Sat, 30 December 2017
(Gn.15:1-6,21:1-3; Ps.105:1-9; Heb.11:8,11-12,17-19; Lk.2:22-40)
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,
and the favor of God was upon Him.”
What child is this of whom Simeon the prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit, declares to the Lord, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all peoples,” even as he holds Jesus in his arms? This indeed is He who is the “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for [His] people Israel”; this indeed is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, foreshadowed in the birth of Isaac, by whom Abraham’s descendants would be “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.” “Binding for a thousand generations,” forever, was the covenant the Lord “entered into with Abraham and by His oath to Isaac,” and now that covenant is brought to perfection in the sight of Simeon and Anna; now “all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” could rejoice and “give thanks to the Lord,” for to the temple had come the Christ of God: here is the Messiah.
“Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!” for in Jesus His Son you shall find Him. Though raised in a humble family in the town of Nazareth, this is He who raises all His chosen unto heaven, who brings salvation to His people. And so rejoice indeed “you descendants of Abraham, His servants, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!” for even as “there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead,” innumerable descendants, even as the Lord fulfilled His promise to Abraham by the birth of Isaac, so the Lord’s promise to Simeon “that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord” is fulfilled in all our midst even this day. Listen to the prophet’s proclamation: the light has come! We are no longer in darkness, no longer in mournful anticipation. And so with Anna we should come forward now and speak “about the child” to all who will listen, to all who long to hear the good news of God.
Brothers and sisters, let the Lord grow in our midst. In this Holy Family that is His Church let Him be nurtured and known. For God’s favor rests upon Him alone and by no other child does salvation come. Today He is presented to all waiting hearts.
Written & chanted by James Kurt; read by Sylvia Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Abouna Joseph; used by permission.
O LORD, let your Word be fulfilled
in the lives of all your children –
let our eyes see your salvation.
YHWH, your Word you fulfill in our midst for you are faithful. Your Christ you send among us to save us from our sins that we might be as your children forever. Let us enter your generation, LORD, and be of your Holy Family.
Your Son has become our brother and so we know you as our Father, LORD. Your promise is fulfilled and He now dwells among us – and so you, too, are with us. From the womb of the Virgin Mary is born a Child with whom we grow into your holy image; we are made pure as she by the grace upon her Son.
In Nazareth let us make our home, O LORD, with Jesus and Mary and Joseph; then our home in Heaven will be secure and even here we will have your blessing. Though a sword must pierce our heart as it has with Jesus and Mary and Joseph and all your saints, yet we shall rejoice in your goodness toward us, that you make us fruitful with Abraham as children of a living faith. Let us become strong and wise in your sight.
Sat, 23 December 2017
(2Sm.7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16; Ps.89:2-5,27,29; Rom.16:25-27; Lk.1:26-28)
“The Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father.”
“I have made a covenant with David my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.” Here is the promise made to King David. Upon his seeking to build a house for the Lord, “the Lord… reveals to [David] that He will establish a house for [him].” Through the prophet Nathan, the Lord declares to His humble servant: “When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.” This would seem like all the world to refer to the great King Solomon, but it does not. For, like the earth itself, Solomon and all his gold – and even “the rest from all [his] enemies,” the peace the Lord establishes under his reign – will pass away; they cannot “endure forever” and neither can such a kingdom. The prophet speaks of a kingdom established in heaven (where all by nature endures forever), not one of the earth.
And so it is not Solomon of whom the prophet and the psalmist speak, but Jesus, He whose coming is hailed today by the angel’s words to the Blessed Virgin: “He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” For Abraham has died and Jacob has died and David has died and Solomon has died… and their graves are with us to this day. But Jesus, Jesus lives; Jesus lives forever at the right hand of His Father.
It is indeed Jesus who most truly says to the Lord God, “You are my Father, my God, the Rock.” It is He who is His only Son: it is He who is God Himself, one in being with the Father. This is “the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings”; this is “the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith”: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the only Son – and we must worship Him.
Come now, brothers and sisters, to this Child Mary bears by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Him your peace shall be established in the Father’s kingdom. Come to His holy throne, enter into His eternal reign… and with His humble king, and with His humble Mother, you shall be blessed forever.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from my Eye" (first part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let the Mother of our Lord come to us, too,
that new life may stir in us as well.
YHWH, blessed is the womb of Bethlehem, of Israel, of Mary the Mother of your Son. For in her you have prepared a body, the body of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that shall be as offering for our sins. In Him we are saved, for in Him your majesty reigns, and so your glory is now in our midst.
O let us leap like John the Baptist at the approach of your Son and His Mother! Bring to life what has remained dormant for such a long time. Arouse within us the joy of new life that we might be stirred to proclaim your glory. He has come who shall shepherd us, LORD; let us be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The sacrifices of old now pass away as all prophecy is fulfilled in the flesh of your only Son. And so we pray, let your will be done. Let your greatness reach to the ends of the earth and your peace reign in every heart by the power upon Jesus the Christ. O LORD, let us be consecrated to you in His holy offering.
Sat, 16 December 2017
(Is.61:1-2,10-11; Lk.1:46-50,53-54; 1Thes.5:16-24; Jn.1:6-8,19-28)
“A man named John was sent from God.”
Here is the one of whom the prophet speaks, and who can rightly proclaim the words inscribed by Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” Here is he who has come “to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.” The Spirit is upon him and he speaks of the coming Messiah. He has been sent by God to “testify to the light.”
But who heeds his proclamation? Who is able to hear this voice crying and find the joy of the path it would blaze in their hearts? How many are still as the priests and Levites and Pharisees of today’s gospel, inquiring so blindly, “Who are you”? How many are as the commentators of the missal I read, who term the prophecy of Isaiah a “poem,” and state that the Canticle of Mary is “a song that Luke put into the mouth of Mary”? How many have no sense of prophecy, or the Spirit, or God Himself? How many are deaf to John’s cry?
Our brother Paul instructs us: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances.” And yet the greatest of all prophetic utterances are watered down in ankle-deep wisdom. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” Mary declares. The Spirit wells up in her spirit and she cannot but “rejoice in God [her] Savior.” These are not words put into her mouth by any man; her prophecy does not come from the pen of a scribe but from the very Spirit of God!
The Word of God cannot be chained; the voice “crying out in the desert” cannot be tamed by those “not worthy to untie” the mysteries hidden in sacred Scripture. Paul will be put under house arrest; the Baptist Herod will cast into his dungeon; the Christ shall be crucified – but the Word of God will go forth, and nothing shall silence its voice. The testimony to the light must be heard, “so that all might believe through Him”; there will ever be proclaimed “liberty to captives and release to the prisoners” by the power of Jesus Christ, until all hear of the mercy He has “on those who fear Him.”
A man named John was sent, not to testify to himself, but to prophesy the grace of God; and his voice will cry out the way to the ends of the earth and to the end of time.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Removing the Log from my Eye" (second part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your Son is coming
and we should repent of all sin
that we might be ready to rejoice and give Him praise.
YHWH, the fire of the Spirit has come to us; John has proclaimed the light in our midst. Jesus, your Son, is now among us, and what should we do but rejoice?
O LORD God, holy is your NAME, and holy is the One whom you send to us. So holy is He that we are not worthy to kneel at His feet. For He reflects your greatness, O LORD; His light is your own. How can we stand in your overwhelming glory, except that in Him we receive your promised mercy in our soul?
What mercy you bring us this day, LORD God! What grace is ours in the word the Baptist speaks. For he proclaims the Christ come among us – he proclaims the salvation of your lowly ones.
We are but your servants, LORD, unworthy to wait on your only Son. Yet you bless us with your loving mercy and invite us to perfection in Him. And so, what can we do but rejoice?
Sat, 9 December 2017
(Is.40:1-5,9-11; Ps.85:9-14; 2Pt.3:8-14; Mk.1:1-8)
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.”
And so, “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And so comes “the voice of one crying out in the desert,” in the desert that is our fallen lives: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”
Turn from your sins, brothers and sisters. Repent. It is the Lord’s will that “all should come to repentance,” that all should be “found without spot or blemish” on the day of His coming, on the day all “the elements will be dissolved with fire.” With the fire of the Holy Spirit does the Lord Jesus come now to baptize, that what John has cleansed from our souls might be gone forever – that the new person we become by this baptism of water might be made complete, might become hardened and lasting in the furnace of His love.
God “proclaims peace to His people. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” Hear what His prophet says, for he cries “out at the top of [his] voice” that indeed all hearts might listen: “Here is your GOD! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by His strong arm.” Yes, “the mouth of the Lord has spoken,” and now the WORD is in our midst, walking amongst us as our shepherd and “leading the ewes with care.” The “justice [that] shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps,” has come, and now the level highway that leads to His kingdom we must tread – there is no denying the road that is set before us.
Christ is coming, brothers and sisters, and Christ has come. The Baptist has prepared His path, and He, the Son of God, has walked it. And now we await His return in glory. And “the Lord does not delay His promise”; His return is sure. Already we see the “glory dwelling in our land.” He waits for you to come now to Him. In patience He looks for you to turn. Turn to Him now in earnest; with all your soul cry out His Name. “Jesus Christ the Son of God” dawns on the horizon. Embrace His love; walk His sacred path.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Please Even Me Out" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may peace be proclaimed to your people
and we follow on your way of salvation.
YHWH, let your Word be proclaimed to the ends of the earth that all hearts might be prepared for the return of your Son, for the Day when all the elements will be dissolved by fire and the thoughts and deeds of every soul revealed.
John the Baptist has come and prepared the way for the first coming of Jesus. Now His disciples go forth, now the Gospel is cried out from the heights of Zion – now every man shall plainly see that you, O LORD, are God; and peace shall come to him who turns to your glory.
With fire let us be baptized today, LORD, with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Washed clean from our sins let us now be perfected for life in your kingdom. Let us not fear the coming Day but welcome it and hasten it by living uprightly before you. In your patience you wait for us to turn from all sin and embrace your presence in our midst. Let us make straight your way into our hearts.
Sat, 2 December 2017
(Is.63:16b-17,19b,64:2-7; Ps.80:2-4,15-16,18-19; 1Cor.1:3-9; Mk.13:33-37)
“Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
“O Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, and see.” “Rouse your power, and come to save us.” Do not “let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden [not] our hearts so that we fear you not.” We are your fruitful vine, but “we have all withered like leaves… for you have hidden your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter.” “May your help be with the Man of your right hand.” May we be formed in His image and so be pleasing to you. May we be ready for His return, and our final meeting with you, our Lord and God.
Brothers and sisters, we must be as the Corinthians, among whom “the testimony of Christ was confirmed,” who “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [they] wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He travels now abroad in the kingdom of His Father, but He will return. And He has indeed left us “each with his work”; all are gifted by God and called to bear fruit in the time that is ours now… “May He not come suddenly and find [us] sleeping.” When He “rend[s] the heavens and come[s] down, with the mountains quaking before [Him],” may we not be found quaking as well, having slipped into the slumber of sin, having been covered with this world’s darkness. Rather, let Him meet us doing right at whatever hour He may come. Let us constantly serve our God and “He will keep [us] firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” In many ways does He indeed say it: “Be watchful! Be alert!” Keep your eyes open! Stay awake! Be ready! But ever He tells us to remember that we are “called to fellowship with [the] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” And as “God is faithful” so must we too be faithful to our call, giving witness always to the glory of our Lord.
Now is the time to turn from our sin and be formed in His image. Let the prophet not say over us: “There is none who calls upon [His] name, who rouses himself to cling to [Him].” Let us prepare ourselves for His coming by walking rightly in His ways.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Warm Forehead" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us enter into fellowship with your Son,
becoming one with Him
and watching for His return.
YHWH, let us be mindful of our ways as we wait for the return of your Son. May we be blessed with every spiritual gift as we watch for His coming. Though our good deeds have become as polluted rags, He makes them new, bringing us back to you.
Give us new life, O LORD, that we might call upon your NAME. You are our Father, our God; let us no longer be separated from you and your glory. We are the work of your hands, dear God – remake us in the image of your Son that when He comes we might stand with Him in your presence.
Make us irreproachable, LORD, by your grace, by your mercy, by your rending of the heavens and coming down to us. Let us lack nothing for the hour of Jesus’ return but be ready to enter the kingdom. May our eyes be open and our hearts awaiting our salvation.
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.
Sat, 25 November 2017
(Ez.34:11-12,15-17; Ps.23:1-6; 1Cor.15:20-26,28; Mt.25:31-46)
“Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine,
you did for me.”
Jesus is King. It is He to whom the Father has “subjected everything” and who “must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet,” until He has “destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power”; and it is He who then “hands over the kingdom to His God and Father… that God may be all in all.” Yes, “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will assemble before Him.” And He who is the Good Shepherd will separate the sheep beneath His rule “one from another”: it is He who will say to the righteous, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”; and to the unrighteous, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” He will judge all souls, for all souls are in His hands. Yes, He is King.
And yet this King is with His subjects; this Shepherd is hidden in His sheep – He is the Shepherd who “finds Himself among His scattered sheep.” Indeed, in His power He promises to “pasture [His] sheep”: “The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal”… but more than this, more than this is our King to us. For He is a King who not only serves the poor and broken, but who is the poor and broken Himself. Though all power and glory and honor are with Him who is exalted as Head over all, He travels with the least of His children; He makes Himself one with the least of all creatures. Does He not say, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me”? Oh how He unites Himself with our humanity! His love is beyond our comprehension.
And, brothers and sisters, it should be obvious what we are now called to do; if we wish to be “brought to life… each one in proper order,” following “Christ the firstfruits,” we must walk in His way. If we wish to sing with David His humble king, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” – if indeed we desire to share in His eternal kingship, we must on the dust of this earth serve Him in the least among us… we ourselves must be the least, as He is. Alleluia to our exalted King!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Coat of Warmth" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, walk among us and shepherd us well
in the reign of your Son,
that we might love as you love.
YHWH, how shall we come to dwell in your House forever? How shall we be the sheep at your right hand? Only by becoming as your only Son. Only by making ourselves present among the least. For you have a compassionate heart which reaches out to all in need. You have hands that bind up the wounds of your little ones, that care for the hungry and the sick. You prepare for all righteous souls a place in your kingdom, and your Son shows us how to be like you, that we might enter your presence.
O Jesus, O Lord, who reign above all as our Head, as our God, as the Savior of all righteous souls… how shall we love as you have loved; how shall we see you in the needs of our fellow man? Blind we are and crawling in the dust – how shall we be exalted with you at the Father’s right hand?
It is by your walking amongst us, O Lord and King, that we are saved from all selfishness and find the compassion and humility we need to enter into the Father’s heart. Give us the rest we desire, set us free from sin and death… raise us up to dwell with you as we make our lives like your own.
Sat, 18 November 2017
(Prv.31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Ps.128:1-5; 1Thes.5:1-6; Mt.25:14-30)
“When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.”
And so the Lord is pleased to bless His “good and faithful servant[s]”; for His Church is as His Bride and Her faithful members He invites to share His joy.
With more than the talents of “a man going on a journey” are we entrusted by the Lord. To us He is more like the husband “entrusting his heart” to his wife. All He gives over to us, even His very life, His absolute love – His blood itself He pours out for us. And are we as the good wife who “works with loving hands,” who “puts her hands to the distaff and [whose] fingers ply the spindle”? Do we work diligently with all the gifts the Lord imparts to us and thus increase their yield? Are we as she who “brings [her husband] good, and not evil, all the days of her life,” delivering unto the Lord the honor due His Name? If so, then as the worthy wife receives “a reward for her labors” and as “her works praise her at the city gates,” so shall the Lord richly bless our labors, and the angels at the gates of heaven welcome us with song.
Brothers and sisters, “You are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober,” doing the Lord’s will in all things. Let us not be as the “useless servant” who “dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.” The graces the Lord gives us are not meant for such darkness, but indeed to be brought into the light of day that they might spread “like a fruitful vine” throughout the face of the earth. This is the call of His Church, and we must be faithful in the work with which we have been entrusted: His love must reach to the ends of the world.
And each “shall eat the fruit of [his] handiwork” when the day of the Lord comes upon us. The soul which has courted darkness in its distrust and laziness shall find the spouse that awaits her; but “blessed shall [she] be, and favored,” “who walk[s] in [the Lord’s] ways!” She shall indeed not fear the “sudden disaster” that comes upon the wicked, but shall celebrate “the prosperity of Jerusalem” in her Master’s house “all the days of [her] life.” For in none does the Lord take greater delight than she who returns an increase of His invaluable love.
Wriiten, chanted, and produced by James Kurt; read by Sylvia Kurt.
Music: "We Have Bodies" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us do your work and your will;
let us be fruitful in serving you
until the Day of your Son’s return.
YHWH, you give us gifts, skills and talents upon this earth – even our bodies and minds are from you. But if we employ them not, it is as if we have them not at all… and soon they are taken from us. We must offer all we have back to you, serving you well with all our lives, and we shall be blessed with your abundance.
Into your kingdom let us come, O LORD! Let all we do lead to this grace. Make us fruitful in your Name, ever working with loving hands, and every blessing will be ours – and we shall know the joy of your presence. Let our hearts be set on you alone.
What have we, LORD, that you have not given? And what should we do but use well what is at our hands? If we wish to be wed to you in Heaven, then your heart we must hold within our own. It is your heart you would give us; let us live as your children in the light of this day.
O LORD, may your Son not find us sleeping upon His return, but serving you faithfully, walking ever in your way.
Sat, 11 November 2017
(Wis.6:12-16; Ps.63:2-8; 1Thes.4:13-18; Mt.25:1-13)
“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
O Lord, “through the night-watches I will meditate on you: you are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.” “As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you”; for though “my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water” for you, O Living God, I have “gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory,” and you have met me with your “kindness.” Your Wisdom “graciously appears to [me] in the ways, and meets [me] with all solicitude.”
“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of Wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.”
I could not say it any better, or any differently, than the sacred author. Do not these words perfectly illustrate the Lord’s message in our gospel today – Stay awake! Keep your lamps burning! Seek Wisdom! Be ready, and she will come to you; and you will be gathered into the marriage feast. Foolishly sit in darkness, unconcerned for your fate, and these ominous words shall resound in your barren soul: “Then the door was locked.” And then there shall be no entering.
I must again remark on the astounding lack of wisdom in the commentary of the missal I read. It states, “Paul is under the misconception that our Lord will return during his lifetime,” ignorantly assuming that when he says, “We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,” he is referring to himself and his companions. Oh my! Where do they derive the oil for their lamps? He is no more referring directly to himself in this instance than he is when he says, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose” – it is of the whole Church, of whatever time or place, he is speaking! How can our “scholars” not see this; and how can they be so ready to utter blasphemy against Holy Scripture and the Lord’s Apostle, suggesting that he purports some greater knowledge of the Lord’s return than the Lord Himself? Do they think he is as ignorant, or proud, as they?
Brothers and sisters, we indeed have great hope of resurrection. When “the Lord Himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven,” we will be caught up with Him “in the air,” in His heavenly presence. But we must have His light within ourselves and keep watch for His Hour, waiting through the night for the dawn of His Day.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Watching the Sun" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, nothing else matters
but our union with you –
let us be with you forever.
YHWH, help us to keep vigil for you and for your Son’s return. Let our hearts be set on your coming glory, that we may join in it ourselves. May our lamps shine brightly as we await the new Day; dispel all darkness from our midst. Give us the wisdom we need to remember your promise of new life in the kingdom – O let us be wed to Jesus, we pray!
Through the night we meditate on you and on your Word; it is for you our souls thirst. What more could we desire than to be with you in Heaven? What more should we long for than your saving grace? And to those who seek you, you come, O LORD. To rescue us from the darkness you do not delay. For even as we remain in vigil, your wisdom hastens to shine the light of your face.
May we be counted among those ready for your coming kingdom; with your Son may we enter the wedding feast. Awake let us be to share in your glory. O LORD, that we shall rise from the dead let us believe.
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.
Sat, 28 October 2017
(Ex.22:20-26; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; 1Thes.1:5-10; Mt.22:34-40)
“If ever you wrong them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.”
In this simple statement by the Lord is revealed the essential nature of our God in His relation with His people. It demonstrates certainly what He says of Himself, “I am compassionate,” for what is He telling us but that He has an ardent care for the poorest among us and the injustice they suffer? But it also demonstrates the justice of God itself, for what does He mean when He says He will “hear their cry” but that He will punish the wicked for their heartless crimes? He states clearly, if any should “wrong any widow or orphan… [His] wrath will flare up, and [He] will kill [him] with the sword.”
Now in the Church today we find an arbitrary and utterly deceptive and false separation of members into “liberal” or “conservative” camps, as if the Lord and His Church could be limited by either assignation. The liberal hears “love God and neighbor” and ignorantly excuses himself from keeping the law; and the conservative grasps the law so tightly he squeezes the very life, the very love, out of it. The Lord is neither liberal nor conservative, but may be said to be both – and that to the extreme in both cases. First of all, He has come to liberate us from our sin, to free us from the sentence of death all justly deserved as much as the adulteress or the thief on the cross He forgave. No one could be more liberal in His free giving of Himself and His love. What compares to the shedding of His blood, and the free gifts we gain thereby? Yet it must not be forgotten that the Lord Jesus is absolutely conservative in His teachings and in His ways; at all costs He preserves the truth. For though He says that “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” of love of God and neighbor, He does not thereby do away with the whole law. Indeed, He strengthens it. Does He not say not a single letter, nor even part of a letter, will pass away until all the law is fulfilled? Does He not tell us now that even to look at a woman lustfully is adultery and to be angry with another is as murder (see Mt.5:17-30)? And will He not come at the end of the age and judge all hearts, separating the evil from the good and casting them into eternal darkness and eternal flames? Though He “delivers us from the coming wrath” if we love Him, failing that, we cannot but be thrown into hell.
The Lord has two hands and either taken alone is ineffective, is, in fact, wicked, for either alone falls short of love and truth. The Lord is absolutely kind and absolutely just: these two meet and kiss in Him. And so they must in each of us. We must be “model[s] for all the believers.” Let it be said that from us “the word of the Lord has sounded forth,” that “in every place [our] faith in God has gone forth – that we have carried both His love and His truth to every heart we touch. Then we shall rightly call the Lord our “rock” and our “deliverer”; then we shall exclaim, “Praised be the Lord” and be “safe from [our] enemies.” Then He will hear our cry and save us, and all who truly love Him, for then we will be His disciples.
Written, read &chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Child and the Beast" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to love you with all our heart,
and to love others as you love them.
YHWH, we must turn from idols to worship you alone, for you are the living and true God and deserve all the love of our heart, mind, and soul. And we must love others as you love all, ever sharing your unending compassion with our neighbor. For you hear the cry of the poor, and to that call we must attend or we are not loving you at all.
Whose compassion is beyond is beyond your own, LORD? Whose love can approach your perfection? For your love is founded on perfect justice, a justice we cannot fathom apart from your favor toward us. Your justice cannot but punish evil, for if not, how could it protect the good? How could the widow or orphan find your compassion if you did not destroy those who oppress them?
But even as you destroy the wicked, you do so out of love, out of mercy even toward those you destroy. For how shall they turn from their sin and be saved if you do not chastise them for their wrongs, for the lack of compassion which separates them from you? Your kindness be upon all this day, O LORD, that we might live in your love.
Sat, 21 October 2017
(Is.45:1,4-6; Ps.96:1,3-5,7-10; 1Thes.1:1-5b; Mt.22:15-21)
“I am the Lord and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.”
Oh brothers and sisters, how clear our Scripture today makes it that “great is the Lord and highly to be praised; awesome is He beyond all gods.” Indeed there is no other God. It is He who grasped the “right hand” of even the pagan king, Cyrus, “subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service.” The heart of this king and all kings and all lands are in His hands – He alone rules all nations! Do you see this? Do you understand that if He calls this foreigner by “name, giving [him] a title,” that there is none that is beyond His reach, that is not under His eye? By the Lord’s power this pagan has conquered the nations of the world. And why? Why does He arm him who knows Him not? “So that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none beside [Him].”
Our psalmist sings so well of the singular power of the Lord God: “All the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the Lord made the heavens.” Again I ask, do you see this? All nations recognize Him who made the heavens and the earth; even these “tremble before Him.” And so all are called to “tell His glory among the nations, among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” For all must be encouraged to “give the Lord the glory due His name”; all must be offered the honor of knowing the greatness of our God.
One of these nations who have come to knowledge of the one God we hear of in our second reading. Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers and sisters loved by God” for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gives thanks to God the Father that this Gentile people has come to faith in Him “with much conviction.” What has been proclaimed so long now bears fruit. For even the millennium before our psalmist had called the “families of nations” to “bring gifts, and enter His courts,” to “worship the Lord in holy attire.” None has ever been barred from adoring Him who is the One God and Father of all. But now the Gospel comes not “in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Now the word is anointed by Jesus’ blood. So now all nations indeed come before Him, giving “the Lord glory and praise.”
And when Jesus says, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” He does not remove anything from under God’s domain. For even the things of Caesar are in God’s hands (as is the coin between Jesus’ fingers today), as the Son makes clear in His words before Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (Jn.19:11). And, “the Lord is King” and King is His Son, and “He governs the peoples with equity.” Let all declare the glory of Him besides whom “there is no other.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The World Is a Work of Art (Made by the Hand of God)" (1st half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, all the earth belongs to you;
let us run in the way you command,
ever giving praise to the glory of your NAME.
YHWH, there is none beside you – you are the Most High God, the only God, the living God… and greatly should we praise you. We should worship you alone, for you alone are worthy of worship. O let us sing to you all the day long!
All the nations are in your hands, LORD and God; all kings run in the way you lead them. There is none above your power or beyond your reach – the world is at your command. As Jesus holds the coin of Caesar between His fingers, so all this earth is under your power, to be disposed with as you desire.
Send your Spirit into us, dearest LORD, O mighty God, that your power might come to us and conform us to your will, that we might labor each day for you and our poor work find your favor. Let us test you not, O LORD, but trust in your goodness toward us and be obedient to your Word.
Praise you for your glory, LORD! Let all souls give you due praise, that we might join with you who made us, that we might share in your surpassing glory.
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!
Sat, 14 October 2017
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Phil.4:12-14,19-20; Mt.22:1-14)
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines.”
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” It may be equated with “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” with “calves and fatted cattle ready to be eaten.” A great banquet is the kingdom of heaven!
But, of course, though we speak here of food and eating, we know that it is not this we should thus seek on this earth, for these things are but of the earth and are only used to help us understand the heavenly fruits which are ours in the kingdom of God. Paul makes this clear in his attitude toward food and the provisions that are of this world: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need,” and it truly matters not to him whether he is rich or poor in material things; all that matters is that we “can do all things in Him who strengthens” us – all that matter are the “glorious riches in Jesus Christ.” Food and feasting are but metaphors for the things that in this world are unseen.
However, it is so that “the feast is ready” even here on this earth. It is true that the Lord “spread[s] the table before” us even in this world, even “in the sight of [our] foes.” He does not leave us poor humans alone without real food to strengthen us for our journey. But this food is spiritual fare; His Body and Blood are not juicy and rich to our taste, to our bellies, but to our souls. This food nourishes the Spirit He has planted within us, and helps it ever to grow. Though real as our own flesh and our own blood, yet it truly is of heaven, and lends the glory of God to this bone of His bone.
“God will fully supply whatever you need,” brothers and sisters; have no fear of being in want and no anxiety to build up abundance on this earth. He indeed is beside you always, giving your soul blessed “repose.” Make it your aim to “dwell in the house of the Lord.” Then “on that day” He reveals His kingdom, you will “rejoice and be glad,” saying, “Behold, our God, to whom we looked to save us!” Then you will enter His presence forever. Prepare your soul for the wedding feast of heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Readiness Is All" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, prepare us well to come into your House,
to enter into eternal life with you,
our God and Savior.
YHWH, you spread the table before us, a feast of your kingdom. Rich food and choice wines are ours even this day in the Body and Blood of your Son. Let us offer you due praise and thanks for all your provisions for our journey to you.
And when we come finally into your kingdom, LORD, where death has been destroyed and we stand in the light of your presence, our hearts shall leap up in absolute joy… and we shall remain with you forever.
But let our wedding garment be prepared this day. O LORD, let us find the purity we need to stand in your presence and rejoice in your glory. For yet our hearts are not set wholly on you – forgive our continual rejection of your grace.
You are at our side, dear LORD; you bless and guide us as we walk this dark earth. Help us to cling to you in trust and faith, and our place beside you will be assured. Glory to you, O LORD!
Sat, 7 October 2017
(Is.5:1-7; Ps.80:9,12-16,19-20,Is.5:7; Phil.4:6-9; Mt.21:33-43)
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
“Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.” Of course, this “vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!” And so the Lord promises to “take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, [He] will make it a ruin.”
Jesus’ parable in our gospel today echoes precisely Isaiah’s “song”: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.” But now the prophecy is brought to fulfillment; now the rotten grapes come to maturity, and so the ruin of the vineyard will be complete. For in their rejection of the Son the hope of Israel is lost: none further has the Father to send them; herein they utterly spurn His love. How shall they be turned to producing good fruit if He who is the source of all goodness they destroy in their souls? There is nothing left but to remove the vineyard from them.
“A vine from Egypt [the Lord] transplanted; [He] drove away the nations and planted it.” But for its unfaithfulness He has “broken down its walls.” Indeed, in a scant few years after the crucifixion of the Messiah the temple in Jerusalem will be utterly destroyed – the worship upon which the faith of the Lord’s people is founded will be no more. And it shall not return. But even as this temple built by hands the Lord lays waste, He yet answers our psalmist’s plea to Him: “Look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted.” For as He destroys, so He builds; as Christ is killed, so His Church is planted. And it shall grow unto eternity.
The fulfillment of all prophecy, the New Jerusalem, is in our midst now. In the Catholic faith the worship at Jerusalem comes to maturity. And though many would see it removed – and perhaps by man’s reason one might say for its sins it should be – though many come in their presumption to build anew… there is no call from the Lord for any of this, and these man-made structures will also fall to ruin. What God builds now He builds on a foundation which lasts forever, against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail. Only on the day of judgment, only when the kingdom has come, will this House be needed no more – for then all that will be will be His Church.
So, “brothers and sisters, have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God.” Truly does the Lord’s “face shine upon us” in this holy Temple, and it shall not be moved. See that you not remove yourselves from it but “keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen” in its confines. Listen to His Word spoken to your hearts, and receive well the broken Bread of this holy sacrifice and the Blood of this heavenly vine. And bear fruit in His name.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Fatherless Children" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, restore this vine
that we might bear your fruit in peace.
YHWH, the vineyard you planted in Israel had to be broken down, the temple in Jerusalem destroyed, but the Church you have built in the blood of Christ shall endure till the end of time. Let us make our home in its confines.
The peace of the New Jerusalem is ours, O LORD, by the grace wrought by your Son; the New Covenant let us embrace that we might flourish as your vine. O let us bear fruit in your sight!
Break not down the walls of this House, LORD; let us not be disobedient to your call. Though we have killed Jesus on a cross, let us now turn back to you. For you will have mercy on your people and restore us in your love. Give us new life and we will call upon your Name, never forgetting your presence in our midst.
O LORD, may your House be built this day even unto the heavens; in your presence let us make our home, serving you faithfully at all times. The Body and Blood of your only Son as our food and drink, let us be grafted to your vine.
Sat, 30 September 2017
(Ez.18:25-28; Ps.25:4-9; Phil.2:1-11; Mt.21:28-32)
“Tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
Why? How can it be that such sinners gain such privilege, such grace? Is it for their sins? Shall we all become as they? We should be like them, but not in sin – in repentance. For it is because they have “turned away from all [the] sins that [they] committed” that they are saved; it is because they are “tax collectors and prostitutes” no more. And so we are all called to turn away from the sin which each of us surely has.
David sings beautifully of this in our psalm: “The sins of my youth and my frailty remember not,” as he begs the Lord for His kindness. For all that we have done in our ignorance and our weakness we should seek the Lord’s mercy, for He assures us throughout our readings that “He shows sinners the way” when they come humbly before Him.
When the first son in Jesus’ parable responds to his father’s request for him to work in the vineyard, “I will not,” what does this son do but sin against his father? – just as each of us sins against our heavenly Father when we turn from His will to blindly follow our own. But what did the son show when he “afterwards changed his mind and went” but his contrition and repentance at his insubordination, thus illustrating the manner in which our consciences should lead us from our own disobedience? And as Jesus makes clear, it was this son who “did his father’s will” and so will be blessed by him.
Our reading from Ezekiel makes this theme of turning from sin and finding blessing even clearer. It states in certain terms of the wicked man that “if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” With such assurance, why should we delay our own conversion, which must be effected day to day?
St. Paul presents the attitude we must have before others and God in order to find the Lord’s grace. He states: “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,” and then gives the clear example of the most humble of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” He so “humbled Himself” that He became “obedient even unto death, death on a cross.” And so should we be proud? Should we harden ourselves in our sin, or rather turn and empty ourselves of all that is not of Him? The salvation repentance finds is indicated also in the fact that, because of Jesus’ humility, “God exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every other name.” So let us not hesitate to join the tax collectors and prostitutes among us who bend the knee before Him; let our “tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” and we shall know His reward.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Where's My Brother?" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, turning away from all our sins
and humbling ourselves before you,
let us but do your holy will.
YHWH, help us to turn from our sins and do your holy will. May we be obedient as your Son, who gave His life to save others. Let all souls repent of their wickedness and walk in His way, that all might find salvation in His Name.
If we could but be humble before you, LORD; if we could but admit our failings, our selfishness and pride, our blindness to your call for our lives… then we would be blessed by you and become your faithful sons. Break our hardened hearts that we might love, that we might look upon you who are love itself.
O let us be empty, LORD, of all we would possess, of all that we would grasp with our own hands. Let us indeed be blessed to recognize our sinfulness and find your mercy and forgiveness. You but want for us to turn to you that you might embrace us as your own. May your compassion be known in our hearts this day.
Sat, 23 September 2017
(Is.55:6-9; Ps.145:2-3,8-9,17-18; Phil.1:20-24,27; Mt.20:1-16)
“You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.”
Our readings today reveal that the Lord is near, merciful, and just, and that these three qualities are one in God. For the Lord’s justice is shown in His mercy, and His mercy in His nearness to us. And so we should “praise [His] name forever.”
Isaiah conveys to us that the Lord’s thoughts and ways are “as high as the heavens are above the earth” with respect to our own thoughts and our own ways. As David proclaims, “His greatness is unsearchable.” But the prophet also encourages the faithful to “seek the Lord while He may be found, [to] call Him while He is near”; and the king declares, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” And is not the closeness of our great God – made most evident in the presence of Jesus among us – illustrated in the Lord’s parable? Does not the landowner go out at all times of day to draw laborers into his vineyard? Even to the final hour He invites us into His kingdom, coming to us always with the hope of making us fruitful workers upon His land.
And why does the Lord remain so near? Why does He call to us so incessantly? Is it not because He is so “generous and merciful,” because He is “good to all and compassionate toward all His works”? Is it not that we should turn from our idleness and the wickedness of our thoughts and ways that He ventures into the marketplace to find us? Does Jesus not come to redeem us from this world of sin? And should we not therefore “turn to the Lord for mercy, to our God who is generous in forgiving,” whose calling us to work in His vineyard is more that He should be able to give us all we need than that we might labor for Him?
And is His mercy not proven by His form of justice? For does He not give all a full day’s pay, even those with Him but an hour? Do not all who come to His kingdom know the blessings He pours forth? This is His way, this is His justice – the way of mercy and love. And it is by this love He remains so near us who may now proclaim with Paul: “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death,” for His love is inseparable from us who believe, who have entered into His vineyard and share in His blood.
And should we not be merciful as He? Should His justice not become our own? We should not be as those servants who “grumbled against the landowner” for His generosity, courting envy in our hearts, but allow the Lord to be “free to do as [He] wish[es] with [His] own money.” Should we not wish the same joy upon all souls as we ourselves have been blessed to know? Though we may have had to bear “the day’s burden and the heat,” should this limit our generosity to others who have come late? We should rather with our Lord desire all to enter His vineyard, to be close to us, that all might receive the benefit of His merciful justice. We should thank Him that His ways are not our own, for then never would He have come near to us, and empty and idle we would be standing still.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Stumblebum" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, how our envy would kill us –
let us rejoice in your mercy toward all,
counting ourselves blessed to do your will.
YHWH, truly you are generous in forgiving, gracious and merciful to all, coming even at the eleventh hour to save us from our sin and share with us all the blessings of your kingdom. Let us set to work for you this day, this hour, rejoicing always that we might labor for you.
O LORD, we thank you that your ways are far above our ways, for where we would condemn, you would forgive, and so we would ourselves be condemned without your mercy. It is indeed your desire to save all souls and we need but turn our desire to you to find you present to us. Help us to leave the ways of this world behind and follow in the way of your Son, embracing the Cross as though it held all treasure for us, as if it is the greatest gift you give… as if it were the way to Heaven, which it is.
O LORD, why should we complain against your generosity, your mercy? Should we not rather seek to be like you? Then we would share in all the riches of your kingdom with nothing to keep us from praising your Name.
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.
Sat, 16 September 2017
(Sir.27:30-28:9; Ps.103:1-4,8-12; Rom.14:7-9; Mt.18:21-35)
“Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?”
How like the Lord’s own wisdom is that of Sirach; how like His teaching. For have we not heard the Master say, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven,” in His instruction to His disciples on how to pray? And does He not impart this same lesson by parable today?
“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” Oh the woe of the unforgiving heart! “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” How can we “refuse mercy to another” and “seek pardon for [our] own sins”? Do we not know that anger is itself a deadly sin, mortally wounding our anxious souls? Do we who sit in judgment think in our hearts that we are without sin, that we are perfect as He who is Most High? If indeed “we are the Lord’s” then we will act as the Lord and look with “kindness and compassion” upon others. Instead of condemnation we would practice divine forgiveness, for indeed mercy is the Father’s defining trait in His relationship with His children.
But no, rather than putting “wrath” and “enmity” and “hate” as far from our hearts as the Lord has “put our transgressions from us,” we cherish these abominations, setting them as trophies in our corrupted souls. Again, what woe there is for the unforgiving soul! For the same torture we would inflict upon others for their sins against us shall be the torture we ourselves shall face – then we will know what justice is! Then we will know the wrath of God! Then He who alone has power and wisdom and love to judge rightly shall inflict His punishment on all His wicked servants.
My brothers and sisters, fellow servants of the Lord in both life and in death, the Lord cannot emphasize enough to us the need for forgiveness. We must first and always recognize and remember the sinners we have been and the grace we have received at our Lord’s hands. And with this ever in mind and heart we must come to others with that same mercy. It is this He desires of us, and He will accept nothing less.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "It Takes One To Know One" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, surpassing is your kindness toward us;
help us to transcend our vengeful hearts
and forgive as you have done.
YHWH, have mercy on our souls by helping us to show mercy toward others; even your own mercy let us share. Then how blessed we shall be to be like you, O compassionate God! Then your mercy shall pour forth like a refreshing stream and become an overflowing torrent.
But your kindness and compassion are far from us, LORD, so long as our sins remain near. So long as we cherish anger, we choke our souls and so cannot breathe in the light of your glory. If only we would turn and forgive, freely and without limit, then we would fully know the great blessing of your forgiveness, and find our sins put far from us.
Why should we wish to live or die except in you? Why would we separate ourselves from your loving presence? O let us rather die to the wrath we hold! Let us set all vengeance aside. Then we shall rise to where you are, LORD, to where your Son would lead us.
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!
Sat, 9 September 2017
(Ez.33:7-9; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; Rom.13:8-10; Mt.18:15-20)
“O wicked one, you shall surely die.”
The Lord declares to the prophet Ezekiel: “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.” He is to “speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,” that the sinner might not “die for his guilt” and that the prophet himself might not be “responsible for his death” by his silence.
As the Lord calls Ezekiel, so He requires all the Church to “warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way.” We must be diligent with all those in our care, all those we find in need, not in order to deliver condemnation upon souls but to invite all to “bow down in worship” and “kneel before the Lord who made us.” How can someone know this great glory if there is sin upon his soul? And how will he know to turn from his sin if those the Lord gives words to speak hold their tongues as the sheep goes astray? And what shall become of this soul who has not offered the word of loving wisdom, but rather determined in himself that there is no hope for the sinner he sees?
Brothers and sisters, when we are called to declare: “‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be,” it is out of love for the soul we see straying that we speak. For love is “the fulfillment of the law”; it sums up all its precepts, and so all its precepts are expressed in love. Do not think the law is opposed to love – love and justice are one in God; and the Lord does not call us to ignorance or acceptance of sin, but to truth and salvation.
“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault’”; do not pretend the fault does not exist, but confront him, for his sake and your own. For “if he listens to you, you have won over your brother” – you will have brought him back to the fold. However, “if he doesn’t listen,” the Lord calls us further: “Take one or two others along with you.” Bring objective witness to sway your loved one from evil. And “if he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.” Ah, the Church! The keeper of the Spirit of Truth and the flame of wisdom which no man can deny. What teaching the Lord has left with Her! And what power: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” For here are those “gathered together in [Jesus’] name,” and He indeed is “in the midst of them.” And if the soul “refuses to listen even to the Church,” what hope has it of finding salvation? But at least you have done all you can.
All must be done in justice and in love to save the soul straying in this land. This is why the Lord has left us the Church; this is why He has left His Spirit – and we are called to speak His Truth, that salvation might come to all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "No Paranoia" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to love one another,
to bring one another to repentance
that all might sing your praise.
YHWH, help us to love others as we should, to speak the truth to them; let our concern be the salvation of souls, as it is for your Son.
LORD, you institute the Church to be your representative on earth, and you call each member to reflect your love and your glory; your justice must be the desire of every soul. And we must show that desire in our relations with others, in our concern for their welfare. Who could stand by and let his brother perish if he truly loves him? And will not sin cause the death of any who will not repent? And so, what should we do but speak out in your Name?
Let our tongues not be silent as we see others fall. Especially your pastors we pray for this day, that they not be afraid to chastise their flock, to warn them against wayward paths. And let their words be heeded, LORD – save souls from dying in their sin, that all might praise your holy NAME.
Sat, 2 September 2017
(Jer.20:7-9; Ps.63:2-6,8-9; Rom.12:1-2; Mt.16:21-27)
“Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
Paul says the same as Jesus when the Lord calls us to “take up [our] cross,” to lose our lives for His sake. And as Paul instructs the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” so Jesus teaches Peter, and all His apostles and disciples, when He insists he think as God and not as man.
Why? Why is the Lord so harsh with this Rock of the Church (and, as I say, with us all)? The answer is spoken clearly in our reading from Jeremiah. In it the prophet declares in near desperation: “The Word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.” He goes so far as to say the Lord has “duped” him, making evident that he had not expected to become “an object of laughter” upon taking on the mantle of prophecy. “Everyone mocks me,” he cries; and yet he “must cry out” still the way of the Lord. Yet he must call the people from their sins and warn them of the “violence and outrage” that is near them. He cannot remain silent, though he would greatly wish to, because the Word of the Lord is “like fire burning in [his] heart, imprisoned in [his] bones,” and he can do nothing but shout it from the rooftops, though it bring him scorn.
And what has this to do with Peter? Peter has just declared that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and it is his voice above all that will cry out this truth to the ends of the earth; thus he and his fellow apostles must know clearly that to which they are called. As the Lord “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly… and be killed,” so must they walk the same path of persecution. This they must see. The contradiction of the cross they must realize, even as they preach it in this hostile world. For to it they must give themselves completely.
How? How can it be that the Christian take up such foolishness in the eyes of the world? How can it be that we die so freely, that we suffer such mockery, such persecution at the hands of sinners? Is it not that our “flesh pines and [our] soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless, and without water” for the living God? And is it not because we know that “as with the riches of a banquet shall [our] soul be satisfied”? The key is in this gospel quote: “The Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father’s glory.” The key is believing on the third day He was raised. If we have this faith it becomes easy to deny the pleasures of the flesh, for even in this we find the eternal life of the Spirit. Because our “soul clings fast” to God and to the hope that is only in Him, we are able to cling fast to His cross and so “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” And so we die with Him to live.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Weightless Crucifixion" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us always to take the lowest place,
that you might call us up to you.
YHWH, you give a home to the forsaken and call us to do the same; as you have provided for our needy souls – though we deserved it not – so you call us to care for others, or we shall not find our place with you.
We are truly lowly, dear God, for before you, who could stand? How can we hope to sit at the same table as your only Son and partake of the food He provides? Yet to His side He calls us; to be lowly as He is our great gift. His grace we shall know, and in abundance, if with Him we lay down our lives for those in need.
Then we shall come to your holy mountain, to the heavenly Jerusalem with all your angels and saints. Washed in the blood of the Lamb you offer for our sakes, emptied of all the vanity of our race, we shall be exalted and chant your praise, dearest LORD, we who have made ourselves humble and lowly before you, we who have thus found our place at your table with Jesus, and been made perfect by His Cross.
Sat, 26 August 2017
(Is.22:19-23; Ps.138:1-3,6,8; Rom.11:33-36; Mt.16:13-20)
“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Thus the Lord grants principal authority in His Church to His rock, Peter. Thus He prophesies what He has promised: the power and teaching given those who sit on Moses’ seat shall pass to this new leader He appoints to guide the flock of the New Jerusalem. And is this designation, or redesignation, of power not remarkably foreshadowed in our first reading: “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open”? For the Lord has said to “Shebna, master of the palace: ‘I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station… and give over to [Eliakim] your authority.’” The same declaration Jesus has made to the chief priests and leaders of the people, and here He indicates its fulfillment.
“He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.” Is this not the case with our Papa, our Pope, whom the Lord has assigned in His “inscrutable” judgment to feed His sheep? “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” whose mind no man has known. For see the authority He gives to man, He who has all power to give. Even unto heaven does the reign of the apostles now extend, with Peter in the fore. And “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it,” for it is granted by “the Christ, the Son of the living God” through the revelation of His “heavenly Father.” “I will fix Him like a peg in a sure spot,” the Lord states of Eliakim; and now no surer peg is there than Peter, through whose care all “worship at [the Lord’s] holy temple.”
“Your kindness, O Lord endures forever.” Your love for your sons on earth reaches unto heaven. And so you grant us blessings beyond our imagining; you strengthen us beyond our weak frame. And as to the apostles you deliver authority, so one in your grace all become. How shall we repay you for your kindness toward us? How shall we care for the gift you give? How shall we maintain your presence among us, except that in your love you remain? Bless this House and all its leaders; may “in the presence of the angels [we] sing your praise.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Branch of the Vine" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt. (Background chanting by members of Neocatechumenal movement awaiting arrival of Pope Benedict XVI at the United Nations.)
O LORD, teach us always to do what is right
that we might be as your sons
and enter into your House.
YHWH, all peoples are called to your glory, to your kingdom, for all are sons and daughters to you. But truly you must be our Father, we must come from you, we must reflect your image, the image your only Son reflects to us in His way of the Cross, if we are to enter your presence. Relying on accidents of time or place we shall never be saved. Only by accepting the discipline you offer will be made ready for Heaven.
Strengthen us, O LORD, by the chastisement you bring to our souls, by the Word of truth come from Jesus’ mouth. He knows you and is the way to you – let us be obedient to His call and the call of His apostles to enter through the narrow gate, to leave all of this world behind that we might come rejoicing to your holy mountain with all our brothers and sisters, with all your blessed children. May all men hear your Son’s voice this day, that none shall be barred from your kingdom.
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.
Sat, 19 August 2017
(Is.56:1,6-7; Ps.67:2-3,5-6,8; Rom.11:13-15,29-32; Mt.15:21-28)
“God delivered all to disobedience,
that He might have mercy upon all.”
(In love let me speak, O Lord.)
Brothers and sisters, the Lord has said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Yet our scholars and leaders make it a den of unbelief. Like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they are deaf and blind to the light of God. We must not follow in their steps, but speak the truth of the presence of Christ that all might enter the portals of the Lord.
I ask you: How shall the Lord’s “way be known upon earth; among all nations, [His] salvation,” if His Truth is blunted, if His Word is watered down into an alphabet soup? The commentary of the missal I read states of our gospel: “Matthew took this story from Mark… He molded it to bring out a message for the Church of his day.” And so again, and continuously, those who presume to speak for the Church know nothing of God’s Word. In their excessive analyzing, in their presumption and fabrication, they themselves attempt to mold the divine Scriptures to fit the vision of their blinded eyes, unable to see the Lord who stands before them. It is remarkable how ignorant these “intelligent” beings are to the simple fact that “prophecy has never been put forth by man’s willing it,” that “men impelled by the Holy Spirit have spoken under God’s influence” (2Pt.1:21). And so they seek to make the Bible as any other sacred text, and the Church no different than the next.
Why? So that there will be “an open-minded respect for all who seriously follow their religious convictions, provided of course that they fulfill their obligation to find the truth.” But what they do not see is that the very condemnation of people they seek so anxiously to avoid, they are themselves effecting, in an eternal fashion. For they do not open the loving arms of the Catholic Church and speak of the acceptance of all into its grace and favors. They themselves do not “fulfill their obligation” to the truth for they know not what truth is: that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life is not heard by those who thirst for it most of all.
And they do not see the absolute beauty of the woman’s cry, “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Or Jesus’ wonderful exclamation, “O woman, great is your faith!”) They do not see the way is not easy for any to come to salvation – be it the Gentile to whom the gates had seemed to be shuttered (though even throughout the Old Testament the Lord makes it very clear that “foreigners who join themselves to the Lord… them [He] will bring to [His] holy mountain”) or the Jew who must repent of the hardness of his heart. They do not witness that all must come crawling on their knees to Jesus, and so how can they preach it? Their eyes are not open to see that the daughter who is healed is more than just the woman’s blood offspring, but all the Gentile race; and they do not call all these to the light of His face. May the Lord have mercy on their disobedience. “May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear Him.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Whole Whale" (second half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, lift us up from the pit
and baptize us with your fire.
YHWH, opposition from sinners we must indeed endure if we are to be called by the Name of your Son. The Cross we must carry through this world if we are to come to where Christ is at your right hand. If we are lowered into a muddy cistern, what should that matter to us, as long as we ourselves are not guilty of sin.
Should we not take great strength in the suffering of Jesus and all those who have followed Him so faithfully to the Cross? Have they not proven that you come, O LORD, to save those who cry out to you? We shall be delivered even from death by the grace upon your Son, and so why should we fear the shedding of our blood?
Your sword of truth cannot but divide the evil from the good, those who look to you from those who take their refuge in the things of this earth. Let your fire come, dear God, and burn away all sin from our midst, that all your afflicted and poor may rise from the ground blessed.
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.
Sat, 12 August 2017
(1Kgs.19:9a,11-13a; Ps.85:8-14; Rm.9:1-5; Mt.14:22-33)
“When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance to the cave.”
For the Lord was in the “tiny whispering sound.”
God speaks in silence. His Word sinks deeply into our souls, piercing the spirit within us, and so what can we be but afraid? His still, small voice brings us into His awesome presence.
Brothers and sisters, it is the same NAME of God revealed to Moses the lawgiver that is spoken to Elijah the prophet here on the same “mountain of God, Horeb.” This WORD, this NAME (YHWH), invokes fear, for it silences the tongue, stilling all distraction we might make, and so allows the purity of God to pass into us. What but fear, what but holy wonder, can penetrate our very bones when we become thus surrounded by His presence, when He penetrates the core of our being? “The Lord will be passing by” is the promise made to Elijah; and in the silent WORD the Lord’s promise is kept.
And is it not this same WORD in which Jesus rested when “He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray”? Is it not this same WORD the Lord brought to Peter and the apostles when He “came toward them walking on the sea” as their boat “was being tossed about by the waves”? As He stepped into the boat with His blessed Rock, is it not so that “the wind died down”? My brothers and sisters, Jesus is this WORD spoken to Elijah, this NAME given Moses, made flesh in our midst. And in His presence “the strong and heavy wind,” “the earthquake,” and “the fire” become as nothing, as all distractions cease and we find ourselves at the feet of “the Son of God.”
Upon coming from this mountain Moses led his people out of Egypt. Upon coming from this mountain Elijah will anoint a king and a prophet to succeed him. Upon coming from the silence of the mountain Jesus – as He did before in calling His twelve apostles – comes to confirm the call upon Peter and his brothers even as He sees that His mission must increase with the death of John the Baptist. From the silent WORD all is spoken. It is His NAME for which we must listen, that we might “speak the truth in Christ.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land.” And so, let us “hear what God proclaims; the Lord – for He proclaims peace,” and in His peace alone will we discover our true and lasting home. (Fear not the troubling of your soul; He breathes a light calm upon the waters.)
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "WH" from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our hope is in you;
may we patiently await the coming of your kingdom.
YHWH, how we hope for your kindness to deliver us from death, to save us from our adversaries, even from our very selves. We place all our trust in you – O may our faith soon be rewarded!
If we but had the faith of Abraham, dear LORD, blessed as he would we be, with no fear for the impending darkness, with hearts set solely on your coming light. The salvation of the just let us await with steadfast hearts, knowing well that you are faithful to all your promises and that you have promised a heavenly dwelling to all who seek their place with you.
To this earth let us not be attached; all of this world let us offer freely to you. You are our only treasure, dear God – you are all that is worthy of our concern. And so, let us await your Son’s return with loins girded and lamps burning. Let us be ever vigilant for His coming, serving well your holy will all our days, and our inheritance we shall find in you.
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.
Mon, 7 August 2017
(Nm.12:1-13; Ps.51:3-7,12-13; Mt.15:1-2,10-14)
“If one blind man leads another, both will end in a pit.”
Aaron and Miriam would lead the people, they would presume the place of Moses; but they are blind, they cannot see who it is the Lord calls, who is His chosen. And so the Pharisees, too, are blind guides, deaf and blind to the presence of Jesus, who is God’s Chosen One. Considering their own gifts and talents but not recognizing from whom they come and what their limits are, their blindness leads both forth into sin against the Lord and against His anointed. And it will only be by crying out to the Lord, as does David in his psalm, that the sin shall be cleansed from them and a “clean heart” will be created within them.
Aaron does cry out, begging Moses to intercede with the Lord for their sister’s leprosy, and so cleansing shall come for her; but we have a fear for the Pharisees, for the Lord says of them, “Let them go their way.” Their way leads to destruction; their blindness shall lead them into a pit. If they continue to turn from the Lord standing before them, they shall multiply rather than find forgiveness for their sins. Oh that their hearts would not be hardened! Oh that they would cleanse their souls and not their hands! Oh that they would see what is first with the Lord, and how He must be followed! “Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,” with David let them cry out to you, Lord, that they might be washed clean of the guilt into which we are all born, that the leprosy might be taken from their spirits.
We all are in danger of blindness, brothers and sisters, and the affliction which comes from its snares. We must never presume upon the Lord or His chosen leaders, or cast from His presence will we be. It is true that all have sinned. It is so that we all fall short. But we have a greater than Moses in our dear Jesus, who cries out for His wounded Church: “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!” when He sees the afflictions upon us. What are the thoughts of our hearts? What comes out of our mouths? Is it a desire to love Him and a cry for assistance, or do we harden our hearts against His truth?
Let us not follow and become blind guides. There was one man chosen to lead the multitude out of slavery and through the desert, and there is one Man now to lead us to the Father’s presence. He has left His Spirit upon His Church, upon His apostles and those who follow His teaching – and most particularly upon His one chosen servant, the rock that is Peter. Let us walk in light, being led along the path He marks out for us by His chosen guide.
O LORD, let us not follow blind leaders
but only those inspired by your Word Himself.
YHWH, let us watch what comes out of our mouths; let us not boast before you or your chosen ones but listen to your voice speaking through your Church. Your Spirit is upon this House and those who sit upon Moses’ seat, upon the Chair of Peter – let us be humble and obedient to your Word.
Then we shall be cleansed of our sin, O LORD; then we shall share in the power you give your holy ones. When we are as meek as Moses, then we shall stand in your presence and be blessed.
O wash us clean of all our sin! Our offenses are ever before you, LORD. Let us not be as lepers cast from the light of your face, but let our spirits be renewed by the grace come through the prayer of your Church.
Forgive us this day our sins against you, LORD; let us come to your priests upon our knees, confessing our guilt openly in your sight, that we shall no longer be blind or fall into the pit but with understanding hearts see your mercy at work within us.
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.