Thu, 15 December 2016
(Is.56:1-3,6-8; Ps.67:2-3,5,7-8; Jn.5:33-36)
“My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Truth has come, and all nations are drawn to Him.
None is excluded in the House of God; His holy Temple is a place where all take refuge, where all find fulfillment, where all find joy. He only asks that we heed His testimony, that we see the works which He performs and act in accordance with His holiness. “Observe what is right, do what is just, for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed,” the Lord says to us all. Set yourselves on right paths with Him who has come, and you will be readily accepted into His presence.
“Loving the name of the Lord and becoming His servants,” this is what brings us into His house. No matter who we are, no matter where we are, no matter when we are, we will be brought “to [His] holy mountain and [made] joyful in [His] house of prayer,” if we follow His ways. Exult in the light of the Lord, know that Jesus is the Temple to which your heart is drawn and your “holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on [His] altar.”
His justice is for all; His love extends to the ends of the earth. David’s prayer is answered in Jesus: “May your way be known upon earth, among all nations your salvation.” For now does He “rule the peoples in equity”; now “the earth has yielded its fruits.” Now the blessing of our God falls upon all whose hearts turn to Him.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Then will all be drawn into His house of prayer and know His love. This day shall not be long in coming; come now to “the lamp, set aflame and burning bright” for all eternity. Enter into the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, you sent your Son
that the light of your face might shine upon us
and all peoples might learn to love your NAME.
YHWH, let us exult in the eternal light that is your Son. He has come among us to draw all souls into your House of prayer, that all might offer holy sacrifice to you on high. And you accept all who come through Him; those who do what is right and keep your day holy you join to yourself. O may all men know such blessing! May all the ends of the earth glory in your presence.
All the nations you gather into your arms, O LORD, by the intercession of Jesus. Your works He performs in our midst to reveal your glory to us and so draw us to the truth, to your holy mountain – to the Heaven where you dwell. May we not be kept apart from your kingdom by any evildoing, by any ignorance of the Word your Son brings to us. Let us enter under your rule.
If we wish to be your children, you will welcome us, LORD. If it is our desire to give you worship, if our hearts are set on prayer, you will bless us. In your Son we will find answer to our prayer, if we believe His testimony, if we believe in the divinity He shares with you.
Wed, 14 December 2016
(Is.54:1-10; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; Lk.7:24-30)
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.”
We are “the barren one who did not bear,” the “wife married in youth and then cast off” by our God. Once “forsaken and grieved in spirit,” blushing for the “shame of [our] youth,” now the Lord takes us home and promises us His love. “My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken,” the Lord in His mercy assures us. Though we be as those in the days of Noah, deserving of His destructive wrath, yet He takes pity on us, not only sparing our lives, but also promising to expand our space, to increase us in His blessed generosity beyond what we could imagine.
“At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.” Yes, our sin has made us sad; our separation from God has invited His wrath and made us less than what we are. But though the Lord may punish in His justice, yet “His anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime His good will.” David sings, “You changed my mourning into dancing,” for indeed great is His mercy toward us; tender is His touch upon us as He brings us “up from the netherworld” and places us at His side in the kingdom, as His holy bride.
And the Baptist makes the way the redeemed must walk. Necessary is “the baptismal bath he administered” in order to realize God’s plan for the salvation of our lives. He is the messenger who goes ahead of the Lord, preparing the path that leads to our being “born into the kingdom of God,” where our greatness cannot be measured for it will be in union with Him who is “God of all the earth.” Indeed, we must turn from our sins to find our way to this unity; we must repent in tears and turn back to Him. And He will be quick to rescue us, and we will be blessed to rejoice forever, to “break forth in jubilant song” at the graces poured forth upon us by our God in the forgiveness of our sins.
His tender Hand is near us, waiting to touch us. Is it your will to be wed to the Most High God? Then receive the baptism He requires and you will be made fruitful in the kingdom of God.
O LORD, take us back to you;
may our hearts be prepared to receive your glory.
YHWH, we must be cleansed in your baptismal bath, for you wish to draw us back to you from our sin; you wish to turn our mourning into dancing, but we cannot approach you, we cannot enter your kingdom if our shame still clings to us, if the dust of this earth remains upon our souls. We have been made barren by the evil our hands have done; we deserve to be drowned in the waters of the flood, to be cast to the nether world… but you look upon our desolation with mercy and seek to wed us unto you that we might again bear fruit, that we might spread out across all the earth. Bring your Heaven to this desert place, we pray.
Weeping we have known. Abandonment we have suffered, O LORD. Let us now hear your voice crying out to us, calling us back to your loving arms. Our sins indeed please wash away. Never leave us again, we pray; assure us of your abiding love. Into your kingdom let us come with all your holy people.
Tue, 13 December 2016
(Is.45:6-8,18,21-25; Ps.85:9-14,Is.45:8; Lk.7:18-23)
“There is no just and saving God but me.”
Jesus is “He who is to come”; His deeds speak for themselves. “There is no other!”
“Justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps.” How evident this is in Jesus’ life, for wherever He goes He teaches wisdom; whomever He touches He heals. God created the world “not to be a waste” but “to be lived in,” and so Jesus sets free all captives – the blind, the lame, the deaf… He releases all from sin. Yes, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” The justice which descends from the heavens, which falls from His lips “like dew from above,” will cause “salvation [to] bud forth.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” We see Him. We hear Him. If our hearts are open to Him, we witness His working every moment of our lives. For He is “the creator of the heavens… the designer and maker of the earth,” and His Hand is at work in all things – He cannot be separated from His creation. The light and the darkness are made by Him, and for us who love Him “truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” “For He proclaims peace to His people.” For those who love Him, there is only light.
And we know that Light is Jesus. It is to witness to Him the Baptist came; and now he hears of the fulfillment of the way he has prepared. We must find “no stumbling block” in the Lord. We must join in proclaiming His good news, in walking in His way – in letting our deeds speak for themselves as wrought by the Hand of the loving Creator and His redeeming Son.
Be of light, brothers and sisters, of justice, of peace. Let kindness and truth meet in all your words and deeds and you will be sons and daughters of the one “just and saving God” – and you will be blessed forever.
O LORD, may every knee bend before you
who created us and redeemed us.
YHWH, in your goodness you have made the earth and all who dwell in it, and by your grace your Son has served to redeem Creation. From the beginning you designed this world to be lived in, you desired that all your creatures should flourish, and though woe has come upon us because of our disobedience, now Jesus has come among us to make the deaf hear and the blind see, to raise us from the death of sin. O let us walk before you in justice!
You are the only just and saving God; beside you there is no other. And should we not rejoice in your presence, O LORD? Your justice rains down upon us from Heaven now, and should we not spring up from the earth declaring your truth and your glory? Should we not be one with your Son who is our salvation and so find your blessings, and so yield an increase of holy fruit? O let us be healed of all our afflictions! that we might know your glory dwelling in our land.
Mon, 12 December 2016
(Zep.3:1-2,9-13; Ps.34:2-3,6-7,17-19,23; Mt.21:28-32)
“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.”
All have been “rebellious and polluted”; all have been as she who “hears no voice” and “accepts no correction.” But the Lord now comes to “change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Who is it who hears the voice of the Lord to “not be ashamed of all [our] deeds, [our] rebellious acts against [Him]”?
“Let me make it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” Jesus states simply and directly to the chief priests and elders. These lowest of society, these most polluted, have put faith in John’s preaching of “a way of holiness,” but those most esteemed, the elder son whose words bear the stamp of God but whose actions are far from Him, are held back from entering the kingdom by their pride, perhaps thinking they are already there.
How sad. How can it be that those so steeped in the holy Scriptures do not hear the words of David’s psalm: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves”? Or how are they blind to the vision of the “humble and lowly” the Lord deems to bless? For that matter, how do they hide themselves from the great prophet’s declaration that the Lord “will remove from [their] midst the proud braggarts”?
Our words alone will not save us, brothers and sisters. However great the lines of the scribe or the preaching of the priest, it will mean nothing if not lived in flesh and blood. Better to say no to God, as the younger son, and then turn to Him and do His will. Certainly we all stray; and this we must recognize. But just as certain is that all must turn to Him, after regretting our sin, and do as He commands.
Do not be afraid. The Lord will “destroy remembrance of evildoers,” but count not yourself as in allegiance with them. Be among those who “speak no lies” and you “shall pasture and couch [your] flocks with none to disturb [you].” The vision of God and His Spirit shall be your own.
O LORD, let us speak no lie before you
but let our actions meet our words of praise.
YHWH, we must do your will to enter your kingdom, this your Son makes clear to all. We cannot merely honor you with our lips but must make our holiness incarnate as His.
O the woe of the proud, dear LORD! How terrible their separation from you. For they are blind even to their separation, and so, what shall save them? Let them be saved by seeing the humble come to you; let them know your mercy and love by witnessing your forgiveness toward the lowly sinner… and let them accept your mercy upon their own hearts.
Purify our lips, O LORD, from all lies, all deceitful words. Let it be your holy NAME that is upon our tongues, that we might dwell in truth and peace and humility, and praise your glory forever.
You are close to the brokenhearted, LORD; you gather even the rebellious into your arms. Let us accept the correction of your Son and cry out to you, that we may indeed be saved and come to serve you.
Thu, 3 November 2016
(Phil.3:17-4:1; Ps.122:1-5; Lk.16:1-8)
“We have our citizenship in heaven.”
Brothers and sisters, we are not among “those who are set upon the things of this world.” Always we must remember this. Though surrounded by worldly things, our hearts are not set upon them; rather, “we eagerly await the coming of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our hearts are set upon heaven.
Then what are we to do with “this lowly body of ours” as we long for the Lord to “remake it according to the pattern of His glorified body”? What purpose have we of heaven here upon this earth? Is there nothing for us to do with this old form that has been afforded us? Is emptiness all we are to know here?
We must know and remember, brothers and sisters, that in this dark world we are called to light; we are called to “go up to the house of the Lord” even here where we stand. Is the Church not with us? And has not the Lord left His sacraments with her, that even now we may be transformed into the new creation He makes us? We do not wait in vain for our Savior to come; we do not sit empty here as we long for His Day. He is here now with a measure of His grace; “His power to subject everything to Himself” is already evident in our midst… and we must join with that power and work diligently to transform not only ourselves into the image of Christ, but the dark world we see around us as well.
“Be imitators of me,” Paul encourages his brother Philippians. In warning them against those who “go about in a way which shows them to be enemies of the cross of Christ,” he exhorts them to be the cross’s friend – to prove their mettle as they continue “to stand firm in the Lord.” There are those for whom “their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame,” and the “devious employee” of whom Jesus speaks may well be among these. But though we are called in no way to imitate his wickedness, yet we must see that he is given “credit for being enterprising” by the owner, despite the fact that he had been “dissipating his property.” “Why?” indeed. And how can the Lord use an example such as this to teach us of the kingdom?
Here the Lord employs great wisdom, and calls us to do the same. For He reveals to us how even in one destined to condemnation there is yet the spark of intelligence. (“I have it!” he declares, after taking consideration.) And should not this light of intelligence, which comes only from our Maker, be in us who are to be found entirely of light? And should we not bring the light of salvation through the gifts the Lord provides us even to those like this employee who are most in darkness? Should the devil control the things around us, the things here at our King’s feet, or should we? Our citizenship in heaven requires us to employ its light here on this earth. There is much we owe our Master. Wise as serpents and harmless as doves let us be.
O LORD, we are citizens of your kingdom;
help us on this earth to find our way to your House
and remain there.
YHWH, help us to stand firm in you and do your will, and so come to your holy kingdom. In the New Jerusalem let us make our home and not in this dark and empty world.
If we could but be imitators of your Apostle, LORD, and so of your Son, carrying our cross eagerly as we await His coming; then we would hear you calling us to your House and rejoice in your glorious presence.
Give us the wisdom, O LORD, to find our way to you, to do well your work upon this plane, our hearts not set on love of gain but making your blessing our only desire. O that we might be forgiven our debt even as we forgive those in debt to us and to you!
Remake us in your image, LORD, in the image of your Son. Let us enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise your holy NAME. And help us to bring others to you and so finish the work Jesus has begun.
Wed, 26 October 2016
(Eph.6:10-20; Ps.144:1-2,9-10; Lk.13:31-35)
“Today and tomorrow I cast out devils and perform cures,
and on the third day my purpose is accomplished.”
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war,” King David sings, for the Lord is the “shield… who subdues peoples under [him]”; He is the “stronghold” by whom “victory” is his.
The same image of battle is used by Paul as he encourages us, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” But “our battle ultimately is not against human forces” – in war against nations or even any individual enemy – “but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in the regions above.” It is spiritual warfare we engage in, and in it we must “pray constantly and attentively for all in the holy company,” for the attacks against us are constant and we must ever with our brothers and sisters resist the evil one and “stand [our] ground.” Heed Paul’s summary of the strength we must draw from the Lord for our mission: “Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear.”
Does not the Lord do just this? Does He not witness fully to the courage we must have in the battle of earthly life? For though the Pharisees come with the warning, “Leave this place! Herod is trying to kill you,” Jesus “proceed[s] on course” in firm resolve. Though “Jerusalem… slay the prophets and stone those who are sent to [her],” yet the Lord’s face is set like flint to enter there. In every step along the way, on every day that leads there, He conquers the devil valiantly, displaying His great power over all darkness of this world by His Word of truth; and when He comes to the cross the war will have been won – the evil one will have no weapon remaining.
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Blessed is Jesus the Christ, and blessed all those who follow in His way, who fight unto death the evils that beset us here. Brothers and sisters, faith in God will deflect all “the fiery darts of the evil one.” “The helmet of salvation” will protect you from all harm; and by “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God,” you shall conquer mightily with the Lord. “Pray in the Spirit.” Pray always. Pray for the Church militant that she proclaim the Gospel and come quickly to the Lord’s salvation.
O LORD, we bless your NAME and we are strong;
we are ready for battle against all evil.
YHWH, give us strength in the battle of earthly life, strength to overcome the attacks of the enemy, strength to stand with you on the holy day. You are our strength; you are our deliverer. You save us from all harm by your invincible power and glory – let us indeed stand strong in battle on this earth, that we may come quickly to Heaven.
Your Word go forth, O LORD, to the ends of the earth, your Word of truth, your Word of life. The sword of the Spirit be in our hands, upon our tongues, that we shall defeat all the forces of the evil one. Let us be ever in prayer before you, ever calling upon your holy NAME. And we shall be saved, and we shall save others by the grace that you give to do battle this day.
With your Son let us cast out devils, LORD; let us serve to cure the troubled soul of man. Blessed is He who comes in the NAME of the LORD! Let us be blessed to follow Him on the way to Jerusalem, on the way to the Cross – for on the third day He shall rise.
Fri, 23 September 2016
(Ec.11:9-12:8; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Lk.9:43-45)
“The dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”
“As a watch of the night” is our life, passing unnoticed while souls slumber. “You make an end of them in their sleep,” Psalm 90 prophesies (as we hear the same verses of this same psalm for the second time in three days); indeed man lies unaware of his coming death, ignorant of the day which passes. For though in our youth we “follow the ways of [our] heart, the vision of [our] eyes,” and seem to “ward off grief” at will, yet “the next morning [we] are like the changing grass”; so quickly does our flower fade. And so little of this do we see.
In our gospel the Lord speaks again to His disciples of His imminent death, and so, really, the death we all must undergo; but though He makes a clear point that they should listen carefully, saying, “Pay close attention to what I tell you,” yet they seem unable to hear His words. Our gospel tells us, “They failed… to understand this warning; its meaning was so concealed from them they did not grasp it at all.” He repeats what He has said before in no uncertain terms, and yet they are deaf to His word; yet they are blind.
How like us all the disciples are. When confronted with the coming of death how easily we shut our eyes. Though it draw upon us inevitably, how desperately we hold to the vanity of these passing things, unwilling to hear of the day when “the sun is darkened… and the strong men are bent… and the sound of the mill is low.” “Man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets” – so Qoheleth paints the image of the time when “the clouds return after the rain.” How compelling his verses are, and how ominous… and of this darkness we must hear. It is not wise to remain blind to the passing of this life, or with it we shall die when it ends. Though none of this should touch our souls, yet we must learn to let the body go.
O Lord, “you return man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men,’” yet you hold each of us in your loving hands. And so we cry unto you this day, “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” For we wait with expectant hearts for Him who has risen from the dead to come to us again. Let your Spirit breathe upon us now and turn this dust into the image of your Son. May it be your Day which comes to us, even as we die.
O LORD, we conquer death
through the death and resurrection of your Son –
be with us as we wait for His return.
YHWH, death comes inevitably to all. It draws near to us like the setting sun. We are mortal, the subjects of our own sin. And so to dust we return.
But your Son has subjected Himself to this death of ours, LORD; He has undergone its torments. In our place He has stood, and been broken for our sakes. He who lives with you in eternity has been delivered into the hands of men and suffered the darkness upon their souls. And so, may we not be born again?
O Jesus, you have overcome the darkness with your unending light; you have come to rescue us from falling into the well, that the clouds might not return again after the rain but that we might know new life with you in the morning after this world passes away, in the glory of your coming Day.
Help us, O LORD, to overcome our fear, to conquer the bonds of this dark place and our own mortality. Let this not be our lasting home, but raise us to your presence that even this day we might rejoice in you.
Thu, 15 September 2016
(1Cor.15:12-20; Ps.17:1,6-8,15; Lk.8:1-3)
“Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
This is the heart of our faith. This is the “Good News,” the Gospel preached in our midst. This is our firm belief. Upon it all our hopes stand. Christ has been raised, and His disciples will follow Him. As surely as we accompany Him here in His mission on earth, so surely will we find ourselves in His presence in heaven. Dying in Him means rising in light.
But “if our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men.” We could then be said to have truly wasted our time, for then the very heart of our faith would have been torn out, and what but scoffing would we have to hold? A dead Christ we would carry in our arms, and we “the deadest of the dead” with Him.
Paul speaks of this quite pointedly; he pulls no punches in this regard, declaring openly: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.” Yet there are those today, as then, who “say there is no resurrection of the dead,” that “Christ was not raised” – and these would call themselves Christian. And in the same manner there are many who do not truly believe the resurrection, yet wear the Christian nametag. If we have doubt in our hearts, or, worse yet, if we preach against the core of the faith, what do we do but kill ourselves? What do we do but work against the very Gospel of Christ? And how then do we merit the name of Christian?
Brothers and sisters, we must know in our hearts and be assured that Jesus is risen from the dead. We must realize that God has “attend[ed] to [David’s] outcry,” that He has “hearken[ed] to [his] prayer” – that the most urgent longing of our souls has been answered by the “savior of those who hope in [Him].” With David, we of faith should say with his resolve: “On waking, I shall be content in your presence.” Has the resurrection not been indicated in the “women who ha[ve] been cured of evil spirits and maladies” and who now accompany Jesus? Does not Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven devils had gone out,” give clear example of hope in Christ fulfilled? For she is not at all as she was, and this woman once so completely possessed by death itself is the first to see the Lord risen.
We must know the resurrection in our lives on earth; this is the only way we will comprehend it in heaven. Release from sin allows us to see already the eternal fruits of the kingdom. Accompanying Him now, our sins behind us, already upon heaven’s road we tread. And we know of a certain we shall pass through these “towns and villages” even unto His kingdom.
O LORD, your Son has been raised from the dead;
may we be raised with Him and be at your side.
YHWH, your Son is raised from the dead for us that we might enter your glorious presence. Though in the shadow of the wings of the Cross on this earth we make our home, it but prepares us for the kingdom. For even here our sins are taken away, and we come to new life in the Spirit.
We cried out to you, O LORD, and you heard our voice and sent your Son to walk among us. And if we follow in His steps we shall come to where He leads – we shall come to you. The path He trod must be our own, for it is the way of salvation. Through death on the Cross we come to life, for as we die with Him so we are raised.
Let us rejoice in His resurrection, O LORD; let us have faith in the new life at work in us even this day, and look with hope to our place in your kingdom. On waking may we look upon your face and be content in your eternal presence. For your glory let us ever strive, giving all to you as we walk in your way.
Thu, 8 September 2016
(1Cor.9:16-19,22-27; Ps.84:2-6,8,12; Lk.6:39-42)
“Although I am not bound to anyone,
I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible.”
How like His Lord is Paul in his declaration, “To the weak I became a weak person with a view to winning the weak.” For as Jesus descended from heaven to take on flesh and save those corrupted by its sin, so the Apostle has made himself “all things to all people,” stepping inside their skin “in order to save at least some of them.” Indeed, Paul proves himself to be “on a par with his teacher” in sacrifice and fruitfulness, for how well he serves “to remove the speck from [his] brother’s eye” that he might see Jesus in the clear light of day.
The Apostle has been “entrusted with a charge,” that of “preaching the Gospel.” And doing so willingly he finds his “recompense.” And what is this recompense but that he receive nothing in return for his work, nothing here on earth except of course the blessing of persecution such work for the Master entails? Then why engage in such toil, and why call others to such a life of self-sacrifice? Ah yes, because of the “crown that is imperishable” which awaits the runner of such a race. This heavenly blessing, too, is found when one does all “for the sake of the Gospel.”
“My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God,” our psalmist intones today, and goes on to proclaim the happiness of those “who dwell in [God’s] house.” “Continually they praise [Him]… They go from strength to strength,” for “grace and glory He bestows.” This is the goal Paul has in mind when he says, “I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line.” All his tribulations never distract him from his final destination; the kingdom of heaven remains ever upon his heart. And ever does he strain forward that he and so many others might attain that crown for which “our soul yearns and pines.”
Brothers and sisters, we must “discipline [our] own body and master it”; we must “remove the plank lodged in [our] own [eye]” if we hope to join Paul in the place where “even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young.” And our young we, too, must bring there – all those in our charge must know of the kingdom of God. And so let us join Paul and our holy Lord in here becoming slaves of all, enduring our exile bravely that we might draw others to the eternal home found on the altar of the living God.
O LORD, let us be led by your holy apostles
to lay down our lives with your Son,
that we might find our home in you.
YHWH, all holy hearts long for your presence, long to make their home in your house; and you send to us apostles, teachers of your way, that we might find you. O may the vision of all be made clear to see your glory! May all learn the lesson they need to know, taught by your Son in His sacrifice and carried on by His disciples.
We long to praise you, LORD, but there is a log in our eye that blinds us to your coming kingdom. Help us to remove all obstruction, all distraction, all our blindness, that we might not lose sight of the blessings you offer to those who spend their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Let us rather carry that Good News of salvation to all souls, serving to remove the specks from their eyes by your grace and mercy. Help us to be slaves of all that all might make their home in you. Keep us from the pit, we pray, by your guidance and secure protection. Let us always yearn for you.
Fri, 2 September 2016
(1Cor.4:9-15; Ps.145:17-21; Lk.6:1-5)
“God has put us apostles at the end of the line,
like men doomed to die in the arena.”
“Up to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, poorly clad, roughly treated, wandering about homeless,” the great Apostle Paul tells us of the persecution and slander all the Lord’s apostles must undergo. And yet “when we are insulted we respond with a blessing,” for this is our call in the Lord: to love even our enemies, that we might show the love of God to all, that we might indeed become “a spectacle to the universe, to angels and men alike” – “fools on Christ’s account,” yet bearing all patiently that the Gospel might truly be fulfilled and the last shall be shown to be first in the eyes of God.
It is this birth to which Paul brings the Corinthians, his “beloved children.” And though it seem a difficult fate to call down upon a people, yet we know that David’s psalm is true, that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth”; and so through all trials He leads us and comforts us, making any suffering a light burden to bear. And just as Paul is father to this nation, so the Father of all is there always to watch over all His children, for it is “in Christ Jesus” the Apostle has begotten them; and as He has heard the cry of His Son upon the cross and brought Him to resurrection, so “He hears [all His children] cry and saves them.”
In our gospel the Lord’s disciples are hungry, and so, in the hot sun, “walking through the standing grain” with Jesus, He feeds them: all around is food at their hands. Truly their prayer does He answer; their need does He see. But instead of seeing that the Lord “fulfills the desire of those who fear Him,” all the Pharisees can do is ask, “Why are you doing what is prohibited on the sabbath?” Thus the very men who should be present to bless and comfort and guide the followers of the Holy One can but call them into the arena of persecution with the rest of the fallen world. Thus the shepherds who are called to feed the sheep would remove the food from their hands and see them perish. Instead of becoming apostles themselves, they become their bane. For they cannot comprehend that God’s love transcends God’s law, that “the Lord keeps all who love Him” and this is what makes Him “just in all His ways and holy in all His works,” and not the mere precepts to which they hold so desperately, so blindly… so jealously. Thus the chosen of God become in their eyes “the world’s refuse, the scum of all.” And what can they be but crucified?
All must come to the holy Lord and “all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” And though war be brought upon our souls, we must always “try conciliation” – peacemakers covered with blood and spittle is the state to which we are called. No other way will the world come to know that the love of God transcends all, and all call upon Him from their hearts.
O LORD, though persecuted and poor,
we are surrounded with your presence,
and so are fed in times of famine.
YHWH, you are our LORD and God; when we cry out to you, you save us. Though we must endure persecution for your sake, though we suffer want and go hungry, you surround us with standing grain – you are ever near to help us. Let us indeed praise your holy NAME!
What should it matter to us if we are beaten, if we are insulted and spat upon; if you are with us we are free of pain, for all these things your Son endures for our sake. We are your children and you love us, so even these trials you turn to good. Remain ever with us to save us by the Cross of your only Son.
He is Lord over even the Sabbath. He has power from on high. For you, LORD, have given all things over into His hands, and for us He does provide. Our rest we take in Him, our food He places in our mouths – through Him we remain close to you: He is our Bread of Life. And so, let us rejoice to walk in His way.
Thu, 18 August 2016
(Ez.37:1-14; Ps.107:1-9; Mt.22:34-40)
“I will open your graves and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.”
The commentary in the missal I read states: “The lesson here is return from captivity, not life after death.” And so the speaker proves once again the limited vision of so many of our scholars – indeed, how like the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the lawyers of Jesus’ time these faithless are, how blind… how dry their bones without spirit.
Certainly the prophet Ezekiel speaks to the exiles of their return to Israel: to these he is sent, and of this redemption they must hear. But if this were all the Scripture says, what lesson would we take from it – this passage why should we bother to read? And if this were all God intended even for these scattered children, what an ineffective God He would be. (As limited in vision as so many of our leaders today.) For what is the land upon which any find life but the kingdom of heaven? And how do we come there except through death, the death of our attachment to this earth? Vain all is if we have not the resurrection of Jesus within us; we must rise from our graves before anything has meaning in life.
That the Lord speaks of more than the return to Israel in Ezekiel’s prophecy of the dry bones today is indicated clearly in our psalm, which equates “the redeemed of the Lord” with those “gathered from the lands, from the east and the west, from the north and the south.” Is it not so that the Psalms, though greatly written a millennium before Christ (and hundreds of years before even Ezekiel’s time), speak of Christ, and even in the voice of Christ? Is it not Jesus who speaks even to Ezekiel himself? Listen to our psalm. It speaks of the Israelites’ wandering “in the desert wilderness.” It says they were “hungry and thirsty” and that “their life was wasting away within them.” Certainly they lacked food and water in this arid place – but is this all of which the psalmist speaks! Do they not rather fail to drink from the spiritual rock which follows them? Is their hunger not for Christ? And the “inhabited city” to which the Lord leads them, is it but the land beyond the Jordan River? Is it the dust of this earth that will satisfy their dry bones? No. They “give thanks to the Lord… because He satisfied the longing soul and filled the hungry soul with good things” – things of the spirit, not merely the body.
“On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well,” Jesus says of the love of God and neighbor. Here is the Spirit! Here is the Life! Here is what nourishes the dry bones and makes them stand upright: the Love of God! This is in every passage of Scripture – every prophecy, every psalm… This Word is the lesson we must always find: Jesus Christ is risen from the grave!
“From the four winds come, O Spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.” May the Spirit of love open all eyes.
O LORD, your love bring to our hearts,
your Spirit breathe within us that we might stand
and praise you in our heavenly homeland.
YHWH, you bring us to life by a word from your mouth; speak over us your holy Word that we might rise from the death that has settled upon our souls, that there might be flesh on these dry bones and your Spirit breathing in us. Bring us back to the land you have set aside for all your children – let us enter Heaven.
If your command we follow, LORD, we cannot but come into your presence, we cannot but live forever. If there be love in our hearts for you and our brothers, what can we be but united to you? If we place you above all our joys, if we love you with heart, mind, and soul, your life will indeed be within us… for you yourself are love.
Breathe upon us this day, dear LORD. Speak your Word of truth and life. Announce by the tongue of your Prophet the way we must go to find you. And let us be obedient to His command of truth, His Word of life, that we might stand in hope with Him, our hungry soul fed by this spiritual Bread, our thirsting hearts washed clean in His blood.
Thu, 4 August 2016
(Nah.2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7; Dt.32:35-36,39,41; Mt.16:24-28)
“It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them.”
When the Lord comes indeed “He will repay each man according to his conduct.” And the justice and judgment that are the Lord’s alone are evident in His work amongst Israel and their enemies, spoken of in our first reading and psalm today.
“The flame of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon!” such is the graphic description of the horrors inflicted by the “bloody city” of Ninevah, of Assyria, whose nation is “all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops!” And that which they have visited upon the nations, and upon the children of Israel, shall come to rest upon their own heads. For “surely, the Lord shall do justice for His people” and prove to the evildoers that it is He alone who “will sharpen [His] flashing sword”; it is He whose “hand shall lay hold of [His] quiver.” For vengeance is with the Lord alone and it is He who “will repay [His] foes and requite those who hate [Him].”
All those who take up the sword, what can be said of them? “Close at hand is the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them.” Like Ninevah they shall be “destroyed, and who can pity her?” Is she not like he who has “gain[ed] the whole world and ruin[ed] himself in the process?” And shall not all who trust in “horses a-gallop, chariots bounding, cavalry charging,” themselves hear “the rumbling sound of wheels”? As the Lord has duly repaid those on earth, so He will more greatly repay all on the Day of salvation.
But even as death is visited upon the sinner, life dawns upon the righteous. For them, “the bearer of good news [comes], announcing peace.” Those who are pierced to the heart by the cross of Christ in this life, those who bear its weight through this forsaken land, walking in the footsteps of the Lord – even these shall “see the Son of Man come in His kingship.” For “whoever loses his life for [God’s] sake will find it,” and it shall be preserved unto eternity.
Brothers and sisters, though wounded here, the Lord Himself shall heal us. Let death come to all sin, and salvation shall be assured.
O LORD, let us not be trampled underfoot
but come rather to see your glory
by following in your way.
YHWH, it is you alone who bring both death and life, for life itself is in your hands, as is judgment of those who violate it. Your justice is both sure and true, and so you will repay each man according to his deeds: those who have embraced plunder and looting cannot but come to the death they have made; but those who embrace the Cross and lay down their lives in this world shall be blessed greatly by the sight of the Son of Man coming in His glory. Although such vision cannot but bring agony to those whose hearts are set on the ill-gotten gain of this evil age, the destruction of all evil in the LORD’s reign brings joy to the heart set upon Him who passes not away.
And so, dear LORD, let us be numbered among those who seek to lose their lives that they might be found walking in the way of your only Son. We pray the angels of Heaven may carry us to your kingdom on the Day He judges the world and all souls.
Sun, 31 July 2016
(Jer.28:1-17; Ps.119:29,43,68,79-80,95,102; Mt.14:13-21)
“Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.”
The word of truth is what Jeremiah speaks in the face of the lies of Hananiah. The false prophet declares in the name of God: “I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of the nations,” even as he “took the yoke from upon the neck of Jeremiah” – which he wore to symbolize the exile to which Judah was fated – and broke it “in the presence of all the people.” A dramatic action and a prophecy all would gladly consume. But a lie. To Hananiah, Jeremiah prophesies the truth: “By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke!” as well as the false prophet’s own death, which comes in but a few months. And yes, it is seventy years the exile shall last, and not two.
And is it not the word of truth by which the Lord feeds the five thousand today? Using human logic the disciples suggest to Jesus that He “dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.” But it is with the word of truth Jesus states: “Give them something to eat yourselves.” How? they respond. “We have nothing here... but five loaves and a couple of fish.” How does the Lord multiply these loaves and fish? How can He feed five thousand with barely enough food for fifty? It is not possible except by the word of truth, which can move mountains. Is it not His looking up to heaven and blessing and breaking the food that causes it to be multiplied in the sight (and eating) of all? Does not the Father give the Son all for which He asks? Is His prayer not true?
Brothers and sisters, if the ordinances of the Lord are our hope, what can we not do? What food can we not multiply? What ailing hearts can we not heal? For trusting in Him and in His Word all is ours for the asking. But making our own words and our own desires our way in this world, what can we come to but death? What shall we find but an iron yoke upon our necks?
Yes, the yoke of the Lord is light, for it is formed by the word of God, and in its truth we are buoyed up unto heaven. And all our words are justified. And we are fed with the bread of life.
O LORD, your Word is fulfilled in our midst,
and so your Son feeds us with His Body and Blood.
YHWH, take all falsehood from our hearts and from our lives; on your Word alone let us depend. For as we go according to our own thoughts, so we are lost, so we are without answer to the difficulties of life and fooling ourselves with the responses we devise. But trusting in you, what cannot be done; what do we lack? For you feed us by your own hand if we but remain obedient to your command and come to your Son.
In your Word is our hope, dear God – let it be spoken clearly to our ears and let us cling to its truth. Let us not fear whatever darkness may come to us in this land of exile, but let us know that your yoke is light and it frees us from the yoke of sin and all oppression.
Heal our troubled souls, dearest LORD, by the compassionate touch of Jesus. Let us know we are not alone but that you care ever for your poor flock even in this deserted place. You hand be upon us to bless us, and your Word be spoken to the ends of the earth.
Tue, 19 July 2016
(Jer.1:1,4-10; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; Mt.13:1-9)
“O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.”
So does the seed grow, and bear fruit in the sight of the Lord.
Our psalmist declares, “On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.” Indeed we are planted in our mother’s womb and we grow by the grace of the Lord. And as our bodies grow so gradually from the womb of our mother, so our spirits, too, grow from the womb of our Mother, the Church, in whose womb the Lord plants us and nurtures us with His water, the Holy Spirit. For it is the Lord who prepares the ground for our planting. As He declares to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” So even before we are planted as seed the Lord holds us in His Hand, and that Hand of love shall never leave us.
And what does the Lord expect of the seed He plants and nurtures but that it sprout and bear much fruit? What does He do but call us forth to proclaim His Word with our lives: “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak” – what He requires of Jeremiah He requires of us all. As “the Lord extended His hand and touched [the prophet’s] mouth, saying, ‘See I place my words within your mouth!’” so He reaches out to us all, planting His Word within our hearts and expecting it to grow and blossom forth. Into the light our works must come to reveal His heavenly presence.
“The crowd stood along the shore” as rows of plants in an ordered garden, and Jesus watered them with His teaching. And in whom would His Word take root? Who would grow unencumbered in His light? Who would bear fruit unto the kingdom of God? “Let everyone heed what he hears!” Make the Lord your “rock of refuge” and He will “rescue [you] from the hand of the wicked” and nurture you with His Bread and the Word of Life. And your “mouth shall declare [His] justice, day by day [His] salvation” as you come gradually and invariably – you know not now – to the kingdom our Savior prepares with His Blood.
O LORD, let the seed we sow with you
bear fruit by your blessing.
YHWH, from the womb you call us; from our conception you bless us with your Word to nourish us and help us grow in your sight, that upon maturity we might praise your NAME and share your Word with all. Help us indeed to grow each day in you and do your will with all our lives.
O LORD, may we bear fruit a hundredfold! May we be planted in good soil, in the womb of your Church, that fruitful indeed we might be. Touch our mouth with your hand that our tongue may be purified to speak of your glory and so serve to plant seeds of life in souls with ears to hear your voice. Let us not wither and die in our sin or be choked by the cares of this world; keep the clutches of Satan far from us, and we will be your own children, declaring your salvation until your Son returns.
O LORD, we depend on you for our very lives, for the breath in our nostrils and the love in our hearts. Shine your light on us this day and let our fruit be pleasing to you.
Sat, 18 June 2016
(Zec.12:10-11,13:1; Ps.63:2-6,8-9; Gal.3:26-29; Lk.9:18-24)
“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.”
Jesus is the Christ of God. It is He who suffers, He who has been pierced for our sins, and He whose blood cleanses us as we look upon Him, as we cry out in tears for the pain we have caused Him and resolve to follow Him now in His way of the cross. What is the “fountain to purify from sin” but the blood poured forth in His sacrifice, and what is it we thirst for but to drink in full the grace contained therein? And it is our great grace to suffer with Him, to take up our cross daily and share in His sacrifice, denying ourselves to find Him and His life. This is what makes us one, with Him and so with one another: this is the baptism that redeems us and makes us whole.
Do we live out our baptismal vows? Do we follow Him in the way of the cross? Are we truly longing for the Lord, pining for Him, gazing upon Him – what is the banquet we seek to satisfy our souls? Are we one in His Spirit, loving Him above all others? Or do we set our souls on the empty pleasures of this life? These we must lose to find Him. Here in solitude the Lord tells the disciples quietly and sincerely, knowing the vanity and thirst for power the devil would plant in their souls – “The Son of Man must suffer greatly.” How He desires them to hear His teaching. How He longs to keep them from the evil one and see that their hearts are not fixed on this life. He knows only this will save them. He knows only repentance brings the life of God, and so He approaches them in the silence of God that His words might sink deeply into them.
And they will listen. And they, too, will all die. They will understand the sacrifice that leads to life. And what of us? The Lord speaks to us, too, today. His words are here written down and proclaimed for our ears to treasure. Do we turn to this fountain of forgiveness, mourning for our sins “as one mourns for an only son”? And does our mourning lead us to lay down our lives?
Nothing of this world will suffice. His Body and Blood alone are our food and drink here in this life. They make us one and make us strong, and by them He will uphold us, if our hearts are set on losing this life to find Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Blood in My Palate" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in the Cross let us find
your cleansing fountain.
YHWH, we look toward your sanctuary and what do we see but your Son pierced for our sins? And so we mourn, and so we cry… and it is in these tears we are washed clean – baptism in His blood purifies us of sin. And so, in the shadow of His wings we rejoice.
For now, O LORD, our souls may cling to you; by the sacrifice of your Son we are made one with Him and with one another. And His call to take up our own cross, to share in His sacrifice, we receive with great joy; for He has shown us that it is this path that leads to salvation, that leads to eternal glory in your presence.
O let us enter your sanctuary this day, LORD our God! Let us join ourselves to the offering Jesus makes for our sakes, eating His Body and drinking His Blood and doing your will as He has done. At the banquet of Heaven let our souls be satisfied!
Sat, 4 June 2016
(1Kgs.17:17-24; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-12; Gal.1:11-19; Lk.7:11-17)
“O Lord, you brought me up from the netherworld.”
“You preserved me from among those going down into the pit.” For I was dead, but now I live. These should be the words of us all, for the Lord indeed is our salvation – our life breath comes from Him, and He will preserve us from all death. No longer in sin, we rise to new life.
The resurrecting power of God is clearly evident in our readings today. We see both Jesus and Elijah raising the dead. And perhaps the rising of Paul from the blind pit into which he’d fallen, which led him even to persecute and attempt to destroy the Church, is the most remarkable resurrection.
What we should take from today’s readings is the sure knowledge that God is life and that life has no origin other than Him. Paul proclaims the Word he preaches comes only from God through the revelation of Jesus Christ – emphasizing that no man taught him the Word which burns in his soul (a Word which gives life to all who hear it) – and in both the gospel and the first reading those who witness the raising of the dead attribute rightly its source to the Lord. In one they proclaim, “God has visited His people,” and in the other the widow of Sidon states of Elijah: “The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.” This is the character of the Word, this is the quality of God – He gives life. And so we know Him.
And we indeed are all as the widows in today’s readings; we are all bereft of our only sons, of the light of our eyes and our very life. We mourn for the loss of our souls which is imminent because of our sin. And we, too, weep. Who shall save us? Who shall speak a word to us to revive us, to return our life’s breath, to restore our souls? Jesus comes to us. He visits our city, He comes to our door. His Word approaches our hearts and calls to us to arise – He breathes upon us the breath of new life. His apostles go forth from the foundation set in Peter, and this true Gospel is that which shall save the world, which shall bring it from its mourning to joy.
But do we mourn the loss of our souls? Do we bewail that which is taken from us by sin? Do we see the death upon us? We must come as widows calling upon the Lord to find His Word at work in our hearts, bringing us to life. And we must share that Word with others. Once raised from the dead, we must proclaim what the Word has done for us. We must recognize His power at work in the world.
May the Word go forth to the ends of the earth, speaking of the saving power of God. May it raise all from death.
Written, read and chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Be Well" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let the life breath return to your children;
by your grace let us rise from the dead to praise you.
YHWH, your Son looks with pity upon our poor condition, He sees that we are bereft of our only Child, of the light of our eyes – He sees our souls descend to the nether world and desires only to raise them from such darkness to the eternal light of your presence… and He prays for us… and He calls to us… and we rise and are held in our Mother’s arms.
To the Church Jesus entrusts our souls; our very lives are in the hands of our Mother on earth. Dearest God, let us never be separated from the life-giving Breath you give us through your apostles, through the magisterium, through the teaching of your Son which they guard so assiduously. In your House let us remain all the days of our life.
What hope have we if you call attention to our guilt, to the sin upon our souls? But in your compassion you preserve us from certain death, and for this we praise you. Thank you, LORD, for visiting your people and changing our mourning into dancing before you.
Wed, 25 May 2016
(1Pt.2:2-5,9-12; Ps.100:2-5; Mk.10:46-52)
“Be as eager for milk as newborn babies –
pure milk of the Spirit to make you grow unto salvation.”
Does not the “blind beggar Bartimaeus” show his eagerness for the milk of the Spirit, for the blood of Christ upon his soul, when he persistently calls out “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” despite those who “were scolding him to make him keep quiet”? And was his ready desire to meet with the Lord not revealed most clearly when “he threw aside his cloak, jumped up and came to Jesus.” All else becomes as nothing as even in his blindness he strains forward to find the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, should we not “come to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but approved, nonetheless, and precious in God’s eyes,” just as this beggar? Are we not “‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people He claims for His own to proclaim the glorious works’ of the One who called [us] from darkness into His marvelous light”? Is it not so that “once [we] were no people, but now [we] are God’s people”? Once we were blind as Bartimaeus, without mercy for our souls, “but now [we] have found mercy.” And oh how we should treasure such grace – even as a newborn child treasures its milk.
Who better than Peter, our high priest, to let us know that we “too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”? Having been cured of our own blindness, having been purged of our “carnal desires,” we join this blessed Rock of the Church at the altar on high, sharing in the sacrifice of our Risen Christ. Should this thought not cause us to “serve the Lord with gladness”? Should it not make us ever eager to serve Him more, to draw ever closer to Him as He passes by? Is it not our desire to be with Him forever?
“Get up! He is calling you!” Do not be afraid for “He made us” and we are “the flock He tends.” The gentle Lord desires nothing more than to heal your troubled soul. See that you now “follow Him up the road” in joy, growing daily in the new life and light of the Spirit of God.
O LORD, in your great mercy
you have saved us from our sins
that we might see your glory –
let us proclaim your marvelous works this day.
YHWH, we praise you for the mercy you bring to our souls. We were once blind and begging by the roadside, but you have heard our cries and healed us; and now we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem. In His very sacrifice we share, offering ourselves and our works up in His Name. So generous you are that in His priesthood we now share.
O LORD, though we are the poorest of sinners, though we have been so far from you and your mercy, mired in the deepest darkness, yet you have come to us, you have passed by the gutter in which we were splayed, and you have lifted us by your Word from our emptiness – you have given light to our eyes. Let us thank you now by following in your way, and so fulfill your grace at work in us.
O LORD, let all our carnal desires be stripped from us like an old cloak and let us stand with you in white robes. Truly, O LORD, make us your own, that we might praise you forevermore.