Mon, 23 September 2019
(Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20; Ps.122:1-5; Lk.8:19-21)
“The elders of the Jews continued to make progress in the building,
supported by the message of the prophets.”
And so, returning from exile and with the permission and indeed the financial support of the Gentile king, Darius, the Jews completed the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. And so, the prophecy of the return to the Lord from their sins is in a measure fulfilled here in this act and in the worship which once again transpires in “that house of God.” But we know that this is not the fulfillment of the new covenant; this is not the realization of God’s promise through Isaiah to write His Name upon the hearts of His people and to be with them forever. Though a sign of its coming, we know that such blessing cannot be fulfilled in buildings and on an earth so corrupted by sin – it can only be realized in heaven.
And so in our gospel His mother and kinsmen come to the Lord, who is the new Temple, the New Jerusalem Himself. They come but do not find easy access for the crowd that has gathered to Jesus to worship at His feet. And this is to show that it is not in our bloodline that we find salvation, but by faith in Him who is the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed, all may come now to this holy sacrifice, all may enter the gates of this Temple… all may rejoice as they set foot within the gates of this New Jerusalem, if all but follow the Word of Truth which issues from His lips. Returning to Jerusalem and having rebuilt the temple, the Levites offered sacrifice “for the rest of the exiles, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves”; but Jesus’ one sacrifice is offered daily now for all who would come to the altar, to all who would sup at His table.
“I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord.’” How blessed are these words to the ears of the Jew returning from exile, and how blessed now to the peoples of every nation are their fulfillment in our hearing. Brothers and sisters of the Lord, let us hasten our steps toward His presence. Let us long to worship before Him. And let us continue to make progress in the upbuilding of the Church, His Temple, by our daily labor for the God who blesses all our endeavors with His providential care. May His Word be fulfilled in us and in all His people.
O LORD, the temple of our souls we must rebuild,
according to your Word,
that we might be His brothers and sisters,
that we might enter His House.
YHWH, let us go up to your House; let us enter its gates in joy, giving thanks to you who have made us as your Temple, built into the Body of your Son, as His brothers and sisters who do your will in this world. He is the New Jerusalem and we desire to come to Him and make our home in Him. Bless our efforts in building ourselves into your holy Temple, the Church.
Help us as we return from exile, as from sin we turn away and come back to you, O LORD our God. We shall need your assistance in rebuilding lives which have gone so astray, in restoring the walls that keep us from harm, from the dangers all about our souls, and that found us in you and in the Word of your Son.
O let us hear your Word calling us into your presence! and let us act upon that Word and give glory to you, LORD, with our every breath, with every sacrifice we make in your NAME.
Sun, 22 September 2019
(Ezra 1:1-6; Ps.126:1-6; Lk.8:16-18)
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.”
The Israelites toiled in tears for four hundred years under the yoke of the Egyptians, then rejoiced to finally enter the Promised Land (after wandering forty years in the desert). For seventy years Judah had been exiled to Babylon, but rejoiced when, remarkably, the king of Persia called them to return to Jerusalem and, with his blessing, to rebuild the temple of the Lord. And now we wait in exile for our Lord to return. But sadness should not overwhelm us in this land of exile. Indeed our lights must shine; for in the shining of these lamps of holiness is the coming of our Lord to this earth. And the more we shine forth His light to this earth, the more we grow in that light, and so the closer the Lord comes to both us and the universe.
Tears do tend to be our lot here in this world; such is the way of the cross. We cannot help but mourn the lack of His love and the failure of hearts to come to His peace. Here where hatred and violence so often enter in by the ignorance of man’s soul to the Word of God and His presence in our midst, what can we do but cry? But we are not without hope; and it is this hope our readings speak of this day. For if the Gentiles could return the chosen people to their land of promise with such rich and generous gifts, how can we not take hope that the Lord shall “restore our fortunes” as well? And so as we ascend the steps to the temple of our Lord in the highest heaven, may the nations say of us, too, “The Lord has done great things for them,” as they look upon our wisdom and grace even in this land where darkness reigns.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be exposed, nothing concealed that will not be known and brought to light.” And so we take promise in the fact that that which we cherish now in our souls, the Word and the Bread of the Lord which nourishes us on this journey, shall come to their fulfillment in the joy of the kingdom of heaven. But do not hide that light growing within you, brothers and sisters; shine it forth unashamedly for all to see, and the tears you sow in hope for the salvation of the world shall serve to cleanse your vision to behold the Lord in all His glory.
O LORD, you will repay the faithful soul;
you will repay him to the full –
the lamp you light in us will never dim.
YHWH, bring us into the New Jerusalem; return us to our true home with you. In Heaven let us dwell this day, blessed with all the gifts and graces come from your hands. Then we shall rejoice. Then we shall laugh and sing. Then our tears will be washed away as we join ourselves to you.
How impossible it seems as we sit here in this dark world, and yet how very likely. For even here you are present to us as we speak your NAME. Even now we know your light shining in our minds and hearts. Yes, LORD, even now we come to Heaven.
You are with your people even in their exile, and you call even those who are strangers to help them along their way to you. All the nations know your greatness and shall enter your Church, O LORD. Let us build your Temple this day.
Thu, 19 September 2019
(1Tm.6:2-12; Ps.49:6-10,17-20,Mt.5:3; Lk.8:1-3)
“Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation, and a trap.”
Today we hear Paul’s famous words: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” They are oft-quoted, but how well are they understood and practiced in the avoidance of excessive possessions and inflated bank accounts. Paul tells us, verifiably so, that men “have come to grief amid great pain” because of their passion for money. And the pain is so much the greater if they had been men of faith, which stands so much in opposition to the things of this world.
One must be “content with a sufficiency,” Paul teaches us. “If we have food and clothing we have all that we need.” But how many are satisfied, grateful to God, for having their needs met? And how many rather thirst for ever-increasing wealth, in which they foolishly believe they shall find peace and comfort? Indeed, it is as an addiction, and blinds us to the providential hand of God and the humility we should have in His presence. Our psalm speaks pointedly and graphically of the vanity of those for whom “the abundance of their riches is their boast,” but who, when they die, “shall take none of it”: “He shall join the circle of his forebears, who shall never more see light.” Indeed, such trust in wealth leads invariably to hell.
“Then what should we do?” you may well ask. Let us turn to our gospel. It is brief and seemingly of little significance, but gives a concise picture of the life of the Lord and those who followed him. In it we hear that Jesus and the Twelve did what Paul exhorts his disciple Timothy to do (in his letter): “Preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.” This must be our concern. This must be our desire – to fulfill the will and the word of God in our lives. We must “fight the good fight of faith,” setting aside all preoccupation with the riches of this earth. And we shall be cared for even as the women who accompanied Jesus and His apostles “were assisting them out of their means.” They saw that the Lord and His disciples were clothed and fed. They cared out of love for their basic needs. And God will provide such as these to care for the needs of all who devote themselves to His work.
Let us never fall into the devil’s trap and temptation, as he attempts to distract us from the spiritual necessities God demands. Such a fall is mighty indeed. Trust in God’s hand and be satisfied with His call.
O LORD, you are the Most High God –
let us enter your House with praise!
YHWH, you are with us, always with us, dearest LORD, and you call us to be with you; you promise us peace in your holy Temple. And your Temple has come into our midst. He has suffered and died for our sakes and been raised on the third day. Now we must suffer with Him, we must do His work in this world, the work of building up His Temple… and soon we will come to dwell with Him in your eternal presence in your dwelling place.
O LORD, take away our mourning for what we do not have, for the lack of your glory among us. Let us remember that Jesus is the Messiah, that though we be surrounded by darkness this day, His light is with us leading us forth to your kingdom, which even now is indeed being built up in your Church, in all those who work in His Name. To greater glory bring us each day till your promise is fulfilled and we dwell in your presence forever.
Wed, 18 September 2019
(1Tm.4:12-16; Ps.111:2,7-10; Lk.7:36-50)
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
prudent are all who live by it.”
If “the works of His hands are faithful and just,” as His children living in His Word and as His image, we must “be a continuing example of love, faith, and purity.” If we do not attend to this duty, “so that everyone may see [our] progress,” how shall we “bring to salvation [ourselves] and all who hear [us]”? Our love of Him must shine forth in all we do.
And what is the fear of the Lord spoken of in our psalm but the love shown by the woman in our gospel? As she stands behind Jesus, what is she but fearful, what is she but filled with love? This passage teaches us what fear of the Lord truly is, and what it isn’t. Certainly she is struck to the heart. Certainly in the presence of such purity she is convicted of her lust; certainly in the presence of such faith she is convicted of her lack thereof. But if she were fearful as the world understands the word, would she presume to touch Him? If she thought He might strike her to the ground, would she wipe His feet “with her hair, kissing them and perfuming them with oil”? No, she would die where she stands. But as it is her tears are sweet, for she knows the forgiveness He holds for her in His sacred hands.
This is the fear of the Lord we all must have; it is this which is the beginning of wisdom. We must be convicted of our sins, yes; but at the same moment we must be filled with the overwhelming love of our God. The two go hand in hand, and it is the practice of this fear of God in love of Him and neighbor that is the fulfillment of our duty before Him, that will keep us as a holy example of His presence in the world. The Pharisee in our gospel lacks this holy fear. First of all, he does not see his sin, and so he is not moved to love. Failing to view himself in the light of the One present before him, he fails to find the grace that is the knowledge of our sins – and so he is not moved to love, and so he does not find forgiveness.
Let us not love little, brothers and sisters, for this would not be wise. Failing to live in holy fear of the Lord, we shorten His hand’s working in our lives. May we ever, by His grace, be convicted of our sins, and so turn to Him in love to find forgiveness. We will do this only if we remain ever in His presence, bowed at His sacred feet. Amen.
O LORD, in your House let us make our home
and to us you will be known.
YHWH, may you receive due glory from all souls, we pray. May all bless your holy NAME with songs of praise in your Temple. May all recognize that you are the God of all and that Jesus is your only Son, and so may all rebuild their broken souls by the grace that comes through Him. O let us all put you first in our lives! as you deserve.
It is our joy to praise you, LORD, to recognize your glory in our midst and so join in that glory you offer through your Christ. Without you, what are our lives worth? We remain hungry despite the food on our tables; we remain naked despite the clothing on our backs – we remain empty and poor despite the riches we gather if we remain apart from you in our paneled houses.
O let us set our hearts on serving you, on humbly coming before you as your sons, dear God, and we shall exult in glory.
Tue, 17 September 2019
(1Tm.3:14-16; Ps.111:1-6; Lk.7:31-35)
“God’s wisdom is vindicated by all who accept it.”
“The Church of the living God” is the “pillar and bulwark of truth,” as Paul tells us. And it is those who live the faith, “professing it” with all their beings, who prove its truth. “Wonderful, indeed, is the mystery of our faith”; no greater grace or wisdom could we hope to attain.
“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up into glory…” “Great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights…” How our first reading and psalm sing of the glory of our God! And how blessed are we to know “the power of His works,” to be recipients of His gift of “majesty and glory,” to be the children of so great a God. We should indeed praise Him unceasingly for being “mindful of His covenant” with us, for shedding His blood for our salvation, for drawing us into the Father’s presence. “He has given food to those who fear Him,” and we partake of His glorious meal each day in the Holy Eucharist.
Forget not the blessings the Lord imparts to us, brothers and sisters. “Know what kind of conduct befits a member of God’s household.” We must not be as the men of Jesus’ day who like spoiled children sought to form the Lord in the image they desired of Him, refusing to accept Him and His wisdom as it came to them, as it stood before them in the flesh. How can we presume upon the will of our God and His wisdom? How can we fail to accept the light and grace of the Gospel? What folly it is to judge Him who judges the universe. We must be open to His Word, open to His grace, open to His teaching and the marvelous works known only in adherence to His covenant of absolute truth and love. He is the foundation upon which the Church is set, and a Church living His wisdom and grace is the vindication, the proof, of its eternal efficacy for the good of all.
Rejoice in the Lord always, brothers and sisters, that He has blessed you with knowledge of His glory and fed you with His own body and blood. Eat and drink this food He gives, do all He commands in His eternal wisdom, and with the angels you will behold His face as children of the Most High God.
O LORD, lead me forth in the peace of your presence –
restore our ruined house;
heal all our disease.
YHWH, you grant mercy to our souls. Though we be cast down to the nether world for all our sins, you send forth your apostles to overcome all demons and cure us of our diseases; you raise our heads to look upon your face. And so, what should we do but praise you with full voice?
Continually we falter, LORD; repeatedly your people fall back into sin. But ever you call us to turn from our wickedness that we might find your favor again. In your Son you make this mercy complete, and we find it now at work in your Church. Let us receive well the Word that comes to us and so approach your kingdom.
What have you not done for us, O LORD. Even the hearts of the kings of this earth you have turned to our cause to assist us in rebuilding your Temple. All is in your hands, Almighty God! Redeem us from captivity to walk in freedom with you at our side.
Mon, 16 September 2019
(1Tm.3:1-13; Ps.101:1-3,5-6; Lk.7:11-17)
“He who walks in the way of integrity
shall be in my service.”
“God has visited His people.” What the people said when Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead should be said of us all as we pass through this world. That same love that moved Jesus to pity upon seeing the tears of this poor mother should move us all. To all we should say, “Do not cry.” To all we should step forward with the love of Christ fixed firmly in our hearts and bring the same grace and healing.
In our first reading Paul outlines the qualities necessary to be a servant of the Lord. At whatever level we find ourselves, to whatever role we are called, we must walk in integrity of heart. All “must be serious”; all “should be temperate”; all should be of peace and never of greed; and all must keep their homes in order. “The man of haughty eyes and puffed-up heart I will not endure,” the Lord warns us in David’s psalm. And we must heed that warning and walk humbly with our God, seeking to serve Him and our neighbor well, that we might ever be built up in “faith in Christ Jesus.”
His servants are blessed. “My eyes are upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me,” of the Lord’s kindness and judgment David sings. Indeed, those who follow in His ways will do things as great as He – even to the raising of the dead – and shall find themselves raised up on the last day. But as we go through this world we cannot have cold hearts for our neighbors: we cannot allow the faith to die within ourselves. That which has been nurtured within us must be shared with others; then we will “gain a worthy place” at the Lord’s side.
All are called to their stations in life; all have a part in the Body of Christ. Let us not set before our eyes “any base thing” but look always to fulfill that call in a trustworthy manner, holding “fast to the divinely revealed faith with a clear conscience.” If our conscience becomes clouded, we will be unable to serve Him, and our reward will be placed in jeopardy. Therefore, let us ever maintain His goodness within us and let our actions always reflect the great love of God. The Lord wishes us to be forever in His service.
O LORD, the temple of our souls we must rebuild,
according to your Word,
that we might be His brothers and sisters,
that we might enter His House.
YHWH, let us go up to your House; let us enter its gates in joy, giving thanks to you who have made us as your Temple, built into the Body of your Son, as His brothers and sisters who do your will in this world. He is the New Jerusalem and we desire to come to Him and make our home in Him. Bless our efforts in building ourselves into your holy Temple, the Church.
Help us as we return from exile, as from sin we turn away and come back to you, O LORD our God. We shall need your assistance in rebuilding lives which have gone so astray, in restoring the walls that keep us from harm, from the dangers all about our souls, and that found us in you and in the Word of your Son.
O let us hear your Word calling us into your presence! and let us act upon that Word and give glory to you, LORD, with our every breath, with every sacrifice we make in your NAME.
Sun, 15 September 2019
(1Tm.2:1-8; Ps.28:2,6-9; Lk.7:1-10)
“Offer prayers with blameless hands held aloft.”
We must pray. We must petition the Lord for the good of the world, that the good of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ, might be known to all. If we do not intercede, if we do not seek the healing of a people sick with sin, who shall do so? The Lord desires “all men to be saved and come to know the truth.” It is our responsibility, it is our call, to bring the love and forgiveness and healing of our Lord forth.
“Hear the sound of my pleading, when I cry to you, lifting up my hands to your holy shrine.” Our eyes and our hands must be continually lifted up to the temple of the Lord and to His holy presence. The Lord listens to our prayers, brothers and sisters. The world depends upon our prayers. Those for whom the Lord is “strength” and “the saving refuge” are near to Him, and He waits to hear from them. He longs to hear the petitions of their hearts and is eternally prepared to respond to their pleas. Should not we who are blessed to be within the walls of the Church, who partake of His Word and His sacraments, who have His teaching upon our hearts and His presence in our midst, be concerned for the good of all; should we not long to see the Lord’s will done on this earth? Then pray.
And our gospel teaches us that those who disparage the faithful for depending on the intercessions of others, those who think they must always come directly to Jesus to find answer to their petition – those who fail to see the family of God and our connection here on earth with the saints who have preceded us to heaven – are in danger of a vain pride. Learn from the centurion, who says to the Lord, “I did not presume to come to you myself.” And why? “For I am not worthy to have you enter my house.” And so, first “he sent some Jewish elders to him” (are these not so much like our beloved saints?), and then “sent friends” to deliver the above message of humility. And for his humility, and for his faith in the intercession of others… and for his realization that the Lord hears petitions offered for others and that He Himself has ministering angels who perform His work at His Word – the Lord holds this centurion in “amazement” and raises him up as a model of faith.
Do we believe? Do we truly believe in the Lord and in His angels and His saints? Do we believe His heavenly kingdom is near to us, and His will is for our good? Then we should not hesitate to lift our hearts and our hands to the Lord in faithful prayer.
Blessed Mother, intercede for us before your Son, Jesus, that we who are not worthy to receive Him into our mortal bodies may be made immortal by His presence within us. May He bring peace to the world.
O LORD, you will repay the faithful soul;
you will repay him to the full –
the lamp you light in us will never dim.
YHWH, bring us into the New Jerusalem; return us to our true home with you. In Heaven let us dwell this day, blessed with all the gifts and graces come from your hands. Then we shall rejoice. Then we shall laugh and sing. Then our tears will be washed away as we join ourselves to you.
How impossible it seems as we sit here in this dark world, and yet how very likely. For even here you are present to us as we speak your NAME. Even now we know your light shining in our minds and hearts. Yes, LORD, even now we come to Heaven.
You are with your people even in their exile, and you call even those who are strangers to help them along their way to you. All the nations know your greatness and shall enter your Church, O LORD. Let us build your Temple this day.
Thu, 12 September 2019
(1Tm.1:1-2,12-14; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-8,11; Lk.6:39-42)
“Remove the plank from your own eye first;
then you will see clearly enough
to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
The answer to Jesus’ question to His disciples: “Can a blind man act as guide to a blind man?” is obvious. No. It must be a man of sight, of vision, who leads those who are blind, who are without understanding. Paul has become a prime example of one who is well able to lead others. In our first reading he speaks to Timothy, his “true child in faith,” whom he has taught and led and who now stands as a bishop of the early Church. But how did Paul come to be such a profitable apostle? We see in our reading that he has taken the instruction of the Lord, his teacher, to heart, and first recognized and then removed the plank which once rested firmly in his own eye: “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance.” Indeed, this great Apostle of the Lord was once an egregious persecutor of the Church; and indeed we all have or have had great sins in our lives which have set us in opposition to God – but Paul has faced his sin, found “the grace of our Lord… in overflowing measure,” and served to remove innumerable specks from others’ eyes. What of us? Do we see our sins? Have we removed them? Do we see clearly enough to “remove the speck from [our] brother’s eye?”
“Every student when he has finished his studies will be on a par with his teacher.” Paul has humbled himself before Jesus and absorbed the lessons the Lord imparts by the Spirit. Timothy has proven himself a true student and son of Paul. Who is our teacher? Where do we get our knowledge? Whom do we imitate? And whom do we lead? Are we falling into ditches following blind men’s leads? Are we leading others astray with any false philosophy? Or is it the Lord who “counsels” us as He does David in our psalm? Do we say with him, “O Lord, my allotted portion and cup, you it is who hold fast my lot,” and, “I set the Lord ever before me”? Is it His “grace, mercy, and peace” we seek always; or in arrogance do we set about doing the business we think fit?
The teaching of the Lord would lead us to set aside any sin within ourselves, to cleanse our hearts and purify our souls in order to have clear vision. For it is by this holy vision His Church is led forth, and we must be part of this procession.
O LORD, in Christ Jesus let us grow in faith and love
by the forgiveness of our sins.
YHWH, remove the sin from our lives that we might be filled with your vision and serve to help you call others to faith. On our own we remain blind, but we can bring light to others with you at our side.
O Jesus, teach us of the ways of God, and open our hearts and minds to listen to your voice and act upon your words. We are worth nothing apart from you, but if we follow in your way we may become like you who see and know all things by love and lead all souls to salvation.
Have mercy on us, dear LORD, for without your grace upon our souls we shall die in our unbelief. Who can come to you unless you call him? And apart from you, indeed we die in sin.
Open our eyes to your glory; let us set you ever before us. Let your counsel sink deeply into our hearts that we might live at your right hand and lead others to your glory.
Wed, 11 September 2019
(Col.3:12-17; Ps.150:1-6; Lk.6:27-38)
“Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action,
do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
“Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs.” Such is our speech and action when dedicated to God. Our lives indeed become a symphony of His grace when we “let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in [us].” The “blast of the trumpet… with lyre and harp… with timbrel and dance… with strings and pipe… with sounding of cymbals,” which our psalm exhorts in praise of God, are the litany of virtues we are called in both our first reading and our gospel to practice with our Christian lives.
Paul conducts us to “clothe [our]selves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” He invokes “Christ’s peace,” “thankfulness,” and “wisdom made perfect” upon us, and states: “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect,” making love the key to this hymn we sing and play with our lives, the note to which we continually return and which is ever present at the heart of our melody. And what a perfectly marvelous, heavenly song this is when sung in sincerity and truth.
The sincerity and truth to which we are called is made unmistakable in the Lord’s teaching in our gospel. Here we have the greatest challenge to our virtue of love, and its greatest moment. Here the magnum opus is sounded. Jesus has for us a litany of virtues Himself: “Be compassionate… do not judge… do not condemn… pardon… give,” and assures us that “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” will be ours if we live by His word. But the love which is the sum of all virtues is most poignantly accentuated in the command which sets the Lord and His grace apart from all others and their teachings, which makes Him so clearly the Son of God. “To you who hear me, I say: Love your enemies,” He proclaims to His disciples, and then makes explicit the call to a Christian life: “Do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, and pray for those who maltreat you.” And more specifically, “When someone slaps you on the cheek, turn and give him the other; when someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well.” Who can hear these words? Who can heed these commands? Who can live them in speech and action, as has our Lord upon the cross? It is this sacrifice of love to which we are called, and only this will raise our song unto heaven. We must act always out of love.
O LORD, how shall we love as you who are Most High
when we cannot even love as humans? –
if we really are your chosen ones
we will die on the Cross with Jesus.
YHWH, let us praise you with all our lives; may all our words and all our actions be a song of praise to you. Christ’s peace reigning in our hearts, help us to love one another, even our enemies, forgiving any wrong done to us and praying for the salvation of all souls. As Jesus let us be in our compassion, desiring never to see others condemned but hoping always for their conversion in your blessed mercy. Then our song shall reach to you and the angels will shower your graces upon us.
To what great love you call us, LORD! to be even as your only Son, even as you are in your infinite mercy. If we could but hear your call, if we but answered Jesus’ instruction with the sacrifice it entails, how blessed we would be? Help us to lay down our lives with Him, even for those who kill us. Alleluia!
Tue, 10 September 2019
(Col.3:1-11; Ps.145:2-3,9-13; Lk.6:20-26)
“Set your heart on what pertains to higher realms
where Christ is seated at God’s right hand.”
Is this not the central message of the Lord’s beatitudes: “Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.” For how could we be blest in poverty, hunger, and weeping if our hearts are set on this earth? And how could riches and fullness and laughter be curses except that they do not find their origin in heaven? Paul makes it explicit: “You have died!” he declares, and leaves no question but that our “life is hidden now with Christ in God.” There must our hearts be.
“Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth,” the Apostle continues. Lust and anger and deceit have no place in the life of a follower of Christ, for these indeed are sins of this earth which stand in contradiction to the grace of heaven. Therefore, we must set them all aside to become “a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator.” It cannot be that the Lord’s children have discourse with evil conduct; those who are called to heaven must “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom,” their souls must “speak of [His] might” and their lives must be lived in His light.
And so the Lord “raised His eyes to His disciples.” And so He spoke to them of heaven. And so the blessing of persecution in this world was made known to them, that their hearts might begin to understand. God’s world is not this world; His kingdom is not of darkness but of light. And if in the darkness we take our refuge, and if our hearts are not grieved by its injustice… if we fat ourselves on things of the flesh and turn our eyes from the demands of the Spirit… how shall we ever find justice and light? How shall we ever come into the Lord’s glorious presence? What will we do then but weep in our emptiness?
The Lord’s kingdom is coming, brothers and sisters. Be assured. What this world holds – its passion and death – is passing quickly, like a cloud in the night. The rays of morning are not far from us, for the Lord is even now at our side. And to His side in heaven we shall yet come, if we but accept His blessing. So let us say with David, “Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and your dominion endures through all generations”; and let us enter now into His eternal presence.
O LORD, let us set our hearts on your kingdom
and let this world and its sin pass away.
YHWH, blessings and woes you hold for all souls, and so help us set our hearts on things above rather than things of earth, on your kingdom which endures forever and not on this dying, deceit-filled place. Let our mouths bless you and speak of your glory, not be filled with every kind of wickedness. For then indeed we will be blessed by you, as those who revel in their sin are subject to your wrath.
O let us not take our consolation now in this dark world! Let us not give ourselves to the passion and lust that characterize this age. We must die to all of this world and find our life in your Christ, who has died, or when He appears we shall be condemned. Help us, O LORD, to rejoice in the persecution that is ours in following His way, knowing we are thus joined to Him and, so, destined also for His glory. All idolatry let us set aside and make your Son our only desire. O let us be poor souls who hunger ever for you!
Mon, 9 September 2019
(Col.2:6-15; Ps.145:1-2,8-11; Lk.6:12-19)
“Coming down from the mountain with them,
He stopped at a level stretch where there were many of His disciples.”
In our gospel, the Lord has gone “to the mountain to pray, spending the night in communion with God.” Then at daybreak He chose His twelve apostles. On His way back down the mountain He comes upon those who have been waiting for Him, and He takes pity on this “large crowd of people” and reaches out His hand to heal them.
Yes, He in whom “the fullness of deity resides in bodily form,” as Paul tells us in our first reading, has come down from on high, from His union with the Father, to walk amongst us, to dwell with us – to “pardon all our sins.” He “who is head of every principality and power” has bent down to the level of the humble creature dead in sin and circumcised him with the circumcision “which strips off the carnal body completely.” He has accomplished this by taking the claim against us, our debt for our sins, and “nailing it to the cross.” And baptized into Him and His cross we are “not only buried with Him but also raised to life with Him.” The grace that comes from this sacrifice, the healing we find in the touch of His hand and by the power of His word and His blood, we must now treasure. And so Paul tells us we must “be rooted in Him and built up in Him, growing ever stronger in faith,” lest we make His sacrifice void.
“The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works,” sings David in our psalm today; and how can this be greater shown than in His coming down from heaven to teach us and to heal us, and to fulfill this teaching and healing in dying on the cross? What more could He do for us than to die for us to save us? What greater love could our God impart?
Do not be deceived, brothers and sisters, by “any empty, seductive philosophy… based on cosmic powers rather than on Christ.” Avoid any teaching that does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as God Himself “in bodily form.” Without Jesus there is no salvation, and failing to recognize “the fullness of deity” in Him, we cannot “share of this fullness” to which we are called. Rather, let us sing with David, “Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever.” Always in the Lord Jesus let us take our refuge, and in His love; let us ever wait for His coming down from the mountain to touch and heal our hearts. Alleluia.
O LORD, power goes out from your Son
to heal us of all our sins –
let us come to Him, and remain with Him.
YHWH, your power resides in Jesus, He who is God in bodily form. He it is who took our sins and nailed them to the tree that we might have new life in company with Him in your eternal presence. In the fullness of His power we now share, with all His apostles and disciples; let us ever grow in faith and strength before you.
How compassionate you are, O LORD! And how that compassion is revealed in your only Son, He who died for our sins, He who came down from Heaven to heal us of all our ills. And how He provides for us whom He loves by appointing His apostles, that indeed we might all become His disciples, anointed by His blood.
Let us join Jesus our Savior in His union with you. In prayer let us enter your presence and there remain. O let us praise your NAME forever and ever, never ceasing to bless you for the glory you share with poor creatures such as us. O LORD, in Jesus let us live and thrive.
Sun, 8 September 2019
(Col.1:24-2:3; Ps.62:6-7,9; Lk.6:6-11)
“We admonish all men and teach them in the full measure of wisdom,
hoping to make every man complete in Christ.”
It is Paul’s desire to see the nations “enriched with full assurance by their knowledge of the mystery of God – namely Christ – in whom every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden.” It is his desire for us all to be filled with this wisdom that is Christ, for it is his call from Christ to bring His Gospel forth to the eyes and ears of the whole world, to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body, the Church.” And it is our call to join Him in such sufferings in Jesus’ name, that indeed His Word might come to its fullness, that indeed in such suffering we might find with Paul the joy of knowing “the mystery hidden from ages and generations past but now revealed to His holy ones.” This “glory beyond price” is ours as we listen to His Word, as we follow in His ways.
Jesus shows Himself to be the model teacher, the teacher of teachers, the Word itself, in our gospel today. “On a sabbath Jesus came to teach in a synagogue where there was a man whose right hand was withered.” For Jesus the synagogue was hostile territory, for the scribes and Pharisees “were on the watch” to “find a charge against Him,” to catch Him in His teaching. Jesus does not turn away from the danger before Him but confronts them with the limitations of their interpretation of the teaching perhaps most dear to them – the command to keep the sabbath holy. He would teach them the full meaning of this command; He would fulfill this wisdom before them, showing them that God does not preclude the doing of good for others on the sabbath, that this day made for rest is thus truly a day made for healing and that this day is therefore the best to come to Him for healing – for what does He wish for us but our healing, our salvation? But being blind to the love of God and His desire for good and the good of all, they do not perceive His lesson, and make it instead a cause to “destroy” the Son of God.
It is difficult to understand how these leaders of the people could become “frenzied” at the healing of one of their flock – how can this be evil to do on the sabbath? But we must remember that blindness to the will of God is not the sole possession of these scribes and Pharisees. It is a foolishness which is part of us all in our all-too-human thoughts and actions. It is this blindness which the Lord calls us from; it is this wisdom known in Christ to which Paul would direct us all. Let us join with him, with Jesus, in the “work and struggle” to bring God’s healing word forth to the hands and hearts of all. “God is our refuge.” Let us firmly “trust in Him” and in His wisdom, and we shall be made whole.
O LORD, let us be whole in your sight
by the sacrifice of your Christ.
YHWH, in your Son every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden. In Him let us take our refuge, that we might be taught in fullness of your goodness, of your love for us, and come to share in that love with all your holy ones.
O LORD, let us not harden our hearts against your work in our midst, against your Son come among us to lead us to you. Let us not rather stay the path we travel in our blindness but recognize before the great mystery you reveal to us in the presence of your Son that we fall short of His glory because of our limited vision, and embrace the wisdom He holds out to us.
O let us stretch forth our withered hands! that we might be healed of all the wickedness in our hearts and come to serve you and your Church as you call us. In suffering for the sake of your kingdom may we find our joy with Christ; ever strengthened and united in His love, let us take our refuge in the glory He bears us.
Fri, 6 September 2019
(Col.1:21-23; Ps.54:3-4,6,8; Lk.6:1-5)
“Hold fast to faith, be firmly grounded and steadfast in it.”
“The Son of Man is Lord,” Lord of the universe, Lord “even of the sabbath.” He is the Word through whom all things have come and it is He who has “achieved reconciliation” for all with God, the Father. We must be presented to God “holy, free of reproach and blame.” We must bow before His Majesty, trust all things to Him, and He will defend our cause. But if we continue to nourish hostility in our hearts against the Lord of all, if we refuse to recognize Him as our God and Savior, if we remain stubborn in our blindness and our sins against His glorious presence… what hope have we? We can only then be shaken in our weakness.
Such is the case so often with the Pharisees, who repeatedly harden their hearts against the Word of God and His presence amongst them. Repeatedly He tries to teach them of truth and the necessity of holding to it, that their rules alone will not sustain them; but continually it seems their hearts are closed. They cannot seem to understand because they cannot seem to bow before Him; and so they see only with their eyes and not with the wisdom that comes through fear of God. And the bedrock foundation, the cornerstone of the Church, they cast aside as they concern themselves with its ornaments.
But we must hold to the faith, to the heart’s core of existence itself and the life that is God: Jesus Christ and His holy Gospel must be that which speaks in the depths of our soul. Then we will know and sing with David, “The Lord sustains my life,” as we praise His name “for its goodness.” Then we will be “unshaken in the hope promised… by the Gospel,” for the Gospel will be as the blood coursing through our veins and the food we eat; from it and from the Lord we will draw our life as a man draws water from a fountain.
Such light let us pray we maintain in our lives. Such wisdom and strength which comes only in truth let us make our own. He is happy to give us this life – for this He has died – let us not turn in blindness from His face but ground ourselves in Him who is the foundation of eternal life.
O LORD, your Son gives His life to save us
and lead us unto Heaven.
YHWH, how your Son has saved us! He who is Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of the universe, who is One with you and so holds every soul in His all-powerful hand – this same Christ has come amongst us not only to teach us of His glory in you, but to join us to that glory by dying for us. Reconciliation He has achieved for us in His mortal body by dying, by allowing Himself to be nailed to a cross; and now His blood does redeem us from our sin and offers us the promise of eternal life with you in Heaven.
In our hunger we cried to you, dear God, and you hearkened to the words of our mouth. You sent us help in Jesus your Son and we were released from all evil in our hearts, all the wicked thoughts that controlled our lives by an empty pride. Help us now to bow down before your Son, to treasure His Word in us – make us firm in faith and unshaken in the hope of entering your House. For even now your food is upon our table in the flesh of Christ.
Thu, 5 September 2019
(Col.1:15-20; Ps.100:1-5; Lk.5:33-39)
“New wine should be poured into fresh skins.”
“The blood of His cross” is poured forth for us; it becomes the new wine we drink this day, that which makes us new men by its grace. The scribes and Pharisees refuse this new wine, saying, “I find the old wine better,” so they cannot see “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creatures,” standing before them this day. Do we see Him? Do we hear His teaching? Do we allow His Word and His presence to be poured into us? Do we make ourselves “fresh skins” to receive the wine that is the Lord? Or do we, too, prefer the old? The old man under the burden of sin and death must be put away before the new man of grace and life can enter in.
“In Him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible.” Paul tells us Jesus fills all the universe with His presence, for “all were created through Him and for Him. He is before all else that is,” and “in Him everything continues in being.” He is the source of life and life itself. And He is “head of the body, the Church.” “Firstborn of the dead,” primacy indeed is His “in everything.” First to be born, first to die, He is also the first to be raised to new life… and by His power we are all raised to the new life we now find through His sacrifice. The blood which fills the universe must now fill our beings; we must be filled with His presence, for only by Him does grace come. Only by Him is the Law fulfilled, the Word made real, and the life of heaven become our own.
And those who are present to Him, those who are present with Him – those who are filled with His Spirit cannot help but rejoice. The disciples could not fast while Jesus was with them, while the bridegroom to whom they wed themselves was in their midst, and likewise those who come into the presence of the Lord cannot come but with joy. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving,” our psalm declares. “Know that the Lord is God; He made us, His we are.” And as we enter into the blessed Body and Blood of Christ, as we come to know the bridegroom of our soul… as His Spirit fills us what can we do but rejoice in the Lord, “whose kindness endures forever,” who makes us as His own – who redeems our very souls. Make room for Him in your hearts. There let His blood flow, that you might have new life.
O LORD, with you we are called to dwell –
let us rejoice!
YHWH, absolute fullness resides in your Son, through whom you made the universe and through whose blood you reconcile all things. He is your very image, and He calls us all to enter your gates through Him, that we might rejoice forever in your kingdom.
Jesus is the Bridegroom to whom we must be wed if we are to come into your presence and see the face of the One who made us. His blood is the new wine poured out for our sakes, that which will unite us with Him as we come with pure hearts, with new wineskins, to Holy Communion. O let us receive Him well, LORD! that we might be filled with the grace He offers forth.
You call us to sing joyfully before you, LORD, in the wedding feast of Heaven. May we be your faithful flock, gratefully accepting the love that comes to us only through your firstborn Son.
Wed, 4 September 2019
(Col.1:9-14; Ps.98:2-6; Lk.5:1-11)
“You will multiply good works of every sort
and grow in the knowledge of God.”
As Simon Peter and the others “caught such a great number of fish that their nets were at the breaking point,” so shall it be with any Christian who devotes himself to the work and the will of God. But as the apostles “brought their boats to land, left everything, and became His followers,” so we must dedicate our lives entirely to Him if we are to “attain full knowledge of His will through perfect wisdom and spiritual insight.” We must leave all else aside and we will become “worthy to share the lot of the saints in light,” becoming ever more fruitful as fishers of men and bringers of that light into the world.
“The Lord has made His salvation known,” and notice from where He chooses “to teach the crowds.” Looking for a mooring, a place from which to preach, “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Peter.” Yes, it is in the barque of Peter and through the barque of Peter that Jesus manifests Himself, that He brings His teaching forth. In this boat He sits and teaches the nations. It is this boat He encourages to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” For His blessing is upon this boat and him who steers it, as well as the partners he calls “to come and help,” that is, James and John and all the other apostles – the bishops and priests and all the holy people beckoned by the Lord through the office of Peter to fill His boats to bursting.
“He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son,” Paul, another blessed fisher of men, tells us. And the forgiveness of the Lord necessary for one to be called to “a life worthy of the Lord” is evident in the repentance of our leader, our first of apostles, Simon Peter, as he “fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man,’” in awe at the presence of God before him. Only by such humility are we drawn from the darkness of sin, only by recognizing our weakness are we made strong – only by bowing down before the Lord and serving others in His name are we made worthy of the kingdom of light. Only then with our psalmist will we “with trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before the King, the Lord.” Rooted in His Church and its service let us ever grow in knowledge and joy before our God.
O LORD, let your salvation be fully known
in the lives of all your disciples –
let us leave all things to follow your Son.
YHWH, make us worthy to share the lot of your saints in light. Bring your salvation to us, free us from the power of darkness, that we might rejoice in your kingdom and sing your praise forever. It is through Peter and the Church you bring us salvation – let us be caught in his net and so become your disciples, and so become as your only Son.
How shall we attain full knowledge of your will, how shall we find the grace and wisdom we need, if separated from the bark of Peter, if outside the boat in which Jesus Himself has set His feet? We shall not be able to please you, LORD, if we do not follow in the way your Son marks out for us, if we do not come to you through Peter and the apostles.
Let your salvation be known to the ends of the earth, O LORD. Into deep water may Peter’s net be cast, that all sinful men may fall at the feet of Jesus.
Tue, 3 September 2019
(Col.1:1-8; Ps.52:10-11; Lk.4:38-44)
“And He continued to preach in the synagogues of Judea.”
The Word goes forth, bringing healing to the hearts of the faithful. The Word goes forth, ever growing among the people. As “the message of truth, the Gospel… has come to [the Colossians], has borne fruit, and has continued to grow,” so “it has everywhere in the world.” As Jesus has set out “into the open country” to bring “the good news of the reign of God” to all to whom He was sent; as Paul, as Timothy, as Epaphrus – as all the apostles have gone forward bringing the Word forth and planting it in the hearts of all who have ears open to the healing touch of God and making them “like a green olive tree in the house of God,” so that same Word goes forward today through the apostles the Lord has ordained to carry His message of truth; and so we hear of it in our readings of daily Mass, in our daily bread.
Our “love in the Spirit” must ever grow, brothers and sisters; it must ever move forward. For the Word of God ever moves forward to the ends of the earth bringing the love of God to all, and we must move with it. There is no stopping and staying long in any place along this path we tread with the Lord. As He moved on from town to town doing the will of the Father, so our work must ever travel with Him, until it is accomplished in Him. Here there is no place to stay, no place to lay our heads; here there is only moving forward in the Lord.
And, yes, we are moved “by the hope held in store for [us] in heaven.” This is the place to which we travel in all our movements, in all our work and prayer. We know now and it has been openly stated, plainly revealed, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He makes a place for us in His kingdom. And by our “faith in Christ Jesus and the love [we] bear all the saints,” we, too, come into that kingdom, into His presence; with Paul, with the Colossians, with all the faithful who “trust in the kindness of God forever and ever,” we find that kingdom being revealed in our very hearts and in our very actions… and so heaven passes through our midst and makes us sons of the Most High.
Let us be healed of all that keeps us from growing to Him, of growing with Him, of moving forward in service of our Lord Jesus Christ. With our words and in our actions let us preach of the glory of God and so move closer to His kingdom.
O LORD, let all hear the Good News of your reign:
your Son has come into our midst
to heal us of all our sin.
YHWH, may your Word go forth to the ends of the earth, the message of truth everywhere in the world; may it bear fruit and continue to grow in every heart – bless all those who proclaim your NAME to your faithful ones!
As Jesus walked amongst us announcing the Good News of your reign, as He went forth from town to town healing their sick and casting out demons, so today your apostles go out into the open country to bring your love to all peoples, that in your love all may be reborn and grow. In the way of Jesus let us all walk, dear God, that we might come quickly to you.
In your service let us remain, LORD, ready always to answer your call in bearing your love to all the saints, to all those you send in your NAME. Let us grow each day into your kingdom until all are cured of their diseases and join your saints in Heaven.
Mon, 2 September 2019
(1Thes.5:1-6,9-11; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Lk.4:31-37)
“Wait for the Lord with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.”
The Word of the Lord has all “authority and power.” The Word of the Lord casts out demons. The Word of the Lord brings light to the soul who seeks Him. In Him we have no fear.
He comes, brothers and sisters; yes, He comes… As He entered the synagogue in Galilee and cast out the evil spirit from the man and from the place, so He will come at the end of the age and cast all evil from the face of the earth. No longer shall the devil have a place here; all darkness will be banished. This hope should bring us but joy. We who are of light should long for the day when the Lord who is “our light and [our] salvation” comes to cleanse the world of evil; if we seek “to dwell in the house of the Lord” we must know that only His authority and power, only His sharp voice speaking truth and shaking the powers of this earth will bring “the loveliness of the Lord” our hearts desire to contemplate forever. As He came to cast out the devil from the man in the synagogue, as He has come to cast all evil from the temple of our bodies, so He must come at the end of the age to cast all sin into hell, that His light and all His children of light might shine in unadulterated glory.
Do not fear. Do not fear the coming of His kingdom, the power of His Word. Though we may be “struck with astonishment” and wonder at “His speech,” though the teaching of the Lord leave us “spellbound,” yet we should welcome it and seek to increase its presence in our lives and in this world. It is His teaching, it is the power of His Word we are called as children of His light to bring into this world. For, indeed, the world is a dark place, and many there are who fear as the demon the destruction of the darkness in which they have taken what has seemed to them secure refuge. It must be known that in darkness there is no “security,” in sin there is no “peace”… Only in Him is true peace and security.
Let us not be anguished at the passing of the darkness which comes by the just wrath of God. Let us not slumber into its clutches and so find refuge there. We must remain vigilant, seeking with eyes of light the coming of Jesus the Christ. We are destined for salvation in Him. In Him let us take comfort and upbuild one another, spreading “His renown” in our hearts and “through the surrounding country.”
O LORD, in Jesus’ Name and in His blood
let us be healed, washed clean
and ready for His coming Day.
YHWH, let us not take refuge in the darkness of this world and in its drunkenness take our peace and security. Rather, let us live in your light and become children of that light, awake in your presence forever. Your Son comes to cast all demons of darkness from our midst; let us welcome His powerful Word.
O LORD, you are our light and our salvation; you are our life’s refuge. And so, why should we be afraid of your Son’s coming, He who brings your salvation to man? Let us rather long for His return, for His cleansing presence before our eyes. For how else shall we enter your Temple and gaze on your loveliness if all evil is not driven from our souls?
To the land of the living we long to come, so make us stouthearted as we wait for Jesus to return, LORD. May your light upon us give us courage for that Day.
Sun, 1 September 2019
(1Thes.4:13-18; Ps.96:1,3-5,11-13; Lk.4:16-30)
“He comes to rule the earth.”
He is coming, and has come. He set us free from the prison of sin when first He came, and will set us free from death when He comes again and “we shall be with the Lord unceasingly.”
In our gospel we read of His first coming “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives…” Fulfilling the words of the prophets, He brought “a year of favor from the Lord,” to heal all those who waited for His coming, who trusted in His word. And though even as His hometown of Nazareth rejected Him and His truth and led Him to “the brow of the hill” to be cast down, so all would turn their backs on Him and deliver Him up for crucifixion; yet His death was not the end and His life was not fruitless. In His walking the earth He brought light into the darkness and in His bleeding on the cross provided means for its fulfillment.
And on the day when He comes again, death shall indeed be banished, darkness will be no more, for “God will bring forth with Him from the dead those who have fallen asleep believing in Him” and “we, the living, the survivors, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” This the apostle Paul makes quite clear. As Jesus “died and rose,” so will all who believe in Him do the same: what was brought to us in His first coming – the light to the nations – will be made complete in His second coming in a year of favor that has no end.
And of both of these comings our psalm does sing, for both are gloriously triumphant: “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice, let the sea and what fills it resound…” All creation glories in the coming of God; in His holy presence it finds its fulfillment. Forever it has longed to be joined with Him, and when first He came as man, it rejoiced to see Him; and when He comes “from heaven at the word of command, at the sound of the archangel’s voice and God’s trumpet” as the Son of God in all His glory, its joy and its song will know no bounds. For then “He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with His constancy”: the world shall never again be moved from His way of truth and light, and neither shall we. Rejoice at His coming, brothers and sisters, and live in His light.
O LORD, you come to save us,
and so we should not be afraid –
through all tribulation you lead us home.
YHWH, let us sing you a new song on the day of your coming, on the day of your Son’s return. For then His glory will fill the sky and all the dead will rise. O let us be in the number of those who are with you unceasingly! From all darkness may we forever be set free.
When Jesus came to walk among us, to speak to us your marvelous words, to proclaim liberty to all held captive by sin, then we should have rejoiced at His presence and entered the glory of His reign. But we crucified Him instead. He came to bring glad tidings to poor souls, to open our eyes that we might see once again – but we closed our hearts and fixed Him to a cross. O LORD, let your favor be upon us now especially, that we might be saved from such sin.
We wish to rejoice with your holy ones, O God, to praise your NAME to the heavens. Let us listen now to the words of your Son and set our hearts on them.
Fri, 30 August 2019
(1Thes.4:9-12; Ps.98:1,7-9; Mt.25:14-30)
“Those who have, will get more until they grow rich,
while those who have not, will lose even the little they have.”
Again, brothers and sisters, we must always grow in the gifts and graces of the Lord, never looking down upon what He gives us as too little (or too much), but ever putting such talents to use that they might produce an abundant yield and bring us to the joys of heaven.
“Well done! You are an industrious and reliable servant… Come, share your master’s joy!” Do we not wish to hear these words from our gospel today spoken to us on the last day? Do we not wish to be put in charge of greater matters as we enter the joy of the eternal kingdom? Are these not the riches we seek? Then, indeed we must be industrious while here; we must put the Lord’s gifts to good use. We must heed Paul’s exhortation “to remain at peace and attend to [our] own affairs.” In this way of working quietly for the Lord we will certainly make “even greater progress,” until we find the victory proclaimed in our psalm. On that day when “the rivers clap their hands” and “the mountains shout with them for joy,” the Lord “will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity”; He will surely give those deserving their reward, while they who have been “worthless, lazy lout(s),” those who have not served Him out of a holy fear, out of love, but have held a judgmental disposition toward Him and withheld a generous attitude toward others, shall be cast into “the darkness outside” where they will ever “wail and grind [their] teeth.”
Take hold of what the Lord gives you today: the breath in your nostrils and the beat of your heart are in His hands, and He calls you to employ your mind and body at His affair of bringing the kingdom of heaven and His love to this earth. Whatever work He puts in your hands to accomplish, be not slack in its fulfillment. Go forward with faith and a desire to please Him, and He will ever bless and multiply all you have a mind to do; and this work will bring you to the rich fruits of heaven and keep you from the empty darkness of hell.
O LORD, you are generous and give to all,
and we must increase your love in the world.
YHWH, you give us each work to do; into every one of your servant’s hands you place talents we must employ. We have time upon this earth before your Son’s return to bear fruit in your NAME. Help us each day to love one another and do your will in all things. For on the Day when your Son comes again, He shall come as judge; and of what worth will our lives have been if we stand empty-handed before Him? O let us not be cast from your sight!
On the last day the mountains will shout for joy and the rivers clap their hands at the presence of your Son filling the universe with His love. And we shall join in that holy song if it has been our desire to see Him come, if we have worked with our lives to bring His love to this place. O LORD, let us enter into your eternal joy!
Thu, 29 August 2019
(1Thes.4:1-8; Ps.97:1-2,5-6,10-12; Mt.25:1-13)
“God has not called us to immorality but to holiness.”
And so, “keep your eyes open” and “make still greater progress” in the path that leads to His kingdom. Your lights shining brightly as you await His return, be ready to enter His marriage feast.
“It is God’s will that you grow in holiness,” Paul instructs us in our first reading. “Conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to God” is his message. For there is a day coming on which the Lord will judge us and all we do; therefore, we must have nothing to do with “immorality” or “passionate desire” or “cheating” – “for the Lord is an avenger of all such things” – and these will find us barred from His kingdom. Rather, we must stay the path we are on, guarding ourselves “in sanctity and honor” and securing even greater gifts and graces from God that we might keep in store against His judgment, against His wrath to come. For if “the mountains melt like wax before the Lord,” how strong must we be to stand on that day of His return?
But for those who do stand strong, for those who do acquire “flasks of oil” to keep their torches burning for whatever hour the Lord might come – for them there shall be great rejoicing… This is the fate of the just. “Light dawns for the just; and gladness, for the upright of heart,” for their light is a match for His own and so He weds them unto Himself; to rejoice with the king of all the earth is their portion and cup.
Yes, “the ones who were ready went in to the wedding with Him,” but those unprepared were locked outside the doors. And so we must ask ourselves, does Jesus know us? Are we ready for the day of His coming? Do we avoid all stain of sin which detracts from the purity we must maintain as bridesmaids of the Lord? Or is there yet that which keeps us from standing ready at His gates? He will come. He will come again to judge our souls, this Son of God most just, and so we must heed the instruction of the Holy Spirit now to prepare ourselves against that day, ever making progress in His Name.
Let holiness be our treasured possession, brothers and sisters. Let it be a flaming torch growing ever higher by the breath of the Spirit upon our souls, until it reaches unto Him and His kingdom. The Lord’s “delay” in coming serves but to weed the evil from the good. Take this time to increase in faith and in knowledge of God. Be as His own.
O LORD, we must keep ourselves pure
to meet with you who are purity itself.
YHWH, let our eyes be open to see you, our hearts set on fire with your love. Let our flame not die out before the Day of your coming but ever increase as it rises unto you. Let your Spirit be upon us to lead us in wisdom every hour of every day.
O LORD, how shall our holiness grow to meet your own that we might be wed to you? How shall we turn from immorality, from the blindness upon our souls, and come to the glory to which you call us, your glory which you would make our own? O help us to listen to the instruction of the Spirit that we shall remain just in your sight.
Let your light dawn upon us, dearest LORD; let your gladness fill our souls. Let us rejoice at your wedding feast, at our union with you in your kingdom. What need we but holiness? And so, let us set our hearts on you.
Wed, 28 August 2019
(1Thes.3:7-13; Ps.90:3-4,12-14,17; Mt.24:42-51)
“Stay awake, therefore!
You cannot know the day your Lord is coming.”
And what is it to stay awake, to be ready, but to do as Paul exhorts the Thessalonians in our first reading: to continue to grow in holiness until that day we meet with the Lord. This is our essential call.
Here we are, having been converted to the Lord, having found faith in God as our foundation and been appointed servants by Christ until He should return. We are that “faithful, farsighted servant whom the master has put in charge of his household to dispense food at need.” Certainly our priests dispense the most necessary food of the Word and the Bread of Life, but all Christians the Lord gifts with His store of nourishment for the people; all of us are called to provide spiritual as well as physical nourishment to our brothers and sisters. We cannot do other than this or we are not Christians, and we will be far from the Lord at His second coming – when He calls to account all His servants.
And each day we must indeed know the Lord’s increase and “overflow with love for one another and for all”; we must always grow in the gifts the Lord gives us, not becoming impatient for the time which passes, but ever taking it as opportunity to strengthen our salvation in Christ. We must in this way have the vision of God: “A thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch in the night,” our psalm declares (expressing the patience Moses and the Israelites needed in their forty years wandering through the desert); and so short should our wait seem if lived in the presence of our God.
And so now as we wait and watch, now as we make ourselves ready for the Lord by the service we perform in His Name, let us entreat the Lord to “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness,” let us pray for Him to “prosper the work of our hands.” For all in our hands is our gift from Him to accomplish in His Name and by His grace, and by so numbering “our days aright” in His presence, we shall “gain wisdom of heart” and be awake and ready for His coming.
My prayer for you, brothers and sisters, is Paul’s own: “May he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” I pray we shall meet on that happy day.
O LORD, we must serve you each day and every hour;
thus will we be ready for your Son’s coming.
YHWH, let us be ready for the return of your Son, our hearts set on His coming Day. Make us holy before you, doing your work all our days that we might be acceptable to you.
O LORD, we long for the return of your Son, for the dawn of His light upon us. For we are in exile here in this dark place and the devil would come and steal our love for you away, tempting us with the passing of time to become impatient for the fulfillment of your promise.
Let us not be led astray. Let us remember that you are with us always, that a thousand years are as a single day in your sight – let us be blessed with your vision as we serve you, LORD! All is ever new in your presence.
And let us never cease to serve you, never turn from the joy of joining our lives to your own. Then our shortcomings shall be remedied, LORD, and we will see you face to face on your holy Day.
Tue, 27 August 2019
1Thes.2:9-13; Ps.139:1,7-12; Mt.23:27-32)
“Make your lives worthy of the God
who calls you to His kingship and glory.”
God is our Father, and those who preach “God’s good tidings” love us “as a father does his children,” for their message is “not as the word of men” but truly “the word of God at work within [those] who believe.” Come to the Lord’s table. Eat of His Body, drink of His Blood. Become as He is by His holy Word.
Children of light we are called to be, and what is that light but the one which shines in all places at all times and which is inescapable. “Where can I go from your spirit?” David wonders in our psalm. Whether we fly to the heavens or “sink to the netherworld,” He is there. For Him “darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day” because He Himself is light, and where He is, light shines – and He is everywhere.
How can we become children of such an awesome God? How can we enter “His kingship and glory” as Paul exhorts us in our first reading? The only way is by Jesus and the only way is to follow those who bring Jesus to us, whose conduct is “upright, just, and irreproachable” as is Paul’s – our means of salvation is the Church, its prophets and martyrs, its teaching and sacraments… its grace which comes to us through Jesus Christ to lead us to the Father of all. On the apostles and their message of the Gospel our faith is set.
In our gospel Jesus again chastises the Pharisees, those who have not been loving and faithful fathers for the people, those from whom care of the kingdom will be taken for the “hypocrisy and evil” within them. For though they present “a holy exterior,” it is but the bones of the saints they hold within their whitewashed tombs and not their blessed spirit. Indeed, they shall show themselves murderous as their forefathers, who shed the prophet’s blood – and whom they ascribe to themselves by name – in their giving up the fulfillment of the prophets to crucifixion. “Full of filth” inside and lovers of the tomb’s darkness, they are not worthy to be called fathers of the Lord’s children. And Jesus proves that God’s light shines in even the darkest places by exposing their corruption in our gospel today.
Brothers and sisters, beware of following false leaders whose motives are not pure, who do not lay down their lives for the flock. Remain within the walls of the Church, where the Spirit dwells and where the Father nourishes His people on their way to His kingdom and glory.
O LORD, take all falsehood from our souls
and let us toil only for you.
YHWH, how shall we become true servants of your Word, free of all hypocrisy and evil, not seeking our own gain but the salvation of others? Purge us of the filth within us and make our conduct irreproachable, that you may be known and all your children follow in your way.
Surround us, O LORD, with your presence this day; let your Word be at work within us. Let us not whitewash our sin but acknowledge it before your all-seeing eye, and in repentance find our freedom. Guide us in all things, even in the darkest night, that we may come to know you are ever with us.
For you let us work, LORD, and not for the burying of your light. Let us toil on this earth only to bring your truth to all souls. From the tomb let us be raised to dwell in your holy presence.
Mon, 26 August 2019
(1Thes.2:1-8; Ps.139:1-6; Mt.23:23-26)
“First cleanse the inside of the cup
so that its outside may be clean.”
The Lord rails against the Pharisees again today, calling them from false practice to genuine faith; and in Paul we again see the paragon of true ministry in the Lord’s Name.
In our gospel the Lord calls the Pharisees “frauds,” for they have the appearance of holiness in clothing and posture and minor actions, but inside are “filled with loot and lust.” In our first reading, it is quite evident that the preaching of Paul “does not spring from deceit or impure motives or any sort of trickery,” as does the work of the Pharisees. He is not at all guilty of “flattering words or greed under any pretext,” seeking the glory of God rather than “glory from men.” This, of course, is the central question: do we perform our acts for others to see, from selfish motives of pride and greed and the accolades we might gain from man; or are we laying down our lives for God, giving no thought to our own importance or the opposition we may face? Does our work and our life spring from truth, or does it spring from lie?
“O Lord, you have probed me and you know me,” David sings in our psalm today. Truly the Lord is “the tester of hearts.” He is familiar with all our ways and the motives whence they come. Indeed, “even before a word is on [our] tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.” Inside and out He sees us, He scrutinizes us, that He may enter into us and renew us. It is by His grace that the inside of the cup might be made clean and so our work be fruitful in His Name.
And so, what of us, brothers and sisters? What does the Lord see when He peers within our hearts, when His penetrating gaze pierces our soul? Do we meet “the test imposed on us by God” as Paul does and live in “justice and mercy and good faith,” or is there but corruption within us which will not allow the Lord’s light to enter, thus making us blind to His grace?
The Lord surrounds us so, that we call out with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.” Indeed, the Lord is far above and beyond our comprehension and His holiness can seem beyond our ability to attain; but if we have hearts that are open and trusting and loving of His Word, we find that He is “gentle as any nursing mother fondling her little ones,” that He, in fact, shares with us His very life, and so makes us as His own. The Lord will cleanse the inside of the cup. Let Him act upon your soul.
O LORD, you see clearly the inside of our cup,
and would cleanse it by your gaze.
YHWH, you are the tester of our hearts; you scrutinize all our ways. And you know us – you know us well. The greed and deceit within us we cannot hide from your watchful eye. You are not fooled by empty show.
You surround us with your presence, LORD, and test us by our trials. You are far beyond us in eternal glory, and yet you come near. You draw near to us in your Son and so declare to our souls the truth of who we are and what we have done, and what we have failed to do. But you do this not for our condemnation; it is because you love us as a mother her child that you chastise us. It is to make us whole.
O LORD, though knowledge of you is too wonderful for us to comprehend, though great fear fills our souls as you come to us with your piercing fire – though your scrutiny may cause us great humiliation, great suffering, you work gently to heal our hearts of all their affliction.
Sun, 25 August 2019
(1Thes.1:2-5,8-10; Ps.149:1-6,9; Mt.23:13-22)
“You turned to God from idols,
to serve Him who is the living and true God.”
Contrast is at the heart of today’s readings again. The faith of the Thessalonians and the inspired preaching of Paul are in distinct opposition to the empty ways and words of the scribes and Pharisees.
In our first reading Paul praises the Thessalonians, who are “laboring in love, and showing constancy in hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” telling them, “Throughout every region your faith in God is celebrated.” In our gospel Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for their blindness to the presence of God. In contrast to the Thessalonians, they have turned from worship of the true God to idols; their vision set on the gold therein, they are unable to see the temple and how sacred it is – their hearts set on things of this earth and the laws they have contrived, they are blind to the Son of God, who sits upon the throne of heaven, as He stands before them. And not only are their vain beliefs in contrast to the true faith of the Thessalonians, but their failures in carrying the Word of God forth stand also in sharp contrast to Paul’s fruitful preaching. Paul’s preaching was “one of power; it was carried on in the Holy Spirit and out of complete conviction,” and so led to the conversion of many nations. On the other hand, Christ says to the scribes and Pharisees: “You shut the doors of the kingdom of God in men’s faces… You travel over sea and land to make a single convert, but once he is converted you make a devil of him twice as wicked as yourselves.”
We must be the fruit of the Apostle’s preaching, brothers and sisters, and not the vain teaching of those who set their souls on the gold of this world. For as the faithful “sing to the Lord a new song of praise,” as they “rejoice in their king” and “praise His name in the festive dance,” even so the voice of the wicked will be silenced: they shall choke to death on all their pride. So let us be those who “await from heaven the Son [God] raised from the dead – Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” With the Thessalonians let us prove our faith in our labor of love, working ever for the coming of the kingdom. And “the high praises of God [will] be in [our] throats” and the “glory of all His faithful” will be ours. Turning from all the idols of this blind generation, let us be born now of the Spirit of God.
O LORD, we are your own;
let us offer ourselves to you.
YHWH, let high praise of you be in our throats; let us sing for joy in your presence. O let us worship you who are the living and true God! Let us turn resolutely from the idols of this vain world and so be made fruitful in your sight. May the doors of your kingdom open for us and for all souls, we pray.
Jesus is seated upon the throne of Heaven and it is through Him we come to you, O mighty God, that we might be delivered from the wrath to come and be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Truth be upon our hearts and our tongues as we preach the Gospel of Christ with all our lives – thus may we be found worthy to praise your NAME in the assembly of the faithful.
There is woe in store for those who pervert your words to selfish ends, O LORD, who blind themselves and those they teach to the glory of your presence among us. O let us labor in love in the Body of your Son!
Thu, 22 August 2019
(Ruth 1:1,3-6,14-16,22; Ps.146:2,5-10; Mt.22:34-40)
“Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge,
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
How well our readings harmonize this day. Jesus speaks plainly to the keepers of the law the greatest commandments – total love of God and neighbor – and Ruth puts them into practice for our witness. And our psalm sings the praises of our great God of love, whose care for “the hungry” and “the strangers,” “the fatherless and the widow,” we are called to imitate. Alleluia, indeed.
Ruth is a foreigner, from a land which follows other gods; yet she is willing to leave “her people and her god” to follow Naomi and the living and true God unreservedly. Oh how this mirrors all our call to leave all of this world behind and follow the Lord and His way. Oh that we had the courage and faith of this Moabite woman who will become the great-grandmother of King David. How well this illustrates God’s call and blessing to any and all who seek Him, who long to walk in His steps. And how well His way of compassion and love is shown in His care for this widow Naomi, who came to Moab hungry and leaves now to return to Israel with this blessed daughter-in-law to be with her and serve her without restraint.
The words of the Lord are so true: “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” They silence even the hardest of hearts with their radiance. We know that God is love, that through His help we find blessing – that His concern for all those in need extends “through all generations” – and we know that we should be like Him… but how often we fail to practice Ruth’s resolve.
This day let us cast off our reservations, brothers and sisters, and cast ourselves upon the love and grace of the Lord. Let us resolve never to “abandon or forsake” Him. Knowing clearly the love of God which comes from the lips of our own Lord of love and our blessed psalmist, and which is embodied by Ruth’s profession of faith and commitment to love, let us vow in this spirit to return the Lord’s boundless love, for in loving we become like Him whom we love and so stand with Him who “shall reign forever” in the eternal kingdom of light and love. Again I say, now is the acceptable time; today is the day of salvation. Follow Him unreservedly.
O LORD, may we increase in purity daily,
for the hour of your Son’s coming is nigh
and we must be ready to become His bride.
YHWH, help us to trust entirely in you, to love you with all our heart, and our neighbors as ourselves. Help us to leave behind our people and anything that keeps us from you. To you and to your love let us come, and with you make our home.
You provide, O LORD, for all those in need, for the widow and the orphan, and the stranger who draws close to you. You make no distinction among people: it is those of faith who are acceptable to you and whom you bless. Those of faith who reflect your great love become as your sons and daughters; these are wed to you.
O let us never abandon or forsake you, LORD! Let us go wherever you lead, and make your people our people. With you and with those who follow you let us stay and remain, and we shall dwell securely in your love. You are our only hope – reign over us forever.
Wed, 21 August 2019
(Jgs.11:29-39; Ps.40:5,7-10; Mt.22:1-14)
“You have made a vow to the Lord.
Do with me as you have vowed.”
As with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is blessed not so much for giving birth to Jesus – or consecrating herself to God as a virgin – as for hearing and doing the word of God, being the handmaiden of the Lord extraordinaire… so the Lord delights not in “sacrifice and oblation,” per se, but in “ears open to obedience.” In accepting the sacrifice of her fertility (the greatest sacrifice a woman could make, though it may be difficult to realize in these days of abortion and contraception), Jephthah’s daughter demonstrates the obedience required of all the redeemed.
“Happy the man who makes the Lord his trust; who turns not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood,” David proclaims in our psalm today. “The spirit of the Lord” upon him, Jephthah defeats severely the Ammonites, a nation which practiced the sacrifice of their children to their god, Molech. The Lord thus shows disdain for them and their ways. Thus also it should be evident that Jephthah would not do in the spirit of the Lord that which is directly opposed to His will. The sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter is of her fertility – it is her virginity she mourns and not her death. And Jephthah maintains his vow by consecrating her wholly to God, knowing that his generation will cease, since he has no other sons and daughters to bear his name, and thus making a great sacrifice himself. If it were her life itself he offers God, he would be no better than those he destroyed and certainly no son of Abraham, who was taught the truth against such sacrifice so many years before.
This aside, we turn to our gospel. It is clear that Jesus is telling the chief priests and elders of the people that they do not have the obedience required of the redeemed. “In the written scroll it is prescribed” that all must do the will of God, but these who know the Scriptures so well, know nothing of them at all… and so the Word goes out to draw the whole world into the kingdom prepared by God. But to these, too, Jesus has a warning: “The invited are many, the elect are few.” If we are “not properly dressed for a wedding feast,” if we have not aligned our lives with the will of God, we too shall be thrown “out into the night” with the man who had to “wail and grind his teeth.” And this wailing shall not come as holy sacrifice unto the ears of God; it shall not demonstrate our obedience to Him, but rather be the inflicting of judgment upon our souls.
Let us be obedient to the will of God in all things, brothers and sisters. Let us hear His voice alone and follow where it leads.
O LORD, let us offer ourselves as a holocaust to you;
then we will be fit to enter your presence.
YHWH, how shall we give true worship to you and offer you the sacrifice you are due? Only complete obedience to your will shall bring us into your presence; it is our very lives you desire of us. For you know that only this will make us joyful – only union with you and your Son will fulfill the longing of our hearts.
To your wedding feast let us come, O LORD, and there let us remain, ever praising your glory with full voice, happy to be among those you have saved. And so, in purity let us come, single-hearted let us be, and we shall not be cast out into the night but live in your holy light.
Your Spirit you send upon those who call upon you, who devote themselves to your will. Let us fulfill our vows to you, LORD; let us turn from all idols and trust in you alone, and we shall be blessed forever in your House.
Tue, 20 August 2019
(Jgs.9:6-15; Ps.21:2-7; Mt.20:1-16)
“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
Jesus, the Son of God and true King, who is first, has made Himself last, and so for His humility will be exalted forever; Abimalech, rebellious son of Gideon, who is least of all his brothers, has made himself first, and so will be humbled for his vain pride.
In our first reading Jotham curses his brother Abimalech from the mountaintop as this least of the trees is anointed king after having murdered all other of his brothers. (There were seventy sons of the judge Gideon – who himself refused kingship.) The people of Shechem have fallen by pride in this son of their own city and so they, too, are cursed for taking refuge in his dark shadow. Abimalech’s thorns shall pierce them and shall prove a bitter medicine of purgation for these wayward Israelites. They shall indeed be the death of one another.
In contrast to this false king, in David’s psalm we hear of the blessings the true king receives from God, in whom he rejoices and to whom he gives all glory for victory: “O Lord, in your strength the king is glad.” It is not by his own will that this king reigns, but by the will of the Father, and so his place is assured and he is exalted and made “a blessing forever.” David, too, was the least of his brothers, but unlike Abimalech, who took matters into his own jealous and bloody hands, he trusted always in the Lord and humbled himself before the God of all, and so, “great is his glory in [the Lord’s] victory.”
And, of course, we know that it is the Son of David, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords: in Him is the blessed kingship of God fulfilled. And, of course, it is His great humility which has made Him so exalted. Did He not take the crown of thorns upon His head? Was He not pierced by the pride of man’s rebellion? Did He not accept the bitter wine as He died upon the cross? And so should not all trees bow down to this sanctifying tree, this true vine? Is it not by the fruit of this buckthorn that we are purged from our sins against Him who is Most High? He who has been raised on the cross is indeed King of us all, and all others mere pretenders.
Brothers and sisters, it is only in Christ and in the shadow of the tree that is the cross that we shall find blessing, that we shall find glory, that we shall be exalted and receive “a crown of pure gold.” Follow no other, for false gods abound and their fall is great. Toil only in the vineyard of the Lord and regardless of the length or breadth of your labor you shall receive your recompense, which is oneness with Him who is eternal and whose generous reign knows no bounds. And be not envious of others’ entering in if it is you who must toil long – your service of God should be your joy and a source of great humility.
O LORD, those who are least in the eyes of the world
are first in your eyes,
for you love all souls, but despise sin.
YHWH, you have sent us a great King, before whom all others must bow, in whose light all other reigns pale. For He is the only true King, the only King whose reign endures. And only in Him is true justice; and only in Him is true charity. Only in Jesus will all be cared for, will all be united with you.
Let us serve your Son well, dear LORD. Let us enter His vineyard and do the work set before us by His gracious concern. He seeks to draw us into His realm that we might be blessed by Him; let us not be idle or jealous of His goodness toward all, but treasure every hour we toil in His presence.
There are false gods enough to lead any soul astray, but only you are LORD and only on your Son do your majesty and splendor rest. Let us take our refuge, Father, in the shadow of His Cross.
Mon, 19 August 2019
(Jgs.6:11-24; Ps.85:9,11-14; Mt.19:23-30)
“Go with the strength you have and save Israel
from the power of Midian. It is I who send you.”
The world is at enmity with God. The kingdom of heaven is not as the kingdom of this earth, thus Jesus tells us that “the last shall come first.” For though we pray the Lord’s kingdom come now to this earth, it shall not be fulfilled until “the new age when the Son of Man takes His seat upon a throne befitting His glory.” We must therefore not judge with the mind of the world but continually struggle against it and its power.
In our gospel Jesus calls the apostles to give up all things for the sake of the kingdom. As He instructs them of the danger of the riches of this world, they are “completely overwhelmed.” Judging with an earthly mind, they think riches should be of assistance; but the Lord wishes to teach them of the mind of God, upon which the world is set in opposition. The apostles indeed “have put everything aside to follow” Jesus, and for this they shall receive their reward. But their only reward on this earth will be persecution; it is in heaven their glory shall come.
Yes, the Lord “proclaims peace to His people” and “justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps”; and though the Lord blesses and guides us in our fight against evil now – imparting to us a share of His Spirit – yet we know “His benefits” shall only be fulfilled in heaven; this is the land which “shall yield its increase.” As in our first reading the meat and cakes of Gideon are laid upon a rock, not consumed by the mouth for the sake of the belly but consumed by the fire of the Lord to feed his faith, so it is that the Lord and His angels and all those who follow Him are of the Spirit and not the flesh. And so it is that the Lord chooses those who are least in the eyes of the world, as is Gideon: “My family is the meanest in Manassah, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house,” and places His power upon them, to show us not only that “for God all things are possible,” but more so to instruct us not to put faith in the passing things of this world but in the eternal “justice and peace” of His heavenly kingdom.
We must indeed struggle continually against this world and its power with the strength God gives us, brothers and sisters. In the riches of this life we must never take our ease. For these are set in opposition to God in enmity. God is Spirit and we must be as He is, taking our places in His heavenly glory with the apostles who have laid down their lives and so now judge in righteousness with Jesus the king. Go forth now in His Name.
O LORD, let us follow in the way you mark out for us,
and we will be blessed.
YHWH, you come to those who are lowly, who place their trust in you. Those who set their hearts on you and give up the things of this world will be blessed in your kingdom.
Call us forth in your NAME to do your will, O LORD. Without you, we are nothing, the meanest creatures on this earth. But with the strength that comes from you, we can conquer all our enemies. It is from you all blessings come; only through you will our land yield its increase, will we be fruitful here and in Heaven.
Why should we desire the riches of this world when you are the only treasure worthy of our time, when it is only your glory that passes not away? O LORD, accept the offering of our lives. Increase our faith in your protection, in the angel you send to call us to you, and we shall live ever in your peace.
Sun, 18 August 2019
(Jgs.2:11-19; Ps.106:4,34-37,39-40,43-44; Mt.19:16-22)
“They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken,
and did not follow their example of obedience
to the commandments of the Lord.”
It is not long before the Israelites break their vows to the Lord, mingling with other nations and worshiping their idols. As soon as the generation which has known Joshua dies out, their children begin to stray. And though the Lord “raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers,” to save them from their enemies when He heard their cry of affliction, repeatedly “when the judge died, they would relapse and do worse.” Thus it shall also be with the interminable series of good and evil kings which shall lead to their exile, and thus the necessity of the eternal King, Jesus Christ, under whose reign there is no faltering backward – for He lives forever to intercede.
So evil had the Israelites become that they “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.” And one must ask, should the Lord God not punish such deeds? Does He not hold justice in His right hand? Should such action be allowed to transpire? Although the Lord holds compassion in His left hand and always has regard for our affliction when we cry out to Him, He does not, He cannot, allow sin to go unpunished. If He did so it would but grow more grave and the peril to the soul would be greater, and thus He would fail in compassion not only to the victims of oppression but to the soul of the oppressor.
How difficult this is to hear in the materialistic age in which we dwell, where the body is king and possessions take the place of the spirit. How like the young man in our gospel many are when they hear the call to perfection, when they are challenged to give up their possessions, for our souls have become one with our material wealth, and to lose it we think spells death. But it is not death but life to which Jesus calls us, life in the Spirit, which is life itself. And whether we own things or not we must not own them; we must know that all belongs to God, or we shall not belong to God but to the false idols of the nations around us and the death and defilement their evil practices bring. For do we not today sacrifice our children on the altar of abortion in the name of ease and luxury.
“There is One who is good. If you wish to enter life, keep His commandments.” If you wish for death, continue to stray.
O LORD, how shall we give ourselves entirely to you,
you who alone love us?
YHWH, save us from following the false gods that surround us and close in. Easily we go astray without your shepherds to lead us. May your Son be present to us this day in your Church that we might be kept from falling into the power of our enemies by the sins we commit.
Why should we abandon you, LORD? Why should we fall under the devil’s sway and give ourselves to the service of the empty things of this world? Look upon our weakness. Help us rather to abandon our passing possessions and put our trust in your unfading glory. Help us keep to your Word and your way and find the goodness, the perfection, only you hold.
Your Son calls us this day away from the vain pursuits of this corrupted place. May we heed His voice and turn from the evil sacrifices of wanton nations to join ourselves to His Cross.
Fri, 16 August 2019
(Jos.24:14-29; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-8,11; Mt.19:13-15)
“We will serve the Lord, our God, and obey His voice.”
Like children we must come before the Lord and extol His holy Name. “Completely and sincerely” we must serve Him and He will place His hands upon our heads and bless us. And we will sing with David of the “fullness of joys in [His] presence, the delights at [His] right hand forever.” We indeed will be as children, and He will be our God. Listen to the words of Jesus: “Let the children come to me… The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Oh to know the blessing of being in the Lord’s presence forever!
“My Lord are you. Apart from you I have no good,” cries David to his God. Indeed, how our psalm sings the praises of the Lord and the blessing of our refuge in Him. How well it illustrates the fruit of the covenant the people enter into with God at Shechem under Joshua’s leadership. The Promise having been fulfilled, Joshua calls the Israelites to renew their commitment to the Lord. And though their fidelity to Him will only be for a short time and the stone set up shall soon be a witness against them, yet their vows are those we must all make in sincerity and in truth. Obeying His voice is indeed our salvation. As David sings, “I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me.” The Lord is ever there for those who trust in Him, who give their lives to Him, who serve Him – who come to Him as a humble child in innocence and love. What greater blessing can we know than to love the Lord who is “a holy God” and so become one with Him? This is our “allotted portion,” this is our “cup” – this is the reign of God upon us to which we are called.
“I set the Lord before me,” our psalm states, “with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” If we but set our hearts on Him, brothers and sisters, there can be nothing that will move us. If we but take our vows in the Spirit of Truth, He will be ever with us. Let us not be afraid. Let us not be afraid that we will fall, that He will leave us. Let us pursue Him with heart and soul; let us give our lives over to Him.
To serve Him and to love Him is our blessed joy. Let us be as children before Him and reap this joy unto life eternal. Let our covenant with Him be written upon our hearts and evident in all our lives, and we shall stand in His presence forever. Set aside all false gods; listen to His voice. Alleluia!
O LORD, may you be our God
and we be your children!
YHWH, lay your hands upon our heads that we might be blessed, that we might have the strength to worship you alone. Let us be resolved to serve only you, to put all false gods far from us. It is you who are our allotted portion and cup, you who hold fast our lot – in you let us take refuge this day.
You alone are holy, LORD; you alone are exalted far above all gods. In you alone we find our salvation, and so, to you alone should we come for blessing. Let us be as children, with hearts set on loving only you, and the kingdom of Heaven shall be ours, for you will then be at our side.
Forgive our transgressions, O LORD, our turning away from you… our breaking the covenant we made to serve you alone. Let our vows be renewed this day, and let them be set in stone before you. Help us by your grace not to waver, not to fear, but to know your innocence in our souls and remain humbly at the feet of your Son.
Thu, 15 August 2019
(Jos.24:1-13; Ps.136:1-3,16-18,21-22,24; Mt.19:3-12)
“I gave you a land which you had not tilled
and cities which you had not built, to dwell in.”
All of our lives come to us by the grace of God, “for His mercy endures forever.” It is never by our own hands that anything good is accomplished. As the Lord says to the Israelites, “It was not your sword or your bow,” by which they conquered the nations – emphasizing that it was He who destroyed them – so we must know, too, that it is the Lord who goes before us and brings us to the land He has prepared for us; and it is by His hand that all our enemies, all obstacles, are conquered.
Our first reading and our psalm speak particularly of the Lord’s finally bringing the Israelites safely into the Promised Land. Joshua, who has by God’s grace accomplished the work commissioned upon him through Moses, now seeks to remind the people of the blessings God has bestowed upon them in giving them this fruitful land, that they might not forget their God and the praise due Him. As Moses prepared the people with his speech before they entered the Promised Land, so Joshua exhorts them now that they have attained their goal; and the focus of both addresses is that they not forget their God who provides them with all things.
In our gospel Jesus teaches us of the blessing of chastity, of the sanctity of marriage and the godly call to celibate life. Of what does He speak but of the Promised Land become quite real in the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem. We are told throughout the letters of especially St. Paul that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that sins against their purity and integrity are the gravest of offenses, for in these the sin is so real, so present, even to our flesh. In these temples we dwell. These temples we must keep holy, we must keep pure. “It is so difficult,” you might say. Then remember the Lord’s words to the Israelites; remember that it is He who “slew powerful kings” before them, that it is by His power they conquered, and you will be able to say with them that it is the Lord who “freed us from our foes.”
Jesus says of celibacy, perhaps the greatest gift of God and the closest to Him we can come, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, only those to whom it is given to do so,” and this is our key to attaining its grace, and indeed the grace of any form of chastity: we must know it is He who works in us and we must seek His blessing “for the sake of God’s reign”; and then He will make us steady and strong in the fields of His Promised Land as we call upon and praise His Name.
O LORD, there is no separating what you have joined;
you do not leave us but in your mercy bless our way,
and just so we should remain faithful to one another –
your promise should be our own.
YHWH, all good comes to us at your command, and so we praise and thank you for your merciful love, for your rescuing us from the land of Egypt and bringing us into your kingdom. We cannot leave sin behind and enter into union with you except by your word and your will; and so, join us together, we pray – never let us be separated from you.
It is then we shall know your goodness fully, LORD, when, one with your Son, we renounce all of this world for the sake of your reign and find your grace at work in our lives. Only then will we enter the Land you promise to your faithful children.
You make all our enemies flee before us, LORD; it is you who conquer all kings of sin. For your mercy cannot be bound, and those who cry out to you, you save.
Tue, 13 August 2019
(Dt.34:1-12; Ps.66:1-3,5,8,16-17,20; Mt.18:15-20)
“This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
that I would give to their descendants.”
The promise is coming to fulfillment; Moses looks out on the land the Lord so long ago vowed to give the great patriarchs. And though he shall not enter in and dwell there with the people, yet he has confidence that the promise shall be fulfilled. And though after forty years of struggle he will die here at the border, we know he has a greater reward stored up for him in heaven.
What is this Promised Land now? Where do we find it today but in the Church founded by Jesus upon his apostles and living in the hearts and lives of all His disciples? This is the Promised Land, the heavenly Jerusalem at work in the world even now. Notice that Joshua “was filled with the Spirit of wisdom, since Moses had laid his hands on him.” And “the Israelites gave him their obedience, thus carrying out the Lord’s command.” In the same way the power of the Holy Spirit coming from Peter and the apostles is passed down to this day in the Lord’s Church: the power is indeed from Jesus and His Spirit, but their power works invariably through the deeds of men so ordained. And by that power Joshua will lead the Israelites to the Promised Land even as Peter and his successors lead the Church to our heavenly homeland, insofar as we give obedience to them at the Lord’s command.
Jesus in our gospel outlines the special place the Church holds both in judging offenses and offering prayers. He repeats the Church’s power to bind and loose from fault, a power that begins with Peter but extends to all His disciples so ordained, and reminds them also of the great strength they take when together they call upon His name: “If two of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in heaven.” The Lord does not work in a vacuum but accomplishes great and wondrous things through those He lays His hands upon.
What great works were accomplished by Moses: “He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to perform.” Oh “the might and terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel.” Do you think this power dies with Moses? Do you think it has come to an end? No. For his successor Joshua parts the Jordan River by the same power; and now in Jesus and through His Church that power comes to fulfillment. Tremendous are the Lord’s “deeds among men.” If we but “appealed to Him in words,” what wonders would we know. Wars would cease and this world would look much more like the heavenly kingdom He has promised us all. Let us pray with one voice, as one Church, in His Name.
O LORD, what greater gift could you give
than the power upon your priests
to forgive men’s sins?
YHWH, what power you give to those who serve you; what tremendous deeds are wrought by your disciples. For what equal had Moses in the signs and wonders you worked through him? And what greater work can there be than the forgiving of men’s sins, which you accomplish by your priests this day?
Upon your Church you place your power, LORD; where two or three are gathered all prayers are answered. And even judgment you give to Church leaders, the power to discern right from wrong. As your lawgiver had clear vision till the end of his days, to see and know your will and teach the people of your ways, so this day is fulfilled in your Son and in those upon whom He lays His hands the grace of wisdom and understanding to lead souls into the promised land of Heaven. Let us listen to the words they speak to us, let us be obedient sons.
Mon, 12 August 2019
(Dt.31:1-8; Dt.32:3-4,7-9,12; Mt.18:1-5,10,12-14)
“It is the Lord who marches before you;
He will be with you and never fail or forsake you.”
“Do not fear or be dismayed,” little ones, the Lord is with us and watches over us. Just as it was He who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, so it is He who leads us now into His “heavenly reign.”
In our first reading the Israelites stand poised to attain that which they have been so long promised. Centuries after God’s call to Abraham and at the end of forty years wandering in the desert, the time has come for them to enter in and take possession of the land the Lord has set aside for them. As they look toward their heritage on the other side of the Jordan River, Moses encourages them: “It is the Lord, your God, who will cross before you.” “The Lord alone was their leader,” brothers and sisters; and now it is Jesus alone who shepherds us into the kingdom we look upon with bated breath, for which we patiently prepare ourselves. It is He who has crossed before us in His death and resurrection and now faithfully guides us into His Father’s reign.
And just as Moses commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites: “You must bring this people into the land which the Lord swore to their fathers He would give them,” encouraging him to be brave and trust in God… so Jesus commissions His disciples to lead His sheep, and especially those who are lost or straying, into the kingdom of God – encouraging them to remain humble always, to make themselves lowly like a little child. And His commission extends, of course, to us today; in these readings we hear His voice.
As for “these little ones” of whom Jesus tells us, “I assure you their angels in heaven constantly behold my Father’s face,” are we not they of whom He speaks? Are we not His innocent doves in need of the Church’s wisdom and guidance to find our place in the Lord’s kingdom? And certainly even those who lead the flock are members of the flock themselves, for ultimately it is always the Lord who leads, and all must come unto His presence. Let us be assured, little flock, let us take blessed comfort in the Lord’s care for His people. “It is no part of your heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.” So let us be as children before Him, beholding the face of God. This is His will for all our souls; let us walk confidently with Him, knowing His love and His blood will never fail us. The kingdom awaits our coming.
O LORD, only as a child will we enter Heaven,
for only as a child can we stand in your presence.
YHWH, make us humble and innocent as little children that you might lead us by your mighty hand into the land you promise all your lowly ones. How shall we behold your face if we are not obedient to you, if we do not seek your glory by humbly doing your will? Bless your people with your presence.
Send us leaders, LORD, to guide us to your kingdom, to shepherd us to your holy mountain. Your power be upon those you send to stand in the place of your only Son, that all might find salvation. Help us to have faith in you, to know that as you have been with us until this day, so forever you will remain, destroying our enemies before us, setting us free from all sin.
Let none of your children be lost, dear LORD, but come quickly to their heritage in you. O let us be brave and steadfast! remembering ever it is you who go before us.
Sun, 11 August 2019
Dt.10:12-22; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Mt.17:22-27)
“In His love for your fathers the Lord was so attached to them
as to choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples.”
The Israelites are the chosen race, and Jesus the Chosen One of that race. Upon them the blessing rests, and in the Son it is fulfilled.
Our first reading tells us that the Lord is a great God, “who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.” And the Israelites are called to be made in the image of their Father, showing His might in this way of compassion and truth. “And now, Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to fear the Lord, your God, and follow His ways exactly,” declares Moses. And so he enjoins upon the people the Lord’s word, “His statutes and ordinances,” which “He has not made known” to other nations, and which serve as their guide to maintaining His light in their lives. “He has strengthened the bars of your gates… He has granted peace in your borders,” our psalm confirms: by the grace of God’s law their children are blessed and become “numerous as the stars of the sky.”
And in our gospel we see again the fulfillment of the Father’s blessing and of His law in the Person of Jesus and the sacrifice He, and we, are called to make. First Jesus makes clear that He is the Son of God exempt from the temple tax – how can the temple pay tax unto itself, or, better yet, how can the temple be paid tax by Him who made it? Jesus is the Chosen One, the chosen of the chosen sons. And His new Law, His new way – which again is but the fulfillment of the law laid out by Moses – is the cross. Moses tells us of the compassion and justice of the Father, who cares for widows and orphans and aliens, and Jesus embodies that love and truth by being “delivered into the hands of men who will put Him to death” for our sin and to show the love God has for us in such utter sacrifice.
Brothers and sisters, allow me to note here that there is no distinction between the love and the justice of God: they are inseparable, the one ever complementing the other. It is out of both love and a sense of justice that the Lord defends the widows and orphans, saving them from their oppressors and gathering them into His arms. His love breeds justice and His justice love. This is the way of God; and this must be our way as His children.
Yes, God loves the world and so He sends His Son to make atonement for our sin. We have sinned and atonement must be made; it cannot be otherwise. And it cannot be otherwise but that God makes that atonement by His love. Let us join to Him as sons in His holy sacrifice. This is our special, blessed call.
O LORD, though in His love He made Himself
an outcast for our sakes, for our lack of love,
Jesus is your only Son.
YHWH, you are the great God, mighty and awesome, your glory far above us and our ways. Yet you bless us with your presence, you proclaim your Word to our hearts – you send your Son into our midst as the Temple in which we may worship you and so join ourselves to your surpassing glory. For this grace let us never cease to praise you; let us never fail to follow in your way.
Your Son shows to us the way we must walk; the way of love He marks out for us in perfectly fulfilling your will, in freely going to the Cross. Here your surpassing love for your poor creatures you reveal to us. And this same love you call us to – this same glory is ours, O LORD, by the mercy He bears.
To this Temple let us come. In your Son let us make our home. He who humbles Himself for our sakes, who joins Himself to us for our salvation, let us follow unto glory. Your Word be fulfilled in our midst.
Thu, 8 August 2019
(Dt.4:32-40; Ps.77:12-16,21; Mt.16:24-28)
“The Son of Man will come with His Father’s glory
accompanied by His angels.”
The Lord God came to “take a nation for Himself from the midst of another, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with His strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors.” As He came with power to rescue the Israelites from the bonds of Egypt, so He will come at the end of time, and is come now, to save us from this world of sin. Indeed, the Son of Man shall come fully into His Kingship on the last day and “repay each man according to his conduct.”
How shall we secure a place in His kingdom? Moses tells the Israelites, in his final address to them before they enter the Promised Land, “You must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below,” and that they “must keep His statutes and commandments.” Then they will be blessed and prosper. Jesus tells us in our gospel, “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps.” As it was then, it is now, only the road is more straitened for the goal is more blessed: now it is even unto death we must be obedient to His ways; but now we find not only life on the land, but glory everlasting.
“Among the people you have made known your power,” proclaims our psalm today, and indeed our first reading recounts the “wonders of old” the Lord wrought in the midst of His people: with their eyes they saw His “great fire,” and with their ears they “heard Him speaking out of the fire.” It is, of course, the presence of Jesus we see before us now and hear speaking in our hearts by the fire of the Holy Spirit. He makes His power known to us now in a far surpassing way. And if we wish to know the glory of God burning in our midst and leading us to the eternal kingdom of light, we must be made holy by its power. “O God, your way is holy,” our psalm states, and if we wish to follow in His way, we must be holy as He.
The Lord is coming with His holy angels. He shall soon be here in all His glory. Now He has left us a blessed cross to place upon our shoulders; it is this most wonderful of signs by whose testings we are led in power to the eternal reign of our Savior. As intimately as you know His humble cross, as closely as you follow His sacrificial path, so well will you know His Father’s glory.
O LORD, your greatness is revealed to all;
let us dwell in your light.
YHWH, how great were your deeds in bringing your chosen people out of Egypt! What wonders you worked among them. To them you showed that you are LORD and there is no other.
But how much greater is the presence of your Son among us this day and the deeds He has wrought for our salvation. How much more clearly you speak to us now, LORD, through the wonders He works – and how perfectly your glory will be known when He returns accompanied by His angels! There will be no greater deeds to be worked when that Day comes.
But until that Day let us walk with you here; let us take up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus, keeping your Word that we may prosper in good deeds ourselves and come finally to the Land you promise, to eternal life, our eyes looking upon your surpassing glory.
Wed, 7 August 2019
(Nm.20:1-13; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; Mt.16:13-23)
“‘You are the Messiah,’ Simon Peter answered,
‘the Son of the Living God!’”
With this response, because of this faith come from the “heavenly Father,” Jesus declares to Peter, “You are ‘Rock’, and on this rock I will build my Church.” He entrusts to him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, with power to bind and loose. As from the rock Moses struck, “water gushed out in abundance for the community… to drink,” so through Peter and the Church Christ has founded we are nourished by the sacraments and true teaching. So the Son of the Living God is with us.
“Let us acclaim the Rock of our Salvation… Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides.” By the hand of Peter the Lord guides the Church born of His blood. Indeed, as Moses led the Israelites through the desert, so Peter leads us now to the gates of heaven. Let us declare our faith with him; let us echo his words to the Lord, giving Him due praise and “joyfully sing[ing] psalms to Him.” He is our God, He is our Savior, and in this Rock we take refuge.
But let us remember, too, not to judge “by man’s standards but by God’s.” His ways are not our ways, as both great leaders had to learn. It seems to our human minds unfair that Moses should be deemed unfit to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land; it is they, after all, who continually tempted him with their grumbling, plotting even to take his life. And why is the Lord so harsh toward Peter, even calling him “Satan”? He is only concerned for Jesus’ life, is he not? The Lord does not judge as we judge. He wishes to teach Moses to deepen his love and concern for the people, that anger is never justified in the care of those in one’s charge – the Lord does not act in the rashness of anger and anxiety, and neither should we. And to Peter He must show the necessity of the sacrifice of this life, that we must be “put to death” to be “raised up on the third day” – it is the laying down of this life which brings glory.
Really, in both cases the Lord is calling His leaders to lay down their lives for the people, to do as He does and take the people’s sins upon themselves. And this is, of course, the call of us all – to be like Him, to join with our Savior, the Son of the Living God, in His sacrifice. What is more against the standards of man than the cross of Christ, as Paul has told us elsewhere, “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1Cor.1:23) – and yet the source of our salvation. For to come to the Living God we proclaim as our own, this world and its passions must be left behind. The Father dwells in highest heaven and His ways must become our own. Take refuge now in the Rock of Christ and in His Church; this shall lead you to His presence.
O LORD, your ways are so far above our own,
and how shall we attain to them,
except by faith and the grace that comes to us
through your holy Church?
YHWH, how could we even begin to put you to the test? How could we be so foolish as to ask you any question, as to doubt your goodness toward us, your presence among us? What of this world should lead us to such blindness to your love? Should we not be ready even to die for you?
It is you who have the power and grace to put us to the test, and so your Son asks, “Who do you say that I AM?” Do we really believe He is the Messiah? Do we really believe you have sent Him to us to die for our sins that we might be raised up with Him? Or do we indeed doubt the greatness of your love? O LORD, help us to judge as you judge, to see as you see, and so to know your glory.
It is not in this desert we shall find our home; it is not the food of this world that is our fare. It is to Heaven we must come, and in your Church we shall find a way there. Help us, O LORD, to show forth your sanctity, to join in the sacrifice of your Son and worship Him alone.
Tue, 6 August 2019
(Nm.13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35; Ps.106:4,6-7,13-14,21-23; Mt.15:21-28)
“They forgot the God who had saved them.”
But He did not forget them. Though He curses them in our first reading for their lack of faith, and though they shall indeed all – except for Joshua and Caleb – die in the desert over forty years, their children shall enter and take the Promised Land from the five tribes which inhabit it; and despite their repeated faltering in following His word, He shall come to redeem them from their exile once again, and in a full way, in the Person of Jesus Christ.
The Israelites grumbled against Moses and against God in the desert. Fearful at the report of the “giants” in the land they were called to seize as their own, they failed to remember the Giant who fought for them, “who had done great deeds in Egypt.” “They waited not for His counsel,” nor trusted in His protection, and so they dissembled at what their eyes saw and their ears heard, having not the heart of faith, remembering not the word of the Lord. The people of the land may have been giants, but the Lord towers over all the earth. We must always remember His surpassing power.
And in our gospel we find one of the descendants of those who had made the Israelites so fearful to enter the Promised Land groveling at the feet of the Lord, this Son of David, indeed as a dog before its master. How fortunes have changed. Jesus says to this Canaanite woman, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” See God’s love for His people. See how He has kept the word of His covenant not to forget them. See how He yet chooses them from among the nations, sending His Son in the flesh as one of them. And yet, shall they recognize the grace that walks amongst them? Will their hearts be open to accept Him now, or hardened to His call and blind to His presence will they remain?
This question is asked of each one of us, brothers and sisters, for we are the spiritual descendants of the Israelite people. Will we remember Him and His Word amongst us? Do we recall all He has done for us? This Canaanite woman who begs crumbs from the Lord’s table is greatly blessed. She has the faith required for the kingdom of heaven. Again in Scripture it is a Gentile, a foreigner, who exhibits the faith the “sons and daughters” should have. The Lord uses such as these to shame His chosen ones and show them how far His love does spread, how great His grace truly is – that it can capture even these giants in its net. And so, should it not capture the Jew? And so, should we not be taken in it as well? Now that His salvation has extended to the ends of the earth, shall His chosen be forgotten? Will they continue to forget their place in His land? I pray it shall not be so for you and I, brothers and sisters, but that we will always remember His Name.
O LORD, if only we had faith!
we would never be afraid –
we would certainly be saved.
YHWH, why are we so forgetful of you and your power to save? Why are we who know you, who have seen your hand at work, who have been blessed by your abiding presence – why are we so blind to your unending love for our poor souls? Those who do not know you, who are so far away from you, come on their knees before your Son begging His grace and forgiveness, begging His blessed protection… and these receive answer to their prayers, even as those of your own household wither and die in the hardness of their hearts, in their lack of faith.
Forgive us, LORD, our crimes against you; let us not die in this desert of sin. Send your Chosen One to help us, to save us from the condemnation we deserve for our wicked ways. We are as mere grasshoppers before you, O Giant! Have pity on your faithless sons and gather us into the land you have promised.
Sun, 4 August 2019
(Nm.11:4-15; Ps.81:2,12-17; Mt.14:13-21)
“Israel I would feed with the best of wheat.”
But the best of wheat they despise, and seek to satiate their appetite with meat. The blessed food from heaven, come from the hand of God, the Israelites soon grow tired of as they travel through the desert. Their stomachs cry out for earthly flesh. As our psalm tells us, the people “heard not” the voice of God but preferred “their own counsels,” so He “gave them up to the hardness of their hearts.” He will give them the meat they desire, and it will bring plague upon them for their lusts against God.
Yet the Lord ever continues to call His people, and in the presence of Jesus that call is fulfilled. In our gospel we see Jesus taking it upon Himself to feed the hungry masses, caring for their needs, and though some will seek to follow Him just to feed their bellies, others will recognize in His feeding of the five thousand the blessing of God’s providence and His loving care for His children; and their hearts will be open to partake of the spiritual food, the Body and Blood of Christ, which shall be offered forth at the table of the Lord after His death and resurrection. The sacrificial love of Jesus Christ will thus become their own as they unite with Him in flesh and blood, in word and deed – in partaking of the best of wheat. He is the food that sustains us.
The fragments left us in the twelve baskets come down to us this day through His twelve apostles and the Church founded by them in His Name. The fragments we find upon our altar today as our priest prays the blessing over them. And we are fed. And we have life. And we are kept from grumbling against the Lord for all that is not ours in this world, and all the vain things our hearts would otherwise desire… and we endure any suffering that comes to us on our pilgrimage to His Promised Land by the grace of the food offered forth through His holy sacrifice. And we thus become like Him.
If there were no food upon our table, if this sacrifice upon our altars were not the Body and Blood of Christ – if His presence were not real in this best of wheat, this holy manna – we would faint in the desert of this world and be consumed by our own lusts. But as it is the Lord provides the nourishment we need, and body and soul are kept alive even unto paradise.
Eat His Body and drink His Blood, brothers and sisters,
and you shall live in His paradise.
O LORD, let us not complain against your providence;
may we never harden our hearts
but come to your table and eat.
YHWH, how can we complain against you and your providence? Do we not see the food you give us to eat and the blessing it is for our lives? Why do we so easily harden our hearts?
And what does such rebelliousness do but cause us to be separated from you? What does it bring but our own death? To us you give even the flesh of your Son to eat, and yet we turn away from this finest of wheat. O LORD, what hope is there for souls as blind as we?
Your Son takes pity on our plight. He looks on us with healing grace. No need of ours would He leave unmet; yet will we come to His table to eat? O LORD, in His hands let us find our home! Let us trust in His blessing of our lives. Let us not be a burden to Him or His apostles, but join them in carrying your Bread to the world.
Fri, 2 August 2019
(Lv.25:1,8-17; Ps.67:2-5,7-8; Mt.14:1-12)
“It is really the number of crops he sells you.”
The earth is the Lord’s; it is not our own. And it is only by His grace that we share the fruits of the land. “The earth has yielded its fruits; God, our God, has blessed us,” our psalm declares. These fruits may be bought and sold, but the land is God’s own.
“In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property.” “This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.” The jubilee year delineated in our first reading makes clear that we are God’s and not our own or anyone else’s. While we tread this earth, in the forty-nine years leading to the jubilee, land is bought and sold, even slaves are made and taken. But come the jubilee the trumpet is blown and all return whence they came: in this moment we go back to our homes and find the truth – that we are God’s alone. All that is bought and sold is only temporary; these crops are consumed and pass away. The land from which they come is in God’s hands and does not pass away. To it we must return. For He is our portion and cup.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Indeed, we should fear Him who holds the earth and all its peoples in His creating hand. We should not presume upon God’s mercy and “deal unfairly” as we buy and sell in this world with all that He provides. In our gospel Herod is gripped by fear because he knows he abuses the power given him; he is struck to the heart by John’s preaching because his sin is exposed to the light. But instead of proclaiming liberty, instead of returning to the Lord, he hardens his heart against Truth, presumes license and not liberty, and has “John arrested, put in chains, and imprisoned.” But, of course, the Word of God cannot be chained; and Herod is not entirely wrong when he claims John has been “raised from the dead” in the person of Jesus, for the same Spirit which worked in this most fruitful of men comes forth fully in the Son of God. Good reason has Herod to fear.
And it must be noted that the beheading of John does not bring his end, but his beginning. It returns him to the land whence he has come. It is as his jubilee, his time to “return to his own property” – to enter the kingdom of God. For his body buried by his disciples is but as the crops bought and sold (and a more fair and abundant dealer in the fruits of this earth the world has not known); it is, of course, his eternal soul which finds liberty now in the land of the Lord.
This world cannot hinder the fruits that are of the Lord. In faith let us remain in Him, producing an abundant yield in His Name, that the way of the Lord “be known upon earth,” and that we may come to His salvation at the time of Jubilee. (We shall hear the trumpets resound through the halls of heaven.)
O LORD, there is a land
to which you call us to return,
and this heavenly homeland is all that matters.
YHWH, the earth is yours and all that it holds, and you call us ever back to you. Let us not be possessive of the gifts you give us but remember that the yield of the land is in your hands.
O LORD, you proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land; you call all back to yourself, from whom we come and in whom we find our freedom. Your call to our hearts to glorify you we must heed, if we are to find your blessing.
But if like Herod we harden our hearts against your truth, LORD, if like him we seek to chain your Word with our corrupted hands… if to death we put your call, what shall be left within us? Then in what fear we shall tremble!
Your Prophet comes and walks amongst us; your power is upon Him for good. The trumpet resounds throughout the earth, calling all men to their ancestral homes. To you let us come with nothing but exultant joy at your presence.
Thu, 1 August 2019
(Lv.23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37; Ps.81:2-6,10-11; Mt.13:54-58)
“Offer as an oblation to the Lord holocausts and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”
Our first reading and our psalm speak and sing of the honor due our God. The Lord outlines for Moses “the festivals of the Lord” which must be celebrated “at the proper time with a sacred assembly,” and our psalmist exhorts us to “blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast” in honor of the one true God. We should worship no god but Him and “hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work” on His sabbaths and on the days He sets aside for celebrating His Name. Due honor and praise must be given our God.
But when Jesus comes into the midst of His people, due honor is withheld. Though they cannot deny His teaching, the wisdom and grace He imparts, yet they are blind to His presence before them. They do not know whence He comes. They cannot see that He is of God. And so because of their limited vision, their “lack of faith,” He cannot touch them or heal them as He passes by. Here He stands in their synagogues, but the shout of joy does not go up from their midst because their hearts are shut tight to the divine presence of the Lord. The due praise they are moved to is thus denied, and they break the Law of God.
It is sad when justice is not done to our God. We are the ones who would benefit most from offering due sacrifice and oblation – He has no need of our holocausts – yet we commit this kind of suicide by reserving the honor due Him, resisting thus truly entering His marvelous presence and becoming one with the One who created us and saved us. He invites us to the feast, to the glorious celebration, but we turn down His invitation to join Him at the table of His Body and His Blood. Each day it is prescribed for us to give our souls to Him; in every place the cup of salvation is raised unto the glory of God: here the festival of the Lord is fulfilled in our midst. But how many say they see but bread and wine, they hear but empty phrases. Their hearts are not set on His coming.
We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters; we are His mother. We are those who recognize His presence and give glory to His Name. The world cannot see Him; the world does not know Him. But we know Him. Let us “take up a melody, and sound the timbrel, the pleasant harp and the lyre,” and with all the music our lives can produce give Him glory in our celebration… with all the work we do and all the rest we take each day in Him. Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation. Here the feast begins. Let us come into His presence singing for joy.
O LORD, let us believe in you and worship you,
and we shall be blessed.
YHWH, let us worship you as is due; let us give praise to your NAME and each day celebrate your glory in our midst. Every day a sacred assembly we may now hold, now that Jesus has walked among us, now that He is present to us upon your holy altar; and so, let us welcome Him into our house and sing praise for the blessing He is to this place.
To the teaching of your Son let us listen, LORD; He has come in the flesh with your wisdom and power. Let us not question His origin but know He is from you, as He shows with all He says and does. Why do our corrupted souls condemn the Man who comes only to save? Why do we not see that God is here with us?
Remove our weakness, LORD, the blindness of our human eyes, that we might with all our hearts keep your festival at the proper time, for the day of atonement is upon us.
Wed, 31 July 2019
(Ex.40:16-21,34-38; Ps.84:2-6,8,11; Mt.13:47-53)
“The cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling.”
The Dwelling is the Tabernacle of God, the place in which the ark of the covenant holding the Ten Commandments was housed; and so it was God’s dwelling-place. And when this cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set forth; and when the cloud stopped, so would they. In this we see clearly that the Israelites were led by God and by His Law. “In the daytime the cloud of the Lord was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all stages of their journey.”
Our psalm extols the glory of God and His place of dwelling. It is for Him and to be in His house we yearn. “Happy they who dwell in your house!” the psalmist exclaims. So far surpassing is the glory of the Lord that “I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” For “even the sparrow finds a home” at the altar of God, and so, how blessed shall we be in His presence.
And in our gospel Jesus completes His parables on “the reign of God,” the kingdom of heaven – the House in which we long to dwell eternally. And, of course, here before us stands the new ark of the covenant in the Person of Jesus. Here the new and fulfilling Law of love is housed, by which we are now led. The Spirit descended upon Him as a dove, thus anointing Him with God’s glory, and it is this “cloud,” this Spirit of Truth, which descends upon us now and by which we walk with God. The Old Covenant and Law are certainly not to be discarded, for “every scribe who is learned in the reign of God is like the head of the household who can bring from his storeroom both the new and the old”; but the Old is indeed subsumed by the New, for the Person of God – Word made flesh, God made man – far exceeds and truly completes the first dwelling, which was but made by human hands. Now the Law has found a new and lasting home.
It is well we understand all that the Lord would teach us. It is necessary that that teaching be complete, or we shall fall short of what our “heart” and “flesh cry out for.” “The living God” awaits us; His glory He would give us. Let us be covered by His cloud and be led forth in His Word of Truth to His eternal reign. From “strength to strength” let us go, until we dwell with Him forever, His Word written on our hearts. Amen.
O LORD, we pray we shall not be cast out
but be gathered into your dwelling,
and in your presence make our home.
YHWH, in your Dwelling let us make our home, your cloud ever upon us; in the flesh of your Son we must live, led by the Holy Spirit. What is old and what is new help us understand, that we might be good stewards of your love and all souls may enter your kingdom.
At the end of the age your angels shall separate what is good from what is evil, for the evil have no place with the good. Only what is good may come into your House; what is evil will be burned in the furnace. And so our souls cry out for you, dear God, that you might make a place for us in Heaven.
To your threshold let us come, by the teaching of your only Son; His Spirit upon us to lead us to you, let us be obedient to His words. Let us do all you command, O LORD, for only then shall we be blessed. As your servant Moses let us be – in the new Moses let us make our home.
Tue, 30 July 2019
(Ex.34:29-35; Ps.99:5-7,9; Mt.13:44-46)
“The skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the Lord.”
His face shining like the pearl of great price, with whom he speaks, Moses comes down from the mountain carrying the Ten Commandments. Here is a great treasure in His hands, which he has given up all to find. But, of course, the greater treasure is the Word of God from which it takes its meaning and of which Moses converses with the Lord; and the greatest treasure is certainly God Himself, who makes us shine as stars in the night that is this world. “Holy is the Lord, our God.”
And so, of course, the greatest treasure we can find here on earth, hidden in this ground from which our bodies are formed, is our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the very image of God, God Himself, the WORD made flesh in our presence. And thus as the Israelites had the Ten Commandments as the heart of their covenant, so we have a surpassing covenant founded in the Body and Blood of our Lord, in which His presence truly abides. Still we have His words of Truth, still they illumine our faces. But now they are spoken by the incarnate mouth of God; now the veil has been removed from the face of the One who inspires all souls, and our hearts burn with the pure light of His wisdom – and now we have that flesh and blood which make the words so real at our fingertips and upon our lips… and so, one we become with His holiness.
Radiant is the splendor of God. He alone is worthy of our praise. It is He alone we should strive to possess in this life. He is buried here in our hearts; He is waiting deep within our souls for us to uncover our faces, to uncover our minds from the veil which conceals His light. Indeed, He is waiting for us to shine as the pearl of great price, to give light to the world as He does, that all might come to converse with Him with unveiled faces. But we must give up all else to find such grace: this pearl must remain unmixed with baser matter. As Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights, neither eating nor drinking, so we must come to Him so utterly, leaving all of this world behind, to find the riches which await us in the heavenly kingdom.
Jesus is the way to that kingdom. In his Word, His Body and His Blood, we find the pearl of great price. And so shall our faces shine radiantly white as we converse with the Lord in His presence for all eternity. Praise Him, brothers and sisters, for His grace at work in your life.
O LORD, holy are you,
and holy are those who seek your face.
YHWH, holy are you, and we are called to be holy as you are holy, to have our faces shine as radiantly as Moses’ – to come into your presence.
O let us converse with you, dear LORD! For now we have Jesus who speaks with us, who tells us clearly of the glory of your kingdom and how we are called to give up all to enter there. How the pearl of great price is made evident in His flesh! To Him let us come and we shall be one with you, and we shall be holy.
Before us on the altar shines the pearl of great price, the Body of Christ given to us that we might see and know your holiness, O LORD, that we might become as His Body in the world. Let us worship Him in the Sacrament, here on your holy mountain.
In the field that is your Church we find hidden in this Bread all we need for the salvation of our souls, for discovering holiness in your presence, LORD.
Mon, 29 July 2019
(Ex.33:7-11,34:5-9,28; Ps.103:6-13; Mt.13:36-43)
“The angels will hurl them into the fiery furnace
where they will wail and grind their teeth.”
It is the justice of God which is our theme today. And though it is absolutely certain that the mercy of God far surpasses our merit and He does not “requite us according to our crimes,” yet it is equally so – and Jesus could not make it more explicit than He does in His explanation in our gospel today – that God’s will is not for “declaring the guilty guiltless,” and that “the followers of the evil one” shall be punished. It is this invariable necessity of God’s justice I highlight today because of its general ignorance in this age.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness,” David declares in our psalm. “The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Yes, “surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him.” But what if we should not fear Him? What if we should not give Him the love and honor and respect which is rightfully His? It cannot but be that we pervert His kindness and compassion and, by our own will, turn it into the flaming punishment it thus becomes. This is the justice of God: it reaches down “for a thousand generations”; it covers the earth with its forgiveness. But turning from it we inevitably cast ourselves into hell, for there is no place to hide our hardened hearts from His merciful love. Thus our refusal to accept His surpassing kindness is that which provides the kindling for the everlasting flames. And if we deny the existence of hell, we deny the presence of God’s love, and our own free will in choosing it or not.
In our first reading there is quite a jump, better than a chapter, in the scene. In the first half Moses is in the tent of meeting where he would serve as judge for the people; in the second half he is on Mount Sinai, where God has led him to receive the Ten Commandments (a second time). The Lord has also promised to reveal His back to Moses – no one can see His face and live – and it is this scene that is spoken of in our gospel. Moses speaks the Lord’s silent NAME, “YHWH”, and God comes in power, crying to him of His infinite mercy and absolute justice. As the Lord passes by in this way, Moses is overwhelmed and begs God to remain with him and the people, recognizing that they will not be able to take a step without Him. And in His great kindness, but not without appropriate punishment, the Lord will remain with Moses and the Israelites through their desert journey.
“The saints will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.” The angels shall gather the good seed unto their just reward. And there shall be great rejoicing as the mercy of God thus comes to fulfillment. But none of this can be until “all who draw others to apostasy and all evildoers” are cast out from His presence. Just as the faithless were not permitted to enter the Promised Land but died in the desert, so only those whose hearts burn with the love of God will shine in His kingdom. For the rest only the fires of torment await.
O LORD, the weeds must be burned
that those whom your Son has redeemed
might shine brightly before you.
YHWH, to Moses you spoke face to face, proclaiming your NAME to him, and he bowed down in your wondrous presence as your power passed before him. Your merciful ways you made known to him, your mercy and your justice, for you put away the sins of those who fear you, but the wicked shall know punishment.
We are indeed stiff-necked, O LORD, and deserving of your fiery wrath. But help us now to turn to you that we might be preserved from destruction at the end of the age. Your good seed let us be, sown by Jesus and His love. By His sacrifice He prepares the ground for a bountiful harvest.
O LORD, let us shine like the sun in your kingdom on the Day of your Son’s return. And so, now let our ears be open to hear of your mercy; upon our hearts inscribe your NAME that we might remember your love.
Sun, 28 July 2019
(Ex.32:15-24,30-34; Ps.106:1,19-23; Mt.13:31-35)
“Eventually the whole mass of dough began to rise.”
The kingdom of God comes gradually, grows imperceptibly; from the smallest of seeds it becomes “the largest of plants,” and “the birds of the sky come and build their nests in its branches.” Indeed, this yeast is kneaded into our hearts, and by its grace we rise gradually unto the form heaven would make us – and so the glory of God becomes ours, and with others we share His grace within us.
See that it is the people’s impatience which has led them into sin: “Make us a god to be our leader,” they say to Aaron, “as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him.” Moses is gone to the mountain forty days to receive the commands of God upon the tablets of stone, but this time is too long for the Israelites to wait, and so when he returns with the “tablets that were made by God, having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God Himself,” he finds that they have “exchanged their glory,” present so really, so physically, in the Law he carries in his hands, “for the image of a grass-eating bullock.”
They could not wait. The God they sought in vain image was coming to them in truth with His Law written in stone, but they did not perceive His approach; and so, taking matters into their own hands, they crafted their condemnation. For now it is but chastisement that awaits them; this, too, comes gradually, and is unavoidable. As the Lord says to Moses, “When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
“So grave a sin” the Israelites commit. It is only because “Moses, His chosen, withstood Him in the breach, to turn back His destructive wrath,” that the people were not struck out of the book the Lord has written. Indeed, though they shall all die in their sin in the desert, their generation shall maintain the promise. But it shall not be until Christ Jesus stands in the breach for all, that we who are so prone to evil shall be saved entirely. Only He makes the absolute atonement for the sin of the people, which Moses prefigures in our first reading today.
And now that the Son has come, now the seed is planted in our hearts, now the yeast begins to rise in our souls – now the kingdom of God is nigh. From the desert we are thus led, the angel of God going before us. We have but to listen to the word He speaks to us in His blessed parables and apply its truth to our lives, and thus staying the path set before us we will come in time to the kingdom that awaits us. We shall yet see the Lord descend from on high, not carrying tablets in His arms, but carrying us and our salvation in full bloom. And on that holy day we shall eat of the bread He has caused to rise in our hearts and in our lives.
O LORD, may your kingdom grow ever in our midst,
and may we patiently await its coming.
YHWH, your Son comes to stand in the breach, to reveal to us your holy kingdom. For it now we must but wait, and allow your will to be accomplished.
We have sinned gravely against you, LORD. Our hearts have all turned from your glory to the idols of this age. We have been blinded by the gold the world so persistently offers.
Give us patience to wait on your goodness, LORD. Give us the wisdom we need to know the coming of your reign. For it rises in our midst this day, if we but have eyes to see what your Son reveals.
From the mountaintop let your Word come down, O LORD, to instruct us in your ways. For without your Law to guide us here, quickly we become depraved.
O punish us not in your rage, dear God; strike us not out of your Book. Let our hearts embrace the words of your Son.
Fri, 26 July 2019
(Ex.24:3-8; Ps.50:1-2,5-6,14-15; Mt.13:24-30)
“All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.”
But will they? Who among them will remain faithful to the covenant they make with God? All the Israelites vow as one to follow “the words and ordinances of the Lord,” yet only two men shall come from the desert and enter the Promised Land. Their children shall exhibit greater fidelity, but these, too, shall falter – throughout the history of the chosen people there shall be weeds, sometimes in abundance, sown among the good seed.
And in our psalm, God declares: “Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” For “God Himself is the judge,” and He will tell how well the “twelve pillars” “erected at the foot of the mountain” stand before Him. He will make known how efficacious has been our sacrifice. Jesus teaches us of God’s justice in His parable: “At harvest time I will order the harvesters, first collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn.” Indeed, the weeds shall be separated out into everlasting fire, while the wheat which has been true to His Word enters heaven. If we have been faithful to our covenant with the Lord, if we have been hearers and doers of His Word, we have nothing to fear. Love overcomes all fear, and the Lord assures us of His grace: “Call upon me in time of distress; I will rescue you.” But if our vows have been in vain, we have much to fear at the hand of the harvest master.
All shall be brought before Him – “The Lord has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting.” From east to west they shall be gathered before His judgment seat, and on that last day Jesus shall speak the sentence which awaits us all. The weeds may seem to grow and thrive in this day, but be assured that this day is passing away; His Day shall last for eternity. The enemy shall be cast from His presence forever.
In the desert the people of God were excited to pledge allegiance to the Lord. But what is promised must be done or the pledge is worthless. We, too, profess our faith in God, and indeed His blood is sprinkled upon us daily as we raise the cup of blessing in His Name. This New Covenant far surpasses the Old and puts the onus upon us thus to a far greater degree to heed the words of the psalmist: “Fulfill your vows to the Most High.” Let us therefore truly heed and do all that the Lord calls us to. Let us not hesitate to come into the Lord’s presence offering Him a sacrifice of praise, but let us not forget the promise inherent in our worship of Him; each day let us grow as wheat before the master of the harvest, His Word providing nourishment for our souls.
O LORD, make us faithful to our covenant with you,
that we shall not be burned in the fire.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your voice and vow our faithfulness to you, yes, but most of all let us stand with you, carrying out your will in all things. Then at harvest time we shall have no fear; then truly as your wheat we shall ever grow, and be gathered into your kingdom.
But if we turn away, if we instead serve the enemy, what hope shall we find on that Day when you stand before us as Judge? What can we be but bundled as weeds and thrown into the fire? O LORD, let us stand strong in the blood of your Son, for only His sacrifice will save us.
We praise you, LORD, for your goodness to us, for planting us in your blessed field. Let us do everything your Son has told us; may He continue to speak to our hearts this day. In His blood let us be washed clean, that we might shine with Him in perfect beauty on the last day.
Thu, 25 July 2019
(Ex.20:1-17; Ps.19:8-11,Jn.6:69; Mt.13:18-23)
“What was sown on good soil
is the man who hears the message and takes it in.”
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul… The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye… More precious than gold” and “sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb” is the word of God. How beautifully our psalm speaks of the words of everlasting life which issue forth from the mouth of God, the Law of the Lord embodied in Christ Jesus. And those who follow the command of God shall bear a mighty yield, for “the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.”
In our first reading we find the great Law written on stone, our Ten Commandments – the blessed guide of man’s walk through this world of sin. They give light to our steps, teaching us ever the way we should go. But great as these words are and necessary as they may be to keep our steps from faltering, to prevent our eye from entering darkness, so much greater is He who sums them up and brings them to completion in His flesh and blood. The love of God and neighbor commanded so clearly to Moses on Mount Sinai here shines in a light beyond our human comprehension. Indeed, to hear its call, to become good soil, we must be made as He is, walking in the grace of divine perfection. Only then will the Word which stirs our souls – in whose light we long to cleanse our hearts and by which we hope to enter God’s reign – only through the intercession of Jesus the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, will we come to know the realization of the call of God to His children, rendered in His commands.
Thirst for the Word, brothers and sisters. Our souls must indeed have a deep hunger for His presence, for the light that comes only by following Him. Our worship must not be in vain, and we must not be distracted by the allure of this world. Standing fast through any suffering, we must take in deeply the Word spoken to our hearts, ever making greater place for Jesus in our lives. We must put flesh to the words of everlasting life, we must be as the Law walking the face of the earth – we must be as our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then it is we shall know His blessing; then we shall labor with Him and yield a great harvest. Then we shall share in the sweetness of the glory of Him who commands us to walk rightly by His side.
Today let us rejoice in the Lord and in His Law; let us find the light it brings and become children of that light. With Jesus and all His saints in heaven let us hear the Word whispered deeply in our spirits and become doers of that word of God. Then we shall bear fruit unto eternal life.
O LORD, let nothing take us from you;
in your Word let us make our home.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your commands, for you have the words of everlasting life and by your instruction we are saved and produce fruit in your holy NAME.
To Moses you gave your Law, O LORD, that we might remember to love you always and so to love our fellow man. In this is our joy, you know, dear God, and so you lead us on right paths that we might be blessed by you.
And your Son you send to speak clearly to our souls of the way which leads to life. Of the dangers He tells us, LORD, that we might not be separated from the light of your face. If it is your Word we desire, we shall be enlightened and walk with Him along the way of perfection.
Let us not lose your grace and blessing, LORD, but prepare good soil to receive your Word, that we might grow ever unto Heaven and become a fragrant offering to you.
Tue, 23 July 2019
Ex.16:1-5,9-15; Ps.78:18-19,23-28; Mt.13:1-9)
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.”
He gives us bread to eat; He gives us wine to drink. All our food comes from His hand. He provides for our every need. It is not by our own strength we are fed. It is not by our own strength we produce fruit to feed others. All our grain is from His hand and grows only with His blessing.
The Israelites find themselves in a barren desert and begin to fear for their empty bellies. “Can God spread a table in the desert?” they ask in doubt, and begin to dissemble before the Lord. But it is God’s will to teach them a lesson, to show them from whom their sustenance comes, for even when in Egypt their “fleshpots” were provided by Him. But they are a blind and ignorant race, and so He must show them the power of His grace, of His providence. He thus gives them a food they have never seen before, whose very name, “manna”, reveals its mystery. And so they partake of this food of the angels; “even a surfeit of provisions He sent them,” though their flesh shall not be long satisfied with this heavenly food.
And we, do we realize all our food comes from the Lord? Do we see His hand at work in all things? Or do we go blindly along through this desert as well, listening too carefully to our grumbling stomachs while ignoring His Word in our hearts and presence in our midst? Do we, too, forget all He has done for us? Or do we turn faithfully to Him for His heavenly provisions and find ourselves satisfied with the food from His hands? And thus, do we ourselves yield grain from the good soil He sets us on, increasing “a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold” His word in our hearts, that others might be fed too by our God? Jesus sits before us today and calls us to such fruitfulness in His name. Let us not be choked by the cares of this world or fail to have depth of faith within our souls, but let us take the blessed food He provides in His Word and in His Body and His Blood and so be nourished well to provide for others.
The desert in which we find ourselves, by which the Lord tests our faith, can seem to overwhelm us at times. May it never cause us to act as the Israelites, who “tempted God in their hearts by demanding the food they craved.” Let us remember that only the “heavenly bread” rained upon us by Him will save us from the temptations and emptiness of this life. I pray He fill you with His bread of eternal life.
O LORD, you give us bread to eat;
yes, you provide holy seed –
and we must produce fruit unto Heaven.
YHWH, our trust in you increase this day; let us know it is by your hand we are fed. And what food is ours by your grace! Even the Body and Blood of your Son.
Bread from Heaven you give us, LORD, feeding us with the flesh of Christ. As once you gave the Israelites bread in the desert, so now you open the doors of Heaven and provide for us our daily food.
Plant your Word in our souls, dear God, that it might grow and nourish us well, that we might bear fruit a hundredfold in the Name of Jesus. Our ears open to hear His voice, let us be faithful to His call.
All the distractions of this world take from us; save us from the rumblings of our belly. Let us understand that you care for all our needs if we but trust in the Word you send us.
Mon, 22 July 2019
(Ex.14:21-15:1; Ex.15:1,8-10,12,17; Mt.12:46-50)
“Thus the Lord saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.”
The Lord fought for the Israelites, His people. Working great wonders, He brought them forth from the land of Egypt. Indeed, “the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.” So great was His love for His chosen ones that He saved them in this miraculous fashion, casting their enemies into the sea. Them “the earth swallowed,” but His people crossed unharmed.
Here is the prefigurement of the Lord’s saving us from sin by His death and resurrection; through the waters of Baptism we now come to “the mountain of [the Lord’s] inheritance,” our enemies dying in that same water which saves us. In the dark of night, in the death of Christ, we enter the realm of the sea; at dawn we see our enemies lying dead on the shore. But it is no longer those who are related to the Lord by flesh and blood who are brought through the waters to His sanctuary. The chosen ones are no longer of a particular race. “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me.” It is a spiritual kingdom to which we are now called, and it is in the Spirit His children are now born.
Shocking this word must have been to the ears of those so used to judging the blessings of the Lord by bloodline. Here is the beginning of Christ’s teaching that any and all are called to the table of the Lord. How shocked even Peter was when directed to go to the Gentile people, when instructed to eat, as it were, of the unclean food (Acts 10:13-14). But the Lord makes all clean by His blood. His death and resurrection open the gates of heaven to all who would enter there. To anyone who would follow in His footsteps, the Lord leads on dry land to the promised glory. But do not think, as I so often hear, that there are no casualties in this new exodus. Do not hold so foolishly to the idea that the God of the Old Testament was harsh in His destruction of the Egyptian army but the God of the New effects no such punishment. See that the casualties in this battle suffer a fate worse than drowning in the sea: eternal condemnation awaits those who now harden their hearts against the word of Christ. The warfare is now spiritual rather than physical, and the judgment Jesus passes on the evil generation is now far worse than any before His time had come. As He Himself has said elsewhere, “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea, than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk.17:2).
We are brothers and sisters of the Lord, my friends, and so He saves us from the day of judgment. As long as we do His will, His blessing shall be ours. Let us rejoice this day in the justice of God, that He cares for all those who love Him, even as He casts their enemies into the sea.
O LORD, let us live according to your will
that we might be saved,
that we might be one with Jesus in Heaven
even as all our enemies perish.
YHWH, your servant Moses did your will; through Him you revealed your glory to the people, and they triumphed over their enemies. May we serve you as has Moses and so become brother and sister and mother to Jesus, and so become as your children.
May your Son extend His hands toward us and bless us with His sanctifying Word, that all sin may flee from our midst and we become as your chosen. Through the sea let us pass on dry ground, LORD, the water like a wall to our right and to our left. Through Baptism we are redeemed by the power of your hand; to Jesus let us be configured.
Horse and chariot you cast into the sea – it is not by our own strength we are saved. It is by the grace and blessing that come from you, LORD, and by our joining ourselves to your will.
In fear shall our enemies retreat from your glance, O LORD, for you fight for your lowly ones.
Fri, 19 July 2019
(Ex.12:37-42; Ps.136:1,10-15,23-24; Mt.12:14-21)
“All the Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord
throughout their generations.”
After four hundred and thirty years, as one man the Israelites left the land of Egypt. More than a million people all told were “rushed out of Egyptand had no opportunity even to prepare food for the journey.” And so the exodus from sin we all must make is here prefigured. And in thanks for such grace from the Lord, whose “mercy endures forever,” who “freed us from our foes,” we keep constant vigil. Knowing the manner of our first release from slavery, we watch now for His return.
“Many people followed Him and He cured them all.” All those who walk in the wake of the Lord know His saving power. For He is endowed with the Spirit of God; of Jesus, the prophet writes: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my loved one in whom I delight.” And so those who approach Him know the “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm” of God in the healing of all their ills. Yet mighty as is His work, so gentle is its coming forth. For it is not in great fanfare but rather great humility that Jesus has come into our midst to save us. Though His works are great, His person is meek. Much as the silent NAME shared with Moses, much as the “still, small voice” which spoke to Elijah, so is this WORD of God made flesh. “He will not contend or cry out, nor will His voice be heard in the streets.” For His is a voice which does not pass away with the dimming of its sound; His voice is not a clanging gong, empty of substance, but is filled to bursting with love and mercy, and goes forth in the silence of a pure heart. It is for this silence we listen. It is for His love we keep vigil.
“He sternly ordered them not to make public what He had done.” We must join Him in silence. In telling no one, all will know. It is by faith all is done. Indeed, our light shines forth from this quiet heart. Shshsh… (listen for the voice of God).
The Israelites moved at once from the land of bondage. The Lord has set us free now from our sins, brothers and sisters, and one day He will come again – He is knocking at the door even now – and take us to the presence of God. Are we watching for His coming? Are we ready to leave all behind? Do we follow Him with such abandon even this day? If we do, the word shall go forth from our lives. If we do, we make Him known, and so we can be sure, “In His Name, the Gentiles will find hope.” As we keep vigil for the Lord, His Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and shall lead all souls out of slavery to the mountain of God. Watch, and listen. The time is nigh.
O LORD, come to save us –
your mercy is our only hope.
YHWH, in your Son we find our hope for release from this place of slavery. His justice our hearts cherish, for in His justice is shown your mercy. O let us be prepared for departure from the land of Egypt, from bondage to sin and death; may every night be a night of vigil for Jesus’ return.
All at once you will take us from the darkness of this world into your presence, O holy LORD. You will stretch out your hand as you have done once and again, and lead us through the midst of the sea on dry ground. As Pharaoh and his force you drown in your mighty wrath, your children shall enter the Promised Land, freed from all their enemies.
May your Spirit be upon us as it is on your Son; come in silence to our hearts this day and assure our wounded souls of your salvation, which waits on the horizon.
Thu, 18 July 2019
(Ex.11:10-12:14; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Mt.12:1-8)
“The Son of Man is indeed the Lord of the sabbath.”
“There is something greater than the temple here,” greater than the Passover and all the feasts of the Lord, greater than the Law… for Jesus and His mercy subsume all these by His holy sacrifice, by His very presence amongst us. And now on the new sabbath day, the words of the psalmist are fulfilled: “The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as we offer now even daily the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – the Holy Eucharist – as each day becomes a “memorial feast” for us. Here we remember and partake of the Lamb “without blemish”; here the blood of the firstborn Son slaughtered for our sakes is applied to the temples our bodies become by its anointing, by our raising of the cup. And heeding Christ’s words to be on watch, we are made ever ready for flight from this world of sin and into the arms of our God.
It is an ominous night, that first Passover. The darkness upon the land, the cries of mothers for their firstborn sons foreshadows the horror of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and the piercing of our consciences which comes thereby. By His sacrifice we cry for our sins; but by this death are we released from bondage to that same sin. By it His mercy is poured upon us from age to age until the end of all time. For now the Passover is made complete; now the sacrifice is truly whole. And all of the old is made new as it is brought to fulfillment in the only Son.
“You have loosed my bonds,” O Lord. Each day you prepare my soul for flight from this world by the cup of thanksgiving, the sharing in your sacrifice, you offer to us each day at the hands of your priests. As it is raised and as we “call upon the name of the Lord,” you come to us with your merciful anointing, and all guilt we may have incurred is cleansed thereby. O Lord of the Sabbath, O Son of the Most High, O Temple of God and perfection of the Law, see the Lamb we eat at your Command; see the blood which marks our houses, and pass over us in the Day of Judgment – bring us freely into the celebration of your eternal feast in heaven.
As we come to the altar today, brothers and sisters, let us remember the merciful sacrifice the Lord has made for our blessed protection and fulfillment of the hunger we have for His presence. Freely let us partake now of His Body and Blood and so become one with Him who is Lord of all and master of our souls. And let us share His merciful love with the waiting world. Let us enter now the eternal Sabbath.
O LORD, feed us in our hunger;
your mercy be upon us this day –
free us from our slavery to sin and to our ways!
YHWH, your Son is the Temple where we are called to dwell, the Lamb of sacrifice of which we must partake. It is His blood that washes us clean of sin, that keeps us free from your executing judgment. With Him and in Him we shall not die, we shall not be condemned, but live forever to praise your NAME.
Our bonds you have loosed, O LORD; from all hunger and thirst you have saved us by the feast before us even this day, by the Body and Blood we receive at the hands of the priests you have ordained in Jesus’ Name. Perpetually we may now receive your graces. Forever we shall take up this Cup of salvation. Now that you have visited us with your mercy, what more could we need?
Thank you, LORD, for the sacrifice your Son has made for our sakes. By it may we leave this land of darkness and come to dwell with you.
Wed, 17 July 2019
(Ex.3:11-20; Ps.105:1,5,8-9,24-27; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
I AM has come and led His people “up out of the misery of Egypt,” up out of slavery. The heavy yoke of sin He breaks from our necks, and in its place we find His gentle presence.
How this world can make us weary! How the Israelites suffered under the iron hand of the Pharaoh. But the Lord says to them, “I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt.” And He says to us the same: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” To Moses as proof of His presence He even gives His NAME, the silent WORD – “YHWH” – which speaks volumes of His being here and everywhere always: “I AM WHO AM.” That gentle, all-present Spirit, that WORD that is Life, is made known to us now in Jesus, the WORD made flesh, He who is “gentle and humble of heart.” And so salvation is fulfilled: release from slavery ultimately comes in the gentle yoke of the Son of God. Let us place it upon our shoulders.
I repeat, this world can be burdensome. As it works its way into our hearts and souls, it brings terrible chains which bind us. As the culture of death which surrounds us in this land of exile finds inroads into our homes and penetrates our minds, it can bring a slavish weight to bear. But though the prince of this world and his subjects might harden their hearts against the emancipating Word of God, though they might refuse to allow us to worship our God freely and with all our beings and belongings… yet the Lord “remembers forever His covenant”; from age to age His word is true. And He shall not be lacking for “wondrous deeds,” “portents,” and “judgments” to assure His people’s freedom, to assure their coming gently and wholly into His sacred presence.
“I will stretch out my hand,” the Lord tells us. He will stretch forth His hand and break the yoke from our backs with a word from His mouth. And rest shall be ours. Eternal rest in His sacred presence, in the light of His holy face, is inevitably ours as we follow in His humble ways.
Come, brothers and sisters. Fear not Pharaoh. The evil upon us is passing away; only what is real, only what is of His Word – only I AM shall remain. Take His yoke upon you, and be led gently forth.
O LORD, by your NAME and by the Cross
we are unburdened of words,
unburdened of thoughts and fears –
let us walk with you!
YHWH, our burden you wish to remove, for our plight in this world you see, and take pity. And so, wondrous deeds you work in our midst, wondrous deeds in the sight of the nations, that all might know that you are God, in whom all find their rest.
Your NAME you gave to Moses, LORD, to reassure his heart and show yourself to Him. Knowing you, he could find faith in your goodness, in your eternal presence, and in your call upon his soul. And so, in peace he could face all the difficulties that lay before him; so he could face the king of Egypt without fear.
And your greatest gift you give to us, dear God, in the coming of your Son, in the complete revelation of your goodness He is to us. Does He not tell us that you are near, that you are always here to refresh our souls and make us whole? And so, the burden of His Cross is light upon our shoulders.
Tue, 16 July 2019
(Ex.3:1-6,9-12; Ps.103:1-4,6-8; Mt.11:25-27)
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him
in fire flaming out of a bush.”
The Lord appears to Moses. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,” reveals Himself on Horeb, the mountain of God. He comes to him who, as we are told elsewhere, is the humblest of men, calling him – much as He will later call Peter, James, and John from their nets to be fishers of men – from “leading the flock across the desert” to lead His people out of slavery, out of Egypt, through the desert and to the Promised Land.
In our gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father reveals Himself “to the merest children,” not to “the learned and the clever.” And so He has come here to Moses, a man whose speech is weak but whose heart is indeed humble as a child, to call him to be the greatest, most godly of men, and to this great task set before him. Like John the Baptist after him – who will be the greatest of men born of woman – he is entirely deferential to the Lord. Here he hides his face, “afraid to look at God,” and questions sincerely: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” Such as these the Lord calls; to such as these He reveals Himself. These are they “to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father.
“Merest children.” Only to these does the Lord reveal Himself. Only to those whose hearts are pure, who take no pride in themselves. In a word, “humble” must we be. “He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.” To them He will show that “the Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.” And as their lives are redeemed from destruction, they will “bless His holy name.” Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is filled, but only those who come as children before Him will know “all His benefits.” Only those who humble themselves before Him will be raised up to see His glory and live in the light of His presence.
O Jesus, we pray that you will reveal the Father to us. We pray that our hearts will be circumcised and that we will ever bow before the glory that is God. Bring the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to purge all our iniquity and prepare us to hear your voice, O Word of God. Call us forth to do your will and lead us ever to your holy mountain, that always we might be in your presence, that forever we might worship you in spirit and in truth, as merest children, as sons and daughters of your eternal light. May we never be consumed by sin or the vestiges of our pride, but be brought to life by the grace and power of God. Show us your face and let us indeed live in the light of its holy fire.
O LORD, you reveal yourself to us through your Son
that we might be saved from our sin.
YHWH, make us humble, humble as children; meek as Moses, innocent as your Son, we shall see your face. Reveal yourself to us, we pray, though we deserve not such kindness and mercy.
To your light let us come, to the fire burning in our midst, that fire ignited by Jesus, that we might see you, LORD, that indeed we might know you who look upon our misery, who desire so to save us from the slavery of sin. Lead us out of this desert to your holy mountain by the grace that comes to us only through your Son.
O dear Jesus, how can we stand in the presence of your Father, we who have become so corrupted by iniquity, we who are blinded by the evil upon our souls. Only you can make us as children again, pure and innocent in the sight of the LORD, pure and innocent as you are. Let us be united to you in all humility that we might come before the Father and praise His holy NAME.
Mon, 15 July 2019
(Ex.2:1-15; Ps.69:3,14,30-31,33-34; Mt.11:20-24)
“I drew him out of the water.”
Moses was drawn from “the watery depths” by Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his own mother. Into the river all male Hebrew children were ordered cast, but by the providential hand of God, this “Moses” is saved. And it is through him his people shall be drawn out from amongst the Egyptians and the slavery put upon them; and it is by the Law spoken through him that those who believe are kept from “the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold,” that one finds release from the bonds of sin.
But now Moses’ zealous concern for his people has caused him to slay an Egyptian, so now he must flee from the face of Pharaoh who seeks to kill him for his sin. And what irony is there that having fought one day for a Hebrew oppressed by an Egyptian, the next day he finds two Hebrews fighting! And what apparent lack of appreciation for his concern for their plight – he who has no fear of being enslaved, living in Pharaoh’s palace as he does – do the Hebrews show. How similar is this lack of appreciation to the cities which Jesus reproaches for “their failure to reform” at His preaching and at the miracles He has worked among them. Here is an even greater than Moses, the very Son of God, coming to heal them of all their ills and bring them eternal salvation, but they refuse even to turn from their sins that they might find such blessing. What hope is there for them? If the power of God cannot convince them, then indeed the flood shall overwhelm them and they “shall go down to the realm of death,” for they refuse to be drawn up out of their sins.
Oh that this not be said of us, brothers and sisters! We indeed have been drawn out of the water. Baptized by the Spirit who moves upon the waters and nourished at the breast of holy Mother Church, eating the Lord’s own Body and Blood and ever finding forgiveness for our sins by his priests’ commission, we have been graced with all we need to be led from the darkness of this world, from the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold. We must be ever mindful not to slip back into the watery mire of sin to which this world would draw us and lose the blessing the Lord has provided us to maintain us for the day of judgment. Great miracles the Lord has worked in us; great miracles He works for us this day. Let us never fail to reform our lives and conform ourselves to His grace. Our own death sentence has been removed, washed from us by the blood of Christ; let us not fall again into the swamp of sin, but ever rise to the glory of God.
O LORD, we would all go down to the realm of death
if it were not for the grace of Christ –
let us hear and heed His words and reform our lives.
YHWH, you call us to repentance that we might be raised from the abysmal swamp of sin. Your Son works His miracles in our midst to bring us to sackcloth and ashes. But are our hearts not hardened, even to His sacrifice? Then how shall we be saved from the watery depths?
Moses was drawn from the water to which he had been condemned by the whim of Pharaoh. Though but a child, he cried to you, LORD, and Pharaoh’s own daughter you sent to rescue him. Her heart you softened to the forsaken.
And now that we are afflicted and in pain, in exile from your presence because of the darkness of sin, will you not answer us if we call out to you, O LORD? Is your help not with those who seek you, who seek to be saved from your impending judgment by the reformation of their lives?
O let us turn from our sin, LORD! that we might be exalted to the skies.
Sun, 14 July 2019
(Ex.1:8-14,22; Ps.124:1-8; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.”
The Israelites lived and worked side by side with the Egyptians for some four hundred years; they had virtually become members of the same household. But jealousy overcame a “new king” of Egypt, who determined “to oppress them with forced labor,” hoping to break their will as well as their backs. But they only grew stronger because, as our psalm tells us so vividly, the Lord was with them. “Had not the Lord been with us… when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive.” And, quite literally, “then would the waters have overwhelmed” them, for it was commanded that their newborn males be thrown into the river. But the Lord was with them, and through all this oppression they only grew stronger.
The Israelites stand as an example for our own faith and its struggle with the world today. Jesus tells us in our gospel that peace shall not be found with the earth, and even those of our own flesh, by following His call. Indeed, He has come, “in short, to make a man’s enemies those of His own household.” How true this was for the first Christians, all of whom were Jews, and all of whom would find resistance and even persecution for following this way in which Jesus calls us. Division among the family must have been common. But it is no less true today that a man who truly seeks to follow the way of the Lord will meet with the same resistance, even from those who profess to be Catholic and Christian (even from within himself), because the same jealousy the Egyptians had toward the Israelites exists now, and always will, and the same fears the Jews had of Christ also will not easily pass away. The world is ever in opposition to the cross, yet knowing this, Jesus emphasizes that “he who will not take up his cross and come after [Him] is not worthy of [Him].” We are eternally called to turn from the world, in all its forms, and lay down our lives and our wills.
But we are not alone in this mission to overcome the sins of the world. As the Lord was with the Israelites, He is certainly with us. Following Him so closely, it cannot but be that He is near at our sides. And not only He and His Spirit but His people as well are present to us in this struggle we undertake. We do have brothers and sisters in the struggle; there are many who give us “a cup of cold water” along the way. Still the Lord is ever here to help us; still when the world seems to overwhelm us, we are “rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.” Still we grow stronger through all the oppression we endure. Let us praise the Lord for His saving power upon us. Let us continually recommit our lives to His mission on earth, placing Him even before family and friends, and in the losing of our lives we shall come to life and ever grow in His eternal light.
Strengthen us, O Lord,
under the burden of work we endure for you;
help us to carry our cross.
And may we multiply and spread in your Name.
O LORD, let us bring ourselves to naught
for the sake of Christ
and He will redeem us from every persecution.
YHWH, what division there is in this world! What oppression your disciples bear! Even from neighbors, even from those in their own households, persecution comes. But this should not trouble our souls: the Cross is to be expected. For certainly jealousy exists among the sons of men, and so, will there not be those jealous of the greatest gift of all? But through it all you are with us.
O help us to lose ourselves for your sake, dear LORD! Help us not to be afraid of such total dispossession. Let us treasure being bereft of all things of this world that we might truly find our place in Heaven. For our reward will not be wanting – all we do for you is greatly blessed. And so, if we give our very lives, will we not find the greatest blessing?
You free our souls from every snare; however much the waters rage they will not overwhelm us. For you are with us in our labor, LORD, and save us from all danger.
Fri, 12 July 2019
(Gn.49:29-32,50:15-24; Ps.105:1-4,6-7,33; Mt.10:24-33)
“Whoever acknowledges me before men
I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Joseph does well in acknowledging God before his brothers, as, refusing to take revenge on them, he states of his suffering that “God meant it for good.” He thus proves himself a servant of the Lord; realizing that “no pupil outranks his teacher, no slave his master,” he asks, “Can I take the place of God?” and so simultaneously accepts the scourgings that come with being a servant of his “father’s God.” Indeed, further applying the Lord’s words to the apostles in our gospel to Joseph, we know that it has been his proclaiming before the world, before Pharaoh himself, the dreams the Lord has spoken to him in the secret of his room that has brought Joseph to this position of eminence wherein he can so dutifully and kindly provide for “the survival of many people.” And so, as he prepares to die, as this sparrow falls – even as his father before him “drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was taken to his kindred” – it is with confidence the Lord will acknowledge him before the Father of all that his life ends, as well as with the faith that his children shall be blessed and come into the land promised them by Him who holds both body and soul in His all-powerful hands.
And what of our own witness? Have we the forgiveness of Joseph, which is the forgiveness of God? Do we “seek to serve Him constantly” and “proclaim all His wondrous deeds,” as our psalmist encourages us today? Are we true pupils of this great teacher, faithful to our call to live and to die in His light? Or are we afraid for the body and judging by the dictates of this earthly life?
These are questions we must ask ourselves each day, for each day and at every moment our souls are required of us, lest we die for want of the Bread which comes to us by His holy hands. The Lord holds our life’s breath in His hand and “every hair of [our] head has been counted” by Him, so indeed we should fear Him. But that fear is born and finds recompense in love; the fear that comes from the world and its power brings only death to our bodies and souls. Let us simply recognize the truth of His presence and His power to all we meet, to all for whom we are responsible, and our salvation and the blessing of our progeny will be assured. And so with confidence, with faith of the Holy Spirit, we shall die and come to life, this day, and in eternity.
Lord, make us true servants of your love;
and gather us into the bosom of Abraham
and into your sacred heart.
O LORD, let us become like our Teacher
and die on the Cross;
may we make His presence known
by laying down our lives.
YHWH, let us seek to serve you constantly, that we may be your chosen ones. Let us proclaim your NAME from the rooftops; then we shall live in your light and be blessed – then we shall die in your arms and be gathered into Heaven.
Why should we fear for the life of the body when you are ready to hear our prayers, our pleading for mercy. You watch over our every step for your heart is set upon us to save us from every evil, to keep us from the persecution of a sinful world. And we shall take rest in your presence, LORD, when our days are over.
Let us be as your Son, our Teacher. Let us follow His instructions and walk ever in His way. Then indeed we shall be blessed and have nothing to do but praise your NAME. Then indeed all our sins will be gone, and we shall enter the land you promise.
Thu, 11 July 2019
(Gn.46:1-7,28-30; Ps.37:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40; Mt.10:16-23)
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.”
We are as exiles in this world. Indeed, the Lord sends us forth “like sheep among wolves.” In Egypt must we dwell for a time, until we are prepared for the coming of Christ.
But here He meets us. Here He weeps over us and so enables us to face the death which is upon us, which indeed surrounds us in this foreign land. Even in our trials, in all our persecutions, He is there: He suffers with us, and we with Him. And His Spirit is very present to lead us; it burns in our hearts to guide us, giving us the words we must speak, assuring us that Jesus is with us in all we do.
As Israel sets forth for Egypt, he is fearful. But he calls upon the Lord in his sacrifices, and in vision once again God comes to him, providing His assurance, His continued blessing. David’s psalm speaks so well of the protection and blessing which is ours in this land of exile: “The Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever. The salvation of the just is from the Lord; He is their refuge in time of distress.” Yes, He is our refuge in this land where we walk as exiles, in this world which would persecute the Word of God, pursuing it to kill it, to destroy it. But it is even in Egypt that a great nation shall be made of Israel; here, even under slavery, the people of God shall multiply and prosper. And so it is with us who follow Jesus: here in this world of persecution we are refined and made whole, as individuals and as a people; here under the threat of death we come to life, for His gentle yoke is upon us, and in Him we find refuge and even joy in all our sufferings. By undergoing persecution in His Name, we draw so very close to Him; and laying down our lives we find the great love which is without end.
Jesus speaks to us; the Spirit is here with us. There is no need to fear. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” Have faith in the word He speaks to your hearts and be assured that He watches over you here in this land of exile, not only protecting you from the wolves that surround you, but even increasing your blessings all the while. Your home in heaven is assured; see that Jesus is alive now and dwelling with you and you shall be able to close your eyes in peace, knowing all your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, you will see again when the Lord brings you to the land of promise.
O LORD, bring us to the place
we will find your presence,
the place we will find your love.
YHWH, you go with us into Egypt; through the persecutions of this world you are with us to speak for us and bless us and increase our yield. We need not be afraid of the way you call us, for you indeed love what is right and so are with the just who reflect your goodness. Though the wicked be destroyed, the inheritance of your faithful ones lasts forever.
Nothing can separate us from you, LORD; nothing can take us out of your hand or from the land you promise your chosen. Even death we escape by your grace and mercy, by your secure protection.
Give us the wisdom we need this day, O LORD, and the innocence to make our way through this world remaining on the path you set for us. Even the powerful of this world you send to save us, for we are your favored sons.
Wed, 10 July 2019
(Gn.44:18-21,23-29,45:1-5; Ps.105:5,16-21; Mt.10:7-15)
“It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you.”
Remarkable words from the mouth of Joseph as the brothers who sold him into slavery in Egypt stand dumbfounded before him, fearing indeed for their own lives. And indeed Joseph may have been justified to command the ending of their lives to avenge his treatment at their hands. But the Lord has looked with favor upon him who had been “bound with chains,” raising him up to be lord of Pharaoh’s house and “ruler of all his possessions,” and Joseph rightfully attributes such blessing to God and sees His hand at work in all this matter. Here is the great example of trust in God’s providential care. And Joseph has but a deep love for his brothers, and will now care for their lives and that of his father.
The same trust in God’s providence is asked of the disciples in our gospel. Jesus sends them forth with “no traveling bag, no change of shirt, no sandals, no walking staff,” telling them, “Provide yourselves with neither gold nor silver nor copper in your belts”: “the workman, after all, is worth his keep,” and God will always provide for those who serve Him.
Certainly a great lesson is in this for all of us. Do we have such trust in God? Joseph says that it is God who has, in effect, sold him into slavery that he might later be made a leader in Egypt and save his family from famine, this despite the fact that his own brothers have treated him with such disdain. Do we have such a blessed view of the trials which come our way? Can we see them as the hand of God working, and working for the good? Can we forgive so beautifully those by whom the trials come? Have we such vision that sees the hand of God at work in all things? “All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” Paul tells us elsewhere (Rm.8:28). Can we give all things which happen to us to God and trust that His will shall be done, is done, in them all?
Where is our trust? Is it in money and the things of this world? Do we think that these things will provide for us, will make us happy, will keep us satisfied – are these our gods? Or do we seek and accept the reign of God which the Lord tells us is at hand? Do we receive well His message of peace, His blessing of God’s love and care, or do we expel Him from our homes? And do we share His free gift with others?
There is great “famine on the land,” a famine of the hearing of God’s word and trusting in His hand. Let us come to the Son who has accepted scourging in the will of His Father and find all we need from Him who now sits on His throne. Believe that He does provide, and all will indeed be yours. And your trials will be turned to joy.
O LORD, you bring your peace to every house,
and so, too, do your disciples.
YHWH, it is you who provide for all we need, you and you alone. And if we but trust in you, all we need will be ours. If we but set our hearts on your holy will, your blessings will rest upon us – no trial will overcome us.
The blessing of peace your children bring to every house they enter, for you are with your disciples, O LORD and God, and work your will in all they say and do. May we freely give the blessing of peace you have so freely given to us. May every soul we meet be offered your peace and be encouraged to enter into your presence.
What need we more than this peace? What more than your presence can feed us? In all things you work toward good for those who trust in your providence. And in this we find our peace. In this we find release from every prison; every sin is forgiven. Let us but have faith that you are at our side at all times.
Tue, 9 July 2019
(Gn.41:55-57,42:5-7,17-24; Ps.33:2-3,10-11,18-19,22; Mt.10:1-7)
“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear Him.”
In our gospel, Jesus commissions the twelve apostles to go forth after “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in order “to expel unclean spirits and cure sickness and disease of every kind” and bring His people into “the reign of God.” In our first reading, we see that “famine had gripped the whole world,” and the lost and hungry sheep of Israel, the sons of Jacob themselves come to Egypt and their forsaken brother Joseph to find food, to find healing for their ills. They have sinned terribly against Joseph, and against God, by selling their younger brother into slavery because of their jealousy of him. Now that God has favored him who was so forsaken, he stands above them with their very lives in his hands, holding not only their food as procurator of Egypt, but also with the power to cast them into prison, or to release them.
Do we see the similarity between Joseph and Jesus? Jesus is the Son of David, the Son of Man, the Savior of the nation of Israel and, in the flesh, one of their own – their favored Son. And He who will be forsaken and sold to the Romans for crucifixion, He whose elder brothers will betray Him into the power of this world, is He who holds their, and our, very lives in His hands. It is when He opens His hands that they are fed; when He says the word, they, and we, are cast into prison – or released. By His word all demons are expelled and all infirmities healed. He indeed has every right to cast our souls into everlasting prison and torment; but, like Joseph, He takes pity on those who have wounded Him: like Joseph, we know that “He wept.”
But His weeping does not come automatically. Just as with Joseph, it is prompted by the repentance of His brothers, who have so despised him but now recognize their sin and bewail it to the Lord. His forgiveness and His healing – His salvation – come to those who in like manner “fear Him.” Upon these the Lord looks with pity. With these Jesus Himself cries. For these the Lord sends forth His apostles, to heal them and call them into the reign of God. As for the repentant, He will indeed “deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.” These lost sheep He will save.
And “the plan of the Lord stands forever”: it reaches to us this day. It is eternal, for all who fear Him, in whatever time or place. His word extends now to the ends of the earth, to the twelve tribes of Israel and beyond. Founded firmly in the Twelve (apostles), it now comes to the ears of all mankind. Let us repent even this day, brothers and sisters, be healed, and be fed by the hand of God.
O LORD, your reign is at hand,