Fri, 1 December 2017
(Dn.7:15-27; Dn.3:59,82-87; Lk.21:34-36)
“The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell
on the face of the earth.”
And so we must “pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
The vision is explained to Daniel, and really it is quite simple: evil shall come, but good shall triumph in the end. Kingdoms of the Beast, of the evil one, “shall arise on earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever,” the angel tells Daniel, and reiterates this simple point: “All the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting.” Yes, evil kingdoms shall rise and make war “against the holy ones,” devouring the earth, beating it down, and crushing it… but the court of the Lord will be convened and the “final and absolute destruction” of the evil one is thus at hand. In Daniel’s vision “the time came when the holy ones possessed the kingdom.” And so it is; and so it shall be.
“Be on the watch,” the Lord exhorts us in our gospel for this the final day of our liturgical year. We must indeed “be on guard,” for if we do not watch, we will not be prepared for the coming day of the Lord which is ever at hand. Certainly we do not wish to be destroyed with the devil and his angels, but if our “spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares,” how shall we stand? And so it is that we must indeed pray constantly for the strength to withstand the coming chastisement – we cannot underestimate the devil’s power to seduce us with his lies even as the grass grows beneath our feet. As the grass grows, so must our spirits grow, in truth and goodness and love. His peace must surround us to guard us against the sin which attacks us here as we live and breathe upon the face of the earth.
The day will come. Let it be our joy to be found waiting for the Lord.
(And so, Advent is now upon us.)
O LORD, preserve us from what is to come;
give us the strength to stand in your glorious presence.
YHWH, the day of your judgment is coming upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, but on that day your holy ones will be glorified. The beasts and their kingdoms shall all be destroyed and your holy people will reign with your Son.
But we must be ready for that day; we cannot fall into drunkenness. If we become bloated with indulgence and worldly cares, we shall not stand secure before Jesus but be driven out with the evil one. O let not that day overtake us, dear LORD! Rather, take us then into your kingdom.
There is great trial coming upon this world; it is now underway. War is made against your holy ones, and they must suffer and even die. But let us praise your eternal glory, LORD. Let all your servants, the souls of all the just, bless your holy NAME. For our salvation is on the horizon, and nothing need we fear from Him who comes. Let us be awake in prayer.
Fri, 10 November 2017
(Rm.16:3-9,16,22-27; Ps.145:1-5,10-11; Lk.16:9-15)
“Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.”
We are in the world, and amongst the wealth of this world. We have nothing to do with money and the world – “You cannot serve God and money,” the Lord has told us, and so we cannot serve money… yet what have we to use but the riches of this world? And so “through use of this world’s goods,” by showing ourselves trustworthy with this “elusive wealth,” we find and bring others to the “lasting” riches of heaven.
Paul at the end of his letter to the Romans lists all his “fellow workers in the service of Christ.” Here are those who have been faithful with the elusive wealth of this world. They themselves have died, their bodies have been laid in the tomb, yet their works live on in the Spirit they have brought forth. Nothing of this world lasts long, yet these transitory things can and must be used, that “glory be given through Jesus Christ unto endless ages.”
“Generation after generation praises your works and proclaims your might,” sings David to the Lord. And with our voice, too, while we have breath, we must “speak of the splendor of [His] glorious majesty and tell of [His] wondrous works.” Forever and in all our works we must praise and bless the Lord of all, that all we do leads unto the glory of the kingdom, that in all we serve God with all our might. We must join ourselves to Him, and we do this by the gifts He gives us, and by employing now what is at our disposal. So it is. So it has been back beyond the time of Paul, and so it shall be unto the coming of eternity.
Today we must think of how well we use this world’s goods, how well we employ this Word of the Lord in the world. In the “little” things of our daily lives do we honor God, or are we unjust in some manner? For today begins the road to heaven; this time leads to eternity. And if we wish to find “lasting reception” with the Lord in heaven, we must be ever faithful in our works today. To God let us give thanks. May we who are the work of the Lord give praise to Him in all our works upon this earth.
O LORD, let us give you glory
through all that is at our hands.
YHWH, generation after generation praises your works; from the time of the apostles unto this day, all those who serve the Gospel of your Son speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty – let us always discourse of the glory of your reign and give you due praise by all we do in your NAME.
O LORD, we are in the world, and though we can never be of the world, what do we have but the world this day? And so we must use it wisely and make great profit by it, even the salvation of the world itself. May many men come into your presence by the work of your servants each day. And may we always be in their company.
O LORD, let our names be written in the Book of those who have faithfully served you, who have turned their backs on unjust gain for the sake of your Church. May we forever sing your praise with all those your Son has saved.
Sat, 4 November 2017
(Mal.1:14b-2:2b,8-10; Ps.131:1-3; 1Thes.2:7b-9,13; Mt.23:1-12)
“Have we not all the one Father?
Has not the one God created us?”
And should not those who serve in His stead, bringing the word of God to waiting hearts, be as He is, loving all as He does and thus giving “glory to [His] name”?
“I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me,” King David declares, thus revealing the blessed relationship of the faithful, humble disciple and His Lord. We are indeed as little children before God, and He loves us as a tender Father, as the One who has made us with great care. And so we should take our peace upon His lap.
And when the sheep of the flock come to the shepherds the Lord has appointed to teach in His Name, they should find a reflection of the Father’s presence – in these one should discover His love. Yes, they must instruct according to the Word placed upon their souls by their ordination, but they should not merit the words Jesus speaks of the Pharisees: “They preach but they do not practice.” For if “all their works are performed to be seen,” if they teach and preach without love, without living the word of God themselves, soon the flock will be led astray by their vanity and turn from the word they speak itself. Malachi prophesies to the priests of his day: “You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction.” If these leaders show no reverence of God themselves, who will be led to reverence by their instruction?
Yes, still our duty is to God Himself and our worship is of Him alone – and so Jesus teaches the people, “Do and observe whatsoever [the scribes and Pharisees] tell you, but do not follow their example” – but He also demands of His followers that they not possess the vanity of these proud leaders. Oh if all approached the service of Paul, how blessed our Church would be! Listen to his words to the Thessalonians: “Brothers and sisters: we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children,” for he and his fellow workers “were determined to share with [them] not only the Gospel of God, but [their] very selves as well,” so much did they love their flock with the love of God.
And this is as all pastors are called to be, “working night and day” for the little ones in their care. “Feed my sheep,” the Lord commanded His Rock; and all our priests are called to feed the members of the Church not only with the Word of God, but also with His love, that they might learn to take refuge in Him who is Father of all. I ask you, has the Lord not become incarnate in our midst? And should that Incarnation not be known in all our flesh and in all our bone? Then let us serve one another in love.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Everyone's A Baby, Everyone's A Child" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us humble ourselves
before you, our Father.
YHWH, let us all be humble before you, as children on their mother’s lap; then we shall know your blessing – then we shall live in your love. But if we should become proud and seek the praise of others, our souls will be thus corrupted and we will know you no more.
O LORD, please send us holy priests to guide us in your ways. May they always preach your Word in truth that our hearts might not go astray; and may they live according to the Gospel they impart, that an example of your self-giving love will be ever with us.
What is a family without a father, and how can we be your children without your image revealed among us, without the instruction and sacrifice of your Son made real in our midst? You have created us, dear LORD, and you desire to share your blessings with us all. In genuine humility let us come before you and others, serving ever your saving Word.
Fri, 3 November 2017
(Rm.11:1-2,11-12,25-29; Ps.94:12-15,17-18; Lk.14:1,7-11)
“The Lord will not cast off His people,
nor abandon His inheritance.”
Today the gifts and call of the Israelites, which are “irrevocable,” are spoken of beautifully in our readings.
Indeed, the majority of Jews rejected and even persecuted Jesus and His followers. But as Paul tells us, the Lord has always and will always leave a remnant among them to maintain His covenant with them. As Paul reminds us, “I myself am an Israelite.” And of course so were all the apostles. God has not rejected His people, for “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” The promise He has made to bless the Israelites stands to this day.
Paul explains clearly the wisdom of God and how He works through the transgressions of the Jews to bring the Gentiles to salvation. And how the Gentiles’ conversion and the grace poured upon them shall lead the Israelite people back to the Lord: “Blindness has come upon part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles enter in, and then all Israel will be saved.” Yes, all Israel will yet be saved; they shall yet come flowing to the mountain of God, to His Son, and find redemption, and find the honor bestowed upon them; and by their turning, how much all His holy people shall be blessed! “Judgment shall again be with justice, and all the upright of heart shall follow it.” Alleluia!
But there is another lesson for us today, and it, too, has to do with the quality needed by the chosen. Jesus speaks of it clearly in our gospel, and it illustrates the difficulty the Jews have in coming to the Lord, and warns us against the same mistake. Jesus comes to dinner “at the house of one of the leading Pharisees” and witnesses the guests scrambling for the best seats at table. Quietly He speaks to them, gently He reminds them, that they are not called to exaltation of their own position, gifted as it may or may not be, but to humility before all, as He has indeed shown us. How unlike our Lord, who though in the form of God humbled Himself to become human and even to die on a cross (without uttering a word), are they. And here is the teaching of Christ: “Sit in the lowest place.” The greater our call, the deeper should be our humility. This emptying ourselves as has Jesus is an indispensable virtue for any Christian. And only it will bring the Jew to realize the presence of Christ in his midst.
And should we who have been grafted to the kingdom’s tree late in time boast of our gift, walk with haughty eyes in His house? By no means, lest we be cast off by Him. Let us rather treasure the grace the Lord has granted us, preserve His call within us, and make our election permanent, beneath the shadow of His cross.
O LORD, we shall not enter your reign
until we are humble before you;
your Son is ever present
and so we must ever give place to Him.
YHWH, you do not abandon your people, Jew or Gentile believer, but serve in your wisdom to bring all to salvation, if they but humble themselves before you. For pride is the only thing that can condemn us, the only thing that can keep us from you and your merciful love; and so if you make your people to stumble, it is only for their good, only to see that they shall inherit your glory by their conformity to the humility of your only Son.
There is a greater than all of us present here at our feast. Should we not make room for Jesus, LORD? And if we do not, if we clamor to take our place above your Chosen One, if we look upon the gifts and graces that come to us only through Him and use them as excuse to exalt ourselves above others, will not such conceit, will not such blindness to the presence of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins keep us from sharing in His body and blood? O let us enter your gates by taking the lowest place with your chosen ones.
Thu, 2 November 2017
(Rm.9:1-5; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Lk.14:1-6)
“They could not answer.”
The Pharisees are dumb. The leaders of the Jewish nation cannot speak as to whether a man should be healed on the sabbath. How far they have fallen from the presence of God.
We know the Israelites were God’s chosen people. This is proclaimed clearly by both Paul and our psalmist today: “Theirs were the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the lawgiving, the worship, and the promises; theirs were the patriarchs, and from them came the Messiah”; yet when the Messiah, the Son, the fulfillment of all the gifts given them, stands before them… they are blind, they are dumb – they have no wisdom, no light. This is the nation whom the Lord has given “His statutes and His ordinances… He has not done thus for any other nation.” And yet they are unable to judge that it is right for a man to be healed at any time, that this is God’s will, that human life supersedes the mere observance of law, a law they have suffocated of its life.
And we? Again, being successors to the Jews we must always ask ourselves if we do the things which caused the promise to be taken from their hands. Do we proclaim the glory of this Word? Do we “speak the truth in Christ”? Or do we keep silent, too? And not the silence that bears all suffering as has our Savior upon the cross do I speak – I mean the death of the Word in our souls. The inability to discern His will. The fear to praise God by teaching the nations of the grace which has been granted us. “He sends forth His command to the earth; swiftly runs His Word!” But does that Word come through us, does it work through us who are the keepers of the New Covenant, or do we let it die in our throats?
“Blessed forever be God who is over all!” Paul shouts as despair he begins to detect for the failure of so many Jews to turn to Christ. And so we should ever praise our God whenever doubt or fear enters our soul. It is our only refuge. It is our only strength. Silence before the courts of this world which observe us closely will not do. Acceptance of our death, yes, but not fear of retribution should be ours. We must speak the truth in love, relying on the wisdom which comes from Him alone as we make our way through the challenges of this world.
O LORD, why should our mouths be shut
in the presence of your glory?
YHWH, may your Word run swiftly to us and work swiftly through us. May we never hesitate to proclaim your praise, to declare your love for all in all our words and actions. May we think only the good and seek only your will. Let the dictates of the law never quash our souls.
How blessed were your chosen people, LORD! All things were given them at your gracious hands. True worship of you was theirs; but how far they have fallen from your love. Though all was made known to them by your Word, they forgot the blessing upon their nation and became blind to your will. O let their eyes be opened!
You desire only good for all, dearest LORD, and nothing that is for our neighbor’s good can contravene your law. The law you give to lead us to glory, and now that glory is in our midst in your only Son. Let us open our hearts to His teaching and live forever in your love.
Sun, 29 October 2017
(Rm.8:12-17; Ps.68:2,4,6-7,20-21; Lk.13:10-17)
“All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
It is the Spirit of God that led the poor stooped woman in our gospel today to the synagogue to see and hear the teaching of Jesus the Lord, and to find a healing for her infirmity. “This daughter of Abraham… in the bondage of Satan for eighteen years” was by the Lord “released from her shackles” and became a daughter also of the Most High God. She is a sign of us all. For all, whether sons of Abraham by the flesh or not, are called into the presence of God to find healing for the sin and sadness and oppression of the devil which trouble us. On our own we cannot stand straight in the sight of God, but by the touch of Jesus we find our dignity and become sons of God with Him.
God is “the father of orphans and the defender of widows”; He “gives a home to the forsaken.” And so we who were once under the “spirit of slavery” to sin may now find “a spirit of adoption through which we cry out, ‘Abba!’ (that is, ‘Father’).” Once having no father to watch over us, now “the Spirit Himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” A greater blessing one could not find than to be a son or daughter of the Most High God. For “God is a saving God for us.” Not only does He love us, but He shows that love even by dying for us, that we might live.
And it is so that “if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God, heirs with Christ.” And though it is by the death of Jesus that we are made heirs of the Father’s glory, we only come into full possession of the riches of our glorious Lord by our own death, for we must “suffer with Him so as to be glorified with Him.” It is this death of ours, a death to self, to flesh, to sin and the world, that brings us the life of Him “who controls the passageways of death” and so is able to free us from all death.
Day by day the Lord “bears our burdens.” On all days, eternally, He is our Father and our Savior, waiting to heal us. Whenever we come to Him, we shall find Him ready to bless us. His Spirit He sends upon all, like a sun that never sets, calling us to His presence. We must but respond in humility and faith, and as we bow ourselves before Him, He will raise us up to the dignity He desires for all our lives. And we shall be His sons.
O LORD, your Son bears our burdens for us –
He releases us from bondage to the flesh
that we might live with Him in the Holy Spirit.
YHWH, orphans and widows we have been, far from you we were separated from the beginning, cast off like a forsaken wife. And we could not find our way back to you by the flesh, try as we might by following the line of our ancestors – this but brought us back repeatedly to their weakness, to their separation from your grace, from the light of your holy face.
But your Son you sent to show us the way to you. In Him we find the blood that must course through our veins; wed unto His flesh we are redeemed…. It is He who puts to death the evil deeds of the body and makes us sons once again of you – now His Spirit is upon us to call out your NAME, dear Father.
O let us be your children! wherever we are from; whether children of Abraham or of foreign lands, let us all be blessed this holy day to know the healing touch of your Son and so inherit your kingdom. O LORD, of your love let us not be afraid.
Thu, 19 October 2017
(Rm.4:1-8; Ps.32:1-2,5,7,11; Lk.12:1-7)
“Happy is the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.”
All our sins shall be taken away by the Lord who watches over us and loves us, if we but believe.
We must lay bare our souls, brothers and sisters. We cannot hide from the eternal, piercing light of God. His hand is upon us at all times; His heart is open always for our entering in. It cannot be otherwise with the Lord of the universe, in whose sight “even the hairs of [our] head are counted.” And He who surrounds us desires but our love, desires but our faith, desires but that we come into His presence confessing our sins, and He will take them away. And we shall not be “cast into Gehenna” but drawn into His kingdom.
His kingdom is coming. Jesus sees it as He gazes out at the dense “crowd of thousands” gathering before Him. He sees the kingdom coming as men’s hearts turn to Him. And so He warns His disciples, who shall be the laborers to reap His harvest, “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” for if they should take pride in their mission, if they should find in their deeds “grounds for boasting” and so forget the favor of God by which all are justified, they shall indeed tempt the fires of Gehenna. “Everything you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight,” for the Lord hears “what you have whispered in locked rooms.” So, keep your hearts set on Him and His goodness, and the truth of the Gospel will be proclaimed to the world, and you shall save your immortal soul.
Jesus knows, too, that the faith of His disciples and their declaration of His Word to the world will bring persecution. He sees in this scene, too, the cross set before Him, and He knows those who follow Him shall share in it as well. And so He reassures His children that the Father is with them, that He treasures them even as He treasures His Son, and so the powers of this age will hold no reign over them, and that they should “not be afraid of those who kill the body and can do no more.”
Yes, our soul is in His hands. He has power to forgive and to protect, if we but come to Him as children, if we but come to Him in faith.
O LORD, all is known to you –
let us confess our sins, and we will be saved.
YHWH, of what can we boast, we who cannot forgive our own sins? Truly, we are in your hands, and so should fear you.
But in your kindness you readily forgive our transgressions; if we turn to you, our sins are wiped away. And so, there is nothing we need fear, LORD, as long as our desire is for you.
Help us to confess our faults that you might remove all our guilt. Inspire us to call upon your NAME, O LORD, and we shall rejoice in your blessings. If we but have faith in you, your justice will be upon us.
There is nothing of consequence we can accomplish on our own, nothing but sin. All the good that we do comes from you, and so, what cause have we to be proud? Let us not be false in our love for you, LORD, but even in the deep recesses of our hearts proclaim your glory continually. O may all men come to faith and be saved!
Fri, 22 September 2017
(1Tm.6:13-16; Ps.100:2-5; Lk.8:4-15)
“Keep God’s command without blame or reproach
until our Lord Jesus shall appear.”
The Lord’s “kindness endures forever, and His faithfulness, to all generations,” and we must endure with Him, ever showing forth His kindness and faithfulness to the world, until we come to dwell with Him eternally “in inapproachable light.”
When God brings His appearance “to pass at His chosen time” will we stand ready? Will we persevere in service of truth until that day of which we know not? Brothers and sisters, “Let everyone who has ears attend to what he has heard.” Let us not “fall away in time of temptation.” Let us not have our progress “stifled by the cares and riches and pleasures of life.” Let us mature. Let us remain faithful in all adversity. Let us always grow in His Word. Let us “hear the word in a spirit of openness, retain it, and bear fruit through perseverance.” Then we shall “yield grain a hundredfold”; then we shall know the “joyful song” that reverberates eternally in His “everlasting rule.”
Patience. We must have patience. And wisdom. We must know and remember that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are, His people, the flock He tends.” Always we must take refuge in Him, living the “noble profession” to which He calls us as His blessed children to whom “the mysteries of the reign of God have been confided.” And knowing this, knowing Him, how can we turn to anything else? What can distract or destroy the heart set on God? It is not possible that anything can overcome us if we stand fast as seed planted by the hand of God and allow His Spirit to perpetually nourish our growth. We must be as plants which bend ever to His light; the cleansing water of His Word must be cherished and preserved by holy souls. And we shall grow.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise.” This is our destiny; and this is the blessing we find even now as we make continual progress in His Name and rejoice at the gifts and graces He bears us as we struggle ever to bear witness to His glory working in our lives. Stand fast, brothers and sisters, and persevere till the end. May His Word remain in you, His Bread nourish you daily, and you will be kept beyond reproach.
O LORD, let us keep well your Word
and grow in Jesus’ light,
until He returns and gathers us into His arms.
YHWH, you dwell in unapproachable light; no one has seen you or can see you. Yet you call us into your presence, you desire us to enter your gates singing praise. Let us not be deaf to your blessed call but cherish the Word your Son brings us, the Word and Bread He is for us, and so grow always unto your kingdom, until He appears and unites us with you forever.
How empty our hearts can be, O LORD, empty of you and distracted by the world. There are so many things which take our attention from the glory of your presence here among us this day. And so, how easily we die, how easily we wither for want of your Word. Why should we concern ourselves with the passing things of this vain world when your Son stands before us and calls us into your kingdom? Let us rather give thanks to Him for such kindness; let us rather bless your holy NAME, that we might endure until His coming and bear fruit worthy of Heaven.
Fri, 15 September 2017
(1Tm.1:15-17; Ps.113:1-7; Lk.6:43-49)
“Any man who desires to come to me
will hear my words and put them into practice.”
Our psalm today declares that God is “enthroned on high” – “High above all the nations is the Lord; above the heavens is His glory.” And why is the Lord so glorious, so worthy of our praise…? Because “He raises the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill He lifts up the poor.” And Paul tells us the same: he glorifies God as “King of the ages, the immortal, the invisible, the only God” – and why? Because though he is “the worst” of sinners, the Lord has dealt mercifully with him and made him an example of His great love.
The Lord indeed is great and worthy of all praise. Though seated far above us, He reaches down to lift us up to Him. In a word: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Humbling Himself to walk and die among us, He calls us to eternal life. But we must answer that call, we must follow His way. We cannot simply call Him “Lord, Lord”; we must indeed “put into practice” His words. If we do not, we cannot find the fruit of His sacrifice for us. Mere words, simple verbal assent, is not sufficient to bring us to the blood of Christ and the redemption it holds. It is by our actions we are judged and not our words. Jesus makes this very clear: “Each tree is known by its yield.” If we do not produce good fruit, how can we claim to be a good tree? And doesn’t the Lord cut down every tree that fails to bear fruit in His name?
All shall hear His words, all shall know of the glory He offers forth. But shall all be as the apostle Paul and put His words into practice, suffering for the faith He proclaimed? Will all make real the teaching of Christ in their lives? Those who do will find themselves set on a firm foundation – His word will be in their flesh and blood. They will receive Him into their very beings and find Him at the center of all they think and do. Without His presence so firmly fixed within themselves by their living it in their actions, salvation will be far away, and their houses shall crumble. Brothers and sisters, let us not fail to realize the salvation He offers us sinners. In His goodness, let us produce good from our hearts.
O LORD, it is your mercy
that sets us on a solid foundation
from which we may praise you for your goodness.
YHWH, you are far above all nations, above the heavens and the earth, and yet in your Son you stoop down to us, and raise us from this dunghill. We are but dust in your sight – we could be no better in relation to you. And yet you show great patience with us poor creatures; you have mercy on our sinful souls.
Jesus you send to walk among us and show us the way we should walk. Help us to put into practice what He teaches, in His words and in all He does, and we shall be set solidly in your goodness, LORD, and bear fruit worthy of your NAME.
But if we should be so foolish as to ignore the great gift of the Christ in our midst, if we should fail to listen to Him and act according to His teaching – what hope will there be for us? For then the great work of saving sinners He has come to accomplish in your glorious NAME, we shall receive in vain, and in our sin ever remain. Save us from such an evil fate, O Most High God!
Fri, 25 August 2017
(Ruth 2:1-3,8-11,4:13-17; Ps.128:1-5; Mt.23:1-12)
“The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.”
Today we can contrast the faith of Ruth with the Pharisees’ of Jesus’ time. In our first reading, Ruth says to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Let me go and glean ears of grain in the field of anyone who will allow me that favor.” She puts herself at ready service in all humility, despite the potential dangers that come with being a foreign woman working in a place dominated by men who may not have the greatest of respect for women in general and especially for her. In contrast, in our gospel Jesus says of the Pharisees, “They bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, to lay on other men’s shoulders, while they themselves will not lift a finger to budge them.” These Pharisees have no heart for service; they are sooner the oppressors of the poor and vulnerable, and are rather concerned for “places of honor at banquets” and “marks of respect in public” than the needs of others. How stark the contrast is between she who serves and those who are inflated with pride.
And how true are Jesus’ words: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Indeed, God’s providential hand watches over Ruth as she gleans in the field that “happened to be the section belonging to Boaz of the clan of Elimalech,” her father-in-law, and so a close kinsman. Not only does Boaz make provision for her safe and fruitful gleaning of his fields – instructing his young men to do her “no harm” and indeed to leave food behind that it will be easy for her to gather – but he seeks diligently to take her to wife… and through their union she (and Naomi) is blessed with a son who will be grandfather to King David. But what of these Pharisees and their vanity? From them Jesus will take the keys of the kingdom, the teaching authority on earth which they so misuse for their own gain, and give it to others as He builds His Church on Peter and the apostles. And so today we hold up Ruth as a model of faith, while these dead men’s bones which walked the earth in whitewashed tombs now find their home rotting in the grave.
“You shall eat the fruit of your handiwork,” our psalm proclaims. Those like Ruth who “fear the Lord, who walk in His ways… shall be like a fruitful vine” and their “children like olive plants around” their table. However, those inflated with pride, serving no one but themselves, shall come to naught. Let us heed our Lord’s warning today not to exalt ourselves in any work we do, but rather set our hearts on serving others. Then we shall truly be fruitful, for then we shall know the fruits of heaven.
O LORD, you bless all those who fear you,
who are humble before you.
YHWH, make us humble before you and before others, ever willing to serve in your NAME. Then we shall be blessed. Then we shall find our place in your kingdom. For then we shall be fruitful and our fruits shall raise us to you.
Anyone to whom you lead us, let us serve, dear LORD. Guide our steps to the field where we shall glean grain for food that will sustain us all our days. You alone are our nourishment, and fed by your hand we shall have abundance.
But if into pride we fall, exalting ourselves above others, assuming the place reserved for you and your Son, how we shall be cast down! Our hearts and our hands will be empty as our deeds: our vanity will spell our end. No fruit of any worth shall we bear, and so our souls shall starve for want of love. O LORD, let us be truly humble! Let us be like you.
Wed, 16 August 2017
(Jos.3:7-11,13-17; Ps.114:1-6; Mt.18:21-19:1)
“My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
The forgiveness of sins and the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land is our theme today. Both are very much one and the same.
In our gospel Jesus tells the parable of the merciless servant in order to teach Peter and the apostles of the office of forgiveness which is theirs through his intercession. When one of a king’s officials is unable to pay his debt, he “prostrates himself” before the king and begs for time. “Moved with pity,” the master lets the official go and writes off the debt. (In just the same way the apostles are to forgive those who repent of their sins.) But the same servant who is forgiven then demonstrates no forgiveness to a fellow servant, demanding from him all that is owed and throwing him in jail. When the king gets wind of the servant’s lack of mercy, he removes the forgiveness of his debt and seeks to extract every penny from him. The parable illustrates Jesus’ central teaching: we must forgive to be forgiven. And it indicates the power of forgiveness Jesus, the King, gives to His apostles, the officials, the servants – evident in its being prompted by Peter’s question regarding forgiveness. The Lord reminds them (and us) of the forgiveness they have received from Him, and that they should carry this gift to others.
A metaphor of this power is presented in our first reading. Joshua, Moses’ successor, leads the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land at the instruction of the Lord. Notice what causes the waters of the Jordan to “halt in a solid bank,” allowing the people to pass over on dry land (much as the previous generation had done at the Red Sea). The waters cease flowing “when the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord… touch the water of the Jordan.” Much as Christ and His apostles stand in the breach interceding for the forgiveness of our sins and thus drawing us into the heavenly kingdom, so “the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.” Of old the priests led by Joshua found their power of intercession in the ark of the covenant which held the Ten Commandments; today our priests, led by Peter, find their power of forgiveness in the cross of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us all forgive one another from the heart. Let us flee in fear like the “Jordan turned back” on its course the danger of holding a grudge or failing to share the blessings we have received from Jesus. Let us cross the Jordan to the Promised Land ourselves and serve to draw others into the heavenly kingdom. Let us not disappoint our Father and so know His wrath; let us shine His loving mercy forth till all have crossed on dry land.
O LORD, without forgiveness in our heart,
we shall never cross over into the Promised Land.
YHWH, how shall we pass into the Promised Land if you do not go with us; and how shall you go with us if we are burdened by sin? We need you to go before us, and we need your forgiveness, or we shall be left on the banks of the Jordan.
And how shall we be forgiven our sins and find your presence among us if we fail to forgive those who are indebted to us? O LORD, how can a man with a hardened heart come before you who are mercy itself? He has no place in your kingdom, and so the waters which would have cleansed him of his sins drown him instead.
Send us your priests, dear LORD, to lead us in your stead. May Peter be at the head of your people to bring them as has Joshua, as does Jesus, into your Promised Land. And may we thus be freed from sin that we might follow them.
Fri, 11 August 2017
(Dt.6:4-13; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; Mt.17:14-20)
“Praised be the Lord, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.”
In our first reading we hear the Shema, the great Commandment of the Mosaic Law – the Lord is God and we must love Him with all our being. Moses exhorts the people “not to forget to the Lord,” who brought them out of slavery in the land of Egypt and is about to bless them abundantly in the Promised Land. Quite graphic is he, and are their practices, in encouraging remembrance of the Lord’s command. His words are to be drilled into the children, bound at wrists and on foreheads, and written “on the doorposts of… houses and on… gates.” And David’s psalm mightily extols the love we should have for our Lord: “My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!” the great king of the Israelites exclaims in his overflowing praise for his saving Lord, in whom he finds his strength. Indeed, the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is our life and our salvation.
And it is the faith at the heart of our praise of God which saves us from our enemies, which redeems us from our sins. Jesus demonstrates this clearly in our gospel today. “What an unbelieving and perverse lot you are!” the Lord declares in chastisement of His disciples and all those who would seek His graces, His healing, for they have not the faith to rescue the possessed boy from the grip of the devil. Where is their praise of the Lord’s Name? Where is their surpassing love of Him? How is it their belief in the Lord’s power to deliver from the bonds of slavery has been so easily shaken? Is it not “the Lord alone” who is God? “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would be able to say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible for you.” Let these words be inscribed upon our hearts, that we will never forget the abundant glory of God which we possess by our faith in Him.
Glorious are you, O Lord, beyond all creatures, beyond all existence! Far above us do you sit, and yet how close to our hearts do you remain. There is none who compares with you; there is nothing in the heavens or on earth greater than you, for you have created all that is. Strengthen our failing love, let it match the glory of your presence, that we might be delivered from all sin and conquer all evil in your divine Name. Give us faith and trust in you, and we will praise you forever. Safe from our enemies, we will glory always in your everlasting love.
O LORD, let us praise your NAME
and so find safety from all our enemies.
YHWH, give us the grace to love you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, you who alone are God, you who alone are good. It is you alone who care for us, who provide for our every need. May your blessing remain upon us as we praise your holy NAME.
Where shall we find faith, O LORD, even the size of a mustard seed, we who are such a perverse and unbelieving lot? How can we learn to trust in you and in your power to do all – and to do all through us weak vessels. It is you alone who have all power; by your Word the entire universe came to be and is sustained…. Help us to take refuge in that Word and not in the world of passing things.
We love you, LORD, our Rock, our shield, the sword of our salvation! But we are indeed weak and forgetful souls in need of healing. Increase our faith in you and in your Son, that we might serve you alone.
Sun, 6 August 2017
(Nm.11:4-15; Ps.81:2,12-17; Mt.14:22-36)
“How little faith you have!”
It is the Lord’s exclamation to His holy apostles, to the foundation of His Church – to His Rock. And certainly it applies to all of us as it does, too, to the Israelites in the desert. All need greater faith to come upon the new shore of paradise and find healing for all our ills.
As the Israelites tramp through the desert, they grow tired of heavenly food and desire something earthen. Their faith in God is shaken by the lusts of their belly, and their outcry against the Lord grieves His servant Moses. He finds himself unable to carry this stiff-necked people “like a foster father carrying an infant.” He breaks under the burden of “all the people” even as Peter – who shall have to carry the whole Church upon his shoulders – trembles at the wind upon the sea. Moses asks for death to find relief, and Peter cries as he begins to sink… and the Lord will “at once stretch out His hand” and catch them both, His ears ever open to the prayers of His holy ones. But greater faith will they both need to have to lead God’s people forward. Peter will find it after Pentecost (though not before denying Him three times), and the stubbornness of the Israelites, “the hardness of their hearts,” will keep Moses from the earthly Promised Land; only in the next world will he discover paradise.
The faith we need to make it through the desert that is this world and come into the heavenly kingdom of our Lord and God is spoken by those trembling in the storm-tossed boat: “Undoubtedly you are the Son of God,” and exhibited by the men of Gennesaret. For they “brought Him all the afflicted, with the plea that He let them do no more than touch the tassel of His cloak.” Thus, the same faith the woman in the crowd with the open wound for years had shown Jesus on His way to raise the little child is shown here by these poor sinners, for “as many as touched it were fully restored to health.”
A word from His mouth. A drop of His blood. The touch of His hand. The hem of His garment. A crust of bread from His table… This is all we need. If we have faith, in a moment we will be restored to life; we will be redeemed from all our ills, from all our sins – from all the temptations of our bellies and this desert. The sea may rage and contend with the wind, but we will remain calm and patient in His presence: we will walk on water, we will find “honey from the rock,” if we have but faith. It is not far away, and that the size of a mustard seed is all we need. Find relief from all your distress by calling upon the Savior.
O LORD, what little faith we have! –
how quickly we forget you are our loving God.
YHWH, how can we face the distress of this world, the wind and the waves that threaten to overcome us, the disobedience of those in our care? It is a weight too heavy for us to bear! How could Moses carry your people through the desert; how does Peter hold up your Church? Indeed, it is only by faith we have any strength at all – indeed, it is you who bear all our burdens.
Under the weight of the Cross Jesus has sweated and died. All He has taken upon Himself. And we need but say: “Undoubtedly you are the Son of God!” to the One you have sent to save us, and all our burdens will be lifted from us, and we will be preserved from death. But what little faith we have, O LORD! and how much we need your help.
But you are faithful when we call out to you, dear God. You desire to feed us with finest wheat. You would heal all our ills and bring us to the farther shore, if we but believed in your loving Son.
Wed, 26 July 2017
(Ex.19:1-2,9-11,16-20; Dn.3:52-56; Mt.13:10-17)
“Blest are your eyes because they see
and blest are your ears because they hear.”
Jesus tells us today, “Many a prophet and many a saint longed to see what you see but did not see it, to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” How blessed are we, for the light of His face now shines upon us, for His teaching is now in our ears.
With fear and trembling the Israelites came to Mount Sinai to witness the presence of God. They wished not to be there as He revealed Himself in mighty signs: “There were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” What an astounding scene! For “the whole mountain trembled” and “the trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God answering Him with thunder.” Here is the revelation of God in all His majesty as He communicates Himself to His people. Our psalm, too, sings of the glory of the Lord and the praise due Him: “Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,” “on the throne of your kingdom,” “in the firmament of heaven.” The Lord is indeed “exalted above all for all ages.”
But overwhelming as the Lord is and difficult as it may be to find Him, we must never close our hearts to His presence. Yes, there must always be proper fear for the awesome glory of God, but our eyes must yet be open to see Him and our ears open to hear Him. He comes now to us not in thunder, not in earthquakes – but in a still, small voice… in the gentle presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And though this pregnant silence radiating the Word of God may be just as fearful to the heart darkened by the cares of the world, though the refining fire it is may bring a greater pain to the soul being cleansed of its sin, we must not turn away as did the ancient Israelites, as did many of Jesus’ time: we must not allow our hearts to be “sluggish” to understand.
He stands before us now, present here at Mass and in all His holy sacraments. Indeed, He comes to us speaking through the people and all the things around us. He is ever calling to our hearts, ever shining His light upon our minds. Do we open ourselves to Him? Do we seek to grow in the Spirit each day, every day…? Blessed are we now that Jesus has come and on the third day been raised from the dead. The Lord instructed Moses: “On the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.” That day is now fulfilled in our sight; let us cleanse our hearts, that we might be prepared to see Him.
O LORD, what we see and hear,
what we taste and touch,
each day at your altar!
YHWH, how can we look upon you who are so far beyond our understanding, who are exalted above all for all ages, we who are so sluggish of heart? The ancient Israelites trembled at your glorious presence revealed to them at Mount Sinai. How could they bear the trumpet blasts, your voice speaking in peals of thunder, the fire, the smoke covering the mountain…? Would not any soul die at such display? How shall we approach your mountain?
Yet you look into the depths in which we dwell in our misery, in our darkness and our fear, and you come to us gently in the presence of your Son. Our fears you understand, LORD, and so seek to allay them; yet our blindness remains. Even to Jesus we close our hearts, though He comes only in love and bearing blessed truth to save our souls.
O let our eyes look gladly upon His face and our ears hear expectantly the words from His lips! Let us turn to Him, LORD, and find healing for our hardened hearts. Let us be at peace in your presence.
Sun, 23 July 2017
(Ex.14:5-18; Ex.15:1-6; Mt.12:38-42)
“The Lord Himself will fight for you;
you have only to keep still.”
But the scribes and the Pharisees cannot keep still, cannot hold faith firmly in their hearts, but are anxious for a sign. But it is “an evil and unfaithful age” that is “eager for a sign,” and so no sign will bring it salvation. Jesus indeed will die and rise again, but it will be of no avail to those whose hearts are closed, to those who blindly fight by their own power. Indeed, a sign was not needed by either the queen of the South or by Ninevah; the wisdom and the preaching that come from the Lord were enough for them to bend the knee and to repent. These pagans, these foreigners, had hearts open and seeking the word of the Lord – and so shall be saved thereby. But these scribes and Pharisees who hear the wisdom and truth pouring forth from the lips of Christ are deaf to its significance, and so shall be condemned.
The Lord indeed it must be who fights for us, and not we ourselves. We must sing with Moses, “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior.” Knowing we can do nothing by our own power, let us shout to our God, “Your right hand, O Lord, has shattered the enemy.” Is it Moses’ staff and “hand outstretched” which part the Red Sea, or is it indeed the Lord’s power? Is it we who save ourselves from the pursuit of sin marching like Pharaoh’s army against us, or is it God who hurls “Pharaoh’s chariots and army… into the sea”?
“Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today,” brothers and sisters. As He saved the Israelites from the relentless pursuit of the Egyptians, so He will save your soul from the onslaught of sin upon your soul. You must but trust in Him. Take not refuge in signs and wonders, which you might forget upon their passing, but be still and wait for the Lord, listening for His voice, remaining steady in the faith He instills in your heart, and you will not be shaken by the temptations and distractions and fears brought by the world and its blinded mind. “They sank into the depths of the sea like a stone,” Scripture tells us: so it will be with your sins and the temptations which surround you. “These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.” Have but faith in your hearts.
Jesus, may we simply know that you are with us
and follow in your footsteps each day.
Fight for us, O Lord,
for the battle is always yours.
O LORD, greater even than Moses
is your Son Jesus Christ;
should we not listen to Him and reform our lives?
YHWH, Jesus has drowned our sins in the sea, buried them in the belly of the earth, and we have been raised up with Him, saved from the pursuit of evil. In glory is He covered now; may we indeed stand with Him on the far shore.
Slaves of the Egyptians never let us be again. To fear of the march of Pharaoh’s army never let us return. O let us be filled with trust in you, LORD! Let us indeed be still and allow you to work for us. For it is only by your right hand, by your magnificent power, that we are saved from the pursuit of the enemy – only by the sacrifice of your Son are we preserved from sin and death. Let us today reform our lives that we might escape condemnation. Let us put our faith in the wisdom of your Son.
We need no sign beyond the presence of your Christ in our midst. O LORD, let us go forward through the sea with Him at our side.
Tue, 4 July 2017
(Gn.21:5,8-20; Ps.34:7-8,10-13; Mt.8:28-34)
“When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress He saved him.”
Ishmael is the model of the afflicted man calling out to the Lord and being heard in all his distress. His very name means “he whom God hears” and indeed we see clearly today how, though “it is through Isaac that descendants shall bear [Abraham’s] name,” nonetheless, the Lord has pity on Ishmael and his plight – his rejection by the mother of the promised child and his wandering in a trackless waste – and declares that of him a “great nation” shall come. Indeed he is left to die by his mother, so desperate had their situation become; but upon the child’s crying out, the Lord hears and sends His angel to assist them and assure them of the boy’s future greatness.
Ishmael is a son of Abraham; though born of a slave woman, yet “he too is [Abraham’s] offspring,” and so for this the Lord takes special care to watch over him. For God has chosen Abraham to be the father of many nations and does not wish to see His blessed patriarch distressed. We have already seen how God has heard the prayer of Abraham for Lot; now we see the same regarding Abraham’s concern for Ishmael.
We must, brothers and sisters, understand whence our own blessing comes. We are spiritual sons of Abraham, of Moses, of David… but most particularly we are children of Jesus and His apostles, the Church. A far greater intercessor have we in the Son of God Himself, so let us not be afraid to cry out to Him in our need. For if God heard the prayers of Abraham, how much more will He hear the prayers of His Son? And if God watched over the kin and offspring of the blessed patriarch, how much more concern does He have for the children of light born of the blood of Jesus Christ?
Our confidence must be sure in Him, for He cannot help but hear our prayer. Indeed, our gospel tells us that when “the demons kept appealing to Him,” even them He heard and granted their plea. If the Lord hears such as these, how can we even begin to doubt His presence to us? Now let us not be afraid to come to Him. Let us not be like the inhabitants of that Gadarene territory who found the Lord too much to bear and “begged Him to leave their neighborhood.” Let us not think in our hearts coming to Him we will die, that His light is simply too bright. No. He calls us as children to take refuge in Him.
It is His desire to bless our days. Turn not away from Him, for as David sings for us, “Those who seek the Lord want for no good thing”; He hears and answers all our cries.
O LORD, you have power to bless and to save;
you have pity on every poor man,
and so, let us not be afraid to cry out to you.
YHWH, you cannot help but answer our cries; your Son cannot turn his back on those in need, those who plead for His mercy. For you are love and mercy itself, and your compassion knows no bounds. And so, the son of the slave girl you bless, and even respond to the demons’ request.
And will you not hear us when we call to you, LORD? Should we doubt your concern for our well-being? Every afflicted soul you would save from distress, if he would but your mercy seek.
For this grace let us praise you, LORD; let us not turn away from you in fear. For our sins you would wipe away, remembering them no more. Be with us now and let us grow in you. Let us remain with you forever, your blessing upon us all our days. O let us prosper in your love, in your holy presence.
Fri, 30 June 2017
(Gn.18:1-15; Lk.1:46-50,53-55; Mt.8:5-17)
“Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?”
Our theme again is faith. Do we believe as Abraham, as Mary, as the centurion? Only such trust will save us.
In our first reading the Lord appears to Abraham. We have here the marvelous scene of faith being born, being conceived. Abraham sits patiently, waiting, praying – expectant of the Lord’s return to confirm His word to him. Then, “looking up, he saw three men nearby.” There is the Lord before him. His reaction is one we all must learn to follow: he does not hesitate an instant. He runs to them, bows before them (even to the ground), and begs them to stay with him that he might serve them. With haste he has food prepared for them, “and he waited on them under the tree while they ate”; his eyes “like the eyes of a servant on the hand of his master” (Ps.123:2), he watches their every move to be certain they are well pleased. (In addition to this quote from Psalms, one cannot help but think of Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation (3:20): “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”)
As Abraham sits there gazing at the Lord, He speaks to His servant: “Where is your wife, Sarah?” Here comes that which Abraham has been longing to hear. His heart leaps up, and the Lord states His promise in no uncertain terms. Now Sarah laughs. But Abraham is no longer laughing. The Lord tests him with the question, “Why did Sarah laugh?” to show to Abraham that he no longer thinks the promise too marvelous for the Lord to fulfill. The Lord repeats the promise. Abraham believes to the depths of his soul; He knows the word spoken to him is of truth. And he shall take his wife in fruitful embrace.
How appropriate to hear Mary’s Magnificat in our daily bread, she who is the handmaiden of the Lord, who believed the words of the angel and so found the greatest blessing of the Lord and the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. How like Mary, the model of all the faithful, has her father Abraham come to be.
And, of course, our gospel finds Jesus marveling at the faith of the Roman centurion, greater than any He has found in Israel. It bodes well that all of faith shall be found at table in the kingdom of God, but we must heed Jesus’ warning that “the natural heirs will be driven out.” For we are the heirs of the Israelites. As Catholics we now hold the covenant. We have the apostolic succession, the sacraments, the teaching – all the gifts are ours. But have we the faith necessary to gain entrance into His kingdom; are we prepared to come to His table and dine with Him who feeds us with the food of everlasting life? Do we believe? This question the Lord puts on all our souls. How shall we answer?
O LORD, let us be quick to serve you
and you will make a place for us in your kingdom.
YHWH, instill faith in our very souls, the faith of Abraham and Mary, the faith the centurion shows even though he is not of your people. And we shall bear fruit in abundance; and your mercy shall be known to the ends of the earth.
Though our hearts be old and withered, O LORD, though we be beyond the age of giving birth, yet you come to us in your mercy and make us fruitful in your NAME. And so, what should we do but praise you? How ready we should be to obey your commands!
Look upon your servants in our lowliness. We are not worthy to have you come under our roof, yet your Son you give to us as our very food. We indeed should feed you, O God, but it is you who provide for our needs; by your hand we are fed each day at the table of sacrifice – we who have been so far from your face, you heal and bring near by a word from your mouth, and so we praise you in joy.
Thu, 29 June 2017
(Gn.17:1,9-10,15-22; Ps.128:1-5; Mt.8:1-4)
“Can Sarah give birth at ninety?”
Abraham laughs to himself as he asks the question; and indeed many scoff at the idea today, or simply choose to reason the possibility away. And can a leper be made clean in an instant, just by a touch of Jesus’ hand and the words “Be cured”? Is the arm of God, who created the universe, somehow shortened to such miracles? Why do we think it so? Wherefore our lack of faith?
God appears to this ninety-nine-year-old man and tells him whose wife is barren, in the words of our psalm: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.” And Abraham laughs. (As will Sarah, too, upon hearing such news – thus the name of their child Isaac: “he laughs”.) It’s an understandable reaction. Who would not find the thought humorous? But Abraham does something more than laugh: he also “prostrates himself” before the Lord, face to the floor. How many of our modern scoffers would do such as this? It is human to question, to doubt; but it is godly to humble oneself in faith. There is a world of difference between a laugh of wonder and the scoffing of the skeptic. The latter shall remain barren, never finding the living water that would make him fertile and fruitful; the former by his fear of the Lord opens himself to His favor, to His blessing – and such life-giving breath of blessing will make him bear fruit abundantly.
This humble faith is perfectly evident in the leper as well, and is indeed the catalyst of his healing. We are told the leper “came forward and did Him homage” – falling on his face like Abraham – and said to the Lord, “If you will to do so, you can cure me.” First he shows humility, he shows fear of the Lord; then he expresses his faith. Simply put, he believes in the power of God. And so he is healed. He is made whole, more whole indeed than the Pharisees and priests who stand by calculating how this can be.
God does not come to the proud. He does not show Himself to the self-righteous. He cannot. They refuse Him at every turn. To the humble of heart, to the poor in spirit, the Lord is present – and His blessings they receive. And miraculous are they beyond what the eye can see. Amen.
O LORD, free us from all our disease
by a word from your mouth,
as we bow humbly before you.
YHWH, by a word from your mouth the barren womb bears fruit; by a word from your mouth we are healed. Our reproach, our leprosy, is taken from those who come to you in faith, who bow before you in humility. Only in this way are we saved – only in this way are our lives of any worth.
In wonder we look upon your works, O LORD, in wonder and thanksgiving. How can we not give you praise for your blessings upon us? If we fear you and the hand you stretch forth to redeem our souls, we shall indeed know your blessings upon us through all generations.
Laughter you put into our mouths, dear LORD, as we look upon your hand at work. What joy you bring to the tired soul by your grace living amongst us! Though we seemed at the point of death, though disease had taken hold – you have freed us to walk with you… in all our days your will is done.
Fri, 9 June 2017
(Tb.12:1,5-15,20; Tb.13:1-2,6; Mk.12:38-44)
“Almsgiving saves one from death.”
We must give alms, yes; and the greatest of alms is the gift of ourselves to God.
In our gospel we hear of perhaps the most famous example of almsgiving: the poor widow who gave her two copper coins to the temple treasury; and in our first reading we complete the Book of Tobit, he who is himself a great biblical model of almsgiving, and who is here instructed by the angel Raphael on the merit of giving alms. Yes, the widow gives generously all her money, without hesitation and without a thought. Unlike those who give from their surplus, “she gave from her want, all that she had to live on.” She holds back nothing. And at the prompting of Tobit, Tobiah offers half of all the many riches gained from his journey to his guide, Raphael (not realizing he is an angel with no need of these things).
As Raphael reveals himself to Tobit and his son, he extols the great merit of almsgiving, which he states is better even than prayer and fasting. He wishes to tell them of the value of almsgiving, it is true, but he wants Tobit to know that his generosity has been witnessed by God and that it has saved him from the death he had asked for. Raphael lets Tobit know, too, that he has been tested by God (in being stricken with blindness) to prove that his generosity is genuine. It must be shown that his virtue is not vain as the scribes’, who “recite long prayers for appearance’ sake” to cover the fact that they “devour the savings of widows.” Does he have the heart of the poor widow in his generosity, or does he just like to parade around in the robes of such virtue?
The key to the merit of all our almsgiving is found in Raphael’s initial response to Tobiah’s offer: “Thank God! Give Him the praise and the glory.” All our good works must be done for the praise of God as witnesses to His glory. “Before all men, honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising Him,” the angel exhorts us all. And it is this praise of God we must give first before any treasure of the world. This praise of God and telling of His Name is the greatest of almsgiving. Do you think it is the two coins which save the widow, or can you see the heart for God from which they are offered? Do you think the widow is giving her coins for show, or is it obvious to you that it is her love of God which drives her to this act? We can easily surmise that this woman’s life is one of prayer to God, a genuine prayer unlike the vanity of the scribes, and it is this which most pleases God and saves her very soul; for she is empty of all else but Him. And of all the many acts of kindness Tobit has performed, all the dead he has buried and offerings he has given, perhaps none is above his obedience to the angel’s final command: “Write down all these things that have happened to you.” For by his laying down of his life and the Lord’s marvelous grace working in it, more than two thousand years later, we still receive the spiritual gifts contained therein; his praise of God with “full voice” still comes to our ears and gives us hope that we too might be raised up from any vanity in our own generosity and see the face of God.
Let us praise the Lord with all our lives and give all our selves to Him.
Let us live to praise the Lord.
O LORD, let us praise you with full voice;
let us give all we have to you.
YHWH, you call us to give alms that our souls might be saved. By our generosity you shall know us, if it is in union with you. For all must be done in your NAME and for your praise, or all is quite worthless. Indeed, a little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness; and so, whatever we give without giving glory to you is given in vain, but if we give a penny (which is all our lives are worth) in praise of your goodness toward us, how blessed we shall be!
LORD, all you do is for our good, whether you scourge us or raise us up in your mercy, for all is done to bring us closer to you. Until all our lives are in your hands, your angel you send to test us and to heal us, to turn us back to you – all empty show be taken forever from our souls that we might dwell humbly with you in glory.
Let us not care for the riches of this world even should they increase, but set our hearts on praise of you alone… and the doing of your will with all we have and are.
Thu, 8 June 2017
(Tb.11:5-15; Ps.146:2,7-10; Mk.12:35-37)
“The Lord gives sight to the blind.”
Now in His teaching Jesus truly begins to open the eyes of the people. We have witnessed this week His fielding their questions regarding theology and the law, but He now takes a step further, revealing to them and to us the Truth itself – that He Himself is the Son of God. “The majority of the crowd heard this with delight.” Many eyes begin to open, many hearts begin to see… but will they remain so joyful when Jesus reveals Himself to them completely (on the cross)?
And of course, our first reading speaks principally about the opening of Tobit’s eyes, as he who has been blind these four years is healed by the fish gall acquired through the intercession of the angel Raphael. But the reading is really about more than this: it shows the love of his parents in their longing for Tobiah’s return. Notice that as his eyes are opened, Tobit exclaims, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!” as he weeps with his arms around him. And at the very beginning of the reading we find Anna, his mother, “watching the road,” looking desperately – she has been there for weeks – for Tobiah to return from his journey. When she sees him, she, too, throws her arms around him, and says, “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” as she sobs aloud… It is not so much the fish gall that has cured Tobit’s blindness, for the light of his eyes, that which causes them to see, he himself ascribes to Tobiah his son. And it is not so much seeing Tobiah that brings such absolute joy to his mother, as it is being with him again, knowing that he is alive – for she had seriously feared him dead.
Brothers and sisters, are we like Anna and Tobit? Do we watch vigilantly for the return of the only Son of God? We proclaim that our eyes have been opened to know Him as our Savior, but is He truly the light of our eyes? Even today do we make seeing Him and knowing Him the life that brings breath to our souls and makes our hearts beat? Are we the “oppressed,” the “hungry,” the “captives” – those who are “bowed down” of whom our psalm speaks – who will thus know His “justice,” His “food,” His “freedom”… His “resurrection”?
We must love dearly our Holy Catholic Church, for it is essential here on this earth, where it is the keeper of the Father’s vineyard; but we must remember Jesus goes beyond religion, beyond theology and laws. For He is more than these. He is what sets us apart from any other religion, for He is a person, the second Person of the Trinity – God. Let us open our eyes and our hearts and follow Him with our lives, knowing He is our only Son, our hope, the light of our eyes. For He who is the Son of Man is also the Son of God.
O LORD, open my eyes
that I might praise you forever.
YHWH, it is you who give sight to the blind, you who set captives free. Your Son is indeed light to our eyes and salvation for our very souls. Give us new life that we might praise you all the day.
You keep faith with us, O LORD, for though we wait many days, though we must hope even in the darkness, you do not disappoint our expectations – you do not take back your Word. Your Son has come among us now and revealed your glory to our eyes. He who lived before us has been born into our midst and died for our sakes. Now His enemies become His footstool. Now His reign has begun. And those who have longed for His coming rejoice in praise of your holy NAME.
O may He return soon to us! For blindness besets us yet while we dwell upon this plane. Send your angels to bring Him back to us, O LORD, that forever we might look upon His face. Give us courage now; raise up the souls that are bowed down. Alleluia!
Wed, 7 June 2017
(Tb.6:11,7:1,9-14,8:4-7; Ps.128:1-5; Mk.12:28-34)
“Love the Lord your God”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On these two great commandments rest all the Law and the Prophets. By them we shall be “not far from the reign of God.” In them the Lord leads us into His bridal chamber, where we shall be made one with Him in glory forever.
Here on earth we dimly mirror the love of the Lord for His Church in our marriage of husband and wife; in this, love of neighbor is known in its most intimate and complete way. But always love of God must precede love of any creature, for it is “those who fear the Lord” who are happy, who “eat the fruit of [their] handiwork” and see their children prosper.
Tobiah has such love. Such strength of love does he have in his heart for Sarah that he hesitates not at all even in the face of death. Seven have died before him, but he gives fear of this not a thought. And it is not in his lust that he takes such great strength; he is not led foolishly by his eyes and his loins. It is indeed his fear of the Lord, the love for his God and his desire to keep His commands, in which he finds unwavering hope. Even from his marriage bed does he rise to invoke the name of God, demonstrating his “noble purpose.” He recognizes that God first must be praised, and that it is He who gave Adam his Eve.
Jesus loves us just so, brothers and sisters, and even greater than this is His love for His bride. He heeds fully the command of God regarding His Church: “Take her and bring her back safely to your father.” He comes to us, as it were, on a long journey, the angels of the Lord blessing His steps, and seeks without fear His rightful wife, who has languished so long surrounded by death. This death He takes upon Himself, facing it with faith and prayer alone to show us the love God has for us, and that we must have for one another. And wedding us unto Himself, He redeems us from the death we have known and makes us so fruitful in His Name. Yes, brothers and sisters, we must love the God who has loved us so, and love one another the same.
May God bless all marriages;
May they witness to the love the Lord has for His Church.
O LORD, if we but love you and our neighbor,
all will be well;
we will approach the kingdom of Heaven.
YHWH, you are love and love is stronger than death; so those who love you shall conquer death and live forever in your love. O let us but love!
The demons are ever round about, dear LORD, working to take the life from us, the life that is rooted in you and blessed by you – the life which you yourself are. Let us have your angels to guide us through the darkness of this earth to your unending light; teach us to love you with all our being, to keep nothing back from you. By our trust and in our prayer may we be saved from all evil. If we but praise you with all our heart, you will certainly hear our plea.
No lust let there be in any marriage bed, O LORD, but may every husband take his wife with you and your purpose in mind. Then shall all be blessed; then shall all creation praise you… then shall love be known to the ends of the earth. Then shall all the devils flee and your kingdom come to be present in all souls. Let us take our place in Heaven with you and your Son! To Him let us be wed.
Tue, 6 June 2017
(Tb.3:1-11,16-17; Ps.25:1-9; Mk.12:18-27)
“He is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
Rich readings. First of all, we see the striking similarity between the story woven by the Sadducees to thwart the wisdom of the Lord and the situation in which Sarah finds herself. In both cases, seven – the number representing fullness – husbands have died. In one the wife has also died; in the other, she wishes for death. And in both there have been no children, no fruit, no new life. Death in its fullness is throughout today’s readings, as even Tobit begs to die.
In addition to death, our readings are also clearly about prayer. In our first, Tobit and Sarah pour out their hearts in tears before the Lord whom they so love. Our psalm is the lifting up of the soul in prayer to God by the humble. And the Sadducees questioning of Jesus is also a kind of prayer, though one which comes from a hardness of heart, inauthentic and insincere.
And what has the Lord to say of death; what is the answer to these prayers? We often hear that God always answers our prayers, though often in ways we do not expect. Such is the case here. Neither Tobit nor Sarah will get the death they seem to seek; instead, Raphael – the angel whose name means “to heal” – “was sent to heal them both.” And the Sadducees, “who hold there is no resurrection,” will not find confirmation for their creed which clings to death as the end of all. Yet all will be answered according to the disposition of their hearts, and in this sense all receive exactly what they seek, for the Lord looks upon the heart. The prayer of Tobit and Sarah is not really to die but “to be delivered from such anguish” – it is healing they seek, and this they shall find. And the Sadducees, who do not really seek an answer of the Lord regarding resurrection, whose hearts are closed to the life-giving power of God, will likely not hear the words of Christ… and so by their ignorance come to adhere more firmly to their creed of death.
We do get what we ask for. As our psalm tells us, the Lord “teaches the humble His way.” The compassion and kindness which are synonymous with God are known to those who trust in Him; but “those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith,” for the compassion of our Lord finds no place in them. For them there is no hope, no life, no resurrection from the dead… and they shall not know how God answers prayer.
Brothers and sisters, let us pour out our hearts before our Lord and God, and know His healing grace, and find His everlasting life.
O LORD, though we wish to die
when amidst the persecutions of this race,
let us be resurrected with you.
YHWH, hear our prayer and save us from the insults of your enemies. Let us not be overcome by darkness or by sin. You are our God and you answer all our pleas; let us not be put to shame.
You look upon the heart, O LORD, and listen to our true desires. Every prayer you cannot help but answer according to the faith by which it is offered. You give us what we ask for, not in our words but by our intention. And so, you thwart the insincere prayer of the wicked, but are merciful to those who are humble before you.
And you protect us, LORD, from every attack of the devil. Those who break faith heedlessly shall not triumph over your righteous ones; they shall be turned back by the power of your Word. For in life alone you dwell – in you there is no death – and so those whose hearts desire life in your presence shall rejoice… even as those who do not believe fall helplessly into the earth.
Mon, 5 June 2017
(Tb.2:9-14; Ps.112:1-2,7-9; Mk.12:13-17)
“The heart of the just man is secure,
trusting in the Lord.”
Today in our reading and gospel we find just men put to trial and testing. Our Lord is steadfast before the devious inquiry of the Pharisees and Herodians, answering them with a wisdom greater than Solomon’s; for what can Jesus, who is Himself the Word made flesh, do but take refuge in the Father with whom He is one. And so wisdom is His to answer His foes, and He is unmoved, indeed moving with “amazement” those who would trap Him.
The heart of Tobit does not remain as secure. We see in his anger that his trust in the Lord has been shaken. He has always been just, generously giving to those in need, taking the plight of his people to heart. Indeed, it is after performing a good work – “fatigued from burying the dead [I] went to sleep next to the wall of my courtyard” – that his trial comes upon him. Here is a man who has done all he could to help his fellow Jewish exiles suffering persecution at the hands of the Ninevites, and now he is stricken with blindness.
But the Lord does not leave him alone; He does not cast him out. For two years his needs are cared for by Ahiqar, and then his wife is able to work to meet their expenses. And successful she is over and above expectations. Yet he is prodded into anger by her good reward. His response (in the words of St. Dorotheus, from today’s Office of Readings) “breaks the cover on the passionate anger within him,” an anger, an unease, he has likely been harboring for some time. It is an anger, we can surmise, that comes from the helplessness his blindness has brought upon him. He is no longer in control of his fate, but must depend on others for survival. And though the Lord provides, he finds it too difficult to trust in this provision. (He may indeed be particularly resentful that it is now his wife who provides for him, taking the role he believes in his heart he should play.)
We can certainly understand Tobit’s frustration over his condition. Few but Jesus would stand up well to such trial. But Jesus is our ideal. It is to be like Him that we are called. We shall always need to do battle against the sins that are ever with us, but as St. Dorotheus says of the Christian, “The more perfect he grows, the less these temptations will affect him. For the more the soul advances, the stronger and more powerful it becomes in bearing the difficulties that it meets.”
Let us set ourselves to trust in the Lord and so ever find security in Him. We must place all in His hands, even unto death, and then we shall be free.
Let not the things of Caesar weigh upon you;
you belong to God and not the world.
O LORD, only you can make us secure –
let us trust in you and not in money.
YHWH, with the things of this earth let us not be concerned; let us know that we are in your hands. To you let us trust our very lives, and we shall not be disturbed.
The forces of the world close in on us, enticing us to fear and anger. But if we stand strong in the faith, the Spirit will be with us to save us. In you, O LORD, let us remain.
The just man delights in your commands; the upright shall ever be blessed. Let us indeed remain steadfast, LORD, that we might look down upon our foes.
And though persecuted for righteousness’ sake, if afflicted for doing what is right let us not resent our fate, but continue to look to you to cure our blindness. Your Son, O LORD, has suffered the Cross though innocent – why should sinners like us complain?
It is hard, LORD, and we do often break, but help us to return to you this day and stand before our accusers with the same faith your Son so peacefully displayed. Let us give ourselves entirely to you.
Sun, 4 June 2017
(Tb.1:1-2,2:1-9; Ps.112:1-6; Mk.12:1-12)
“The stone rejected by the builders
has become the keystone of the structure.”
First, Tobit is not a parable; it is not a “story”. A parable begins, as does Jesus’ own in our gospel, with a statement such as, “A man planted a vineyard…” It is always “a man”, a generic man, never a particular man in a particular place at a particular time, as is the case with Tobit. For parables deal expressly with the universal. Though one may derive universal significance from the life of Tobit, it is his life itself which is related to us and not that of an “Everyman”. (How this simple fact is overlooked I can only attribute again to a lack of faith which blinds reason.)
This aside, today we see the persecution and mockery “a sincere worshiper of God” suffers before the face of the world. It is evident in Tobit’s being “hunted down for execution” for performing the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead, as well as in the wagging of his neighbors’ tongues; and it is, of course, fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ, which the Lord speaks of today to the elders of the people in a thinly-veiled parable of their persecution of all the prophets.
What a good man Tobit is, desiring to share his feast with the poor and rising even from table to do the work of God, always ready to serve Him. And how he weeps for the oppression of his people. Jesus is just the same, coming from the majesty of the Father’s table in heaven to call us to His wedding feast, and weeping over those who, like Jerusalem, fail to hear His voice.
Our lot in this world is one of suffering and persecution, but it is not without hope. For we know that as Job found greater wealth in his latter days and Tobit shall be rewarded for his patient endurance, so the Lord is resurrected from the grave. It is our psalm which reminds us of this promise despite any darkness around us: “The Lord dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright… the just man shall be in everlasting remembrance.”
So let us not lose heart on the hard road we tread, but endure all patiently with Jesus, for we shall find our place in His joyful kingdom; we shall drink the wine of His vineyard.
O LORD, how shamefully your servants are treated! –
but Jesus rises from the dead,
and we with Him.
YHWH, you are a light in our darkness; you are with us in our tears and in our mourning, and so, from our graves we are raised. Has not your Son come among us and suffered at the hands of men? Has He not been beaten, dragged outside the walls of Jerusalem, and killed? And has He not been raised again – does He not sit at your right hand? The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. How marvelous are your works for your faithful to behold!
Though Tobit weeps in exile, LORD, mocked by neighbors and friends, though he must bear the murdered body of his kinsman to a shallow grave; yet wealth and riches are in his house, for it is in your House he dwells, and his name you shall remember forever.
Your Son bears His Cross before His accusers; though blessed at table in your House, He quickly comes to us at your Word… and we bear Him away. But the plans of men are thwarted by you, LORD, and all our evil you turn to good. Let us set our souls on the sacrifice of your kingdom.
Sat, 25 February 2017
(Is.49:14-15; Ps.62:2-3,6-9; 1Cor.4:1-5; Mt.6:24-34)
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”
Today’s gospel is the Lord’s beautiful exhortation not to be anxious about the things of this world: God takes care. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus instructs us. And how true it is that “the birds of the sky,” who “do not sow or reap,” are fed in abundance, and that there is nothing more splendidly clothed than the flowers of the field. And do we indeed think the Father will not care just so for our lives? Yet all we do is worry about these passing things, even as our soul calls us to peace.
“Only in God is my soul at rest; from Him comes my salvation,” David so poignantly and appropriately sings. And with this trust in his rock of refuge he knows he “shall not be disturbed at all.” Similarly, St. Augustine has declared, from his own experience of pursuing worldly cares, that only in God do our souls find rest. Are these witnesses not enough to trust in the salvation that comes from God alone? Then hear of the undying love God holds for His creatures in the prophecy of Isaiah: to those who fret, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me,” he asks the simple yet profound question, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” Yet greater than a mother’s love is the Lord God’s care for us, for “even should she forget” (as seems to happen all too often in this age of abortion), the Lord states with certainty and full assurance, “I will never forget you.”
And much like this inclination to anxiety about the cares of life, and coming from the same faithless source, is our proclivity to judge others. How many of us heed St. Paul’s warning not to “make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes”? How many cannot trust that “He will bring to light what is hidden,” that all things He sees – that we need not do His job for Him. “The one who judges me is the Lord,” Paul states. Really, who else can do so? As by no other hand does our food come, so by no other tongue shall all be judged.
“Trust in Him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before Him.” Try it, and you will see – He alone provides all things. Set your hearts on Him and He will take care.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Breathing for a Living" from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us take rest in your arms
and not in the world’s distress.
YHWH, you alone provide for all our needs; in you alone our souls find rest. We cannot be at peace unless we give our lives in service of you, for serving the world we find only distress.
What is the motive of our hearts? Whom do we truly serve? What is it we seek with our lives? Only you know our hearts, LORD. Only you can see where our desire lies. We cannot deceive you, and any attempt at deception, at pretending love for you above all, will only leave us in the same state of unrest as our openly seeking the things of this world.
Let them all die, all our errant desires, all of our fears about the things of tomorrow. What indeed is food and drink and clothing? Where do they lead us in themselves? And what is not in your hands, O LORD? Then why do we not trust ourselves into them? There is no hope for us apart from you. Let the peace of which your Son speaks be with us always, dear God.
Thu, 16 February 2017
(Gn.11:1-9; Ps.33:10-15; Mk.8:34-9:1)
“What profit does a man show who gains the whole world
and destroys himself in the process?”
Listen to what the men of old said among themselves at a time when “the whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.” As they were migrating, they stopped in a valley and declared: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.” Hear how their desires reflect the Lord’s warning, “Whoever would save his life will lose it.” For the Lord will thwart their plans made in a vain pride quite apart from Him and see that what they fear shall indeed come to pass – from this point they shall be forced to continue their migration, being scattered to the four corners of the earth. Like David when he sought to number the people in his kingdom rather than allowing their increase in the sight of God, they do not put trust in the Lord but in the work of their own hands to make themselves a name. And such work, such plans, cannot but come to ruin.
“The Lord brings to naught the plans of nations; He foils the designs of peoples”; only “the plan of the Lord stands forever, the design of His heart, through all generations.” And we must thank God that this is so. For left to our own devices, we would go on “doing whatever [we] presume to do.” Thus does God save us from doing as we please because “He who fashioned the heart of each, He who knows all their works,” knows well how inclined the human heart is to evil; He has witnessed the destruction that ensues when we are left to ourselves, and from this fate He would rescue our souls. And so does He “confuse their language” at the Tower of Babel; so from there “He scattered them all over the earth” – to keep them from the sinful plots they would concoct.
Of course, our tongues are united again after Pentecost; we become one people under one God once more. And indeed, “happy [is] the nation whose God is the Lord.” But those who are set apart from Him, who do not lose their lives “for [His] sake and the Gospel’s,” do better in separation, where their sin is not as able to thrive. And so, until that day “when He comes with the holy angels in His Father’s glory,” until the time of fulfillment of the coming oneness of all the children of God, only those who dedicate themselves entirely to Jesus and His cross will “see the reign of God established in power” here on this earth – even as “this faithless and corrupt age” courts its inevitable destruction in its unyielding pride.
O LORD, let it be your reign we seek and not our own,
that our work might be blessed
and not cast to the ground.
YHWH, vision of you alone let us desire. Your reign established in power let us see coming even this day. This world shall soon pass away; upon it let us not set our hearts or we shall die in a vain pride.
If we seek to serve you, LORD, laying down our lives under the Cross with Jesus your Son, then alone will we be blessed and dwell in the City you prepare for us. But if we seek to make a name for ourselves, if by our own hands we would build our house – if we think we can raise bricks on this earth to attain to your heavenly kingdom, we shall be cast down to that earth in which we put our trust.
O LORD, it is you who fashioned and made us and we can do nothing of worth apart from you. If we turn our backs to the way you mark out for us, we shall be aimless wanderers on this earth. Let our words only praise you and your glory and we shall share in your reign.
Sat, 28 January 2017
(Jer.1:4-5,17-19; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; 1Cor.12:31-13:13; Lk.4:21-30)
“I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
When God calls Jeremiah to prophesy “against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people,” He tells him to “gird [his] loins” and commands: “Be not crushed on their account.” For though his people “will fight against” him, they shall “not prevail over” him. The Lord makes Jeremiah “a fruitful city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass” able to stand against attacks of any in “the whole land”; He preserves His prophet’s life despite any danger or threat.
In our gospel Jesus is likewise protected by God from any harm His people would inflict upon Him. Here in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus is called to prophesy against the faithlessness of the people; and though before He spoke His harsh word of truth they had “all spoke[n] highly of Him,” now “filled with fury” they drive Him “out of the town, and lead Him to the brow of the hill… to hurl Him down headlong.” But the deliverance promised Jeremiah and sung of so beautifully by our psalmist is with the Lord’s only Son as it had been with His prophet, and “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” Though they would not accept the deliverance He brings, He is delivered from them.
“O my God, [you] rescue me from the hand of the wicked”; you indeed are “my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.” O Lord, “let me never be put to shame,” but “in your justice rescue me, and deliver me.” For you are “my rock and my fortress,” “my hope” who never fails to save. May I walk through all the difficulties of this world, all the darkness of sin and temptation and suffering, with you at my side, therefore with nothing to fear. Make me strong as your prophet, as your Son, for my life is in your Hand.
Brothers and sisters, soon all persecution will pass away with all the imperfect trappings of this desolate earth, and only God’s love will remain. Let us be as He who “endures all things”; let us be of love. And nothing of this world shall touch us as we pass through its midst, shielded by the Word of God, guarded by His eminent love.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, blessed are the lowly ones,
for they shall be with you in Heaven.
YHWH, make us your lowly servants that we might be blessed as your Son, blessed to be called your children. For you look upon the lowly and the poor with mercy; those who are bowed down you raise up. Help us always to be humble before you and make our boast only in your love.
Your Son has come to call the weak of this world, those who are despised for their humility, those who seem certain to be cast aside for their lack of wealth and power in this life. But to shame the wise, to break the pride of those who are rich in their own eyes, you have chosen, O LORD, to bless the meek of the land with all graces – even your kingdom you give to us.
And so, what care we for the persecution we must suffer for the sake of your Name? We thirst only for your presence and so do not mourn the passing of this vain world but only that we cannot come more quickly to your side. O let our heart be clean as your only Son’s, that we might look upon you, O LORD our God!
Fri, 27 January 2017
(Heb.11:1-2,8-19; Lk.1:68-75; Mk.4:35-41)
“Why are you so terrified?
Why are you lacking in faith?”
“Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see,” our brother Paul would have us know, and realize. We all hope for something; there is ever something we all long to see. The eyes are set in the front of the human head and always he is looking at what is before him, straining to see what is ahead. And what is it we hope to see further along this road we tread? What is our hope for the future – what is set indelibly in our hearts, calling us forward to tomorrow? Are we as Abraham, who was “looking forward to the city with foundations,” to the city of God, and so was able to uproot himself from his city here on earth, “not knowing where he was going,” and dwell in tents? Have we the same hope as he?
If we have his hope, we should have his faith as well, and more. For what upon this earth is worthy of greater assurance than the coming of the kingdom of God? Is there any firmer promise in which to believe? And if Abraham and all the “men of old” were able to live by faith and so find God’s approval and His blessing, how much more should we be ready, how much greater confidence should we have, we upon whom the light which they only “saluted… from afar” has dawned? To our eyes has been brought what they were kept from seeing; and so our faith should go beyond hope – it should be most real, utterly unshakable by the vicissitudes of this world. For He is here, He who was “promised through the mouths of His holy ones, the prophets of ancient times.”
Brothers and sisters, it is time to “cross over to the farther shore” with our Lord. What Moses could only view from afar is now present to us in the flesh of Christ: heaven is in our midst, and nothing should we fear… no room for doubt should we make. In the words of our gospel we witness the disciples coming gradually to see Him who has entered their boat, who has power over all. And their fear shall leave them soon, even as awe overtakes them. And we must be the same, and more. For upon us the Spirit has already come, completing the Trinity’s presence among us. Nothing more is there to look forward to than our life in heaven, and nothing for our crossing do we lack. Sure indeed should we now be. And so, “rid of fear and delivered from the enemy” by Him who is all-powerful, “we should serve Him devoutly, and through all our days, be holy in His sight.” Let faith find its fulfillment now in the lives we lead in His name. Cast all fear away, and love.
O LORD, you are able to raise us even from the dead –
let us put our faith in you.
YHWH, will Jesus not lead us to the farther shore, to the kingdom where you dwell? Will not He who holds the wind and the waves in His hands and commands them by a word of His mouth, will He not save us from all that would keep us from you? But are our hearts set on the Promised Land of Heaven as was Abraham’s and all the prophets’ of old? Are we so willing to give up all the things of this world to find your eternal City?
O LORD, have we the faith that you are able to raise from the dead, that even death and sin and all the wiles of the devil and the trappings of this earth are in your power to command? If so, then why should our hope ever be dimmed; why should we be afraid?
Save us, LORD, from our faithlessness! Let us serve you in holiness all our days, our hearts set on the land to which Jesus would take us.
Thu, 19 January 2017
(Heb.8:6-13; Ps.85:8,10-14; Mk.3:13-19)
“I will be their God
and they shall be my people.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land”; for absolute oneness do we find with our Lord and God through the ministry of His only Son. For the Lord has said of His new covenant, “All shall know me, from least to greatest,” promising: “I will place my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.” There shall be no separation from His presence for those who believe; His “kindness and truth shall meet” in us as they have in Jesus. Alleluia!
But yet does the time move toward perfection. Though the new covenant be fulfilled in Jesus, it is still being fulfilled in the world and among those who dwell in the world. We know this because the Lord says of the covenant to come, through His prophet Jeremiah: “They shall not teach their fellow citizens or their brothers, saying, ‘Know the Lord’” – there being no need any longer to teach the perfected – and also, “Their sins I will remember no more,” meaning that sin will no longer exist. But Jesus upon commissioning the twelve apostles sends them out “to preach the good news” and “to have authority to expel demons,” and to this day there is need, and great need, for instruction in the Word of God and healing by the expulsion of sin in Holy Confession. This ministry still in place, we know we have yet to reach perfection; we know we have yet to find absolute oneness with Christ and His sacrifice… and so, perfect union with the Father yet awaits us.
“He appointed the twelve as follows: Simon to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee; and John, the brother of James (He gave these two the name Boanerges, or ‘sons of thunder’); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon of the Zealot party, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” Upon these the new covenant is founded. By their ministry it shall grow, taking root in the world and bearing much fruit. And though Matthias must take the place of the traitorous Judas, there is no breaking the line that comes from these foundation stones: all of the coming kingdom is traced to them and from them, for they are anointed by the Son and by them God will make all His children.
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” In His Church as in His arms make your home, for His blessings are upon us and shall be fulfilled.
O LORD, let us be companions of your Son
that we might be made one with you.
YHWH, as your Son is joined to you and the apostles to Him, so let us be joined to them that we might be joined to Jesus and you, and your promise might be fulfilled and your NAME be written on our hearts. O let it be so, that all shall know you, that we shall be your people.
O LORD, let truth spring out of the earth as your justice looks down from Heaven. Let the union of Heaven and earth accomplished in your Son be accomplished in us as we join ourselves to Him. O let us walk in the way of His steps that we might find salvation!
LORD, forgive us our sins, remember them no more – cast all evil from us. May the priests who stand in your Son’s place absolve us of all wrongdoing as we come on our knees before them. Your power be upon us for good; by your Word let us be taught, till we are entirely one with you, living in your New Covenant, living in the flesh of Christ, as His holy Body.
Fri, 6 January 2017
(1Jn.5:14-21; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.2:1-12)
“He hears us whenever we ask for anything according to His will.”
In our gospel, the waiters come to Mary; their misfortune is witnessed by her compassionate heart: “They have no more wine,” she tells her Son. She knows what she is saying, she knows what she is asking… and Jesus knows, too. And though He seems not prepared to answer her concern (you see, our concern is her concern, and she makes it His), yet she says to the servants standing by the words which perhaps best exemplify the Mother’s relationship to the Son – “Do whatever He tells you.”
Has Jesus a choice now? Can He rebuff her request to “reveal His glory”? It is a miracle she asks for the benefit of those in need, and the Lord cannot turn her down. Do you see this? Do you understand the significance of this scene, here at the very inception of Jesus’ ministry, especially those who doubt our Blessed Mother’s intercessory power with her Lord, her Son? And do you think the power for finding answer to prayer with her beloved Jesus, the Son of God, is somehow shortened in ensuing days? Does death conquer it? Is she no longer the blessed of all generations? Has this blessed generation come to an end?
“We know that He hears us whenever we ask” and that “what we have asked Him for is ours.” This is our confidence in God’s compassion and love. And we know too that the Blessed Mother stands beside our Lord and prepares the prayers we would offer Him, putting them into the words, the Spirit, we cannot express. If we give them all to her, they will all be made effective, and we will taste of “the choice wine” which has been kept in store for us until these latter days.
Through this miracle at Cana “His disciples believed in Him.” Here He offers them a sign of His divinity – here they find “discernment to recognize the One who is true... the true God and eternal life.” And so the wedding feast truly begins. And so we “praise His name in the festive dance” and “sing praise to Him with timbrel and harp.” “The children of Zion rejoice in their king,” for He has answered their deepest prayer: here in our midst is the Son of God.
O LORD, reveal yourself to us in your Son;
hear our petition.
YHWH, your Son has come and given us the grace to recognize Him. And so we have confidence to approach Him with our petitions, especially through His Blessed Mother. And we know that our petitions shall thus be granted and we shall sing praise to you in the assembly of all the faithful in your holy kingdom.
From sin take us all, dear LORD, from that which holds us to this world. Your glory alone may we seek, the eternal life we find in your only Son. He is true, He is God, and if we are in Him we may rejoice in you. Increase our faith in Him this day; let our eyes not be blinded to His miraculous presence.
O let us taste the water become wine! and the wine become the blood of your Son. Let us be inebriated with this fruit of the choicest Vine whose time has come and celebrate your glory in our midst. For by His flesh and by His blood we are wed to you, O God, and for what greater cause could we dance and sing? All sin He takes from us that life in you we may know.