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.
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.
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.
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, 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.