Thu, 23 January 2020
(1Sm.24:3-21; Ps.57:2-4,6,11; Mk.3:13-19)
“Sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”
Today we see David at perhaps his most humble and obedient in the sight of God – we see why he is the great king of Israel.
David is being hunted down by Saul once again in his jealousy. His psalm, our psalm today, is his cry for protection from the Lord in whom he trusts: “I call to God Most High, to God, my benefactor. May He send from heaven and save me.” To the cave in which he hides, God sends his pursuer, vulnerable and at arm’s length. But this man who will be king of the Israelites by God’s ordination refrains from taking the sword into his hand to kill the man who would kill him. Why? Because Saul is yet the king, “the Lord’s anointed,” whom David even calls “a father to me” despite the threat he is to his life. Such an act of respect, such an understanding of the obedience due God and His will is unparalleled in Scripture. This is David. This is the king.
And how tragic a figure is Saul. Upon having his eyes turned inward to his very soul and the injustice he wreaks upon David, he weeps aloud in recognition of his sin: “You are in the right rather than I; you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.” It is he who speaks the words of our quote today, he who recognizes the truly kingly nature of David… Yet for all his penance and insight it shall not be long before his jealousy leads him to pursue David unrighteously once again. He cannot escape his envy for David’s blessing.
And in our gospel we read of the blessed apostles of Christ, those “men He Himself had decided on,” whom He summoned and “who came and joined Him.” These “He would send to preach the Good News”; these would “have authority to expel demons.” They are named by name for us today: here is the foundation of the Church in which God dwells. Here are His blessed kings of the New Jerusalem. Let us not be jealous of them. Let no man attempt to breach the authority given them; for pursue them as one would, none shall take their blessing away – it is they who are ordained by God for His service. Humbly let us join them in their sovereignty over Israel. Obediently let us come into the Lord’s kingdom.
O LORD, though your justice is beyond our reach,
in your mercy make us your disciples.
YHWH, those whom you appoint must be respected. It is you who anoint the king and ordain apostles. Jesus is your only Son and He has chosen the Twelve to follow Him. Who are we to go against His will and pursue them and those who continue in their stead?
O LORD, you have made Peter the rock of your Church and given all your apostles power to preach the Gospel and expel all demons. At their hands your presence becomes real, of your Son’s flesh and blood we partake, and we are forgiven our sins. If David your chosen could not kill an unjust king because of your blessing upon him, how much less can we usurp the power of the bishops and priests who stand this day in the very place of Jesus? O let us learn the respect and obedience to your will that King David has clearly shown!
You protect your righteous ones, dearest LORD and God. And so we need have no fear as long as we take refuge in your justice.
Wed, 22 January 2020
(1Sm.18:6-9,19:1-7; Ps.56:2-3,5,9-14; Mk.3:7-12)
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Jesus His millions. He slays an untold number of “unclean spirits [who] would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’” “A great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude” from all the surrounding regions. So great were their numbers He needed a boat to escape the press upon Him. For He “cured many,” and many more desired to be touched by Him.
The women sing of David’s greatness upon his return from slaying the Philistine. Their rightful attribution of praise for David, through whom “the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel” and so for its king (who had himself sought someone to stand against the giant Goliath), does nothing but provoke resentment and jealousy from King Saul. His anger even leads to his plotting to kill the man who has saved his kingdom; and though he sets aside his plan “of shedding innocent blood by killing David without cause” for the moment, the plot never leaves his heart and shall repeatedly surface with greater intensity. Thus Saul proves his inability to serve as king of the Lord’s people. Thus his pride shall be his demise.
And rightfully does Saul claim of David that “all that remains for him is the kingship,” for in fact he has already been anointed king in place of Saul by Samuel the prophet. And though as with the kingship of Jesus, who silences the demons from revealing “who He was,” David’s crown shall remain hidden for a time, inevitably – again, as with the Lord’s reign – those who “press their attack against” the Lord’s anointed shall be turned back and the true king shall “walk before God in the light of the living.” It is inevitable for it is God’s will, and neither the jealousy of Saul nor the plotting of the Pharisees – the jealous kings who would be overthrown by Jesus – can turn aside what God has ordained.
The Lord is with David. Though his “adversaries trample upon [him] all the day,” he sings in praise of God in his psalm: “You have rescued me from death.” And so we see how our psalms sing of Jesus Himself and why He is called Son of David. For the greatest victory the Lord God shall achieve will be the resurrection of His Son from the dead, and the redemption of the many souls who shall follow Him.
O LORD, we press upon you with our afflictions,
and by your Son’s intercession we are saved.
YHWH, how many evil spirits have you slain? How many enemies have you turned back for those who trust in your NAME? Though many fight against us, we are saved when we call out to you – forever we shall be safe from the malice of the wicked.
Your Son has come to our shores and cured us of our afflictions. By His grace He has freed us from all sin and evil. His power is greater than that of the devil though the devil sit on the throne of a king. For the spirit is greater than the flesh, and trusting in your Spirit, O LORD, we are released from the weakness of the flesh upon which the devil preys and made victorious in your NAME.
Thousands may we too slay if we keep our vows to you and in you find our strength. Then on the Day of your Son’s return, the angels shall sing of the glory which is ours in you and in Him, O LORD, as we enter your reign.
Tue, 21 January 2020
(1Sm.17:32-33,37,40-51; Ps.144:1-2,9-10; Mk.3:1-6)
“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you in the name of the Lord.”
“The battle is the Lord’s” is the simple truth David proclaims to all those who stand in arms. To “all this multitude,” he declares “that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.” Thus with David’s defeat of the Philistine giant is emphasized what has already been revealed in the anointing of this ruddy youth as king and the loss of that kingship by the tall-in-stature Saul: the exalted are humbled and the humbled exalted. For God blesses those who make Him their “rock,” trusting not in their own wealth or strength. “My refuge and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me,” David chants in praise of the Lord in his holy psalm. And so should we all take refuge in the Lord, and find strength in praising His Name.
And in “hoping to be able to bring an accusation against Him,” do not the Pharisees come, too, with sword and spear against God’s holy one today in our gospel? And do they not make this violence clear in their turning “to plot with the Herodians on how they might destroy Him”? They are defeated in battle by the Word of truth which issues forth and indeed is embodied by the Christ of God, Jesus, Son of David, Son of God. They cannot contradict the authority of His teaching or the blessing of the healing He brings from the Father on high, but yet they harden their hearts and close “their minds against Him,” seeking to confirm their trust in the warring hand of this world in the capture and crucifixion of their Savior. But the battle is the Lord’s, and their attempts to destroy Him shall prove the fruitlessness of such trust in violence – indeed, their killing Him with sword and spear shall be the instrument which leads to His resurrection, bringing the dawn of new life in whose light death itself, and the pride of man, shall be destroyed forever.
Let all know it is the Lord who fights for those whom He loves, those who trust in Him and His ways, who seek to do good and not evil, to “preserve life” and not “destroy it.” The question Jesus poses to the Pharisees He presents to us: do we cherish the saving power of the Lord of life and take refuge and joy in Him, or do we reach for the weapons at our side to destroy Him? The posturing of this world is vain, for it is God who holds life and death in His Hand.
O LORD, you save us from the clutches of evil men.
YHWH, the battle is yours. You strengthen our hands against the enemy and give victory to your chosen ones. Despite the plots of those who surround us with evil intent, despite the might of the armies arrayed against us, you give confidence to those who trust in you, for with you the faithful soul triumphs over the powers of this world.
You deliver us in the day of battle, dear God; you are our refuge, our stronghold, and by your hand we destroy those who come at us with closed minds and hardened hearts, railing against your holy One. They cannot stand before your awesome power – their swords and spears are broken by the Word that issues from your mouth.
The head of the snake shall be cut off, crushed by the feet of your lowly ones, and we shall sing your praise, O LORD. Forever we shall be preserved from the violence of the enemy.
Mon, 20 January 2020
(1Sm.16:1-13; Ps.89:20-22,27-28; Mk.2:23-28)
“Man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”
Indeed, how different the vision of God from the vision of man, and how well the Lord illustrates this in His rejection of Saul and His choosing of David. When Samuel sees Eliab, whose appearance and “lofty stature” are reminiscent of Saul, even this great seer is blinded by his eyes and must be directed by God to look beyond what is apparent to his sight. All seven sons brought to the feast are rejected by the Lord, and the youngest, “who is tending the sheep,” must be sent for. Jesse, his father, did not think David worthy of coming to the sacrificial banquet, but it is he who is the centerpiece of the celebration. This ruddy youth is the one chosen by the eyes of God.
And lest we think that there is some kind of diametrical opposition between physical beauty and interior loveliness, we must note that David is not ugly to behold and the Lord does not choose him for a poor appearance. He too was “handsome… and making a splendid appearance.” But the beauty of David finds its source not in the skin but in a heart set on God, and it is this faithfulness and dedication to Him upon which the Lord gazes and, so, chooses, and not upon the curls falling around his face. David’s appearance is beautiful because his soul is beautiful, and his soul is beautiful because it finds its life in God. And so, from the day of his anointing by Samuel, God’s prophet, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” and there remained, for it had found its proper home.
In our gospel we have a quote like unto the one separated out for this day, and expressive of a similar lesson: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath,” Jesus tells the Pharisees critical of His disciples picking, peeling, and eating heads of grain on the Lord’s Day. For what do the Pharisees do but judge the law by its appearance alone, and fail to look into its heart. The law is indeed beautiful to behold and was made for man for his benefit, to draw him close to God; but how far from its purpose these leaders of the people have come, and so, how distant from the Lord they stand – unable to recognize Him as He stands before them. The sabbath itself was made for man’s rest and refreshment from labor, and yet when the disciples of Christ pick and eat to allay their hunger, to find refreshment for their failing bodies, these Pharisees deem it evil. Again one wonders how they can be so blind. Again it is apparent that they are unable to see beyond the surface. Empty indeed are their hearts.
As He has done for David, the Lord makes us strong, makes us fruitful and beautiful. He blesses our works as the works of this “highest of the kings of the earth,” if those works are founded in Christ. If we truly say with David, “You are my father, my God, the rock, my savior,” the Lord will hear us, and finding His presence in our hearts, He will bless us, even as His only Son.
O LORD, your Spirit be with us as with David,
as with Jesus.
YHWH, give us eyes to see what you see, hearts to understand your will. Your Spirit dwell within us that we might be as your Chosen One.
O LORD, as we are presented before you, may we be acceptable in your sight. Let our hearts not be hardened to your Word but anointed by your Son’s blood. O that we might call you our Father and know Jesus as our Savior! Give us your Wisdom that we might radiate your beauty to all who look upon us this day.
David you blessed, dear God, as king of kings, as the child upon whom your favor rested. Is He not the figure of your only Son? In Him do we not see presaged the Christ who would be Lord even of the Sabbath?
And are we not called to be joined to Him, to have His anointing upon us this day, His Spirit to guide us in all things? Let us be fed by your Anointed, O LORD, that His crown might be upon our heads, that our eyes might be open to His glory.
Sun, 19 January 2020
(1Sm.15:16-23; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mk.2:18-22)
“Does the Lord so delight in holocausts and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the Lord?
The answer to the question Samuel puts to Saul is, in a word, “No.” “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.” Nothing does the Lord deem greater than our hearing and heeding His Word, than our obedience to His will. And nothing will save us, nothing will preserve our place in His kingdom like our doing what He asks of us.
Saul loses his kingship for his disobedience to the command of the Lord. The Lord has told him to destroy the enemy he invades and all that belongs to them. Saul retains some of the animals to bring back for sacrifice to God. Why waste them? Why not honor God with them? Reasonable thoughts to the human mind, but not the will of God. And in heeding these thoughts is revealed the seed of Saul’s rebellion against God, which will lead to his attempts to destroy the king (David) the Lord has chosen to replace him, and end in his own suicide.
How prone the human mind is to favor its own counsels against those of God. How foolish seem submission and obedience, especially when they go against our own logic. But David will show the humility God desires in those He would bless. “To him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God,” He promises us. David will be one who does not hate the discipline of the Lord or cast His words behind his back. When all justification is present for his killing Saul, who hunts down God’s chosen like an animal, he forgoes every opportunity, respecting his pursuer as God’s anointed. How different his attitude from Saul’s, he who “rejected the command of the Lord” by taking matters in his own soiled hands.
The blessing obedience is, the transcendent joy of joining oneself to the will of the Lord, is evident in our gospel as well, in Jesus’ teaching that “new wine is poured into new skins” and not old. Fasting is a blessed sacrifice provided by the law and by God. But as wholesome as this practice, or any other religious observance, can be, it does not supersede being present to the Lord. If we are not present to Him, all our works become empty. The disciples are so close to Jesus, so happy to be in His company, it is as if they have stepped into heaven – and so how can the law’s prescription for fasting touch them in a place where fasting is no longer necessary? Indeed, they shall fast upon His death, and we know our great saints have performed great fasts and sacrifices in the Name of the Lord and for His glory… but first the grace of God must be with us all, or all becomes empty show.
It is the new wine of which we drink now, brothers and sisters; it is the Word become whole which is ours. Let us now be obedient to the Lord’s command, and all we do will be joy for us and for our God.
O LORD, make of us new wineskins
that we might bear your Word within ourselves.
YHWH, let us not question your Word or your will but walk in your way, for only by such obedience will we find salvation. Let us not pull away from you or presume our thoughts above your own. For in such foolishness we shall surely die – how can we remain if rejected by you?
And surely shall our rejection come if we fail to listen to your command and do your bidding. For your command is life to us, O LORD, and following in your way our means to glory; thus we will be without hope if we turn from your discipline.
Let us listen to Jesus, Him whom you have sent as Bridegroom among us. In His presence our hearts rejoice, and apart from Him we can only fast. But in feasting and in sacrifice He is our treasure; Him do we love. And so, let us be obedient to His teaching, LORD, that your blessing we might ever find.
Fri, 17 January 2020
(1Sm.9:1-4,17-19,10:1; Ps.21:2-7; Mk.2:13-17)
“You are to govern the Lord’s people Israel,
and to save them from the grasp of their enemies round about.”
Tall and handsome, Saul gives every appearance of a king. And so God gives the people what they want in this “handsome young man” who “stood head and shoulders above the people.” But with Saul the Lord shall indeed prove that it is not upon appearances He gazes. In the failure of Saul’s reign will be revealed the emptiness of such outward attraction and our proclivity to desire what is appealing to the eye. For Saul shall not prove to be God’s anointed; His Christ shall be quite another.
It is not of Saul our psalm of David sings when it speaks of the blessings of the king. The “majesty and splendor [the Lord] conferred upon him” is as passing as his beauty. The “crown of pure gold” is to be placed upon the head of Jesus Christ alone; it is He the Father has made “a blessing forever.” His glory will be reflected in David, the ruddy shepherd youth whose son he is called, but will be fulfilled only in the Person of Jesus. It is He in whom all kings rejoice, in whom all find “the joy of [God’s] presence,” in whom all discover victory.
In our gospel, Jesus, the true king, comes, not with stately train, but “walking along the lakeshore.” And crowds of people follow Him, people not of power and riches or reputation; rather, “many tax collectors and those known as sinners joined Him.” This greatly disturbed the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees – it was not according to their vision of who He should be and what He should do. “Why does He eat with such as these?” they complain to His disciples. But He has a ready answer, one which cuts to the heart of us all and reveals the nature and purpose of this true king: “People who are healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do.” And so the Savior comes into our midst, neither tall nor handsome nor desiring praise, to save us from our sin.
We are all sick, brothers and sisters! Make no doubt; have no question about it. We need Him! It is this king and the “goodly blessings” that flow from Him that must be our heart’s desire, for He alone will bring us into the joy of the kingdom; He alone will save us from the sin into which we have all fallen. Let us follow Him as Levi, leaving behind our sinful station in life, and He will govern us well.
O LORD, Jesus you have made King over us
that we might be saved from sin
and rejoice in your presence forever.
YHWH, your Son, our King, has come to call us from our sin, to save men in need of healing. And who among us is not in need of Him? Pity the poor soul who thinks himself so.
What are we in your sight, O LORD? However tall we might be, we are no more than ants. To you all men are sick and in need of a physician; you see how quickly our beauty fades.
Oh if we could only see as you see! If we could only recognize your greatness among us in the humble stature of Jesus, the holy One. Make us ready to follow Him as Matthew from his post. Somehow open our eyes to see His gaze passing before us.
Save us from the grasp of our enemies round about. Only you could govern us; only in you could we rejoice in victory. O LORD, let us join your Son in majesty and splendor – for us He is a blessing forever. In Him we find all we need. In Him we are all anointed kings.
Thu, 16 January 2020
(1Sm.8:4-7,10-22; Ps.89:2,16-19; Mk.2:1-12)
“We have never seen anything like this!”
What the Lord can do, no one else is able to do – no king, no prophet, no priest. Though all may do in His name, nothing is done except through Him. He alone forgives sins; He alone heals. He alone fights our battles, for He alone rules over us.
In asking Samuel to appoint a king over them, the Israelites reject the rule of God in their lives. If they but believed, the Lord would take care of all their concerns and they would keep all His blessings – their children, their animals, their land… as their own. But they do not trust in Him; rather, they fear the world, the surrounding nations, and seek to be like them, to fight as they do – to have one of their own to rule them. And thus they will lose what they have, for when we give all to God, He returns all we give with manifold blessing; but when we trust in man, giving ourselves to him, he swallows up our offerings.
Our psalm expresses well the attitude we should have toward God. It should be “in the light of [His] countenance” we walk. It should be “at [His] name [we] rejoice all the day.” We should say with our psalmist: “To the Lord belongs our shield, and to the Holy One of Israel, our king.” And so it is Jesus who must be our King; He alone must rule our lives, for He alone truly belongs to God; He alone is the Son of God.
The scribes were right to ask, “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” for God alone stood before them, forgiving the sins of His children. And it is now by His power, His presence, that our priests forgive men’s sins in His name. “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and He does not take that power from the face of the earth upon His return to the Father’s side in heaven: He multiplies that power – as well as the power to teach, to, in this sense, rule our lives – in His holy Church and its appointed leaders. What He granted to the Israelites because of their stubbornness of heart, He now brings full circle by blessing us with the presence of Christ: our king, our prophet, and our priest. No longer is it blasphemy for one to stand in God’s stead, for the Lord has visited His people.
And should we not praise Him, therefore, for the wonders He accomplishes in our midst? Should we not shout for joy for His blessings? For now we have a king to rule us, a king greater than any other; now we need not fear the attacks of any nation. For even Satan He holds in His hands and casts him out at will; and so we are able to return to our land, to stand up and “go home.” May “all give praise to God” for His goodness to us, turning our foolishness and sin to His grace and blessing before our very eyes.
O LORD, let us walk in the light of your countenance;
you alone are our strength.
YHWH, forgive us our sins, forgive our rejecting your rule over us. Forgive our seeking to be like other nations with one like ourselves as our king – O why do we not cherish your presence in our midst? But thank you for sending your Son to be our King, to be Lord over us, for by this grace you take our foolish desire and make it holy. By Him we are redeemed from our sin… By Him we are forgiven.
Only you, O God, can forgive our sins, and this you do through your Son. For He shares your authority – He Himself is God. And this power to forgive sins you extend to men who stand this day in Jesus’ stead. Though we be weak and sinful, in His Name all is accomplished according to your will.
And in your Church men now also teach in the Name of Jesus, and so in your NAME as well. O LORD, let us hear your Word, let us know your healing, that all the day we might give praise to you.
Wed, 15 January 2020
(1Sm.4:1-11; Ps.44:10-11,14-15,24-25,27; Mk.1:40-45)
“Our souls are bowed down to the dust;
our bodies are pressed to the earth.”
The Israelites suffer “a disastrous defeat” at the hands of their worst enemy. Not only do they lose thirty thousand men, but the ark of God – “who is enthroned upon the cherubim” which protect it – the tabernacle which holds the manna and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This most holy ark is taken into the camp of the Philistines. How can this be? The Israelites trusted in God’s presence to save them, and they are beaten down. Our psalm addresses their plight directly: “You have cast us off and put us in disgrace, and you go not forth with our armies… those who hated us plundered us at will.” And so the psalmist cries out with the defeated Israelites, “Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression?”
The Israelites – like the thieves on the cross either side of Christ, like us all – deserved their crushing defeat. They, again, as us all, turned their faces from the Lord of hosts to worship false and empty gods. There should be no question as to why the chastising hand of God is upon any of us. But our psalm is about more than this defeat of Israel or even our own punishment for sin. Written as the voice of Jesus Himself, it reveals the suffering of the innocent Lamb of God in our stead: “You made us the reproach of our neighbors, the mockery and the scorn of those around us.” Jesus endures the scourging and the crown of thorns and the crucifixion for no other reason than to save our souls from similar fate, and worse, from condemnation. The sinless dove dies for the sinful flesh, which keeps us all in prison and pushes our faces to the dust. Though the sons of the high priest die in battle and are no more, Jesus lives, and through His death in battle for our souls, all now live.
In our gospel “a leper approach[es] Jesus with a request, kneeling down as he address[es] Him.” Here we all are as sinners, symbolized by this outcast, coming earnestly to Jesus and humbling ourselves to the ground which, without God, is our place, is the dust from which we come and to which we return. Jesus is “moved with pity.” Jesus “stretch[es] out His hand.” Jesus “touch[es] him,” and says: “Be cured.” And the man is made whole.
Yes, this leper must be each of us, brothers and sisters. Humbly, our faces to the ground, knowing our sin and being repentant of it, we must come to Him. And He will raise our souls from the dust and our bodies from the earth into which they have fallen. This is why He has come; let us come to Him.
O LORD, we come to you to beg your grace:
make us no longer the laughingstock of the nations.
YHWH, our bodies are pressed to the earth; we are bowed down to the dust. As the leper we come before you begging your healing touch. May your Son reach out to us that we might be saved from all evil.
Disastrous defeat we suffer at the hands of the devil for we have sinned against you, O LORD our God. Our enemies overcome us for you do not fight with us, and so we are without a savior. Our courage fails for we are alone and have no help from you.
What can we do on our own, dear God? Of what worth are our souls left to their own device? Where shall we find the strength to withstand the attack against us? Our oppressors bring us to woe, we are put to disgrace, for you have cast us off and we cannot enter battle alone.
O LORD, if you will to do so, you can cure us! Turn with pity to your wayward sons. Hide not your face from us, but let us know the merciful gaze of Jesus.
Tue, 14 January 2020
(1Sm.3:1-10,19-20; Ps.40:2-5,7-10; Mk.1:29-39)
“To do your will, O Lord, is my delight.”
O how Samuel shows the “ears open to obedience” we all must have. For when called, even from sleep, he immediately and repeatedly rises and presents himself for service to the Lord. Even from his youth he is with the Lord and in His will. Such readiness to serve is also revealed in Peter’s mother-in-law, who, when touched by Jesus, “immediately began to wait on them.” She, too, rises quickly from bed (and sickness) to do the work of the Lord.
And certainly Jesus Himself is our greatest example of readiness to do God’s will, for He and the Father are indeed one and all He does is according to the Father’s word. After healing the “whole town” of their afflictions, working to exhaustion to arouse those imprisoned by the darkness of demons and bringing them into the light of God for service of the good, He rises “early the next morning” and goes “off to a lonely place in the desert,” where “He was absorbed in prayer.” When the disciples find Him, He is prepared to move on to the next town and the same exhausting work in service of the will of God, saying of the need to “proclaim the good news”: “That is what I have come to do.”
It is said of Samuel: he “grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” And so, well does this great prophet presage the coming of Christ – He who fulfills the will of the Father – and the faith of all those who follow Him. For all those who wait for the Lord, He stoops toward. To all those who say, “Behold, I come,” He Himself comes, He Himself strengthens… His greatness He makes known through His children. So it is written in the scroll and upon our hearts: so is the will of God accomplished in our lives.
Only Him do we serve, brothers and sisters. His voice alone we must hear and heed. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” must ever be our attitude toward the Creator of heaven and earth and the Savior of our souls. The Spirit’s lead we must follow readily. And He will be with us to bless and give us the strength we need to work in Him beyond exhaustion, beyond sickness… beyond death. Life will be ours.
O LORD, let your Good News be proclaimed
that all might hear and be healed
and ready to answer your call.
YHWH, to do your will is our delight, is our holy call in this world. Let us be so blessed to hear your voice and accomplish the work you set before us. Let nothing we say be without effect; let us never act apart from you. Somehow let us find you so present to us as you were to Samuel – somehow let us follow in the footsteps of your Son.
In the temple let us dwell, in your holy resting place. Before the ark of the Covenant let us keep watch – never let your light be extinguished from our hearts and minds. Ready let us be to answer your call and show ourselves your servants. O LORD, let us do your will.
Why should we be afflicted when your Son is near to cast all demons from our souls, to heal us of every illness. To His door let us come, O LORD, and He will reach out His hand to save us. Give light to these eyes blinded by age and the falsehood of this evil world. In obedience let us stand before you.
Mon, 13 January 2020
(1Sm.1:9-20; 1Sm.2:1,4-8; Mk.1:21-28)
“May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
For He holds all authority. “He gives orders to unclean spirits and they obey.” “The Lord puts to death and gives life; He casts down to the nether world; He raises up again.” All He wills, He does – nothing is beyond His reach and power. And His desire is to answer your prayer. If you are faithful as is Hannah, if you come before Him in such sincerity and truth, then what you ask shall be yours; for He Himself is sincerity and truth and goodness, and when you join yourself to Him, you join yourself to His authority… and find the answer to your prayer by His presence in your heart.
And so your heart shall exult with Hannah’s. And so you shall see how “He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap He lifts up the poor.” Indeed the prayer of the poor touches His heart and He “seat[s] them with nobles and make[s] a glorious throne their heritage.” To heaven do they come, for heaven is their love.
How evident is the Lord’s will and favor to those lowly ones who seek Him in the birth of Samuel – whose very name means “asked of the Lord” – to the barren wife Hannah. None could be poorer in blessing than she; ridiculed by the world is she for the Lord’s lack of favor toward her. But as bitter as the fruit she must taste, she does not rebel against her God, but comes to Him in all humility and with a heart full of prayer and eyes filled with tears. And He loves His child. And one of the greatest men of the Old Testament becomes her son. And her song in praise of the Lord foreshadows Mary’s own.
“Jesus entered the synagogue on the sabbath and began to teach.” He comes to us now with His Word, His authority. Where Hannah sought Him, He now comes to us, offering freely the wisdom and power and grace which are His alone. And there is nothing which stands in the way of that Word. There is nothing to prevent its coming to our hearts and healing our souls of all injury, if we but listen, if we but seek His presence in our lives – if we but promise to give all to Him, He will give all we ask to us.
O LORD, you have granted what we have asked of you
in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, the needy you lift up from the dust; the barren wife bears seven sons and the poor man you seat with nobles. For you hear the prayer of those who cry to you, who believe in you despite their misery and come with a sincere heart – you cannot resist our tears. You have all authority and that authority you wield to heal those in need and teach us your way of holiness.
And so our hearts exult in you, O LORD. You give us victory over all our enemies. Sin you cast far from our souls; all unclean spirits vanish at your Word. The holy One you have sent to us, and He is our LORD and Savior.
And so we are rich in Jesus, your Son. And so a glorious throne you make our heritage. Though a moment before we may have been in the throes of evil, though so long we may have dwelt in sorrow, you give us new life and raise us to your side. In Jesus let us make our home.
Sun, 12 January 2020
(1Sm.1:1-8; Ps.116:12-19; Mk.1:14-20)
“Hannah was childless.”
And so she would “weep and refuse to eat,” for it was “a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren.”
But He will not leave her barren long. Her husband’s love for her despite her condition and her own prayers will soon be answered: she will give birth to the great prophet and priest, Samuel, who will anoint kings in Israel.
And her song of joy, which will foreshadow our Blessed Mother’s own Magnificat, is here foreshadowed in our psalm in praise of the Lord’s favor to His servants: “To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as is her faithfulness in fulfilling her vow to offer her son entirely to God: “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people.” All who have looked upon her shame and sorrow shall marvel at the blessing the Lord’s “handmaid” will receive as He looses her bonds of emptiness and makes her fruitful in His eyes.
And in our gospel the Lord awakens the empty womb of the earth, stirring it to life. “The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the Good News!” He proclaims to a people in darkness. And children He brings forth from this barren country, the disciples He calls unto Himself, to be the first to share in His life. And they come forth, these pillars of the Church; they leave behind the world, all the world, to follow Him. Immediately, “on the spot,” they “became His followers.” “Along the Sea of Galilee,” beside this simple body of water, the waves of grace call forth from the darkness the light that shall illumine all men.
“How shall [we] make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for [us]?” How shall we poor sinners, barren of good works, unfruitful in His sight, thank Him for hearing our grieving cries? Simply, we must bear fruit in His name.
We are no longer childless.
O LORD, call us to yourself
that we might be childless no more.
YHWH, let us enter the temple singing your praise, for though we sit here in darkness weeping for our barrenness before you, you shall hear our prayer, you shall answer our weeping and make us fruitful in your sight. For now the Word goes forth to the ends of the earth, the Good News your Son brings to us through His blessed apostles, and our lives will be reformed and we made ready to enter your presence.
Look upon us, LORD our God, as here we toil in vain for the bread which cannot satisfy our souls. For you alone do we long, and long have we been waiting in tears for you to come to us and call us to your side. Hearing the sound of your Son’s voice, what can we do but rejoice? For He is our light in this darkness.
And so, let us offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving; let us leave all behind now to follow your Son, for He leads us to fruitful labor in your holy NAME. O LORD, let us die to the things of this world that we might live in glory forever.
Fri, 10 January 2020
(1Jn.5:14-21; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.3:22-30)
“The Son of God has come and has given us discernment
to recognize the One who is true.”
John’s disciples had difficulty recognizing “the One who is true.” They saw everyone “flocking to Him” and away from their master, so they came to their master questioning. But John was forthright: “I am not the Messiah,” he said, “I am sent before Him.” And now that He has come, the Baptist’s joy is complete.
Brothers and sisters, “we know that we belong to God, while the whole world is under the evil one.” “We are in the One who is true.” Jesus has brought us to such knowledge. And this knowledge, this reality of the eternal life of God, should make us rejoice with our psalmist. It should make our lives ones of thanksgiving in which we “praise His name in the festive dance” and “with timbrel and harp.” For, yes, “the Lord loves His people” and we are His faithful who “exult in glory.” Let us “be glad in [our] maker.”
The world is under sin, and there is deadly sin which destroys the soul lurking in the world. The devil is real as well, and will not simply go away. And though only God can cast him away ultimately, we can pray against much of his work in this world, “petition[ing] God,” interceding for our brothers who falter in sin that is not deadly… and finding their release through the grace of God. With this “confidence in God: that He hears us whenever we ask for anything according to His will,” we have a great gift and a great strength in this dark world – we can bring light to it, the light of the only Son. But we must always be as “the body” He adorns “with victory.” We must have the same attitude as the Lord’s “best man,” and say with the Baptist, “He must increase while I must decrease.” We must find our joy in Him and not in our works or in our pride. He is all and He is true, and He leads us to the kingdom in His baptism in water and the Spirit. Brothers and sisters, we must see the grace we have in our midst. Jesus is ours.
O LORD, let us remain in you
and rejoice at the coming of your Son.
YHWH, in Baptism we are begotten by you and protected from all sin and selfishness. Let what you have begun in us become complete – let all sin be taken from us that we might rejoice forever in your presence.
O LORD, let our joy be complete. Now that your Son has come and drawn us into His flesh and blood, now that He has cleansed us from our sins and made us whole again, let us decrease as He increases within us, until He is all in all in us… until we exult in the glory of your kingdom.
O LORD, let all your children praise your holy NAME and sing of the grace upon all the lowly ones of God. O true God, let us be your own, born again in your Son, in the Spirit upon Him. And we shall be ready even to die with Him that we might find new life in Him with all our brothers and sisters.
Save us from sin, dear LORD, and let us live in your glory.
Thu, 9 January 2020
(1Jn.5:5-13; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Lk.5:12-16)
“Whoever possesses the Son possesses life.”
What does our psalmist mean when he sings: “He has granted peace in your borders; with the best of wheat He fills you,” but that we are in Christ? What are those “borders” but the flesh of Christ? What is this wheat but the manna, the Sacrament of His Body He gives us to feed upon during our earthly journey? And this word which “runs swiftly,” what is it but the Spirit which enlivens the Body of Christ, which brings the flesh of Christ to life? And why should we not “glorify the Lord,” the God of life, who provides His Son and His Spirit, who makes the world and all that is in it, who calls us to believe, as the human beings we are, in the name of the Son, that we might find all three who testify to truth and “are of one accord”?
It is through the Son we come to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in God the Father, we believe “the testimony He has given on His own Son’s behalf,” and we find the eternal life that is thus ours through the Son. May the Spirit run quickly to us and teach us and guide us along the way of God.
In our gospel Jesus heals a leper. He reaches out His hand “to touch him” and so draws him into Himself, into the borders of His holy flesh, and he is made whole. He wills it so, that the bars of all our gates be strengthened, that all enter into Him – that we be healed, whole in Him, and that our children, the fruit of our own bodies be blessed by their truly being begotten therefore of Him. If we are in Him, so will our children be, so will all the works we perform. But we must come as the leper, “bowed down to the ground.” We, too, must see Jesus and be moved to humble ourselves before His loving glory. In faith we, too, must desire His touch upon our flesh, to be released from all sin, to be made whole again. And we must do as He instructs us through the power of the Spirit; then we shall find life with the Father in heaven.
If it is remarkable that the Son of God would draw the leprous man into His sacred flesh and make him His own, it is perhaps more remarkable that He would do the same for us poor sinners – that being possessed by Him, we possess Him, and so we enter life by the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, let all men know
that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
and eternal life to all who believe in Him.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth and the touch of your hand, we are healed of all our ills; your Son has come to save us. He is all we need to find eternal life – let Him live within us.
You testify, O LORD, by the word of the Spirit that Jesus is your beloved Son and we should believe in Him. Your testimony let us embrace in faith that the life you desire for us we may know.
Your Word of truth runs swiftly, LORD, and brings peace to our gates and borders. Our very flesh is anointed in your Son – in Him your Spirit is upon us. And we are blessed as your children; we are made whole in your sight. Let your Word run to all the world, that all might know of the glory you bring us in Jesus your only Son, in the water upon Him and in His sacrificial blood. In faith let all bow down before Him, seeking a word from His mouth and the touch of His hand.
Wed, 8 January 2020
(1Jn.4:19-5:4; Ps.72:1-2,11,14-15,17; Lk.4:14-22)
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today the Son has come into our midst. Today He has “unrolled the scroll” of the Word of God and read aloud the words written of Him for all to hear. Today the WORD is brought to life. As “appealing” as is the discourse which flows forth from His gracious lips, so much greater is the Spirit that is upon Him. For by that Spirit and in His sacred flesh He shall “bring glad tidings to the poor… proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners.” In word and deed He “announce[s] a year of favor from the Lord.” In Him all time comes together. In Him it is all one moment. And this moment reveals the love of God.
And by the Son we are begotten, by His love: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God.” And so, children we become with the one Child most blessed. And if we are all one child born of the love of God and His Word, what can we do but love one another? Does one not love his own flesh and bone? And so, “whoever loves God must also love his brother,” for his brother is of him as he is of God and both are His children in love, born of the flesh of the one Christ.
“In Him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” It is not for the few He has come, but for all. For God is the Father of all and the Son possesses and reveals all that is of the Father. “All nations shall proclaim His happiness,” for all peoples shall find their happiness in Him alone, who is love and which love is itself our happiness and our hope.
Speak to us, Lord Jesus. Work through us, dear God. Let your Commandment of love be fulfilled in us. Let our love be fixed on God and let us love our brother. May we hear the words you speak in our midst today. May your Spirit make us children of the Father.
O LORD, Jesus is the Christ;
your Spirit is upon Him and He has come to save us –
let us declare His praise.
YHWH, your Word is fulfilled in Jesus and in the Spirit upon Him. Glad tidings the poor hear from His blessed lips, and we who are blind may now see your glorious presence in our midst. From our prisons let us be released, that we might love as Jesus loves.
If we remain in your Son, we will be able to keep your commands and so be blessed forever. You will give us power to conquer the world, to conquer the world even as He has done. O LORD, in Him may our lives be governed with justice, that our mouths might bless you all our days.
O LORD, if we keep our eyes and ears and hearts fixed on Jesus, we will know your love and be able to share in that love. Truly we will love you and our brother, and every blessing will be ours by the grace upon your Son. Your Name be praised by the tongues of men for all the goodness He brings us
Tue, 7 January 2020
(1Jn.4:11-18; Ps.72:1-2,10,12-13; Mk.6:45-52)
“If we love one another, God dwells in us,
and His love is brought to perfection in us.”
Jesus has just fed the five thousand men with the five loaves and two fish. He has performed a great miracle before the eyes of His disciples and through their hands. Yet “their minds were completely closed to the meaning of the events,” and when He comes walking toward them on the water in the middle of the night as their boat is tossed about by a storm, they are “terrified.” They are afraid because they are not yet perfect. John tells us in his first letter, a letter of love: “Love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid” and “perfect love casts out all fear.” The disciples will not be perfect, will remain afraid, until after the death and resurrection of the Lord, and, really, until Pentecost, when the Spirit falls upon them. As John states, “The way we know we remain in Him and He in us is that He has given us of His Spirit.”
His Spirit is the Spirit of love and He, our Lord Jesus, is Himself love. John follows both the clauses, “If we love one another” and “When anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,” with the statement that God dwells in us. Jesus and love are equated as the Spirit and love are equated above. Why? Because “God is love” and both Jesus and the Spirit are God, and so are love.
Brothers and sisters, our love must be brought to perfection, and it is “brought to perfection in this: that we should have confidence on the day of judgment” – that we should have no fear of the punishment we deserve, that we know fully of His love. Jesus takes a step to preparing the disciples against the judgment, against fear and for love, by walking toward them on the water. He means to teach them that they should not be afraid of the wind and the waves which rock our boat in this world, nor should they be afraid of His miraculous, overwhelmingly loving presence. Let us learn what Jesus would teach the disciples: “Do not be afraid!” “For He shall rescue the poor man when he cries out.” He is love and He will save us. Let our minds open to His presence as we love one another, and let that love be brought to absolute perfection in us. May His Spirit be with you.
O LORD, your Son has come among us as a Man –
how can we recognize His glory in our midst;
how can we love as He has loved?
YHWH, why should we be afraid of your love, of your glory among us? Why would we rather remain in darkness than come into your light? Why can we not believe that your Son has walked among us and that He invites us to become one with you? How can our hearts bear such blessing?
O LORD, cast all the fear from us; let us not shrink from your presence, from your overwhelming love, but welcome it in our hearts with gratitude and a return of love to you and others. Let it be our desire to be saved and so glorify Jesus’ coming into our midst. Let Him enter our boat this day, and with Him let us remain.
Dwell within us, O LORD God. Dwell within us and rule over us with your justice and love. Hear us as we cry out to you; have pity on our afflicted souls. Speak to us: “Do not be afraid!” and open our eyes to your eternal protection.
Mon, 6 January 2020
(1Jn.4:7-10, Ps.72:1-4,7-8,11; Mk.6:34-44)
“Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace,
till the moon be no more.”
Our psalm (of Solomon, the king of peace and wisdom) relates the infinite justice of God, He who “defend[s] the afflicted among the people” and “save[s] the children of the poor.” Such is the judgment of our God, who “rule[s] from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth”: His perfect justice He showers upon all.
And how is this justice effected? It is already evident from what we have said, from what our psalmist has sung of His Name, and our letter from John leaves no question – “God is love.” His ultimate justice and love have been “revealed in our midst in this way: He sent His only Son to the world that we might have life through Him.” In sending Jesus “as an offering for our sins,” His perfect love and perfect justice meet and kiss and become one. He bleeds for us, and so our sins are forgiven.
And what clearer proof that we all “have life through Him” is shown in our gospel, in which Jesus feeds the masses. First He teaches them with the Word “at great length.” Having pity on them, He feeds their souls with Truth. But His pity does not end there – His concern extends to the physical as well as the spiritual… for He knows all our weakness, and He feeds the peoples’ bodies as well as their souls.
What a beautiful picture this is: the people “neatly arranged like flower beds,” Jesus raising the bread to heaven and pronouncing the blessing, the disciples distributing it, and Jesus Himself dividing the fish among them. All eat and all are satisfied. Here is a picture of the Lord’s justice and love. And this scene we enact each day at Mass, listening to His Word, His teaching, and then eating the bread of life He distributes among us. May the Lord be praised!
And what have we to do to receive this bread of life but heed the words John offers and “love one another.” For “love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.” And this knowledge we find in our love is that His justice is true and endures forever in the perfect peace His presence brings. Let us have faith forever.
O LORD, you sent your Son
to shepherd all afflicted and fainting souls;
may we be nourished by His love.
YHWH, you send your Son to rule over us with His love, to feed us with His own Body and Blood. May justice flower in His day and all the ends of the earth be blessed with His peace. And let us love as He has loved; let us lay down our lives for one another.
O LORD, upon your holy mountain let us take our rest, our souls arranged like flower beds, our hearts yielding to your Word. May your rule be made complete even in this deserted place where men are as sheep without a shepherd. To this place let your Son come and make it as your eternal home. Give us something to eat this day, LORD, by the hand of Jesus and His apostles, or we shall faint for weariness, or we shall starve to death.
It is only your love which sustains us, LORD, only our being joined to you. May we eat our fill of your goodness, and never be apart from your reign.
Sun, 5 January 2020
(1Jn.3:22-4:6; Ps.2:7-8,10-11; Mt.4:12-17,23-25)
“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh
belongs to God.”
And for every spirit that acknowledges Him, He answers all prayers: “Whatever we ask we shall receive at God’s hands.” “Ask of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance…” And so, when “they carried to [Jesus] all those afflicted with various diseases and racked with pain,” He heard this prayer made in faith, made in the belief that He could do this, and as Matthew so simply and wonderfully states, “He cured them all.” They had listened to His preaching: “Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They accepted it, humbly, taking no offense at His words and His actions – but believing in Him. And so He could perform such wonders for them, He whose spirit is true; and so “on those who inhabit a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
And now we should “give heed” and “take warning”; now we should “put the spirits to the test to see if they belong to God.” Now we must clearly acknowledge Jesus as the Christ and know what John tells us, “There is in you One greater than there is in the world,” and follow that Spirit within us. Are we “keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight”? Do we “remain in Him”? He is never far away and He will hear all of our prayers and cure us of all ills, if we but believe in Him, if we but heed His teaching – if we reform our lives. We show our belief in Him when we follow His commandments, and we follow His commandments when we reform our lives. Thus we prove that we speak His language; in our love we reveal His Spirit in us.
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son, this day I have begotten you.’” Even in our psalm are spoken the words of the Father to Jesus; and they are spoken to us, if we believe that He is the Christ. This is the salvation the Father offers; it is for us to accept it and live it. For a greater gift we cannot expect, more love He could not show – this is His Son, this is God… believe in Him. There is nothing else you need seek.
O LORD, all those who seek the truth
come to your Son,
and you make them your children.
YHWH, we shall be healed of every ill; all darkness will be banished from our midst, if we turn from our sins, if we seek to reform our lives – if we believe in the Name of your Son, that He has come in the flesh and is our Savior. And then our every prayer shall be answered, for we shall be living in your love.
It is not of the world we are to be, O LORD, not of the darkness of this place. For the world does not recognize that Jesus has come, nor has it ears to hear Him. But our ears are attuned to His voice and the truth He speaks to our heart. Let us not be deceived by those who would deny the truth, those who would speak against what is plainly before them. Let us hold fast to the teaching of your Son and His apostles, and we shall have power to overcome all such evil by His love.
Give us all we ask of you, LORD; give us a world remade in your image.
Fri, 3 January 2020
(1Jn.3:7-10; Ps.98:1,3,7-9; Jn.1:35-42)
“When Jesus turned around and noticed them following Him,
He asked them, ‘What are you looking for?’”
Brothers and sisters, what Jesus asks the first two disciples He asks each of us who follow in their wake. What do we seek? Why are we following Him? What is it we hope to find at the place where He stays?
David makes clear in our psalm that the Son of God, “His holy arm,” has been revealed in our midst – in “wondrous deeds” He “comes to rule the earth.” “The world and those who dwell in it” should resound with joy. Him whom John the Baptist points out in no uncertainty is with us now. There is no other whom we should follow. And so we do. And so we come to Him each day, to receive our daily bread. Seeing where He lodges, we come to stay with Him.
But what does the Lord see when He looks upon us? Does He stay with us? When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, He “looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John; your name shall be Cephas (which is rendered Peter).’” Jesus upon looking at Peter sees the Rock on which He will build His Church. Peter’s holiness, the strength he has in God and for God, is evident to the Lord. Jesus knows what Peter seeks, and both have found what they are looking for. Is it upon our hearts as well to find the holiness of heaven, to become one with the Son of God?
“The man who acts in holiness is holy indeed, even as the Son is holy,” but “the man who sins belongs to the devil.” Holiness or sin? Jesus or the devil? The choice is clear, and must be evident in our lives. “No one begotten of God acts sinfully” and “no one whose actions are unholy belongs to God.” The first letter of John, our first reading, could not more simply state our call in the Lord: to be holy, not to sin… to love our brothers and sisters well – to be as Jesus, the Son most holy.
Jesus will turn and see us; His eyes are upon us now. What does He see as He looks upon your heart? What is your answer to His question, “What are you looking for?” Let His dwelling be all you seek.
O LORD, let us follow your Son to where He lives,
in holiness with you.
YHWH, let us stay with you and with your Son. May He turn and look upon us with kindness, with pity for our frail condition. O let this Lamb take our sins from us that we might no longer be in the grip of the devil but come to eternal life in your House!
The Messiah you have sent is in our midst this day; let us come to the altar to receive Him, to receive His holy sacrifice and become one with Him. Only thus shall we be made holy; only with Him will we find true justice and so rejoice in your presence, O LORD. O let us be ruled by Him!
Make us your children, dear LORD. Make us as your only Son. May Jesus be with us this day and we with Him that we might become holy indeed. Never let us act sinfully but ever love as you love, as your Son loves us. Let us seek your love alone and so be founded upon true Rock, in your House.
Thu, 2 January 2020
(1Jn.2:29-3:6; Ps.98:1,3-6; Jn.1:29-34)
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“This is God’s chosen One.” This is He upon whom “the Spirit descend[s]” – who takes away our sins and makes us pure by His own baptism “with the Holy Spirit.” He who walks with Him walks in holiness, for “everyone who acts in holiness has been begotten by Him” – we have become “children of God” because we have now the grace of the only Son.
Listen to the manner in which the Baptist “sing[s] joyfully before the King, the Lord” in our gospel today: “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from the sky, and it came to rest on Him.” How like music, like “the harp and melodious song,” is his witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. His exclamation of Jesus as the holy Lamb of God, offered as a sacrifice pure and undefiled, resounds to the ends of the earth more eloquently and with greater power than “the trumpets and the sound of the horn” of which David sings in our psalm. Here is the voice proclaiming the Truth, the message our ears have so longed to hear.
“The very reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel,” and “the reason [Jesus] revealed Himself was to take away sins” – all this for our salvation. Yes, brothers and sisters, “in Him there is nothing sinful.” And we must be like Him. Insofar as we sin, we have “not seen Him or known Him.” Insofar as a man “keeps himself pure, as He is pure,” he is His child, knowing Him most intimately, and may exclaim in wonder with John the evangelist: “What love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!”
All sin and struggle with sin all the while they are on earth. There are many times when we must admit that we do not see Him or know Him in order for Him to be revealed in our lives, in order for us to find His blessed purity. We must confess our sins that we might sing His praise. But all the while the Son is with us, the Lamb intercedes to remove our sins. And always we must look to Him whom the Baptist proclaimed to be “what we are,” to become “like Him” when His light comes to its fullness and His Spirit is all we know.
O LORD, your saving power, your Lamb,
has come to take away the sin of the world –
may all nations rejoice in such blessing.
YHWH, Jesus is your Chosen One, your only Son, the pure reflection of your Being… and we must be like Him. We must be pure as He is pure, as you are pure, as the Spirit that comes from Him and descends upon us is pure. O let us truly be pure! Let us truly be your children.
O LORD, Jesus has come to take away all sin from us. This is the mission, the work He has from you. It is for John to declare the coming of the Lamb of God, and it is for this Lamb to die for our sins. Let all be accomplished in your will. As John has made the Christ known and He has been crucified for our sakes, so let us find the purification from sin you desire for us that we might be united to you.
All the earth has seen your saving power, O LORD. Let all souls recognize that power in our midst and remain in Him who brings it.
Wed, 1 January 2020
(1Jn.2:22-28; Ps.98:1-4; Jn.1:19-28)
“Remain in the Son and in the Father.”
In our gospel John the Baptist tells the priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees, “There is… one who is to come after me – the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten.” This Messiah has come, “The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice,” David proclaims in our psalm, and continues to invite us to sing praise of Him. It is the anointing that comes from Jesus that John, in our first reading, encourages us to hold on to, for it is true and leads invariably to the Father of all.
We must come to the Father; we must find ourselves in the presence of all truth, in the hands of our Creator, who loves us beyond all telling. And the way to the presence of the Father, in whom we find our true home, is Jesus the Christ. He is the Son and the only one who can lead us to the Father, for He and the Father are inextricably one. We cannot deny the Sonship of Jesus, His oneness with the Father – that He is the Christ, upon whom all true anointing rests – and come to know God. Jesus is the means the Father provides to come to Him; it is through Him alone we find the promise of eternal life. We must “remain in Him,” that we may “not retreat in shame at His coming.”
Those who do not believe in Jesus, who do not recognize Him as the only Son and so only way to the Father, are not to be persecuted – but they are not to be believed. Jesus is all. Those who know Him know this; they indeed have His anointing in their hearts. This “anointing teaches [us] about all things and is true.” It is this knowledge of His salvation, of His glory, which John instructs us to remember: His Word grows in our hearts. But again, this Word is not a weapon for the persecution and destruction of others – it is the means for the manifestation of light.
Remain in Jesus, brothers and sisters, and eternal life with the Father will be assured you.
O LORD, help us always
to proclaim Jesus as the Christ.
YHWH, we must indeed acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, as your only Son, as God Himself, and rejoice that your saving power has come to us through Him. And His anointing will rest upon us, the Holy Spirit will be with us to guide us in all things – we will be one with you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
John has prepared His way and in the sight of the nations His glory has been revealed. None can deny His divinity, except he be a liar. And to these we must not listen, LORD, but only to the teaching of your Church. For upon your apostles rests the anointing that is from above, and if we are to find our way to eternal life, no other voice should we heed.
John has indeed cried out the way we all must follow if we are to meet your Son and so you, Father. O LORD, let us listen to the Spirit that is upon him.
Mon, 30 December 2019
(1Jn.2:18-21; Ps.96:1-2,11-13; Jn.1:1-18)
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
And we must dwell with Him, remaining in His light, walking in His way. “Through Him all things came into being,” and we who have come into being by Him, “who believe in His name,” must “become children of God.”
In our first reading, John warns against the antichrists who come in this “final hour” to lead astray all those not founded in truth. Elsewhere he warns against anyone who does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as the Christ come among us. Certainly there are more than a few antichrists today, looking to distract believers from “the Holy One.” But as John says, “All knowledge is yours”: if we believe in Jesus, we have the truth written within us. Yet we must beware of faltering, for “no lie has anything in common with the truth.” Remain in His Church.
Our psalm of David encourages us to “exult before the Lord,” to “sing to the Lord; bless His name.” And well we should this holy day to know of the Christ that has come “to rule the world with justice.” The Word has become flesh and left His flesh and His Spirit with the Church He has founded on the apostles – great is the joy of those who find their home there.
And in our gospel we hear John’s beautiful and clear explication of the divinity of Jesus, the Word ever in God’s presence from the beginning, the Word that is “God.” There are pseudo-religious that change the evangelist’s words to say that the Word was “a god”; such is the work of the antichrists spoken of by Paul. For only in the clear recognition of Jesus as “God the only Son,” only in the unequivocal proclamation of His divinity – that He is God – is salvation found. For this is Truth, Truth brings light, and the light has no discourse with the darkness of lies.
Come to Him who has come unto you, brothers and sisters. Seeing Him you see God and know God. And knowing God you “know the truth” and so exult in the joy of His presence in His Word, in His Sacraments, in His Church… in His love. Praised be the Lord and His dwelling among us.
O LORD, you have revealed yourself to us
in the presence of your only Son –
let us live in the truth that He is God.
YHWH, thank you for the truth you have given us, the glory you have revealed through your only Son. Your Word has become flesh and so your very light shines now in our midst – may we embrace Him and His love.
Though surrounded by the darkness of lies, we find our way to your truth, O LORD, by your Son and the Holy Spirit with whom we are anointed through Him. Now we know the truth and are gifted with all knowledge therefore – let us exult in the gift of life you provide.
Whoever does not acknowledge your Son does not know you, Father, and does not have the Holy Spirit. Let us know well Him whom you have sent and bless His Name among ourselves. Praise and glory belong to Him alone for He alone reveals your glory. O let this light shine in the hearts of all men, of all who would rejoice in your presence.
Sun, 29 December 2019
(1Jn.2:12-17; Ps.96:7-11; Lk.2:36-40)
“The world with its seductions is passing away
but the man who does God’s will endures forever.”
Upon what is your eye fixed? Do you seek the Lord as has Anna these many years, “constantly in the temple, worshiping day and night in fasting and prayer,” or are you seduced by “carnal allurements, enticements for the eye, the life of empty show.” Indeed, “all these are from the world” (and what appropriate description of the extreme vanity which grasps the world in this day), and indeed are all passing away into the nothingness from which they spring. And those whose hearts are fixed upon them shall pass away with them, while he whose heart seeks the Lord passes to the eternal life of heaven.
“Give to the Lord the glory due His name!” David exclaims in his psalm today, and, yes, much glory is due Him. “Through His Name [our] sins have been forgiven”; through Him we “have conquered the evil one.” Do you know “Him who is from the beginning”? Does “the word of God [remain] in you”? Is it His love you have, or love for the world, wherein His love finds no place to dwell? “The Lord is King,” brothers and sisters. He alone is worthy of our worship, worthy of our attention, worthy of our praise. Waste not your breath on the empty illusions of this passing world.
Anna “gave thanks to God and talked about the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.” Do you look forward to such deliverance? Do you care to hear of the glory of the Lord spoken of by this prophetess? Or have you better things to do? What sporting event, television program, or party takes precedence in your life?
We live in a vain world, brothers and sisters. And that vanity permeates this modern society, presenting itself as an accepted good. It is not easy to conquer the hold such illusions cast upon our waiting eyes – only in Jesus will you find the strength to overcome these seductions. As “the child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God… upon Him,” so will you learn to make progress as you “tremble before Him”; so will you grow in His will to eternal life, as you turn away from the carnality of this life. Keep your eyes upon His light, rising from the darkness.
O LORD, let our hearts be set
on worship of you and your Son
and not on the things of this world.
YHWH, you are from the beginning; may your grace be upon us that we might conquer the evil one and endure with you forever. The world is indeed passing away – let us not pass with it.
O LORD, help us to do your will each day and at every hour. Teach us to remain in your Temple always and so be joined to you. If we worship you constantly, you will come quickly to save us – you send your Son to deliver Jerusalem, to comfort all who look to you.
How strong are the allurements of the world the devil presents to our weak flesh! How easily we give in to such distractions, LORD. Let it be your courts alone our hearts are set upon – help us to turn from darkness to your marvelous light.
In you we are made firm, and in your Son. With Him let us grow, O LORD, that we might indeed be your children and remain ever with you. Praise to you, O living God! Let us heed the words of your prophets and apostles.
Mon, 23 December 2019
(2Sm.7:1-5,8-12,14,16; Ps.89:2-5,27,29; Lk.1:67-79)
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever.”
The Lord builds a house for us; He is that House.
“Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations,” the Lord promises David, and accomplishes His word by Himself entering the line of the king. Thus “He has visited and ransomed His people. He has raised a horn of saving strength for us in the house of David His servant” in the Person of Jesus the Christ. And so we shall find “freedom from [our] sins” and “the kindness of our God” shall remain upon us.
“To guide our feet into the way of peace,” Jesus has come. To bring “salvation from our enemies and from the hands of all our foes,” He stands among us. Zechariah’s joy at the birth of John, his son, is really the joy in the coming one, for whom John but “prepare[s] straight paths.” The Spirit inspires this old priest to sing primarily of the fulfillment of the promise long held by his people, the promise of Abraham, the promise of David – the promise of finding fulfillment as God’s chosen ones, held in His hand, in His temple, in His house, and protected from all harm while worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. This Jesus accomplishes.
And so, “we should serve Him devoutly, and through all our days, be holy in His sight,” for no greater gift have we than this opportunity for holiness in the one true Son of God and in the House He establishes. Should not the Church be our home? Has not the Lord provided for the building of its walls? Has He not provided His own flesh and blood to be spread upon its altar? Has He not “fix[ed] a place for [His] people Israel… that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance”? Has He not said, “My kindness is established forever,” and “in heaven… confirmed [His] faithfulness”? And should we not enter His house, enter His heaven, and praise His holy Name?
Here we stand, with His Word, with His Body and Blood. Here we have His teaching and His food. What more need we? And this day the Child who is the House of God approaches. Are we ready now for His coming?
O LORD, guide our feet in the way of peace;
fulfill your promise and make us your sons.
YHWH, we sit in darkness waiting for the coming of your Son; open our eyes to see His light and our mouths to sing of His glory. Let us enter into His way of peace. Deliver us from the enemy, O LORD, from the sin upon our souls.
How shall we be made free of our sins, LORD, except that you come to us and fulfill your Covenant with us, that you shall be our Father and we your children? And how shall you accomplish this except by the birth of your Son in our midst? We would have remained ever blind and dumb had Jesus not come to open our eyes and loose our tongues, had you not had such mercy on our souls.
A House you established for David, a place we all may dwell. And the birth of this House is upon us now. May we enter in and serve Him, LORD, that with Him we might stand firm forever.
Sun, 22 December 2019
(Mal.3:1-4,23-24; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14,Lk.21:28; Lk.1:57-66)
“His name is John.”
Yes, “the hand of the Lord [was] upon him,” whose name signifies the grace of God, who comes at the end of the age to turn men’s hearts back to God, who prepares the way we must walk to find the instruction and purgation of the Lord.
We must be purified by “the refiner’s fire.” We must be purged of all dross “like gold or like silver that [we] may offer due sacrifice to the Lord,” that we might be called children of the One God. The Day is coming; the Lord is returning to the temple, and we must be prepared to welcome Him – and so John is born, sent in the spirit of Elijah the prophet to cry out the way in the wilderness of this world. By the Spirit of the Lord, he “shows sinners the way; he guides the humble to justice,” leading them to the Son who stands ready in Truth to teach and to save. Well do the people do to wonder at the birth of this holy child, for well will they do to follow his exhortation, and come to praise of the living God.
This John leads us to something new, as even the originality of his name among his relatives signifies; he assists us in making the turn, the conversion to the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. From the Old and as a prophet of old, he leads us to the dawn of new light in this world. Jesus he comes to proclaim. Without this grace of God to be washed in the river of our sins, how could we stand on “the great and terrible day” of the Lord’s coming? How could we bear His light, His fire?
“All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy toward those who keep His covenant and His decrees.” Praise God we have the instruction of the Lord with us now to guide us to life everlasting; and thank God we have been made ready by “the messenger of the covenant” to stand in the light of that wisdom. The Lord teaches us now, brothers and sisters; the Lord is with us to instruct us in His way and, “like the fuller’s lye,” to make us white. Let us not make the grace of forgiveness John has wrought by the hand of God among us come to naught – let us listen closely now to the Word of God to which his voice has led us.
P.S. Re the Bible, the Word of God – a quote by St. Hippolytus from today’s Office: “Sacred Scripture is God’s gift to us and it should be understood in the way He intends: we should not do violence to it by interpreting it according to our own preconceived ideas.”
O LORD, you brought John to birth
to prepare the way of your only Son –
let us walk that path to you.
YHWH, your hand was upon John for our good, to prepare the way for your Son, that we might be prepared to receive the glory of His presence among us. This day may our hearts be ready for His coming.
Sinners you show the way, O LORD; you mark out the path we all should tread if we wish to be cleansed of all evil and turn our hearts to you. You are our Father, and all we should desire is to love you – O LORD, lead us in the way to you.
Your Son is the way, dear LORD. It is by Him on His terrible Day that we are purged of all dross in the fire of the Holy Spirit and so made pure to stand before you. O holy God, let us be refined like silver or gold that we might shine so brightly in your presence. By your grace only is this accomplished; let all be made new by your hands.
Fri, 20 December 2019
(Sgs.2:8-14 or Zep.3:14-18; Ps.33:1-3,11-12,20-21; Lk.1:39-45)
“Let me see you, let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” – she who comes bearing the Christ child, she whose very voice magnifies the presence of the Lord. Listen to the witness of Elizabeth: “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy.” Mary carries the Son of God not only in her womb, but in her soul; the Spirit working within her serves to inspire him who shall go before the Lord, and so she paves the road the forerunner of Jesus shall tread.
How one are mother and child! Never so evident has it been than in this passage from Holy Scripture. For Mary’s voice carries the very presence of Jesus, and Elizabeth’s ears convey that presence to her child. Here is that relationship of love depicted in our reading from the Song of Songs exemplified most clearly; here is the oneness of lover and beloved. And the loveliness of the lover becomes the loveliness of the beloved; the blessing of the Child becomes the blessing of the Mother – and in this love the earth brings forth its fruit.
“The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.” “The Lord, your God, is in your midst,” and He blesses all with His presence. He calls to your soul to come forth and know His love. “Springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills,” He hastens to your side. He visits you. He visits you, speaking to your heart, calling you to arise and join Him. As Mary visits Elizabeth, “proceeding in haste into the hill country,” to bring her Son to the son of Elizabeth and so producing joy in this unborn child’s heart – so she brings her sweet Jesus to us this day, her voice speaking of His glory to the ears of Mother Church.
And so she becomes our Mother; and so she becomes our lover, for she bears the great lover of all souls to wed Himself to us as He is so perfectly wed to her. His sweetness comes to us through His “beautiful one,” causing our hearts to rejoice at the sound of her voice and leading us to sing songs of praise to His holy name. Let us raise the joyful shout to our God!
O LORD, in joy with Mary,
help us to bring Jesus to every waiting soul.
YHWH, should we not rejoice at the coming of your Son? He comes to us across the hills in the womb of His Mother: should His approach not fill us with expectation and wonder, with joy in the Holy Spirit? And should we not cry out that joy with the Baptist and his mother?
She who secluded herself for five months is now in her sixth, and now your Son comes to her. And what has lain dormant within her womb springs to life at the sound of the voice of His Mother. O LORD, are we not just so in need of your Spirit to awaken in us the love that has been dormant these many days? Do we not begin to doubt your gifts to us as we long to see them fulfilled, as we sit this day in darkness? And will you not come to us in your Son, in His Mother who carries Him to our side – she who is your perfect Bride?
You desire to rejoice over us, O dearest LORD and God, and so our misfortunes you take away, and so the darkness of winter you dispel. Even we who are aged in sin you find beautiful. May our loveliness match your own. May our voice be pleasing to you.
Thu, 19 December 2019
(Is.7:10-14; Ps.24:1-7,10; Lk.1:26-38)
“Blessed are you among women.”
“The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name Him Immanuel because ‘God is with us.’” “The virgin’s name was Mary.” And she has given birth to the Savior.
“Who may stand in His holy place?” King David sings in our psalm. “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?” Clearly Jesus is He. But as clear is that we are all called to be as He, and that she has been, she who is so like Him – she that is indeed His Mother. It is she who “seeks the face of the God of Jacob,” she “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain…” and so she “receive[s] a blessing from the Lord,” the greatest blessing: the Son of God.
Fearful is she in her great humility in the awesome presence of the Lord. Questioning is she in the perfect innocence of her consecrated virginity. But obedient only is she as she hears of the answer to her devout prayer for the pregnancy of her kinswoman, and so assumes the role most native to her, the one she has promised to fulfill: “the maidservant of the Lord.”
O glorious Virgin Mary! You who worship so perfectly, so completely, the One who owns “the earth and its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it,” and so bring that very fullness to us all, teach us to be like Jesus your Son, whom you imitate so absolutely, so naturally. Teach us to be as He who is flesh of your flesh. Be our Mother as well, that we might be brother and sister and mother to the Lord. Aid us in giving our total consent to the will of God. “O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you.” Pray He be with us now, too.
“With that the angel left.” Upon receiving her wholehearted acceptance of her call, his mission is finished, and so he goes. Brothers and sisters, may the angel leave our presence so satisfied that the call of the Lord for our lives will be so well answered. Take heart that “nothing is impossible with God” and that as blessed as she is, so blessed does the Lord call you to be – if you but say yes to His word burning in your soul and lay down your life as has the Mother of God. Give the Lord your “yes” this day.
O LORD, may the Blessed Virgin Mother of your Son
pray for us this day that we shall be pure as she,
and so, able to stand in your presence.
YHWH, she whom you call to be Mother of your Son is indeed sinless in your sight. Because her heart is clean, she can accept your Word and give birth to our Savior. O may we be of her race! May we with all our souls seek your face and so find the blessing that is upon her. O let us know your only Son in our midst!
The blessing you give us we could not imagine – it is beyond our ability to conceive. Yet, LORD, you come to us; you prepare a Virgin from among us that your Son might be with us and so we with you for all ages. O let all be done according to your will! Let us all follow the obedient path of our dear Mother. Let us be her children, O LORD, and so your own.
O Mother of our Lord, blessed among women, most blessed of our race, pray for us this dark day that we will hear the Word of God spoken to our hearts. Pray our hearts be pure as your own, that they might receive our Creator.
Wed, 18 December 2019
(Jgs.13:2-7,24-25; Ps.71:3-6,8,16-17; Lk.1:5-25)
“From my mother’s womb you are my strength.”
How the above line from our psalm is reflected both in Samson and in John, and how parallel are the lives of these two great men. Of John it is said, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb”; of Samson, “This boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb” and “The Spirit of the Lord began to be with him.” The birth of both is announced by an angel of the Lord. Both will be born of women who were barren. Both will be nazirites, who shall “never drink wine or strong drink,” and whose head “no razor shall touch.” Both come for the deliverance of the people, though Samson only from “the power of the Philistines” while John comes to “prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed,” that we might have eternal salvation.
Of course, Jesus, too, will have His birth announced by the angel of the Lord; He will be born of a woman from whom it seems no child could come – a consecrated virgin – and this of the Holy Spirit, who is with Him even before time. His is a new testament, however, signified by His birth of a woman of youth and not old age. Though hailed by the old, He brings the newness of God into our midst. His birth fulfills all the births and words and wisdom of the prophets and judges and kings of the Old Testament.
But, returning to our psalm and its universal call in the voice of Christ (words which apply to all in their quest for God), we should remember today that for all, God is our “rock of refuge” on whom we “depend from birth.” “You have taught me from my youth,” the psalmist declares to the Lord, and so it should be true with us all that from the womb “till the present [we] proclaim [His] wondrous deeds.” He works in all our lives, brothers and sisters; He has brought us all to birth and is acting now, His Spirit upon us, to see that we are born into His kingdom.
The great figures of the Old Testament, and especially John, are models from whom we can all learn, holy men whom we can certainly admire. But as our Lord has stated clearly, none of those born of woman can compare with those born into the kingdom of heaven. And so, let us take our strength for our journey from His prophets and from His Word; from His Spirit let us receive what we need in this life for our journey to His paradise. As strong as were Samson and John, so much stronger can we now be by His Body and His Blood, our holy food on this earth, and by His Spirit upon us.
O LORD, it is you who give us life
and make us strong –
your Spirit be with us.
YHWH, your power is upon the mothers of both Samson and John, and so upon their sons. They are born by your will to bring deliverance to the people. As they trusted in you from the womb, so let us be blessed to know you, LORD; let us be blessed to do your will.
Strength we should all take in you, O LORD, for you teach us from our youth to this day: the moment we turn to you, you come to us, and from our souls you would never take your leave. O let us trust in you, that in our lives your works might be done.
How hard it is for our wounded hearts to believe the glory you bring into our midst, dear LORD. Your presence is overwhelming to us and so difficult to bear. But you would make it easy, if we had but faith. Turn our hearts to the call to serve you, that we might be ready to receive you. O let us speak in your Name!
Tue, 17 December 2019
(Jer.23:5-8; Ps.72:1,7,12-13,18-19; Mt.1:18-24)
“He will save His people from their sins.”
Each of our readings today mentions the salvation of our Lord. The above quote is from our gospel; our psalm states, “The lives of the poor He shall save”; and in our first reading it says, “In His days Judah shall be saved.” The very name “Jesus” – as given to Joseph by the angel of the Lord – means “God saves”. The great God of the universe, the living God who has brought us all to birth, comes among us, “is with us” (“Emmanuel”) to save us, to redeem us, to bring us back to our “own land”… to be again with the Father.
And this “righteous shoot to David,” this king who “shall reign and govern wisely,” who “shall do what is right and just in the land,” is born from above, not below. As the angel also tells Joseph, “It is by the Holy Spirit that [Mary] has conceived this child.” The Virgin is with child! Alleluia! A greater sign, a more complete love from the Father we could not imagine. And so we sing with our psalmist: “Blessed forever be His glorious name; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.” Indeed, all nations, not only Judah, shall be saved by this Blessed Child.
“The days are coming,” brothers and sisters, and are already here. The Lord walks among us. The Child has been born, and is being born in each of us; and as a people He comes to us. Mary “bore a son”; Joseph named Him “Jesus”, as instructed, and Jesus He is – His salvation has come forth. You must receive Him into your home with the Mother who bore Him. You must have faith that He is from above. Let Joseph be your model in care for the Savior, and He shall care for you for all eternity. Like Mary, nourish the Lord every day of your life.
His love is growing in us all. His presence is becoming known. The promised of the ages dwells with us with His justice, and His kingdom is being built as we speak. No more will our sins condemn us. No more will we hide our faces from the Lord. We shall be free once more, and this time forever, for the Lord has heard the cry of the poor.
O LORD, since your Son is with us,
we may now make our home in you –
praise you for your justice!
YHWH, your Son saves us from our sins. For this you have sent Him among us; for this He has been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary – it is for this He has been born a Man. O let be accomplished that for which He has come!
From Egypt you rescued your enslaved sons. From the land of the North you brought them back to their home. From all sin you now deliver all men, beginning with the Jew. O LORD, you hear us when we cry out – let us cry out to you that this day we might be saved. Let us welcome your Son into our home, that in Him we might find our eternal union with you.
O LORD, let the earth be filled with your glory! This is your will, this is your desire… this is the goal to which all your Creation is straining. Speak to us this day that we might know the way you would lead us, and let us follow the angel’s word to freedom in the reign of Jesus.
Mon, 16 December 2019
(Gn.49:2,8-10; Ps.72:3-4,7-8,17; Mt.1:1-17)
“May He rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Since “the scepter shall never depart from Judah,” the reign of Jesus, His descendant, His fulfillment, is without end – He is King forever. And so, “tribute is brought to Him, and He receives the peoples’ homage,” which is in itself their salvation.
Who is this Lion of Judah, fulfillment of Jacob’s prophetic blessing of his son? What sort of king have we? It is in the words of our psalm we find His kingship revealed: “He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save the children of the poor.” For Jesus, though fierce as a lion in His judgment – for there is nothing untrue in Him – reveals primarily the love of God the king must embody. In His reign, “the mountains shall yield peace for the people, and the hills justice.” First is the love He brings to this generation; second, its complement, justice.
And of what worth is the “family record of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham,” we find in our gospel today? Be not overly bored by it, my brothers and sisters, for in its mundaneness it holds the key to our salvation. For it reveals how very real Jesus is, that He is part of our human family; and should this not make us rejoice, that the Son of God is also Son of Man? And though the forty-two or so names may not be familiar to our ears, we should know at least that there are all kinds in this family tree of Jesus, from great men and women of faith humble before their God, to wicked kings and a prostitute. There is thus hope for us all.
Jesus is indeed the fulfillment of the promised son of Abraham, and son of David, the king who sits on the throne forever. It was of Mary He was born, and Mary’s husband was Joseph. And since husband and wife are one – and though there’s was only a spiritual communion, it is in the spiritual communion unity is truly found – we trace His line through this humble man. And we pray we shall enter into communion with the Lord ourselves and live in the reign of this King in whom “all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed.”
Today we praise our brother in the flesh and pray to be made one in His Spirit. May He indeed rule over all.
O LORD, because your Son judges justly,
peace shall reign to the ends of the earth –
for this He has come among us.
YHWH, your Son rules over all; from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth His rule extends, for He has been born into our midst, He has become part of our generation, and so all in our midst, every generation, is under His reign. Alleluia!
All the tribes of the earth should rejoice in Him, O LORD. Though David’s Son and so of your Chosen people, yet your prophets have foretold that every people shall bow down before Him, even as all David’s sons. This Lion of Judah shall govern all with justice, shall bring peace to all who call upon His Name. Alleluia, LORD! For this grace we thank you.
Truly the Name of Jesus shall remain as long as the sun – forever His Name shall be blessed in our midst. For He has come among us to save us; He is indeed one of us and brings divine blessings in His wake. O LORD, in every heart let Him reign!
Sun, 15 December 2019
(Nm.24:2-7,15-17; Ps.25:4-9; Mt.21:23-27)
“A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.”
And the light of that star is reflected in the eyes of Balaam, who, though a pagan, is gifted by God with the clear vision to see the beauty and wonder of “Israel encamped, tribe by tribe,” “like gardens beside a stream,” “like the cedars planted by the Lord.” And as He is seen in the nation of Israel blessed by the Lord, so His glory is reflected in the heart and words and actions of everyone who believes and proclaims in truth that Jesus is that star, that Jesus is the Son of God.
Those who remain close to the teaching of Jesus, and to His ways, “shall have the sea within reach.” There shall be an abundance of wisdom at the ready for those who are graced with ears to hear His words. “He teaches the humble His way,” yes, and guides us on straight paths which lead directly to the Most High. And “with eyes unveiled” we shall gaze not only on His reflection in the fields of this earthly existence, but on Him Himself as He is in heaven.
The teaching of Jesus is divine and He Himself is divine, above whose authority there is no other. But His light can only be seen, His words can only be understood by those whose hearts are open to truth and willing to walk the path He sets. If the “chief priests and elders of the people” closed themselves off from Him in a political quandary, we must not do so. Instead we must be as His apostles, in whom the tribes of Israel are truly aligned perfectly, and have as ready a response as we know Peter had on the shores of Galilee, as Thomas had when He appeared in their midst: He is our Lord, our God. This we must see. This we must know. And this we must proclaim.
The star has risen in our midst; the Savior has come. Now we await the fulfillment of that light and must bring it to bear in this generation. Now we must follow that star where it leads.
O LORD, let our eyes see the coming of your Son,
and our hearts put faith in His authority.
YHWH, let our eyes not be blind, blind to the glory that stands before us in your only Son. Let our eyes be open to vision of your kingdom, the kingdom He brings to this earth. Let our tents be set in line with your will, O LORD; let our hearts be humble before you.
LORD God, you show the humble your way; you bless them with your presence in their souls and your light shining in their lives. Teach us this day the way we should walk, the way marked out for us by your Son. Upon Him your authority rests – let us not question His divinity but believe in His power and so in your own. May His Word transform our souls.
The wisdom of the ages comes to us this day in Jesus and in His words. Here is the ocean at our hands, before our eyes, that all we might know of your goodness, LORD. Let us honor Him as our King who has come and follow in the way He leads.
Fri, 13 December 2019
(Sir.48:1-4,9-11; Ps.80:2-4,15-16,18-19; Mt.17:10-13)
“Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.”
Elijah has come, to “restore everything.” The word has fallen like fire from heaven to prepare a path for the Lord to tread. The Baptist has cried out as a voice in the wilderness for us to make our hearts ready for the coming of the Lord.
But, sadly, “they did not recognize him and they did as they pleased with him.” They rejected the voice crying to them and attempted to cover over the way the word had cleared before them. He who came “to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob,” was himself turned back; and they cast him into prison and beheaded the great prophet.
Yet the way remains open to us. He whom the prophet hailed has come into our midst, and His presence cannot be taken away – even to the end of the age (which is upon us). And we must join with our psalmist today in calling upon Him to “come to save us,” to “look down from heaven, and see,” to “take care of this vine” planted by His right hand. “Give us new life, and we will call upon your name,” must be our prayer, especially in this Advent season, for we must awaken and enliven the path to God the Baptist has served to blaze in our hearts. We must know now Him whom he has hailed.
And, yes, with this Elijah and with the Son of Man, we too will suffer at the hands of those who would silence the Word, who would extinguish the fire set upon the earth. But the fire is eternal and its light and power cannot be dimmed, much less extinguished. It will purify those who seek the face of God and destroy those who turn from Him. It cannot be otherwise. Now that the Lord has come, His angels wait in expectation to purge the world. Once more only the prophet Elijah will appear and the flaming furnace his words prepare will be fulfilled in God’s eternity by the return of the Son of Man. In absolute glory the Lord will reign.
O LORD, Elijah has come
and the way of the Cross has been prepared;
your Son is now present to save us.
YHWH, rouse your power and come to save us; purge us in the fire your Son has set upon the face of the earth. The Baptist has come in the spirit of Elijah – the way of the Savior is now prepared in our midst.
But we must walk this way of fire; we must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, if we are to walk in the way of your Son. If our hearts are to be turned to you, LORD, we must have faith in the One to come.
And this path is one of persecution; it is one that reduces us to straits. For nothing unholy can enter your presence, and so we must be prepared along the narrow way. O LORD, make us strong in following you this day!
The Son of Man is now among us, He who has suffered and died for our sake. May the fire of the Spirit He sends, LORD, make us ready to share in His death, and so His glory.
Thu, 12 December 2019
(Is.48:17-19; Ps.1:1-4,6,Jn.8:12; Mt.11:16-19)
“Time will prove where wisdom lies.”
No doubt it lies with God. It lies with the Son of Man, come for our salvation.
“I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.” Is it not our essential call to obey His Word, to listen for His voice and follow in His way? Are they not happy who hear the Word of God and keep it? Is this not wisdom, to walk in the way of our Creator, with the One who loves us above all? Does not all our misery stem from disobedience to His sacred commandments? Do we not in this way of our own making not simply lose all love in our hearts? Does this not bring our death?
If we would but follow the Lord, our “prosperity would be like a river,” no doubt. Our “descendants would be like the sand,” for “like a tree planted near running water” we would flourish with the wisdom which comes from the font of life which is the Lord, and one would we become with all the children of His eternal kingdom.
We cannot expect the Lord to dance to the tune we pipe or wail to the dirge we sing. It is the height of foolishness for the creature to attempt to impose its will on the Creator. But such is our pride, the source of our wickedness. And so, deaf, blind, and empty are we when we seek to turn the order of the universe back upon our God. For “like chaff which the wind drives away” our own foolish counsels can all but come to naught. The branch cannot grow apart from the vine, nor can the tree bear fruit without the water which gives it life.
“Happy the man who… delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on His law day and night.” For then the nourishing waters are upon him; then the light of wisdom fills him – then he shall bear fruit a hundredfold and never taste of death. For the Hand of God will be upon him to lead him to the eternal kingdom, where His wisdom will be proven true.
O LORD, let us follow your Wisdom, your Word,
your way to eternal life.
YHWH, let us follow in your way, in the way you call us to walk. Let us not follow in the way of the wicked, the way which vanishes, but walk with you, meditating on your Word, and we will come to life, to life everlasting with you.
If we do not listen to your Word, what fools we are, O LORD! If we seek our own designs and to impose them upon you – what greater foolishness can there be? O let us recognize you as God and not ourselves! And may obedience to your voice be our salvation.
John appeared neither eating nor drinking to show us the path of sacrifice that leads to you, that enables us to overcome this world and find your kingdom. Jesus ate and drank for He is of your kingdom and calls all to your table on high. O let us witness to your Wisdom at work in all things! a wisdom we cannot gainsay or deny, a wisdom we must accept to find its light. There in your Wisdom let us make our home, dear LORD, and we shall prosper unto eternity.
Wed, 11 December 2019
(Is.41:13-20; Ps.145:1,8-13; Mt.11:11-15)
“I will make you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged.”
A “worm” and a “maggot” are we. We are “the afflicted and the needy [who] seek water in vain, [our] tongues… parched with thirst.” But holding our right hand, the Lord speaks to us: “Fear not, I will help you.” “I will open up rivers on the bare heights… I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.” And has not John the Baptizer come, into the desert, into the wilderness, and there poured the water of God’s compassion upon us for the forgiveness of sins?
Lush trees now grow in the desert: we who were once empty are now filled with God’s grace. And yes, “the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” For all these wonders accomplished in our midst are but to “make known to men [His] might and the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom.” Indeed, we now “thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff,” but all this is done in His power.
And how then do we understand Jesus’ words: “From John the Baptizer’s time until now the kingdom of God has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force”? We know that John spoke boldly in the name of God; unafraid of his oppressors, he called all to repentance. We should all learn from the power of God he displayed in crying out in the wilderness. We know also that at the time Jesus spoke the above words, John was imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, suffering genuinely the violence of this generation. We know Jesus Himself will be crucified. We know all the apostles (save John) will be martyred for the faith – all His children suffer under the weight of the cross imposed by the violent of this world.
But we know also that this very cross is the means God has chosen to most poignantly reveal His powerful hand at work. For the nails which fix our hands to the wood have no power over us, and so by the humble acceptance of the violence of this age we do most dramatically destroy, crush into dust, the mountains of this world. And we upon whom the greatest violence is inflicted indeed effect the greater violence upon our oppressors, for by this sacrifice wickedness is destroyed and the righteous enter the kingdom of heaven. Let us act with such strength from God, brothers and sisters, for the sake of the kingdom.
O LORD, let there be springs of water
in the desert of this world,
that we poor souls might not die
but enter into your kingdom.
YHWH, Elijah has come as a threshing sledge preparing the way for your Son – and now all souls may enter your kingdom!
To the desert of our lives you have brought your water, O LORD. We who were parched and lifeless have heard the Baptist’s call to repentance and known the grace that comes to us thereby. Your Son, your very Son has come among us and opened the gates of Heaven; in His sacrifice you show your great compassion, and now this tree of life flourishes in our midst.
To the Cross we must all be nailed, dear LORD; all the evil in us must die. But what blessing such violence brings! For joining ourselves to your Son’s sacrifice, the glorious splendor of your reign is revealed to our eyes.
Though we must die, LORD, you live in us and remain in us until the end of time. And so for such grace we bless you; so this day we heed your Son’s voice. Let us be washed clean in the water from His side and come quickly to eternal life.
Tue, 10 December 2019
(Is.40:25-31; Ps.103:1-4,8,10; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
How we do become “weary and find life burdensome.” How we can “faint and grow weary,” “stagger and fall” from the burden of sin and our inherent weakness. But oh how “He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak He makes vigor abound.” For indeed He is the creator of the universe – “by His great might and the strength of His power” all things come to be – and His Son is the redeemer of our souls. “The Lord is the eternal God” and “they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles’ wings.” Trust in Him who “pardons all your iniquities” and “heals all your ills.”
What a promise Jesus holds forth for those who come to His “gentle and humble” heart: “Your souls will find rest.” We know that the great St. Augustine has told us that only in God do our souls find rest. How we wander aimlessly in trackless wastes seeking comfort for our souls, rest for our weary bodies, taking refuge in the various attractions of the world and the vain promise they hold. How late in life all of us come to the fulfilling promise of Jesus, for any time spent apart from Him is but wasted.
And thank the Lord that He is “merciful and gracious.” Thank Him that “not according to our sins does He deal with us.” For what hope would we have then? But this great God who has no equal, who holds the world in His hand, “redeems your life from destruction, He crowns you with kindness and compassion” despite your sins, if you but come to Him as He calls.
How patiently Jesus waits for each of us, this only Son of God, this image of the Father and embodiment of His love. How gracious He is toward us poor creatures. Will you not take His “yoke upon your shoulders and learn” from Him? Will you not find refreshment from all your sins and forgiveness of all your crimes? Will you continue to turn your face away from Him who watches over all and weigh yourself down with anxiety? Or will you come to Him, your only hope? Take the light burden of His gracious Word upon your souls and do His will in this world.
O LORD, how shall your compassion come
to dwell in our hearts,
and your strength renew our own? –
let us be blessed in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, you make our burden light by the Cross of your only Son. He takes our sins upon Himself and carries them away, and we need but turn to Him and walk with Him to find rest for our souls.
How great is your announcement to us, O LORD; how great your blessing! For you who are Creator of Heaven and earth promise your own strength to those who believe in you, who turn to your grace and mercy. Our sins you remember not, our iniquities you pardon; and finding no condemnation at your hands, we are free to soar as with eagles’ wings – for what punishment can there be if it comes not from you?
O LORD, for all your benefits let all men bless you and your holy NAME. Let us come this day to your only Son and share the blessings upon Him. He will carry our burden in this world and so our yoke will be light. Deep in our souls let us know your compassion, and we shall soar on your heights.
Mon, 9 December 2019
(Is.40:1-11; Ps.96:1-3,10-13,Is.40:10; Mt.18:12-14)
“Like a shepherd He feeds His flock;
in His arms He gathers His lambs.”
His is the voice which “speak[s] tenderly to Jerusalem.” It is He who “give[s] comfort to [His] people.” For “it is no part of [the] heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.”
Like a shepherd He leads us. With great concern He watches over His flock, careful that none is led astray. And diligent is He in finding the one who “wanders away.” This is indeed “good news.” These are indeed “glad tidings,” which make even “the trees of the forest exult.” For He cares about each one of the many of His creatures, and shall bring all back to Him by the sound of His gentle voice.
And of His sweet voice we must cry out. “Sing to the Lord; bless His name; announce His salvation day after day.” For all the earth must know that “He shall rule the world with justice and His peoples with constancy.” And so “a voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!” May all hearts be ready to meet Him. When “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low… then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together.” O that that glorious day might come!
“Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” And so He stands behind us, whispering into our ears of the way we should walk. And so He calls to our hearts, carrying us “in His bosom” with care. And so His eternal presence ever comes to our tired bodies, our fading souls, and gives them life, and brings them back from their straying paths upon this dying earth. And so it is that all “exult before the Lord, for He comes; He comes to rule the earth.”
It is only in His eternity that we shall find a home, brothers and sisters. And into these arms He now gathers us. And with His food He now feeds us. Let us partake of His presence in Word and in Sacrament as we await His coming.
O LORD, we praise you
for the merciful justice and peace
you have brought into our midst
through your Son Jesus.
YHWH, truth has sprung out of the earth, for justice has looked down from Heaven and our redemption has come – Jesus has been born among us. He is the holy way, the way that leads to the splendor and glory of your kingdom. He is as the stream in the desert that cleanses our souls of all sins and so prepares us to dance and sing with Him in your eternal presence. We who were lame now leap like a stag for the blessing we have received from our Savior; yes, we have been forgiven, and are now crowned with everlasting joy.
O let your splendor come to us this day, dearest LORD and God. May we hear these blessed words from the mouth of your Son: “Your sins are forgiven.” O let us rise and walk with Him to our heavenly homeland! The parched land cries out to you; let your water pour down upon us that in the power of the Holy Spirit we might blossom forth with His gifts. Strengthened by such grace let us do your holy will in all things.
Fri, 6 December 2019
(Is.30:19-21,23-26; Ps.147:1-6,Is.30:18; Mt.9:35-10:1,6-8)
“On the day the Lord binds up the wounds of His people,
He will heal the bruises left by His blows.”
“Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal the leprous, expel demons.” With these words Jesus sends His disciples forth proclaiming, “The reign of God is at hand!”
The prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled. The Savior has come. The Teacher is at our side now speaking into our ears, “This is the way; walk in it.” And of all our sins He cleanses us; from all our sickness He heals us. Indeed, “as soon as you call He will answer you,” for He is ready to wipe all tears from your eyes.
And what must be our response to a Lord who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” We must be the same as He. We must go forth as He has, teaching, proclaiming “the good news of God’s reign,” and curing “every sickness and disease.” It is our call to make others whole in heart, mind, soul, and body; and so, to whatever need is present – and there are many or the Lord would not ask us to “beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather His harvest” – we must apply the grace of God. He will do the work that is needed, but He needs us to work through.
To what glory all are called; what a wonderful message we have to bring forth! Isaiah, the great prophet, only touches upon it when he cries out that the Lord “will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground” (see how He will bless your work!) and when he proclaims: “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater.” This vision is for all who turn to the Lord for healing.
We have been bruised, brothers and sisters. No doubt, our sins have brought wounds to our souls. But the Lord will bind up all these; in His surpassing pity He will raise us all from death as He “rebuilds Jerusalem.” Let us bring this message forth.
O LORD, heal us of all ill and teach us
to walk in the way that leads unto Heaven.
YHWH, we lie prostrate from exhaustion, do we not? We thirst for your presence; we hunger for the Bread you provide. Come to us. Send your laborers to teach us and to heal us of every disease, to bring us your grace. Have pity on your sheep, O LORD!
We are broken, but when we cry out to you, O LORD, you hear our voice and quickly answer our prayers. And what promise you make to our waiting hearts! Abundance of blessing shall be ours as you heal the wounds of our sin and bring us into your glorious presence.
Seven times greater than the light of the sun will be your light on that Day, O LORD. Streams of running water will fill our thirst for you and by your teaching we will be led in our every step. Come, LORD, fulfill your promise in our midst. Let all men know your reign is at hand.
Thu, 5 December 2019
(Is.29:17-24; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Mt.9:27-31)
“The eyes of the blind shall see.”
O “that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple.” That out of “gloom and darkness” I might be taken, and come “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” That I could feel His hands touch my eyes, that I might have the faith to believe they shall be open to His glory…
Brothers and sisters, we are blind. All of us. All of us lack understanding. All of us falter in faith. For who among us is there that gazes continually upon the Lord’s presence? Who among us has entered His glory? Who among us possesses no arrogance and has “nothing to be ashamed of”? If yet we toil upon this earth, groaning as we await the redemption of our bodies, then yet do we continue in a measure blind. Yet do we seek His face. And if yet seeking “to see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living,” then yet have we to find it in its fullness; and so, yet do our eyes lack of the light that is the Lord, our salvation.
But certainly we are not without hope. Most certainly His hand is upon us even now. Most certainly His presence comes to us each and every day. Clearly His light shines in our midst in the Sacrament we receive and in the Word we hear, and so we can with confidence heed the exhortation of the psalm of David: “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” For He comes, and we know this. We are catching up to Him, and this is our joy. Yes, today do we know we shall see Him, for our eyes do glimpse Him even now.
In the meantime, brothers and sisters, as we wait, as the light that has dawned upon the world rises to our eyes, as He comes to fill our vision, let us strive to avoid speaking any word which “condemns a man.” Let us know that indeed we “err in spirit” and need the Lord’s light to guide us, and we shall become free of that which blinds us. And we shall be the lowly who are raised to His presence.
O LORD, let us gaze upon your loveliness always!
YHWH, take us out of gloom and darkness that we might gaze upon your face; save us this day from all evil that into your Temple we may come. You are our very light, O LORD – let our eyes be filled with vision of your presence.
O LORD, let us never cease pursuing you till we catch up with you and you turn to us to heal us. So far short of your glory do we fall, so far short. Yet you draw us forth as you walk on ahead of us; yet if we keep calling out to you, you shall answer. Never let our hearts be discouraged as we seek the light of your face.
O LORD, let us keep your NAME holy; in awe let us reverence you always. Let us remember your love for us and the understanding your Spirit brings. O let our minds be filled with your light as we wait steadfastly for you to come!
Open our ears, O LORD; open our eyes. Cast from our midst all arrogance, all condemnation from our tongues. Let us not be condemned ourselves but come to contemplate your glory forever.
Wed, 4 December 2019
(Is.26:1-6; Ps.118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27; Mt.7:21,24-27)
“Trust in the Lord forever!
For the Lord is an eternal rock.”
Sand or rock? Upon which do we build our house? If we “take refuge in the Lord” and enter “the gates of justice,” we shall find salvation in the Lord’s kingdom; if we “trust in man” and “princes,” we shall be leveled with the dust – our house shall collapse and we be “completely ruined.”
The choice is set before us. “Those in high places” will be humbled to the ground; those who find refuge in the empty things of this world will find no protection on the day of His coming. But for the “nation of firm purpose,” which “comes in the name of the Lord,” “He sets up walls and ramparts to protect.” And they shall “give thanks to the Lord” as they enter the gates of His holy city.
Jesus states clearly, “Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” will enter His kingdom: the one “who hears my words and puts them into practice” is he who is wise. And the putting into practice is key. Jesus has come in the flesh, and flesh there must be to our deeds. He is real, and we must be as real as He in our love. Otherwise we deny Him. We deny His coming if we do not live His way. God is not across the ocean or in the sky; He walks upon this earth now and must be in our lives. Only this will bring us strength. Only this will enable us to stand when the torrents come and the winds blow and buffet our house – for these have no power over those who are set in the Hand of God, who do His bidding.
“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk.11:28). We cannot but think of these challenging words from our Lord, referring greatly to the Mother of God – whose service to the Lord we particularly celebrate in these days of preparation – and cannot but hope to abide by them and become the handmaiden Mary has shown herself to be, that the eternal blessings of God might be ours as well. In Him let us trust. In Him let our faith be set. And let us do His will.
O LORD, let us dwell in your House,
built on the Rock that is you.
YHWH, how shall our city be strong if we do not trust in you? How shall we stand on your Day if we are not your children, if we have not done your will in this world? How can we enter your House and there dwell in peace if we have not the key to your kingdom, if we live not as your Son?
O LORD, we shall but fall to the dust and be trampled underfoot if we have only words to offer you. If we have lived our lives in vain, then we have built our house on sand, and it shall but collapse when you stand before us on your holy Day. There is no hope for those who do not come to your Son and put His words into practice.
But for those who trust in you and serve you, the gates of justice open up and they enter in and dwell in your presence – these stand strong whatever may come for they stand with you who are the eternal Rock, the foundation that cannot be shaken. Let us enter your House and give thanks to you, O LORD, for you are our Savior and in you we take our refuge.
Tue, 3 December 2019
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Mt.15:29-37)
“The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.”
And He will heal us. And He will lead us. And He will feed us.
Jesus went up onto a mountainside along the Sea of Galilee and sat down to teach and to heal. The sick were laid at His feet. Isaiah says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples.” This mountain is the Lord. It is Jesus who reaches out His hand to heal those lying at His feet. It is Jesus who raises the bread for blessing and gives all to eat. And it is He who “will destroy death forever.” “This is the Lord for whom we looked.”
And it is through His Church Jesus works; through the blessing of the priest who raises the bread and the cup, Jesus gives us His Body and Blood – this is our “feast of rich food and choice wines” envisioned by Isaiah. It is He who forgives our sins, He who removes “the reproach of His people,” wiping away “the tears from all faces” in the confessional. He anoints us with the oil of the Spirit in Baptism; He joins us as one in holy Matrimony… He shepherds us with the Word of His teaching, leading us “in right paths,” “beside restful waters,” to “dwell in the house of the Lord” forever.
“Let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!” If “only goodness and kindness” follow us all our days, what have we to do but rejoice? If we have a Lord who looks with such pity upon our hunger, what need we fear? If it is He who “spread[s] the table” before us, even here in this world, “in the sight of [our] foes,” where sin besets us… what can we lack? If “cripples, the deformed, the blind, the mute, and many others” were healed of their maladies, what sickness of ours is beyond His redemption?
In this world we “walk in the dark valley.” In this world we hunger. Here “the veil that veils all peoples” is upon us. But here, too, He is with us to refresh our souls and feed us with His Body and Blood in the New Jerusalem.
O LORD, feed us on the holy mountain
which is your Son
with His own Body and Blood.
YHWH, you are He for whom we have looked, and you come to us in your only Son, who gives to us His Body and His Blood that we might feast upon your presence even in this world. Let us not be afraid but remember that you are with us.
How glorious is your kingdom, LORD, where all are made well, where all are fed by your hand. Though we have so little to offer, you take it and bless it and multiply it that we might have an abundance. And so, even in the valley of death through which we must pass, you are with us to guide us, for your Son has gone there before us.
On your mountain let us make our home, O LORD our God; in the Word and Bread your Son offers let us take our refuge. He is the mountain on which we must dwell – in Him all death is dispelled and we are made whole in your sight. Let us remain ever on this mountain.
Mon, 2 December 2019
(Is.11:1-10; Ps.72:1,7-8,12-13,17; Lk.10:21-24)
“The earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord,
as water covers the sea.”
And so, “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
The vision is sure: “The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb… the lion shall eat hay like the ox… the child shall lay his hand on the adder’s lair,” for all shall live as one in the Spirit of the Lord. “Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace” – such is the vision to which all hearts aspire.
Jesus is the fullness of that peace. And so He says to His disciples, “Blest are the eyes that see what you see,” for what “prophets and kings wished to see,” what Isaiah prophesies for us today, is present there before them.
And He is present before us. But we can only see and hear Him if we are as “merest children,” else His presence will be hidden from our eyes. He wishes to reveal Himself, desires to lead us to the Father whom He alone knows, to whom He alone can lead us – but to find such fullness of vision, to gaze upon the face of God, to be filled with His wisdom and knowledge as is His Son, we must first fear Him, as He does, and seek to abide by the words and the commands that come to us by “the breath of His lips.” All must be slain that is wicked in us, and His justice and faithfulness shall be ours.
“May His name be blessed forever; as long as the sun His name shall remain,” for He Himself is light, and indeed His dwelling is glorious. With judgment and justice He is endowed, and in the light of His wisdom and grace we stand eternally blessed. But are our eyes open to Him?
Now should we pray for the Lord’s light to fill us, for His knowledge to cover us, that our eyes may be open to see Him, that we shall not miss Him as He comes.
O Lord, prepare our hearts to see you,
and the blessing of your presence, your peace,
O LORD, open our eyes and ears
to your glorious presence among us.
YHWH, your Son is our justice; our hope for peace is in Him – open our eyes to see His presence, to see your presence among us.
Upon Jesus your favor rests, O LORD, and that favor you would share with all of us; that favor He would share with us if we would but turn to Him with the heart of a child. May we be truly humble, O LORD, truly loving and truly kind, that your justice might be upon us for good, and to your salvation, to your holy mountain, we shall be called.
In awe of you let us stand, LORD, our eyes and ears filled with your glory alone. O how shall we bear such blessing? How shall we come to know such surpassing peace? How shall we come to stand in your presence and live in your perfection? Only if your Son reveals to us your glory; only if we are sustained by His grace will we be filled with knowledge of you, our only God.
Sun, 1 December 2019
(Is.2:1-5 or Is.4:2-6; Ps.122:1-9; Mt.8:5-11
I shall treat of both first readings)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”
For it shall come. “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain…. All nations shall stream toward it,” and there the Lord will give judgment. And His judgment will cause the banishment of war, for all shall be one in Him, and to all He shall grant “shelter and protection,” by night and by day.
The coming peace and unity all find on the holy mountain of Jerusalem prophesied by Isaiah is signaled in our gospel passage today as the Gentile centurion approaches Jesus with a request made in great faith. His surpassing faith prompts the Lord to reveal the truth of the coming kingdom: “Many will come from the east and the west and will find a place at the banquet in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” For it is faith that brings us to Him and to His blessings.
Certainly the serving boy for whom the centurion intercedes receives healing from the Lord; and certainly all those who “go up to the house of the Lord” in faith shall themselves be gratefully received. I pray we all remain in Zion, remain in “her place of assembly,” and so find refuge from “storm and rain” and from the “heat of day.” The New Jerusalem we know is the Catholic Church, is the faith handed down by Jesus through His apostles and blessed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We know that within these walls we shall always find peace and protection, and we pray for all to stream toward the truth and the glory found in this House. There all shall find cleansing from their sins; “with a blast of searing judgment,” the Lord has created this Virgin Bride. So, “let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
As Jesus remarks to His followers, “I have never found this much faith in Israel,” He is calling them to an increase in their faith. He calls us, too, brothers and sisters, to act more readily upon His commands. Let us not fall short in our service to Him, and the peace of Jerusalem shall just as readily be ours.
O LORD, may all souls come to your holy mountain
and find there a home of peace.
YHWH, peace reigns in your House, and all those of faith find a place there. From every corner of the earth, men shall stream toward Jerusalem, where you dwell, where you teach the nations. Draw all souls into Holy Church.
You are the refuge and protection for all who are purged from their sin; all who come to you for cleansing of the blood from their hands find in you a place of peace and forgiveness, LORD. May all swords be beaten into plowshares – the war come from men’s hearts be banished forever.
All nations you call, O LORD, and all those of faith you accept into your kingdom. Let us be obedient in serving you that we might find your peace within our hearts and dwell on your holy mountain forever.
Thu, 28 November 2019
(Dn.7:2-14; Dn.3:59,75-81; Lk.21:29-33)
“The beast was slain and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.”
Daniel prophesies the coming of pagan empires in his vision of the four beasts. The vision is, in short, an overview of the coming salvation.
Notice that even as Daniel watches the beasts emerge with their horns and tusks and great iron teeth, even as he watches these terrible creatures devour and crush and trample in a kind of destructive euphoria… what does he see? “Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took His throne.” The Lord God, the Eternal King, is there. (He is never far away.) And the arrogant horn is cast into eternal flame, and the other beasts lose their dominion, too, though they received “a prolongation of life for a time,” indicating that a measure of the wickedness of such beastly empires – several of which we have seen very clearly in the last century – shall remain. But, nonetheless, there is “one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” and He indeed receives “everlasting dominion,” a “kingship [that] shall not be destroyed.” Like the Father in His eternal reign is the Son, who has come into our midst and even now winnows away the chaff of this world.
That even as evil presumes to reign the Lord is at work, is assuming His eternal reign in the heavenly kingdom, is evident in Jesus’ words to the disciples in our gospel. He has told them to watch for the terrible signs which will come upon the earth and bring its destruction, and equates the recognition of these signs and wonders of the end time with the budding of a fig tree signaling the coming summer. Jesus is the fig tree, the peace that is born even in the midst of war, the love that grows though surrounded by hatred – the light that overcomes all darkness.
“The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Though the mountains fall into the sea, the Lord’s heavenly reign but comes to fulfillment. Then all creatures, all “beasts, wild and tame,” “everything growing from the earth” and all “seas and rivers” will “praise and exalt Him” whose kingdom lasts forever.
O LORD, the myriads ministering to you
overcome the power of all beasts,
and by your only Son their fate is sealed
and the kingdom comes forever.
YHWH, your reign is near, always at hand. Despite the beasts which remain for a time, your Son has come and conquered all darkness. There is no death or sin in Him, no power that evil has before Him, and so those who find their life in Him shall indeed endure forever. Heaven and earth are passing away but His dominion is everlasting.
Thank you for sending your Son to us, dear God, to cast all evil to the dust, to teach of the kingdom to come. In Him indeed summer is near, a time of great fruitfulness – the time when we shall share with Him in the eternal fruits of Heaven. Peace is upon us, though the destruction of war be all around.
And so, what can we do but praise you, LORD of Heaven and earth? All your creatures can but sing of your glory and bless your holy NAME. This day let your fire burn all our sins away. Alleluia.
Wed, 27 November 2019
(Dn.6:12-28; Dn.3:59,68-74; Lk.21:20-28)
“Your ransom is near at hand.”
“He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” And as “He delivered Daniel from the lions’ power,” so He shall save our souls from the destruction to come upon the face of the earth.
The king’s prayer is answered: “To Daniel he said, ‘May your God whom you serve so constantly, save you.’” And when the lions’ mouths are closed because of David’s innocence before God and men, Darius in awe of the living God writes to the nations that the kingdom of the God of Daniel “shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be without end.” Another pagan king is brought to his knees in truth… “Praise and exalt Him above all forever”! Indeed, “let the earth bless the Lord.”
But it is deliverance which is our theme today. Daniel is delivered from certain death in the lions’ den, and our Lord speaks to us of the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of the end of time – “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” – and of our means of escape from annihilation. Yes, we must flee the devastation that is near, flee to the mountains from the midst of the city, not linger behind in the land of Sodom as the angel comes to guide us to safety. Indeed, we must lift our heads to the sky even as its powers are shaken and all comes crashing to the ground but the strength of our God. For on that Day He will be made manifest, and on that Day, if we “stand up straight,” our deliverance from sin and the powers of this world will be joyously known by our eternal souls. And we shall celebrate as did the king and Daniel upon the holy man’s removal from the lion’s den – and we shall praise the Almighty’s name with “nights and days,” with “lightnings and clouds,” with all the elements of the Lord’s universe. Alleluia!
Fear not, brothers and sisters, “in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth.” Even as you are called, so you must be – to be “clever as snakes and innocent as doves” (Mt.10:16). Follow the saints’ examples in simple obedience to the Shepherd’s voice and, harboring no ill will toward your persecutors, be prepared to lay down your life if it be in the Lord’s will, knowing full well that He will rescue you.*
* For this final thought I credit St. John Chrysostom and his wisdom, as found in this morning's Office of Readings.
O LORD, you are coming with great power and glory –
praise your holy NAME!
YHWH, we need not fear that the lion’s mouth will close upon us. Though the heavens be shaken and darkness cover the land, with your Son we may stand tall. Anticipation of His coming, joy at the salvation He brings – the eternal peace that follows in His wake – will keep us strong on the Day of judgment. From the den of the lion we shall be freed.
The end must come, we know, O LORD. All these things must pass away. May we stand in innocence before you on that day, and so live with you forever in your kingdom. In this city let us not desire to remain, but with your Son let us fly to Heaven.
O LORD, let all hearts turn to you before that great and terrible Day; let even the kings of this world recognize you as the one true God. Send your angels throughout the earth to work your wonders and save all holy souls from destruction.
Tue, 26 November 2019
(Dn.5:1-6,13-14,16-17,23-28; Dn.3:59,62-67; Lk.21:12-19)
“You will be brought to give witness.”
“Daniel was brought into the presence of the king.” And what did this wisest of men have to say to this pagan king who ruled the earth? “You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven.” He did not hesitate to tell him of the emptiness of his “gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence.” And, remarkably, not a hair of his head is harmed; even this pagan ruler recognizes the truth of his words, and accepts that he will lose his kingdom.
“Before kings and governors” you will be summoned, “all because of my name,” says the Lord. Yes, witness must be given to “the God in whose hand is [our] life breath and the whole course of [our] life.” The world must come to know Him; light must be brought into the darkness. Is this an easy task? Certainly not. It may be glorious insofar as the Lord blesses our words, insofar as we trust in Him, not worrying about our “defense” beforehand – but the darkness resists the light; the world does not wish to hear of its sins, nor to be called to turn from them. Turning from sin is a painful process, and rather than endure its throes there will be those who would prefer to impose such persecution upon those who call to the depths of their hearts. Unwilling to suffer conversion, they make others suffer for their righteousness.…
All the apostles underwent martyrdom: our Lord rules from a cross. But though we may not escape punishment from those to whom we are called to speak, as has Daniel the prophet, yet as Daniel surely “not a hair of [our] head will be harmed.” For though we be killed for the Word of truth, yet our redemption awaits us: in heaven’s light all is whole. And the rewards offered Daniel even by this pagan king will be as our own in paradise.
“I will give you words and a wisdom which none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict,” our Lord assures us. Let us trust in this gift of faith and witness, and praise with “sun and moon” and “stars of heaven” Him who is “exalted above all forever.” Let us never fear to speak of our God and His hand at work in our lives.
O LORD, if before kings we speak the truth,
yet will our lives be spared,
for your Son indeed rules over all.
YHWH, your dew from Heaven falls upon us and we are given words and wisdom. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to stand before kings and governors and give witness to your glory. And though our words may accuse those to whom we speak of their failure to worship you, yet not a hair of our heads shall be harmed, even if we be executed. For Jesus has died on the Cross, yet He lives forever. And now His Spirit reigns over all who put their trust in you.
By patient endurance may our lives be saved, O mighty LORD and God. To you let us ever turn our sights, and our spirits shall not be defeated. Rather, the kingdom of those who mock your glory shall be divided and brought low.
O may we not be found wanting on the day you judge the world! All the gods of silver and gold, wood and stone, let us set aside to praise you alone, our Savior and our God.
Mon, 25 November 2019