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!
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.