lord’s grace, how difficult it is to accompany Christ on His journey. For our hearts are not on His love but on the things we must give up, and so, how readily we turn away in sadness. It is indeed out of love Jesus calls the rich man from his possessions to His side; this is indeed an immeasurable grace pouring forth from the heart of God… but who among us can accept it? Who among us truly seeks everlasting life?
“God watches over the host of highest heaven, while all men are dust and ashes.” While “the thoughts of flesh and blood” are obscure, as the wise man tells us, and his possessions of even less consequence; while the sun itself “can be eclipsed” and all things of the earth are passing… yet the kingdom of the Lord endures and holds promise of shelter for the contrite spirit of a humble man. For dust may pass easily through the eye of any needle, and we can be united with the vision of God; for us too all things are made possible, if we humble ourselves in the ashes – if we fall sincerely at the feet of the Lord, and accept His word.
O LORD, help us freely renounce all of this world.
YHWH, please help us to inherit eternal life; though we must die first, though we must give up all things of this world, let us not look at what is lost but what is gained, being forever with you in Heaven.
Why should we prefer the riches of this life to life everlasting; why should we not want to be at Jesus’ side even here where we stand? It is a fool who desires passing things to those that last; LORD, give us the wisdom and courage to do what is right.
You would let nothing stand in our way to you, LORD; all blindness and sin you would drown in the sea. You would not remember our transgressions against you or our failure to heed your call… let us turn again and kneel before your Son. Then we shall praise you with all the living on high.
It is not death we should fear or the renunciation of our goods. Let us rather fear disobedience toward you and the loss of the kingdom. O LORD, truly let us be cleansed of the guilt of our sin, that with clear eyes and open hearts we might follow you.
Fri, 1 March 2019
(Sir.17:1-15; Ps.103:13-18; Mk.10:13-16)
“Let the children come to me
and do not hinder them.”
O how the Lord “looks with favor upon [our] hearts, and shows [us] His glorious works”! And because “His majestic glory their eyes beheld, His glorious voice their ears heard,” so the “people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them,” so they were offering their precious loved ones into the arms of the Savior. And should we not all come to Him, should we not all run into His arms… are we not all His children?
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord from the earth created man, and in His own image He made him.” Do you hear that? In His own image we are made, as His sons and daughters. “He endows [us] with a strength of His own… He forms our tongues and eyes and ears, and imparts to [us] an understanding heart.” He makes us as Himself, and then fills us with His presence! And should we not come to Him, should we not come to His only Son, our own dear brother, the perfection of our race, that all disfigurement might be taken from us and we might radiate the light of God, that we might be remade in His image?
The Lord is only love and “His eyes are ever upon [our] ways” to guide us to His love. He is “as a father [who] has compassion on his children.” Yes, “the kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear Him,” and those who fear Him are His children. But this fear, this overwhelming awe at the love the Maker of the universe has toward His simple creatures, is not one which makes us run from Him, but which moves us to leap into the arms of our Redeemer, into the arms of Him whose arms are always open to receive us, always open to embrace His children.
We know our blessed brother John has told us with holy affection that “we are God’s children now” (1Jn.3:2). Of this grace at the hands of our Lord he has spoken most eloquently, most simply – most lovingly. And it is so for all who love Him. And so we should not hinder our hearts from coming to Him, from embracing Him as He embraces us… from giving ourselves to Jesus (particularly in the Sacrament), that we might be formed in His image. Come to Him who is one with the Father, and one with the Father you shall become.
O LORD, only your children come to you;
welcome us into your kingdom.
YHWH, let us come to you as children, trusting in your love. And you will embrace us, and you will bless us… and we will come into your kingdom on high.
We are but dust, O LORD, and our days pass like those of the grass. A breath from your mouth and we are gone. But it is your Breath that gives us life, that makes us wise, that makes us holy – that causes us to share in your glory. You have created us from the earth but have endowed us with a spirit like your own. Let us know your kindness upon us that we may endure unto eternity.
LORD, let us remain in awe of you, ever grateful for the gifts that you give us, for the wonder that is upon us every day of our lives. Let us not be separated from you but always be as your children, innocent and obedient and humble as you. To your Son let us run and so find a home in His flesh and blood, and so be adopted into your love.
Thu, 28 February 2019
(Sir.6:5-17; Ps.119:12,16,18,27,34-35; Mk.10:1-12)
“They are no longer two but one flesh.”
How much more clearly could the Lord speak of the unity found in marriage and so the respect due this sacrament? How better could He get His point across to you that marriage is indissoluble, that it is not to be played with, that you commit adultery as you consider divorcing your spouse? “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” And by this Jesus does not mean that two separate creatures were made – He means that every one of God’s human beings is both male and female, and that in marriage one finds his wholeness in the sight of God.
When Adam was formed of the dust of the earth, Eve was already present within him, in his very body. She was not created apart from him, but taken from him, “from man” – which is the meaning of “woman.” Adam when he was first made held both male and female in himself, and when woman was taken from him, built of his rib, the two did not cease to be one. Thus does he recognize Eve as flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. Thus the two are inseparable. In marriage this inherent unity returns, is fulfilled. “Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined.”
And if “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; [and] he who finds one finds a treasure,” how much more of a shelter is a spouse in whose body one makes his home – how much more valuable a treasure? A friend and more is made by the marriage vow, for truly the spouses become one with one another, and one with the Lord. And so, “when you gain a friend, first test him, and be not too ready to trust him.” Know that you are joining yourself to this spouse body and soul, and such commitment is not to be taken lightly or falsely, with an eye toward leaving “when sorrow comes.” Beware, lest you find “a friend who becomes an enemy,” or that you yourself are not a trustworthy mate. For once joined you cannot be separated, try in vain as you will. One might as well cut off a healthy limb as seek divorce, so grotesque is the proposal. Worse than this, it is as cutting out one’s heart, for how can one divide blood that is commingled?
But you who are faithful of heart, know what blessing awaits you, for “a faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds.” And if you seek “discernment, that [you] may observe [God’s] law and keep it with all [your] heart,” your spouse shall serve as savior to you, who are united with her to Christ. In her you will find your life, even as the two become one.
O LORD, may we take refuge in your friendship.
YHWH, bless all marriages this day; may there be true, lasting friendship between all who vow their love for one another. May they understand the commitment they make and the grace that comes to those faithful to it.
Let us not think that we can separate at will, O LORD; help us to realize the bond that comes even from you in this holy sacrament. Let us not harden our hearts against your loving will but sacrifice our desires to find union with that love. Let us never be adulterous in our relationships with one another or with you.
You would make a sturdy shelter for all those who marry in your NAME and in the blood of your only Son. LORD, what could be of greater worth to us than a faithful friend, a faithful husband or wife, and a marriage founded in your surpassing love? Open all eyes to the wonders you hold for those who love as you command. Write your NAME upon our hearts and upon our wedding promises.
Wed, 27 February 2019
(Sir.5:1-8; Ps.1:1-4,6,40:50; Mk.9:41-50)
“Mercy and anger are alike with Him;
upon the wicked alights His wrath.”
“The way of the wicked vanishes.” It must vanish. It cannot but vanish, for there is no place for wickedness in the kingdom of God. And so, what is wicked must “be thrown into Gehenna”: what is to “enter life” must be purified. Thus does the Lord command – Cut off your hand! Cut off your foot! Tear out your eye! Remove even with violence whatever causes you to sin to preserve your life unto heaven. For it is indeed better that you “enter life maimed” or “crippled” or “with one eye,” than to have your whole body cast into the fires of hell.
Do you fear being “plunged into the sea with a great millstone fastened around [your] neck”? Does this seem a terrible fate? The fires of hell are infinitely worse, and those of purgatory approach them. Know that “everyone will be salted with fire”; everyone must be purified of sin. And you can refuse this truth and so find yourself in the place “the worm does not die and the fire is never extinguished,” you can delay your purgation and suffer a measure of these flames in the state of purification after death – or you can remove the sin from your soul by the grace of God now, while there is yet time and His mercy is yet abundant.
“Great is His mercy; my many sins He will forgive,” you say, and you are not wrong. But do you know how the mercy of God affects the sinful soul? Do you think it a pleasant experience to be cleansed, to be refined as by fire? Do you not understand that the Lord’s love and justice, His mercy and anger, are one for the wicked. Yes, “the Lord will exact the punishment” that brings refreshment and renewal. He must. How else shall you be purged and purified for heaven? All the sins upon your blackened soul are removed only by the chastising flames of His love.
So, “delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day.” Be not a fool “adding sin upon sin,” for every transgression must be accounted for. But the Lord’s blood will wash me clean, you may say, if you have some sense of His redemptive sacrifice. Yes, but it is still your soul that must be cleansed, and you shall own the purgatorial fires. And so, hasten this day to the confessional; turn resolutely from your sin. Then pray for the Lord’s indulgence, and you may be spared even temporal punishment for your transgressions (and even serve in the Lord’s stead to release others from the pain of purgatorial flames).
O LORD, we will all be salted with fire –
may our souls be preserved from your wrath.
YHWH, let your wrath not suddenly flame forth to destroy our lives; the way of the wicked let us not walk that the unquenchable fire we shall never know. You cannot but be angry with those who persist in sin – you cannot pretend that such evil does not exist or look past the hardened heart. All will know your purgatorial flames, but may they be redeeming for every soul.
Why are we so foolish, O LORD? Why do we not turn to you this day, this hour, and delight in the Law you offer for our salvation? Should we not walk the way of love your Son has set forth for us and seek to soothe His desire for our love by meditating on your Word and serving those who bring it to us?
Let us not be cast into the sea with a millstone around our necks, LORD, but drink in the running water that comes from your Church, from the side of Christ. Only this will quench the fires of your wrath.
Tue, 26 February 2019
(Sir.4:11-19; Ps.119:165,168,171-172,174-175; Mk.9:38-40)
“Those who serve her serve the Holy One;
those who love her the Lord loves.”
Such is wisdom, she who “instructs her children and admonishes those who seek her,” she under whose counsel we become the children of God.
And I cannot help but think as I contemplate this personification of wisdom, how well and how appropriately she is embodied by our Blessed Mother, she who was immaculately conceived, she under whose mantle even Jesus our Savior “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk.2:52). “To Jesus through Mary” is the motto of the fortunate souls who have consecrated themselves to the Virgin (even as St. Louis De Montfort most wisely instructs), and it is through her intercession that we find God’s graces and favors lovingly bestowed upon us. She is our dear Mother, and instructs us as she has her Son.
Indeed it is His beloved disciple John whom the Lord must admonish today, teaching him that those who do the Lord’s work serve Him, and these He blesses; and, of course, it is this same disciple to whom Jesus will entrust His Blessed Mother – and she to him – even while dying on the cross: “He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn.19:26-27). And now as she has taught Him, so she shall teach His beloved, shall teach all His Church, how to follow the Holy One. And certainly the home into which John gathered the Virgin Mary was more than an earthly domicile: even “from that hour” he took her into his heart.
And she is with us still; she is with him who remains (see Jn.21:20-23), with the Church here on earth, serving as our Mother, guiding us in all wisdom. And, my brother, my sister, do not be discouraged if “at first she puts [you] to the test… and tries [you] with her discipline,” for she only seeks to learn that your “heart is fully with her,” and so, fully with her Son; she only longs to teach you wisdom. She will come back “to bring [you] happiness and reveal her secrets” to you. And as long as you remain with her, she will hold you in her loving arms as no other mother, and form you in the divine image of her blessed Son.
O Lord, “those who love your law have great peace,” for in your wisdom all question and doubt flee. Discipline me by your Word and form me in the womb of your Blessed Mother. “Let my soul live to praise you,” for I would be in your company forever. May your wisdom and grace keep me from “the hands of despoilers.”
O LORD, your wisdom transcends Heaven and earth;
let us listen to your instruction.
YHWH, let us never be against you, never fail in our embrace of the wisdom and grace that pour forth from your throne. Into your glory let us come, obediently following in the way of your Son, listening ever to His words of instruction. If we serve Him and love Him we will know the blessings that are upon Him through you and the Spirit.
Let us not be forgetful, O LORD, forgetful of the blessings we have known or the ones which are yet promised us if we continue along the path your precepts mark out for us in this dark world. Because the world is dark, you must sometimes hide your face from us, you must sometimes seem dark to our minds, which are clouded over by sin and the inclination to sin. But if we reach out to you, if we seek your will, trusting in your love, we will indeed come soon to sing your praise in the surpassing light of your kingdom.
Let us fear no discipline, LORD, but rather rejoice in carrying our cross with your Son.
Mon, 25 February 2019
(Sir.2:1-11; Ps.37:3-5,18-19,27-28,39-40; Mk.9:30-37)
“My son, when you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for trials.”
Is Jesus not “teaching His disciples in this vein” when He speaks of His imminent death, a death they shall share, and calls them to “remain the least one of all and the servant of all,” even as He is? Their arguing about importance reveals that they have not understood who they are, and so He would remind them that “in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.”
A kind of humiliation is upon the Lord’s disciples today as they fall silent in shame for “arguing about who was the most important, as Jesus stands a humble, silent child “in their midst” and calls them to embrace him, even as He has. They must make themselves lower than even this “little child,” they must be even more “sincere of heart and steadfast,” if they are to find the reward which awaits them. Yes, they must “cling to Him” even as He clings to them – even as He clings to this child – and “thus will [their] future be great”; thus will they come through the Son to the Father in heaven.
“Crushing misfortune” awaits the Lord’s disciples, for soon He shall be taken from them, and they will understand what His death means. But as long as they continue to “fear the Lord… [their] reward will not be lost”; for “three days after His death He will rise,” and those who give their lives as He has done, even as the least of all, shall also know what His resurrection means.
Oh brothers and sisters, “the Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever,” and we must be counted among their number. The Lord “forsakes not His faithful ones”; there is no one who has “hoped in the Lord and been disappointed.” So let our hope be in Him and our service be for Him, and He will help us to endure “whatever befalls” us. If He is our “refuge in time of distress,” we shall know our salvation, for whoever stands with Him in times of trial will also stand with Him in glory. Let us but remain humble before Him, as a child; let us but accept the children He would place in our arms… and the birth pangs we find will but lead us to our home in heaven.
To His house the Lord leads us, even in this life. Let us listen to His teaching.
O LORD, even in times of crushing misfortune
you are with us,
if we but turn to you in humility.
YHWH, you are more humble than a little child, and if we could but trust in you and be as you, you would care for us in all things. Make us as your children, as humble souls in your holy hand, that into your image we may be molded.
Your Son would lead us to you, LORD. By His death He would show us the trust we must have in your love. We must give all things over unto you, even our very life’s breath, to find how faithful you are, to find the life that is in you. After three days Jesus did rise, and if we but trust our own death to you, we shall rise with Him.
O LORD, let us not fear trial or distress, but in such humiliation increase our faith. This is your gift to us; this would bring us closer to you. And what more should we desire than to be more like you, who are more humble than a speck of dust, whose days are without end.
Sun, 24 February 2019
(Sir.1:1-10; Ps.93:1-2,5; Mk.9:14-29)
“There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon His throne: It is the Lord.”
“The Lord is King, in splendor robed,” and He alone knows “wisdom’s root” and all “her subtleties”; for it is He who created her and “poured her forth upon all His works.” And so He alone, whose “throne stands firm from of old,” He alone understands all things, and can answer any question. And should we not be awestruck by His presence?
That the Lord is robed in splendor as King over all we have seen only recently. Even today He descends from the mountain on which He was transfigured; and though His face no longer shines more brightly than the sun, yet “immediately on catching sight of Jesus, the whole crowd was overcome with awe” and rushed up to Him, for still His glorious presence overwhelms. At the base of the mountain the crowd and the disciples are engaged with the scribes “in a lively discussion” about the condition and fate of a poor child horribly possessed by a demon. Their words are empty wind, but the one with all answers approaches. And with a measure of faith from the boy’s father and those surrounding, He casts out the devil which even the disciples could not command, and which the scribes could not comprehend.
“What an unbelieving lot [we] are! How long must [the Lord] remain with [us]? How long can [He] endure” our lack of wisdom and grace? Brothers and sisters, why do we so lack faith? Why do we say to the Lord, “If you can”? Do we not know that “everything is possible to a man who trusts”? Do we think the Lord’s power is somehow cut short? Yes, we are weak and pitiable creatures, blind to the glory which surrounds us, but He is not! He is that glory, and that glory He shines for us. We need but come to Him with the awe the crowd shows today, and He will do all things for us.
“All wisdom comes from the Lord and with Him it remains forever”; and for us “fear of the Lord is glory and splendor,” for by fear of the Lord are we graced with His wisdom. And then what shall we lack of His power? Indeed, we shall by holy fear come to know the “holiness [that] befits [His] house” and so dwell with Him who is “from everlasting.” Do you believe this, my brother, my sister? Come to the One who is seated far above us, and you shall do His work here on earth with the wisdom His Blessed Mother imparts to all her blessed children.
O LORD, in your wisdom and majesty
you save us from all evil;
let us stand with you in holiness.
YHWH, shine your wisdom upon us like holy light; let us grope in darkness no more, blind to your presence. Jesus your Son has come down from the mountain to remain with us – may we run to Him for healing.
If wisdom had not been revealed to us, how would we know your majesty, LORD? If the Christ had not come to us, what would we know of your glory? But as it is, He has come, and in Him all things are ours to know. As it is, the Spirit now breathes upon us.
May we be blessed with fear of you, O LORD our God, that all demons may be cast from our hearts and we might stand in strength with your only Son. O let us have faith in Him and the power at His command! Let us know that we are the work of your hands and to holiness in your House you call us. In awe let us come before you.
Fri, 22 February 2019
(Heb.11:1-7; Ps.145:2-5,10-11; Mk.9:2-13)
“Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here.”
In yesterday’s gospel Jesus promised, “Among those standing here there are some who will not taste death until they see the reign of God established in power.” And today we witness the keeping of that promise, as upon “a high mountain” Jesus is transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James, and John. In all His glory does the Christ appear, with Elijah and Moses standing near and the voice of God the Father speaking of the blessing of His only Son. Indeed, how good it is for these apostles to be here!
But what these favored apostles see is not for their eyes alone; through them all shall come to believe and so find vision of our glorious Lord. Through them and their witness, faith is strengthened in all our hearts, faith which enables us to “perceive that the worlds were created by the word of God, and that what is visible came into being through the invisible.” Yes, the invisible is made known to all our eyes by the power of God, and all the Lord’s disciples join Peter, James, and John on Mount Tabor, basking in the vision of the glorified Son.
Know first though, brothers and sisters, that “anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Indeed, first one must have faith, or to one’s eyes nothing will be revealed. Have faith and know that God is a loving God, that He desires greatly to share His glory with all His children of faith; even as He has with Peter, James, and John; even as He has with Abel, Enoch, and Noah; even as He has with Moses and Elijah. But it is only “because of faith the men of old were approved by God,” only because of faith His apostles were able to see His Light shining – and only by your faith that you too will come into His presence. Have you their “confident assurance” burning in your souls? It is not far from you.
O Lord, “let all your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might.” Let all proclaim the favor with which you have deigned to grace their lives. Now that you have “risen from the dead,” now that our cause for faith is made complete, now that its firm foundation is set… open our mouths to declare your glory. We know that you had to “suffer much and be despised” and that with Elijah, with the Baptist, “they did entirely as they pleased,” but we do not fear the persecution which must come – only let us be where you are.
O LORD, make visible to us your invisible presence
and let us live in the light of your glory.
YHWH, if we had but faith in you, what might our eyes not see? What awe might we know in your presence if our hearts were but set on worship of your glorious majesty.
And why should we not have faith, LORD? Are there not signs of your glory everywhere, and most of all within our souls? Can we not hear you speaking to us if we but listen? Could we not see you if we but opened our eyes?
Why should we need the proof this world requires when the proof you give is so much greater? Are we not living in your Word, O LORD? Are you not hope itself? Then let us but live and we shall know you, and such knowledge will be undeniable.
Reveal to us your glory, LORD. Let us know what your apostles know; let us be witness to your majesty. Now that Jesus is risen let all the ends of the earth declare that your glory has come among us.
Wed, 20 February 2019
(Gn.9:1-13; Ps.102:16-23,29; Mk.8:27-33)
“The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence.”
In our first reading from Genesis, God remakes the world. As once He sent forth Adam and Eve upon their creation, so now He blesses Noah and his sons with the same words: “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” Here we are reminded that “in the image of God has man been made,” and once again God calls man to “abound on the earth and subdue it,” giving him power over all its living creatures. And now a promise is added, a covenant is made “between [God] and the earth,” sealed with the sign of the rainbow – “never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth”… We shall endure on the land He has made for us.
And the Lord works to remake His people in our gospel as well, as “on the way He ask[s] His disciples… ‘Who do you say that I am?’” He is the new Creation, He is “the Messiah,” and in Him all children shall be remade in the image of God, shall become as His only Son. And these truly shall endure, their posterity shall continue forever in the presence of Him who never dies. Even after the final destruction of this earth and those who cling to it by the fire of God, even beyond the covenant made with Noah, which shall so soon pass with the dust from which we were made… eternally we shall remain in the new heavens and the new earth, the ones which themselves will never pass away. For God’s promise to Noah is only for as long as the earth endures, but the earth is indeed passing away: only the covenant Jesus is bringing to His disciples and their posterity is one which is lasting as Heaven.
But to achieve this covenant, to found it firmly in the soul of Peter and his brothers and all us children of these servants, death must come to the only Son, and so surely to us all. The paradox seems difficult to comprehend, but with the vision of God, who “look[s] down from His holy height,” it is easy to see: as long as the earth endures and we upon it, so long shall sin also endure. (This is what the Lord sees when “from heaven He [beholds] the earth.”) Thus the only way to “release those doomed to die” by their imprisonment to sin is for the corrupted vessel in which we dwell to pass from the Lord’s sight. Thus does Jesus Christ die. This must He do in the place of evil man and all his abominations that the world now in the hands of Satan might be destroyed, and the Spirit of God come to life. And so His sacrifice brings our salvation, brings us new life in the New Jerusalem, where the servants of the Lord increase and multiply. In the domain He has prepared by His blood, let us ever remain.
O LORD, look down and save us from destruction
by the sacrifice of your only Son.
YHWH, what do you see as you look down on us from your holy height? Can you be pleased with your creatures if they do not follow your ways? You desire to give us the earth and all it holds, but we are not worthy of such a gift. And so you send your only Son to redeem us, to remake us in your image, that we might be pleasing to you and that we might inherit not just this world but eternal life in Him who dies for us. Praise you for your kindness toward us! Let us come to Him and follow in His way.
Jesus dies for us, LORD. In flesh He comes and offers His life that all the corruption upon us might be taken away, that it might die with Him on the Cross. And should we not follow Him to the Cross? Should we not see that all that is evil in us dies with Him that we might rise unto your heavenly kingdom? O let it be so! Let us come to the place where we shall never be destroyed. Look down upon us and hear our prayer.
Tue, 19 February 2019
(Gn.8:6-13,20-22; Ps.116:12-15,17-19; Mk.8:22-26)
“Noah then removed the covering of the ark
and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.”
A return to earth, the flood waters having ceased. A new day dawns in this “the first month, on the first day of the month.” The world is made anew, and it shall last, and man shall last upon it, until the last day comes. Here is the second Creation, the first re-creation… the new generation extending from Noah. After the cleansing rain, a soft white glow is upon the earth, a radiance of God’s presence.
Gradually it comes to us, this vision of new life that is the Lord Himself. Three times Noah sent the dove forth from the ark before the blessed moment came when “it did not come back,” when all could rejoice that the waters had subsided. And twice the Lord touched the blind man’s eyes before “his sight was restored and he could see everything clearly.” Just as first the dove came back quickly, then with a “plucked-off olive leaf” in its bill (showing that the tops of trees were visible), before finding a place to make a home; so first the man sees people “like walking trees” before the Lord touches Him again and perfect vision becomes his own. It is only gradually – day by day, week by week, year by year – that we come to full awareness of the Lord and with Him make our home.
And once out of the ark, “Noah built an altar to the Lord.” And how pleased the Lord is with the “sweet odor” of the sacrifice he offers. Here is the beginning of the sacrifices at the heart of Jewish worship which shall find their place in the temple at Jerusalem, “in the courts of the house of the Lord,” and know their fulfillment in the eternal sacrifice of the only Son. Of course, it is not the odor alone which pleases the Lord, but what it signifies: Noah thinks first of Him who always thinks of us first, and so engages God in a marvelous mutual love. Here our second human father reveals to the Lord that the goodness He has planted in us is not gone, that it is not necessarily so that “the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start,” that he is capable of love… though this truth shall not be known in full until the redemptive offering of Christ on the cross.
“As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease,” and mankind shall not be struck again from the land. “How shall [we] make a return to the Lord” for this special blessing? And how shall we repay Him for “the cup of salvation” we now “take up,” the cup which holds the blood of the Son? For Noah’s sacrifice is indeed made complete in our midst, before our eyes, and the waters that once threatened to overwhelm us now recede as we discover our home in the heavenly kingdom. We must show that the fullness of God’s love exists in us and join our lives to our Savior’s holy sacrifice.
O LORD, open our eyes
that we might know your presence among us
and offer you due praise in the sacrifice of our lives.
YHWH, may our sacrifice be acceptable in your sight. May it come from a sincere heart and express our gratitude for saving us from the overwhelming waters of our sins. May it be joined to the sacrifice of your Son and so be fruitful, and so serve to keep us from all harm and bring us to your kingdom.
Our blindness we beg you cure, LORD, by the grace at the hands of Jesus. May He take us aside and place us in your presence that we might be healed of all that keeps us from knowing you and praising you for your goodness. Help us to have faith that you are leading us to the land you promise, to the new heavens and new earth. For this grace let us ever call upon your NAME.
And help us to make return to you, O LORD, you who alone deserve our worship and love. A holy offering may we lift up even as we lay down our lives with your only Son.
Mon, 18 February 2019
(Gn.6:5-8,7:1-5,10; Ps.29:1-4,9-11; Mk.8:14-21)
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters,
the Lord, over vast waters.”
“Mighty” indeed is the voice of God, but who can hear it? Who listens to its “majestic” ringing in their ears?
In the time of Noah the Lord’s “heart was grieved,” for He “saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil.” So great was the Lord’s grief over man’s disobedience that He uttered the saddest words we could hear: “I am sorry I made them,” and resolved to “wipe [them] out from the earth.” If we have not pleased our Father, what hope have we of life? If we have not listened to His voice, what can we hear but a sentence of condemnation?
It seems Jesus’ heart is grieved, too, today at His disciples’ ignorance of His instruction. Here in a boat upon the waters His voice chastises their slowness to comprehend His call to wakefulness in the Spirit: “Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight? Ears but no hearing?” and finally, “Do you still not understand?” And though He seems eminently frustrated by the fact that their vision is still trained so stubbornly on the bread of earth rather than the Bread of heaven, though they so quickly forget the miracles He has worked and the power He has revealed, yet He shall not remove them from His sight, but continue in patience with their schooling.
For just as “Noah found favor with the Lord” and thus served to salvage our race from utter destruction, so the Lord’s apostles have found favor with Him. And Jesus knows that as “Noah did just as the Lord had commanded him,” putting complete faith in God’s word, so these disciples will also in strength and in faith carry out His mission after His own death and resurrection, after His ascension into heaven… and with the Holy Spirit’s power upon them. As in Noah’s ark God keeps man’s “issue alive over all the earth,” preserving them from the flood, so now in the barque of Peter “all the [Lord’s] household” takes refuge from the fiery destruction that is coming upon the world in these the last days.
Like the “one loaf” the disciples hold in their hands is the Church of the Lord – it is all that is needed for food in this world. And so as we sail along to the farther shore, let us listen to God’s mighty voice speaking through Her. As the end approaches, be sure to heed the Lord’s instruction: “Keep your eyes open!” Beware the hypocrisy and pride of the powers that be.
O LORD, how shall we be just in your sight
and begin to understand your majesty and glory?
YHWH, you are majestic, exalted far above earth and sea and every living creature. But we are deaf and blind to your ways, and so, beset by wickedness. How shall we hear your mighty voice calling to us over the waters, calling to us in your Son? How shall we heed the thunder of your glory and praise you in your Temple with full voice? How do we begin to understand what is far beyond our poor minds?
Send your Spirit upon us, LORD, that we might know and eat the Bread that is your Son, that we might be saved from the destruction that is coming upon all living things. Into your Ark let us come, into your holy Church; with your apostles let us dwell, enlightened by your teaching and sharing in your food.
The Bread of Heaven make our own, LORD, that we might rise above the earth to where you dwell enthroned in glory and majesty with your only Son.
Sun, 17 February 2019
(Gn.4:1-15,25; Ps.50:1,8,14,16-17,20-21; Mk.8:11-13)
“Sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Thus does the Lord encourage Cain not to hang his head at his failures in worship but to learn from his errors and be strong. Here already in Scripture we see how redemption is possible, how God gives us power to conquer sin. But Cain does not fight off the demon at his door but instead attacks his brother Abel, killing him who has overcome sin. The jealous demons write their name in Abel’s blood, by the hand of Cain his brother.
And the Pharisees are the same as Cain. It is they of whom our psalmist sings, they who “recite [the Lord’s] statutes, and profess [His] covenant with [their] mouth,” but whose hearts are far from Him and who “hate discipline and cast [His] words behind” themselves. It is they who “sit speaking against [their] brother,” for indeed they come to “argue with Jesus,” to “test” Him who is most especially their brother, who is their Messiah. And it is they who will shed their brother’s blood, who will conspire to kill their own “mother’s Son.” And though Jesus Himself “correct[s] [them] by drawing [their sin] up before [their] eyes,” yet, like Cain, they refuse to see the evil taking hold of them, and so will be unable to turn from it. And their punishment shall be greater than that of Cain, for so much greater is their sin. As Cain is banished from the soil which had been his own, so the covenant which the Lord had given into the Chosen people’s possession shall be taken from their leaders’ hands, and they shall be left empty – except for the hope of turning to Him and cleansing themselves in Jesus’ blood.
The sign the Pharisees seek is essentially one they would make with their own hands, one which they would find at their command. But “no such sign will be given” them, for then truly would they be condemned. They must come to the sign Jesus is and accept it as the Lord God offers – their attempts to control the Father’s will are perhaps the most tragic of transgressions. They say, as does Cain, that God must accept matters their way and are not humble to His Son’s teaching. And so, sadly for them, “He left them” there on the shore alone, burning in their jealousy.
Fight the demons, brothers and sisters. Ward off sin in all its forms. The Lord promises we shall have the strength, if we are willing to turn from our sins and accept His chastising word… and wash ourselves in His cleansing blood. But if we remain “resentful” and so “deaf” to the Lord’s correction, what shall save our souls? And with Cain we will wander restlessly the earth, avoiding the glorious presence of the Lord.
O LORD, we are a jealous race;
forgive our shedding the blood of our Brother.
YHWH, how sinful we are! How we turn our hand against our brother, inflicting upon him the punishment for our guilt. In condemning others we seek to rid ourselves of the condemnation we deserve; but this only brings the punishment on our own heads. Help us to admit our sin and turn away from it!
Killing our Brother will not free us from the death upon our souls. O LORD, how can we be so blind, so hardhearted, as to think such wickedness is our salvation? Jesus comes to us as our Brother, as the one closest to us and most concerned for our well-being… but we cannot bear to hear His voice speaking of our need to turn away from sin, and so, what can we do but kill Him? O set us free from bloodguilt!
Accept the sacrifice of a pure heart, dear God; make our offering to you sincere. Our very hearts let us give in the service of our brother.
Fri, 15 February 2019
(Gn.3:9-24; Ps.90:1-6,12-13; Mk.8:1-10)
“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Because of the fall we come face-to-face with this truth: our own mortality, our own humility, that we are but a creature made from the dust of the earth. And this truth we must understand. Because we have “eaten from the tree of which [God] had forbidden [us] to eat,” “thorns and thistles” the earth brings forth for us and “by the sweat of [our] face shall [we] get bread to eat,” until we learn our place – for our own sakes – before our Creator, or “until we return to the ground, from which we were taken.”
“Cursed be the ground because of you!” the Lord God exclaims to the man. The womb of the woman, like the earth for man, shall bring her pain in bearing children, in bearing her fruit… and the serpent shall eat dust “all the days of [his] life.” If now we should eat of the tree of life, to what state would we be condemned! How shall we be saved from such a fate, wherein our own flesh brings upon us such pangs – how shall we escape ourselves? And how shall we look upon God again?
“Teach us to number our days aright,” our psalmist cries, “that we may gain wisdom of heart.” And what is he asking but that we realize, as God would teach us, that though He is “from everlasting to everlasting,” that though for Him “a thousand years are as… a watch of the night,” we are “like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades.” So passing is our life. This indeed we must comprehend, for this is truth, and failing to understand it we shall not find answer to our prayer: “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” But knowing our limitations before our God, He comes quickly to remedy our weakness.
See how Jesus looks upon those who “were without anything to eat,” those whose bodies fainted before His eyes. Listen to the thought of His heart: “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd. By now they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way. Some of them have come a great distance.” Oh how the Lord has pity on us! Oh how He knows our plight – that we are but fading grass, having been far removed from His sight! And how He wills to feed us, to nourish those who come to Him, who share the “three days” of His trial. For though they toiled not, “the people in the crowd ate their fill” in the most peaceful of fields. The Lord had come to save them! And now eternal life is upon them.
Brothers and sisters, we need no longer fear our dying flesh, for the Lord feeds us with Bread that does not fail, that brings life eternal to the lowly body that eats it. And so, no longer are we dust alone, though to dust our body may return. But we become eternal souls in the hand of our Savior, eating from the tree of life He is. In all humility let us receive His gift, His saving presence among us. And to God we shall return, and now forever.
O LORD, feed us with the Bread of life
that we might lie in the dust no more.
YHWH, have pity on our weakness, for our flesh is like the changing grass – we do but wilt and fade. Weak in body and in spirit we find ourselves separated from you by our sins, by our disobedience to your command. You care only for our good; let us come to you and remain with you till you take pity on our souls.
You give us food to eat, O LORD, even the body of your only Son. Let us not prefer the food of this world or that which the devil offers. If our eyes are opened unto death, if we but see our weakness, our nakedness before you, without realizing your eternal love… to what end shall we come? We shall but return to dust.
Your punishments are good, LORD; your chastisements are what heal our tortured souls. Let our suffering be joined to Jesus’ own, that we shall hunger for you alone, and in our humility you will be quick to feed us and return us to your fold.
Thu, 14 February 2019
(Gn.3:1-8; Ps.32:1-2,5-7; Mk.7:31-37)
“The eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked.”
How different this opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve is from the opening of the deaf man’s ears in our gospel; for our first parents’ eyes were opened unto blindness, but the deaf mute’s ears and tongue only to light.
Why this difference? Why such contrast in the freeing of the senses to receive their signals? Why is one evil and the other good? The opening of the eyes of the man and the woman brings their downfall because they are not prepared for what they see. They seek to be “like gods who know what is good and what is bad,” but they have not the skins to hold such wine of wisdom. And so they burst. And so they died before the glorious light suddenly before them… and so “the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden,” for they could not show their faces of dust before His Face of Majesty. (Indeed, the woman first erred when she “answered the serpent,” when she responded to his enticement, not realizing she was no match for his “cunning”… much as she failed to understand she is no match for God’s wisdom.)
On the other hand, the opening of the deaf man’s ears and the loosing of his tongue is prepared by Jesus Christ, He in whose presence we are able to see light itself, He who provides the new wineskins for our becoming like God, enabling us to stand before the wonder of His Holy Face. Notice how “Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd” before healing the deaf-mute; see how this contrasts with Adam and Eve’s hiding from God. Where they would avoid the glance of the Lord, Jesus brings the man closer to Him by drawing him away from the crowds; and there, more perfectly in His presence, He heals him. And the man is healed, of course, because he himself does not hide: he is brought openly by his friends to Jesus. In this way he “acknowledged [his] sin” before God; his “guilt [he] covered not” (as the man and woman covered their nakedness with fig leaves). No, in his “spirit there is no guile,” and so his “fault is taken away”; and so, paradoxically, he who “confess[es] his sin to the Lord,” as the humble King David, finds that by the Lord his “sin is covered” – he is forgiven.
Brothers and sisters, let us learn to open our tattered souls to our Lord and God, never to hide; for to hide is hell and the Lord calls us to Him in the light of heaven. And He will prepare our eyes to see, and He will make our ears ready to hear, and our tongues shall be loosed to praise His name and exclaim our amazement at His grace… for we shall be released from the blindness of sin and be as His Son, who alone can answer the devil.
O LORD, let us hear your voice calling us
to confess our sins and return to you this day.
YHWH, how terrible it is when we transgress your Word, when we rebel against your loving will! We are blinded by our sin even as our eyes are opened to our weakness… and so we hide from your glory, which we cannot contain.
We have bodies, LORD. You have made us so. We are not like you, pure Spirit and perfect Light. And how weak our bodies can be when we lack your secure protection, when we lose your presence with us by our failing to love you. Who can save us from such travail? Who can open our ears again to hear and heed your holy Word?
O LORD, as we confess our faults to you, as we come before your Son to seek His healing – He who comes to show us that we are like you (for He is like you and we like Him), He who would restore us to our place as your children, blessed to be in your image… then our nakedness is covered; it is taken away as we reveal our weakness before you. Let us listen only to you!
Wed, 13 February 2019
(Gn.2:18-25; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.7:24-30)
“A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one body.”
And Jesus leaves His Father’s side and His mother’s care, and takes to wife His chosen people. From His side indeed we are born, and become His holy family.
To the “sons of the household” Jesus comes; among the Israelites He walks, calling them to His table to eat the food of eternal life, of eternal union with Him and His Father. Those who were conceived by God, who were taken as a rib from His own side and formed as His special bride, Jesus seeks to bring to full nuptial blessing in Him. For this He would even die (as any man should for his wife). But one “approached Him and crouched at His feet” who was not among those called to the “table first,” who was not of the family of the Chosen. Unfazed by His rebuff she continues begging, not for “the food of the children” but just for their “leavings,” their crumbs, knowing even this will be enough to join her to His banquet, believing only a word from His mouth will save her own daughter from the devil’s clutches and bring her to His sacred presence.
And moved is He by her who is unmoved by His rebuke. And so, “when she got home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.” And so she finds herself and her family wed to Jesus the Christ. Why? Because she is one who does indeed “fear the Lord,” who does in fact “walk in His ways”; crawling on her knees before Him, she finds herself “happy” and “favored,” eating “the fruit of [her] handiwork.” She knows she is not one of the “wild animals” or of the “birds of the air”: she is made in God’s image, a human being, and is inextricably drawn to His side, the side from which she has been born… and thus she finds her life and becomes with her daughter (with all us Gentile people) one of the “olive plants around [His] table,” grafted onto His “fruitful vine.”
Let man love woman as his own flesh, and let all men love one another as fellow children, for our Father in heaven loves us all much more greatly and draws us all to be wed to Him through our Bridegroom, His only Son. As His side is opened by the lance and so we His Church are born in His blood, washed clean by His holy water, so let husbands give themselves for their wives, knowing they are “taken from” their own sides. Yes, let us all die for one another that the love of God might extend to “the recesses of [His] home,” from which no soul is excluded. In His blessed marriage feast let us all shout for joy!
O LORD, blessed are those
who humble themselves before you;
they shall be joined to you.
YHWH, flesh of your flesh we are; flesh of your flesh let us be, wed to you through the flesh of your only Son. One with you let us dwell forever, for from you our very lives taken.
And help us thus to love one another, LORD. If you love us so much to give us yourself, let us then reflect your love and so give ourselves for the sake of others. Let husbands love their wives and all souls serve the needs of others, finding great joy and blessing in thus serving your will.
To your table let all come, LORD, that they might share the food of your children, the Bread that is Jesus your Son, the Word that is your Spirit. May all souls recognize the greatness and the goodness of Him who walks among us, and may we be hidden with Him in you and so become your fruitful children. In faith let us be born and live in you and with you forever; let none be alone or apart from you.
Tue, 12 February 2019
(Gn.2:4-9,15-17; Ps.104:1-2,27-30; Mk.7:14-23)
“The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.”
In addition, “out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food.” These would feed the body of the man. But only spirit feeds the soul.
Body and soul. They meet in man and become one, yet one is the cause of life while the other passes. When God formed man out of the clay of the ground, what He held in His hands was the body, and at the time it was dead. Not until He breathed into him did man become alive: in this breath he found his soul. And the time shall come when this form does rot, but not the soul. Only in heaven will we have bodies that live eternally with our spirits (though certain saints – as did our Blessed Mother – may know this holy union even here on earth.)
And so does Jesus tell us “that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure,” and, to make this point graphically clear, adds, “It does not penetrate his being, but enters his stomach only and passes into the latrine.” What is of the body is just so passing, and therefore of no consequence. It is “what emerges from within a man” that “makes him impure.” For sins such as “acts of fornication, theft, murder,” etc. are not the result of the food we eat, but of the thoughts in “the deep recesses of the heart.” These are what make a man impure – or, by contrast, which will make him pure. It is the soul that is capable of good or evil, not the body. And even though it is eating of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” that causes man’s downfall, this is not the result of the fruit itself, but of the covetousness and pride of man’s disobedience. It is the ‘eating,’ the desire of the eye and the heart and the act which follows, which constitutes the sin, and not the fruit eaten.
Our psalmist speaks of the body and soul as well. It is so that by the Lord we are “filled with good things,” that He gives us “food in due time,” food we need for our survival; but as the psalmist says of the soul, “If you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust.” How quickly we would die, in a moment or two, without the breath of God in our nostrils, without His Word to give us life. And what great care we should take of the spirit that enters our beings. May our souls ever be set upon our God and His teaching. May our every thought and word and action be of Him, that we shall never be disobedient. O Lord, “when you send forth your Spirit, [we] are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” Give us your divine breath of life in our nostrils this day.
O LORD, you make us of the clay of the earth,
but it is not the body that is of consequence
but the Spirit breathing within us –
let it be your own.
YHWH, it is you who make us of the clay of the ground and you who breathe the breath of life into our nostrils. It is you who feed us in both body and spirit – you are our LORD and God.
It is you who care for us each day, O LORD, you who send your Son to take away our sins. He reveals to us that it is not the flesh that gives life but the Spirit that is within; and He would cleanse us of all iniquity that we might stand as your sons always.
Though Jesus comes in the flesh and gives us of His flesh to eat, this food is not the passing kind but that which lasts unto eternal life. And so, LORD, we pray that we shall embrace Him and the Word, the Spirit, He imparts to us. Thus will we be raised from the dust of death, from the chains that bind us to this earth, and rise with Him unto Heaven.
Feed us with your Word, LORD, that we might be renewed and live forever in your Garden.
Mon, 11 February 2019
(Gn.1:20-2:4; Ps.8:2,4-9; Mk.7:1-13)
“God created man in His image;
in the divine image He created him.”
At God’s word “the water teem[s] with an abundance of living creatures… birds fly beneath the dome of the sky,” and “the earth bring[s] forth all kinds of living creatures,” too. And “God saw how good it was.” Then God conceived the crown of His creation and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And so, “little less than the angels He made him” and gave him “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” And all this was “very good” in God’s eyes. Alleluia!
But what does man do with this ultimate blessing from His Creator: he takes the freedom and power placed in his hands and makes himself a slave to “cups and jugs and kettles,” forever trying to wash his hands clean of the sin upon them. God gives man “rule over the works of [His] hands, putting all things under his feet,” and all man can do is trample upon them as he forgets the God who made him.
“How accurately Isaiah prophesied about [us] hypocrites when he wrote… ‘Empty is the reverence they do me because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts.’” Placing our traditions and practices above God’s commandments we lose sight of the glory upon us, of the majesty of God’s works around us, as we lock ourselves in a dark and empty room of our own making. And all the creatures God has placed in our unclean hands suffer too, as our hearts turn from their stewardship to our selfish plottings. And so, though we are crowned by God “with glory and honor,” we crown Him with thorns.
O Lord, “what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” Lord, come and restore us to our former glory. Father, let us give you true honor. May your Word be made fruitful in our lives and we become as your Son. Let all be blessed and made holy again in your sight. In Jesus’ blood please wash our hands, that we might help you build your peaceful kingdom.
O LORD, may your Word be fulfilled in us;
may we who were created in your image
be recreated in the image of your Son,
washed clean in His blood.
YHWH, you place all things in our hands, and we but corrupt them. Your glory and majesty you reflect in your creation, and especially in man, but he cares not well for your gift and abuses his dominion. His hands are not subject to your will but soiled by his own, and so creation with them.
In your image you create us, LORD: what greater blessing could there be! Like gods we are made to reflect your presence on this plane – why have we gone so astray? And how shall we return to you? Only by heeding the chastising word of your only Son, who speaks with your own authority. Listening to Him we heed your commands; turning from Him we can only be condemned.
Thank you for all your blessings, LORD, for the beauty and goodness of your creation. Most of all, we thank you for making us in your image. Let us not nullify your word and remove ourselves from your presence, but honor you in all we do.
Sun, 10 February 2019
(Gn.1:1-19; Ps.104:1-2,5-6,10,12,24,31,35; Mk.6:53-56)
“How manifold are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have wrought them all.”
It is the Lord who “fixed the earth upon its foundation not to be moved forever,” and “with the ocean, as with a garment [He] covered it” – “the earth is full of His creatures.” By the Word of His mouth all comes into being, and is sustained, sustained in the goodness of God.
Here as we read the beginning of sacred Scripture, we might do well to quote St. Bonaventure from the day’s Office of Readings. In speaking of knowledge of Christ as “the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all sacred Scripture,” He states: “It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in Christ. This faith is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and a key to its understanding.” But how many read God’s Word as though in a dark room.
The prevailing lack of faith and so blindness to the truth of Scripture is evident again today in the commentary of my missal, which says of the Creation prophecy in Genesis, “The story is divided artificially,” giving as example the fact that “the sun is created after light.” How indeed we grope in darkness without the light of the Spirit; without childlike faith we shall never understand God’s Word, never enter His kingdom. Is the light of God dependent upon the sun or the stars? When our psalmist sings of the Lord “robed in light as with a cloak,” is it sunlight of which he speaks? Does the light of the Lord not necessarily precede the limited light of the sun – which the Lord has but made “to govern the day” for a time – even as it shall be all by which we see when the sun and the moon and the stars pass away? Where is your faith, where is your understanding… why is the Lord’s light not in you, my brother?
Brothers and sisters, as the people of Gennesaret upon seeing Jesus “immediately recognized Him” and “scurried about” to bring all their sick to Him, so we must be drawn by the light of God to the Truth that is Christ the Lord. He is in every page of Scripture. He is at work with the Father in Creation. He is the all-powerful Word which brings all into being by its eminent wisdom made flesh before our eyes; and we shall never know the wonder of God’s works and the wonders He has wrought in our own soul unless we come to faith in Him. In Jesus are all God’s works revealed. He is the light of the universe. (And though His radiance extends beyond our sight to infinite galaxies, it is here in this dome between clouds and sea we dwell, the earth from which we have been formed solidly beneath our feet.)
O LORD, you created the world and all it holds
and redeemed us by your Son –
let your light be upon us this day.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth you have created the heavens and the earth and given us light to guide our way. It is you in whom all glory and majesty dwell, yet you have made this world as a reflection of your beauty. For this we should ever praise you.
But how we have disfigured your Creation, LORD! How we have lost our way. Still, you do not leave us alone in the darkness we have made – to us you send your only Son, Word made flesh, Light of the world. And as we recognize in Him your glory in our midst, as we reach out to Him for healing, we are made well again, whole in your sight.
Let us dwell, O LORD, in the place you have made for us; in your goodness let us remain. Through the ministry of your Son let us be fed by your hand, that we might be led one day to your Promised Land.
Fri, 8 February 2019
(Heb.13:15-17,20-21; Ps.23:1-6; Mk.6:30-34)
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.”
All things are cared for by the Lord; our work and our rest are in His hands. Nothing need we fear. No good desire goes unfulfilled – His sheep He loves.
Brothers and sisters, “through Christ may [the God of peace] carry out in you all that is pleasing to Him.” Let Him guide you “in right paths” for the accomplishment of His will. In “good deeds and generosity,” in obedience to superiors, in every intention of the heart, “continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge His name,” for this thanksgiving He desires before all deeds and in all deeds; such praise will ensure His blessing, and lead to greater praise, and so greater blessing! Have every confidence that the Lord “will furnish you with all that is good, that you may do His will,” and rejoice always in all you accomplish by His grace.
See in our gospel that when “the apostles returned to Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and what they had taught,” “He said to them, ‘Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little.’” They have done His work faithfully, and now He would give them rest; now He would refresh and renew their souls. “Beside restful waters He leads me”: in a “boat by themselves” He takes them. “In verdant pastures He gives me repose”: “to a deserted place” the boat goes. And though upon arrival at their destination the people wait “like sheep without a shepherd” and so their work must resume, this does not distract from the promised rest which awaits the finishing of our work in this world, and indeed but emphasizes that our rest shall be complete only in heaven.
For now the Lord watches over. Now He cares for us like needful sheep. Now He takes upon Himself all our fears and burdens, and calls us to do the same for all. What should we want? What do we need when we do the Lord’s will? In this laying down of our lives all is provided; in our work we take our rest, we eat our bread. For He is with us with His “goodness and kindness”; He remains at our side even in darkness… We become one with our Shepherd, and no further grace we desire.
O LORD, in you alone we take our rest,
through the blood of your only Son.
YHWH, through Jesus may we carry out your will; washed in His blood may we be raised from the dead. In Him let us take our refuge, and nothing shall be wanting to us.
In your Son all our needs are met, and this to overflowing. For He has pity on all our weakness – O LORD, let us be obedient to our Shepherd!
LORD our God, let us praise you in all things, your NAME ever on our lips. In all our work may we be blessed and brought into your heavenly presence.
You would give us rest, dear God; you call us to an out-of-the-way place to be with you. May we find repose in your eternal kingdom after these days of toil are passed.
But even here you are with us, LORD, even in this dark place. Your Son is the Shepherd who walks amongst His sheep, leading us ever to your side.
Thu, 7 February 2019
(Heb.13:1-8; Ps.27:1,3,5,8-9; Mk.6:14-29)
“I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you.”
A series of parallels we have today between our first reading and our gospel. Paul instructs us in his letter to the Hebrews not to “neglect to show hospitality” to our “fellow Christians,” since we may be “entertain[ing] angels” thereby; but it is not angels Herod entertains at his birthday banquet, and a false sense of hospitality leads him to grave sin, as when Herodias’ daughter requests the Baptist’s head on a platter, “because of his oath and the presence of his guests,” he “dispatch[es] an executioner.”
Paul also tells us to “be mindful of prisoners as if [we] were sharing their imprisonment”; and it seems almost against himself Herod indeed sympathizes with John. We are told, “When he heard him speak he was very much disturbed; yet he felt the attraction of his words.” He knows John is the angel he should better entertain, but denies the voice speaking to his heart. And so Paul’s warning, “You may yet suffer as they do,” proves true with Herod, who is clearly imprisoned by his own fear that John has been raised from the dead to haunt his soul.
Of course, the central cause of all Herod’s problems is his breaking the command Paul expresses distinctly: “Let marriage be honored in every way and the marriage bed be kept undefiled,” for it is “on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married,” that John chastises Herod, that the king has the prophet imprisoned, and that he is cornered into murdering him. And so now he knows very deeply the extent to which “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” Indeed, his adulterous relationship and his niece/daughter’s dance of lust stand as examples comparable to the profligate lands of Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality, for their opposition to the Father’s love.
It is the Father’s love and our trust therein which rises above the immorality and violence so present in our gospel. At the heart of Paul’s letter is his paraphrase of today’s psalm: “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?” Indeed the faith in God David sings of so confidently – “Though an army encamp against me… though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust” – is what the Baptist holds in his own spirit, even as he extends his neck for the executioner’s blade. He knows well that the Lord “will hide [him] in His abode in the day of trouble,” and so no trouble does his death cause him: the Lord will certainly “set [him] high upon a rock,” keeping him untouched by the lust and destruction which surround him in Herod’s dank prison. It is Herod upon whom darkness shall fall.
“Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me.” Through all things let me remain in your light. And as John’s life ended, this greatest of “leaders who spoke the word of God” to us, so let my own, in faith in you, O Lord, who are with us forever.
O LORD, though thrown in prison or put to death,
still you protect us;
in purity in your presence let us dwell.
YHWH, O what fate awaits those who feed their lust, who wallow in the wickedness of this world! Theirs is a punishment far worse than death, for never will their fear come to an end.
But those who love you and their brothers, LORD, those who have pity on souls most in need, these are shielded by you in the day of trouble and shall rise to be with you in the end.
Your children are persecuted on this earth, O LORD our God. They walk in the footsteps of your Son. But despite the war that is waged upon them, despite the threat of death itself, those who trust in you are not shaken. But those who sit upon the thrones of sin, those who give free reign to their passion and greed – these do but fat themselves for the day of slaughter, when the dance of lust shall be long past.
Let us serve you in our brothers, LORD. Let us share in the pains of those oppressed and keep ever to your way, and you will keep us from all harm to sit with John and Jesus on the last day.
Wed, 6 February 2019
(Heb.12:18-19,21-24; Ps.48:2-4,9-11; Mk.6:7-13)
“You have drawn near to MountZion
and the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem…”
“…to the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” Alleluia! “Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God.” And great is our call to dwell in His blessed City with all His holy ones, and with our Lord. Could there be a greater cause for joy? For “His holy mountain, fairest of heights, is the joy of all the earth,” and the joy of heaven.
To the New Jerusalem we are drawn, brothers and sisters, to the fairest heights. Holiness in the Lord is our call – to dwell with our Lord forever. But what is the road that leads to such a blessed mountain? How do we who tread the dust of this earth find our way to heaven? Evident the Lord makes the path today in the summoning of His apostles. In their call we find our own.
“Do not bring a second tunic,” Jesus says to the Twelve as He sends them forth to preach and to heal. For they are to make no provision, to put no stock in the things of the earth… “to take nothing on the journey.” Their trust must be entirely in Him and the word with which He anoints them: the power He gives, the grace He provides, is sufficient not only to cast out demons, but to find all we need for our day-to-day lives. The Lord teaches us as He teaches them that our faith must be complete, our spirits wholly set on His will, if we are to make our way across the dust of this earth to His kingdom. Nothing short of the sacrifice He Himself offers first will bring us there. His sprinkled blood must be upon us, and work through us.
“O God, we ponder your kindness in your temple”; we marvel at your grace. For no longer by “fearful… spectacle” of “blazing fire” and “gloomy darkness” do you make yourself known to us. No longer are you “untouchable,” Lord. But present in our midst, sandals upon your feet, you, O unapproachable glory, draw near to us, and so enable us to draw near to you, to touch you, O wounded Savior. And your sandals you place upon our feet and invite us to walk in the way you have shown. May we do so, Lord, as humbly as thou; and so to our eyes and our hearts make your kingdom known.
All the saints in heaven, pray for us. All His holy angels, watch over our way. May our feet stand forever upon the Lord’s holy mountain. In His heavenly City let us make our home. (In His Church, in His Mass, He is with us.)
O LORD, may we take with us only
the Cross of your Son
as we journey to your holy mountain.
YHWH, how can we express the joy of the gracious gift of your Son in our midst? In Him your Temple comes to us; in Him we dwell in your City, O living God. He is the mountain to whom all holy souls come. His is the blood that washes us clean and prepares our hearts to receive your glory. May we follow in His steps this day that we might live ever in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Nothing need we but your Son and His Cross, O LORD. There is nothing in which we should put our trust but His Word. For walking in His sandals all is provided for us – what does any son need but you.
O Father in Heaven, in your great love you think of us and draw us into your presence with all the holy ones. Let us be made ready to stand on your mountain by our trust in you today. Let your Son work in us; in Him let us make our home.
Tue, 5 February 2019
(Heb.12:4-7,11-15; Ps.103:1-2,13-14,17-18; Mk.6:1-6)
“Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines;
He scourges every son He receives.”
Like His only Son we must be. For without discipline where would we be? Apart from the Lord’s chastising hand, into what state would we fall? Without the cross, how could we find the kingdom?
If the Lord did not scourge us, we would be blind as His countrymen in our gospel today, who question even what their ears behold and their eyes see – dead to His presence we would remain. Only the dust of His flesh would we look upon, thinking He is no more than our sinful selves; far short of His divinity would we fall. And so a word of chastisement He brings to our hearts, as He does those of “His native place,” of “His own house,” condemning our failure to honor God in His prophets and in His Son, calling us beyond our eyes of flesh to the breath of the Spirit.
Oh how our “lack of faith distress[es] Him”! Oh how He would stir within us “that holiness without which no one can see the Lord”! For “the kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear Him,” and His kindness He would have all know. But failing of a reverent awe for the Most High Lord, what do we do but grovel in the dust? Our hearts cannot know Him if they are not humble; our souls cannot bless Him if they are not holy… and so we lose “all His benefits” by a stubborn pride. This is not the will of God.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord “knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.” But from the dust He calls us to join Him on high, to rise above our earthen state. In His compassion the Father would have us be even as He is; and so He sends His only Son to suffer for our sins, to show us the path to holiness we must walk. “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees”; fear not the cross of Jesus. For by it you will be made strong, you will be made whole; through it “the grace of God” will pour, and make you as His own.
Peace soon follows every cord of scourging; the nails in our hands open our souls to the Spirit’s movement, to the Lord’s love, as by this bleeding our sins are purged. And in His light we shall soon stand, “all [our] being bless[ing] His holy name.” Then we shall no longer question His wisdom but in His mercy make our home.
O LORD, may we be your sons
not just in flesh but in truth;
your compassion be upon us
in the discipline of your Word.
YHWH, thank you for your discipline, for your blessed chastising hand. It is out of love you correct us; in your compassion you desire us to be with you. Let us praise you for your kindness.
Forgive us, LORD, all our blindness, all our failure to see your hand at work. Our disobedience hurts us most of all, for by it we separate ourselves from your love. In our lives let your will be done!
If you had not compassion on our erring hearts, if you scourged not our sinful souls, where would we be, LORD, where would we be? From your healing and your teaching let us never be apart.
Come to your native place this day, O LORD. Those baptized in your NAME please bless. Let us welcome you with open arms into our houses, treasuring every chastising word, and we shall be at peace in your presence.
Mon, 4 February 2019
(Heb.12:1-4; Ps.22:26-28,30-32; Mk.5:21-43)
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
who inspires and perfects our faith.”
Like the woman in our gospel who saw Him in the crowd and with great confidence made her way toward Him but to reach out and “touch His clothing,” knowing in her heart that by this she “shall get well”; like the official of the synagogue who draws near and falls at His feet begging healing for his daughter, who even after being told, “Your daughter is dead,” does “not grow despondent or abandon the struggle” but takes refuge in the Lord’s encouragement to trust; like all the “cloud of witnesses” that have sought Him, that have believed in Him, that have never taken their eyes off Him or His love – let us be saints who “lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead,” and we shall receive our reward even as those who have gone before us have done. By endurance in faith we shall find Jesus.
Sin it is, of course, that is the greatest obstacle to sanctity in the Lord, to achieving our goal of eternal life in heaven; death and disease are merely the fruits of this poisonous tree. And so the “fight against sin” is truly our greatest struggle, for once sin is set aside, peace comes to our souls and we are no longer anxious or fearful, despite any workings of the devil – despite the destruction in his hands. The woman’s “flow of blood” (for as many years as Jairus’ daughter, “a child of twelve,” has been alive) is but symptomatic for us of the greater affliction of transgression against God. And even the young girl’s death is nothing really, for it is so that “she is [only] asleep,” as the Lord says, and not dead at all… and so death and disease mean nothing unless they are accompanied by sin. It is this plague which must be overcome.
And for this healing we come to Him. For this grace we must press upon Him, like the crowds who surround Him this day. And like the raised child’s parents our “astonishment [will be] complete,” for we shall be clean: we shall be alive in the Lord. “To Him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth”; by Him alone all shall be raised. So let us keep our eyes and our hearts fixed upon Him, knowing “they who seek the Lord shall praise Him” – in Him our faith is complete. “To Him alone [our] soul shall live”; therefore, let us bleed with Him this day.
O LORD, let us be freed of all illness;
let us be raised from our graves to walk with you.
YHWH, our faith unites us to you and so we find healing for every disease and every sin, for no evil lives in you. And so, help us to endure all, keeping our eyes ever fixed on your Son and the hope He brings to our souls, and we shall be well in your presence.
O LORD, you raise us from the sleep of death and sin. Your Son who walks in our midst leads us to your glory. And so, let us bow down before Him, humbling ourselves in faith, and our every prayer shall be answered; and we shall be united to you and your glorious majesty.
Why should we be afraid? Why should we fear placing our trust in you? Let no obstacle stand in the way of our coming to you that we might join the band of your holy ones in your eternal kingdom. Though we must shed our blood in the struggle, let us know our salvation is assured.
Sun, 3 February 2019
(Heb.11:32-40; Ps.31:20-25; Mk.5:1-20)
“They broke the jaws of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword…”
In each of these descriptions of the powerful deeds of the men of old what is conquered is an instrument of death, and so what is indicated is the power of God – from whom these men derive their strength – to destroy death itself. This is made more obvious in the fact that “women received back their dead through resurrection” by their faith in God, and is apparent even in those who “were tortured and did not receive deliverance”; for they suffered all “in order to obtain a better resurrection,” one not simply of the earth and the body, but one which is absolute, one which pertains to spirit and body in heaven… and we can be assured they received such reward.
Brothers and sisters, death is the devil’s instrument, but life is of God; and the Lord of life holds power over all death and banishes it by His word. That death is the devil’s tool, so ready at his hand, is made evident after Jesus “gave the word, and with it the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine”: immediately “the herd of about two thousand went rushing down the bluff into the lake, where they began to drown.” As the demons had driven the man of Gerasene into the tombs upon taking possession of him, so they drive these swine to their demise. Death is the devil’s will; he would see the destruction of all life.
And what of those men of old who seem so much like our possessed man today; what about those who “dwelt in caves and in holes of the earth” and “went about garbed in the skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented”? How do these differ from the poor soul of Gerasene? Does the devil not have power over them, too? The answer is no – the two are clearly different. The power the devil had over the ancient prophets, which is witnessed most fully in Christ Himself as well as all His followers, is a power only over the body, over the physical circumstances of life. As with Christ and His followers, the spirit, the soul of these ancients, remained untouched by the devil’s claw. The same is not so for the poor soul among the tombs: of him the devil had taken possession body and soul. And, you might say, Is the strength exhibited by the demoniac not like that of Samson when he broke the chains of the Philistines? What of this similarity? My friends, the chains upon the demoniac were meant to help preserve his life, and when he “pulled the chains apart and smashed the fetters” by the strength of the devil, it was only that he could continue “gash[ing] himself with stones”; whereas Samson broke his fetters by the power of God in order to preserve his life from the clutches of the Philistines. (One must always use right judgment and discern well, especially the things of the spirit, avoiding preoccupation with the superficiality of circumstances and jumping to quick decisions.)
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!” Keep “constant” in faith and “from the plottings of men” and “the strife of tongues” He will “shelter” you. Whether overcoming or being overcome by death in this life, the life of heaven awaits you and is with you.
O LORD, of the least of us you make use,
joining all to your Body to proclaim your glory.
YHWH, your power is greater even than that of death, and your power you share with all your holy ones, that in your NAME they might overcome death and all its workings. What great deeds are we not capable of if we but put our trust in you? We shall indeed rise from the dead with Jesus your only Son.
Death surrounds us in this world; it is as if we dwell in a tomb. For where can we turn where sin does not exist, and so, how can we be free of its clutches? It is like the lion’s jaw or a raging fire or the devouring sword. But you give power to conquer sin to those who take refuge in Christ’s blood. Even in this dark world, they are screened in your abode. Though we are made to dwell in caves or in holes of the earth, you are yet with us, LORD, we who are to be made perfect in you. O let us sit at your feet in our right mind all the days of our lives! Let us declare your goodness to all.
Thu, 31 January 2019
(Heb.10:32-39; Ps.37:3-6,23-24,39-40; Mk.4:26-34)
“You need patience to do God’s will
and receive what He has promised.”
Brothers and sisters, “we are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and live.” Whatever “great contest[s] of suffering” may be before us or behind us or upon us even now, we do not “surrender [our] confidence” in the Lord but stand strong, enduring all by our “trust in Him” and so coming by these means to the kingdom of God.
My friends, we know we have “better and more permanent possessions” in heaven, and so “the confiscation of [our] goods” upon this earth, the “insult and trial” we have to endure, and even the prison into which we may be thrown, hold no sway over our souls and do not deter our resolve to follow the way of Christ – in fact, they but increase our firmness in the Lord. For seeing how “He delivers [us] from the wicked and saves” us when we “take refuge in Him” reveals to our souls the firmness of His hand upon us and the passing nature of any vain temptation or torture. We comprehend hereby that we need but “commit to the Lord [our] way… and He will act”; He is the one who preserves us from all harm and sees that fruit is born in our lives.
And so, day by day we come to Him; night after passing night we approach His presence. We grow in His sight even as “the soil produces of itself first the blade, then the ear, [and] finally the ripe wheat in the ear.” Even unto the day of judgment we shall grow so gradually, so blessedly, steadily producing fruit in His glorious light, and thus avoid any condemnation. For He has taken possession of our souls; His hand is upon us now, and from such marvelous grace we cannot turn our faces away.
“A brief moment, and He who is to come will come; He will not delay,” says the Lord; and so, brothers and sisters, let us “live by faith” as the Lord’s “just man,” knowing full well that “He will make justice dawn for [us] like the light,” that on His Day we shall be drawn into the kingdom of God. “Bright as the noonday shall be [our] vindication,” so let us endure all patiently and bravely in this world, ever bearing fruit in His name.
O LORD, help us to endure all persecutions
that we might grow steadily unto your kingdom.
YHWH, let us take refuge in you and there find protection and blessing. Let us grow gradually unto your kingdom, enduring all with patience and faith. Your justice will dawn for the man who remains steadfast in your sight.
O LORD, what should we care if we must suffer persecution, if our goods are confiscated and we are thrown into prison? For what blessed possessions we have in you, those which last forever. And so, increase our faith day to day as we see your hand continually rescue us from all distress, from every trial; let us ever grow unto your presence and make our home in your branches.
If we could but be the man you desire us to be, LORD, for our own sakes! If we could but trust in you and your constant blessings! Then we would forever be sustained, knowing that you will not delay your coming but very soon we will be with you in eternity. Be with us as we wait here.
Wed, 30 January 2019
(Heb.10:19-25; Ps.24:1-6; Mk.4:21-25)
“Since we have a great high priest who is over the house of God,
let us draw near in utter sincerity and absolute confidence.”
Let us shine our light without fear, for it is the light of the Lord and cannot be removed. “Let us hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope, for He who made the promise deserves our trust.” Do you think He will fail you in your commitment to Him? No, His love is always first to come; you need but follow.
And let us “encourage one another,” brothers and sisters, even as Jesus does us all in our gospel today. Let us “rouse each other to love and good deeds,” calling one another to shine our light, the light that is in each of our hearts by the grace of our Savior. “Our hearts sprinkled clean from the evil which lay on our conscience and our bodies washed in pure water,” ready we are to do His will in this world; “the blood of Jesus assures our entrance into the sanctuary,” and so, with our place in heaven set firm, we hesitate not to put our love “on a stand” and let it pierce the darkness all around.
“We should not absent ourselves from the assembly,” brothers and sisters. We should not think we need not gather together in His name. For we cannot take strength alone to fight our battles in this world; apart from one another we will be worn down by sin, by pride. Our light is not our own but is meant to be shared; indeed, it belongs to the whole community for it belongs only to the Lord. And it can only grow and increase when given in measure to others; otherwise it will be taken from us.
So let us draw near our Lord as we draw near each other in the sharing of our gifts. Let us be as “he whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain,” and our gifts will be acceptable one to another, and our lives will be acceptable to God. And we shall “ascend the mountain of the Lord” and “stand in His holy place” – the place He makes for us by His sacrifice… “We shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God our Savior,” if we seek His face alone.
Do not be afraid. Hide not your light. Enter His presence, do His will, accepting the grace He imparts to our lives. He calls you to join in His sacrifice.
O LORD, all the world is ours
if we but come to Jesus for the cleansing of our sins.
YHWH, let us be the race that seeks your holy face and to shine your holy light to all around us. This world is your own and we are in your hands, and none of us can ascend to you if we come not through your only Son. Let us come to Him with confidence and joy and seek to serve one another and the salvation of all. Then we shall be seeking you; then we shall be serving you – then we shall be standing again in His stead, and so find your holy blessing and receive it more and more.
O LORD, let us give ourselves as Jesus has done. Let us be His very flesh and blood. Bless your Church, O God, with His love, with His light shining in every member. Let us not hide in fear but freely offer the gifts you impart to each of our lives for the service of the whole Body. The more we give the more we shall receive, for the more we give the more we share in your love. Let us not fail to shine forth your light as you call us to do.
Tue, 29 January 2019
(Heb.10:11-18; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.4:1-20)
“I will put my laws in their hearts
and I will write them on their minds.”
He will plant His seed firmly upon “good soil,” and it shall yield fruit abundantly. Let us be open to receive His word each day.
Today we hear Jesus’ well-known parable of seed sown in four places: “on the path,” “on rocky ground,” “among thorns,” and “on good soil”; and the Lord makes clear that only in the last place will the seed bear a profitable yield. And, of course, the Lord hereby calls each of us to consider what place we make for the seed with our lives. Clearly, “what the sower is sowing is the word,” and just as clearly, our hearts are the ground into which that word is sown. Therefore, the question is: What kind of hearts have we for the word of God, for His love? The seed does not change; in every place it is sown the same. It is only the soil which changes, and thus determines its fruitfulness. Are our hearts barren of the Spirit, or wrought with stones or choking thorns… or do we make a welcome place for the love of God to take root in our lives and grow? Though our tree shall be known by its fruit, only we really know where our heart stands with God, and so this question Jesus would bring to our minds, not to condemn us for our emptiness or hardness of heart, but that we might turn to Him and bear fruit in His light, that He might take away the “sins and… transgressions” that keep us void of life.
Do you know the Spirit at work in your hearts, brothers and sisters, at work in your souls? Is His word taking root in you and being nourished by the waters of the Lord? “To you the mystery of the reign of God has been confided,” and so, what a pity it would be to turn from His instruction, or fall short at all in preparing a place for the Lord to reside. The Spirit burning in our hearts, the blessing of His pure light, is all we should thirst for in our lives. “Like the dew” before the dawn He comes; each morning you should find yourself wet with that dew and set to do good works in His name.
Yes, brothers and sisters, upon the heart of each of His children, the Lord God writes His name, places His law, His love, by the blood of His only Son. He thus makes us one with His infinite presence, ever giving growth to our tree. With His word piercing our souls, our soil is prepared to receive His seed. Let us therefore open our hearts to His light touch – His finger, His breath, His word, inscribing His NAME at the center of our being – and we shall grow in Him even unto the kingdom.
O LORD, let us be cleansed of our sin by your Son
that we might be good soil
to receive the Word He offers
and bear fruit in your NAME.
YHWH, our sins and transgressions remember no more; the blindness of our minds and hardened of our hearts take from us forever. By the sacrifice of your Son this is accomplished in our lives. Let us be good ground to receive His Word and bear fruit in His Name.
Jesus sits forever at your right hand, O LORD; He remains there ever to cleanse us from our sin. His sacrifice is complete and whole; let it be made effective in our lives.
Rule over us, O LORD our God, through the scepter of your only Son. By the power that is His from you, let our days be ordered as holy flowerbeds. Good soil indeed let us be, not choked by the world or weakened by the flesh or robbed of the Spirit by the devil – let our hearts be set on you alone and in you and in your Son find growth and bear fruit. May His blood water us well and His light shine through us always.
Mon, 28 January 2019
(Heb.10:1-10; Ps.40:2,4,7-11; Mk.3:31-35)
“I have come to do your will, O God.”
But what is this will of God? How do we know it? How shall we live it? The will of God is known through the obedience of the Son, in His sacrifice for our sins; and all who seek to do the will of God must follow in His way, offering themselves freely, innocently, to the Lord for the sake of the Body of Christ.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asks the crowd. Who enter into His fold, becoming children of God the Father? “Whoever does the will of God.” Whoever does the will of God is the only answer He could make. Whoever is as His mother and says, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word”; whoever is as His brother apostles and suffers martyrdom for the faith, unafraid to speak out in His name; whoever is like the simple sheep surrounding Him in the gospel today, listening so obediently to the heavenly words He utters… these are “brother and sister and mother” to Him. Oh what a glorious family to be among!
Brothers and sisters, we no longer have “only a shadow of the good things to come” but rather a “real image of them” in the flesh and blood of the only Son. The salvation of our God is abstract and fleeting no more, for the Lord has come in a body to make ever so real for us the glory of God. Our hearts should leap up at His presence; our ears should be “open to obedience” to hear and heed His voice. Our mouths agape, we should wonder at His presence among us and desire only to become one with Him who holds our very lives in His sacred heart, in the Spirit upon the flesh He is.
Oh have we not “waited, waited for the Lord”? And how should we not act now that He has “stooped toward” us, now that He has humbled Himself to become man? A spirit of exultation should fill us, for by His presence with us He “put[s] a new song into [our] mouth, a hymn to our God.” Our hearts are set on fire with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we can no longer “restrain [our] lips,” but must declare even with our precious Lord: “I have come to do your will,” to join in your blessed sacrifice – to know the glory of kinship with you, my God, by whom we are all called.
O Lord, “I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.” I declare it on these pages. Please gather me this day into your holy family.
O LORD, help us to join your Son in doing your will
by laying down our lives in this world.
YHWH, let us do your will. This alone we ask of you. Let us do your will that we might join with your Son, our Brother, and be sanctified by the offering of His body for our sakes. Let us join with Him in seeking to do your will, in offering our bodies as sacrifice, in declaring your goodness to all souls.
Put a new song into our mouths, LORD, one that proclaims your glory. Let us be filled to overflowing with your presence in our souls that we cannot but speak of your kindness and your truth, your faithfulness and your salvation. Here am I; I come to do your will. Let this be our song. Let us be cleansed of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus – let our body be as His own.
O that we might be your holy family, LORD, that we might be as Mary and the apostles, giving our complete “yes” to your call. May your Son open His arms to gather us into your presence.
Sun, 27 January 2019
(Heb.9:15,24-28; Ps.98:1-6; Mk.3:22-30)
“His death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions.”
By his death Jesus has disarmed the devil; the Lord has destroyed Satan’s power by His holy sacrifice. Because of Jesus’ innocent blood, “Satan has suffered mutiny in his ranks and is torn by dissension,” for none of his adversarial accusations can stand before such pure love. “He cannot endure, he is finished”… and with him, sin also dies, for there is no longer anyone to accuse us of our sin. It is as if Jesus says, “Kill me if you will,” and once having done so, Satan has nothing left in his arsenal. Once taking all our sins out of his bag and piercing the Savior through with their cumulative strength, what more power has he to effect death? Death has its day, and life – the life that is the love of the Son – has triumphed over it: our sins’ effects have come full force against our Lord and Maker, and “His right hand has won victory” over them.
And so this great promise the Lord can make, this astounding statement He brings to our ears: “I give you my word, every sin will be forgiven mankind and all the blasphemies men utter.” Though the sin against the Spirit will not be forgiven – for how can he who calls salvation condemnation find the grace of God; how can lies find discourse with Truth? – yet all the sins man has committed in his ignorance and lust will be washed clean in Jesus’ blood when any soul comes humbly to Him. And in consequence of this blessed mercy, “those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,” for our Savior has “entered heaven itself that He might appear before God now on our behalf.” Yes, He serves as mediator now, interceding before the Father against our transgressions, that He might prepare for us a path to His kingdom. His cross and His sacrifice stand as our ladder unto heaven.
“The Lord has made His salvation known” by the offering of His Son, and to “all the ends of the earth” “His holy arm” is revealed. He has appeared once in weakness to take away our sins, but “He will appear a second time not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” And so, as we are washed clean of sin in His blood, we must stand ready for His final coming, for our promised reward, “sing[ing] praise to the Lord.”
O LORD, cast all the demons far from us
that we might worship you in faith and truth
and come to your kingdom.
YHWH, we should be offering you and your Son songs of praise, not blaspheming against your goodness toward us. For He has come to deliver us from sin, to cast Satan from our midst that we might enter your kingdom and glorify your NAME – let us not doubt or deny the grace you send us; let us not court condemnation with a hardened heart.
There is a pride from which we suffer, LORD, a pride and a fear. We are unable to humble ourselves before your majesty or receive the love you bring. Our hands are grasping and our hearts impure, and so we do not see how much we need the salvation wrought by your Son. Help us to turn from our sin, to seek the blood of Jesus upon our souls, that we might become pure and innocent as children before you, living only in the truth, and so, joyfully singing your praise.
Fri, 25 January 2019
(Heb.9:2-3,11-14; Ps.47:2-3,6-9; Mk.3:20-21)
“Behind the second veil was the tabernacle call the holy of holies.”
To this holy of holies in the temple of Jerusalem only the high priest could come, and only once a year. So holy was it deemed. This tabernacle contained the ark of the Lord with the two tablets upon which the commandments of God were written, and some manna from the Israelites’ travels through the desert. This was truly sacred ground for God’s chosen people, a place they held in awe.
In our gospel the people press upon Jesus; they gather in great numbers at the door of the house where He is staying, sensing that this place is a holy of holies, that there is something inside that makes it sacred. But from this holy tabernacle they are not excluded for its sanctity, but welcomed by Him who is inside, who makes it holy. So much does He welcome those who come to His door that He does not take time even to eat. Better He should feed those who come to Him with His sacred presence than that He should feed Himself, for He will not see any turned away.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus has “entered once for all into the sanctuary, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,” and He Himself has become the “holy of holies”: He Himself is the sacred sanctuary in which God reposes. And He is with us. To this day He is in our presence. Do you not know that He rests in every tabernacle of every one of our churches on this earth? Do you realize the holy of holies that is in our midst? And when He is exposed upon our altar for all to adore, do you realize that here “God sits upon His holy throne”? And do you come to Him? More than a mere image or reflection of the glory of heaven, truly that transcendent glory is present in this bread the angels consume, and which is offered us here.
And so, should we not “shout to God with cries of gladness” or prostrate ourselves in absolute reverence at this the presence of “the Lord, the Most High, the awesome… the great King over all the earth” here in our midst? Should we not receive Him worthily, realizing that here is the holiest of holies whom we cannot reverence too greatly, whom we cannot worship enough? “God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts,” and we should join in this celebration and “sing praise to our King” before the throne upon which He sits, before the Tabernacle in which He rests.
Come to Him in sacred wonder. In this Sacrament He waits. May “the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!”
O LORD, your Son has ascended into your presence
carrying our sins and washing us clean in His own blood –
how incomprehensible is your great love for us!
YHWH, let us worship you, O living God, through Jesus your Son, who has entered into your sanctuary carrying all our sins that we might be cleansed of them and offer you holy praise. He is your Tabernacle in our midst. Let us come to Him and there find our healing, and there find our salvation.
O LORD, your Son cares only for our salvation, not for feeding Himself. His very body He would make our food and so He offers all His life, every hour of His day, for our salvation. Never would He turn away from us or keep us waiting for your grace. Let us not fail to come to Him to find the blessing He imparts.
The blood of the Christ cleanses our consciences and provides for our eternal redemption. It carries us to the Holy of Holies where you dwell, O Most High God. In awe let us sing your praise with Him who mounts His throne this day. Reign over us with your love; through the blood of your only Son may we stand unblemished in your presence.
Wed, 23 January 2019
(Heb.7:25-8:6; Ps.40:7-10,17; Mk.3:7-12)
“Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through Him,
since He forever lives to make intercession for them.”
Oh how the people approach Him today, seeking healing, seeking grace: “a great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon” – from all around they came to press upon Him, to press upon Him… “All who had afflictions kept pushing toward Him to touch Him. Unclean spirits would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, “You are the Son of God!” So great were their numbers He needed to take refuge in a fishing boat. Oh “the press of the crowd against Him,” the press of the crowd. They could not resist drawing toward Him who stood at the center of the universe, Him who stood in the place of God, Him who was God. Greater than the pull of gravity was the pull of their hearts toward salvation.
And do you think He has left you, brother? Do you say, “Where is He now that I need healing, that I may press upon Him myself?” He has not left you alone; He has multiplied His presence and increased His grace through the ministry of His apostles. They now go out to those who would press upon Him, and through these priests they find the high priest, He who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.” Indeed, He is not on earth anymore and His ministry is not earthly – yet He is ever present to all who stretch forth their hands to Him. Do you not know the immense mercy available to you in the Sacrament of Confession? Do you not realize the heavenly food you eat in Holy Communion? Press upon Him this day; approach the priests who, despite their imperfections, hold the power He has left in our midst, and to your loving God you will come.
“Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry now,” and “He is mediator of a better covenant,” an eternal covenant. Brothers and sisters, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in heaven, minister of the sanctuary and of that true tabernacle set up not by man but by the Lord.” What greater gift could we ask for? How much more exalted could we be called to be than to receive mercy from Him who dwells in the heart of the Father, than to take food from the hands of Him who holds the hand of God?
O Lord, “may all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’”
O LORD, your Son has taken on our flesh
that He might draw us
into the sanctuary of your presence
O let us join ourselves to Him!
YHWH, your Son is able to save all those who approach Him, for He sits with you in the heavenly sanctuary having offered Himself for our sakes. And so the crowds press upon Him, and so the devils cannot but recognize His power over them… and so we are saved from our sin by our faith in Him and offering ourselves to you through His hands.
O LORD, may we be an acceptable sacrifice to you, joined well to the sacrifice of Jesus. May we say with Him, “I come to do your will,” and think of nothing but obedience to your call. Write your law within our hearts that we might transcend the darkness of this place as we align our lives with your Son’s and die to all that keeps us from you. He is made perfect forever in your presence and intercedes for us to be made perfect with Him. O let us press upon Him this day that we might ever glorify your NAME.
Tue, 22 January 2019
(Heb.7:1-3,15-17; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.3:1-6)
“Without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or end of life,
like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
We hear today more specifically about “Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God,” whose name means “king of justice” and also “king of peace,” who is therefore so like our King Jesus; it is in his line the Lord takes His place.
“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor,” King David declares of his Lord and our Lord. Indeed before the dawn of light upon earth, Jesus is King: He is the only-begotten Son of God whose rule is from everlasting to everlasting; and His priesthood, like that of Melchizedek, is “in virtue of the power of a life which cannot be destroyed” – not by physical descent but by spiritual ascension. From God Himself He receives His kingship and His priestly anointing.
In contrast to the eternal priesthood and princely headship of our Lord and Savior, we see in our gospel those whose power comes only by “virtue of a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent,” and which is, therefore, passing away. Indeed, before their eyes it passes this day as Jesus stands before the Pharisees at the front of the synagogue and calls them to acceptance of the greater glory now in their midst. But they “closed their minds against Him” as they refused to realize the limitations of their own calling as leaders of the people, choosing to cling to a dying law and a power which is being taken from them even as a greater is offered, rather than stretching forth their hands to the Lord, in whom the law takes life and finds fulfillment, through whom all power comes…
Yes, the Lord “stretch[es] forth” “the scepter of [His] power” even as the man stretches forth his “shriveled hand” here at the front of the synagogue, before all the people and their teachers on a sabbath day, and finds it “perfectly restored.” The same He would do for each of them and for all of us, if we but recognized His transcendent power and glory, if we but realized He is the Son of God.
O LORD, your Son is of the Spirit
but we are of the flesh;
help us to offer this poor flesh
through His eternal priesthood.
YHWH, in the line of Melchizadek your Son comes to us, without beginning of days or end of life, for by you He is begotten before the world was brought forth. And so His power is like your own, and so in Him we shall not die but be healed of all evil upon us.
We praise you, LORD, for your justice toward us, for the presence of your Son. For in Him we take our refuge; in Him we find our salvation. O let us freely reach out our hands to the grace He offers that He might stretch forth His scepter toward us and we be made whole in your sight!
The Day you make is one of peace, O LORD, and so the Son you send brings to us that peace. Let us give to Him our possessions, even our very body and soul; for all He touches He sanctifies, and so we will thus be blessed by Him.
No hardened heart could ever destroy Him or His love. Let us sacrifice ourselves with Him, LORD, that we might join Him at your right hand.
Mon, 21 January 2019
(Heb.6:10-20; Ps.111:1-2,4-5,9-10; Mk.2:23-28)
“I will indeed bless you, and multiply you.”
God promised to bless Abraham, to make his descendants numerous as the stars; and “He swore by Himself,” “by oath,” to carry out His promise, thus giving an unshakable, “unchangeable” “firmness to [the] promise.” God does not go back on His word. And so, “after patient waiting, Abraham obtained what God had promised”; He became the father of many nations, of all those of faith.
Now if God is so faithful, should we who are “heirs of His promise,” who are children of Abraham in the faith and so the sharers of the same blessings promised to him, should not “we who have taken refuge in [God]… be strongly encouraged to seize the hope which is placed before us”? For we, “through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises”; and greater promises than Abraham do we receive at the hand of our Lord now, for our “hope extends beyond the veil through which Jesus, our forerunner, has entered on our behalf.” As David “entered God’s house… and ate the holy bread which only the priests were permitted to eat,” and “even gave it to his men,” so Jesus enters His Father’s house, passing through the gates of heaven into the sanctuary, into the holy of holies, and there partakes of bread at His Father’s hand… and indeed shares it with us, His brothers.
Oh brothers and sisters, each day we partake of the bread of the angels from the hand of the Lord; it surrounds us like the “standing grain” around the disciples. And does it not prove to us that “great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights”? Doesn’t it reveal to our souls that our hope in Him is “a sure and firm anchor,” that His love for us is strong and all His promises are fulfilled in our midst, before our eyes? “God is not unjust.” No, “gracious and merciful is the Lord.” “Holy and awesome is His name,” and He shares the glory of His presence with all His children: “He has given food to those who fear Him.” So, let us “not grow lazy” in faith but take strength in this food He supplies. “He will not forget [our] work and the love [we] have shown Him by [our] service.” But let us continue to serve Him in our brothers; let us “show the same zeal till the end,” that all His promises we may taste. Indeed, the more we eat His bread, the more we accomplish His work, the more His blessings are multiplied, in us and in the world!
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” The gift of God’s rest is ours, releasing us from slavery. Freedom we find in His name, blessing we find in His promise – His rest is upon us as we remain in Him. And “He will forever be mindful of His covenant”: His blessings shall ever increase in our souls.
O LORD, your Son has entered into your presence
that we might be fed with the Bread of Life –
let us hope always in Him.
YHWH, if Abraham’s cause for hope was great, how much greater is our own, we for whom Jesus has passed through the veil of death that we might enter your presence? Now that your Word has been made flesh and been given to us as food for our journey, how much stronger should our faith be, and so, how much surer our work? We should not bend in the wind like standing heads of grain but know the glory to which we are called as we reach up to you through the grace that is with us by the sacrifice of your Son.
O LORD, you are indeed gracious and merciful; you look upon our needs and answer them. You promise to be with us always and increase and multiply our works, so long as we remain faithful to you. Let us trust in your Word to us and find hope always that you are near. In Jesus your Son, you have walked among us – your great love for man let us never forget.
Give us the food we need even this day, O LORD, the Bread that is our very life.
Sun, 20 January 2019
(Heb.5:1-10; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.2:18-22)
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Without beginning or end is the holy priesthood of our Lord; high above all sacrifices reigns His own.
“Taken from among men” is Jesus our high priest “and made [our] representative before God.” Like others He is in this respect; yet the “gifts and sacrifices” He offers are infinitely greater than any that have ever been, for it is Himself He lifts up for our sins. “He is Himself beset by weakness,” though not His own; He is Himself pierced for transgression, though not of His making – and in the cross of our condition He bears “in the flesh,” in the crucifixion He suffers at our hands, does the high priest become the victim whose blood covers the earth with redemption. Yes, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” What other high priest can boast as much?
And yet the people would limit the grace that pours forth in the blood of His sacrifice, in the sweet-smelling flesh He offers, to a dying law which has been corrupted by the hands of man. They fail to see that the old is subsumed by the new… and so the Lord seeks to teach them to receive the “new wine” He would pour into their hearts with minds open to the light of God. They do not yet know the joy His disciples experience just being in the presence of the Messiah, the bridegroom of all faithful souls; as yet their hearts have not been circumcised by the nails of the sacrifice He makes in their name. But soon their time will come, we pray. When He is lifted up, perhaps they shall see.
And in our psalm we have David’s verse of Jesus: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’” Jesus is David’s Lord even then, for Jesus our Savior has always been. Beautifully does David speak of this as well, in the voice of God: “Before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.” As the dew covers the earth unseen before the sun rises, so before the Father pronounced the words “Let there be light” – first bringing the universe into being by the power of His Word – Jesus was eternally present, even as the water the Spirit moved upon.
And so He has “princely power,” seated at the right hand of God. And so He “rule[s] in the midst of His enemies,” His sacrifice destroying the death which seemed to take hold of Him. And so, like the order of Melchizedek, which came well before the institution of the Israelite’s priestly line, from all eternity His salvific priesthood is – and shall last until the end of time.
O LORD, you sent your Son to offer Himself
in our stead;
may we be clothed anew in His grace.
YHWH, the priesthood of your Son is from all eternity and will last until the end of time for the expiation of our sins. And the sacrifice He offers is Himself in the suffering and death He endures in our midst. Though He rules forever at your right hand, He humbles Himself to suffer at our hands that the evil in our hearts might be washed clean by the blood He freely sheds. O let us be made as new wineskins able to receive the grace He pours forth.
Jesus is our Prince who fights our battles and puts all our enemies under His feet. He crushes the head of the devil and destroys all the weakness by which we are beset, and He does this by the weakness He endures and the death He suffers for our sakes. O LORD, let us know the glory He would bring to our poor souls, the salvation wrought by His holy sacrifice, and let us join ourselves to that sacrifice by fasting and doing penance in His stead as long as He is apart from us, until the Day He returns.
Fri, 18 January 2019
(Heb.4:12-16; Ps.19:8-10,15,Jn.6:63; Mk.2:13-17)
“Nothing is concealed from Him.”
In God’s eyes all men are sinners; this is what His penetrating vision cannot help but see. Yet it is just such sinners as we He has come to call, to call away from our sin. The Pharisees cannot bear this sword of truth to pierce their soul, and so they take up the sword of anger against those who are being redeemed, and He who is redeeming them. Let us not be as these hardened hearts, brothers and sisters, but expose our sin to the Lord’s sharp gaze, that He might heal us by His grace.
That Jesus Himself sees all that is in a man is indicated by His “overhearing the remark” of the complaining Pharisees today, and more clearly elsewhere in His reading their and His disciples’ thoughts without a word being spoken (e.g. Mt.17:25). As nothing is concealed from the Father, so nothing is concealed from the Son: “The reflections and thoughts of the heart” are open to Him. And He knows the troubles that affect each of us. And these, even of the Pharisees, He would heal, even as a wise physician – but we indeed must come with our souls exposed and prepared for surgery.
And though this process can be painful, and though we might say to ourselves, “We are not deserving” – though the questions of the Pharisees might be our own – yet we must witness Jesus’ attitude toward Levi and his fellow tax collectors/sinners. Yet we must see how He defends these from attack, not bringing their shame before them as the Pharisees would, but with a heart set only on forgiveness. For indeed “we have a great high priest,” one who takes our sins upon Himself, one who suffers with us our weakness in order to save us from its consequences. And so with Levi and his friends we should “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor,” both in the confessional and at the Eucharistic table, for our need He has come to fill with His love.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul”; Jesus is this law made flesh. “The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye”; to remove the darkness of our vision, the all-seeing God has come. “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever,” and as long as we come before Him, trembling for our sin, we shall live on in His love.
Shine your light upon our souls, O Lord,
and remove all darkness from them.
In your grace you make us whole;
with you let us be holy.
O LORD, your Son has come to save us from our sins;
may the light of His Word dispel all darkness
from our souls.
YHWH, let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. For you see into the depths of our hearts; you know well the sin that is within us – yet you are merciful in judging us, desiring only to heal us of our sickness. O let us always come humbly before you to find your blessing upon our souls, that we might ever serve you well with our poor lives!
O mighty God, O all-seeing and all-knowing LORD, let us treasure your Word, your Law, which is as balm for our troubled spirits. Let us welcome your Son to our table that He might feed us with your truth, that we might find wisdom and learn by your grace to live forever in joy in your presence.
How we need your Son, our high priest, as our physician, He who gives Himself to take away our sin. O LORD, may we indeed find your favor through Him, obediently answering His call to salvation.
Thu, 17 January 2019
(Heb.4:1-5,11; Ps.78:3-4,6-8; Mk.2:1-12)
“The promise of entrance into His rest still holds.”
But only those with faith in Him shall be made whole.
Paul says of the Israelites in the desert, “The word which they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive it in faith.” Though they had seen “the glorious deeds of the Lord and His strength and the wonders that He wrought,” they yet became “wayward and rebellious, a generation that kept not its heart steadfast nor its spirit faithful to God.” Yet they disobeyed and disbelieved. And so they entered not into His rest; they received not the grace of union with the Lord in His peaceful kingdom, but rather died in the desert in their sin. Thus does Paul warn us not to “fall in imitation of Israel’s unbelief,” but ever to “strive to enter into that rest” God holds for all His faithful.
And the faith necessary to enter God’s rest is illustrated clearly in our gospel today, as is the woe of unbelief. It is “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of those who lowered the paralytic through the ceiling to Him that He said to this poor soul, “My son, your sins are forgiven”; and it is upon hearing these grace-filled words from the Savior’s mouth that some of the scribes, those faithless souls so much the descendants of their faithless fathers, grumbled against Him and accused Him of “blasphemy.” And as the Lord here makes clear the equation of forgiveness and healing (“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again’?”), commanding indeed the paralyzed man: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home,” so does this healed soul, washed clean of all his sin, with his companions and all those of faith who stand “awestruck” as they look on… so do these enter God’s rest – even as the scribes gnash their teeth.
Brothers and sisters, “God rested from all His work on the seventh day,” and that rest awaits all at their completion of the Lord’s work in this world. This truth Jesus reveals in our midst even this day. And so we “should put [our] hope in God, and not forget the deeds of God but keep His commands”; for “it is we, who have believed, who enter into that rest,” so long as we keep faith in Him.
O LORD, let us enter into your rest,
that we might rise and carry souls to you.
YHWH, how shall we have our sins forgiven if we have not faith in you and in your Son; how shall we enter into your rest if we turn away from you? We must come to you and to your Son, believing in the salvation wrought by you and letting nothing stand in our way… and you will bless us and gather us into your arms.
O Lord Jesus, forgive us all our sin this day. Cast far from us all that keeps us paralyzed, all that prevents us from rising and following you. Take away our rebellious souls, our unfaithfulness before you – O may we hear your gracious words calling us to stand and walk with you! O may we know the peace of your forgiveness!
O LORD, you are our God, and in you alone we find our rest, we find healing from all our sickness and sin. Help us to be strong in faith ourselves and serve to bring others to you as well. You await our coming to you; let nothing else matter to us at all.
Wed, 16 January 2019
(Heb.3:7-14; Ps.95:6-11; Mk.1:40-45)
“Today, if you should hear His voice,
harden not your hearts.”
Today we see Jesus continuing His healing ministry, and we see how it becomes “no longer possible for [Him] to enter a town openly” because of the public proclamation of His wondrous and powerful works. We see also how, though “He stayed in desert places… people kept coming to Him from all sides,” for His work must be accomplished. But we see most particularly the way we must come to Him to find our own healing.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us,” David sings, calling all to their proper place before God. And this the leper in our gospel does today, indicating indeed to all the attitude we must have toward Jesus, the place we must find at His feet. With soft hearts we must come before our Lord in tears for the sin upon our souls. Not like those in the Egyptian desert can we be, those who “saw [His] works for forty years” yet “tested and tried” Him constantly. This generation indeed He “loathed” in His anger, calling them “a people of erring heart” who “know not [His] ways.” On the contrary, our hearts must burn with a tender love of God and one another as we approach the Lord in the desert where He waits to save us from our sin. He will match any tenderness of our own. “Moved with pity” we shall find Him, ready to gather our broken spirits into His arms.
“Take care, my brothers, lest any of you have an evil and unfaithful spirit and fall away from the living God.” See that your hearts are never “hardened by the deceit of sin.” It is always “today” and the Lord is always calling to your soul, always requiring your life from you – always offering His love to you. Offer your own in return, that you shall not be cast from His presence, that you shall not be ostracized like this leper from the community, but remain ever in His holy fold as “the flock He guides” with His gentle hand… and finally that you might “enter into His rest.” He calls you to healing at His hand; hear and answer on your knees.
O LORD, make our hearts soft and our spirits loving,
as your Son;
let us bow down to Him.
YHWH, let us not be of erring and unfaithful heart but let our love match your own and that of your Son, for He looks on our poor condition with pity and reaches out His hand to heal us of our sin, of our weakness before you. Why should we harden our hearts against Him when all He wishes is to save us? Let us accept and treasure such blessing which comes only from you.
So blind we can easily become, O LORD, so blind to your presence among us and your works done for us. So easily we are led astray; so easily we become deaf to your Word speaking to our hearts. O let our hearts not be hardened! but let us come humbly before you to worship you and call on your holy NAME. This is what brings life to our souls. In this worship alone do we find our rest.
O LORD, set us free from all pride, from all failure to remember your presence before us…. Be not angry with your wayward children but gather us into your loving arms.
Tue, 15 January 2019
(Heb.2:14-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mk.1:29-39)
“Since He Himself was tested through what He suffered,
He is able to help those who are tempted.”
And help them He does. Die for us He must. Each healing is a move of love which takes His life as sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus died on the cross for us, yes. He opened His arms and let His healing blood pour forth for all “the children of Abraham,” all those of faith. But His whole life, and especially His ministry of preaching and healing, is a dying, is a robbing of “the devil, the prince of death, of his power.” We see clearly in our gospel today how Jesus “free[s] those who through fear of death had been slaves their whole life long,” how He lays down His life for “the whole town [which] was gathered outside the door” of “the house of Simon and Andrew.” After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a debilitating fever, He cures all who press upon Him, all “who were variously afflicted”; from them “the demons He expelled.”
And in these cures, in these expulsions of demons, do we not see our “merciful and faithful high priest” who has come “to expiate the sins of the people” at work in “blood and flesh,” dying for the nation’s salvation? Has the Lord not equated such healing with salvation, declaring there is no difference between forgiving sins and saying “be well” to the troubled soul (Mk.2:9)? And do not these demons desire to cry out that He is the Christ even as He gouges the life from them as He Himself dies? Does their rule not escape them now with every word of the Spirit He speaks? But He does “not permit the demons to speak,” for they would reveal who He is only that He might be tempted to become ruler on earth of these people who would certainly seek to crown Him king. But the salvation He brings rises beyond this dying life, and the Son of God has no relations with the prince of darkness and his lying rule.
And so our Lord “went into [the] synagogues preaching the good news and expelling demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” So He went forth robbing the devil of His reign, suffering and dying all the while, all the way to the cross, where His ministry is accomplished. And we, brothers and sisters, do we not continue His ministry to this day? Has the Lord not left the dying to us now – a cross upon each of His disciples’ backs to fill up what is yet lacking in His sacrifice? Is this not the great gift He gives us? And in His steps, by the apostles’ instruction, in union with His Church, do you walk through the suffering and darkness of this world to the Lord’s eternal light? For your sake has He died. So “seek to serve Him constantly” as He does you.
O LORD, in flesh and blood your Son has come
to drive all demons away from us
and save us from the power of death.
YHWH, your Son has come to heal us, to cast all our sin far from us, releasing us from all power of the devil. Death itself He conquers for our sakes, suffering all the weakness of our human condition that He might free us from its bonds. He has made Himself captive to flesh and blood that we might fly unto the kingdom with Him. And so, let us glorify His Name!
O LORD, how your Son lays down His life as He walks among us, taking our sickness upon Himself. How much He suffers as we come to Him to find our healing – how brokenhearted He is to witness our travail. But He does not turn from His mission or rest in His accomplishments; on He goes from place to place, redeeming all who come to Him. And this path leads inevitably to the Cross, to His death and our freedom from all sin. Let us praise Him for the sacrifice He makes, for His offering His life for our sakes.
Mon, 14 January 2019
(Heb.2:5-12; Ps.8:2,5-9; Mk.1:21-28)
“A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority!”
Thus do the people exclaim at the power of the word which issues forth from the mouth of Christ, into whose hands “all things” have been subjected. The devils see Him and shriek: “I know who you are – the holy one of God!” They know Him and they fear Him, for He has indeed “come to destroy” them and whatever authority they seemed to have. He it is who has come to return man to his rightful “rule over the works of [God’s] hands.” God has “crowned [man] with glory and honor, and put all things under his feet”; and though “at present we do not see all things thus subjected” because of man’s sin, because he has subjected himself to the works of the devil, yet Jesus has come to bring “many sons the glory,” to reveal in His own person the power of God present in all mankind.
And how does the Lord Jesus Christ destroy the devils? How does He redeem man from their clutches, from their possession? By suffering. By dying. Yes, even now we “see Jesus crowned with glory and honor” – the glory and honor to which we are all called – “because He suffered death.” By suffering death He conquered death, and thus any power the devil wielded by its weight upon our souls. And we are free! The devils are cast from us because He has walked among us; He has come into the synagogue and “taught with authority.” And so the pride of the devil is broken, and we see the angels’ place as servants to man as we see the dignity to which men are called in this Son of Man.
And the Lord “is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.” Though by our weakness, by our sinfulness, our disobedience, certainly we merit shame – and so, rightly does David cry to God, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” – yet He does care for us, He is mindful of us… He suffers and dies for us, taking our shame upon Himself in His only Son. And what the Lord has earned we should not spurn, but treasure the grace that is ours through our Brother’s sacrifice. Let us put ourselves under His authority that His authority might be our own, and the devil shall be gone.