Sat, 28 December 2019
(Sir.3:2-6,12-14; Ps.128:1-5; Col.3:12-21; Mt.2:13-15,19-23)
“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.”
A man is a man, a woman is a woman, and children are children – this does not change with time or culture. All are called to be one in the love and sacrifice of Christ; all are one holy family.
Why do we find it necessary to make excuses for Holy Scripture and the “patriarchal family pattern” it reflects and “the subordinationist family ethic of the Biblical culture” (from the commentary of the missal from which I take today’s readings)? How is it we have lost the beauty of Paul’s words on the complementary nature of the conjugal relationship? How is it the family has become bereft of Christ?
One would think Paul states, “Husbands, beat your wives,” instead of “Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them,” by the way his text is avoided like the plague. Why such ignorance of what is actually present in Scripture? And if the Scripture is perverted, why do we not “in all wisdom... teach and admonish one another,” instead of casting the wisdom of the Lord from our presence, or rationalizing it away. Is it a sin for a wife to be submissive, to respect her husband; for children to be obedient toward their parents; for the husband and father to lay down his life for his family? Is power to be defined by the dictates of the world, or by the cross? Do we desire to control, or to love?
“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!” Here is the key to our roles, in the exclamation of our psalmist. “Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him,” Paul summarizes his teaching. Hear in his letter the call to “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another,” even as the Lord has done with us. Be led by the Word of the Lord and His instruction and guidance. You, husbands, do you reflect Joseph’s obedience to the Word of God brought by the angel? Do you care for your families as God calls? Are you mothers like Mary, moving according to the protective hand upon your hearth, your house? And children, do you honor your father and mother’s authority over you as Jesus, who, though the Son of God, humbled Himself to be the child in this Holy Family? Let us all be as Christ – honoring, obeying, humbling ourselves… in a word, loving one another as He has loved us. Then we will be of the family of God.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Vision of Children" (2nd part) from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, call us out of Egypt to your holy land.
YHWH, obedient let us be to you, and serve one another. It is your will that we love one another, that we act with humility and patience, always forgiving and living in peace. Indeed, let us reflect the life of the Holy Family.
Was not Joseph obedient to your every word, dear LORD? Did he not have in his soul only to protect your Son and His Mother? Did he think of himself at all? O let all fathers lay down their lives in such a complete manner!
And was not Mary obedient to Joseph (who was obedient to you)? Did she not recognize, O LORD, that your will was being accomplished through his instruction, through the inspiration upon his soul? Did she stop to question his actions? Did she think herself better qualified, being the Mother of God? O let all wives be so respectful of their husbands!
And was Jesus not obedient in all things to Joseph and Mary, He who was Son of God and God Himself? Did He invoke His superiority over them? O God, let all children so honor their mother and father! Let all walk in your ways, in your way of sacrifice, and so be blessed as the Holy Family.
Thu, 26 December 2019
(1Jn.1:1-4; Ps.97:1-2,5-6,11-12; Jn.20:2-8)
“He saw and believed.”
And “the eternal life that was present to the Father and became visible to us,” which John now proclaims, is Jesus Christ the only Son of God, risen from the dead and present to us now even as He sits with the Father.
John has seen Him. He has believed in Him. His “hands have touched” Him and so he “proclaim[s] the word of life” made so real in his midst. What else could he do but declare that which burns in his heart? What else could be the Evangelist’s desire but to share the blessing he has known as “the one Jesus loved”? For brimming with love this apostle is, and only in writing of this joy, only proclaiming it to the world and seeing others enter into such selfsame blessing will make his joy complete. To this he has been called by the Lord.
“Light dawns for the just,” David declares, as if in his psalm to presage the coming of Christ and John’s own words on the coming of Light to this earth. And indeed the just shall see Him, and gladness shall be “for the upright of heart.” For all the just shall “be glad in the Lord… and give thanks to His holy name,” for their souls drink deeply of the salvation in their midst; they know Him whom their hearts love. They see Him, and believe.
And I note the special significance “the piece of cloth which had covered the head” of Jesus – which was “not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself,” as John tells us in his gospel – seems to have as a catalyst to belief. John had seen the wrappings before entering the tomb, but not this cloth, and it is when he enters he sees and believes. It is as if the Lord left it neatly rolled up in a place by itself to indicate to them that He had not “been taken from the tomb” by robbers, as Mary Magdalene (another beloved of Christ) seems to fear. Why would a thief take time to do such a thing? And so, Jesus’ touch is upon the cloth.
“All peoples see His glory” now, brothers and sisters. By the witness of John and all the apostles, eyes are opened to His presence. Let us see Him with John; let us touch Him… and let us know His touch upon our hearts, and so continue to proclaim His glory.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by James Kurt.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us rejoice in the presence of your Christ
with us this day.
YHWH, let all men see your glory in the presence of your risen Son. Let all men come to that glory through faith in Him. Let us hear and believe what John tells us – that He has walked among us in the flesh, that the apostles’ hands have touched Him… that our hearts might be touched by His presence, and so your own.
With our eyes let us look upon your glory, LORD, we who are so blinded by sin and slow of heart to believe. Let us run to the tomb with your apostles that we may see your Son has been raised from the dead, that death no longer has dominion over us but with Him we have been raised. Let us rejoice at the light that dawns in our midst.
You are king over all the earth, LORD, and all the heavens proclaim your justice and your truth. May we join in the choir of your angels and your holy apostles in declaring your glory to the ends of the earth, that all men might be loved by you as was John.
Sat, 21 December 2019
(Is.7:10-14; Ps.24:1-7,10; Rm.1:1-7; Mt.1:18-24)
“God is with us.”
How shall we “ascend the mountain of the Lord”? How shall we scale the heights and come to know Him as He is, He who “founded [the earth] upon the seas and established it upon the rivers”? Only by the Son, who “will save His people from their sins,” are we made ready to stand in His presence. “For it is through the Holy Spirit this child has been conceived,” and we are made holy by the blessing of His presence among our kind.
He is one like us. Can you believe it? Can you understand it, understand its significance and the grace it is as a gift from God? Joseph struggled, certainly, to believe, to understand, to accept the greatness of this gift to him and to his people. The angel of the Lord had to come to him to convince him to receive such great grace into his life, into his home. But he did. He did believe, and he did fulfill his role in the coming salvation.
And, yes, what of us? We “are called to belong to Jesus Christ… called to be holy.” Paul answered the call from God to be His apostle and “bring about the obedience of faith”; again, what of us? Do we answer the call to holiness? Do we reflect that obedience? The time is upon us now. The great sign has been fulfilled in our midst. Jesus has been born and stands with us now to lead us to the purity of the Father – are we prepared to make this Child our own?
What greater truth can be proclaimed than that God is with us? What greater grace can we receive than the forgiveness of our sins, than the preparation of our hearts for heaven? Jesus accomplishes these blessings now for all who desire to enter the presence of God, for He is the presence of God among us; He Himself is divine grace. His mercy is upon us.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” brothers and sisters. The power of the Lord be upon your souls. May the “Spirit of holiness” establish you with the Son as a child of the Father. Be of “the race that seeks for Him,” and you shall find Him present, dwelling in your homes.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Vision of Children" (1st part) from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you call us to be holy;
let us indeed be as the Virgin Mother of your Son.
YHWH, you are with us now in your only Son, who has been born of the womb of the Blessed Virgin. All the earth is yours, and now this Child comes into the world to save it from its sins, from the destruction that is upon it for having turned from you. O let us welcome Him into our homes!
O LORD, let us belong to Jesus and so become one with you. May your grace and peace be upon us this day and all the days of our lives. Make us pure as His Mother that your holy mountain we might ascend and gaze upon your face with all your saints. Obedient to your call as Joseph let us be; let us listen to the voice of your angel.
You desire us all to stand with you, but our hands must be sinless and our hearts clean. May the Virgin Mary, she who has conceived and borne your Son, pray the Spirit upon us, that our obedience shall be like her own, and so her blessing also. Be with us this day, dear God, and let us be with you.
Thu, 19 December 2019
(Is.7:10-14; Ps.24:1-7,10; Lk.1:26-38)
“Blessed are you among women.”
“The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name Him Immanuel because ‘God is with us.’” “The virgin’s name was Mary.” And she has given birth to the Savior.
“Who may stand in His holy place?” King David sings in our psalm. “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?” Clearly Jesus is He. But as clear is that we are all called to be as He, and that she has been, she who is so like Him – she that is indeed His Mother. It is she who “seeks the face of the God of Jacob,” she “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain…” and so she “receive[s] a blessing from the Lord,” the greatest blessing: the Son of God.
Fearful is she in her great humility in the awesome presence of the Lord. Questioning is she in the perfect innocence of her consecrated virginity. But obedient only is she as she hears of the answer to her devout prayer for the pregnancy of her kinswoman, and so assumes the role most native to her, the one she has promised to fulfill: “the maidservant of the Lord.”
O glorious Virgin Mary! You who worship so perfectly, so completely, the One who owns “the earth and its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it,” and so bring that very fullness to us all, teach us to be like Jesus your Son, whom you imitate so absolutely, so naturally. Teach us to be as He who is flesh of your flesh. Be our Mother as well, that we might be brother and sister and mother to the Lord. Aid us in giving our total consent to the will of God. “O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you.” Pray He be with us now, too.
“With that the angel left.” Upon receiving her wholehearted acceptance of her call, his mission is finished, and so he goes. Brothers and sisters, may the angel leave our presence so satisfied that the call of the Lord for our lives will be so well answered. Take heart that “nothing is impossible with God” and that as blessed as she is, so blessed does the Lord call you to be – if you but say yes to His word burning in your soul and lay down your life as has the Mother of God. Give the Lord your “yes” this day.
O LORD, may the Blessed Virgin Mother of your Son
pray for us this day that we shall be pure as she,
and so, able to stand in your presence.
YHWH, she whom you call to be Mother of your Son is indeed sinless in your sight. Because her heart is clean, she can accept your Word and give birth to our Savior. O may we be of her race! May we with all our souls seek your face and so find the blessing that is upon her. O let us know your only Son in our midst!
The blessing you give us we could not imagine – it is beyond our ability to conceive. Yet, LORD, you come to us; you prepare a Virgin from among us that your Son might be with us and so we with you for all ages. O let all be done according to your will! Let us all follow the obedient path of our dear Mother. Let us be her children, O LORD, and so your own.
O Mother of our Lord, blessed among women, most blessed of our race, pray for us this dark day that we will hear the Word of God spoken to our hearts. Pray our hearts be pure as your own, that they might receive our Creator.
Sat, 14 December 2019
(Is.35:1-6,10; Ps.146:6-10,Is.35:4; Jas.5:7-10; Mt.11:2-11)
“Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Hope. What hope have we. And so we should “be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” Indeed, we must endure “the early and the late rains” – having been converted to the Lord we shall be purged of all sin on the last day – but, though “hardship” be with us now, our hope should be firm in Him who comes, in Him who “is standing before the gates” even now.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the vision given Isaiah and the salvation sung of by our psalmist. By Him, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” Should not He who has power over all maladies, and even death, bring us hope in the kingdom to come? Should not our seeing these wonders wrought by Jesus instill great faith in our hearts? Should we not even rejoice now in our suffering, knowing well that “sorrow and mourning will flee away” when He comes, that the very suffering we experience now will then be no more? Patience. Indeed, patience brings us hope, enables us to endure all, even joyfully.
And does Jesus not seek to encourage greater hope, greater faith in our hearts by His words about John the Baptist? “What did you go out to the desert to see?” He asks the crowds, addressing their longing for truth, their desire for hope, and confirms that the prophet they sought was indeed greater than all “among those born of women.” But He does not stop there. How much farther He leads them: “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Remarkable. What hope have we, to be greater than the Baptist. For the Baptist is himself a man, who himself suffers and struggles, inquiring if Jesus is “the one who is to come,” and must himself be assured by the Lord. But in heaven no question will remain. This desert in which we seek the Lord will come to full bloom “with abundant flowers.”
Keep the faith in joy, brothers and sisters. We have every reason for hope; we have firm witness of His grace, at work in us even now.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music:"Hold On, Here We Go" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, come with your Word to heal our souls
that we might enter your kingdom.
YHWH, the coming of your Son is close at hand, when all your children will dance and sing for joy. Though He has come once to open our eyes, to clear our ears, yet in some measure we remain blind and deaf, waiting for the day when your kingdom shall be fulfilled in our midst. And so, we thank you for the release from sin Jesus has wrought, and we wait in hope for His return. Give us the patience we so desperately need.
John was the greatest of men, the greatest of prophets, who prepared the way for your only Son, O LORD. To this parched earth, this desert wasteland, he proclaimed a baptism of repentance that brought healing to our souls. Yet all he has done is but a shadow when compared to the glory of the eternal kingdom to which the Christ does carry us.
Strengthen our hands, dear LORD; make firm our weak knees. Let all sorrow and mourning flee from us as we humbly await Jesus’ return and our becoming one with you.
Fri, 13 December 2019
(Sir.48:1-4,9-11; Ps.80:2-4,15-16,18-19; Mt.17:10-13)
“Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.”
Elijah has come, to “restore everything.” The word has fallen like fire from heaven to prepare a path for the Lord to tread. The Baptist has cried out as a voice in the wilderness for us to make our hearts ready for the coming of the Lord.
But, sadly, “they did not recognize him and they did as they pleased with him.” They rejected the voice crying to them and attempted to cover over the way the word had cleared before them. He who came “to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob,” was himself turned back; and they cast him into prison and beheaded the great prophet.
Yet the way remains open to us. He whom the prophet hailed has come into our midst, and His presence cannot be taken away – even to the end of the age (which is upon us). And we must join with our psalmist today in calling upon Him to “come to save us,” to “look down from heaven, and see,” to “take care of this vine” planted by His right hand. “Give us new life, and we will call upon your name,” must be our prayer, especially in this Advent season, for we must awaken and enliven the path to God the Baptist has served to blaze in our hearts. We must know now Him whom he has hailed.
And, yes, with this Elijah and with the Son of Man, we too will suffer at the hands of those who would silence the Word, who would extinguish the fire set upon the earth. But the fire is eternal and its light and power cannot be dimmed, much less extinguished. It will purify those who seek the face of God and destroy those who turn from Him. It cannot be otherwise. Now that the Lord has come, His angels wait in expectation to purge the world. Once more only the prophet Elijah will appear and the flaming furnace his words prepare will be fulfilled in God’s eternity by the return of the Son of Man. In absolute glory the Lord will reign.
O LORD, Elijah has come
and the way of the Cross has been prepared;
your Son is now present to save us.
YHWH, rouse your power and come to save us; purge us in the fire your Son has set upon the face of the earth. The Baptist has come in the spirit of Elijah – the way of the Savior is now prepared in our midst.
But we must walk this way of fire; we must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, if we are to walk in the way of your Son. If our hearts are to be turned to you, LORD, we must have faith in the One to come.
And this path is one of persecution; it is one that reduces us to straits. For nothing unholy can enter your presence, and so we must be prepared along the narrow way. O LORD, make us strong in following you this day!
The Son of Man is now among us, He who has suffered and died for our sake. May the fire of the Spirit He sends, LORD, make us ready to share in His death, and so His glory.
Mon, 9 December 2019
(Is.40:1-11; Ps.96:1-3,10-13,Is.40:10; Mt.18:12-14)
“Like a shepherd He feeds His flock;
in His arms He gathers His lambs.”
His is the voice which “speak[s] tenderly to Jerusalem.” It is He who “give[s] comfort to [His] people.” For “it is no part of [the] heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.”
Like a shepherd He leads us. With great concern He watches over His flock, careful that none is led astray. And diligent is He in finding the one who “wanders away.” This is indeed “good news.” These are indeed “glad tidings,” which make even “the trees of the forest exult.” For He cares about each one of the many of His creatures, and shall bring all back to Him by the sound of His gentle voice.
And of His sweet voice we must cry out. “Sing to the Lord; bless His name; announce His salvation day after day.” For all the earth must know that “He shall rule the world with justice and His peoples with constancy.” And so “a voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!” May all hearts be ready to meet Him. When “every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low… then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together.” O that that glorious day might come!
“Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” And so He stands behind us, whispering into our ears of the way we should walk. And so He calls to our hearts, carrying us “in His bosom” with care. And so His eternal presence ever comes to our tired bodies, our fading souls, and gives them life, and brings them back from their straying paths upon this dying earth. And so it is that all “exult before the Lord, for He comes; He comes to rule the earth.”
It is only in His eternity that we shall find a home, brothers and sisters. And into these arms He now gathers us. And with His food He now feeds us. Let us partake of His presence in Word and in Sacrament as we await His coming.
O LORD, we praise you
for the merciful justice and peace
you have brought into our midst
through your Son Jesus.
YHWH, truth has sprung out of the earth, for justice has looked down from Heaven and our redemption has come – Jesus has been born among us. He is the holy way, the way that leads to the splendor and glory of your kingdom. He is as the stream in the desert that cleanses our souls of all sins and so prepares us to dance and sing with Him in your eternal presence. We who were lame now leap like a stag for the blessing we have received from our Savior; yes, we have been forgiven, and are now crowned with everlasting joy.
O let your splendor come to us this day, dearest LORD and God. May we hear these blessed words from the mouth of your Son: “Your sins are forgiven.” O let us rise and walk with Him to our heavenly homeland! The parched land cries out to you; let your water pour down upon us that in the power of the Holy Spirit we might blossom forth with His gifts. Strengthened by such grace let us do your holy will in all things.
Sat, 7 December 2019
(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: "Under God" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may all souls come from this desert of sin
to your holy mountain.
YHWH, let us be gathered into your barn, into your reign of peace, where, the viper having been defanged, all your creatures live in harmony, glorifying you as God and Father. In your Son let us make our home.
Jesus comes into our midst endowed with your justice and judgment, O LORD. And the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire, but His wheat He will draw into His heart. With fire shall all men be baptized – may that fire be for us a purging light for entering your kingdom.
The Spirit that was upon John shall anoint all who hear his voice, who seek your way, O LORD and God. And so we must make straight our paths to you, following closely in the footsteps of your Son. O let there be fruit upon our trees! to prove our repentance genuine.
Your NAME shall be blessed forever, dear God; in peace shall all your children dwell. May we be covered with knowledge of you, and so live always in the light of your glory.
Sat, 30 November 2019
(Is.2:1-5; Ps.122:1-9; Rm.13:11-14; Mt.24:37-44)
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that He may instruct us in His ways,
and we may walk in His paths.”
“Beat [your] swords into plowshares.” “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” and to “stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” And even now He calls you to “go up to the house of the Lord” and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Advent has come, and so we are reminded of the Lord’s coming and our need to be prepared. He will not come in vain, and will not accept any vanity into His kingdom. His is a kingdom of light into which no darkness enters. His is a place of peace where “rivalry and jealousy” and all “the desires of the flesh” find no provision.
If in the days of Noah they were blind to the time of their visitation, and so “the flood came and carried them away,” how can it be the same with us, who have the first coming of Christ in the manger and on the cross to stir us to wakefulness? If we live now as in the days of Sodom, how much greater will be our punishment? If we allow our house to be “broken into” though we have His voice calling to our hearts, what could make us think that He will take us with Him when He comes again?
It is indeed time to wake from the sleep of sin and “stream toward… the Lord’s mountain.” There we shall rejoice in His grace as His “relatives and friends”; there we shall find the light of His teaching. “For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” and it shall fill the earth with holiness.
The Lord has been born in our midst. The Word has been made flesh and walked among us. Now we are called to become like Him, to walk in His ways of peace. And so when He returns at the end of time, we will be prepared to “set foot within [the] gates” of His kingdom.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Can We Go Together?" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us walk in the light of your Son
until He comes.
YHWH, let us go up to your House, where we shall find our peace, where we shall find the instruction we need to leave behind all deeds of darkness and enter into your holy light. When your Son returns for us, let us be awake and ready to welcome Him, and He will welcome us into your kingdom.
O LORD, let all the nations come to your holy mountain, to the place of wisdom and peace, that all weapons of destruction might be themselves destroyed and war might be no more. Let not any nation raise the sword against another, and let no man fall again into sin. Let us be trained for peace, not war; purity, not lust.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that it shall extend to the ends of the earth. In this time let it come and dispel all rivalry and jealousy, all the works of the flesh. Your Spirit reign upon us, O LORD; let your Son come to carry us to you.
Sat, 23 November 2019
(2Sm.5:1-3; Ps.122:1-5; Col.1:12-20; Lk.23:35-43)
“This is the King of the Jews.”
On earth, our King rules from a cross; in Paradise, upon a glorious throne. O Lord Jesus, “here we are, your bone and your flesh.” May we die with you that we might reign with you in your holy kingdom.
“All the tribes of Israel came to David” and anointed him king of Israel. He had been called by the Lord as shepherd and commander of Israel, and now he would finally receive his kingship. And he would make Jerusalem the city of the king, and make it holy when he brought the ark of the covenant within its walls. And so, here on earth David reigned, as God’s anointed. And so Jerusalem becomes the place of worship, within whose gates all rejoice to set foot. And there “are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David.”
And so Jesus is called the Son of David, for He inherits this earthly kingdom blessed by God, anointed anew to reign from Jerusalem. But, of course, His kingdom is more than that of the flesh, for it is His own flesh that makes it holy – He is the Temple not made by human hands, through whom all things blessed of the earth and of heaven came to find their being: “In Him were created all things in heaven and on earth.” He indeed is the beginning of all things and the fullness, or the end, of all things; nothing, and in particular the Church, exists apart from Him.
And to what heavenly rule are we all thus called by His “making peace by the blood of His cross.” By His sacrifice we shall indeed be saved; He will remember us when He comes into His Kingdom. And there shall be true rejoicing, for there the cross shall be borne no more. Having consumed all our sins and the darkness and death of this life, it shall be transformed into the throne of glory.
Even now the Lord calls to us from the cross; even now His suffering beckons us. Even now we must turn to Him, our King, in our sin and let Him take our corrupted flesh and bone upon Himself to find the blessed reconciliation of our souls in the hand of God. As His forgiveness pours upon us in His blood, we come to the fullness of His heavenly kingdom and “share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” Long live our King, who dies upon a cross.
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, Jesus is our bone and our flesh –
may He be our King!
YHWH, your Son is King of the Jews – let us come with Him into Paradise, where He reigns forever.
By the blood of Jesus’ Cross all in Heaven and on earth are made one, are reconciled to you, O God and Father of all the redeemed. Through Him all things were made and through Him all are saved. May we all come to share the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
David ruled from the holy city of Jerusalem; all Israel came to him to make him king. He was a man after your own heart because he sought your will in all things. But it is Jesus, your Son, He who is called Son of David for His eternal reign over Israel, over all those who strive to do your will – it is He who is and has always been true King of all Creation. To Him let us call out; in Him let us make our eternal home.
Sat, 16 November 2019
(Mal.3:19-20; Ps.98:5-9; 2Thes.3:7-12; Lk.21:5-19)
“For you who fear my name,
there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
The end comes. The end of the Church year approaches, and the end of time is always upon us. What shall it mean for us, the fact that “there will not be left a stone upon another stone”? That day comes “blazing like an oven” for all evildoers, but for the just the healing rays of the Son of God shine down – will we be burned with the proud like stubble, or made whole in the presence of God?
Yes, “He comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.” He is just and so He cannot but judge with justice. How shall we prepare for His coming? What do we do as we wait? Paul gives us wise instruction, simple instruction, which should be simply heeded: “Work quietly.” It is not for us to be anxious or afraid; it is not for us to fall into disorder or become lazy… it is but for us to remain occupied with the work of God, however simple, however wonderful, that working be. We may be as St. Theresa and her little way, giving ourselves to the Lord in the simple tasks we perform day to day; or we may be as the missionaries for whom she prayed, going out to the ends of the earth, handed over to “synagogues and to prisons,” being “led before kings and governors” to give witness to the name of Christ – “and they will put some of you to death” – but to whatever we are called, always it must be the Lord and His Spirit which are at work in us, helping us to persevere to the end. Not all shall die in the cause, but all must remain faithful to His voice.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes it is the hardest thing simply to go on day to day. Regardless of our situation, we can become distracted and, failing to find the wisdom of Christ, seek to “prepare [our] defense beforehand,” to put the words of the Lord into our own mouths – to decide for ourselves what the Lord would have us do. It is the simplest thing to accept His will, to bask in the rays of His glory… and yet so anxious do we become in our waiting that we cannot hear His still, small voice speaking to our hearts. We must persevere. We must go on. We must listen. He is coming, and if we fear His holy Name, we shall have nothing else to fear: we shall be made whole.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The End of the World Courses through a Day" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us do your work now on this plane
that we might rejoice in your coming Day.
YHWH, help us to persevere until the Day of your Son’s return; that Day is at hand, we know – let us be ready for its purging fire.
And as we stand yet on this earth, let us be ever willing to do your work, to give witness to you and to your Son even with our own lives. Our lives are nothing apart from His sacrifice, and so, O LORD, let us lay them down freely in any way you call.
Give us words to speak to those who accuse us unjustly; put your testimony in our hearts and in our mouths. Your Spirit be with us to guide us in all things, that in all things we might act with wisdom. We shall not fear the destruction of this world, dear LORD, if Jesus remains always at our side.
Come now with your justice, O God, and let us forever praise your NAME. Your holy will be done even this day.
Sat, 9 November 2019
(2Mac.7:1-2,9-14; Ps.17:1,5-6,8,15; 2Thes.2:16-3:5; Lk.20:27-38)
“On waking I shall be content in your presence.”
Our hope is in the resurrection, brothers and sisters. It is this which gives us strength, and it is our endurance which brings us to His presence.
Brothers and sisters, indeed, as Paul wishes us, we have “everlasting encouragement and good hope” through the grace of our Lord. He strengthens our hearts “in every good deed and word” and guards us “from the evil one.” Thus our hearts should be directed “to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”
We have as our example today these seven brothers spoken of in the Second Book of Maccabees, who showed the endurance of Christ and their faith in the resurrection to life despite the severity of their torture at the hands of the wicked of this world – and all this before the coming of Christ into the world and the great graces He has since imparted to His Church. If they could die so for the law alone, to what deeds should we not be able to attain? If in the presence of their torturers they could state with such confidence, “The King of the world will raise us up to live again forever,” what should we not be able to declare in the name of Him who has now been raised from the dead and ascended to glory? If they were so well able to regard their suffering “as nothing,” how much easier should be our own sacrifice, we who stand “in the shadow” of His cross and have His wounds in which to take refuge? Indeed, such greater reason have we to hold to “the hope God gives of being raised up by Him.”
“That the dead will rise” there should be no doubt in our hearts. The fact that “to Him all are alive” should be firmly fixed as a peg in the deepest recesses of our souls. Certainly, this is who we are, children of the resurrection, with the calling to come to Christ, He who has been raised to life. I pray we shall all be “deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead.” Children of God, may we be like angels in His presence when we rise. May our minds not be darkened by the night upon this earth, but let our hope be fixed on the coming morning and our faith strengthen us to endure until we stand with Him on that new day.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Too Good for This World" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us the courage to believe
we shall rise with your Son.
YHWH, keep us steadfast in your paths that soon we might come to your heavenly kingdom; let us be ready to die for you, that we might be raised to glory.
If the seven brothers spoken of in Maccabees could so readily give their lives, could so courageously face the cruel torture imposed upon them by the devil, what faith should we not have, dear LORD, we who have your only Son now at our side and your Holy Spirit to open our eyes? Do we not even now look upon your face; are the glimpses we gain today not so much greater than then?
How strong we should be in walking your way, LORD, we to whom the resurrection has been spoken of so clearly. We whom your Son has told in no uncertain terms that the just shall rise from the dead and be like the angels of Heaven should have no doubt remaining in our hearts and no fear of proclaiming Jesus as God. O help us to endure with joy even to the Day of His coming!
Fri, 8 November 2019
(Ez.47:1-2,8-9,12; Ps.46:1-3,5-6,8-9; 1Cor.3:9c-11,16-17; Jn.2:13-22)
“There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.”
On this the feast set aside to commemorate the cathedral of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, himself the founding stone upon which Christ builds His Church, we hear much of temples. In our first reading Ezekial sees in his vision, “water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple,” water which brings life to the great sea and the fruit that grows upon its banks; the water that gladdens the holy dwelling of the Most High is spoken of in our psalm; Paul tells us we are “the temple of God,” “God’s building”; and zeal for the Father’s house consumes the Lord, and so He purges it with whip in hand in our gospel today. But perhaps the most revelatory statement is, “He was speaking of the temple of His body,” also from our gospel, and noted as explanation of Jesus’ challenge to the Jews to destroy the temple and He would rebuild it in three days. This essential truth of the nature of the temple is substantiated by Paul’s teaching of the care needed by those who build within the Church: “No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.” Though he then goes on to say that we are the temple of God, wrought in all holiness, and though this is an equal truth, yet neither this truth, nor that which holds Peter as the founding “rock” of this Temple in which we dwell, have any basis without the essential understanding that Jesus is at the very heart of all our worship, of the Church we are. The Lord has indeed wrought “astounding things… on earth.” He has made us as those trees along the banks of His river of life, bearing His fruit each month for the benefit of the world. He has made us His holy dwelling place and placed His Spirit upon us for the building up of His kingdom… But all of this has its source in the water of life itself, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate our Church this day and the glorious blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us as His temple, as His children, let us not forget our Savior who has been the cause of and continues to be the cause of our joy. Let us be washed in the water from His side and be built up in His Body and His Blood. May we have His same zeal for the Father’s House.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, purify this temple, destroyed by sin;
let us truly be your House, dear God.
YHWH, you are with us in the midst of your Church, your Son the very foundation of this Temple. And He is the Temple itself, we His very Body; and so, how holy we should be. Indeed, we should be as holy as you, our Most High God, as perfect as your only Son.
It is Jesus’ blood and the water flowing from His side that washes us clean and nourishes the growth of His holy Church. The waters of this River gladden the hearts of all who dwell in your House, O LORD. Upon the banks of this River let us ever remain, bearing fruit each month, each day, each hour, in your holy NAME.
Beneath the Cross let us make our home, O holy LORD and God. Here alone in the shadow of Jesus’ arms will we be made whole, will our temple be cleansed and we become your house of prayer. May the zeal of the Christ chastise our hearts and prepare them for your kingdom. May we be raised with Him on His Day and remain in your presence forever.
Mon, 4 November 2019
(Rm.12:5-16; Ps.131:1-3; Lk.14:15-24)
“Come along, everything is ready now.”
Dinner is being served now in the kingdom of God. But are we prepared to sit down at table? Or do we turn our hearts to other things?
Jesus sets our place now in the kingdom of heaven. He has come. He has died. He has risen and sends now the Holy Spirit to invite us into His presence. And His presence is ever with us; He is ever knocking at the door of our hearts – His Spirit is always with us. But, again, do we hear His call, do we heed His call? Do we care to come into His presence and sup with Him, and receive His gracious gifts at His precious table, at His holy altar… or do we cling to what is evil, what is worldly?
How do we come to His kingdom? How do we find ourselves in His presence? Paul instructs us: we must simply do His will. Doing His will upon the face of this earth brings us to the kingdom of heaven. The teaching should be evident to all Christians: “One who is a teacher should use his gift for teaching… He who gives alms should do so generously… Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer…” Do all things as is meet for those things. It is not complex. There needs no genius to figure it out, or a scholastic degree to understand it. One need not travel miles to discover it. It is truth. It is Jesus. It is to suffer and die for Him as called by the Lord. “Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good.” What more can be said? Find peace in the arms of the Lord. Say with our psalmist, “I have still and quieted my soul… like a weaned child upon its mother’s lap.” We must do as he proclaims: “I busy not myself with great things, nor with things too sublime for me.” We must not complicate God’s simple love for us and our call simply to love Him with all He gives us. We must, rather, heed His voice, and come into His presence when He calls.
The table is set. His Word is speaking to us. In silence we will hear Him; in quiet we will find His voice. In the vain activity of this world we become deaf. Only by hearing and doing His Word and will, will we come to sit at His table and partake of His heavenly banquet – only if this is the true desire of our souls. Even now we taste Him in the Blessed Sacrament; even today we hear His Word proclaimed. Are we prepared to meet Him? Do we seek to do His holy will?
O LORD, all are invited your House –
let us find our place in the Body of Christ
and serve Him well.
YHWH, help us to do your will in all things, simply and purely, as your sons. What you give to us let us share with others, answering you readily when you call.
What need we do, dear God, but share the gifts you give us with others? What do you expect of us but to use well what you place in our hands? If we can teach, let us teach; if serve, let us serve. Whatever we have let us be generous in offering at the service of our brothers. Let us indeed love freely as you.
Then we will be ready to answer your Son’s call to the kingdom – we will already be answering it in our very actions. We will not be distracted from coming to you, LORD, if our only desire is to do your will in all things, if we are serving you with all our lives. Then your Bread will already be before us, and we shall come into your presence this day. O let your peace reign in our hearts!
Sun, 3 November 2019
(Rm.11:29-36; Ps.69:14,30-31,33-34,36-37; Lk.14:12-14)
“God has imprisoned all in disobedience
that He might have mercy on all.”
I begin to see “how deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” For though I am far from knowing “the mind of the Lord,” yet He does offer me a certain insight this early morning about Him whom Paul says, “From Him and through Him and for Him all things are.”
It is in the complementarity of the readings the insight comes, particularly viewing the gospel in light of the first reading. Jesus instructs the chief of the Pharisees that when giving a banquet he should “invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind” and to be “pleased that they cannot repay” him for his generosity, assuring him he “will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.” Now, the Lord does not instruct us to be anything more or less than He and the Father are. So this instruction reflects God’s own great desire and joy in giving to those who are not able to repay Him: it serves as a reminder that God is love, that He thrives, as it were, on mercy, on compassion.
Paul, in the first reading, states to the Romans, “God wished to show you mercy,” and that for this reason the Jews “have become disobedient,” as well as to fulfill God’s longing that “they too may receive mercy” upon returning to Him who set them apart for Himself. Again we see the greatness of God’s love, we glimpse His burning desire to show compassion to all creatures. Now, to the mind lacking wisdom (and love), it might seem as if God is somehow playing with us, causing our falling that He might lift us up again. But it is necessary to remember that God did not desire us to sin, that this was not His intention… and indeed that He did not need us to sin to show us His mercy and love. But our disobedience having come, God in His love is not conquered. This temporary and empty victory by the devil does not tie His hands. Rather, the Lord takes this opportunity to show in an even greater way the very mercy and love which are His essence – shown to us so clearly in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to forgive men’s sins – to show, really, His greatness, which has its source in this love.
And David’s psalm speaks in the same line: “The Lord hears the poor, and His own who are in bonds He spurns not.” In our affliction and pain we cry out and He comes with His “saving help”; He is pleased to “rebuild the cities of Judah,” to return us to His side. It is not sin He desires, but the recognition of our dependence on Him for all things, that He might freely show us His love. For this love at His heart’s core and which overcomes all – which is the essence of God and His creation – let us praise Him, brothers and sisters. “To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
O LORD, who can repay you
for your mercy toward us,
for your love is without measure?
YHWH, how great is your mercy, and how greatly you desire us to share in that mercy. And so we have become imprisoned in disobedience, that your love you might freely bestow upon us. And so you call us to give freely to others, that your blessing of mercy we might know even in our own souls.
O LORD, how can we poor creatures share so intimately in your merciful love? How can we who have hardened our hearts so much against you be blessed with the grace of forgiveness and come to the fountain of love you are? We deserve it not. We merit only condemnation. And yet, it is your desire to show us such love, and to have us show it to others.
How can we thank you, LORD, we poor beggars, we blind souls…? How can we repay you for giving us, and then giving us back, our very lives? In your generosity invite us to your table and by your grace let us feast with you.
Sat, 2 November 2019
(Wis.11:22-12:2; Ps.145:1-2,8-11,13-14; 2Thes.1:11-2:2; Lk.19:1-10)
“The Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost.”
How beautifully the readings speak today of our “Lord and lover of souls” whose “imperishable spirit is in all things” and who is “good to all and compassionate to all His works.” It is indeed “in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ” that we be glorified in Him and He in us, and so we praise Him: “Every day I will bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever.”
The Lord “love[s] all things that are”; all is made by Him, so how could He but love all. Though to Him “the whole universe is as… a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth,” He loves it all with a most personal affection, shown in the grace-filled coming of His Son among us. And why has this Son come but to forgive? Why has He walked the earth but to call men back to their place in the loving heart of the Father? Why has He come but to show the Father’s loving mercy?
And appropriate is Paul’s warning “not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly” in fear of the Lord’s imminent return in judgment. Here is remedy against all the false prophets predicting the sudden end of this universe God has created, as if they could move His hand, as if they could know His mind. Whence does this come but the same grumbling of the people when Jesus moved to go in to sup with Zacchaeus, the famous sinner? Whence does this come but a failure to understand the Lord’s wisdom and love and manner of working in the world, failing to see that what the Lord does is “rebuke sinners little by little, warn[ing] them and remind[ing] them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in [Him]”?
It is evident that the majority in the crowd would have preferred, in fact, rejoiced in seeing, Zacchaeus’ utter destruction. They expected the Lord’s punishment on this sinner, and desired it to come immediately. Why? Again, they knew not God’s love or the Lord’s purpose. Why? Even more to the point: they were sinners themselves who failed to recognize their sin and realize their own need for mercy – and so had neither the Lord’s patience, nor His love.
How well that loving forgiveness is illustrated in our gospel; how like the parable of the Prodigal Son. As the son returns to the father, Zacchaeus goes ahead and climbs the tree. As the father sees the son from far off and goes to him, so Jesus spies Zacchaeus in the tree and calls to him. As the father’s generous love sparks the son’s complete repentance, so Jesus’ acceptance of Zacchaeus brings salvation to his house, shown in his generous penance. I pray we all seek the Lord who seeks for us and act as Zacchaeus, who “came down quickly and received Him with joy,” as the Lord freely offers His love and forgiveness to our souls. Praise Him for His kindness!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Save the Children" (first half) from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, our stature before you
has been diminished by sin,
but your Son comes to raise us to Heaven.
YHWH, how compassionate you are toward all your creatures, desiring the repentance of all in whom your imperishable Spirit dwells that they might not die but turn to you and live. And so you have sent your Son to seek and save the lost. And so we should praise you for your greatness.
You have indeed made all things, and man in your image and likeness. And so you cannot but look upon us with pity as we distort your blessed image by sin; and so, little by little you rebuke us, LORD, reminding us of our sin that we might abandon our wickedness and believe in you.
You are our God and King, faithful and holy in all your works, but we are weak and prone to stray from your grace. So in your kindness you bow down to lift us up, we who are falling, that we might look upon your face, that in glory we might dwell with your only Son… that your salvation might come even to the house of the worst sinner.
Wed, 30 October 2019
(Rm.8:31-39; Ps.109:21-22,26-27,30-31; Lk.13:31-35)
“For your sake we are being slain all the day long.”
And yet, “in all this we are more than conquerors because of Him who has loved us.”
We die. Each day we die, we sacrifice our lives. We are “as sheep to be slaughtered.” This is our call, to be as our Lord who was crucified – our King wears a crown of thorns. And yet in all this apparent weakness, in all those places where violence seems to reign, where death presumes dominion over us… it is void. It has no power. For God holds all the world in His creating hand, and He watches over us. So, indeed, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” If God fights for us, how shall we be conquered? We shall not, we cannot. “Christ Jesus, who died or rather was raised up… intercedes for us.” And so the death He suffered, which led only to life, becomes our own, and only life is ours in Him.
The Lord would gather all His “children together, as a mother bird collects her young under her wing,” but so many refuse. So many are disobedient. So many desire not the love of God. And so, death comes. Because of our sin, Jesus must suffer, Jesus must die. And we must die with Him if we are to follow Him through this world of darkness and sin into the kingdom of light. For the emptiness of the power of this world must be exposed. It must be shown for the nothingness it is. And only by dying does this become clear to our minds.
And so, Jesus does not shy away from death; He does not save Himself from its clutches. Freely He offers Himself for our sakes, that we might overcome the fear it produces in our fallen souls, that we might then be raised from darkness to light. The prayer of David is the prayer of Christ, standing in our stead, “I am wretched and poor, and my heart is pierced within me.” The sword, which has no power over Him, nor over us now, He accepts in His side that new life might flow out from His broken flesh. The suffering which should be our own He takes and nails to the cross. And it is dead. And the power of Satan is nullified. And in His “generous kindness” the Lord has rescued us. And so as we suffer now with Him all the temptations of this earthly life, our heavenly king is by our side breathing upon us new life. Let us have no fear for any presumed power of this universe; the Lord is greater than them all.
O LORD, you will save us
from all trial and persecution –
YHWH, by the love of Christ we have been saved, and nothing can separate us from that love. Though Satan persecute us, though the kings of this earth seek to destroy us, yet we shall live in your only Son who, though He died, was raised up and sits now at your right hand interceding for us this day. And so, what need we fear?
To His death Jesus went, freely and without fear. In Jerusalem He was slain like all of the prophets. Yes, the walls of Jerusalem were torn down and the temple abandoned. But in His resurrection the true Temple is rebuilt, and to the holy City we are now drawn. Blessed is he who comes in the Name of your Son! Blessed are you, dear God, who desire so earnestly to justify our poor, broken souls.
And so, now that Jesus has died for our sakes, we shall not be condemned. We shall conquer all sword and danger in His love. Praise you for your kindness, LORD! You have heard our cries.
Sat, 26 October 2019
“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
“The one who humbles himself will be exalted,” for it is the lowly the LORD hears. And in no greater way, and for no greater benefit, do we humble ourselves than to recognize our sinfulness before God. It is then we prove ourselves His own, for it is then Truth is with us.
We must guard ourselves ever from the sin of pride, brothers and sisters; it is just such presumption that breaks down the spiritual life, for it separates us from our proper place before our Lord and God. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”; “He hears the cry of the oppressed.” He does not come to heal those who are well, nor does He respond to the prayer of the oppressor; and our life on this earth is one of continual healing, and whenever we judge another we condemn our souls.
“May it not be held against them!” is Paul’s prayer for his unjust accusers and those who have deserted him. (How like Christ’s prayer from the cross it is!) He is crushed before the courts of this world and yet does not judge, and yet does not condemn. For he is the servant of the Lord and shows himself faithful to such a call. Even as he is “poured out like a libation,” he remains faithful, unwavering in his hope of standing before and being redeemed by “the just judge.” He knows fully that “the Lord redeems the lives of His servants” and that “He who serves God willingly is heard,” and so he humbles himself when accused, trusting that “the Lord will rescue [him] from every evil threat and will bring [him] safe to His heavenly kingdom.”
Yes, “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.” How blessed are they who know their humble place before the Lord, for He hears them and comes quickly to rescue them when they cry out to Him in all their humility. And of course our greatest rescue must be from sin, that which has made us base before His eyes. To its recognition and for its overcoming by the Lord’s grace we must dedicate ourselves every day of our lives. And so we cry out for forgiveness. And so we return to our homes justified.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "This World of Sin" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you are the just Judge –
hear our cry and save us from oppression.
YHWH, those who take refuge in you are saved from every evil; those who call out to you are heard and redeemed. Those who are humble before you, you exalt to the heavens, but those who are proud condemn themselves.
What hope have we but you, O LORD, we poor sinners who so soon shall die? What more can we do than spend our lives for you – in this there is great grace through all our days, and a crown of righteousness in the end. Thus we who are nothing, who would come to nothing without your mercy, may reach even unto your throne, O Most High God. For you indeed hear the cry of the poor; the just petition of a broken heart you cannot resist.
As widows and orphans we walk the face of this dark earth; as slaves in bonds we look for freedom. Come and wed us to yourself, O Father in Heaven, and we shall enter your House justified.
Sun, 20 October 2019
(Rm.4:20-25; Lk.1:68-75; Lk.12:13-21)
“We should serve Him devoutly
and through all our days be holy in His sight.”
For “this very night your life shall be required of you.” Always and forever our faith is required of us, if we are to draw breath. Always and forever the Lord asks us what fruit we have produced. Always and forever we must be careful not to toil in vain, but to live according to His Word, believing in His promise. Else our lives will indeed be empty vessels.
Holiness befits His house. Adherence to His covenant is our call. Faith in the One who is “saving strength for us” is our necessity. We must indeed be as our father Abraham, who was “fully persuaded that God could do whatever He had promised,” whose “faith was credited to him as justice.” And if we have the same faith as Abraham, we will find the same justice, the same reward as he. “For our faith will be credited to us also if we believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Jesus “was handed over to death for our sins and raised up for our justification” and only faith in Him as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham will give us life.
Why do we turn to the things of this world and in them seek our fulfillment, and in them seek our rest, when they are so vain and when all the while Jesus calls to our souls to come to Him? Why is it we think that in the goods of this world we can find refuge, we can find strength? Why are we so blinded to believe that in them we can find our peace? “Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.” Here is the fruitless mantra of this materialistic world. Here is the epitome of our blindness to His will. Here is the belly seeking to take the place of the spirit.
Can we not see that it is only the spirit that gives life, that the flesh is of no avail, that the riches of this earth serve more as a distraction to finding the life and the peace we seek in the depths of our souls than to bringing a fulfillment of this most human of desires? This desire cannot be satisfied except in Christ. We must not be as “the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God,” or when these passing riches rot away or are taken from us, we will be left terribly empty. Rather, we should “avoid greed in all its forms” and dedicate ourselves to service of the Lord. Only in Him is life and peace made known, and only by holiness do we come there. At all times the Lord is calling to our soul; let us answer Him in faith.
O LORD, Jesus has died and been raised
for our salvation –
may we believe in Him and grow rich in your sight.
YHWH, let us not grow rich to ourselves, setting our hearts on the wealth of this passing world, but rather grow rich in your sight, in your gifts and graces. Let us have faith, first of all; this blessing let us most treasure.
You have sent your Son as Savior for us – what more could we ask of you? Here is the fulfillment of all our desires. And if we put our faith in Him who has died for our sins and been raised for our justification, if we serve Him devoutly all our days, it will indeed be credited to us as righteousness and great reward will be ours in Heaven. O LORD, let us know your mercy upon our souls!
Only in you our life is found, dearest LORD and God. Our every breath is in your hands and when we come to the end of our days, what hope shall we have but that you breathe into us new life? And so, let us store up wealth for you alone, the wealth of a faithful heart.
Sat, 19 October 2019
(Ex.17:8-13; Ps.121:1-8; 2Tm.3:14-4:2; Lk.18:1-8)
“Call out to Him day and night.”
How faithful is the Lord. How true is He. As our psalmist so well states, “He neither slumbers nor sleeps.” Indeed, “He is beside [us] at [our] right hand”; always “the Lord will guard [us] from all evil” – “The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever.” But are we so faithful to Him, turning to Him for His eternal help?
“Pray always without becoming weary.” This is our instruction today. This is the “wisdom for salvation” sacred Scripture brings us. Do we receive the “correction” and “training for righteousness” it would impart? Do as Jesus asks: “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.” Though he “neither fear[s] God nor respect[s] any human being,” yet because of the widow’s persistence, he renders a just decision for her. And do you think God will not hear and answer us when we call out to Him? Do you think He is so “slow to answer”? Rather, “He will see to it that justice is done… speedily,” for ever He waits for us to turn to Him; always He longs to do justice for us – it is His great joy to answer our prayers.
Learn from our reading from the Book of Exodus. It informs us, “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” And it was not until Aaron and Hur supported him and “his hands remained steady till sunset” that “Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” And so the sword of the Spirit shall not truly be our own, we will not truly be victorious in the battle against sin, until we remain always in the presence of the Lord, until we, like Him, no longer slumber or sleep.
Brothers and sisters, “proclaim the Word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient,” as Paul exhorts us. In sacred Scripture and the power of the Spirit we find our source for right living; by it we become “equipped for every good work.” And consistently good works are found by us only if our prayer is consistent and good. Only if we remain steady and persistent in our calling out to Him at all times will He “not suffer [our] foot to slip.” Let us “lift up [our] eyes toward the mountains,” seeing always whence our help comes. The Lord prays for us always; let us join Him in prayer.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Over the Stumbling Block" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may you find faith in our hearts,
and perseverance in doing your will.
YHWH, we must but be persistent, persistent in our prayer and in our work for you, and we shall find your blessing – all our enemies will be conquered and we will dwell forever with you.
We look to you, O LORD, for you alone are our strength and our salvation, you alone guard us from all evil and equip us well for battle. In you and in your Word we take our refuge, and so we find the wisdom we need to attain to your glory. Quickly you come to answer our pleas, for your heart is ever set on our salvation.
O may your arms be ever raised to bless us! May your love for us remain always steady, and we remain steady with you. Let us not grow weary in the battle of earthly life but continually find our inspiration in you, always ready to do your will. Hear us as we call upon you this day, O LORD, and justice shall be ours.
Sat, 12 October 2019
(2Kgs.5:14-17; Ps.98:1-4; 2Tm.2:8-13; Lk.17:11-19)
“All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.”
“The word of God is not chained.” It cannot be imprisoned. It is free. And it cannot be limited by national boundaries; it is for everyone. The universal call of salvation is made most clear in our readings today: in our first reading, Naaman the Syrian is healed of his leprosy, and in our gospel a Samaritan is healed of the same. Both are foreigners and essentially enemies to Israel, but it is these two we hear of today to make clear that the Word of God and His power are unbounded.
And when these foreigners are healed, they return praising God; they make clear their faith in the Holy One, much to the shame of those who are native to His House, who may often lack such recognition of the Lord and His work in their lives. This is perhaps the greatest message of today’s readings, that we must be as the Samaritan who, “realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and… fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.” For this is what the Lord desires of us, thanksgiving, a sacrifice of praise. How clearly this is shown in Naaman as well, whose offerings of gifts are repelled by Elisha, the man of God, “despite Naaman’s urging,” but who will not leave without earth from the land of Israel, declaring, “I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except the Lord.” The Lord desires of us our praise and worship of Him only, and when we come bearing this gift of ourselves, He says to us, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
And it is unto the end we must remain faithful, praising God for the graces He gives, if we hope to “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory.” We should hear in Paul’s teaching in our second reading of the means to salvation and the means to condemnation. The Lord “remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” He is God; He holds salvation and glory. If we persevere with Him, dying with Him, giving all our selves always to His service, “we shall also reign with Him.” It cannot be otherwise because the Lord indeed blesses those who come to Him. But “if we deny Him, He will deny us,” and this cannot but be, too, for He cannot dwell with untruth.
The Lord’s Truth extends to the ends of the earth now; His Word goes forth to all, and in all salvation may be known through Jesus Christ. But who will trust in Him and fall at His feet in praise of Him as they find healing for their sin? Let it be so with us all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Numeric Truth" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us give you thanks and praise you
for your healing mercy.
YHWH, it is by faith alone we are saved, and all souls are called to faith in you; and any soul with faith you will accept into your fold. To all the ends of the earth your salvation is revealed – may men come from every land and every tongue to worship you alone.
O LORD, let us not be weak in faith; let us not be put to shame by the great devotion shown to you by those who have been foreigners to your Word. Let us join them at the feet of your Son and give thanks for the grace and healing you shower upon us by His presence.
There is so much of which we need to be healed. How shall we lose our blindness to your glory shining all around us? When will we cease taking you for granted, and so hardening our hearts in a vain pride? Your wondrous deeds are upon us, LORD; your Word is preached to all mankind. O let us respond in faith and humbly worship you!
Sat, 5 October 2019
(Hb.1:2-3,2:2-4; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; 2Tm.1:6-8,13-14; Lk.17:5-10)
“The vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.”
And we are servants of this Gospel.
And so, with faith and in patience we must accomplish “what we [are] obliged to do.” We must serve the Word of God. Never hardening our hearts against the voice we hear, rather, we should “stir into flame the gift of God” we are blessed with as Christians, as Catholics; “the Holy Spirit that dwells within us” should be our refuge and our guide – it should be our stronghold despite any “destruction and violence” we witness before us. For we know that if we endure till the end, till the fulfillment of the vision of the Gospel, though we deserve it not, the Lord will call to us when we “come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field and say, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table.’” Indeed, He has promised in His mercy and His glorious benevolence to put on His apron and serve us, His “unprofitable servants,” at table in the eternal kingdom. But have we the faith to believe? Have we the patience to endure? Listen to His assuring words: “Wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” His Word is certainly true and the vision written “clearly upon the tablets” of our hearts, if we believe.
And we show our faith when we “sing joyfully to the Lord,” when we “bow down in worship” before Him in spite of any “clamorous discord” that surrounds us in this world. In such praise in the face of the darkness of evil we bear “hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Yes, He alone is our strength; it is from Him alone that we find the faith and patience to endure and produce fruit upon this earth. So, “let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds.” Though we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” with the prophet Habbakuk, we know that if we listen to the instructions of the Apostle Paul to “take as [our] norm the sound words [we] heard from [him],” “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” we shall endure, and we shall find answer to our prayer.
The vision is coming to fulfillment. The Lord of all is with us now. Let us “not be ashamed of [our] testimony to our Lord,” but proclaim with courage the word the Spirit prompts in our hearts – Jesus is Lord! Let us say it. Let us not be afraid of it or its consequences. Let the truth of God cross our lips even as it stirs the faith within us. Jesus is Lord, and His Kingdom comes. Do not delay your service of Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Duty" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us bear the hardship of the Gospel
that we might look upon your face.
YHWH, you call us each day to love and to serve you that we might know your love in our hearts even this day. It is our great grace and blessing to do your will, for then we share in your glory, in your presence among us today.
If we had but faith, O LORD, what is there we could not do in your Name? If with patience we waited for your coming, we would know how near you are. Help us to fan into flame the gift of your Spirit that makes us strong in holiness. O let us accomplish all you command, never turning our faces away!
We have seen your works; we have done your works. We have spoken the Word you have placed in our hearts and on our lips. Let us not now doubt that you are God or think that any power of this earth holds any sway in our lives. Let us trust only in you, dear God, for your promise is on the horizon and you do not disappoint.
Tue, 1 October 2019
(Neh.2:1-8; Ps.137:1-6; Lk.9:57-62)
“How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?”
Our home is in heaven. “The foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” the Lord tells him who would follow His way in our gospel today. Our home is in heaven, and only there do we find joy. And only finding our place there should possess our hearts.
We have a sign of the devotion we must have for the Lord and His Kingdom in our psalm and first reading. Even as the psalmist hangs up his harp and weeps “by the streams of Babylon” for his exile from Jerusalem – “May my tongue cleave to my palate if I remember you not, if I place not Jerusalem ahead of my joy” – so, too, Nehemiah is most “sad at heart” for his separation from and the ruination of “the city where [his] ancestors are buried.” And as the king takes pity on his servant and sends Nehemiah to help rebuild Jerusalem, so, too, does the Lord look upon those who seek in ardent desire their true home with Him in heaven. He knows we are sad at our separation from the kingdom of God; He knows only there we shall find peace in our hearts, and so He calls us along the way He walks.
But also He warns that all else must be set aside if we are to discover that which our hearts desire. “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.” Does love for the New Jerusalem truly possess us as did love of the old for these exiles in Babylon? Do we, too, recognize our own exile, our own homelessness, and seek with all our souls only the song that is sung in the kingdom of God? Are we prepared to leave this land of exile, this foreign land in which we find ourselves, to come to Him to build with the wood He provides the new walls which will be our shelter and our place of worship even in this life? Or do we look back to this world of sin and find ourselves drawn into its sad state?
The Lord awaits the turning of all toward Him and His kingdom. He desires greatly our returning to His side. The thought of our heart to give up all for Him He confirms with His blessing and love. But we must be clear that this commitment is total, that nowhere else we shall find our joy but at His side in heaven.
O LORD, let us not be separated from you
but give all our lives to following in your way,
even to the Cross.
YHWH, let us set our hearts on you alone and our coming into your kingdom. Why should anything else possess our souls? Of what else should we sing? Should we not proclaim your glory with full voice and so find your reign upon us? We cannot make our home in any place but Heaven; help us to overcome the sadness of dwelling in this dark place, in this land of exile. Bring us quickly into your presence.
Your House let us rebuild, O LORD, your House and your City. Let your favoring hand be upon us this day as we seek to accomplish your will. All else let us be ready to leave behind in order to do your work upon this plane. For only in you will we find our joy – hear us as we pray to you.
Let us not be dead, O LORD, dead to your presence in our midst. Let our hearts burn with love for you! Let us remember your NAME forever.
Sat, 28 September 2019
(Amos 6:1,4-7; Ps.146:2,5-10; 1Tm.6:11-16; Lk.16:19-31)
“Keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Lord is coming. First of all, know this. “The King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see” will reveal Himself “at the proper time.” Shall come the end of this world and the birth of the new in the presence of our all-holy God. Do not doubt this. Do not question it in your hearts. But believe.
Second, know the nature of our God. This our psalm makes abundantly clear: “The Lord gives sight to the blind” and “protects strangers… The fatherless and the widow He sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts.” And since “the Lord raises up those who were bowed down,” we must bow down and serve Him, bringing His love to this world; keeping “faith forever” we must give “food to the hungry,” showing His unending compassion to all those in need.
Third, know the fate which awaits those who fail to adhere to His command of love, those who stain themselves with comfort and riches in a vain existence and have no heart for those who suffer now by their lack. As He prepares a place of refuge in Abraham’s bosom for those who “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness,” so a place is set for those “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day” but who were “not made ill by the collapse of Joseph,” who have no regard for the destruction of God’s people – who step over and upon the poor lying at their doors as they pursue the fatting of their bellies. “A great chasm is established” between the redeemed and the condemned; as Lazarus had no way to enter the door of the house of the rich man, so he cannot pass now into the arms of God… only now that darkness without is eternal – his torment shall not end.
It is popular to believe that Jesus somehow did away with punishment, that in His all-embracing love there is no longer need for justice, and so hell is no longer a factor. The “God of the Old Testament” is presented as the one of punishment with Him of the New conversely being of love. Brothers and sisters, they are one and the same God. And as in the time before Christ, the Lord forever showed compassion for the humble of the earth, so now Jesus shows condemnation to the wicked who refuse to turn from their ways. Only now the love and justice, which are also one, are made eternal by the coming of the end of the age in the Person of Jesus Christ. Continue to keep yourselves pure and serve the Lord – His Day is at hand.
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, let us make the poor man our brother,
and we will know Jesus and so be with you.
YHWH, you secure justice for the oppressed; the poor and the downtrodden you raise up even as you cast their oppressors into the bowels of the earth. The path of the righteous you indeed bless, but the way of the wicked you thwart. You confuse those who do not listen to Moses and the prophets, those who reject your only Son, for you are just and no man can own what he readily spurns.
If it is the belly upon which we set our hearts, it shall grow fat and keep us from entering the narrow gate. If upon our own needs and wants alone we look, failing to see the longings of others or help them in their plight… we shall fail the test you place before us, and be unworthy to be called your sons, dear God.
For you are kind and loving, O LORD, and care always for the hungry and those in captivity. Though you dwell in unapproachable light, to us you come with great mercy to raise us to Heaven with your only Son.
Mon, 23 September 2019
(Ezra 6:7-8,12,14-20; Ps.122:1-5; Lk.8:19-21)
“The elders of the Jews continued to make progress in the building,
supported by the message of the prophets.”
And so, returning from exile and with the permission and indeed the financial support of the Gentile king, Darius, the Jews completed the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. And so, the prophecy of the return to the Lord from their sins is in a measure fulfilled here in this act and in the worship which once again transpires in “that house of God.” But we know that this is not the fulfillment of the new covenant; this is not the realization of God’s promise through Isaiah to write His Name upon the hearts of His people and to be with them forever. Though a sign of its coming, we know that such blessing cannot be fulfilled in buildings and on an earth so corrupted by sin – it can only be realized in heaven.
And so in our gospel His mother and kinsmen come to the Lord, who is the new Temple, the New Jerusalem Himself. They come but do not find easy access for the crowd that has gathered to Jesus to worship at His feet. And this is to show that it is not in our bloodline that we find salvation, but by faith in Him who is the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed, all may come now to this holy sacrifice, all may enter the gates of this Temple… all may rejoice as they set foot within the gates of this New Jerusalem, if all but follow the Word of Truth which issues from His lips. Returning to Jerusalem and having rebuilt the temple, the Levites offered sacrifice “for the rest of the exiles, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves”; but Jesus’ one sacrifice is offered daily now for all who would come to the altar, to all who would sup at His table.
“I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord.’” How blessed are these words to the ears of the Jew returning from exile, and how blessed now to the peoples of every nation are their fulfillment in our hearing. Brothers and sisters of the Lord, let us hasten our steps toward His presence. Let us long to worship before Him. And let us continue to make progress in the upbuilding of the Church, His Temple, by our daily labor for the God who blesses all our endeavors with His providential care. May His Word be fulfilled in us and in all His people.
O LORD, the temple of our souls we must rebuild,
according to your Word,
that we might be His brothers and sisters,
that we might enter His House.
YHWH, let us go up to your House; let us enter its gates in joy, giving thanks to you who have made us as your Temple, built into the Body of your Son, as His brothers and sisters who do your will in this world. He is the New Jerusalem and we desire to come to Him and make our home in Him. Bless our efforts in building ourselves into your holy Temple, the Church.
Help us as we return from exile, as from sin we turn away and come back to you, O LORD our God. We shall need your assistance in rebuilding lives which have gone so astray, in restoring the walls that keep us from harm, from the dangers all about our souls, and that found us in you and in the Word of your Son.
O let us hear your Word calling us into your presence! and let us act upon that Word and give glory to you, LORD, with our every breath, with every sacrifice we make in your NAME.
Sat, 21 September 2019
(Amos 8:4-7; Ps.113:1-2,4-8; 1Tm.2:1-8; Lk.16:1-13)
“If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?”
This world and the things of it are not our own; we are children of heaven. Yet we are here amongst these things which are foreign to us. And so, what should we do? With all the Lord puts in our hands as we pass through this generation we must honor God. Though in the world of mammon, we must use it to serve our God in heaven. Thus we shall prove ourselves worthy to enter into that kingdom which is above, which is our true home. This call is stated simply in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “On earth as it is in heaven” – we must bring the kingdom of God to bear in this place we find ourselves.
In our first reading, Amos makes clear what our attitude should not be with regard to the riches or power we may find at our disposal. We must never “trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.” We must never reflect the greed of these merchants who cannot wait for the sabbath, the Lord’s Day, to end, that they might satiate their thirst for wealth, and this by dishonest means. The Lord will condemn such pride and avarice.
In our second reading, Paul gives a clearer idea the manner in which power should be employed in his exhortation to prayer for those in position of authority. God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth,” and if our kings seek to maintain peace in the world, they will save not only themselves, but provide ground for others to come to God. Again, all that is given us, be it riches, power, wisdom or strength, must be given over to service of the Lord. We must be as He “who gave Himself as ransom for all” in His teaching, in His healing, indeed, in the laying down of His very life. And so, if we ourselves are teachers, we must be as Paul and do so “in faith and truth,” without any deceit. And when we offer prayers, we must always lift up “holy hands, without anger or argument.” In our prayer should always be forgiveness of others.
In our gospel parable Jesus illustrates and commends not deceitful dealings with others’ wealth, but to be wise in what is given us, to turn the riches of this world against the prince of this world (Satan), and use them for the good of the kingdom. Even in these things which are the devil’s we must work to serve our Master in heaven. And so we feed the hungry, we clothe the naked, we pray for those in power, that the Lord who is “high above all nations” and whose glory is “above the heavens” might stoop down to us and through us fulfill the mission of Christ; for “He raises the lowly from the dust, from the dunghill He lifts the poor.” And we must do the same to find our place with Him in heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Asylum Paradox" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us serve you alone
with all that is at our hands.
YHWH, help us to be trustworthy in the very small matters of this dishonest world, with the wealth that passes so quickly away. This is not our world, but your world we must reveal to this place; if we do not reflect your glory now, how can we be called children of your light?
And so we pray for all souls, that they will turn from the oppression wrought by their greedy hands and acknowledge you as God Most High and your Son as their Redeemer. We desire no man to be trampled underfoot but for everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth; and so with hands held aloft we call down your mercy, dear LORD.
With the things you place in our hands here upon this dying earth, let us be faithful, let us be true – let us produce fruit unto the kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is our only home, and so with all our strength let us seek to raise souls to dwell there with all your angels and saints.
Sat, 14 September 2019
(Ex.32:7-11,13-14; Ps.51:3-4,12-13,17,19,Lk.15:18; 1Tm.1:12-17; Lk.15:1-32)
“The Lord relented in the punishment
He had threatened to inflict on His people.”
Redemption is ours, brothers and sisters. Though we are great sinners, the Lord has mercy on us when we turn to Him; for, as Moses interceded for the Israelites in the desert, so Christ Jesus intercedes for us now before the throne of His Father. Indeed, He “came into the world to save sinners,” sinners like you and me.
What examples of sinners we have throughout our readings today – what examples of great sinners and the greatness, the abundance of God’s grace. Where shall we begin? In our first reading the people of Israel had fallen into the depths of depravity as they passed through the desert. While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, they were far below, “making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it.” To it they sacrificed, and in drunken revelry proclaimed it God. Yet because of Moses’ intercession the Lord held back His blazing wrath against them. He did not destroy them.
In our second reading we find “the foremost” of sinners, the apostle Paul, recognizing his own great guilt as arrogant persecutor of the Church and, in the same breath, witnessing to the manner in which he was “mercifully treated” by the Lord, that he might indeed be “an example for those who would come to believe in [Jesus] for everlasting life.” If the Lord can turn him who was the primary persecutor of Himself and His people into a leading apostle of His Word, how might He not convert our own hearts, or the hearts of any, to Him and to His will?
And, of course, in our gospel we have the parable of the prodigal son, he who “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation” yet was openly received into the waiting arms of the same father whose property he swallowed up when this dissolute child came to his senses and returned to him. The Lord makes so clear in His parable today the great desire God has to take the sinner in His arms, to place Him on His shoulders; indeed, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Brothers and sisters, we all have need of repentance, and the Lord welcomes us all.
After all this, perhaps our most poignant witness to God’s forgiveness and grace comes in King David, who has been adulterous and murderous but who cries out to Lord in our psalm, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” His “contrite spirit,” his humble begging is heard by the Lord, as is the repentance of us all. Through the blood of Jesus, all ignorant sinners may be saved.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Wish I'd Never Done It" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you welcome poor, repentant sinners
into your House with joy.
YHWH, have mercy on us poor sinners. In the greatness of your compassion, wipe out our offense. Like the Israelites who made the golden calf in the desert, like David who turned to adultery and murder, like Paul who persecuted your Son with such abandon, we are all your prodigal children. But as you had mercy on all of these, look upon us with kindness as we turn back to you.
O LORD, how greatly you desire our repentance. What great joy it brings you when we confess our guilt. For this you sent your Son to suffer and die; to save our souls you did not spare His life. And so, as we listen to His teaching, as we hear His call to penitence, our contrite heart causes you to rejoice that you might have us home again.
Forgive us our sins, dear God, and help us to forgive others. In this is your will fulfilled; in this the blood of your Son bears fruit, and we are redeemed.
Tue, 10 September 2019
(Col.3:1-11; Ps.145:2-3,9-13; Lk.6:20-26)
“Set your heart on what pertains to higher realms
where Christ is seated at God’s right hand.”
Is this not the central message of the Lord’s beatitudes: “Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.” For how could we be blest in poverty, hunger, and weeping if our hearts are set on this earth? And how could riches and fullness and laughter be curses except that they do not find their origin in heaven? Paul makes it explicit: “You have died!” he declares, and leaves no question but that our “life is hidden now with Christ in God.” There must our hearts be.
“Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth,” the Apostle continues. Lust and anger and deceit have no place in the life of a follower of Christ, for these indeed are sins of this earth which stand in contradiction to the grace of heaven. Therefore, we must set them all aside to become “a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the image of his Creator.” It cannot be that the Lord’s children have discourse with evil conduct; those who are called to heaven must “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom,” their souls must “speak of [His] might” and their lives must be lived in His light.
And so the Lord “raised His eyes to His disciples.” And so He spoke to them of heaven. And so the blessing of persecution in this world was made known to them, that their hearts might begin to understand. God’s world is not this world; His kingdom is not of darkness but of light. And if in the darkness we take our refuge, and if our hearts are not grieved by its injustice… if we fat ourselves on things of the flesh and turn our eyes from the demands of the Spirit… how shall we ever find justice and light? How shall we ever come into the Lord’s glorious presence? What will we do then but weep in our emptiness?
The Lord’s kingdom is coming, brothers and sisters. Be assured. What this world holds – its passion and death – is passing quickly, like a cloud in the night. The rays of morning are not far from us, for the Lord is even now at our side. And to His side in heaven we shall yet come, if we but accept His blessing. So let us say with David, “Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and your dominion endures through all generations”; and let us enter now into His eternal presence.
O LORD, let us set our hearts on your kingdom
and let this world and its sin pass away.
YHWH, blessings and woes you hold for all souls, and so help us set our hearts on things above rather than things of earth, on your kingdom which endures forever and not on this dying, deceit-filled place. Let our mouths bless you and speak of your glory, not be filled with every kind of wickedness. For then indeed we will be blessed by you, as those who revel in their sin are subject to your wrath.
O let us not take our consolation now in this dark world! Let us not give ourselves to the passion and lust that characterize this age. We must die to all of this world and find our life in your Christ, who has died, or when He appears we shall be condemned. Help us, O LORD, to rejoice in the persecution that is ours in following His way, knowing we are thus joined to Him and, so, destined also for His glory. All idolatry let us set aside and make your Son our only desire. O let us be poor souls who hunger ever for you!
Sat, 7 September 2019
(Wis.9:13-18b; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Phlm.1:9-10,12-17; Lk.14:25-33)
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.”
The wisdom of the cross, that blessed necessity for every Christian’s life. What does it teach us? How does it call us to act? Its wisdom is not of this earth, for the “corruptible body burdens the soul,” but the counsel of the “Holy Spirit from on high” brings the freedom to be sons of God. This wisdom can only be found by knowing we are but dust and renouncing all things of dust to serve the living and true God.
“Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” our first reading from the Book of Wisdom inquires of us. Indeed, things before our eyes, things of this earth, “we find with difficulty,” so who can understand things of heaven? How shall we attain the vision of God, of whom our psalm states, “A thousand years in your sight, are as yesterday, now that it is passed, or as a watch in the night”? How can we who wilt and fade “like the changing grass” come to the surpassing knowledge our Lord possesses?
Jesus answers the question. He turns to the crowds who follow Him, who are excited by His presence but unaware of the demands made upon every Christian’s life, and He teaches them this wisdom that is of God. It is His essential lesson: Be prepared to give up all things for the sake of the kingdom. Put nothing before your worship of God. Renounce all your possessions and be ready to die for Him – only then can you approach the glory He brings to this earth. Only by the wisdom of His cross will you find the kingdom of God. For indeed “the earthen shelter” and all its concerns weigh down the mind, weigh down the spirit, and keep it from attaining to God; they must therefore be left behind to find the freedom of sons of the Most High.
The Lord comes to “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” It is this teaching Paul seeks to impart to Philemon as he asks him to forgive the slave that has wronged him and accept him back “forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.” This same forgiveness, which is divine not earthly, is that which is asked of us all by the Lord. For so we have been forgiven by Him, so we who were sinful slaves have been made his brother… and so we must do the same for others. It is no longer the mind of man by which we judge but the mind of God, and the grace of this wisdom we gain only by carrying our cross. It is this which shapes us in His image, which imparts to us His wisdom – and by this the work of our hands shall prosper.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Open Air" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to renounce all our possessions
that we might know your counsel and follow your Son.
YHWH, send your Holy Spirit from on high that our paths might be made straight, that we might walk the way of the Cross and so find the grace we need to be disciples of Jesus and so enter your presence. Without such kindness toward us, we shall be lost, distracted by the vain things of this dying earth.
We are but dust, dear LORD, passing like the changing grass, and our hearts are often set on the passing things around us. Teach us to renounce our possessions, help us to know it is in this true freedom lies… that walking the way of worldly concerns will lead us only to death but laying down our lives with your Son we shall come to glory. Let us not be so foolish as to think we shall be blessed otherwise.
Freely let us offer all we have to you, LORD; then you shall indeed prosper the work of our hands. And we shall go from being slaves of the flesh to dwelling as your beloved in the age that does not pass away.
Sat, 31 August 2019
(Sir.3:17-18,20,28-29; Ps.68:4-7,10-11; Heb.12:18-19,22-24a; Lk.14:1,7-14)
“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.”
Is this not the message of Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel, and indeed of all our readings – and indeed the essence of our Christian lives? “Take the lowest place.” Exalt not yourself in the sight of God, who sits at table with you, whose presence is everywhere, and is a guest far greater than you. Give your place to the poor, provide for them out of your means, as He has done, and then you will know the glorious vision of heaven where He dwells.
The Pharisees are blind to the presence of Jesus; because of their pride and desire for esteem, they cannot see the guest of honor in their midst. They observe Him carefully, ready to judge Him, but it is He who sees them and seeks to instruct them in their ignorance. The Lord is most out of place here among the proud. He looks around for lowly ones, but finds none. The poor have not been invited to this feast; the blind here do not recognize their need for Him… and so this banquet is not like that of heaven. And so, who of these will partake of His Body and Blood and come to “the heavenly Jerusalem”?
“God gives a home to the forsaken,” David declares in our psalm, and we are called to be like God. Jesus makes this quite evident in His instruction to the host of the banquet: “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” who are unable to repay such kindness, and then “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” This attitude of self-giving we must make our own, knowing our own lowliness in the sight of God, and the vision of heaven of which our second reading speaks will be ours as well. Then we will come with the “countless angels in festal gathering” and “the assembly of the firstborn” into the presence of Jesus and the holy blood of His sacrifice. “The just rejoice and exult before God,” and with them we too shall rejoice, if we make ourselves humble before Him.
It is no mystery that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” No, the teaching is clear, and only by living it will we find its fruit, brothers and sisters. “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts,” Sirach instructs us; for how can you find favor with God (or with anyone) if you have no respect for Him? And if you do not see the greatness of the God before you, how shall you enter His kingdom?
Our place before God is with faces to the ground. This is just. This is right. By this He will be pleased and so lift our heads to gaze upon His countenance.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Humbled and the Exalted" from All One, sixth 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.
Mon, 26 August 2019
(1Thes.2:1-8; Ps.139:1-6; Mt.23:23-26)
“First cleanse the inside of the cup
so that its outside may be clean.”
The Lord rails against the Pharisees again today, calling them from false practice to genuine faith; and in Paul we again see the paragon of true ministry in the Lord’s Name.
In our gospel the Lord calls the Pharisees “frauds,” for they have the appearance of holiness in clothing and posture and minor actions, but inside are “filled with loot and lust.” In our first reading, it is quite evident that the preaching of Paul “does not spring from deceit or impure motives or any sort of trickery,” as does the work of the Pharisees. He is not at all guilty of “flattering words or greed under any pretext,” seeking the glory of God rather than “glory from men.” This, of course, is the central question: do we perform our acts for others to see, from selfish motives of pride and greed and the accolades we might gain from man; or are we laying down our lives for God, giving no thought to our own importance or the opposition we may face? Does our work and our life spring from truth, or does it spring from lie?
“O Lord, you have probed me and you know me,” David sings in our psalm today. Truly the Lord is “the tester of hearts.” He is familiar with all our ways and the motives whence they come. Indeed, “even before a word is on [our] tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.” Inside and out He sees us, He scrutinizes us, that He may enter into us and renew us. It is by His grace that the inside of the cup might be made clean and so our work be fruitful in His Name.
And so, what of us, brothers and sisters? What does the Lord see when He peers within our hearts, when His penetrating gaze pierces our soul? Do we meet “the test imposed on us by God” as Paul does and live in “justice and mercy and good faith,” or is there but corruption within us which will not allow the Lord’s light to enter, thus making us blind to His grace?
The Lord surrounds us so, that we call out with David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.” Indeed, the Lord is far above and beyond our comprehension and His holiness can seem beyond our ability to attain; but if we have hearts that are open and trusting and loving of His Word, we find that He is “gentle as any nursing mother fondling her little ones,” that He, in fact, shares with us His very life, and so makes us as His own. The Lord will cleanse the inside of the cup. Let Him act upon your soul.
O LORD, you see clearly the inside of our cup,
and would cleanse it by your gaze.
YHWH, you are the tester of our hearts; you scrutinize all our ways. And you know us – you know us well. The greed and deceit within us we cannot hide from your watchful eye. You are not fooled by empty show.
You surround us with your presence, LORD, and test us by our trials. You are far beyond us in eternal glory, and yet you come near. You draw near to us in your Son and so declare to our souls the truth of who we are and what we have done, and what we have failed to do. But you do this not for our condemnation; it is because you love us as a mother her child that you chastise us. It is to make us whole.
O LORD, though knowledge of you is too wonderful for us to comprehend, though great fear fills our souls as you come to us with your piercing fire – though your scrutiny may cause us great humiliation, great suffering, you work gently to heal our hearts of all their affliction.
Sat, 24 August 2019
(Is.66:18-21; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Heb.12:5-7,11-13; Lk.13:22-30)
“People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”
“I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory,” even those of “distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory,” says the Lord. The Word goes forth. The Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and it will open the eyes and ears of all peoples. But who shall be ready for its coming?
Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy and the verses of our psalm are in harmony with the Lord’s own words: all the nations shall come, all shall “praise the Lord,” and all shall find a place in His kingdom. The light that goes forth, the glory of the Lord, knows no boundaries, is not limited by constructs of time and place – there are no walls in its way. All nations. All tongues. All peoples at all times and in all places are called forth by the all-encompassing love of our God and our Savior. You are welcome at His table, my brother, my sister, whomever you are, wherever you are. It is the Lord’s will that all come to Him who is the Father of all nations and of all creation. But do you know the way?
The way of the Lord is not easy; it is narrow and rough – it is one wrought with chastisement, with discipline. “For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” And how can you expect to come into His paradise if the soil of this world still clings to your soul? The cross is the way to the kingdom; only the scourging discipline of the Lord will enable us to sit with Him.
And this discipline, this cross, is of love. Do you see this? Do you see how much the Father loves you in His reproof of your sin? “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” If you have not learned this basic lesson of the working of the Lord’s love, you “will not be strong enough” to enter His gate. You must “not be disjointed but healed” as the Lord takes from you all that is unfit for His presence. Your suffering the loss of this life is all that will bring you to heaven.
We note that even the above words of the Lord are as chastisement to the Israelite people who walk with Him, for He is telling them they are not alone in the call to God; other nations shall indeed enter before they. And as this pride in their heritage must be wrested from them before they are prepared for the kingdom, so all that limits the love of the Lord from working in our lives must be taken from us before we may enter in. Fear not the pain this brings. The “wailing and grinding of teeth” outside His gates is more painful by far – and for this suffering there is no healing anymore.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Are No Words" (middle part) from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
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.
Sat, 17 August 2019
(Jer.38:4-6,8-10; Ps.40:2-4,14,18; Heb.12:1-4; Lk.12:49-53)
“Though I am afflicted and poor,
yet the Lord thinks of me.”
Persecution is necessarily a part of every Christian’s life. Not many of us will struggle “to the point of shedding blood” as has Jesus, as has Paul, as have all the apostles; and not many of us will be thrown into muddy cisterns as is Jeremiah… but all will remain “afflicted and poor” in their striving against sin and have to endure “opposition from sinners” as they grow in holiness before their Lord and God. Jesus is anguished at the baptism He must endure in carrying the cross of division set in opposition to the forces of sin in this world, and so all who call themselves Christian take this same cross upon their shoulders. If we do not suffer for the faith, we must question whether we have become lukewarm and worthless, but to be spit from the mouth of God.
Division must necessarily come as we follow in the steps of Jesus, “the leader and perfecter of faith.” As the princes of the people were set against Jeremiah for his prophesying in truth against the nation, spelling out the danger it faced for its sin, so opposition will come to us even from friends and family as we seek to draw closer to Jesus; for the world is set in opposition to the cross, and any who yet cling to it and its sin will inevitably be insulted by our resistance to its ways. And so persecution comes to those who remain faithful to the ways of Christ.
But your hearts should not be troubled, brothers and sisters, for though the world of sin encompasses us now and often closes in, we indeed have a “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding us with their protection. As Jeremiah had Ebed-melech to intercede with the king to draw him from the muddy mire, so we have Jesus now to intercede with the Father for us to lift us out of the dark cistern that is the world. And not only Him do we have at our side, but all those who have suffered with Him – all the saints and all the martyrs, all the apostles and prophets – who stand at His side in the heavenly kingdom and with Him reach down to assist us.
So fear not, little ones, remember Jesus: “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising its shame.” He “has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God” and we shall soon join Him there with all His angels and saints if we but endure the persecution with Him now a little while. The Lord thinks of those who are afflicted and poor. He blesses their sacrifice and makes it fruitful (by which we may draw even sinners unto Him). Continue ever to run the race of faith.
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.
Mon, 12 August 2019
(Dt.31:1-8; Dt.32:3-4,7-9,12; Mt.18:1-5,10,12-14)
“It is the Lord who marches before you;
He will be with you and never fail or forsake you.”
“Do not fear or be dismayed,” little ones, the Lord is with us and watches over us. Just as it was He who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, so it is He who leads us now into His “heavenly reign.”
In our first reading the Israelites stand poised to attain that which they have been so long promised. Centuries after God’s call to Abraham and at the end of forty years wandering in the desert, the time has come for them to enter in and take possession of the land the Lord has set aside for them. As they look toward their heritage on the other side of the Jordan River, Moses encourages them: “It is the Lord, your God, who will cross before you.” “The Lord alone was their leader,” brothers and sisters; and now it is Jesus alone who shepherds us into the kingdom we look upon with bated breath, for which we patiently prepare ourselves. It is He who has crossed before us in His death and resurrection and now faithfully guides us into His Father’s reign.
And just as Moses commissions Joshua to lead the Israelites: “You must bring this people into the land which the Lord swore to their fathers He would give them,” encouraging him to be brave and trust in God… so Jesus commissions His disciples to lead His sheep, and especially those who are lost or straying, into the kingdom of God – encouraging them to remain humble always, to make themselves lowly like a little child. And His commission extends, of course, to us today; in these readings we hear His voice.
As for “these little ones” of whom Jesus tells us, “I assure you their angels in heaven constantly behold my Father’s face,” are we not they of whom He speaks? Are we not His innocent doves in need of the Church’s wisdom and guidance to find our place in the Lord’s kingdom? And certainly even those who lead the flock are members of the flock themselves, for ultimately it is always the Lord who leads, and all must come unto His presence. Let us be assured, little flock, let us take blessed comfort in the Lord’s care for His people. “It is no part of your heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief.” So let us be as children before Him, beholding the face of God. This is His will for all our souls; let us walk confidently with Him, knowing His love and His blood will never fail us. The kingdom awaits our coming.
O LORD, only as a child will we enter Heaven,
for only as a child can we stand in your presence.
YHWH, make us humble and innocent as little children that you might lead us by your mighty hand into the land you promise all your lowly ones. How shall we behold your face if we are not obedient to you, if we do not seek your glory by humbly doing your will? Bless your people with your presence.
Send us leaders, LORD, to guide us to your kingdom, to shepherd us to your holy mountain. Your power be upon those you send to stand in the place of your only Son, that all might find salvation. Help us to have faith in you, to know that as you have been with us until this day, so forever you will remain, destroying our enemies before us, setting us free from all sin.
Let none of your children be lost, dear LORD, but come quickly to their heritage in you. O let us be brave and steadfast! remembering ever it is you who go before us.
Sat, 10 August 2019
(Ws.18:6-9; Ps.33:1,12.18-20,22; Heb.11:1-2,8-19; Lk.12:32-48)
“You also must be prepared, for at an hour
you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord.” Though we do not know the day or the hour of His return, we must always be ready for His coming. As the ancients, the Hebrew fathers and especially Abraham the father of faith himself, we must ever be seeking our heavenly homeland. By faith the ancients, who saw the promise only from afar, “awaited the salvation of the just”; by faith Abraham “sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country.” As he dwelled in tents, nonetheless, “he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.” With the incarnation of Christ, and in His death and resurrection, what greater assurance have we of that which we hope for. We now have Jesus speaking to our hearts: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” How much more are we called to follow His way in faith; how much more we should now be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.
“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when He comes and knocks.” If the Lord finds us “vigilant on His arrival,” how blessed will we be. If we have distributed well the food He has put in our charge here, if His work we have accomplished according to His word, we shall ourselves sup at the table the Lord prepares for us in the heavenly homeland. But all we are given here, all the graces and blessings which are ours through Jesus and through His Church, we are responsible for; by them we must bear fruit in patience and in faith, Peter first, as the first of servants, and all of us beneath his charge in proportion to “the food allowance” placed in our hands for distribution at the proper time. (This refers primarily to our priests, but we all do share in the priesthood of Christ, and all are graced with a measure of the flesh of Christ to share with the world.)
“Exult, you just, in the Lord,” for what was held “in secret” by “the holy children” of times past has now come to light in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we await the second coming of Christ with a “sure knowledge” far surpassing the one granted our fathers. We are “the people He has chosen for His own inheritance,” and a promise so sure should spur us on to a readiness that is meet to such a wonderful gift. The Lord is coming to sit us at table at the place He now prepares; let us “make preparations” of our own, remaining ever the servants of Christ, that we shall not be taken unawares when it is time to fold up our tents in this world and join the Lord in glory. Hear Him knocking even now at the door of your hearts.
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, 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.
Thu, 8 August 2019
(Dt.4:32-40; Ps.77:12-16,21; Mt.16:24-28)
“The Son of Man will come with His Father’s glory
accompanied by His angels.”
The Lord God came to “take a nation for Himself from the midst of another, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with His strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors.” As He came with power to rescue the Israelites from the bonds of Egypt, so He will come at the end of time, and is come now, to save us from this world of sin. Indeed, the Son of Man shall come fully into His Kingship on the last day and “repay each man according to his conduct.”
How shall we secure a place in His kingdom? Moses tells the Israelites, in his final address to them before they enter the Promised Land, “You must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below,” and that they “must keep His statutes and commandments.” Then they will be blessed and prosper. Jesus tells us in our gospel, “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps.” As it was then, it is now, only the road is more straitened for the goal is more blessed: now it is even unto death we must be obedient to His ways; but now we find not only life on the land, but glory everlasting.
“Among the people you have made known your power,” proclaims our psalm today, and indeed our first reading recounts the “wonders of old” the Lord wrought in the midst of His people: with their eyes they saw His “great fire,” and with their ears they “heard Him speaking out of the fire.” It is, of course, the presence of Jesus we see before us now and hear speaking in our hearts by the fire of the Holy Spirit. He makes His power known to us now in a far surpassing way. And if we wish to know the glory of God burning in our midst and leading us to the eternal kingdom of light, we must be made holy by its power. “O God, your way is holy,” our psalm states, and if we wish to follow in His way, we must be holy as He.
The Lord is coming with His holy angels. He shall soon be here in all His glory. Now He has left us a blessed cross to place upon our shoulders; it is this most wonderful of signs by whose testings we are led in power to the eternal reign of our Savior. As intimately as you know His humble cross, as closely as you follow His sacrificial path, so well will you know His Father’s glory.
O LORD, your greatness is revealed to all;
let us dwell in your light.
YHWH, how great were your deeds in bringing your chosen people out of Egypt! What wonders you worked among them. To them you showed that you are LORD and there is no other.
But how much greater is the presence of your Son among us this day and the deeds He has wrought for our salvation. How much more clearly you speak to us now, LORD, through the wonders He works – and how perfectly your glory will be known when He returns accompanied by His angels! There will be no greater deeds to be worked when that Day comes.
But until that Day let us walk with you here; let us take up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus, keeping your Word that we may prosper in good deeds ourselves and come finally to the Land you promise, to eternal life, our eyes looking upon your surpassing glory.
Sat, 3 August 2019
(Ec.1:2,2:21-23; Ps.90:3-6,12-14,17,95:7-8; Col.3:1-5,9-11; Lk.12:13-21)
“If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Yes, “all things are vanity!” without God. All is empty, for “like the changing grass” our life “wilts and fades”; we are turned “back to dust,” and so what becomes of the earthly desires we pursue? Where do “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” lead us but to the grave – and what do they do for us here but keep our hearts from what truly matters?
See the difference between the man in our first reading who “labors under the sun” in “toil and anxiety of heart” and those in our psalm who “shout for joy and gladness” all their days, for the latter say to the Lord, “Prosper the work of our hands,” putting all things into the care of Him who indeed holds all things in His loving embrace. One’s heart is set on “what is on earth,” and so he is blinded by the flesh into which he puts all his hopes. Like both the man in the crowd and the one in the parable of our gospel, his sights are set on his possessions and the feeding of his belly – both of which shall rot away. The other’s heart, however, is set on “what is above.” He is rich in “what matters to God” because he has died to the vain things of this earth, dying with Christ to their illusion and, so, rising with Christ to the life and glory of heaven. As one sinks into hell, the other rises to newness of life “in the image of [his] Creator.”
In what image is our own life made? What do we pursue with heart and soul as we tread this earth? Are we consumed by the mud at our feet, miring ourselves in selfishness and sin; or do we indeed rise above the greed which tempts our hearts to “eat, drink, be merry”? If we are truly raised with Christ as we proclaim as Christians, we would be seated at God’s right hand with Him, knowing that He is our only refuge, our only God. But so many are distracted by the idolatrous images that surround us in this world. So many desire to be rich and famous, to satiate their appetites in gluttony and drunkenness, to do what pleases their flesh in sexual immorality. And what shall become of these but that the worm shall consume them and they will cry out with Qoheleth, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”
Brothers and sisters, with Jesus and with Paul I encourage you to find the treasure that is meaningful in life. Set aside the earthly passions that drown the soul, and seek what is alive with Christ. We have a great call in this world to bring the Lord’s light and life forward, to make Him present in our own flesh, in all our work. With Him in our hearts, nothing is done in vain, for such “bountiful harvest” as this is stored up for heaven, which shall never pass away. Let us make His resurrection our own; even as we die to the empty desires of this earth, let us rise unto God as a holy sacrifice.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Addictions: What Do You Say?" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let our lives this day be in line with your will,
united to the glory of your only Son.
YHWH, let us not store up treasures for ourselves, but think rather of you and the salvation of others. All is indeed vanity if like Qoheleth we set our sights on what is on earth, if we are preoccupied by our possessions. For these shall rot with the lusts of the flesh and we shall die with them. But if we set our hearts on you and on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at your right hand, then we shall be blessed with life everlasting.
Your Son calls us to glory with Him in Heaven. He warns us of the emptiness of this earth and the riches hereon. He would turn our eyes to you and away from all greed and selfishness. He alone can prosper the work of our hands, LORD, for without Him we pass like the changing grass and nothing comes of our days.
O LORD, let us not labor in vain but with the wisdom that comes from above, that we might not come to great misfortune but to eternal life in your presence. Remake us in the image of your Son.
Fri, 2 August 2019
(Lv.25:1,8-17; Ps.67:2-5,7-8; Mt.14:1-12)
“It is really the number of crops he sells you.”
The earth is the Lord’s; it is not our own. And it is only by His grace that we share the fruits of the land. “The earth has yielded its fruits; God, our God, has blessed us,” our psalm declares. These fruits may be bought and sold, but the land is God’s own.
“In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property.” “This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.” The jubilee year delineated in our first reading makes clear that we are God’s and not our own or anyone else’s. While we tread this earth, in the forty-nine years leading to the jubilee, land is bought and sold, even slaves are made and taken. But come the jubilee the trumpet is blown and all return whence they came: in this moment we go back to our homes and find the truth – that we are God’s alone. All that is bought and sold is only temporary; these crops are consumed and pass away. The land from which they come is in God’s hands and does not pass away. To it we must return. For He is our portion and cup.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Indeed, we should fear Him who holds the earth and all its peoples in His creating hand. We should not presume upon God’s mercy and “deal unfairly” as we buy and sell in this world with all that He provides. In our gospel Herod is gripped by fear because he knows he abuses the power given him; he is struck to the heart by John’s preaching because his sin is exposed to the light. But instead of proclaiming liberty, instead of returning to the Lord, he hardens his heart against Truth, presumes license and not liberty, and has “John arrested, put in chains, and imprisoned.” But, of course, the Word of God cannot be chained; and Herod is not entirely wrong when he claims John has been “raised from the dead” in the person of Jesus, for the same Spirit which worked in this most fruitful of men comes forth fully in the Son of God. Good reason has Herod to fear.
And it must be noted that the beheading of John does not bring his end, but his beginning. It returns him to the land whence he has come. It is as his jubilee, his time to “return to his own property” – to enter the kingdom of God. For his body buried by his disciples is but as the crops bought and sold (and a more fair and abundant dealer in the fruits of this earth the world has not known); it is, of course, his eternal soul which finds liberty now in the land of the Lord.
This world cannot hinder the fruits that are of the Lord. In faith let us remain in Him, producing an abundant yield in His Name, that the way of the Lord “be known upon earth,” and that we may come to His salvation at the time of Jubilee. (We shall hear the trumpets resound through the halls of heaven.)
O LORD, there is a land
to which you call us to return,
and this heavenly homeland is all that matters.
YHWH, the earth is yours and all that it holds, and you call us ever back to you. Let us not be possessive of the gifts you give us but remember that the yield of the land is in your hands.
O LORD, you proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants of the land; you call all back to yourself, from whom we come and in whom we find our freedom. Your call to our hearts to glorify you we must heed, if we are to find your blessing.
But if like Herod we harden our hearts against your truth, LORD, if like him we seek to chain your Word with our corrupted hands… if to death we put your call, what shall be left within us? Then in what fear we shall tremble!
Your Prophet comes and walks amongst us; your power is upon Him for good. The trumpet resounds throughout the earth, calling all men to their ancestral homes. To you let us come with nothing but exultant joy at your presence.
Thu, 1 August 2019
(Lv.23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37; Ps.81:2-6,10-11; Mt.13:54-58)
“Offer as an oblation to the Lord holocausts and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”
Our first reading and our psalm speak and sing of the honor due our God. The Lord outlines for Moses “the festivals of the Lord” which must be celebrated “at the proper time with a sacred assembly,” and our psalmist exhorts us to “blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast” in honor of the one true God. We should worship no god but Him and “hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work” on His sabbaths and on the days He sets aside for celebrating His Name. Due honor and praise must be given our God.
But when Jesus comes into the midst of His people, due honor is withheld. Though they cannot deny His teaching, the wisdom and grace He imparts, yet they are blind to His presence before them. They do not know whence He comes. They cannot see that He is of God. And so because of their limited vision, their “lack of faith,” He cannot touch them or heal them as He passes by. Here He stands in their synagogues, but the shout of joy does not go up from their midst because their hearts are shut tight to the divine presence of the Lord. The due praise they are moved to is thus denied, and they break the Law of God.
It is sad when justice is not done to our God. We are the ones who would benefit most from offering due sacrifice and oblation – He has no need of our holocausts – yet we commit this kind of suicide by reserving the honor due Him, resisting thus truly entering His marvelous presence and becoming one with the One who created us and saved us. He invites us to the feast, to the glorious celebration, but we turn down His invitation to join Him at the table of His Body and His Blood. Each day it is prescribed for us to give our souls to Him; in every place the cup of salvation is raised unto the glory of God: here the festival of the Lord is fulfilled in our midst. But how many say they see but bread and wine, they hear but empty phrases. Their hearts are not set on His coming.
We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters; we are His mother. We are those who recognize His presence and give glory to His Name. The world cannot see Him; the world does not know Him. But we know Him. Let us “take up a melody, and sound the timbrel, the pleasant harp and the lyre,” and with all the music our lives can produce give Him glory in our celebration… with all the work we do and all the rest we take each day in Him. Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation. Here the feast begins. Let us come into His presence singing for joy.
O LORD, let us believe in you and worship you,
and we shall be blessed.
YHWH, let us worship you as is due; let us give praise to your NAME and each day celebrate your glory in our midst. Every day a sacred assembly we may now hold, now that Jesus has walked among us, now that He is present to us upon your holy altar; and so, let us welcome Him into our house and sing praise for the blessing He is to this place.
To the teaching of your Son let us listen, LORD; He has come in the flesh with your wisdom and power. Let us not question His origin but know He is from you, as He shows with all He says and does. Why do our corrupted souls condemn the Man who comes only to save? Why do we not see that God is here with us?
Remove our weakness, LORD, the blindness of our human eyes, that we might with all our hearts keep your festival at the proper time, for the day of atonement is upon us.
Wed, 31 July 2019
(Ex.40:16-21,34-38; Ps.84:2-6,8,11; Mt.13:47-53)
“The cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling.”
The Dwelling is the Tabernacle of God, the place in which the ark of the covenant holding the Ten Commandments was housed; and so it was God’s dwelling-place. And when this cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set forth; and when the cloud stopped, so would they. In this we see clearly that the Israelites were led by God and by His Law. “In the daytime the cloud of the Lord was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all stages of their journey.”
Our psalm extols the glory of God and His place of dwelling. It is for Him and to be in His house we yearn. “Happy they who dwell in your house!” the psalmist exclaims. So far surpassing is the glory of the Lord that “I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” For “even the sparrow finds a home” at the altar of God, and so, how blessed shall we be in His presence.
And in our gospel Jesus completes His parables on “the reign of God,” the kingdom of heaven – the House in which we long to dwell eternally. And, of course, here before us stands the new ark of the covenant in the Person of Jesus. Here the new and fulfilling Law of love is housed, by which we are now led. The Spirit descended upon Him as a dove, thus anointing Him with God’s glory, and it is this “cloud,” this Spirit of Truth, which descends upon us now and by which we walk with God. The Old Covenant and Law are certainly not to be discarded, for “every scribe who is learned in the reign of God is like the head of the household who can bring from his storeroom both the new and the old”; but the Old is indeed subsumed by the New, for the Person of God – Word made flesh, God made man – far exceeds and truly completes the first dwelling, which was but made by human hands. Now the Law has found a new and lasting home.
It is well we understand all that the Lord would teach us. It is necessary that that teaching be complete, or we shall fall short of what our “heart” and “flesh cry out for.” “The living God” awaits us; His glory He would give us. Let us be covered by His cloud and be led forth in His Word of Truth to His eternal reign. From “strength to strength” let us go, until we dwell with Him forever, His Word written on our hearts. Amen.
O LORD, we pray we shall not be cast out
but be gathered into your dwelling,
and in your presence make our home.
YHWH, in your Dwelling let us make our home, your cloud ever upon us; in the flesh of your Son we must live, led by the Holy Spirit. What is old and what is new help us understand, that we might be good stewards of your love and all souls may enter your kingdom.
At the end of the age your angels shall separate what is good from what is evil, for the evil have no place with the good. Only what is good may come into your House; what is evil will be burned in the furnace. And so our souls cry out for you, dear God, that you might make a place for us in Heaven.
To your threshold let us come, by the teaching of your only Son; His Spirit upon us to lead us to you, let us be obedient to His words. Let us do all you command, O LORD, for only then shall we be blessed. As your servant Moses let us be – in the new Moses let us make our home.
Tue, 30 July 2019
(Ex.34:29-35; Ps.99:5-7,9; Mt.13:44-46)
“The skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the Lord.”
His face shining like the pearl of great price, with whom he speaks, Moses comes down from the mountain carrying the Ten Commandments. Here is a great treasure in His hands, which he has given up all to find. But, of course, the greater treasure is the Word of God from which it takes its meaning and of which Moses converses with the Lord; and the greatest treasure is certainly God Himself, who makes us shine as stars in the night that is this world. “Holy is the Lord, our God.”
And so, of course, the greatest treasure we can find here on earth, hidden in this ground from which our bodies are formed, is our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the very image of God, God Himself, the WORD made flesh in our presence. And thus as the Israelites had the Ten Commandments as the heart of their covenant, so we have a surpassing covenant founded in the Body and Blood of our Lord, in which His presence truly abides. Still we have His words of Truth, still they illumine our faces. But now they are spoken by the incarnate mouth of God; now the veil has been removed from the face of the One who inspires all souls, and our hearts burn with the pure light of His wisdom – and now we have that flesh and blood which make the words so real at our fingertips and upon our lips… and so, one we become with His holiness.
Radiant is the splendor of God. He alone is worthy of our praise. It is He alone we should strive to possess in this life. He is buried here in our hearts; He is waiting deep within our souls for us to uncover our faces, to uncover our minds from the veil which conceals His light. Indeed, He is waiting for us to shine as the pearl of great price, to give light to the world as He does, that all might come to converse with Him with unveiled faces. But we must give up all else to find such grace: this pearl must remain unmixed with baser matter. As Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights, neither eating nor drinking, so we must come to Him so utterly, leaving all of this world behind, to find the riches which await us in the heavenly kingdom.
Jesus is the way to that kingdom. In his Word, His Body and His Blood, we find the pearl of great price. And so shall our faces shine radiantly white as we converse with the Lord in His presence for all eternity. Praise Him, brothers and sisters, for His grace at work in your life.
O LORD, holy are you,
and holy are those who seek your face.
YHWH, holy are you, and we are called to be holy as you are holy, to have our faces shine as radiantly as Moses’ – to come into your presence.
O let us converse with you, dear LORD! For now we have Jesus who speaks with us, who tells us clearly of the glory of your kingdom and how we are called to give up all to enter there. How the pearl of great price is made evident in His flesh! To Him let us come and we shall be one with you, and we shall be holy.
Before us on the altar shines the pearl of great price, the Body of Christ given to us that we might see and know your holiness, O LORD, that we might become as His Body in the world. Let us worship Him in the Sacrament, here on your holy mountain.
In the field that is your Church we find hidden in this Bread all we need for the salvation of our souls, for discovering holiness in your presence, LORD.
Mon, 29 July 2019
(Ex.33:7-11,34:5-9,28; Ps.103:6-13; Mt.13:36-43)
“The angels will hurl them into the fiery furnace
where they will wail and grind their teeth.”
It is the justice of God which is our theme today. And though it is absolutely certain that the mercy of God far surpasses our merit and He does not “requite us according to our crimes,” yet it is equally so – and Jesus could not make it more explicit than He does in His explanation in our gospel today – that God’s will is not for “declaring the guilty guiltless,” and that “the followers of the evil one” shall be punished. It is this invariable necessity of God’s justice I highlight today because of its general ignorance in this age.
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness,” David declares in our psalm. “The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Yes, “surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him.” But what if we should not fear Him? What if we should not give Him the love and honor and respect which is rightfully His? It cannot but be that we pervert His kindness and compassion and, by our own will, turn it into the flaming punishment it thus becomes. This is the justice of God: it reaches down “for a thousand generations”; it covers the earth with its forgiveness. But turning from it we inevitably cast ourselves into hell, for there is no place to hide our hardened hearts from His merciful love. Thus our refusal to accept His surpassing kindness is that which provides the kindling for the everlasting flames. And if we deny the existence of hell, we deny the presence of God’s love, and our own free will in choosing it or not.
In our first reading there is quite a jump, better than a chapter, in the scene. In the first half Moses is in the tent of meeting where he would serve as judge for the people; in the second half he is on Mount Sinai, where God has led him to receive the Ten Commandments (a second time). The Lord has also promised to reveal His back to Moses – no one can see His face and live – and it is this scene that is spoken of in our gospel. Moses speaks the Lord’s silent NAME, “YHWH”, and God comes in power, crying to him of His infinite mercy and absolute justice. As the Lord passes by in this way, Moses is overwhelmed and begs God to remain with him and the people, recognizing that they will not be able to take a step without Him. And in His great kindness, but not without appropriate punishment, the Lord will remain with Moses and the Israelites through their desert journey.
“The saints will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.” The angels shall gather the good seed unto their just reward. And there shall be great rejoicing as the mercy of God thus comes to fulfillment. But none of this can be until “all who draw others to apostasy and all evildoers” are cast out from His presence. Just as the faithless were not permitted to enter the Promised Land but died in the desert, so only those whose hearts burn with the love of God will shine in His kingdom. For the rest only the fires of torment await.
O LORD, the weeds must be burned
that those whom your Son has redeemed
might shine brightly before you.
YHWH, to Moses you spoke face to face, proclaiming your NAME to him, and he bowed down in your wondrous presence as your power passed before him. Your merciful ways you made known to him, your mercy and your justice, for you put away the sins of those who fear you, but the wicked shall know punishment.
We are indeed stiff-necked, O LORD, and deserving of your fiery wrath. But help us now to turn to you that we might be preserved from destruction at the end of the age. Your good seed let us be, sown by Jesus and His love. By His sacrifice He prepares the ground for a bountiful harvest.
O LORD, let us shine like the sun in your kingdom on the Day of your Son’s return. And so, now let our ears be open to hear of your mercy; upon our hearts inscribe your NAME that we might remember your love.
Sun, 28 July 2019
(Ex.32:15-24,30-34; Ps.106:1,19-23; Mt.13:31-35)
“Eventually the whole mass of dough began to rise.”
The kingdom of God comes gradually, grows imperceptibly; from the smallest of seeds it becomes “the largest of plants,” and “the birds of the sky come and build their nests in its branches.” Indeed, this yeast is kneaded into our hearts, and by its grace we rise gradually unto the form heaven would make us – and so the glory of God becomes ours, and with others we share His grace within us.
See that it is the people’s impatience which has led them into sin: “Make us a god to be our leader,” they say to Aaron, “as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him.” Moses is gone to the mountain forty days to receive the commands of God upon the tablets of stone, but this time is too long for the Israelites to wait, and so when he returns with the “tablets that were made by God, having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God Himself,” he finds that they have “exchanged their glory,” present so really, so physically, in the Law he carries in his hands, “for the image of a grass-eating bullock.”
They could not wait. The God they sought in vain image was coming to them in truth with His Law written in stone, but they did not perceive His approach; and so, taking matters into their own hands, they crafted their condemnation. For now it is but chastisement that awaits them; this, too, comes gradually, and is unavoidable. As the Lord says to Moses, “When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
“So grave a sin” the Israelites commit. It is only because “Moses, His chosen, withstood Him in the breach, to turn back His destructive wrath,” that the people were not struck out of the book the Lord has written. Indeed, though they shall all die in their sin in the desert, their generation shall maintain the promise. But it shall not be until Christ Jesus stands in the breach for all, that we who are so prone to evil shall be saved entirely. Only He makes the absolute atonement for the sin of the people, which Moses prefigures in our first reading today.
And now that the Son has come, now the seed is planted in our hearts, now the yeast begins to rise in our souls – now the kingdom of God is nigh. From the desert we are thus led, the angel of God going before us. We have but to listen to the word He speaks to us in His blessed parables and apply its truth to our lives, and thus staying the path set before us we will come in time to the kingdom that awaits us. We shall yet see the Lord descend from on high, not carrying tablets in His arms, but carrying us and our salvation in full bloom. And on that holy day we shall eat of the bread He has caused to rise in our hearts and in our lives.
O LORD, may your kingdom grow ever in our midst,
and may we patiently await its coming.
YHWH, your Son comes to stand in the breach, to reveal to us your holy kingdom. For it now we must but wait, and allow your will to be accomplished.
We have sinned gravely against you, LORD. Our hearts have all turned from your glory to the idols of this age. We have been blinded by the gold the world so persistently offers.
Give us patience to wait on your goodness, LORD. Give us the wisdom we need to know the coming of your reign. For it rises in our midst this day, if we but have eyes to see what your Son reveals.
From the mountaintop let your Word come down, O LORD, to instruct us in your ways. For without your Law to guide us here, quickly we become depraved.
O punish us not in your rage, dear God; strike us not out of your Book. Let our hearts embrace the words of your Son.
Sat, 27 July 2019
(Gn.18:20-32; Ps.138:1-3,6-8; Col.2:12-14; Lk.11:1-13)
“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Prayer. Our wonderful gift from God. Our sharing in His will.
The Lord ordains that Abraham should speak with Him, and so He stops and waits to hear the prayer of His favored one. And so in this mystical scene from our first reading, we are given a holy model for our own petitions of the Lord. Indeed, first we see that the Lord waits upon us to approach Him – His ears are ever open to our pleas. (As we read elsewhere, He knows what we need before we ask.) Second, Abraham prefaces his prayer with acknowledgment of the justice of God, thus revealing the confidence we must have that the Lord will answer any righteous request. Third, Abraham shows the manner in which we must come before our God. Though we must be persistent, thus manifesting our genuine concern for the prayer we offer, we must realize to whom we speak and come before Him in deep humility: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!” says Abraham, and it is with words such as these that he precedes each of his persistent requests. And because of his faith and humility, his prayer is answered and Lot is spared from the destruction of Sodom.
And, of course, our greatest model of prayer is found in our gospel. When Jesus finishes praying, the disciples beg Him to teach them to pray. First He shares with them the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we give ourselves to the providential hand of God and reflect His grace and forgiveness. He then relates a parable on the necessity and blessings of perseverance in prayer – we must never be discouraged in our prayer. Finally, the words which drip like honey from His mouth: “Ask and you will receive…” and His blessed assurance that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”
The Lord loves us and wishes to share all of Himself with us. We must but come as children before Him and we will know the kindness of which David sings, and we will sing with him: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth.” Indeed, “the lowly He sees”; His “right hand saves” them. Forsaking not the work of His hands, He rather justifies them, giving them life even by the recognition of their voices before Him. Thus we are “raised with Him through faith in the power of God.” “Having forgiven us all our transgressions” through the cross of Christ, the Father now brings the humble to life through the Spirit of His Son. It is in His hearing our prayer that this grace is best known, for therein our spirits become one with His own.
O Lord, hear and answer us as we call upon you each day in all faith and humility. Make us your own sons and daughters in the Spirit of Christ.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Prayer: He Asks/I Am Not MY Body" (1st part) from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us the Holy Spirit
that the salvation wrought by Jesus
might be fulfilled in us,
and we might forever praise your NAME.
YHWH, we call upon your NAME; answer our prayer and send your Spirit upon us to save us and bring us into your kingdom. Your Son would forgive us all our sins – let us be joined to Him.
It is you, O LORD, who listen for our prayers, wishing always to share your grace with your children. By your own hand you would feed us with your Spirit if we would but turn to you in faith. Let us not grow weary of calling upon your NAME, but by our persistence may we find our good desires fulfilled in your kindness.
O LORD, let your people not perish in their sins but find your compassion at work in their lives. Forgive all who turn to you and are baptized into the sacrifice of Jesus. Your promise be fulfilled in our midst by the blood of His Cross.
O Heavenly Father, help us to remember your NAME and the grace that is ours when we seek your face.
Fri, 26 July 2019
(Ex.24:3-8; Ps.50:1-2,5-6,14-15; Mt.13:24-30)
“All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.”
But will they? Who among them will remain faithful to the covenant they make with God? All the Israelites vow as one to follow “the words and ordinances of the Lord,” yet only two men shall come from the desert and enter the Promised Land. Their children shall exhibit greater fidelity, but these, too, shall falter – throughout the history of the chosen people there shall be weeds, sometimes in abundance, sown among the good seed.
And in our psalm, God declares: “Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” For “God Himself is the judge,” and He will tell how well the “twelve pillars” “erected at the foot of the mountain” stand before Him. He will make known how efficacious has been our sacrifice. Jesus teaches us of God’s justice in His parable: “At harvest time I will order the harvesters, first collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn.” Indeed, the weeds shall be separated out into everlasting fire, while the wheat which has been true to His Word enters heaven. If we have been faithful to our covenant with the Lord, if we have been hearers and doers of His Word, we have nothing to fear. Love overcomes all fear, and the Lord assures us of His grace: “Call upon me in time of distress; I will rescue you.” But if our vows have been in vain, we have much to fear at the hand of the harvest master.
All shall be brought before Him – “The Lord has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting.” From east to west they shall be gathered before His judgment seat, and on that last day Jesus shall speak the sentence which awaits us all. The weeds may seem to grow and thrive in this day, but be assured that this day is passing away; His Day shall last for eternity. The enemy shall be cast from His presence forever.
In the desert the people of God were excited to pledge allegiance to the Lord. But what is promised must be done or the pledge is worthless. We, too, profess our faith in God, and indeed His blood is sprinkled upon us daily as we raise the cup of blessing in His Name. This New Covenant far surpasses the Old and puts the onus upon us thus to a far greater degree to heed the words of the psalmist: “Fulfill your vows to the Most High.” Let us therefore truly heed and do all that the Lord calls us to. Let us not hesitate to come into the Lord’s presence offering Him a sacrifice of praise, but let us not forget the promise inherent in our worship of Him; each day let us grow as wheat before the master of the harvest, His Word providing nourishment for our souls.
O LORD, make us faithful to our covenant with you,
that we shall not be burned in the fire.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your voice and vow our faithfulness to you, yes, but most of all let us stand with you, carrying out your will in all things. Then at harvest time we shall have no fear; then truly as your wheat we shall ever grow, and be gathered into your kingdom.
But if we turn away, if we instead serve the enemy, what hope shall we find on that Day when you stand before us as Judge? What can we be but bundled as weeds and thrown into the fire? O LORD, let us stand strong in the blood of your Son, for only His sacrifice will save us.
We praise you, LORD, for your goodness to us, for planting us in your blessed field. Let us do everything your Son has told us; may He continue to speak to our hearts this day. In His blood let us be washed clean, that we might shine with Him in perfect beauty on the last day.
Thu, 25 July 2019
(Ex.20:1-17; Ps.19:8-11,Jn.6:69; Mt.13:18-23)
“What was sown on good soil
is the man who hears the message and takes it in.”
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul… The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye… More precious than gold” and “sweeter also than syrup or honey from the comb” is the word of God. How beautifully our psalm speaks of the words of everlasting life which issue forth from the mouth of God, the Law of the Lord embodied in Christ Jesus. And those who follow the command of God shall bear a mighty yield, for “the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.”
In our first reading we find the great Law written on stone, our Ten Commandments – the blessed guide of man’s walk through this world of sin. They give light to our steps, teaching us ever the way we should go. But great as these words are and necessary as they may be to keep our steps from faltering, to prevent our eye from entering darkness, so much greater is He who sums them up and brings them to completion in His flesh and blood. The love of God and neighbor commanded so clearly to Moses on Mount Sinai here shines in a light beyond our human comprehension. Indeed, to hear its call, to become good soil, we must be made as He is, walking in the grace of divine perfection. Only then will the Word which stirs our souls – in whose light we long to cleanse our hearts and by which we hope to enter God’s reign – only through the intercession of Jesus the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father, will we come to know the realization of the call of God to His children, rendered in His commands.
Thirst for the Word, brothers and sisters. Our souls must indeed have a deep hunger for His presence, for the light that comes only by following Him. Our worship must not be in vain, and we must not be distracted by the allure of this world. Standing fast through any suffering, we must take in deeply the Word spoken to our hearts, ever making greater place for Jesus in our lives. We must put flesh to the words of everlasting life, we must be as the Law walking the face of the earth – we must be as our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then it is we shall know His blessing; then we shall labor with Him and yield a great harvest. Then we shall share in the sweetness of the glory of Him who commands us to walk rightly by His side.
Today let us rejoice in the Lord and in His Law; let us find the light it brings and become children of that light. With Jesus and all His saints in heaven let us hear the Word whispered deeply in our spirits and become doers of that word of God. Then we shall bear fruit unto eternal life.
O LORD, let nothing take us from you;
in your Word let us make our home.
YHWH, let us hear and heed your commands, for you have the words of everlasting life and by your instruction we are saved and produce fruit in your holy NAME.
To Moses you gave your Law, O LORD, that we might remember to love you always and so to love our fellow man. In this is our joy, you know, dear God, and so you lead us on right paths that we might be blessed by you.
And your Son you send to speak clearly to our souls of the way which leads to life. Of the dangers He tells us, LORD, that we might not be separated from the light of your face. If it is your Word we desire, we shall be enlightened and walk with Him along the way of perfection.
Let us not lose your grace and blessing, LORD, but prepare good soil to receive your Word, that we might grow ever unto Heaven and become a fragrant offering to you.
Tue, 23 July 2019
Ex.16:1-5,9-15; Ps.78:18-19,23-28; Mt.13:1-9)
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.”
He gives us bread to eat; He gives us wine to drink. All our food comes from His hand. He provides for our every need. It is not by our own strength we are fed. It is not by our own strength we produce fruit to feed others. All our grain is from His hand and grows only with His blessing.
The Israelites find themselves in a barren desert and begin to fear for their empty bellies. “Can God spread a table in the desert?” they ask in doubt, and begin to dissemble before the Lord. But it is God’s will to teach them a lesson, to show them from whom their sustenance comes, for even when in Egypt their “fleshpots” were provided by Him. But they are a blind and ignorant race, and so He must show them the power of His grace, of His providence. He thus gives them a food they have never seen before, whose very name, “manna”, reveals its mystery. And so they partake of this food of the angels; “even a surfeit of provisions He sent them,” though their flesh shall not be long satisfied with this heavenly food.
And we, do we realize all our food comes from the Lord? Do we see His hand at work in all things? Or do we go blindly along through this desert as well, listening too carefully to our grumbling stomachs while ignoring His Word in our hearts and presence in our midst? Do we, too, forget all He has done for us? Or do we turn faithfully to Him for His heavenly provisions and find ourselves satisfied with the food from His hands? And thus, do we ourselves yield grain from the good soil He sets us on, increasing “a hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold” His word in our hearts, that others might be fed too by our God? Jesus sits before us today and calls us to such fruitfulness in His name. Let us not be choked by the cares of this world or fail to have depth of faith within our souls, but let us take the blessed food He provides in His Word and in His Body and His Blood and so be nourished well to provide for others.
The desert in which we find ourselves, by which the Lord tests our faith, can seem to overwhelm us at times. May it never cause us to act as the Israelites, who “tempted God in their hearts by demanding the food they craved.” Let us remember that only the “heavenly bread” rained upon us by Him will save us from the temptations and emptiness of this life. I pray He fill you with His bread of eternal life.
O LORD, you give us bread to eat;
yes, you provide holy seed –
and we must produce fruit unto Heaven.
YHWH, our trust in you increase this day; let us know it is by your hand we are fed. And what food is ours by your grace! Even the Body and Blood of your Son.
Bread from Heaven you give us, LORD, feeding us with the flesh of Christ. As once you gave the Israelites bread in the desert, so now you open the doors of Heaven and provide for us our daily food.
Plant your Word in our souls, dear God, that it might grow and nourish us well, that we might bear fruit a hundredfold in the Name of Jesus. Our ears open to hear His voice, let us be faithful to His call.
All the distractions of this world take from us; save us from the rumblings of our belly. Let us understand that you care for all our needs if we but trust in the Word you send us.
Mon, 22 July 2019
(Ex.14:21-15:1; Ex.15:1,8-10,12,17; Mt.12:46-50)
“Thus the Lord saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.”
The Lord fought for the Israelites, His people. Working great wonders, He brought them forth from the land of Egypt. Indeed, “the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.” So great was His love for His chosen ones that He saved them in this miraculous fashion, casting their enemies into the sea. Them “the earth swallowed,” but His people crossed unharmed.
Here is the prefigurement of the Lord’s saving us from sin by His death and resurrection; through the waters of Baptism we now come to “the mountain of [the Lord’s] inheritance,” our enemies dying in that same water which saves us. In the dark of night, in the death of Christ, we enter the realm of the sea; at dawn we see our enemies lying dead on the shore. But it is no longer those who are related to the Lord by flesh and blood who are brought through the waters to His sanctuary. The chosen ones are no longer of a particular race. “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me.” It is a spiritual kingdom to which we are now called, and it is in the Spirit His children are now born.
Shocking this word must have been to the ears of those so used to judging the blessings of the Lord by bloodline. Here is the beginning of Christ’s teaching that any and all are called to the table of the Lord. How shocked even Peter was when directed to go to the Gentile people, when instructed to eat, as it were, of the unclean food (Acts 10:13-14). But the Lord makes all clean by His blood. His death and resurrection open the gates of heaven to all who would enter there. To anyone who would follow in His footsteps, the Lord leads on dry land to the promised glory. But do not think, as I so often hear, that there are no casualties in this new exodus. Do not hold so foolishly to the idea that the God of the Old Testament was harsh in His destruction of the Egyptian army but the God of the New effects no such punishment. See that the casualties in this battle suffer a fate worse than drowning in the sea: eternal condemnation awaits those who now harden their hearts against the word of Christ. The warfare is now spiritual rather than physical, and the judgment Jesus passes on the evil generation is now far worse than any before His time had come. As He Himself has said elsewhere, “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea, than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Lk.17:2).
We are brothers and sisters of the Lord, my friends, and so He saves us from the day of judgment. As long as we do His will, His blessing shall be ours. Let us rejoice this day in the justice of God, that He cares for all those who love Him, even as He casts their enemies into the sea.
O LORD, let us live according to your will
that we might be saved,
that we might be one with Jesus in Heaven
even as all our enemies perish.
YHWH, your servant Moses did your will; through Him you revealed your glory to the people, and they triumphed over their enemies. May we serve you as has Moses and so become brother and sister and mother to Jesus, and so become as your children.
May your Son extend His hands toward us and bless us with His sanctifying Word, that all sin may flee from our midst and we become as your chosen. Through the sea let us pass on dry ground, LORD, the water like a wall to our right and to our left. Through Baptism we are redeemed by the power of your hand; to Jesus let us be configured.
Horse and chariot you cast into the sea – it is not by our own strength we are saved. It is by the grace and blessing that come from you, LORD, and by our joining ourselves to your will.
In fear shall our enemies retreat from your glance, O LORD, for you fight for your lowly ones.
Sat, 20 July 2019
(Gn.18:1-10a; Ps.15:1-5; Col.1:24-28; Lk.10:38-42)
“There is need of only one thing.”
Whether we teach or whether we serve, all must be done in the Name of the Lord. If it is not sitting at His feet that we do all things, if all is not a prayer offered in His Name, to His glory, it is all quite worthless.
How “anxious and concerned about many things” we often are. How like Martha we often struggle under the burden of our duties without a proper heart for service. And so how often, in the words of our psalm, we are like one who “takes up a reproach against his neighbor.” How like Martha we fail to be as one who “honors those who fear the Lord,” even if that holy one is our sister. Jesus is at work there in her midst, in the words of Paul, “teaching everyone with all wisdom,” but Martha cannot stop to hear His words, and would take the word from her sister’s heart. And so the Lord must be put to work, performing the other task Paul outlines, that of “admonishing everyone.” Can she really think that the passing needs of the body take precedence over the eternal need of the soul?
Brothers and sisters, we are no less ignorant of the presence of Christ in our midst; we are no less ignorant of His Word speaking to our souls when we rush through our daily tasks – be they to teach or to serve – as if we are on some nonstop treadmill which is beyond our control. Each day and at every moment, the Lord calls to us, and each day and at every moment we must listen. With His Name written clearly upon our hearts we should act, and not otherwise. We must think and say with Paul, “I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God,” whether we bring forth that Word by word or by action. Again, if we do not listen to His voice, if it is not this that moves us, that animates our work, all our afflictions are useless, for they are not united to the cross of Christ.
Let us take Abraham as our example. He greets the Lord as He comes to him. He rushes about to prepare Him a meal and care for His needs. Indeed, “he waited on them under the tree while they ate.” But he did all of this with a prayer in his heart; he performed all his diligent service out of love for Him whom he served. He could see clearly it was God he waited upon, and so all his frantic work was no burden; he found only joy to be in the presence of His God. So must be our attitude in all we do, brothers and sisters. It cannot be otherwise. All we do must be done for Him; we must ever keep His presence in our hearts, and with this one needful thing fixed firmly within us, all of our lives will be blessed. And we, too, will be holy. We, too, will be made whole by the power of His Word at work within us.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Breathing for a Living" from Breath, The Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us remember it is in serving you
we find our hope for glory.
YHWH, let all our work be done for you, all we suffer be for the sake of your Body, and we shall not grow weary in serving you but rejoice that you are in our midst.
You come to us, dear God, you sit among us calling us by your presence and by the words of your Son and His disciples to make known the riches of your glory to all souls to whom we come. O let us give witness to our love for you in all we do this day!
Should we not treasure your presence with us and the work we are blessed to do for you? Should it not be our great glory that we may feed you, O LORD and God, by our own hands? What grace you give us in letting us serve you and one another – what joy we should take in thus doing your will, in putting flesh to your Word… in becoming as Jesus!
O LORD, let all our afflictions be endured with your Son under His Cross, and we shall be fruitful in your sight and remain forever in your presence.
Fri, 19 July 2019
(Ex.12:37-42; Ps.136:1,10-15,23-24; Mt.12:14-21)
“All the Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord
throughout their generations.”
After four hundred and thirty years, as one man the Israelites left the land of Egypt. More than a million people all told were “rushed out of Egyptand had no opportunity even to prepare food for the journey.” And so the exodus from sin we all must make is here prefigured. And in thanks for such grace from the Lord, whose “mercy endures forever,” who “freed us from our foes,” we keep constant vigil. Knowing the manner of our first release from slavery, we watch now for His return.
“Many people followed Him and He cured them all.” All those who walk in the wake of the Lord know His saving power. For He is endowed with the Spirit of God; of Jesus, the prophet writes: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my loved one in whom I delight.” And so those who approach Him know the “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm” of God in the healing of all their ills. Yet mighty as is His work, so gentle is its coming forth. For it is not in great fanfare but rather great humility that Jesus has come into our midst to save us. Though His works are great, His person is meek. Much as the silent NAME shared with Moses, much as the “still, small voice” which spoke to Elijah, so is this WORD of God made flesh. “He will not contend or cry out, nor will His voice be heard in the streets.” For His is a voice which does not pass away with the dimming of its sound; His voice is not a clanging gong, empty of substance, but is filled to bursting with love and mercy, and goes forth in the silence of a pure heart. It is for this silence we listen. It is for His love we keep vigil.
“He sternly ordered them not to make public what He had done.” We must join Him in silence. In telling no one, all will know. It is by faith all is done. Indeed, our light shines forth from this quiet heart. Shshsh… (listen for the voice of God).
The Israelites moved at once from the land of bondage. The Lord has set us free now from our sins, brothers and sisters, and one day He will come again – He is knocking at the door even now – and take us to the presence of God. Are we watching for His coming? Are we ready to leave all behind? Do we follow Him with such abandon even this day? If we do, the word shall go forth from our lives. If we do, we make Him known, and so we can be sure, “In His Name, the Gentiles will find hope.” As we keep vigil for the Lord, His Word goes forth to the ends of the earth and shall lead all souls out of slavery to the mountain of God. Watch, and listen. The time is nigh.
O LORD, come to save us –
your mercy is our only hope.
YHWH, in your Son we find our hope for release from this place of slavery. His justice our hearts cherish, for in His justice is shown your mercy. O let us be prepared for departure from the land of Egypt, from bondage to sin and death; may every night be a night of vigil for Jesus’ return.
All at once you will take us from the darkness of this world into your presence, O holy LORD. You will stretch out your hand as you have done once and again, and lead us through the midst of the sea on dry ground. As Pharaoh and his force you drown in your mighty wrath, your children shall enter the Promised Land, freed from all their enemies.
May your Spirit be upon us as it is on your Son; come in silence to our hearts this day and assure our wounded souls of your salvation, which waits on the horizon.
Thu, 18 July 2019
(Ex.11:10-12:14; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Mt.12:1-8)
“The Son of Man is indeed the Lord of the sabbath.”
“There is something greater than the temple here,” greater than the Passover and all the feasts of the Lord, greater than the Law… for Jesus and His mercy subsume all these by His holy sacrifice, by His very presence amongst us. And now on the new sabbath day, the words of the psalmist are fulfilled: “The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as we offer now even daily the “sacrifice of thanksgiving” – the Holy Eucharist – as each day becomes a “memorial feast” for us. Here we remember and partake of the Lamb “without blemish”; here the blood of the firstborn Son slaughtered for our sakes is applied to the temples our bodies become by its anointing, by our raising of the cup. And heeding Christ’s words to be on watch, we are made ever ready for flight from this world of sin and into the arms of our God.
It is an ominous night, that first Passover. The darkness upon the land, the cries of mothers for their firstborn sons foreshadows the horror of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, and the piercing of our consciences which comes thereby. By His sacrifice we cry for our sins; but by this death are we released from bondage to that same sin. By it His mercy is poured upon us from age to age until the end of all time. For now the Passover is made complete; now the sacrifice is truly whole. And all of the old is made new as it is brought to fulfillment in the only Son.
“You have loosed my bonds,” O Lord. Each day you prepare my soul for flight from this world by the cup of thanksgiving, the sharing in your sacrifice, you offer to us each day at the hands of your priests. As it is raised and as we “call upon the name of the Lord,” you come to us with your merciful anointing, and all guilt we may have incurred is cleansed thereby. O Lord of the Sabbath, O Son of the Most High, O Temple of God and perfection of the Law, see the Lamb we eat at your Command; see the blood which marks our houses, and pass over us in the Day of Judgment – bring us freely into the celebration of your eternal feast in heaven.
As we come to the altar today, brothers and sisters, let us remember the merciful sacrifice the Lord has made for our blessed protection and fulfillment of the hunger we have for His presence. Freely let us partake now of His Body and Blood and so become one with Him who is Lord of all and master of our souls. And let us share His merciful love with the waiting world. Let us enter now the eternal Sabbath.
O LORD, feed us in our hunger;
your mercy be upon us this day –
free us from our slavery to sin and to our ways!
YHWH, your Son is the Temple where we are called to dwell, the Lamb of sacrifice of which we must partake. It is His blood that washes us clean of sin, that keeps us free from your executing judgment. With Him and in Him we shall not die, we shall not be condemned, but live forever to praise your NAME.
Our bonds you have loosed, O LORD; from all hunger and thirst you have saved us by the feast before us even this day, by the Body and Blood we receive at the hands of the priests you have ordained in Jesus’ Name. Perpetually we may now receive your graces. Forever we shall take up this Cup of salvation. Now that you have visited us with your mercy, what more could we need?
Thank you, LORD, for the sacrifice your Son has made for our sakes. By it may we leave this land of darkness and come to dwell with you.
Wed, 17 July 2019
(Ex.3:11-20; Ps.105:1,5,8-9,24-27; Mt.11:28-30)
“My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
I AM has come and led His people “up out of the misery of Egypt,” up out of slavery. The heavy yoke of sin He breaks from our necks, and in its place we find His gentle presence.
How this world can make us weary! How the Israelites suffered under the iron hand of the Pharaoh. But the Lord says to them, “I am concerned about you and about the way you are being treated in Egypt.” And He says to us the same: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.” To Moses as proof of His presence He even gives His NAME, the silent WORD – “YHWH” – which speaks volumes of His being here and everywhere always: “I AM WHO AM.” That gentle, all-present Spirit, that WORD that is Life, is made known to us now in Jesus, the WORD made flesh, He who is “gentle and humble of heart.” And so salvation is fulfilled: release from slavery ultimately comes in the gentle yoke of the Son of God. Let us place it upon our shoulders.
I repeat, this world can be burdensome. As it works its way into our hearts and souls, it brings terrible chains which bind us. As the culture of death which surrounds us in this land of exile finds inroads into our homes and penetrates our minds, it can bring a slavish weight to bear. But though the prince of this world and his subjects might harden their hearts against the emancipating Word of God, though they might refuse to allow us to worship our God freely and with all our beings and belongings… yet the Lord “remembers forever His covenant”; from age to age His word is true. And He shall not be lacking for “wondrous deeds,” “portents,” and “judgments” to assure His people’s freedom, to assure their coming gently and wholly into His sacred presence.
“I will stretch out my hand,” the Lord tells us. He will stretch forth His hand and break the yoke from our backs with a word from His mouth. And rest shall be ours. Eternal rest in His sacred presence, in the light of His holy face, is inevitably ours as we follow in His humble ways.
Come, brothers and sisters. Fear not Pharaoh. The evil upon us is passing away; only what is real, only what is of His Word – only I AM shall remain. Take His yoke upon you, and be led gently forth.
O LORD, by your NAME and by the Cross
we are unburdened of words,
unburdened of thoughts and fears –
let us walk with you!
YHWH, our burden you wish to remove, for our plight in this world you see, and take pity. And so, wondrous deeds you work in our midst, wondrous deeds in the sight of the nations, that all might know that you are God, in whom all find their rest.
Your NAME you gave to Moses, LORD, to reassure his heart and show yourself to Him. Knowing you, he could find faith in your goodness, in your eternal presence, and in your call upon his soul. And so, in peace he could face all the difficulties that lay before him; so he could face the king of Egypt without fear.
And your greatest gift you give to us, dear God, in the coming of your Son, in the complete revelation of your goodness He is to us. Does He not tell us that you are near, that you are always here to refresh our souls and make us whole? And so, the burden of His Cross is light upon our shoulders.
Tue, 16 July 2019
(Ex.3:1-6,9-12; Ps.103:1-4,6-8; Mt.11:25-27)
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him
in fire flaming out of a bush.”
The Lord appears to Moses. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,” reveals Himself on Horeb, the mountain of God. He comes to him who, as we are told elsewhere, is the humblest of men, calling him – much as He will later call Peter, James, and John from their nets to be fishers of men – from “leading the flock across the desert” to lead His people out of slavery, out of Egypt, through the desert and to the Promised Land.
In our gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father reveals Himself “to the merest children,” not to “the learned and the clever.” And so He has come here to Moses, a man whose speech is weak but whose heart is indeed humble as a child, to call him to be the greatest, most godly of men, and to this great task set before him. Like John the Baptist after him – who will be the greatest of men born of woman – he is entirely deferential to the Lord. Here he hides his face, “afraid to look at God,” and questions sincerely: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” Such as these the Lord calls; to such as these He reveals Himself. These are they “to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father.
“Merest children.” Only to these does the Lord reveal Himself. Only to those whose hearts are pure, who take no pride in themselves. In a word, “humble” must we be. “He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.” To them He will show that “the Lord secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.” And as their lives are redeemed from destruction, they will “bless His holy name.” Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is filled, but only those who come as children before Him will know “all His benefits.” Only those who humble themselves before Him will be raised up to see His glory and live in the light of His presence.
O Jesus, we pray that you will reveal the Father to us. We pray that our hearts will be circumcised and that we will ever bow before the glory that is God. Bring the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to purge all our iniquity and prepare us to hear your voice, O Word of God. Call us forth to do your will and lead us ever to your holy mountain, that always we might be in your presence, that forever we might worship you in spirit and in truth, as merest children, as sons and daughters of your eternal light. May we never be consumed by sin or the vestiges of our pride, but be brought to life by the grace and power of God. Show us your face and let us indeed live in the light of its holy fire.
O LORD, you reveal yourself to us through your Son
that we might be saved from our sin.
YHWH, make us humble, humble as children; meek as Moses, innocent as your Son, we shall see your face. Reveal yourself to us, we pray, though we deserve not such kindness and mercy.
To your light let us come, to the fire burning in our midst, that fire ignited by Jesus, that we might see you, LORD, that indeed we might know you who look upon our misery, who desire so to save us from the slavery of sin. Lead us out of this desert to your holy mountain by the grace that comes to us only through your Son.
O dear Jesus, how can we stand in the presence of your Father, we who have become so corrupted by iniquity, we who are blinded by the evil upon our souls. Only you can make us as children again, pure and innocent in the sight of the LORD, pure and innocent as you are. Let us be united to you in all humility that we might come before the Father and praise His holy NAME.
Mon, 15 July 2019
(Ex.2:1-15; Ps.69:3,14,30-31,33-34; Mt.11:20-24)
“I drew him out of the water.”
Moses was drawn from “the watery depths” by Pharaoh’s daughter and nursed by his own mother. Into the river all male Hebrew children were ordered cast, but by the providential hand of God, this “Moses” is saved. And it is through him his people shall be drawn out from amongst the Egyptians and the slavery put upon them; and it is by the Law spoken through him that those who believe are kept from “the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold,” that one finds release from the bonds of sin.
But now Moses’ zealous concern for his people has caused him to slay an Egyptian, so now he must flee from the face of Pharaoh who seeks to kill him for his sin. And what irony is there that having fought one day for a Hebrew oppressed by an Egyptian, the next day he finds two Hebrews fighting! And what apparent lack of appreciation for his concern for their plight – he who has no fear of being enslaved, living in Pharaoh’s palace as he does – do the Hebrews show. How similar is this lack of appreciation to the cities which Jesus reproaches for “their failure to reform” at His preaching and at the miracles He has worked among them. Here is an even greater than Moses, the very Son of God, coming to heal them of all their ills and bring them eternal salvation, but they refuse even to turn from their sins that they might find such blessing. What hope is there for them? If the power of God cannot convince them, then indeed the flood shall overwhelm them and they “shall go down to the realm of death,” for they refuse to be drawn up out of their sins.
Oh that this not be said of us, brothers and sisters! We indeed have been drawn out of the water. Baptized by the Spirit who moves upon the waters and nourished at the breast of holy Mother Church, eating the Lord’s own Body and Blood and ever finding forgiveness for our sins by his priests’ commission, we have been graced with all we need to be led from the darkness of this world, from the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold. We must be ever mindful not to slip back into the watery mire of sin to which this world would draw us and lose the blessing the Lord has provided us to maintain us for the day of judgment. Great miracles the Lord has worked in us; great miracles He works for us this day. Let us never fail to reform our lives and conform ourselves to His grace. Our own death sentence has been removed, washed from us by the blood of Christ; let us not fall again into the swamp of sin, but ever rise to the glory of God.
O LORD, we would all go down to the realm of death
if it were not for the grace of Christ –
let us hear and heed His words and reform our lives.
YHWH, you call us to repentance that we might be raised from the abysmal swamp of sin. Your Son works His miracles in our midst to bring us to sackcloth and ashes. But are our hearts not hardened, even to His sacrifice? Then how shall we be saved from the watery depths?
Moses was drawn from the water to which he had been condemned by the whim of Pharaoh. Though but a child, he cried to you, LORD, and Pharaoh’s own daughter you sent to rescue him. Her heart you softened to the forsaken.
And now that we are afflicted and in pain, in exile from your presence because of the darkness of sin, will you not answer us if we call out to you, O LORD? Is your help not with those who seek you, who seek to be saved from your impending judgment by the reformation of their lives?
O let us turn from our sin, LORD! that we might be exalted to the skies.
Sun, 14 July 2019
(Ex.1:8-14,22; Ps.124:1-8; Mt.10:34-11:1)
“The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.”
The Israelites lived and worked side by side with the Egyptians for some four hundred years; they had virtually become members of the same household. But jealousy overcame a “new king” of Egypt, who determined “to oppress them with forced labor,” hoping to break their will as well as their backs. But they only grew stronger because, as our psalm tells us so vividly, the Lord was with them. “Had not the Lord been with us… when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive.” And, quite literally, “then would the waters have overwhelmed” them, for it was commanded that their newborn males be thrown into the river. But the Lord was with them, and through all this oppression they only grew stronger.
The Israelites stand as an example for our own faith and its struggle with the world today. Jesus tells us in our gospel that peace shall not be found with the earth, and even those of our own flesh, by following His call. Indeed, He has come, “in short, to make a man’s enemies those of His own household.” How true this was for the first Christians, all of whom were Jews, and all of whom would find resistance and even persecution for following this way in which Jesus calls us. Division among the family must have been common. But it is no less true today that a man who truly seeks to follow the way of the Lord will meet with the same resistance, even from those who profess to be Catholic and Christian (even from within himself), because the same jealousy the Egyptians had toward the Israelites exists now, and always will, and the same fears the Jews had of Christ also will not easily pass away. The world is ever in opposition to the cross, yet knowing this, Jesus emphasizes that “he who will not take up his cross and come after [Him] is not worthy of [Him].” We are eternally called to turn from the world, in all its forms, and lay down our lives and our wills.
But we are not alone in this mission to overcome the sins of the world. As the Lord was with the Israelites, He is certainly with us. Following Him so closely, it cannot but be that He is near at our sides. And not only He and His Spirit but His people as well are present to us in this struggle we undertake. We do have brothers and sisters in the struggle; there are many who give us “a cup of cold water” along the way. Still the Lord is ever here to help us; still when the world seems to overwhelm us, we are “rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.” Still we grow stronger through all the oppression we endure. Let us praise the Lord for His saving power upon us. Let us continually recommit our lives to His mission on earth, placing Him even before family and friends, and in the losing of our lives we shall come to life and ever grow in His eternal light.
Strengthen us, O Lord,
under the burden of work we endure for you;
help us to carry our cross.
And may we multiply and spread in your Name.